Sunday, 13 September 2020

Smoky Skies And Riding

The wildfire smoke from the south made its way up to us this weekend. Like a lot of  BC coastal communities, we’re perched between the ocean and a substantial mountain range. In normal times, that’s why we get so much rain - the clouds and air masses hang out here for a while before they continue east. In times like these, that’s why we currently have the some of the worst air quality in the world. 

Weather today = Smoke

So, I cancelled out of the clinic I was supposed to ride in all weekend. I regret losing that money, but I don’t feel like it would be a great choice for my health, let alone my horses, and that’s obviously more important than a couple of hundred dollars.

Which got me wondering...am I overreacting? I know for myself it’s a no go regardless as just going out there to check the horses has me coughing and wheezing (Yay, asthma!). But what about the horses?

My google search came up with this chart: 

I couldn’t find an origin or credit for this. Further googling shows it follows the Air Quality Index chart for humans (image below), which seems reasonable.



For humans. Our current AQI is 287


Further googling found this Guidelines For Horses Exposed to Wildfire Smoke article from UC Davis. It’s well worth  a read as there is a good bit of info there and a few useful links.

Do what you will with the information, but here are my take homes:

- Little research done, for now it’s reasonable to use the human AQI chart for horses
- If smoke is visible, limit exercise.
- Horses exposed to wildfire smoke should be given time off work after to the event. Can take up to 4-6 weeks to recuperate.
- Drinking more water is helpful, encourage that.
- Consider soaking hay to reduce other irritants (dust, pollen, etc in hay)

Like humans, I imagine our horse’s reactions to air quality could be a somewhat individual thing. My two seem perfectly content today. Sophie has been entertaining everyone with silly antics because she doesn’t read or care about health warnings. I see a lot of shows and events are continuing on, and I’d hope that means everyone there  is feeling great too.

Anyway, I thought the above info might be worth a share for those of us lucky enough that wanting to ride in bad air pollution is our biggest worry. 

Stay safe, everyone. Crossing fingers hard for lots of rain for all those affected by the fires. 


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Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Adding More

 I’d like to say it’s that I always seem to have a young horse. A young mare, usually. Sometimes even a chestnut one, or pony one. But really, it’s just me.

I do this every single time, and I never learn:

Me, first few months under saddle: “You are the smartest, bestest horse. You’re so special!” “It’s OK, I felt you try a little there” “Here, let me help you more with that” 


Is best pony

Then...reality.

“Actually, I’m gonna need you to listen the first time I ask.” “I know you know this” “Seriously, I mean it!”

And, things get ugly for a little while, because how dare I change the rules. Pony KNOWS her job, thank you, and what I am asking is certainly not part of the job description. “But we just toodle  around and have fun!” they insist.


“What is even happening?!”

After last weekend’s lesson where I was kindly reminded babying them now and changing the rules later doesn’t do anyone any favours, I’ve been trying to be more clear and concise in my expectations...a lot less happy, fuzzy, “close enough” thinking, a bit more insistence and follow up when the response is lacking.

Sophie is not impressed. I’m not impressed with myself either. I would have done well to go back and revisit all the things she does know, and tuned it up a little first. Instead, I got all hung ho about adding our “homework” into the mix plus insisting on things like sharper transitions. 

This week’s can of worms I’ve created: 

Objective: pony can learn to find balance more consistently in trot and through transitions. (Walk is solid, trot is an opportunity to fall in and out and giraffe and check out our surroundings)


Working on being straight again...I’m all talk tho, look at me trying to “help”her and not carrying my hands in any of these pictures


Results: I temporarily broke the forward button completely, because obviously if I am touching her mouth she cannot move forward. Forward has been restored somewhat, but now straightness is completely lost, because she’s probably wondering why moving forward at her leisure is no longer the entire piece of the puzzle and:

Objective: add in some leg yield in trot to better prepare canter.

Result: my legs now mean sideways, move haunches, move shoulders, but she’s pretty sure they do not ever mean just go forward.


All in all, normal baby horse things, and lots of good moments by the end of the rides. I think breaking it down further on the longe with some loose side reins will remind her she knows how. 

This is nicer

I’m not too fussed that we’ve slid back a little, that’s normal! Sophie is a lovely, smart, pony, so of course she tries to figure out what I want. I just really wish I had been better about keeping expectations consistent from the start so we could avoid some of this week’s confusion and have that safe space to revisit on tough days.



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Sunday, 6 September 2020

Some Much Needed Direction - Lesson Recap


While being forced to problem solve and think for myself is a good thing, it’s so easy to get lost and to start to feel a little directionless without regular coaching. I’ve been in a weird head space for a while now regarding Sophie/my riding. I think deep down inside I’ve remained confident enough in myself that there’s no real danger of me ever giving up riding completely, but my inner mean girl has been a real jerk for a while now, telling me I’m not good enough and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m just going to mess it all up. Some days I don’t ride because I’m just not in the right mindset, other days I get on and mentally beat myself up later for every perceived mistake I make. It’s a lot of fun, I tell you ;) 

Best ponies

I’m so, so lucky to have the kindest husband who willingly comes and watches me ride and who does very well at just being there. Just Being There is a very underrated trait. He’s also taken to videoing bits and pieces of my rides when he thinks I don’t notice, which is absolutely wonderful because it’s truly random and I’d be self conscious if I knew he was videoing. 99% of the time I watch it back and my riding looks nothing like I think it does (in a good way!)


