Monday 30 June 2014

A Long, Long Weekend

I had a great (and much needed) mini vacation with G and and a bunch of our friends. It's funny how you don't really know how burnt out you are until you're able to take a time out and relax a bit. The concert we went to was a bit of a bust because I was exhausted and could barely keep my eyes open - I tried to pull the 'jet lagged' (Edmonton to Vancouver = 1 hr, ha ha) card but no one was buying it. I was the party pooper calling a cab at midnight before the concert was even over:) Although I didn't mention it here, part of my trip was supposed to be finally visiting a little Welsh Cob I'm interested in. Sadly, some emails were lost in cyberspace, the schedule didn't work out, and I was just too darn tied to consider adding an extra day of driving this time around. Just as well anyways, since G really deserved some time with me doing some of the things he likes to do - football and soccer games and eating a whole lot of really excellent food.

I spent a bit of time by the pool thinking my horsey goals over. I love where I'm at confidence and riding wise and would really like to keep building on that. Ideally I'd find an older schoolmaster type to have fun on and keep doing the jumping lessons with, while continuing to trail ride and bring Ginger along slowly. Little cob mare is super cute and sweet, very sensible and quiet, but greener than I'd hoped to find. She's also a bit smaller than I'd ideally like so I'm a little on the fence about it. Further dieting would be in order, I think. Google says I'm well within acceptable limits, but with jumping especially I feel like less would be better. (Getting fitter is always a good thing, though :)
The cuteness is overwhelming

 For the price, if I was willing to go with a more common breed,  I could get a really well schooled jumping and/or dressage horse with a bit more real world experience. I'm anxious that even a quiet and straightforward younger/green horse might have some kind of unknown quirk that needs serious hours to work through. Not a huge deal normally, but could be overwhelming when I already have the quirkiest mare in town :) Still, I've never met a breed I've liked more, and I love how they are so versatile as well. I'm hoping to make a visit to the farm in a couple of weeks for a test ride. Common sense is being thrown out the window, at least temporarily :)

Thursday 26 June 2014

Welcome To Your Weekly Barn Tour

I'll be the rider for the evening :) Once again, a new horse to ride! Splash was lame, so Chase was a last minute substitution. Pretty sure you've seen all the adult sized lesson horses now!
Your obligatory crappy iPhone cross tie pic
Chase is a small (guessing 14.3hh or so) Morgan type. He normally has the same rider every week, so he`s not a usual suspect as far as horse assignments go. As soon as I got on, I was in love with him. He`s super forward, a bigger mover, and is really on the aids. He`s also one who knows how to use his hind end, so you get that lovely feeling of power. He`s quite quick, but so much fun - he gets the big horse striding no problem, but has the little horse turning radius :)

Flatwork was super - I was having trouble keeping the grin off my face. I find him super easy to ride, so even the two point/no stirrups stuff was easy - I felt like we hadn't even started and our warmup was over.

Jumping was also super. He really takes you to the jumps and isn't spooky at all. Canter departs on the first go round were a bit of a mess, with him racing into it a bit. We trotted most of the fences. The turns were a bit motorbike style as well - I've gotten a bit out of practice slowing things down and keeping those shoulders up when my usual rides are more about just keeping the forward momentum! Thank goodness he's fun size - it might have been scary for me on a big horse. Second go round was much better, with me remembering to ride into my corners and getting a nicer canter.

Since no one had issues with the course, we finished early and had fun riding bareback. We were told to keep it to walk/trot, which was fine by me - not sure I'd want to canter a new horse bareback quite yet! Again, I had a lot of fun - I was reminded of all those great times with my pony as a kid, before I owned a saddle. All the no stirrups work, saddles that rarely fit me, and not to mention all the different horses to ride seem to have really helped my balance. At one point we were trotting and I guess speeding up/motorbiking and I started posting and riding 20m circles to balance him up without really thinking about it. Then I was like "Wait, this is crazy...I have no saddle.....I can't do this!" Best part of the lesson? "Oh wait, I CAN do this and it's easy!"
Another bad pic. You're welcome!
That's all you get for this week - no lesson Saturday as I'm off to Vancouver this afternoon for a long weekend in the city with friends (and G, of course!). Back to your regularly scheduled programming next Wednesday.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

What It Costs

I'm taking some inspiration for this post from SprinklerBandits and She Moved To Texas.

