Monday, 3 October 2022

The Return of The Sophie (And The Construction Work)

When I last let off, I think property progress was going pretty smoothly, except the machine leveling the back of the property for a new fence and ring had broken. Plus it seemed I had a new pet bear. Things were interesting, to say the least.

So we waited for a week for new parts. Then the machine operator broke his hand, and it turns out he's is booming and there are no other neighbors who just happen to be semi retired machine operators willing to work small jobs.

I was left with open ditching and piles of sand and gravel, plus no fence to keep bears out and horses in. While disappointing, is just how it is, I can't be mad that the poor guy squished his hand! Having my horse trailer left on the wrong side of all those obstacles made me a little twitchy, though.. The thought of needing to move Sophie home when the property was actually more of a disaster than in the beginning of Sept didn't give me the warm fuzzies either.

Yay, drainage...but no bueno for getting a horse trailer through.

So, imagine my surprise when I pulled in one morning this weekend and there was my favorite neighbor running the machine like the past two weeks weren't a thing. Turns out even with a broken hand, the guy is bored and liked looking at all those open ditches even less than I did, so there he was, testing to see if he could run the controls with his newly casted hand. He built me a 'bridge' to get the trailer out and I was beyond excited for that - I had resigned myself to spending the day doing that by hand.

With the trailer accessible, off I went to pick up Sophie. She actually seemed super excited to see us and hop on the trailer which was pretty cute. She had regrets when we got home though, because Bridget was about 0% impressed to have her as a friend again. She's not aggressive or mean about it, just extra clingy to me and she ignores Sophie's existence completely. Which...I'm not sure is a viable plan because Sophie is the life of any party. She's not easy to ignore. Since construction around the place got so delayed they do have to share a space I had intended for one of them, but it seems to be working that Sophie stays in the barn at night and out in one of the paddocks in the day, while Bridget gets the paddock and covered area off the front of the barn. B will thaw eventually and I suspect she'll be resigned to sharing 'her' space sooner rather than later.

Wants her stall back, please and thank you.

"Don't mind me, not back here following you out the gate or anything"

Spent her first afternoon at home lonely and whinnying to other horse friends in the neighborhood. Bridget showed no mercy.

To start October on a high note, the neighbor has been coming back for a couple of hours a day and as of today, we have the remainder of the drainage installed, a driveway in, and are ready to get the ring base delivered and start auguring in the back fence posts. Sophie seems fine with all the construction, so I was worried about that for no reason - she's much more concerned with her missing friends at the moment.

As is my luck, the last ditch we dug..about 3' down there was nothing but glass. There were two buried barrels of glass bottles/broken glass mostly from the 1940's. Apparently that was a thing back in the days before recycling so unlucky in the fact we disturbed so much broken glass/the old dump site, but interesting because I salvaged a few of the old bottles that were dug up and they're kind of says Absorbine Jr so I guess it was a thing even back then!

All the machine work and landscaped dirt has made it obvious I still have a Yogi problem because his little tracks are everywhere. Once the back fence is done I'll go around the top of the perimeter fence with some electric wire and that will hopefully be enough to deter them when they come back in the spring. 




Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Let Sleeping Bears Lie

 Nothing new on the property front. The machine doing all the work for the ring and landscaping is still waiting to have the part replaced. I'm getting more and more anxious about that because Sophie comes home in 3 days and I'd really like to have a perimeter fence installed and construction equipment gone by then!

I have an interesting story from this morning for you though!

It's one of my travel/office days which means I need to feed Bridget breakfast no later than 6am. It's the time of year again when 6am = not quite dawn. Somehow it not being totally light yet makes me feel like I need to be quiet and stealthy so as to not bother the neighbors. So, we parked the truck in the laneway behind the barn and I ran up to the barn to feed. Just as I'm getting up beside the barn to B's stall door, something very large makes a big snorting noise pretty much under my feet and jumps up in front of me. First thought is Bridget has somehow escaped and I've startled her, then the shape isn't right so I'm thinking giant dog. By the time I realize the dark shape I'm seeing is the outline of a bear and the noises it's making also indicate bear, it's already brushed past me and run off in a panic. 

