Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Snow Day!

Despite living in Canada, we don't tend to see a lot of freezing weather. Snow is even more rare - sometimes we don't get any all winter! You wouldn't know that today, though! We got so much snow that my office was closed and I got to take a snow day. Here's a few pictures of Sophie - she was feeling quite silly. (Of course Bridget is doing great too, but she wasn't in to showing off for the camera today :)


Saturday, 11 January 2020

Muddy Pony Party!

The west coast mid winter struggle is well and truly here. There has been so much rain for so long. Then it snowed and melted. The ground is completely saturated and there is standing water everywhere there isn't mud. The outdoor arena is in a forested area and actually covered with snow, so it's unusable too. It's against the rules to longe in the indoor, so this week I've been at a bit of a loss as far as letting Sophie have the good run and buck she's desperately wanting.

Bonus extra hairy llama impression

As for riding, that's also out because Sophie has some lovely skin funk between her front legs and up to her girth area, I think because she insists on laying in the muddiest corner of her paddock rather than her dry stall. Her blanket saves most of her, but her belly is perpetually filthy. I'm going to clip the worst of the yak hair off so I can put something on it. Wish me luck, she's so ticklish and fussy there it's going to be an adventure :) Note to self: Next year pony is getting clipped!

Currently failing every standard of proper pony turnout, ever. So much mud, so much hair.
How is it that my hairy Welsh Cob is substantially LESS hairy than my "fancy" Sophie pony?

If only we could send some of this moisture to those who need it. In light of what's going on in Australia, I'm pretty grateful mud and some related pony skin funk is my biggest weather worry.

In the spirit of being grateful and making the best of things,  I organized an impromptu pony party today. Sophie's sacrifice paddock was entirely ankle deep in mud and standing water today , but Bridget's is still holding up really well. Bridget also has access to a small grassy area in the trees that I've been saving for a day like this, so it hasn't been used since fall. I opened that gate, then brought Sophie over for to a day to play and dry out.

Spoiler alert: Sophie was excited.

It's a win/win because they both get exercise and Sophie gets some ettiquite reminders courtesy of Aunty Bridget. You might remember me mentioning a bored Sophie is a bad Sophie and one of her favorite things when bored is to kick the fence between her and Bridget and generally make nasty mare faces in her direction.

I was surprised that when put in with Bridget, she took that to the next level and immediately went on the offensive. They're obviously neighbours, are ridden together often, and have lived together before, so I thought they had things figured out. I guess they had enough time apart things needed sorting again, or maybe S had got a little too confident being a bully on her side of the fence. One of Bridget's many awesome attributes is that she's firm in her boundaries without being unfair, so S got a wake up call quite quickly and was put in her place quietly and effectively.

Trying to act tough

After that, it was game on, and they had a great time playing, napping, and grooming each other for a few hours this afternoon.  They absolutely trashed the small field and Bridget's paddock is looking a lot worse for wear too but they had so much fun running and playing and generally being silly. It was well worth it.

Part of me wishes it could be a regular thing, but the winter sacrifice paddocks don't have shelters big enough for two, plus Sophie gets stupidly herdbound and Bridget gets tired of it. Fingers crossed, maybe we'll get a week or two of drier weather soon and they can go back out into one of the bigger fields.

Maybe one day if I have a bigger space and room for three or more out together. I'd like them to have group turnout, but for now the best I can do in winter is to give them the odd pony party together :)

Friday, 3 January 2020

R and R (and some thoughts on where we're going)

I took this past week off from riding. My husband's work closed down at the last minute over Christmas, so he unexpectedly had time off! We never have the same days off, so instead of trying to get things done around the house and with the horses, I decided to just have some proper vacation time with him. He helps me so much with the horses in and around the million and one other commitments he normally has that it didn't feel right to fill up his vacation time with my horsey goals.
Out for a hike

We both like hiking so every morning we picked a new to us destination and went exploring. We're so lucky here to have a huge amount of backcountry to explore. Even growing up here, I've maybe explored 10% of it. 

