Wednesday 30 July 2014

Random Musings

After the excitement of last week’s news, there’s not a whole lot of anything happening around here this week. I’m spending non work hours trying to work out all the logistics involved in buying a pony from Place A and transporting them to Place B, all while you’re living in Place C. Place B is also exceptionally hard to get to using a hauler, which doesn't help matters. I've detailed my previous adventures trying to get Ginger home, and right now am seriously wondering why I signed up to try it again. Also, why I bought another horse rather than an (obviously needed) trailer? (For the record, it’s because trailers don’t look like mini Gingers, and nicker at me with their adorable little pony ears pricked forward ;)

Trailer I want. Nice, but not so tempting I can't resist. (Even roaming wild and free out in the pasture with it's friends ;)

Bridget. Like Ginger, but mini. Willpower lost.

I've also been unable to control myself from reading all the tack catalogs and picking out shiny new things for the new pony. For the record, I've blown my entire horsey budget for the next 100 years or so, so looking through tack catalogs is just a huge waste of my time and only leaving me wanting things I had no idea I even ‘needed’ lol. In my resulting sadness, I ate a heap of ice cream for dinner last week, then got a horrible toothache. A trip to the dentist here showed no spontaneous ice cream cavities, so he took an x-ray. Then he was like “Did you know you still have half a wisdom tooth left?” No, actually I didn't. Why my dentist at the time only removed 3.5 and left half of one buried in my jaw so it could abscess later and I could have wisdom tooth surgery a second time in my life is a mystery. I kind of hate him for it, and expect I’ll hate him even more after my appointment  on Friday.(Although now I do have a legit excuse to eat ice cream yummy smoothies all weekend!)  I hope to be all patched up and ready to get back in the saddle for my lesson next Wednesday. For now, I’m just going hide a while longer and try not to make any crazy tack purchases while feeling all invincible on pain meds. At least I'm too stoned to drive in the meantime, so the local tack stores are safe from me for now.

Also, on the teeth topic, this is your friendly reminder have your horses’ teeth checked with their fall shots/check up if you haven’t done so in the last year or two. It sucks for your pony to have bad teeth, and it sucks for you to have to pay for all the extra feed those not so perfect  teeth demand over the winter. 

Sunday 27 July 2014

Meet Bridget!

I'm really excited to say that the little bay mare is going to be coming home to live with Ginger just as soon as we can arrange hauling.

 Little bay mare does come with a name: Bridget Jones. I have no intention of changing it since I find it a lot funnier than I probably should. (And yes, it's her registered name as well - double bonus points :)

Bridget's pedigree is here. It's also her birthday today, she's turning 5. She shares the same granddam as Ginger, but beyond that they're not related since Ginger originally came to be sold from a breeder in another area. Bridget also appears to have some Sec C breeding back there a bit, which may explain why at 14hh she is quite a bit smaller than her parents.

Me and my new pony on a test ride figuring out the steering situation. Please ignore the interesting tack choices - it was all borrowed. 
I'm quite excited about this - I feel like we're going to get along great, and it will be wonderful for Ginger to have a steadier buddy to head out and about with. While Bridget's personality/way of going is not anywhere near as big and 'look at me' as Ginger, she's super sensible and levelheaded and is going to be very much appreciated in her own right. She's a lot greener under saddle than I wanted (trained to pull a cart for a few months - my ride was only her fourth or fifth ever!) but she's got the mind I was hoping for and I'll have all winter to get ready for the spring shows. Also, she's a Welsh D and I'm slightly in love with the breed so compromises are easily made ;) By all accounts she is excellent with the cart and been all over the roads with it, so it's nice to know she's been out and about a lot more than the usual. I'm going to have to read up on driving cues to see if there is maybe an easy way to transition some of her previous training to under saddle work.

So freakin cute. Apparently my ultimate weakness is bay cobs with white blazes. Besides, my silly sense of humor will get endless enjoyment out of the fact that Ginger now has a Mini Me.


Thursday 24 July 2014

Wednesday Lesson Recap

After over a week out of the saddle, it sure felt nice to hop on Checkers for a lesson last night. I’m riding with a fun group of middle aged ladies right now, which is a nice change up from riding with kids for the first few months here. The kids are fun and inspiring in their own way, but it’s sure nice to ride with like minded adults!

