Monday, 11 November 2019

Flying Fridges!

I did pretty well in working towards my goals for Sophie this past week, if I do say so myself.

We checked off Intro To Night Riding 101 by getting her out just before dusk one night so we were passed by vehicles with headlights. Now to add my headlamp and her reflective quarter sheet and LED lights to the mix in the actual dark and we'll be good to go!

Rainsheet back on last week with the usual drama because she hadn't seen it in at least a week. I think the quarter sheet will be fine though.
She also had a good visit at Aunty Bridget's School Of Equine Etiquette.

Bridget looked at me like "Why?!" when I put Sophie in her field. She secretly loves her, though and likes the bossy mom role. Sophie is noticibly taller than B now!
Sophie thought it was all very fun and exciting. I'm pretty sure she's contemplating kicking the fence here, but she made the right decision.

I even got back on after however many weeks off. Actually, I got back on twice, the first time without a helper, that's how confident I was that she was going to be s good girl.

Obviously giving her all those weeks off hasn't resulted in any progress, but I'm impressed she's game to pick up where we left off. For the record, in the round pen we're kind of able to walk circles to the left... and sometimes we sort of turn right too! :D The feet get stuck often, so there is a lot of disengaging hindquarters and shoulders to keep her moving. Which for an ammy like me is fine... it's all calm and cool,  please take a step forward here, good girl. No speed demons are required now, we can always speed it up later!

It's a bit easier on the trail, given there's only one path to follow, and it goes home! It's probably sketchy as anything  to ride her there given I have such little steering and questionable braking, but honestly she is already showing a bit of boredom with the round pen/arena, and we want to keep this all fun and positive! In order to mitigate the potential for disaster, my husband accompanies us on foot, and has a lead rope handy! Also, if anything weird were to happen, it's a quiet trail right to the barn so there are no worries about traffic or anything like that.

Sorry for the lack of media- it was pouring rain! Here's a picture of Bridget's ears instead on the same trail.

And finally, our big challenge for the week. I feel like I need to give a bit of a back story here so bear with me a moment. There is a metal recycler guy halfway along the road between the barn and the arena. He's super nice, and lets us use his other property to graze the horses and access the trails. We like him! But, I'm afraid I've not been the best at teaching him about horses. Often he's smashing stuff or driving his forklift or using a grinder or welder or whatever. He used to be nice and turn off whatever machinery he was using and wait for us to go by, but over the years that's been forgotten because he didn't need to with Bridget, and I go back and forth sometimes multiple times a day .

A more normal day at the recyclers, again with Bridget ears. 

So, the other night, I was leading Sophie home, and he was out on the road with his forklift. I think he saw us and tried to back up to give us space, but the fridge he was carrying rolled off the forks and started tumbling towards us. Poor Sophie! Lol, she's already a bit suspicious of him and now he's throwing fridges in our path.

Dramatic reenactment. She's spooking at the neighbour's cows here :)

No worries, he came and scooped it up again, and by now Sophie was fascinated. As we passed by him, that fridge was again teetering on the edge of the forks, hanging over a giant metal bin. He shut off the forklift, which I thought meant he was letting us pass. Except no, we were barely past when he simply pushed that thing by hand into the bin. You can imagine the noise a fridge falling from about 5 feet in the air, into a bin of metal makes. About 20 feet behind us, too  :D

If this guy can't bombproof my horses for me, no one can. He should be charging big bucks for the extreme despooking clinic :)

In all fairness, he'd 100% stop or wait if I asked...but for a few years now I've kind of been of the opinion that it's free training and I've been expecting the horses to just deal with it, and they haven't let me down yet.

Bridget couldn't give a flying fridge about any of it.

So there you go, we got stuff done and even have a The Tale of The Flying Fridges (In which no one dies or is even seriously disturbed). For all my talk about what a good girl Sophie is, I have to say honestly, she's pretty hot and sensitive and super opinionated. So, I feel like all of this stuff is especially important for her if I ever want her to be a safe all around pony.


Thursday, 7 November 2019

In The Dark

Every year I'm somehow surprised when the clocks go back and it's dark after work.

Wait, it's only 4:30!!

I had some plans to take Sophie down to the indoor tonight and quit working at 4:00, but I hadn't even finished mucking out before it was really dark out (5:00, for the record) So, on the to do list: Get Sophie used to the assorted lights and reflective gear she'll need to wear to head down the road in the dark. Her very own brand new reflective quarter sheet and some reflective bands and clip on LED lights arrived in the mail yesterday, which is exciting, but I'd rather try all the stuff on for a practice run before I head out on the road in the dark :)

"It's my bed time now" - Sophie

I rode Bridget all last winter with zero issues (besides that one time it got REALLY dark and my headlamp died and I tried to finish up in the unlit outdoor arena to avoid paying the fee for the indoor. I learned that I get motion sickness at anything past a walk if I can't see where I'm going, ha ha)

Bridget being Bridget, the first time she thought it was weird that my headlamp makes a moving light in front of us, but didn't fuss too much. Vehicle headlights on the other hand were definitely worth some worry. She's rock solid now though.