I find these random pictures and videos on my phone and it’s a bit like Xmas :)

Anyway, he’s great and I’m lucky, BUT you can also imagine how happy I am that my wonderfully blunt and honest coach of days past came up for a visit and a lesson. I absolutely trust her feedback and was very much looking forward to it. Even if it was something I didn’t want to hear, at least it’s a path forward and I knew she’d give me the encouragement and tools to fix it.

On Saturday, I had my lesson and all the direction and homework and encouragement I think I was starting to desperately need were included. At last!

I don’t care who you are, I think sometimes we all need a little outside validation that we’re on the right path! 

I’ve been bad at taking pictures, so you get to see this one again

I won’t bore you with the minutia of the lesson itself...it was a pretty boring young horse/out of practice rider scene. My big take home is that I should be happy with how nicely she’s coming along, especially considering I’ve not had much help. (Why is that hard to even write out? I feel like you’ll think I’m saying I’m good at this baby horse thing or something...I really need to work on my compliment taking abilities)

Anyway, I was just happy with that commentary and that we navigated the “scary corner” of the arena with very minimal dramatics. We even shared space with other riders without being too magnetized to them, go Sophie!

But, apparently there IS more I should be working on :D

So, my homework:

- Walk-trot-walk transitions, being conscious to maintain the contact - she’s balanced and adjustable enough that I can start refining those transitions and insist she stays soft and supple. To give Sophie her due, the ups aren’t bad if I stay focused, but coming back to walk can get a little brace-y and we fall into a bit of a heap. 

- She was a bit sticky on the day, which is unlike her. So, more forward if she’s sucking back.


So much forward trotting tho.


Trying not to fall into a heap in one of our better down transitions

- Canter...she needs to canter. Lots. She’s got a nice canter but she’s not confident (oops..this is on me not being brave enough on the baby to kick through and keep going when things get weird...we worked on it and I feel good now). Right now we don’t care about leads, or even steering at this point, just add in some canter strides and lots of trot-canter-trot on straight lines on the long side until the transitions are prompt and it’s really no big deal.

 Because this transition is what we’re all striving for, right?πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

I can’t seem to slow this clip down but the high speed just makes the lack of leads or steering extra evident, you’ll just have to trust me her canter is actually cute πŸ˜‚


- Lateral work. She’s got good basics and understands the concept, but it kind of flies out the window when we move up to trot or something else is happening she needs to think about. So, a little more reliable leg yield in trot would be a good thing...and coincidentally helpful in setting up the canter departs a little better.

- Basically, just ride the horse I want. Yes, she’s still a baby, but also it’s reasonable to set few “grown up pony” expectations each ride provided I am clear and fair with her about them. What isn’t fair is to ride her one way now “because she’s just young” then change the rules later...best to start as you want to proceed, I guess :)


A final note...EC is pretty sure Sophie has even more growing to do! Never thought I’d say this...but I actually don’t want her getting too much taller. She also offered to drive up and coach us once a month this winter...which if you know where I live is a VERY kind offer...it’s 90 minutes of driving and a 50 minute ferry ride each way from her place.

I’m incredibly grateful to have so many supportive people in my life.

I’m on vacation this coming week, then we’re signed up for a 2 day clinic with the nice lady who came to teach us in July. Exciting!







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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

She’s Special - Part 2

 So, I think I mentioned that prior to going on her disinfectant drinking binge, Sophie was once again a bad kid for the farrier. 

I’m kind of getting used to my role of ignorant, repentant, owner -  “Oh goodness, I’m sorry, she’s been so good until now! She never does that with me! I promise I pick her feet up every day...really, normally she’s a good girl. She’s really growing up, she’s so much more mature now. She used to threaten to kick, but it’s been a year or more. She never kicks now..I’m so sorry she tried it with you” (All true in my reality, but pony is a for letter word, so I conceded perhaps it’s just this farrier she tries to kick. Otherwise, she’s an angel ;)

That night, Four Letter Word Pony (future show name?) somehow ended up outside the pasture and roaming the farm. No real idea how she did it, besides the fact it must have been sneaky acrobatic or a narrow escape route because Bridget was still in their field, all alone .


Looking all innocent locked in Pony Jail

Pony was none the worse for wear besides some pretty large chunks missing out of her back feet. Luckily, farrier was in town one more day and was able to do some repairs. 

The verdict? Looks a whole lot like she tore her back feet up running around like an idiot...and kicking things. Ponies. Making me look stupid since...forever?




...finally, a Tuesday dinner time update...when I got out of my truck wondering who's palomino was wandering around the bottom of the farm. 


Oh hi, Sophie. 


Love that she was all casual and came to find me. The one good thing about the trouble Sophie inevitably seems to get herself in is that she's pretty unworried or excited by it.

The gate on the round pen was unchained and I know I double checked it in the morning. Farm owner has zero tolerance for loose horses so I get an earful every time and Sophie goes to Pony Jail (and I understand why!) but I'm paranoid myself about checking Sophie's fencing and gates...I'm not a fan of freely roaming ponies either. 


Scene of the second crime

I'm 99% sure Sophie's figured out how to open the gate anyway. I've now added a lead rope tying it all shut, fingers crossed that's the ticket to keeping her where I put her.

A tired pony is a good pony, unfortunately I've been a little too busy lately and she's had a few days off. I should know by now that giving her days off just means more work for me when she finds creative ways to spend her time.



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