 I’m probably  the weakest link in the current lesson, which is exactly what I need. While I’m not a competitive type, I’m also not the type who’s comfortable having others make compromises for me. As a result,  I’m forced a little outside my comfort zone. Checkers and I had one slightly hairy moment where I just read things wrong and got the wrong angle on a bending line mid course and messed up the pace. Checkers ended up taking a super long one over the middle jump and where we should have had a two stride we had me flailing and a one stride creating another long one followed by a runout at the next. In the end, we had to try it another two times to really get a feel for it, but I left feeling confident and comfortable with it and excited to do it again! I love that our coach puts a lot of difficult questions in our courses to make you plan ahead and ride super accurately – her method isn’t at all about raising the jumps as you progress, it’s more about creating more complicated questions. The intermediate lesson I ride in still keeps things around the 2’-2’3” mark for the most part, with the odd 2’6”. The next lesson group up is a big move up height wise to 2’6” to 3’ but they share the same courses so there won’t be many surprises there if and when the time comes.

I suck at picture taking, so here's a Throwback Thurday shot - a lesson with Lainey in 2012

Flatwork was fun.  We worked a lot on accurate transitions, doing an exercise of 15 sitting/collected trot strides alternating with 10 canter strides. Checkers loves to get fast and heavy, so getting her back somewhat smoothly to a collected trot takes a lot of planning!

Also nothing to do with this post. Pretty pic of Ginger, 2012.
Take aways:
-Still with the heels DOWN. Instructor was laughing at me – she’s like “every time you don’t like the distance you’re getting, you just bury your hands in her neck and your heels creep up – try to sit back and do something about it instead!”
-Checkers will look after me not matter what dumb decisions I make.
-I love my new fellow riders – they’re great at encouraging and cheering each other on.
-I don’t need to worry about Checkers’ jumping me out of the tack any more – I feel way more secure these days on her giant self and sat everything just fine when I remembered to wait and keep those pesky heels down.

-Checkers’ saddle – I love it! Its an old beat up Pessoa and it’s like it was made for me. Too bad the ones I’ve tried previously don’t fit Ginger, but something to keep in mind. I love my current saddle (Stubben), but after riding in so many different ones over the last few months, I’m starting to feel like it’s not as great a fit as it could be for me. I got it new on super clearance, so financially it wouldn’t hurt to sell it on….but do I really want to go back down the saddle fitting path when what I have is do-able?

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Chock Full of Advice

This week, L. Williams asks: What is the best advice you've ever received from a Trainer or another rider? What is the worse advice you've received from a Trainer or another rider?

“You have good instincts – trust them”. I guess for some this could be taken to an extreme and used as an excuse to not seek out knowledge from other sources...however, it works for me because that kind of self assurance and narrow focus is opposite of who I naturally am. I’m always reading, always learning, and always second guessing everything I think I know. I figure one thing out, and then I’m off on another puzzle – meanwhile I’ve totally lost the original plot, and in the case of riding, lost touch with ‘the feel’ in favor of the science. There’s a reason my family calls me the professor (as in the absent minded one, unfortunately J )So the above piece of advice is one I find very useful– it’s my cue to slow my mind down and to just get out and listen to how things feel, and to be more confident in my interpretation of that. It’s helped to curb my default of second guessing myself for eternity and not progressing because I’m too busy trying to figure out how it all works from the latest book before I get on.
"Quit surfing the internet on you phone and take us out riding!" Ginger and Lainey, summer 2012
There’s been a bit more than a bit of bad advice as well. There was the clinician who asked me to use an ever shorter rein on Leaning Lainey. The rationale was that she was heavy and would eventually give and stop leaning if I had my reins at a short length – it would be uncomfortable for her to pull on me continuously. Once she ‘gave’, I was supposed to give for a stride, then repeat.  Reality was Lainey just cruised around enjoying the added support and my abs were on fire – there wasn’t even a hint of give, just even more heaviness. It was just one weekend, but my left shoulder still reminds me quite frequently about it, so it goes down as a long term bad advice. A time when I most certainly should have trusted my instincts and worried about her balance rather than her headsetJ.
"Let's go for a ride, I'm tired of holding my own head up.."

