Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Looking For Recommendations

 It’s been quiet here! First we were inundated with smoke and terrible air quality for a week, then it cleared up on the weekend only for us to be facing some pretty significant storms coming our way starting tonight and lasting a few more days. Both ponies had the week off with the awful air quality, as did I, so I spent Sunday trimming their feet, giving them a good bath and grooming, picking paddocks, and fixing fences (bad Sophie!) Sophie needs consistency and is going a little bananas. Thank goodness they’re still on summer turnout and she can run and play to her heart’s content. I took the easy way out and didn’t ride fire breathing Sophie yesterday when I knew we’d just be on hold again due to wind/rain storms the next few days. I’ll normally happily ride in the wind and rain, but my west coast friends can probably back me up that the first big storm of the season isn’t the time to head out on the trail (or go anywhere else near a tree, really.) Safety first and pick your battles, guys ;)

You can see Bridget’s really itching to get back at it, too ;) 

Anyway, on to my request for recommendations...

My ‘whiny’ post that I didn’t ever end up publishing revolved around the fact that our new arena footing isn’t holding up to rain and will need to be redone. Plus, the indoor area is closed to the public until at least spring 2021 due to Covid. And, well, it’s a small equestrian community here and there isn’t really anywhere else for me to go.  So, my winter riding is looking a little different than I had mapped out. Fingers crossed we can use at least part of the outdoor through winter (it’s gigantic)  but I’m not feeling confident.

It looks like we’ll be hitting the trail! We’ve always got lots of those! My ultra whiny post may have touched on the fact our trails are generally rocky and steep and it’s mostly walking only. But, better than nothing right? It’s weird I used to do nothing but trail ride, now I’m bored by walking everywhere horseback. I think it’s because I’ve been doing so much hiking and am getting my outdoor exercise fix that way. Anyway, trail riding.... I just need to slap a set of shoes on Sophie and away we go...or we would, if we had a local farrier. We do have someone who comes from the city every eight weeks, but 1) I’m 99.9% sure Sophie is not the pony to keep a full set of shoes attached to her feet for 8 week intervals. 2) She really wants to be underrun with long toes and needs to be trimmed more frequently than that. If she doesn’t have shoes I can take her toes back a little between pro visits.

So, readers, tell me all about your favourite hoof boots. I’ve measured Sophie and she’s a closer fit to the Renegade boots than anything, although the Scoot boots look like a definite maybe.

Renegades - everyone needs a pair of red shoes. I worry she overreaches. She could grab the heel part on these and rip them off? 

Scoot boots - these look like horse sandals :) They’d drain well?

Easyboot gloves on paper don’t look like they’d work...and I do have a set for Bridget that I’m not pleased with (I tried the epics too with minimal luck) so I’m more interested in trying a different brand. 

Ideally, we’re looking for the holy grail of being able to walk/trot/canter on gravel roads, plus navigate west coast mud and steep rocky hills. I don’t need traction in snow because we don’t get much (if snow is even a thing you could do with boots.)

Question #2

I’m feeling so isolated here. I know this is something I’ve mentioned before, but do any of you do real time remote lessons? I feel like the idea could be so close to reality with the Pivo and some Bluetooth ear buds (if only the Pivo worked for me) But, I do have good cell service and a husband who’d video...is there an app for that? Could it be so simple as a Zoom call, or is there a better way? 

Thanks everyone!


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. 


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


“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.


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!


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.


Sunday, 30 August 2020

She’s Special

 Life with Sophie pony...

I had a great ride Saturday, the kind where you dismount already looking forward to the next. Sophie was getting the idea of carrying herself in trot, and we had a walk to trot transition I’d be proud of on any horse, let alone a baby. I feel like she could be pretty special some day.

She then had an appointment with the farrier, and just couldn’t horse any longer. Oh well, can’t be perfect all the time, right? 

The farrier found some small holes of yuck on both Bridget’s left front and left hind toes. We’ve had some funky weather and so it’s nothing to worry too much about, but I definitely wanted to soak them and eliminate any chance of bacteria living in there. I had some dettol on hand, so made up a bucket and soaked B’s feet before packing them with some stuff the farrier left. As I diligently worked at that, I heard a noise behind me. I turned just in time to see Sophie drinking the nasty used contents of Bridget’s hoof soak.