This topic has really been on my mind for the last little while. Paying for a pony I never see kind of stinks!

I think we can all agree that the initial purchase price of a horse is nothing compared to the monthly upkeep so I won't go there - others have said it much better than I could.

Instead. lets have a little fun with this. I love Lauren's idea of illustrating the costs relative to other things. I'm going to do mine for the projected 2014 year, and with a west coast angle :)

Gas to and from the barn = 20lbs of smoked salmon
Club memberships/arena rentals/insurance = 50 Grande mochas
Coaching/showing = 12 whale watching day trips

Farrier ( I get off lucky here with just trims) = 16 cute umbrellas

Vet = 6 pairs of "fancy" yoga pants

Tack and rider gear, misc barn supplies: 14 NHL games (Tiny image because I wouldn't advise cheering for this team ;)

 Full board: I could take up a couple of new hobbies for the cost.

First off, lets buy a kayak:
Then a nice full suspension mountain bike:
Then, because I'd like company, I'd buy a second bike and a kayak for G too.

 I do the horse thing on a super budget, but this is still slightly depressing!

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Hate To Admit It...

But I kind of like my job! They've offered to let me have Wednesday afternoons off for the rest of the summer so I can still ride during the barns summer lesson times. I didn't want to ask since they've been so great already, but they offered and I won't say no :) I can work extra hours other days if I want to make up time, which is also very much appreciated by me! I'm so happy to still have the opportunity to learn from all the wonderful lesson horses at the barn. 
Is your workplace more traditional 9-5, or do they let you fit in horse time?
I know the trend these days is for companies to be much more flexible about work hours and location in the past, but this is the first place I've worked that actively encourages it and makes it super easy - I just block the time off on my outlook calendar and it's "official".

Image via Google :)


Saturday 21 June 2014

Like Molasses

This is one of my favorite days of the year. I heard on the radio this morning we are getting 17 hrs of sunlight today! Craziness, I tell you. I don't feel like we're that much farther north here than at home in BC, but it's obviously enough to make a difference, because even in the middle of the night it doesn't get really dark right now. Also, it's Saturday today, which means a riding lesson! Ultimate favorite day!

My ride today was sloooooow. Splash was not feeling the love, and was only interested in putting out minimum effort. Even over the jumps I felt like we were in slow motion replay. He was also a bit spooky, which doesn't help the whole sucking behind the leg situation he so favors. I'm feeling a little uncharitable and suspecting the 'spookiness' was just an attempted excuse to be Mr Molasses. I got him going, but it wasn't that nice forward thinking frame of mind taking me to the jumps, more me telling him he'd better get there...or else :( I found myself wishing more than once for the super forward thinking Ms Gingersnap. She's great in that she has an excellent work ethic - you ask for a working trot and she'll give you one until you ask for something else - no reminding her of her job required. (Never mind that she would have lost all her remaining brain cells coping with a windy arena full of scary jumps and other horses cantering around - I guarantee more forward would not have been something I would have needed to ask for. Grass is always greener, right? :)

The Anti-Splash. No issues with forward...ever. It's the thinking before you run part that may need work!

My confidence is really getting to a better place, because although Splash was not on his A game today, there`s a part of me these days wanting to go faster and jump bigger than the dude is really capable of even on a good day. I`m not there yet as far as saddle time, but it`s certainly on my mind and something I look forward to. Splash is adorable though, so if they ever sold him I'd probably be first in line wanting to take him home - apparently cuteness wins out over athleticism in my world.

ETA: G is currently out on a bike ride and stopped to say hi to Ginger - here's the pic he just sent me:
That pasture is unreal for the coast. Lucky pony has plenty of room to run these days! Also, I really, really want to be there too right now! I miss my high maintenance girl more than I can say.


Wednesday 18 June 2014

That Canter!

The ring was super busy tonight -apparently everyone who's anyone rides on Wednesday nights. Finally, I'm one of the cool kids ;) Tonight, my ride was Pedro:

Are we getting tired of terrible quality cross tie pictures yet? I need G to come out and take some proper pics! 