New camera lens is magical...It was dark out and I couldn't see much and yet here is a cute Bridget only the camera could see :)

I'm no expert in equine vision. They do seem to navigate quite well in low light (way better than me!), but my sample size of one says she's less confident in the pitch black....she definitely chooses to follow any lit pathway then and I feel like she really likes my headlamp lighting our way!

It's going to be interesting to see what Sophie thinks of it all. One day I'll have my own place and an arena with lights, one day sooner than that I'll have a trailer. For now though, if we want to keep getting out on weekdays, it's either mornings or evenings and part of the outing is going to be in the dark.

I spy a rotten banana! She's still in pony jail, hence my extra initiative to get her out on weeknights too.

For now, it's only about a 15 minute hack down a very quiet road to get to the equestrian club grounds so we gear up in our best safety and hi viz apparel, and enjoy the quiet evenings with the grounds all to ourselves.


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Time Keeps Flying

In day to day life, I've been struggling to fit everything in. It feels like I never get all the things done, especially since I've been making a concentrated effort to have more "me" time. The weather has been gorgeous so I've been out hiking a lot again.

With my desk job, it's so nice to be outside moving around most of the day on the weekends  and being that good kind of physically tired instead of my weekday routine of being more mentally tired. The forests directly around the barn are closed for logging until Christmas, so I'm trying to find some new horse safe ones. So far, it's mostly just me hiking without horses at the moment!

We found miles of beautiful trails and nice lakes to visit that are within range of the barn, but sadly the river crossing and bridge to access them is not horse safe.

In the bigger picture, it feels like this past year has gone by in a blur. Particularly when I look at Sophie! The sweet baby is gone, and in her place is a very opinionated mare. She was all kinds of awful this week, and pretty much exactly the kind of mare people think of when they decide they're shopping for a gelding :)

Growing up!

She's not done anything too terrible to me beyond generally being cranky and testing boundaries, but she tried to pull attitude and kicked at the farrier (ugh, I HATE being that client) and I also caught her doing the ear pin/head shake thing at my husband when he was chatting to me (BIG mistake, Sophie!). Ditto pulling a nasty attitude with other horses when I took her down to the arena yesterday. She's still learning her opinions are irrelevant when it's work time and that all humans get the same respect that I do! Of course, we also had demolition derby part 2 in which she tried to take down all the fences to get at Bridget and a water bucket pooping incident. Because when you have an acre paddock where else would you poo?

Back to school we go

Suffice to say, she's been no one's favorite to deal with lately. She's a pretty sensitive little thing too, and maybe I'm humanizing it too much, but I do get the feeling she knows some people are a little disappointed/frustrated with her, and it's making her even more insecure.

Farrier made me feel slightly better when she reminded me how awful Sophie was when she first came, and how good she's been until now. It's probably normal the Rotten Banana makes a reappearance now as a horsey teenager. Hormones influencing bad decisions , I guess we've all been there?

Exercise makes the feelings go away

Anyway, despite some online window shopping and regrets that I didn't buy another Bridget, we decided to keep Sophie for now ;) and got her out for a bit of boot camp this week. It wasn't overly fun, but sometimes that's just horses. I know she's going to turn out fantastic, because smart opinionated mares make some of the best horses. It's just convincing them to want to be good citizens that's the fun part!

Ears up, Sophie!

It's just a good thing I've been getting lots of hiking and yoga in too, because oh boy have I needed to bring my best Zen mind to the barn this week. It's also a great thing Bridget's such a good girl. We'd have been kicked out of the barn long ago, but the barn owners love Bridget so I think they put up with Sophie so that I won't move Bridget too. One day, I hope Sophie will be just as nice to have around...after all, Bridget wasn't always a little angel, either!

Zen meditations for the days when your horses forget they are domesticated


Friday, 1 November 2019


Ms Sophie is back in Pony Jail as of last night. I arrived to find an extremely frustrated barn owner out repairing broken fence boards, and Sophie back living in the round pen.

She's taken to double barreling the fence rails. I think it started as her being a bit stupid about dinner time and thinking she needed a huge neighbour free perimeter around her. Never mind that they're all minding their own business eating in their own paddocks. Typical grumpy mare thing, though.

It's not like they're big beefy rails, but all the other horses seem to be ok with the electric plus the wood fence.