Also the time the online experts assured me that it was safe to feed dry beet pulp and that I was wasting time/energy by soaking it. First time I tried a tiny handful, pony choked. You can’t make this stuff up.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Fingers Crossed!

I've been chatting with a lady who's been apprenticing with one of our Olympic dressage riders, and she's thinking about moving to my home town and offering coaching/training! How excellent would that be? (Long time readers will know I'm moving home in a month to an isolated town on the BC coast that currently has no local excitement at the prospect of a legit dressage coach is pretty high!)
Ginger and I, 2015. Just kidding, that's Jessica Wisdom and Cardi, of course!

Also, you need to keep your fingers crossed for me in regards to the ever so cute pony from last weekend. Nothing final yet, but I've got the go ahead from G, so fingers crossed that everything proceeds smoothly on that front and I have good news in a week or two!

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Worst Weather

I looked out the window at work yesterday afternoon and was relieved to see it was dark and cloudy outside - finally a little rain to cool things down, and maybe a riding lesson that didn't involve quite so much sweating!

As soon as I walked out the door, I realized my mistake - it was still really hot and muggy out there. More significantly, those weren't clouds and a rainy mist - it was smoke and ash from all the awful wildfires the hot, dry weather has brought. By the time I walked the four or five blocks to the train station, my chest and eyes were burning, and I was coughing and wheezing along with what sounded like half the people there with me. I can't imagine it being healthy for anyone (or the horses!) to be out exerting themself in that kind of air quality so I went ahead and cancelled my lesson. Disappointing, for sure. Realized I definitely made the right call when I got home and found my truck covered in ash - so crazy! Here's hoping those more directly affected by the fires are all evacuated safely (animals too!) and we get some rain in the forecast.
Seriously no clouds, that's all smoke...(pic from the Edmonton Sun)

With the crazy high temps we rode in last weekend, and the severe storm warnings from my last lesson, it got me thinking - what's the craziest weather you've intentionally ridden in? Unintentionally?

I'll start: 

Intentionally - 2 summers ago I was only able to make it to the barn twice a week. Lesson day came and I was so excited to get out and ride Ginger that I ignored the crazy weather forecasts. About halfway to the barn the radio advised me we were officially under severe weather warnings, including a tornado watch. I was like...well...I'm most of the way to the barn already and the sun is shining out here... :) We did get a crazy storm about halfway through my lesson, and watched it getting closer and closer before poor Ginger got her first ride outside of the ring - a mad dash for the indoor. It sounded like the world was coming down around us, then an hour later the sun was back out. The good part of the story I made the right choice to not turn around and go home - my neighbourhood got hit really hard and had some bad storm damage.

Unintentionally - It used to happen way more often, but still does now and then if I head out on a longer ride. Anyone familiar with the Pacific Northwest/lower mainland of BC knows that in the winter they forecast rain nearly every day, sometimes rain and wind. That must get kind of boring/predictable for the forecasters, so they keep a little job security by mixing it up a bit: 'well in the morning we're looking at some misting, then late morning some showers, then afternoon a bit of a drizzle, and by evening some moderate sprinkling.' What they mean is it's going to rain all day, every day. So more than once, I've misinterpreted 'misting' or 'light drizzle' and headed out thinking that my rain gear will suffice, but sure enough I need to remember they meant to say 'rain...and wind....and lots of it!' Ginger likes to make a beeline for home, Lainey used to like to just turn her butt to it and look around at me now and then accusingly. Both of them are incredibly well broke when it comes to raincoats being put on and off and flapping around :)


WW: Oh Hi!

I woke up this morning to this picture on my text messages - G obviously stopped to say hi to Ms Gingersnap last night. I miss them both!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Weekend Recap Part 2

Little bay mare is 5 years old, 14hh and built quite differently from the other cobs I’ve seen. Ginger is quite tall and leggy for a Sec D, the black mare from last weekend and the buckskin mare from this one are more of a traditional, sporty type, while the bay mare is very cob like - built wide and stout with short little legs (We’re perfect together! lol) She’s not the typiest  or most athletic thing out there, but she’s very cute and sweet.

I took this pic at a little bit of a lower angle - her legs look a little shorter in real life!
 First impressions when I hopped on were that she’s built like a mobile couch. She may be even wider than Ginger or Splash. It feels like you’re riding a full size horse, only you’re somehow shorter than everyone else! Since they weren’t expecting me to ride, I was in a too-big western saddle with stirrups that can’t adjust short enough for me, and a rope halter for a bridle. On a driving pony who has only been under saddle a handful of times J Still, I felt good about it.

