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.

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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.

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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Blog Hop: Playing Favorites

I thought this would be a fun rainy day diversion!

1. Favorite show venue:
The best one I've actually been to as a competitor is TBird...the amenities are great! Favorite to livestream is always Badminton Horse Trials.

2. Favorite discipline:
I've got to straight up admit it's dressage. I like the training puzzle and focus required. That being said, I'd burn out very quickly without trail riding and some jumping thrown in.

3. Favorite horse color:
Bay with a big blaze. Least favorite is palomino, so obviously we're sticking to the "good horse can't be a bad color" motto around here.

4. Favorite tack store:
The Dog n Pony Shop in Langley is probably my favorite "local" one. My visa statement says I buy most of my essentials from Derby House in the UK, though.

5. Favorite breed:
Welsh Cobs for the win. A short wide horse with some sporty attributes and a ton of attitude.
My first Welsh Cob, Ginger, definitely checked the breed and color boxes.

6. Favorite place to ride:
My favorite remains our local trails, especially the hour round trip hack to the lake. There's nothing extraordinary about it, but I've been gravitating to those trails a good part of my life. Second favorite was probably the XC camp in the interior of the province. Wide open spaces and a gorgeous back drop.

Bridget at "our" lake.

Near Pritchard, BC


7. Favorite piece of riding apparel:
I've got a couple of really nice Asmar and Horseware jackets (necessary for the rain here!) But if I go by my laundry pile, I wear my Derby House silicon riding tights multiple times a week. They're maybe $40, comfy, and perfect for my current routine of mucking and doing chores, then hiking and/or riding. I wouldn't say they're overly flattering on me, but apparently I'm a comfort/function person right now, lol

8. Favorite horse related web site:
Tough one. The ads and links on the Horse and Hound website drive me nuts, but I do read it. I read CoTH, too, but it's pretty US centric. I'm open to suggestions!

9. Favorite piece of tack:
Honestly, I own nothing right now that I wouldn't be open to upgrading. So, I'll go with some of the random items Bridget won over the years because sentimental value. A couple of otherwise ordinary sets of boots for eventing, some brushes and shipping boots, and a nice black saddle pad I'll probably keep forever :)

Sophie wearing some of Bridget's winnings.

I used to ride my coach's horse in a County Epiphany saddle, and hacked a friends horse in an Antares Spooner. My butt liked both of those a lot and if I ever find a saddle fitter locally they'll be my first two things to try on Sophie.

I do quite like these browbands I got from Bexs Browbands

10. Favorite horse book:

I have a HUGE library of books. I can't pick a favorite. Top three I always come back to:
Special mention to anything Carl Hester too, his books are similar to these - complicated things made simple through genius explanations and images.


11. Favorite horse movie:
Man From Snowy River

Feel free to share and add/delete questions as you wish. I'd love to read about some of your favorite horse things.
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Monday, 14 October 2019

Best Decisions

I've not been feeling well for just about a month, so I haven't been riding as much as I normally do and even activities like mucking out and bucket cleaning have been more of a struggle than they should be. I have a doctor's appt next week to start getting sorted out so hopefully I'll be back to full energy soon.

Anyway, this isn't a health blog, but the above is relevant to today's thoughts. Some (well meaning) people have mentioned perhaps I might want to consider scaling back the horse commitments to make things easier on myself. Bridget is a great pony and she's in her prime. I often don't ride her more than 2 or 3 times a week and usually it's just a quick trail ride. Why not find her a home where she'll be loved and used?

Obviously, they don't understand that Bridget stays busy working off her board ;)

Conversely, life has changed since I got Sophie. Do I really need/want a dressage prospect pony that I likely will only be able to show or take to clinics once every few months?

I actually did ponder selling Bridget back when I was looking for a dressage pony to take me further. The money from Bridget would have made a big difference and I could have found a prospect already under saddle and ready to step right into Bridget's shoes. But, I didn't and I am happy.

It's like owning a giant cuddly toy. Except she's real :D

Bridget is super easy to have around. She enjoys getting out and doing stuff, but she also doesn't mind hanging out. She lives on air, she's friendly and easy to handle for everyone. Yes, she still costs me a couple hundred dollars a month to keep, but that's basically nothing when we're talking horses! Bridget might not do anything spectacularly (besides eat) but she reliably does everything well, and that's huge for a backyard rider like me who doesn't currently belong to a "program"

Who else would I drag out because someone set a course and I suddenly feel like jumping after months of trails and dressage?