Which, OK, we do see a lot of bears around here so having one on our property isn't out of the norm at all. I'm cool if he's cool. I get that I didn't have a flashlight and wasn't making much noise and bears deserve a cozy place to sleep undisturbed. I feel a little guilty for scaring him so bad. I appreciate that he dodged me when he jumped up and didn't run into me.

But I have so many questions. Why was he sleeping there of all places? Also Bridget was napping right on the other side of the gate without a care in the world. I know she's used to them, but you'd think she'd keep half an eye out and not share nap time with him. Google tells me bears do tend to sleep and night and can have a routine as far as where they like to sleep so I'm thinking this isn't the first time.

Anyway, I think we can add a motion light for that side of the barn to my wishlist. I also need a good flashlight. Also, I kind of want to get some wifi out there and a camera set up so I can see what exactly is going on at night!

New barn security! A non scary reenactment for you ;)


Wednesday, 21 September 2022

It Has Begun

 I feel like my posts are pretty repetitive the last month. "Here's all the things that happened on the property Volumes 1 - Infinity." 

I guess if you like checking out property improvements you're in luck? If you're here for the pony updates, I'm sorry for the lack of interesting content but there's not too much longer to go until my focus turns back to them! Only 10 days until Sophie comes home and I'm aware I haven't updated as far as future plans for Bridget and pony foals.

B busy doing yard maintenance, as always. I've owned her forever and I still can't believe how easy she is. We've had a ton of machinery and things happening this week and she just ignores it all and happily munches away on whatever corner of the yard I put her in that morning. She's hilarious, because she knows once I start packing tools up at the end of the day she needs to go back to her paddock, so 99% of the time she puts herself back in for a siesta until I come back later at night. I just need to open and close gates for her and she sorts the rest lol

Anyway, this week in property updates:

A new manure bin almost complete. Google tells me this should hold 6 months of two horses (with no bedding). Thats...a lot of poo. 

My little shrubs I planted in the spring are becoming established.

The machine arrived.

And I learned how to build a proper drainage system.  I'm super grateful I didn't have to hand dig any of it and my neighbour provided the required on the job training. I would have thought the pipe going downhill would have been good enough, but apparently it needs to be on a 1% grade and the perforated holes face DOWN, and my 90 degree fittings I bought don't meet inspection requirements,  but 2 45's do?  Anyway, he's a gem and he's never allowed to move.

Sadly, the machine broke down on day 2 and we're waiting on parts. But look! Drainage is installed and I have materials delivered. We're all ready to level and finish the sub base for the ring. Those are my new fence posts in the back of the truck awaiting installation. I've got the rails stained and ready to go. Fingers crossed we'll still have a fence and ring by month's end but this delay might make it stretch into the first week of Oct.

I'm aware I'm going to run out of time to build Sophie's shelter before she gets here, so she's going to have to share with Bridget temporarily. They've previously shared a paddock and shelter when I boarded elsewhere so I'm not too worried about it, it's just more convenient to be able to separate them at least part of the day since they have vastly different calorie requirements (and also B, although very tolerant of Sophie,  prefers her own space)

There is a 40x60 paddock attached to the barn, which sadly is considered quite spacious for two ponies to share in this part of the world. Ideally Sophie will have her own identical set up before winter comes.

Luckily the existing barn is big enough for them to share temporarily as well. For now they'll be sharing what I had intended to be B's foaling stall.

The other two paddocks I have are fenced, it's just the second shelter missing. As long as the weather holds they'll still be able to have their own spaces in the day. They'll also have free run of the back field once the ring base and fence are in. For now I'm kind of focused on getting the ring usable as my priority - Sophie needs regular exercise more than she needs her own shelter lol


Sunday, 11 September 2022

This Week In Ponyville

I had a week’s vacation and I really could get used to the lifestyle. I was at the barn for most or all of it. I did responsible adult things like brushing ponies, feeding them excessive apples and telling them how cute they are. It was difficult, but I persevered.

On the more practical side of things, the hay stall is full, I’ve painted and stained everything wooden in my immediate vicinity, put new sand down in the front half of B’s paddock for winter, the manure bin is nearly constructed, the trailer is cleaned inside and out, and I feel like I’ve spent our life savings at the local building supply store. 