Steering was pretty good, transitions super green. She happily marched forward and gave the immediate impression that she’s a very confident and sensible little thing. Walk is nice and forward, trot surprisingly big, and canter is really nice. She’s naturally very well balanced. We even had a good little gallop, which was hilarious because in true cob style, it sounded very impressive, but actually we weren’t moving along any faster than a normal horse's working canter. I ended up riding her for the rest of our 3 hour ride and had  a blast – definitely one of the neatest trail rides I’ve been on. We went up a steep-ish mountain, came back down some very steep paths, toured through a vineyard, and even the edge of a golf course. Then back along through a rural subdivision and a busy-ish road to home.  We saw everything from dogs to cows and donkeys, vehicles and heavy machinery, sprinklers and golf carts at the golf course, heard the cannon things (sounds like gunshots and used to keep the birds away) at the vineyard, went through mud and water, open fields  and tight wooded paths – I can’t think of anything else pony would be expected to see, and she handled it all just fine. She happily takes the lead or follows behind, and doesn’t care what the other horses do, so no issues there. The only thing she really spooked at was at the very end of the ride - the mailbox at the farm driveway, proving she is actually a tiny bit related to Ginger J.
Golf course proof - sorry no other pictures turned out as it got dark fairly quickly and iphones don't do great photos in the twilight/moonlight! 

Not scared of the dark

The following morning, I opted to get up early and try her out in the indoor. She came right up to the gate to be caught, and happily stood to be groomed at the barn away from her friends. I actually got distracted chatting about and looking at another horse’s injury and forgot her for a bit and she just quietly waited all by herself.

Where did everyone go? She quietly stood peeking around that corner looking for us for almost half an hour. A bit of a novelty after my ADD Ginger mare.

As far as the ringwork went, she is green, green, green. The trails helped us because there is a path to follow - in the ring the greenness really comes to light. She has the right idea, but she’s very wiggly and everything is a bit start and stop – there’s no real rhythm there yet. She’s very smart and willing though. I opted to just walk/trot since there was a round pen set up at the end of the arena and I don’t think it would have been fair to ask her to canter a relatively small circle at this point. Her owner took some pics of me riding that I'm anxiously awaiting - it will be interesting to see how we look together.

Final thoughts: This is a pony I could have a lot of fun with! She’s very sensible and friendly too. My only reservations are that she’s much greener than I’d like and the whole size thing, of course. She feels great and had no trouble at all packing me all over the countryside, but I guess I’m just not used to pony size. She'll be 5 at the end of the month, so there's hope she might grow a teeny bit more - I'm not going to count on it, though!The green thing is not really what I wanted, but since she’s fine/safe right now to hop on and go pretty much anywhere it’s maybe something I can work with. Or maybe I could send her out for some more training while I'm working? I’m tempted because she’s otherwise perfect. Decisions are so hard – I want a do-it-all schoolmaster type to head out showing on and participate in all the fun club events with (like the buckskin mare in the previous post), but the reality is my budget is somewhat limited, so my choices when it comes to more experienced horses are limited as well. It’s tempting to take a bit of a chance on a young horse with the mind, but not the training, particularly as I feel we have good connection. We'll just be showing baby classes this fall...Still...I don't want to overdo it with the projects when Ginger still needs so much time. If you haven't noticed, I'm a little bit in love with the little mare, but I'm trying to be very responsible and weigh everything out carefully! I'm going to try to line up a second visit so G can meet her, but as things stand now, I'm very hopeful you'll be hearing a lot more about her in the future :)

Monday 14 July 2014

Weekend Recap Part 1

I packed a lot of living into one 36 hr road trip, so I’m going to divide the weekend into two separate posts.
Saturday morning I was up somewhat early in order to make the 800km/500 mile drive to BC. ( I guess I really want to find another cob! Seriously, though, this is the farm I got Ginger from, so I trust their opinions and know they have some wonderful Sec Ds – it’s worth the trip) I was very much dreading the boredom of an 8 hour road trip on my own, but it was actually kind of nice. I’ve missed the mountains and forests more than I thought, and the Rockies are always gorgeous. It served as a much needed mental reboot for work – stuck in my little office all day it’s easy to forget that the work I’m doing is helping to protect some of the most beautiful places in the country.