Even if we take the emotion out of it (I've owned her since she was a super green bean and I am so attached to her, obviously) I really do think she's got a great life. I doubt she cares about ribbons and shows and I know she doesn't like being in a full schedule of work. She prefers living out to in, and for how much I go on about how easy she is, she's kind of a fan of just having one or two main people in her life. I have visions of Bridget living a long a happy life and retiring with me and living in my backyard :)

She's getting fuzzy!

As for Sophie, this backyard pony stuff has been good for her too. I bought her as an ammy friendly dressage prospect, and as such she's a lot more quick and reactive than B (although strangely, less sensitive and more forgiving). She's turned into a pretty solid citizen these past few months, and I think she is going to be a great all arounder too. So yeah, not just a dressage prospect anymore!

Happy, friendly backyard pony #2

I think Sophie's always going to be that bit more work to care for and will need a regular schedule to be at her best, but with Bridget being so low maintenance and flexible with her work schedule I can't see that keeping both of them happy will ever be overwhelming.

Things could easily change again and I'll be back at EC's and taking lessons and showing regularly. Or maybe I'll just be trailering down more infrequently. Whatever the future brings, I've got zero regrets with keeping Bridget and taking a chance and buying Sophie.


Thank goodness I didn't sell Bridget and buy that dressage horse! There's not a big demand for fancy prancing in my current living situation...and while fancy is fun, right now I need the level headed ponies that can hack down the road in the dark all winter, go a couple of days turned out in the field with very little attention, and who don't mind hitting the trails with friends one day and going to a clinic the next. I'm not saying there aren't dressage horses like that out there...I just think I'm lucky with what I've got. I've got sport pony potential without actually needing to use it every day :)



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Saturday, 12 October 2019

Growing Some More

 I feel like every time I start thinking Sophie is perfect, but smaller than I need, the universe steps in and gives me a break.


<3 her

When she arrived as a 2 year old, she measured 13.2hh, not the 14hh stated on all the paperwork. Being used to draft crosses, warmbloods, and OTTBs who look almost ready to ride at that age, I got a lot of questions about my new weanling/yearling :)

So cute. Just turned 2 here.


Earlier this summer, as a just over 3 year old, she measured pretty much bang on 14hh and was looking a little more like a horse.

Right around 3 years old here.

Science assured me she *should* get 14.2-3hh, but of course, I was feeling like I mjght not be so lucky. At least no matter what, she will fill out as she matures.

Last week, I noticed she was looking like she'd lost a little weight, and even wrote a post about what a fussy eater she is.

Yesterday, I took some pictures and noticed she looks a little bum high in all of them. Hmmm, actually, maybe she is growing?

Could just be the angle?

Maybe?



Hmmm

Out came the measuring stick. Sure enough, she's about 14.1 1/2 right now. Yay!

Further encouragement came as I adjusted her saddle this morning. I have an adjustable gullet one right now to get us through. It's not perfect, and was seeming less so. I had been using a medium width, but a quick check showed she'd be happier in a wide! It seems so counterintuitive given how narrow she seems, but there is a round pony barrel behind some big shoulders. Of course we still have long legs that look like they're coming from the same place, but it's encouraging to me that structurally, there's a frame there to grow into.


I think she's always going to be pretty leggy and feminine looking and that's totally fine - I didn't buy a cob! It seems like such minor, incremental changes, but at some point in the last couple of months I went from feeling like she's quite tiny, to feeling like heightwise she's just about perfect.

Yesterday, I was grooming Bridget and caught myself thinking she seemed smaller. I think that's because Sophie is now 2 inches taller than her!
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Wednesday, 9 October 2019

10 Questions For October

Thanks again, LWilliams, for 10 more questions!

1. What discipline do you ride? What would you ride if you could pick any other one?

I'd like to move up the levels in dressage, but I miss eventing. I bought Sophie for dressage but I can see myself maybe doing some local jumper shows with her too. I'm not sure I like the idea of eventing beyond entry level, so dressage and potentially jumpers are where I'd like to progress further. 
If you took my english tack away, I rode a friend's reined cowhorse once and it was pretty cool. I might try that.
We dressage real good ;)

2. How many horses have you ridden in your entire riding career?

Lots? I don't know. I'm guessing hundreds...you'd think I'd be a better rider by now! :)


Added one more just last month! (Will I ever stop sharing this picture? Probably not, lol)

3. Most bizarre activity you’ve done with your/a horse?

When we were kids we used to dare each other to do the stupidest things...everything from galloping across the golf course and swimming in the pond to practicing weird ways to get on (I seem to remember attempting to slide off the roof onto our ponies like in a western movie. Poor ponies!) Seeing how many of us could fit on one horse. Jumping from one to another while galloping. Rigging up some questionable 'sleighs' in the snow. Bringing them into the house to watch TV, playing hide and seek or tag on them. More recently, when I take Bridget or Sophie on hikes or jogs with me people seem to think that's weird.