Our group was quite large, with a couple of people making up missed lessons from other days in the week. There were also quite a few boarders out riding. The outdoor ring is huge, so not really a big deal.  It's fun to have so many people out riding, and a bit of a learning experience to watch others ride, particularly on the horses I also sometimes ride. 

Pedro himself was a star, just like the last time. He's a real cutie, so affectionate and funny. He's also quite a big mover, so it's fun to play with sitting that trot nicely. I messed up my back a little last year with that fall I had, and even though it's been been fine for at least a couple of months now, I think I must still ride like it hurts because I feel like I'm keeping my lower back and shoulders quite stiff. Pedro's ginormous bouncy trot forces me to get my shoulders back and sit deeper with a more relaxed lower back. It's always nice to have some horsey help getting that proper 'feel' again. He's also well versed in the concept of bending and leg yields, which is a bit of a treat after the wooden board that is Splash :)

The special treat with Pedro is his canter. It's that uphill, beautiful, confidence inspiring canter I always wished I had in my own horses. He's a retired show jumper, and it still shows in that canter. I can only imagine the hours and hours of schooling that went into creating it. Of course, me being me, I find his size/stride somewhat intimidating when it comes to jumps, but he was a good boy and packed me through a small course and a gymnastic line of 4 one strides. Since we had some of the less experienced riders with us tonight, the jumps were all just little x's and the exercise for us was more about accuracy and tight turns than the jumps themselves. Sadly, Mr Pedro caught himself and twisted a shoe part way through our course so we were relegated to watching the last part of the lesson. As mentioned though, I learned a lot watching the others ride. Splash is seriously a saint of a pony, happily taking a nervous little girl through it all at the slowest trot possible - none of that racing around having a good time like he likes to do with me. I want to take him home! Checkers did her patented giant hunter jumps through the gymnastic, and unfortunately one of the girls got jumped out of the tack and had a fall. Again, saint of a horse immediately stopped and patiently waited for her rider. She got right back on and rode it perfectly through the next time, so no harm done. It's nice in a way to see I'm not the only one that has trouble with that big jump! All in all, a good night had by all - it's nice after a long, stressful day at work to have a bit of a barn community to relax with.


Saturday 14 June 2014

It's Hot Out! Drink Some Water!

My morning started off alright, I slept in and dreamt Ginger and I were riding with Carl Hester and he thought we were awesome. Ha ha, no idea where that came from, but thank you subconscious mind!
Oh hi, Carl!

I ran a bunch of errands in the morning, and was a little late leaving for my lesson. I was also STARVING. Quick options along the way to the barn are pretty limited. Especially for a vegetarian. I'd heard Taco Bell is terrible, but I hadn't ever tried it and figured if I was picky about what I ate, it couldn't be THAT bad. (PSA: If there is actually anyone else out there in North America who has never tried it - don't. Just don't.) After about an hour, that stupid burrito was trying to claw it's way back out of my stomach. Stomach ache doesn't even begin to describe it. I was nauseous and sweaty and miserable. I was thirsty but scared to drink any water in case it made the sickness worse.

              (this is where I would put a Taco Bell related picture is only the idea of it didn't make me feel so yucky)

I got to the barn and realized I had forgotten my boots, so was stuck with the awful blistering Mountain Horse ones that live behind the seat of my truck for emergencies. At least I remembered my new gloves!

So cute for summer! Elation Crochet Back Gloves.

This face makes me happy.
Our usual coach was away, so we had the lady who usually teaches the upper level riders. It was a bit of a back to basics sort of lesson - she's much more detail oriented than our usual coach and we spent the majority of the lesson taking turns over single fences at different angles and/or pace. I still need to work on keeping my shoulders back (surprise, surprise), but my heels and hands seem to be finally sorting themselves out. It was a great opportunity to really learn, particularly as she sent the jumps higher/wider than what we normally do. (I'm thinking around 2'8" or so, as our 'normal' is 2' to 2'3" with the odd 2'6"). I was still dying though, feeling sick and dehydrated and she was really making us work. It was really hot out too! Splash was in slow mo and I just wasn't feeling overly strong or motivated today. I love him when he's feeling a little more peppy - not so much on the days where he's just not into it. He was a little intimidated/spooky by a couple of the jumps and we had a couple of run outs where that lack of right bend/shoulder ducking really came to light. We worked a little on it (just me needing to be more aggressive about getting it right further before the jump) and finished up really well. He got some serious air time over the 'spooky' jumps and it still felt totally fun and safe - not scary at all. Still, I felt like I got way overheated and was going to pass out, so was pretty happy when we nailed our lines a couple of times in a row and got a pass to just hang out and watch the other girls. This coach really demands perfection and we went well over time as she made people repeat things until they got it right. I wish I was staying around longer - I'd look forward to moving up and riding with her eventually. While I was hanging out, I noticed my hands were super itchy -  my new gloves gave me some weird allergic reaction between my fingers. Combined with the lunch mistake, the lack of water in my system, and the gigantic blisters on top of the old blisters my heels, I have to say today wasn't the best of days. Still, any time in the saddle is better than out of it!
Getting a deserved treat
Back to the 'fat pony' dry lot to hang out with his buddies. He's impossible to catch so he wears his halter.