On arrival, the first thing I noticed when I hopped out of my air conditioned truck was that it was hot outside – super hot, in fact. The daytime highs were around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Yuck. We opted to wait for the evening when the weather would hopefully cool off rather than doing anything too strenuous. We found some others that wanted to trail ride with us later in the evening, which sounded perfect, and decided to wake up early the next morning for a second ride. We took some time to visit with the ponies and chat a little more about their temperaments and experience, which was nice. The farm owner is starting to downsize, so she had a couple more for sale than I originally thought. Even so,  the two ponies we decided would most suit my plans were the two we had originally talked about. While we waited for it to cool down, we chatted a bit about Ginger as well. I already know pretty much all I’m going to know about her history - since she came from another breeder who needed to rehome her the details prior to about 2 years old are a little unknown. Still, it was neat to trade Ginger stories! She’s always been the super kind but quirky girl she is today, and it was nice to hear everyone being so complimentary of how well she’s doing.
I'll have one in each color, please :)

 Anyways, on to the sale horses:

Option 1 is the lovely buckskin mare I took for a trail ride on my last visit.

Pretty girl

Option 2 is the adorable little bay mare who is young and green, but very laid back and easy going. I was told she’s the exact opposite of Ginger ;)

I’ll do a recap of the buckskin mare here, then a recap of the bay mare tomorrow in order to not have the longest blog post ever.
The buckskin mare is 14.1hh,10 years old, and has done a little bit of everything. Very experienced, and the go to for visitors to ride, as she’s very steady, but a little fun too. She’s also absolutely gorgeous. She’s put together so, so nicely and basically my dream horse. She’s priced a bit above what I’d like to spend, and a lot more than what I’d ideally like to pay for a second horse so I tried very hard not to get too attached. Since I’d already taken her out before and liked her, I opted to ride her out for our evening ride.
This picture cracks me up - the sun makes her butt look huge!
She hadn’t been out for a week or two, so was a tiny bit ‘up’ and looky, but we were riding on a fairly busy road, then through a rural area with lots of things going on (dogs, traffic, lawnmowers, other horses running up to visit). I’d actually have been surprised if she didn’t look at some of it! We got in a good trot, which was OK –I’m not a super fan of her trot, it feels short and pony like. Canter is incredible – powerful and carrying you forward without rushing. What a nice mare! Size wise, she felt great. Overall, though, there is just something missing for me.  I can’t put my finger on it since she’s gorgeous and nice to ride and has no issues in general. There just wasn’t really any connection there.

 The little bay mare and her trainer were on our ride as well, so we opted to trade horses about half an hour into our ride…


Friday 11 July 2014

I Like Shopping

After last week, where I was basically worried about everything from being a pony squisher to my inability to choose the right horse and was ready to just not even try at all, you all probably wanted to give me a bit of a smack down. Because seriously, who complains about horse shopping? (Besides me!) 
So, good news : I've been channeling my inner 10 year old this week and am feeling a lot more positive about it all. It’s also helped that I got the first ‘official’ test ride out of the way and nothing crazy (besides baby pony attitude)happened. Also G is incredibly supportive and encouraging, and good at reminding me of all the reasons this is a good idea. (He’s also somewhat delusional about my riding abilities, but I’ll take it J )

This weekend, I’m venturing all the way back across the Rockies to see some more Welsh Cobs. They are all in the 14-14.1hh range, so similar to the one from last week and on the smaller side for what I’m used to.(Pony squishing worries not quite dealt with yet!) I’ve mentioned before I went from a normal, athletic build my whole life to “OMG what happened?” in a fairly short time frame. I made a gradual lifestyle change 3 years ago or so and am proud (but really embarrassed) to say I’ve lost almost 40 pounds since then. Ideally, I’d still like to lose another 15 or so. I’m well within the acceptable limits for the ponies I’m looking at (going with the max 20% rule for rider and tack), I just don’t quite feel it yet! As always height wise 14-14.2hh feels/looks perfect for a shortie like me, I’m just not completely confident about it yet, particularly when we’re adding jumping to the mix. Still, if a smaller cob is otherwise perfect, watching my weight is a small compromise (and something I will continue to do anyways). Embarrassing to put this all out there, but I think these are valid considerations.  
"Please don't squish me!"