We got a lot of inspiration from old westerns like this. We were really dumb kids.

4. Do you consider riding to be your outlet? If yes, why?

Definitely one of them. I've alluded to the fact that I didn't have a happy home life, so most of the time I was at the barn instead, and that's one of the big things that helped me through. These days, life is great, but it's still always better with horses!

5. Have you ever read horse-related magazines? If yes, which one(s)?

When I was a kid, I was all about the magazines! People used to leave them at the barn and our favorites were of course the Horse Illustrated ones with the center poster we could put on the wall. As an adult, I used to have subscriptions to EQUUS and Practial Horseman. Right now I still get one actual magazine delivered to my door because I like getting snail mail :) It's Horse Sport, a Canadian magazine and my current favorite.

6. Most memorable advice given to you?

Just do it. You won't mess it up so badly we can't fix it.
My coach said something along those lines and being a person who really worries about doing what's best for my horse and hates making a mistake, it was exactly what I needed to hear.


7. Did you ever collect Breyer horse models or similar?

I had a few as an older teen, I think. I mostly remember having a heap of Lego that a neighbour gave me and being obsessed and spending hours building stables and horses out of that for years after most kids might have grown out of it.


I had this one because I thought Abdullah was pretty cool.

8. Favorite “celebrity” horse?

I was a total bookworm as a kid, and with so many good kids book centered around racing, I think there was a rotating list of favorites depending on what book I was reading. We must have had an old library because most were racing in the 1920's to 60's and to this day I often know random trivia about long gone racehorses :).  As an adult, I always have a few favorite dressage and eventing horses, but none I really follow too closely.

9. If you could spend a day learning from any horse person (past or present), who would you choose?

Carl Hester. 

10. If you could ride in any international arena in the world, where would you choose?

Kid me was obsessed with watching show jumping on CBC so I would have said Spruce Meadows. Maybe I'd stick with that just for that kid. 
If we could stretch our definition of arena a lot, I'd REALLY love to hack around Badminton.


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Sunday, 6 October 2019

Good Girls

I had the kind of week I hope I can continue through the winter. The days are going to get shorter and the weather more challenging, but it's my hope I can keep things ticking over and keep those baby steps coming.

Sunsets are earlier and earlier.

To be honest I've already achieved any goals I had for Sophie this fall. I don't want to seriously have her under saddle until next spring. So, this week we just went for a couple of walks around the neighbourhood, and had a couple of quick sessions in the round pen at the club grounds too. I finished up one day by leading her over part of the really old XC course on site...I think there was a Pony Club here 20+ years ago and nothing has been used since. Still, there are little bits of things left and still hidden in the surrounding forest. She happily trotted and jumped the little logs in hand and navigated a couple of small banks so I guess you could say we're eventers now ;)

Tried this saddle on her and it's a pass...it fits through the shoulder but too wide elsewhere. One day the saddle gods will smile on me.

She's getting the idea of lateral flexions and moving her hindquarters and shoulders under saddle. Whoa is pretty solid, go can be a little sticky and wiggly and start/stop as she's just a little unsure still. I'm only on her 5 or 10 minutes at a time and it's all walking. That's plenty for her right now and it's still enough for me to find a good moment or two and make tiny steps of progress.


Bridget also had a good weekend, doing what she does best and showing a nervous horse the ropes of being an ammy friendly trail horse. I am so lucky with her....Murphy's law being what it is you know our outing wouldn't be straightforward. We had to go past a man cutting firewood with a chainsaw on the side of the road and B quite happily marched right on through, even with the other horse jumping around and  bouncing off of her.

I finally pulled her mane too...I could handle this look anymore, so look forward to a more polished Bridget in future posts. Sidenote: It's kind of weird that she's a pony and this is the longest mane and forelock she grows. 

We had a nice flatwork school as well, and she was on fire - light and responsive and so, so, supple and free through her back. She often feels great after a little time off doing other things. She knows her job and gets tense and resentful if she is bored or thinks I am drilling things.

I'm getting an itch to do a little jumping again so some poles and little grids might be a fun thing to add back to the mix to start with. To be honest, as much as I love Bridget it's a little hard to keep motivated without any goals for her. It turns out I am not a trail rider at heart because I'm getting pretty bored with ours. I think it's time to mix it up a bit again.
Bonus moody ocean picture. I took a few and got home and realized there are humpback whales in the center of the frame while I was all focused on panoramic misty mountain tops. Oops.