I can see the top of this hill from our house, yet had no clue there was a trail to the top with such a nice view.

Of course, I couldn't help but scout the new to us trails for future riding opportunities. Sadly most of the ones we hiked had at least part that weren't horse friendly, but I did find a couple suitable for future adventures. Afternoons I mucked out the horses and did feeds and other chores, then evenings I was back at home for dinner and a movie with my husband. The weather was absolutely miserable the entire time, but we had a great week and honestly, the shorter hours and smaller to-do list at the barn were a nice change.

We found this Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere. So fun.

Anyway, I'm back at work now and normal life speed has resumed, so it's time to start planning 2020 vacation time and start thinking about what I'd like to do this year with the horses.

I've enjoyed not setting hard goals or deadlines the past couple of years, and I'm keeping with that this year. I like to check items off the list as much as anyone, but I'm also that person who beats myself up and gets anxious if things don't go to my plan. The only answer to that is to is not have very many firm plans ;)

Bridget has been kind of in and out of work all year and I can't see that changing in 2020. I have nothing I want to accomplish with her and my main goal is to just give her the happiest life I can. I'll keep her exercised as it keeps me exercised too and she likes getting out. I try to add in new and interesting things to keep it from being boring, but honestly there's nothing groundbreaking. I've been tossing around breeding her and even have a contact with a lovely Sec D stallion I can send her to, but haven't quite made a decision on the risk vs potential reward aspect of that.


Sophie....I'll keep picking away over the winter. I'd like to have solid W/T/C and hacking out short distances alone by mid spring, but we'll see. I still feel like she's very immature physically and mentally and so things might just take as long as they take. I'd like to aim for a local dressage show or two in my coach's town, with the possibility of lessons and training in the fall when my coach's competition season slows down. It's all very much open to change. The big picture goal is to get the basics established under saddle and get her out and about as much as I can while still keeping her happy and interested.
Did I mention it rained in December? and rained...and rained some more.

She's looking a lot more proportionate, but she's still got so much filling out to do.

It's kind of non exciting from a blogging point of view but I'm seeing 2021 as the year where I'd potentially have a proper dressage competition season and maybe try eventing again too.

On a personal level, I pretty much just want to do my best to stay happy and healthy. Riding ponies, there are some wishful numbers on the scale associated with some of my riding goals, but I'm more concerned with keeping a good mindset and just treating myself well overall.

Onward we go!


Thursday, 26 December 2019

Midwinter Resources

'Tis the season - shopping, reading and video links come fast and furious this time of year!

Here's a few things that have caught my attention lately:

- So You Think You Want a Young Horse? Courtesy of We Are Flying Solo. A must read if you're considering adding a young or green horse to your life. I can identify with all of it. Good horses are mostly made, not born, and wow is it a lot of work. This looks to be part 1 of a series. I can't wait to see what else she's going to add.

- Mugwump came back! I absolutely love her blog and ICYMI there have been a few new posts in the past month or so.

- Dressage Unwrapped - Olympia 2019 Dressage masterclass featuring Carl and Charlotte, Pippa Funnell, Gareth Hughes, Richard Davison and of course some amazing horses. I loved it.

- Everything you need to know about saddle shopping, from CobJockey. OK, so maybe not EVERYTHING, but almost! There are detailed notes and thoughts on tons of different saddles and brands she tried and her final choice is super cool.

- This Explains A Lot - Doing The Work Blog. This one was shared on facebook multiple times but if you're one of the few who hasn't seen it, it is worth a read. When I went just now to link the page, I discovered a lot of of other great content on her blog too. I particularly liked the thoughts on learned helplessness and desensitizing and have bookmarked her blog so I can keep reading!

- 32 Year Old Pony Takes Supreme In Hand Title At Olympia Ponies. They kick ass at any age.