Wednesday 11 June 2014

Three Year Ginger-versary

That's right, it's already been three years since I bought the wonderful Gingersnap. On one hand, it feels like she's been part of my life forever, on the other it seems like yesterday - we're so far behind all the big plans I had and the place I thought we'd be. She's one of the best decisions ever and the once in a lifetime horse I never expected to find.

June, 2011: When I started this blog, I had everything all planned out. Ginger and I were going to do it all - dressage, jumpers, eventing, trail riding, local shows, maybe even some reining. All it was going to take was a lot of hard work and commitment, the two things that had always got me what I wanted in the past. I started a blog to help keep things on track, ensuring success :) I got her used to being handled, properly halter broke, ready for the farrier, then even got in the saddle a few times.
This "0.5 sec to meltdown" look was even more common then. Also, that halter doesn't even fit her now.

We persevered and had some good first rides in the fall of 2011. Once we got things decent on the ground, riding really wasn't a big deal at all for a smart girl like her.

2012: Realizing Ginger was WAY more sensitive than the other horses I'd started, I enlisted the professionals before I made too many mistakes and we moved off to a dressage barn for some more intensive training. Things moved along pretty well. I learned a bit, and the pony learned a lot. Then we both hit the wall and got pretty darn tired of the confines of the area and the idea of perfection. Luckily, this coincided with a move back home to the west coast and the infamous laid back lifestyle it brings.

Summer 2012 - totally in love with my pony!

2013: Trail riding fun. No lessons available even if we wanted them, so Ginger got to learn about life in 'the real world'. Other horses in the arena! Cars on the road! People and/or dogs doing random things! Branches touching her sides! Water!....etc (some of which continue to be a work in progress, but hey). Ginger really took to the trail horse life and showed a lot of promise for eventually being a reliable trail mount. Then, life happened again. The care/facilities at her barn started to go downhill in a big way. Much drama ensued. I was stressed, she was stressed. She lost a bunch of weight, I had a bad fall (or two) and got completely discouraged with the horse scene in general. We both took a time out - me to go work a contract in Alberta, her to go to a farm in the interior of BC for some R&R.

Trail riding fun. Who would have thought anxious, sensitive Ginger would love heading out solo on the trails...
2014: My contract ended, and Ginger moved home just in time for the new year. We hesitantly got used to the idea of having a partnership again. A few trail rides and walk/trot schooling rides in the ring had us a little more confident, but my mind was still pretty sure death was upon us :( Not fun. On the plus side, I found a wonderful boarding situation for Ginger and the previous years boarding disaster was almost forgotten. Then, unexpectedly, I was offered yet another job that seemed too good to pass up. I was really unhappy to leave, but I can say now it's been a blessing in disguise. I've got back into a regular lesson program and am more confident with my riding than I've ever been. I've discovered a total passion for hunter/jumper, which is crazy  when I look back at the nearly ready to quit riding dressage wannabe from a year ago.. Ginger is looking the best she's ever looked and is maturing into a really lovely girl. So, even though we're nowhere near where I thought we'd be when this whole journey started, I think we're both where we're supposed to be.
Back under saddle during our short lived reunion, 2014. Rockstar pony says "No big deal" and packs my nervous self around after many months away. (AKA "Tippy McTipperson Rides Again")

Current status quo. Fat and happy.( Both of us.) Great for her, first part of that statement not so great for me :)
I'm excited to see what the next year will bring - we're going to shake up the program with a second horse, which I think is going to be super fun. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of low pressure, confidence boosting miles in Ginger's future, much more time at home in mine, and many new adventures for us both. You just never know where we'll be three years from now...