Fascias installed and stained

Perimeter drain for future ring acquired

Bridget going above and beyond mowing soon to be filled ditches

I checked in on Sophie and she’s doing great. I swear she has grown up (and out!) lately. I’m curious to measure her height and weight again. I have a feeling she’s going to finish right around 15hh and not so much the pony height we thought. Pony hooves are getting due and our farrier is out of commission, so she might be slightly taller than normal. It looks like I need to be a temporary DIY farrier again…all I can say is that’s not a hidden talent of mine and let’s just hope our farrier is feeling better ASAP ;)

Long time no see!

Anyway, on the ‘getting the machine back in’ topic, fear not! I had hoped to have a start on the ring this week, but I just ran out of time. I had a meeting with our friendly machine operator neighbour this morning and he’s going to get the last of the leveling and drainage in just as soon as we coordinate a day we’re both free. I’m hoping next week the magic will happen and we’ll have a ring base and perimeter fence in by month’s end. 


Thursday, 1 September 2022

Feeling Like I'm Off Track

 I feel so disorganized right now. I got a message yesterday from the farm where Sophie's at asking if she's staying into Sept and my first thought was "I'll figure that out when it gets here" then I realized it was Aug 31 and Sept is here and they probably think I am the worst owner ever.

In that theme, I  didn't even take any pictures of Sophie last weekend, so here's a friendly Bridget instead.

I could in theory pick Sophie up at any time, and honestly my vote was to do so. G being the voice of reason then pointed out ring base is going in this month and there will be extra people and machinery around needing to get in and out of our place and I'm going to be super busy working on the final push to get everything done. So, the decision is that she stays on her all inclusive vacation possibly until October 1st. That feels like forever away, but I know the reality is I'll be sitting here in 4 weeks wondering where the time went.

A fully fenced pony paddock. (The electric wire across the middle isn't staying, B's been in the dirt part at night because I needed to keep her from eating 24/7 while the grass is still so lush) There are two more same sized (30'x70') paddocks to the right of this one, the furthest is getting a run in shed this week so the girls can have their own spaces at night.

Bridget is currently enjoying a couple of weeks off then she'll be back to some easy hacking for a bit. I'm grateful for what we did get out and do this summer, but it got me so excited for more that now I feel pretty down about the current situation. It's the same kind of feeling I'm struggling with in general right now...things have just felt harder and more complicated than normal this year and I've been stretched in every direction...most of it necessary, but not directions I find overly rewarding.

Painting things is rewarding tho

Rubber mats in the barn rewarding also

Success! B approves of the newly refreshed interior. B actually loves this barn so much I'm considering putting Sophie in the other paddock with the new run out shed instead (was supposed to be for B and foal originally)

In so many ways, much of my hard work of the last year is paying off - I am so close to having both girls at home and having a place to ride on site too! Now is not the time to be discouraged. Still, I'm finding the final push with the delays this summer kind of exhausting - I just want to be in that future place where I'm riding in my ring and taking regular lessons and I can make some pony and riding related goals a priority. Despite making big accomplishments outside of the horses this year, they remain my big focus and I very much feel like time is ticking away and I'm falling ever further behind with them.
I'm sure they have zero regrets about pasture life, though.

Anyway enough with the less than helpful mindset. I'm aware I have a lot to be grateful for. I am starting a week's annual leave time tomorrow and have a long list of property improvements to work on. I do love that stuff. 

I'm very lucky to have a certain palomino pony coming back home in T minus 30 days and I hope to have a ring constructed for riding her in. That's barely any time at all so I'd better get to work!


Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Scaling Back And Preparing for Plan S

Despite my ever so careful program of bringing B back in work, she's again just the tiniest bit off. 

I thought I maybe felt something the weekend of the island clinic, which is why we just went for a hack the final day and she's had a couple of easy walking weeks since. I tried a lesson this week and yep -  once we trot on a small-ish circle to the left, the on/off super minor niggling thing is back.

She looks so good right now though!

This is not completely unexpected, it's another part of the reason she has been best trail pony for a couple of years now and I bought a baby Sophie. I've had a few vets check it out, and normally they say she's sound. At last check finally the vet saw what I was feeling, identified her left hock as the issue but it was so minor that we decided with her trail pony lifestyle it was appropriate to let it be and just keep an eye on it. 