I think she spat all of it out, but what on earth? She’s the fussiest eater I’ve ever owned, she won’t even eat apples or carrots. She’s super picky about her water bucket and won’t drink if it’s not cleaned daily. 

That bucket smelled NASTY, why she’d try to drink it is beyond me. 

Pony is special, all right.


Thursday, 27 August 2020

Meeting in The Middle (The Happy Post)

My drafts folder has a happy positive post, and a sad complain-y one. Today you get the happy post. I think the ‘negative’ one has some valid discussion points and I’ll share it, but I’m going to take a harder look at it with the attitude of holding myself accountable for choosing how I respond to situations. Honestly, despite all the great things happening, and having a nice baby pony to bring along,  I’ve been really struggling with the harder parts of horse ownership and with living here and have been finding it difficult to blog. We all know ignoring the struggle doesn’t make it go away, but I really believe I can make it easier by being conscious of keeping a flexible and open outlook.

Cute ponies make everything better tho

Anyway, here’s a couple of happy things for today:

 I just looked and it was only mid June where I was having a panic attack that Sophie would forever be too tiny for round little me.

Fast forward to yesterday, where I finally listened to everyone saying Sophie looked suddenly bigger and got the stick out, walked up to the road, and measured my now 14.3 and three quarters high pony(horse!?)

I mean, she looks taller than Bridget, but Bridget’s not exactly big at 14hh

I triple checked...and checked again today. It’s true, guys, even allowing a bit for her feet being nearly due for a trim, somehow my pony grew 2 inches in 2.5 months. How? It’s crazy, I kept thinking Bridget looked smaller, and everyone around me has been saying Sophie looks bigger all the sudden. Unreal...she grew about 3 inches from ages 2-4, then suddenly another 2 plus inches after her fourth birthday!

Definitely still a pony at heart, though, happily foraging for shrubberies with her bestie.

She’s filled out more noticeably too. All that pasture must be doing her good because her saddle was starting to get a bit narrow. (The day has come where the one I’m using is borderline OK and she really will need a new saddle if this trend continues...wish me luck!) I’ll have to get the weight tape out and see what it says.

As for myself, I’ve lost 20 pounds. I wish I could say it’s due to focus and hard work, but really I’ve just been super active this summer, only moderately watching calories, and pretty much never checking the scale. I’m back at the place my body really likes to be, which in one way is nice because I know I won’t gain those pounds back without being very, very mean to myself. On the other hand if I want to lose 20 more and be a Lean Mean T I know the next few pounds are going to require real dedication and a lot of long term lifestyle changes. Decision making time, I guess! No matter what, heading towards winter I will have to be mindful of trying to keep myself in a positive headspace...If I let the winter blues hit, or get too focused on my weight/appearance historically all bets are off as far as enjoying exercise and treating myself well :(

Bridget and I are soulmates, I think - at least when it comes to feelings about food and exercise, lol

Anyway, long story short, I’m a little smaller, Sophie’s a little bigger and I’m no longer feeling super worried about being ponycrusher dot com.  I’m feeling a lot more positive Sophie’s going to stay here a long while yet (which is good because I kind of love her).


Sunday, 16 August 2020

Slowing It Down

 I know, I know...I’m already the most boring blogger out there. How can things possibly move even slower? :)

Since my last post, Sophie’s had a few rides, I’ve had a week’s vacation and Bridget’s continued to live her best life.

Very efficient lawn mowing

When we left off, things were going swimmingly with Sophie, but then we hit a bit of a roadblock with canter. She has been bucking a bit and kicking at the leg and of course finds the whole cantering on a lead and not just swapping around as she feels like it a bit difficult. I know the bucking is fairly normal while they figure out balance and where their feet are, and I sort of had a few suspicions that she might take offence to my leg touching her at certain times in her heat cycle (poor thing is pretty darn mare-ish) So, all in all, not a big deal, but I started to notice she was getting tense and anxious about it so figured slowing it down and taking a step back might be appropriate. 