- Parallax Hay Play Ball. Bridget loved this right from the start, but I admit I was a bit skeptical. Surely the hay would get wet and muddy? How was she going to get it all out? A couple of weeks in and I'm so sold on this thing I'm buying one for Sophie too. Bridget has tried her best to destroy it (she's smart and tried alternately to crush it and tear the lid off) to no avail. The weather has been horrible, but the hay doesn't get overly wet or muddy, and B figured it out quickly so it's emptied by her daily. If she's motivated, it takes her about 2-3 hours to empty it from 3/4 full, and in that time she's walking all over her paddock chasing and grazing from this thing. I use it in addition to hay nets to make her hay last longer into the night. I'm not sure this will work for every horse, but for my bored of winter paddocks and food motivated ponies it's definitely a win.

- Equestrian Stockholm and PS of Sweden both have some great sales on if you might need some matchy matchy. Greenhawk also has some good Boxing Day sales if you need essentials. No links, use Google if you must - I'm not going to be responsible for completely enabling you  ;)


Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Season's Greetings

Wishing everyone a great holiday. I hope you are all able to enjoy the day as you like. Maybe that means with friends and family (or maybe if you're like me, a peaceful afternoon at the barn with the horses ;)

As always, thanks for reading and following our story in 2019. I appreciate the support more than I can say, and even more than that, I love following along with your adventures! You're all so inspiring and keep me motivated to be a better person (and rider) every day.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

6th and 7th Rides Of Christmas

I think I'll just leave you with a few pictures today. Progress right now with Sophie is at the pace of watching paint dry and probably equally exciting for blog reading (but sorry, non exciting progress is just the way I want it right now!). Todays "big" change? Our walk circles were more confidently circular! Yay!

We may need to remeasure the Banana Pony. She's looking quite a bit taller than Bridget now!

I also popped on Bridget and she felt pretty good on the indoor footing. Another clue, perhaps. I'm thinking I'll just keep going with tons of walking and only a tiny bit of trot and canter. There are tons of exercises we can do at walk to add strength and flexibility, so why not see where that gets us. As per the vet, it won''t hurt.

I thought I was off work for the duration, but I need to man the office Monday/Tuesday. The plan is to be back home late Christmas Eve, and I'll be off again til Jan 2nd. I'm hopeful I'll get a whole lot more holiday rides in before January!


Friday, 20 December 2019

The Fifth Ride/Swim of Christmas

The weather is still horrible. Part of Sophie's paddock isn't draining and is so muddy it's over the top of my boots. Of course that's also the part where she loves to sleep and poop!  I need to invest in some wellies and allow myself more daylight hours for mucking out. I spend a good part of the time doing chores planning in my mind all the ways I could set up our barn at home more efficiently (and with less mud!)

I realize I probably haven't mentioned much about about our building plans lately. That's because they're on hold. We're still waiting for the city to give us the permit, but in the meantime I think we've both lost motivation and are again looking at bigger lots (outside the city, coincidentally, lol) So, perhaps my post about building a barn was premature.

Our only pictures today are from inside because dark and rain do my camera no favors.

Anyway, I did get mud monster Sophie out today. I took her down to the outdoor arena and longed her a little. It's funny how things sneak up on you - she feels petty solid out there all the sudden. I added in some poles to keep it interesting and to up the difficulty and she was great. The only little issue is left lead canter is still a work in progress (it's weak so she swaps leads all over the place when she gets unbalanced or tired - timing is everything) and the poles were confusing that, so instead I used it as an opportunity to do a lot of transitions by trotting over the poles and cantering the rest.

It was getting dark and it was so, so damp out, so we ventured over to the barn with the indoor. Sophie isn't a fan of it over there because the horses that live there are always just out of sight behind some big trees. Also, they never answer her whinnies, so she's uncertain whether they are there and friendly or horse zombies stalking her from the forest.