At this point I can again revisit getting hock injections so I can add some regular jumping and harder work back in, or go back to our trail pony/occasional clinic/fun jump night lifestyle. 

I'm opting for trail pony lifestyle. I know hock injections and arthritis in teenaged ponies are completely normal things, but I have no solid plans competition wise for her, and she's probably going back for breeding next spring (I need to update you on that, don't I?). So, I think scaling the workload back again is the solid choice. If she's still comfortable and loving her trail rides I'm happy enough to accommodate that, as always she owes me absolutely nothing. 

Weekend trail walking with B

Next up, I think we're well overdue for a Sophie update?

Prior to this week I was quite content doing all the things with B and had plans of just leaving Sophie out at the farm to enjoy pasture time in the herd until our little place was a little more set up. But, with it looking like B would still be happier not being the main riding pony, it looks as if it's time for S to come back to work. I'll start fast tracking some of the outstanding things I need to do to get things ready for her.

I think I've been pretty transparent in that as much as I like S, the jury is still out on whether she's here forever. There is zero rush to make any decisions regarding her, and in fact I won't be making any until her training is a bit further along and I have a more solid idea what she's going to want to do and how she's maturing. Also, whether she's going to suit being a backyard pony or would be better in a bigger place with more turnout and amenities. So, that's my winter project. I have a week long boot camp set up at EC's in late September which will hopefully give us a good start in the right direction.

My heart of course wants to keep her, my brain says it's not the perfect fit, but then is any horse the perfect fit? Is there even a perfect fit out there? *looks at Welsh Cob ads, sees nothing with an obvious halo in my budget*. And around and around I go ;)

I kind of sabotaged myself with this unexpected summer of Bridget riding, because of course now I've fallen in love all over again and can't imagine any pony being good enough to fill her shoes. I'm not being as open minded as I should be re: other horses and that's super unfair to Sophie who is so wonderful in her own right. I can totally relate to the kids who outgrow their pony but fight moving on and riding anything else despite being super lucky to have the option.

But, give it a few months, and if I know myself at all it's quite likely I'll be sitting here telling you how great Sophie is and how I can't imagine any other pony being my main riding pony :)


Saturday, 20 August 2022

Easy Noteboard DIY

 I think every barn needs some form of whiteboard/chalkboard/noteboard. I know there are tons of handy apps and tech friendly ways to organize and share things, but I guess I’m just old and still just wanted a place to write things down. 

I wasn’t just finding a lot out there that 1. was big enough for a wall  2. sturdy enough for a barn 3. fit my ultra cheap spending habits.

So I made one. 

Here are your instructions:

1. Find an old glass window
2. Paint the back side of the glass (or don’t - depending on the look you want/effort you feel like expending)
3. Hang it in the barn

Mine works perfectly with dry erase markers or chalkboard markers.

I could have tried harder and made it fancy, but I had blue paint and a big old red window from the house. And that’s as far as I got with that ;)

Final caveat: it’s still a glass window in a barn. It’s hanging in my feed room, away from destructive ponies.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Feeling Grateful

 This one's going to be short and sweet. It's been a bit of a trying week, but also I have so many good things to appreciate this week it felt like something worth putting out to the universe. I should set something like this to post as a weekly reminder, actually, it's so easy to get bogged down in the details and not see all the happy things.

1. This. The barn is ready for ponies! Pinch me, how many years in the making has having B 'at home' been? Tentative plans for Sophie to join her beginning of Sept.

Get used to this view, you'll be seeing a lot of it :)

2. This desk (which I need to finish assembling tonight). A friend gifted it to us and it's from the days of needing desk space for reviewing blueprints and surveys...which is perfect because in 2022 I'm one of the remaining few that still need space to roll out paper copies of such things. It's also got a super cool local history and I'm just plain grateful it made it's way to me after almost 100 years.

3. My old truck...she needs work to see the road again, but there she is, still mine. There was a time I wanted to sell it, but grateful to G for arranging to store it all these years...20 years later here I am ready to add it back to the project list (once the property is done, obviously, lol....don't be expecting miracles!). It'll look good hooked up to my trailer, no? Less grateful re: the truck itself existing and more that G has always known me well enough to know I'd regret selling it one day.