Now I think she's doing it just because she thinks she's pretty hot stuff and isn't otherwise preoccupied. The end game doesn't seem to be escape, because she doesn't go anywhere. I think she just likes to be dramatic and pretend she's the boss of the horses next door. I've worked at and managed barns before, so I'm all too aware that I'm the owner of the pain in the butt horse everyone kind of wishes they didn't have to deal with.

She has lots of space, just chooses to spend a lot of time up against the shared fenceline with her neighbours.

This obviously can't continue. She can't live in the round pen without shelter when the rain comes back.  She also can't keep wrecking stuff. Plus, I worry she's going to get caught up in a fence or otherwise hurt herself.

I've got a temporary 2 phase plan. Part one is to put her in with Bridget for a bit and cross my fingers hard Bridget still feels like being dominant mare and disciplining her for kicking at her.

In jail.

Part 2 is she's going back to work, effective immediately. Tired ponies are good ponies.

Back up plan is to send her back to the full board place I had her at last winter. She lives out in the herd there and there are two geldings there that don't take any crap from her. She's got scars to prove it, which sucks, but neither are unfair to her, so there's that.

We went for a walk to a different lake last week. It was so pretty. Sophie needs to go back soon - its about a 3-4 hour round trip leading her.


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A Week In The Life Of Bridget

Unlike her sister, Bridget managed to stay out of pony jail this week.

Have I mentioned enough times how grateful I am for such a low maintenance pony?

Plus, she's kind of cute.

So, Monday to Wednesday, while I was away for work, I'm fairly confident Bridget just relaxed and did all the things Bridget likes to do. Mostly, eating and sleeping.

I interrupted her Zen on Thursday night for a quick spa day and a walk around the block.

I was finally feeling well enough to sneak in a ride. I couldn't stop smiling, B looks less enthused here, but really she just wasn't happy about standing for a picture - she wanted to GO! :)

Friday, it was sunny, but insanely windy and I appreciated her letting me know that the apocalypse was coming, but not actually doing anything about it when we went for s quick hack.

Saturday, I thought to do some ring work, but when I went to warm her up to the left it became apparent she's not 100% on a smaller circle in that direction, again. If you've been reading a while, you know it's been about a year where she's been ever so slightly off just once in a while. It's so, so minor and I can feel it under saddle but we can't see it from the ground and she flexes fine. We've had the vet check her a couple of times but mystery lameness does not present in any significant way when the vet comes, and in his mind could very well be fitness or even be a saddle fit issue. She's due for a vet check up again, and I'll go back to riding bareback and see how that feels. I'll see of I can entice a saddle fitter to come to us as well, Sophie needs checking too.

She has a ton of energy right now, though! I'm still grinning like an idiot, too, LOL

Sunday, the weather forecast looked nice enough to put the ponies back out into their summer turnouts. That's unheard of for this time of year, but it looks like we're getting a couple of weeks of dry weather and the grass is super green given the monsoons we had for the last 6 weeks.

Check out her dapples! Her coast is wild right now.

Rather than a different coat color like in the spring, they're currently just little spots of fluffier hair. So funny!

So, hacking and mystery lameness is kind of an inauspicious start towards my goal of being back to 1-3 by Christmas. But, pony is happy, I'm happy, and the sun is shining. Life's not too bad!

Sunday, 27 October 2019

A Week In The Life Of Sophie

Monday to Wednesday, it was cold and damp. I was away working in the city, and Sophie was all tucked into a winter paddock with a good rainsheet and nothing to do but eat and grow.

Thursday morning, the sun popped out and Sophie decided the whole winter paddock and lack of a job thing was dumb. It was perfectly dry outside and the grass just outside her paddock has been growing like crazy. Surely some mowing would be appreciated?

The barn owner found her happily grazing on the wrong side of the fence, and Sophie was quite confused as to what the big deal was...surely turning herself out in the morning is helpful?

In jail, and avoiding eye contact

Since Sophie is now a repeat offender, a jail sentence was imposed. Sophie maintains her innocence, and assures me she was wrongly accused.

Sulking when it became apparent I wasn't going to rescue her from her predicament.

Luckily, she's cute and the weather seems to be holding, so by Saturday her parole was granted and she got to go back out to the summer fields.


All the rain we've had has made the pastures pretty lush and green again, and the footing is actually quite good. Fingers crossed Princess Sophie finds these accommodations to her liking and opts to stay a while.

I really want to give her a time out to mature this winter, but she's so easily bored and kind of a troublemaker. We'll see, but she may have to go back to (easy, age appropriate) work.


Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Bridget, Is That You?