Monday 9 June 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Fess Up to Your Mistakes

I've been enjoying Viva Carlos' blog hop posts, but so far either haven't had anything inspired to say, or have been too busy to post within a reasonable time frame. I saw today's topic and knew this was one I could pretty easily write about - I've only made about a billion mistakes, after all.

A few years ago, I had the horses at home with me. Hay day was coming, and it was time to clean out my winter hay storage and make room for the new crop. I took out all the pallets my bales sit on in order to sweep up all the old hay that had fallen on the floor underneath. I started re-laying the pallets on the floor, but got called into work. I stacked the remaining pallets against the side of the barn, because after all, none of the horses will bother with a stack of pallets in the gravel barn paddock when the pasture is so beautiful and green, right? Wrong. Silly QH gelding took the top one off the stack and dragged it away. He must have stepped on/through it at some point because I found it at the bottom of the pasture and him with a lovely cut around his rear pastern requiring a month of antibiotics. So frustrating, and so, so preventable - he was always into everything (ask G how he got the big dent and bite mark on his truck :) and if I had paused to think instead of racing off to work I would have known playing with/stepping on a new 'toy' rather than eating in the pasture was EXACTLY the sort of thing the silly guy would do.
I rescued this little guy as a nearly-starved-to-death foal. I have no idea how anyone could starve a baby horse, but there you go. He was permanently stunted and stayed quite small and delicate looking. He lived with us until he went off to be a kids trail pony as a 6 year old. G still tells our friends "Rusty" stories  - the horse who truly thought he was our dog:)

On a funnier note, the time I re-stained my paddock fences a lovely black color (also in the above picture). And let the horses back in before it was completely dry. Oops. That white blaze wasn't the same for many weeks.

Saturday 7 June 2014


I love those moments in riding where everything comes together and just feels perfect , when your horse is totally with you and anything is possible.

 I've had many of those moments here and there over the years. With Ginger, when I'm riding well and she's through, the lateral work in particular just feels effortless.  It could be just for a stride or two, or it could be for a few minutes, but those moments are completely addictive and something I try to achieve in every ride. With Ginger, it's working towards stringing those moments into something bigger, with the lesson horses the fun is more in just finding the key. 
Best Pony

My lesson today was once again on Splash. I was happy about that, since I feel like we have a bit of an understanding these days. The warm up was the usual routine - lots of two point alternating with sitting with no stirrups. Splash is a big comfy couch, and his saddle doesn't fit me overly well, so I actually prefer riding him without stirrups (don't tell! :) Also, since he wants to go super hollow with his head in the air, it's much easier for me to get him forward and working from behind when I'm sitting. 

I just want to take him home. I am such a sucker for a big white blaze.
We spent a lot longer jumping today than normal. We were inside due to some surprise nasty weather, so our instructor felt a bit bad we didn't get to ride the elaborate course she set up outside. Since we were moving up a bit in height, we each took turns popping over a vertical, then an oxer, before doing the whole course. Splash was a little backed off over our 'test' jumps, so I knew I was going to have to work to get him forward enough for the strides in the full course. Course straightforward and was as follows:

 I'm actually paid to draft legal surveys in real life, but apparently those "talents" don't translate to Paint ;)
It was a small course, but went so, so well. You know how I was blabbing on earlier about those perfect moments? How bout an entire course...just flowing and perfect. My mind was officially blown. I wanted to hop off right there and bask in the awesomeness of it all (before I could somehow screw it up). But you know what? Second round was even better (I know, I know there is nothing better than 'perfect' - just trust me on this, if I thought the first round was perfect, and I was happy, the second round redefined my expectations for perfect :) Splash was with me the entire way - I even got a little cocky and set him up and asked for a fancy-schmancy dressage-y flying change across x the second time round. Pony said "No Problem" and rocked it, shocking all bystanders with his awesomeness. So. Much. Fun. 

Best ride ever, although I wish our coach could hide the surprise in her voice a little better when she compliments us :)
Getting a little rock star treatment in thanks for a job well done