Sunday, 14 August 2022

Summer Barn Updates

I’ve been beating myself up for the minimal barn progress that I feel like I’ve been making this summer. In all fairness though, it’s a bit hard to be your own contractor when you also have a full time job, get Covid, still want to ride and take a vacation…etc etc :)

Looking around this morning though, I think there has been progress worth documenting. An hour here or there tacked on to regular pony chores eventually had to add up! 

A short list of July/Aug barn improvements:

- WATER! In the spirit of DIY, I learned how to be a plumber in the beginning of July. Or at least enough of one to tie into an existing tee we put in when we had the house water service redone a few years back. It ended up being a 200’ run to the barn and despite renting a little machine, I used two work vacation days on raking and shoveling. Also on a 100 year old house there are many old pipes in the ground and we may have initially dug up and identified the wrong tee ;) But I have water! At the barn! 

Hydrant at the fence line and one at the barn. No more garden hoses required!

- Barn interior renos. Remove all the nasty chicken coop mess and garbage a tenant I’ll now hate forever installed in the barn (so gross! So many truckloads of wire and old junk to the dump) New gravel base installed, new plywood on bottom of walls, barn is pony safe once more.

I should have taken a before picture, but it was so awful and discouraging to see it so trashed. Imagine someone put used boards, pallets, and wire covering the whole interior and never cleaned up anything from the chickens and you might get close to how gross and un horse friendly it was. It took days to get all the nails and wire off and 4+ truck loads of junk to the dump.

- Barn exterior upgrades. Built and installed a gate on back of barn so I can leave the doors open in nice weather. Installed a new post supporting the front roof. The old one was compromised and someone’s fat itchy bum *cough Bridget cough* really did a number on it. Replacing posts is going to be ongoing, but for now I can check the urgent ones off as done.

Back of the barn. I really like how this turned out, now I can slide the big doors open in the morning and ponies can have a room with a view.

Front of barn featuring a new centre post :)

Front of barn. Stall doors on left, feed/tack straight ahead. It used to be two 10x10 stalls, but now it’s just one big one with the two doors and I’m liking it that way.

To make myself feel better re: my progress, here’s a back of barn before pic May 2021. Things have definitely changed! 

Front of barn before. When it’s all really done I’ll have to recreate these picture angles exactly, there’s a new fence line and paddock here now and some nice rose bushes and a garden in front of the barn on the right side.

Front of barn before

- Yard cleanup. All the old construction waste from demolishing tenants old creations over the winter finally went to the dump and the whole place is rider lawnmower/Bridget friendly at last.

Perfect for napping and eating now

This was maybe 1/4 of the brush and construction waste we took away.

- Poles painted, jump standards ready. What can I say, this was so low priority, but I needed something easy to do when I was feeling like garbage. I now have a set of jumps ready and waiting.


- Rubber mats installed in barn (soon). Person bought a house locally and found them in the backyard and didn’t know what they were for but they’re actually the proper stall mats and they’re new! So of course I bought them :)

- Manure bin (soon)

- Drainage for ring installed. Existing ditches piped and filled (Sept) 

- Shelter/tractor storage build in spare paddock (Oct/Nov)

- Continued perimeter fencing (Ongoing)

- Extend roof on barn for grooming area (Oct/Nov)

- Arena base added (October -ish) 

I feel like this is the cheapest and slowest barn reno ever, but I suspect there are more than a few of us out there not wanting to spend a fortune and trying to fit such projects in around a real job. I can’t be alone in this! 


Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Making up for lost time

 I feel like I fit the entire spring and summer calendar of events I missed into last week’s vacation.

I’m not sure I have the words to adequately recap everything we got up to. I’m sunburned, exhausted, and have a mountain of laundry and tack to clean…the hallmarks of any good horsey get away? 

If you haven’t been following along lately, some friends and I got a somewhat last minute idea to pack up our ponies for a week and venture to Hi Point Guest Ranch on Vancouver Island. Check out the link if you're interested in pictures of the facilities, since I didn't think to take any! 