So, it's not her happy place. I got on anyway because I feel like if I start making excuses not to that's the start of a slippery slope mentally for me. Sophie was definitely not as relaxed as I would have liked and had a few opinions about things but I was proud that for the most part she kept a lid on the feelings. There's nothing new to report technically - we walked some shapes a generous person might call circular,  a few laps each direction. Lots of stopping and starting, lots of falling through the outside shoulder (the attraction to the pretty blonde pony in the mirrors at the far end was strong and S of course has only a tiny idea what my outside rein means :) The amusing part to me is that I was working on the same basic things with Bridget yesterday - please keep a consistent tempo unless I ask for different, and please keep your shoulders on the path. Of course, the corrections for B are usually in trot or canter and are very subtle, but it's there nonetheless.

What I was very proud of was that Sophie really tried her best for me despite being uneasy about the surroundings. I think next  we might be ready to add a little trotting to our repertoire of things we can do.

Babies being babies, and Sophie being Sophie, I think her brain ran out of batteries in the indoor because our walk back home was...eventful. A truck drove by and water splashed under the tires and S lost her mind. I'm 99% sure we did not get splashed - I think it was just the noise she took offense to. Then every other vehicle that drove by was cause for drama. Of course one of them was the barn owner who already thinks Sophie is a nut. S did not do  herself any favors by leaping in the ditch when their truck came and then panicking because surprise! the ditch is full of water right now and she was swimming. Oh my. Traffic is one of the things I would have told you she's super solid with, but it looks like we might need to revisit that.

Ah well, two steps forward, one back (and into a ditch). Tomorrow is another day :)


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Fourth Ride of Christmas

The weather has been awful the past two days with nearly freezing temps and an incredible amount of rain. I had plans of getting both ponies down to the indoor arena,  but honestly, one look at the mud sculpture that resembled Sophie and we voted her off the island. She's part duck or pig or something and is just living her best soaking wet, muddy life out there. 

Bridget was so sassy.

Bridget and I went for a trip to the indoor and I got absolutely soaking wet on the way. Bridget had her Bucas quarter sheet and of course her giant fur coat keeping her warm and dry. I was less content. I'd pay good money for waterproof riding gear for myself. So far I've never found anything that holds up to our weather. I do alright wearing a layer of fleece or wool so at least if I'm moving I'm still warm enough, but I end up pretty chilled by the end of the day.

Anyway, we had a short but sweet ride in the indoor. B unfortunately didn't feel 100% to the left, but she has tons of sassy pony energy and we had fun. I tried to get video for you guys, but apparently I need practice and it turned out too blurry to use any.

On another topic, as I rode my spooky, prancy pony home in the dark, wind, and rain I was pondering how I really don't have too much anxiety about riding these days. I know I'm not brave on a lot of horses, but I guess I must trust the two I have, even the one that's definitely a little sketchy. (Looking at you Sophie!) 

Fingers crossed the monsoons will ease off tomorrow and I can get both ponies out without it feeling quite so overwhelming. I'm beyond excited to get some more rides in on Sophie :) 

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

The Third Ride of Christmas

And it was a big one!

I got to take Sophie on a trail ride! My husband very kindly led Bridget along with us, so I felt fairly comfortable hopping on Sophie knowing we had a good safety net in place. Still, you just never know with baby horses and I was a little nervous, I won't lie.

Spoiler alert, I was so happy and proud, because she was a very good girl!

Sweaty post ride pony. I've got no riding pictures today because I really just wanted to only worry about making sure she had the best possible outing.

I tried to set us up for success by taking a loop trail we've hand walked her on a few times before. I also waited for a weekday when its usually pretty quiet. The loop itself takes about 90 minutes and is almost all decommissioned forestry roads (Don't worry, I only hopped on for about 30 minutes of it). I felt like the route is a nice combination of technical to keep her mind busy, while still having enough room to maneuver should anything get weird. Also, there's a nice long gradual uphill section which used to serve me well with the very spicy baby Ginger pony - a tired pony was a good pony in her case!

Roadside eating breaks  encouraged. I really want these first rides  = fun adventures for her.