Gorgeous vacation camp site

The past week, someone set up a trail course in the main arena, so we rode through that and practiced bending and moving her body in walk in an effort to mix it up a bit and take the canter stress away. She’s hilarious in that the trail course itself, including bridge, was fine, but those same objects stacked outside the area are pony eating monsters. I then went off camping for three days and just left her out in the field to chill. This weekend I revisited longeing and felt like I was quite successful in reestablishing a nice relaxed neck and back. She’s also started stepping nicely into canter again and holding a nice relaxed rhythm there, often even on the correct lead, lol. (for the record, I’m not at all worried about leads right now, I just want forward and for her to focus on that. Consistent relaxed forward will solve most of the bouncing around and random leg flinging and lead changes)

I think I’m ready to pop back on and try a bit of canter from the saddle again. Wish me luck sticking in there, lol.

In other news, we’ve got not just one, but THREE lessons scheduled for September. My coach EC is coming for a visit and is going to give me a lesson too, which is wonderful, and then the lovely lady who travelled here in a July is coming back to give us two lessons later in the month.

We’ve been having a heat wave, so the ponies are back in their forest paddock. 

I’m really excited (and nervous) for EC to see Sophie. The last time she saw her in person was the day we picked her up from the states and Sophie was still a baby then! I know she’ll give me tons of valuable feedback and homework. One of the good/bad things about having a history with her is that I know she’s going to be completely honest and hold me accountable for myself and my goals. I’ll probably hear some things that will no doubt be accurate and necessary, but that I won’t like hearing. Pony is perfect, of course, and still an upper level dressage prospect, and months of being left to my own devices hasn’t messed anything up, right? 😁 Still, it’s exciting, because I trust her opinion and ability to give us reasonable homework to reach our goals. A little scary too because it  means this is really happening now!


Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Semi Retirement

Thanks for the nice comments re: my little mishap with the healing balms that burn instead. Lesson learned, I'll do tiny test spots next time before I start spreading it all over the place!

Sophie's mostly all healed with just a few small bald spots and some flaky skin left, so I think we're good to get back at it and I have a ride scheduled for tonight. Yay!

However, I'm not sure if I ever updated anything on the Bridget front. TLDR: over the past year or so, we had some mystery lameness, followed by a bout of heaves. Vet came, we got the heaves sorted, I was super excited and happy. Then, after a few light rides, pony was back to being off behind again. Shockingly, the antihistamines didn't stop the huffing and puffing of an out of shape pony, either ;)

I've now had time to wrap my head around things and make a plan of action. I've waffled all over the place on this blog over what to do with Ms Bridget and how she fits into my available time and riding goals (or not) and I think I'm finally at peace with a decision.

Don't beat me up too much over this, please, because my plan of action doesn't contain much action and is essentially just a continuation of what I've been doing for a year now :) 

Basically, she's just going to be retired from anything demanding. She's only 12, I know. I know there are injections and lotions and potions and vet procedures and I myself could be putting more strength and fitness building miles on her. I know this could be viewed as giving up without really trying, but I think any of you that have been here for a while know how much work and effort has gone into making my non-sporty pony somewhat athletic and using her body better. Long time readers might remember my virtual ride where I tracked miles all the way to Mexico, all in the name of having a pony fit enough to event...at starter level..where she still needed a trot break at the last water and had so much time, lol.

Accurate depiction of Bridget's level of interest in horse shows

You might even remember all the times I came here to say "I give up, I just can't with this pony." Or the million different ways she drove me nuts by offering up absolutely nothing for free. In short, she's not missing having a job, and I'm probably crazy to be missing those rides, lol.

The vet has looked, is not super concerned given her current lifestyle, but was in agreement further diagnostics and a plan would likely be needed should I want to do more. But, you know what, it's past time to put it our there that I don't think I do. I think she's happy and sound hanging out in the field and going for the odd hack around the neighbourhood. I think it's reasonable she stays in light work to keep her moving and moderately fit, but if she's showing signs of wear and tear now, I feel like the right thing to do is to not add too many more hard or unnecessary miles.