The wet, miserable weather continued last week. The horses have been in their winter paddocks about a month now, and in the space of a week they've gone from nice and dry to a muddy mess. This is why turnout is limited in the bigger fields during the winter here - our climate means eventually the water table is basically at the surface much of the winter. At my own place, I spent money on dump trucks of gravel to keep things as tidy as possible, but I'm boarding now and beggars can't be choosers.
The grass is getting quite green out there again, though!

Bridget's made it clear she's Welsh and therefore this is her best season. She's quite happy in the wet and cold:

Despite Bridget's confidence in her ability to withstand all weather, I'm not a fan of currying off tons of mud, or treating the inevitable rain scald she'd likely get (been there, done that) So, it was time for her rainsheet to go on:

It's blue!
Feeling like a good, responsible owner, I finished up my chores and started packing up to go home for the night. Until I heard Sophie running around like an idiot. We've had a few bears hanging around, so I thought one of those might have startled her.

Until I noticed the object of her attention was...Bridget?

Oh goodness. She seriously didn't know what to think of Bridget wearing her new blanket.

Every time Bridget moved, Sophie would spook and run. So much for my sensible baby pony, lol
When I left, Sophie was keeping a very suspicious eye on the situation, while Bridget seemed completely oblivious of the drama she was causing. 

She's getting closer to Scary Blue Bridget, at least.
Life with horses, I guess. You win some, lose some. Keep one pony warm and dry, traumatize the other one.


Monday, 21 October 2019

Staying Motivated

(TLDR: I'm not, but I have a plan)

I'm not good at sitting around. Actually, that's not true - I can be really good at sitting around. I love reading, after all. Lately,  I haven't been feeling the greatest and some extra sitting around has been occurring. It's kind of a downward spiral though. I get stuck in a cycle of sloth, then feel bad about all the things I'm not doing and work I'm going to have to catch up on, feel overwhelmed and then sit around some more.

Logically, I know the horses are fine.  In fact, Sophie needs a few weeks off to grow up a little more. Bridget owes me nothing, and will happily hack out as little or as often as I like. Seriously, as long as I feed and muck out daily and groom a couple of times a week, we're golden right now. Ponies are so easy.

The weather has been pretty stinky. Mud season has arrived. Sophie is sensible and uses her shelter.
Bridget does not :)

She's so fuzzy she's actually warm and dry under the wet.

A rest is doing my body good too. I need the break.

Still, I feel guilty. My brain says I'm slacking, I should be doing more, working towards goals. Problem is...I have no riding goals right now. I struggle with staying motivated without goals.

Luckily, I've found something that might help. I belong to a couple of provincial organizations. The main one, HCBC, offers insurance as one of the perks of membership so pretty much everyone here has it. It's affordable at less than $60 a year. The other two I usually sign up for are add ons to the HCBC membership, Dressage BC and Horse Trials BC. Both are super cheap (I think $15?), both come with tons of perks (besides being able to go to their affiliated shows;)

What Bridget thinks of horse shows.

Anyway, I just noticed Dressage BC now offers a Ride A Test option where you can send them a video of you riding a test and they'll have a judge send you a completed test sheet with a score. The cost is $20 a test, which is on par with the local or bronze level shows we'd travel to in person. Since I live more than an hour away from any shows, those scores can even count towards year end provincial awards.

I'm really, really excited about this option. Our travel costs to shows are hundreds of dollars and a literal day of travel each way. Getting a clinician here (or even my regular coach) is $100+ per lesson if I find 5 other riders to share costs. Also, I may or may not own a pony who doesn't consistently show up to work so that time and money can very easily be wasted with a pony who's just not interested on the day. While I'm comfortable with my decision not to show Bridget anymore and a tight budget means I can't currently afford lessons or shows on my coach's horses, I really, really miss having regular feedback and a set of goals to work towards.

So, I've set myself a goal of sending in a 1-3 test before Christmas, then using the feedback to work and send in another one mid spring.  We were showing that a couple of years ago, and are still schooling much of Second, so I think it's a reasonable goal that should keep me honest but still allow me some sloth days ;) I may be overestimating my abilities, but I think with work we can do a solid Second level without too much outside assistance. Beyond that, I'd certainly need a regular coach again, but hopefully by that time it will be Sophie I'm working on.

I  pulled her mane and braided it over AND she's wearing a new rainsheet, so she's basically a show horse now :) Try not to be too jealous of how fancy it all is, lol

I just need something to keep me motivated until Sophie is ready for work. I want to keep riding regularly because I don't want to be rusty and out of shape on a green, athletic pony. I think this sounds like a great option - very little financial investment, in exchange for professional feedback and a set of well defined goals to work towards. I'll let you know how it goes!

Have any of you sent in a dressage test online or otherwise use tech or media to assist in coaching? I have dreams of setting up a live feed so my coach can instruct me from home, but our satellite reception at the arena is just too unreliable due to the tree cover.