I’ve lined up a 15.3hh warmblood mare to look at in a couple of weeks. I suspect she’ll be bigger than my short little legs would like, but again if she’s otherwise suitable I may just have to compromise and buy a bigger stepstool J She’s actually one G saw a video for and really liked, so we’ll go see her when he visits next. There are also a few Canadian horses at a farm nearby that look interesting. Canadians are a breed I like, with a lot of them being quite similar to a Welsh Cob or old fashioned Morgan. There are a couple at the lesson barn who are really cute all arounders, but maybe a teeny bit less athletic than what I’d ideally like.

No the farm I'm visiting, but nice horses!

As always, I also have the wonderful Ginger at home to keep working away with, so if nothing suitable presents itself, we just go back with Plan A for the winter and you’ll see lots of trail riding posts. Not overly exciting for a blog, but still fun for me! I’m getting quite excited about it all and have been having trouble focusing on work these days. I may or may not have a countdown timer on my phone. You're welcome in advance for the following:

Have a fun weekend, everyone. I’ll be back on Monday with an update!

Thursday 10 July 2014

Never Take it Too Seriously

Weather warnings last night meant hardly anyone sane showed up for the lesson, so we started early and got some extra ride time in, not to mention a few extra rounds. It did rain on us, but it was refreshing more than anything and I'm glad we opted to take our chances in the outdoor. The wind and lightning held off and it was one of the better lessons in recent memory. Jumps were set small for the most part, but in some good gymnastic lines. Pic below looks like a simple one stride, but there were 4 cavalleti bounces leading up to it - sorry my iphone can't get a wide enough shot to ever show much of the outdoor - it's huge. I think I've cracked the secret to sitting Checkers' big jump and had no real issues with it today. For the record, I need to sit a little more back and deep than normal and focus on those heels down - it feels almost like I'm riding a little defensively, but I suspect it's actually normal and I've been getting in the habit of jumping ahead a little. On the other horses it's not super apparent, but with her big size and expressive jump it makes a difference. Light bulb moment, thank you once again Checkers.
Grey and damp, but refreshing (and no dust)

Overall, I feel like I'm riding better now than I ever have. I know I was more serious about the lessons a couple of years ago, and likely more of a technically correct rider then, but I always felt like I had to ride very correctly to not get Ginger upset. I got really caught up in the idea that I wasn't good enough and could set back her training or cause issues with my mistakes. It's not overly relaxing or confidence inspiring to think any mistakes were potentially going to 'wreck my sensitive horse' or end with me sitting in the dirt :) (For the record, these are pressures I put on myself, not so much what my instructor at the time would have really said to me)
Summer 2012 - feels like forever ago

 For me, relaxation and letting go of trying to be 'perfect' is proving very much the key to better riding. It's easy enough to have tension in your body but look fairly correct at first glance and I think I got stuck in my frozen and ineffective habits for a very long time. I've mentioned before that the instruction at the current barn is not exactly intensive, but in a weird way it's exactly what I needed - fun, low stress hours in the saddle. I've learnt tons from previous detail oriented instructors, but I think I may just be the type of person who learns more when challenged to just 'make it happen' and left a little to my own devices. Current instructor is fun and positive, and unlikely to nitpick or stop you on course unless you're about to do something really, really dumb. It's bringing back a lot of great memories from when I was a kid with a pony and everything I did was by intuition or feel. I think a lot of that got lost over the years in my efforts to be 'correct' and it's very freeing to find that part of me again. I've always felt like since I didn't have lessons as a kid, I learnt things 'wrong', but lately I'm not so sure that's entirely the case - I learnt a lot of really valuable things just listening to my horses and figuring out what worked for me, and I should have kept those things closer, rather than doubting myself and pushing them away as an adult in an effort to 'do it right'.