I hesitate to describe how I've been feeling about things and haven't blogged too much about it, because I realize I'm very lucky to have a happy, somewhat sound Bridget that I can afford to keep as a second semi retired horse. But I do really, really miss her, if that makes sense. Even though she drove me crazy with her lack of work ethic and I get to see her happy and thriving in the field every day,  it still feels like I've lost something. Something really big, to be honest. I'm sure some of you will know what I'm talking about when I say when I hop on her it's 'home' and as such I had hoped we'd have a lot more competitions and adventures ahead of us.

Looking so good right now if I do say so myself

 At the risk of sounding REALLY spoiled, I should out myself and admit that as much as I absolutely love Sophie, I miss my chunky cob pony and so my motivation with Sophie hasn't quite been what it should be. My increased habit of trawling through the internet looking for chunky sporty ponies for sale should also be something I admit to.

So, I think it's well past time I take a deep breath, appreciate what I have, and move on to embrace the opportunities I am given moving forward. So let's start here, by posting this blog entry.

(And heading out to my lesson tonight on Sophie :)

She'd very much like to be a bigger part of my riding adventures.


Monday, 3 August 2020

Failing, and Planning Ahead

Shortly after my last update, we had a bit of a heatwave. “Yay! Summer is finally here!”, I was saying, annoying pretty much every non heat loving person out there (and Bridget)

Well, I’m back to say summer is stupid. I put some healing balm stuff on a few scrapes and scratches on Sophie one night. Feeling like an extra good owner, I added some SWAT a bit later, since the mosquitos and flies are exceptionally bad this year.

And...whatever concoction I created ended up making Sophie’s hair fall out and the skin underneath almost look a little burned :( I suspect it was more a result of using oily based products and light coloured pony being in the sun vs an actual issue with either product, but still...yuck. I feel terrible.

It’s been about a week now and it’s all healing just fine, but I haven’t been riding since a couple of the patches were under where my saddle would sit. 

On the plus side, she has (had?) a couple of old scars from a pasture ‘accident’ (overly aggressive pasture mate beat her up, says me) from that winter I boarded her,  and whatever happened irritated those enough that there’s now pink healthy skin there, so maybe I can hope they’ll heal a little better this time. 

No pictures because I’d like to forget it ever happened, but I’ll tell the story because I’d feel bad if it happened to one of you.

Anyway, I messed that up.

 I did attempt to use the down time productively.

I’ve made up my winter feeding plan (surprisingly complicated given our location and hay availability and delivery options) and managed to fill our truck with bags of hay cubes on a recent trip across the water. Hay is classified as a dangerous good on the ferry, and the worker was sceptical but agreed bags of cubes are unlikely to spontaneously combust and let us on. Hay that’s not hay for the win, and hopefully by subbing in the cubes for some of their forage I can be a bit more flexible with my “real” hay supply deliveries.

Equine Super Diet is my new favourite thing, and I picked up a giant bucket of that on sale too and probably have about a years supply now. No more big bags of grain or ration balancers...a tiny cup of this stuff has all the vitamins my two need and they’re thriving. So much more cost effective and no worries about grain deliveries and orders now.

Shiny, happy

I got Lake Bridget out a few times and “training” is progressing well.

Loads reliably

Ties, good with water

I also got a good start on my bedroom turned home office space, finishing all the painting and getting the desk built. So much more to do, but I put in a lot of hours this weekend and progress is being made. Very horse relevant because the ability to work well from home means I have so much more time for riding!

Was a closet, is now an alcove for a desk. I was going to put in shelves above but the closet and the walls themselves are not remotely built square and I’m done with that. Just a PSA if you see a cute closet remodel...given all the fiddly time spent on this, a nice stand-alone desk would have been well worth the expense. The only reason I persisted is that the closet doors needed replacing as did the falling down organizer...so why not do something different and keep more of the room open for yoga space.  Also, please ignore the mess, and my short person problem of having a chair dedicated to being a step stool :D

Finally, I bought my husband his very own manure fork, thereby doubling paddock picking productivity! (Joking, I DID buy him a nice manure fork to use when he wants to instead of his current wobbly duct taped one no one else wanted, but his days are his own. He’s the best and super supportive of my crazy horse obsession but horses aren’t his thing and I’m good with that!)