Lake Bridget also came out of retirement and attended

Since my spring and summer went completely off the rails, Bridget got drafted for the job. I worked hard the last month or so to get her back to a level of fitness where bringing her wouldn’t be unfair.

The horses and humans all travelled well and on arrival we were pleasantly surprised that the farm was even nicer than advertised. We had a choice of paddocks or stalls next to the gorgeous indoor arena, and us humans got lakeside camping with bonuses like a refrigerator, dock and power outlets available to share. There's even a nice little cross country course spread over a few of the fields and hay sales right on site. Not really roughing it at all :)

Morning view from my tent site. 

Day 1 was spent on a nice trail ride and some floating in the little lake. The trail system was awesome. I would go back just for that alone, you could easily ride all day and the property connects directly to the Trans Canada Trail.

Trans Canada Trail is like so, but there were plenty of more technical options up into the mountains from here that we barely explored.

But, the real reason we were there was for lessons!

Day 2 B and I had our first dressage lesson in….years? And it was super exciting. B showed up ready to work and tried so hard. I’ve had a couple of long standing things I’ve never really solved (a minor pony head tilt going to the left being one) despite lots of great advice, but the clinician zoned in on that immediately and gave me tools that also worked almost immediately. She hopped on and had some fantastic feedback for me as well. My favourite part being that B feels 100% fine to her physically, and none of the “problems” I’m feeling are anything I should worry over, it’s just fitness and training from here on out :) Then since it was hot, I hosed B off and lounged in the lake the rest of the day.

*would I even be me if I didn't take 10000 pictures of my friends and their ponies, but request zero of myself and Bridget? After all these years, I'm still a terrible blogger and you get no pictures of my dressage lessons.

Day 3 was another dressage lesson first thing in the morning. The clinician challenged us to a bit of basic lateral work and some back and forth in the trot and canter…I liked that she was respectful of wanting to keep it fun but also not work pony too hard. The buttons are still there and super responsive, the execution was rusty and could use some refinement lol. In all seriousness I was really pleased with the little potato, we’re both wobbly and unfit but she’s still game to show off her moves. In the evening once it cooled down I took B to the cross country course and popped some logs and just had fun. It’s been a long time!

Oh hi, here we are doing something!

Day 4 there was a xc clinic, but in keeping with respecting B’s current fitness we did working equitation instead and had a great time. It’s not something that particularly interests me, but I can see the attraction, it’s very much dressage and trail challenge all in one. B had ants in her pants either because the course was set up on the xc course or because she really liked it. Not sure, but we had lots of fun navigating the patterns and obstacles and even got to pretend to be the real deal by spearing rings off a fake bull. B was 0% phased by any of it and already familiar with the natural obstacles due to previous xc and trail experience. She seemed to pick up the objective of the new to her things quite quickly. I think she might have found her calling! Honestly everyone we met was super nice and fun too - really I am not seeing any negatives to this sport and almost feel like I should give it a chance to grow on me and go to another clinic or two.

B and her angry bull spearing face

Day 5 the temps just kept increasing and it was super hot. I was also expecting to have a tired pony so didn’t schedule anything formally. The other ladies had another clinic day and I planned to give B a quiet hack. But since she was still spicy and on a mission on the shady trails our proposed leg stretching hack turned into a 10km expedition on the nearby rail trail. Apparently there is an amazing trestle bridge at 20km, so something to plan for next time (because there will be a next time!) 

Day 6 was sadly our last day and with the ponies needing to be on the trailer 5+ hours to get home B and I both just enjoyed a bit of a quiet morning and I had a last swim in our little lake.

All in all, it was a really nice blend of riding and learning, plus some much needed downtime with horsey friends. We’re planning to make it an annual thing and I already have so many things I want to do next year.

Like making it to this bridge...we got half way and turned around since it was so hot out - it didn't seem fair to the horses to add another 10k to the outing. Photo borrowed from here

I’m glad as well that I ended up taking B this year, I’ve been feeling quite lost as to a plan or direction with both ponies and this week really helped solidify a lot of decisions I’ve been waffling over and eased some of my worries. More on that later (and no, this is not a cliffhanger with any exciting life altering announcement pending, just a future blog coming with some thoughts on future things to aim for with the girls)