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Thursday, 3 October 2019

That Time of Year

The fields are holding up really well, given that we had twice our normal amount of rain last month. Still, more often than not, the horses have been relegated to their winter paddocks already.

That means I am back on the struggle bus of owning the one pony in existance who is a fussy eater and not an air fern. Without her preferred dietary choice of pasture grazing available it's a bit of a challenge finding things the pony will eat in enough quantity to keep up with her still growing body. Even yummy things like expensive timothy and alfalfa hay get picked over and wasted, and she's not a fan of most grains or treats.
She'd tell you she's a perfectly innocent of such crimes, tho

Even the grain she does eat often gets dumped and wasted because playing with the bucket is much more fun and interesting!

Here's what Princess Sophie will eat:

- GRASS
- Second cut local hay (some)
- timothy hay (some)
- alfalfa hay (some)
- ration balancer pellets (some)
- camelina oil

Sometimes will eat:

- Complete pelleted grain
- Nature Valley honey and oats granola bars

Tried repeatedly and will not eat:


- Apples/Apple flavored anything
- carrots
- every manufactured horse treat I've tried
- orchard grass hay
- first cut local hay
- beet pulp
- every manufactured grain I've tried besides her ration balancer ones (sidenote: I've tried to mix in identical textured grain with more calories but she's got radar for that and has got all the time in the world apparently to pick through individual pellets)
- anything in her paddock/field that is not perfect grass.

Thank goodness I also own the easiest pony in the world who doubles as an equine garbage disposal...Bridget happily eats any of Sophie's left overs and has been getting a little plump with all my failed attempts.

As for Sophie, I've been hanging hay nets in places she likes to hang out and leaving an extra bucket of soaked alfalfa cubes out while I'm mucking out. She's lost some weight in the past month, but she's still looking good so far. Fingers crossed!

Anyone else have a busy horse that isn't all that food motivated? Have any strategies to share?
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Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Some Inspiration and Goal Defining

In another life, I think I should have made horses my job, or at least picked a more lucrative career that allowed me a lot of barn time.

I just had 10 days off work and I think at least half of each of those days were spent at the barn or out with the horses, and as the days passed, the further down the rabbit hole I went! I like to consider myself good at my job and my career is well suited to my strengths. I have a ton of hobbies and interests too. But horses are the only thing where I'm completely myself and where time gets lost!

Taking photos of my horses...also a time trap I'm enjoying.

Despite having a million other things I should have been doing,  I ended up spending pretty much all of Saturday and Sunday auditing a clinic and taking pictures for friends. I really enjoyed it and was wishing I'd known I'd be free further in advance so I could have booked a lesson for myself.

I like auditing clinics and lessons because along with the obvious riding and training tips you pick up, watching others and paying attention to the clinician's overall program and outlook gives a lot of inspiration for myself. I've been getting a little hung up on waiting for outside things (building a barn, buying a trailer, new saddles and saddle fitting, plus most importantly, saving the money for it all so as to not be debt stressed!)

This horse was SO cool.

I feel like I've got so much on my plate right now, and not in a good way. Kind of a 'what fire do I put out first?' way. I know what my big goals are, it's the getting there and prioritizing and setting the smaller progress markers that seem to be where I lose clarity....the bigger stuff seems so far away at this point.

In the absence of lessons and having my awesome coach EC at my disposal on the regular, spending time looking outside my own little world and the limitations I set on myself is so, so helpful in regaining inspiration and focus. I saw a lot of people working towards a lot of goals and overcoming a lot of different challenges to do so.

How cute is this guy? He loves this barrel :)  Seriously, I was having so much fun taking pictures for people despite feeling a little weird initially because I am obviously not a pro!

I've been reminded this weekend that there is never a perfect time to do the thing. The best time is usually right now!

We've got some fun stuff on the agenda for October, including the return of the Spooky Trail Course and some group trail rides. I'm pretty guilty of just doing my own thing, so October should be a nice change with a slightly bigger emphasis on more social outings and events.

Are you ready for some adventures, Sophie?

My hope is to get Sophie ready for some lessons and small shows and clinics next year. It's so far away but I'm eyeing up the dressage series in my coach's town - it would be a good opportunity to do a couple of overnight trips and ride some baby dressage tests in a relaxed environment with lots of support and help built in!

In the meantime in between time though, it's going to be all about keeping those tiny progress markers coming. Every walk on the trail and local event attended is a great experience for her. As we were reminded this weekend, every day brings an opportunity to take a step towards your goals.




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