Fingers crossed, I’ll be back in the saddle this week, then next week is part two of my Staycation 2020 which I’m hoping will feature a lot of barn time!

Monday, 27 July 2020

What We're Working On

Owning a baby is fun and everything, but it's not really where it's at for fascinating blog content. I love getting into the nitty gritty of riding and training horses as much as anyone, but currently my goal posts look like this:

"We trotted around the arena without trying to stop even once!"

"She only got distracted and spooked twice this ride!"

"She was almost offering contact those few strides!"

"We walked over those poles without hesitation. Then we trotted them!"

"I didn't grab her face when she scooted forward that time!"

All good things, of course, but not something anyone wants to write (or read) an in depth post about.

She'd also like you to know I trimmed her mane. Exciting!!!
She'd also like you to know I trimmed her bridle path and she'd like it back.

I'm continuing to pick away at our homework from the clinic, but in a very easygoing way. After the force of nature that is Bridget, I'm very conscious of wanting to keep things fun and easy for Sophie. Sophie wants to be good and go to work and make everyone happy, so there is no need to 'work through' much of anything at the moment or 'install' a work ethic, she'll give you 110% every time. I'm not feeling any push to work hard to progress quickly, either. We're in a very lucky position to have a summer to ourselves without many lessons or showing goals or even too many people to share an arena with, so why not just take it easy, build up a really good base and partnership and have lots of fun, relaxed miles to start out her career.

Our homework from the clinic is useful to revisit no matter what stage you're at, so here's what I'm currently looking for in a ride:

 - Be very aware of where the feet are. No meandering around, even in warm up/cool down (so guilty of that over here!) Rider chooses path and speed, turn your head and look where you're going, have a plan well in advance! Straightness, straightness, straightness.

This post brought to you by outtakes. Pictured: me, not looking where I'm going and doing weird things with my arms and hands.

- Rhythm, relaxation. For about the next two years, those are the main focus of any dressage test we'll be tackling (and of course a necessary thing in general!)

- Resist any temptation to 'put her on the bit' or fiddle with the reins/push her there in her body. She needs to find her own balance and way to the connection, and that will come with the above.

- For me: don't baby her now and try to change the rules later (I got called out big time on my tendency to use a big opening rein to the point I'm upsetting her balance by pulling her head around) Small open rein is fine for now until direct and neck rein is a thing, but don't forget the entire body needs to turn, not just the head, so just go ahead and use those seat and leg aids and ride her like she's more educated than she is :)

- Forward impulsion is my friend. Straightness, turns, transitions all so much easier when she's marching along.

- Keeping things short and interesting. She figured out how to move her shoulders over and do squares the other day, so we quit there, after about 10 minutes of walking.

Troll hair alive and well ;)

I've been setting up different patterns with cones and poles this past week. I'm finding it's great for keeping us both focused and on task. We're super lucky to have a huge arena to use, but of course the flip side to that is that every time I go back to a 20x40 arena it's apparent that my 20 meter circles have grown larger and my idea of straight and sharp transitions are no match for small spaces ;) We're not worried about dressage arenas yet with Sophie, but you can't start too early, and given my general goal of keeping a defined path and knowing where her feet are, patterns and poles to define the space are a good thing.

Enjoying her down time.

Next clinic is a month away and it will be fun to see what changes we've made between now and then. I had a longer term plan of buying a trailer and trailering her down to EC's regularly next fall and winter, possibly boarding there part of the time, but if the clinician we had last time commits to coming to us on a once a month schedule long term, I might stick with that until Sophie and I are a bit further along and we can really take advantage of EC's talents. I really, really miss her and the barn crew and the show opportunities, but with travel and Covid considerations for now I'm just grateful we've got someone who will come here regularly.