Sophie again felt a little unsettled by the fact I was in the saddle rather than beside her. It felt a little bit like there was a fire under her tail and we might go rocketing up the trail, lol.  I tucked her in behind Bridget, just in case! As is my luck, some random dude popped up in the bushes alongside the trail almost immediately. Sophie was on full alert. I said hi to the guy but he didn't respond and kept on lurking. Maybe picking mushrooms? I don't know. Whatever the case, G and Bridget had to come back and get us because Sophie was too worried to move past the spot on her own.

Next up, we navigated a whole series of big puddles and ditches. When they decommission the roads, they pull out any infrastructure like bridges or culverts, which leaves lots of big ditches and creek crossings to navigate.  Sophie was excellent and got the hang of figuring out where to put her feet and how to go up and down the big dips with a rider. She's so good with water, which I really appreciate!

We saw another nice person out walking their dog, but otherwise it was quiet, just as I'd hoped. (S is great for almost everything but I need to work on cyclists coming up behind us and she's not 100% with ATVs/dirtbikes if they don't slow down enough)

It's been a while since I've ridden a wobbly baby pony on the trails...I forgot how weird it is to ride a horse that doesn't really know how to go where you point and who makes more than a few interesting choices regarding where they put their feet. As the rider, you really are just along for the ride!

By the time I hopped off, we were confidently leading the way on a loose rein, and I even felt like I had some rudimentary brakes and steering. So pleased we were able to give her such a positive and confidence boosting outing:)

Happy, happy

Such a good girl! I'm going to try to fit in more trail rides in the next few weeks - I feel like it's so much easier and fun for the horses  to install the basics out there because there's a visible purpose to everything I ask (stop for this gate, go around that tree, slow down for this downhill section, etc).

I have to mention that Bridget was feeling great again too. G was like "what are you feeding her? She's towing me everywhere!" Her little ears were forward the whole time and she seemed so happy to be out. Fingers crossed I have time for another Bridget ride soon. I'm just so happy she's feeling so good.

It sounds like we're going to get rained out today (100mm+ forecasted!), so the ponies may get a day off, especially as the indoor arena is already booked. Hopefully see you again soon!


Tuesday, 17 December 2019

The Second Ride of Christmas

Keeping with the 12 rides of Christmas (vacation) theme, here's ride #2.

I started out today so frustrated. For now, I feel like it's safer to have someone around when I ride since Sophie is still so new under saddle. But, for the second day in a row, the person cancelled at the last minute and I couldn't round anyone else up to keep me company. So, I was sad.

Once I can string a week or two of rides together, I'll feel better about riding alone.  I love self boarding and actually like riding by myself the majority of the time, but this is one of the times I wish for a busier barn where there's always that built in safety net of people and other horses sharing the space  :)

In other news, Bridget got this hay ball for Xmas and highly approves of it.

I think I just need to suck it up and get it done, help or none...I took vacation time partly to get Sophie going, and I don't want to waste it. If I'm honest I've been trying to organize consistent help since September but life is busy and we get  a day or two in and something else always comes up. Maybe on those days  I can text a friend before I get on and have them check in at a agreed upon time if they don't hear from me? Trying to think outside the box. For now, I still take her out and longe or hand walk her, so it's not a total loss.

Anyway, today wasn't all disappointing! I rode Bridget and she felt totally enthusiastic, energetic, and best thing ever - sound! That alone obviously made my day, after months of vague off and on lameness and stiffness. I didn't want to jinx anything by getting my hopes up, but she felt pretty fantastic last week too. I had given her almost a month off and we did some short walking hacks last week to get back into the swing of things. I'm hoping to add a little more trot in this week, then a bit of cantering next week if she continues to feel OK.

This angle does her no favors, but she is definitely rocking a winter bod, lol

Today, she was ridiculously excited to get out and so light and forward. I might have got a little teary eyed - it makes me so happy that she's feeling so good.  I just did  some easy walk/trot/walk/halt transitions on big loops around the area. I kept the trot to straight lines and it felt totally even and she was really pushing over her back for the first time in ages.

Sassy, happy pony <3

Fingers crossed, this feeling stays. Either way, today's ride is a gift I definitely appreciate :)