I'm excited to take some of these ideas home with me - I know they're not groundbreaking by any stretch, but you know how it is - something can stare you in the face for a very long time before you finally have the insight to acknowledge it.
One of my favorite Ginger pics from 2013- happily heading out on the trail alone

 Is the reason Ginger is so relaxed and successful on the trails really because that's where I am most confident and relaxed? Now that I have a little more perspective on just how serious and uptight I was about the whole dressage/training thing, it seems embarrassingly obvious, really.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop : Unpopular

This week, L Williams asked the following:

Some of us have a lot of ideas and thoughts, well probably all of us. So this is your time to shine and really make a ruckus (no really actually let's not fight about this we can all just agree to disagree about stuff).  What is 1 unpopular horsey opinion you have?

This is an interesting one. I tend to be pretty mainstream, and do a lot of research online to make sure I’m giving my horse the best possible care. That being said, there is of course that one thing…my healthy young horse doesn’t currently have a job (and I’m OK with it)!

I know that’s not an overly scandalous thing to admit, but hey, I live in a small town and it’s definitely caused some negative gossip. (Likely because I’ve declined more than one person’s request to ride her)I’m away working for months on end…pretty pony is just sitting there…what gives? Do I think I’m ‘all that’ and no one else is good enough?(Because, as someone not so kindly kindly pointed out, I’m not and pony would only benefit from that someone doing me a favor and riding/training her for me –people really do suck sometimesL) Failing that is Ginger dangerous or lame? Am I scared of her?(Confidence issues well documented here, but no, they’re not Ginger specific and don’t prevent me from riding her or letting others do so) Surely there must be SOME sort of story?

As any long term reader knows, there's no dramatic story to tell. There are a couple of people we both trust who have permission to take Ginger out on trail rides with her pasture buddy now and then, but beyond that she’s just enjoying the good life. Is that a bad thing for her training? Maybe – I have been known to get a little down over our lack of progress/regression due to my being away so much. But without a local trainer, I’ll choose to just leave her be and pick up on a good note, rather than worry about things going wrong while I’m away. We’ve got a long future together – there’s no rush to get anywhere J

Besides, Ginger really seems to be thriving as Manager of Mowing on the ranch.

Monday 7 July 2014

Book Review: Share and Share Alike

I was asked by the author if I would be interested in reviewing this book a week or so ago. I read a book or two a week normally, and I obviously love horses, so of course I said yes!

Here's an excerpt of the book description, courtesy of Amazon:

Tessa thought buying a share in the dysfunctional Ta' Qali Racehorse Syndicate would be the perfect distraction from a life best forgotten. Some are willing to distract her with words of woo, while others are able to distract her with just a nonchalant look. 

But neither Hugh's flirtations nor Sin's disregard are diversion enough when their horse, Ta’ Qali, is found deliberately injured. Someone close is responsible and Tessa finds herself questioning the innocence of everyone around her. 

With his nobbler still at large, the race is on to get Ta’ Qali fit and on course in time to prove himself the champion Tessa’s always believed him to be. But he isn’t the only one up against the clock. Love is threatening to leave without her; and win, lose or draw, Tessa’s in for the ride of her life...

I admit I read this and was was a little's advertised as a 'racing romance' and romance isn't really my thing. I also wasn't quite sure what a 'nobbler' was :) As I thought more, it occurred to me that horsey fiction is usually disappointing at best. What had I got myself into? I might not like this book, and then I'd feel bad for offering to review it.

I really didn't need to worry, as I can honestly say I enjoyed this book. I shouldn't have let the advertised genre worry me at all...this book is a good part mystery and racing story. While there is certainly an element of romance, it doesn't come off as totally unbelievable or even the main focus of the story. It's also pretty much PG, I promise :) Instead, there's a lot of great humor and really fun, likeable characters.The racing scenes are well written and should satisfy those looking for horse content, and the mystery kept the book moving right along. I'm not overly familiar with steeplechase racing in the UK, but the horsey details felt right and well researched. Think Dick Francis, but lighter and funnier. I'd definitely recommend this for a summer read - it cheered me up after a stressful day, which isn't the easiest task! To be honest I enjoyed it so much I went to Amazon and bought the rest of the series as well.

If you'd like to order a copy of this or one of Hannah's other novels, here is the
Link to the author's website and online retailers

(And no, the author in no way paid me/threatened me/otherwise forced me to write a good review :) )

Sunday 6 July 2014

Black Beauty

I got out to see this girl today:

Such a pretty little thing

She was still out in the field when I arrived, which was nice. First impressions were excellent - gorgeous pony, easy to catch, nice to lead. Less mature physically than I thought, though...definitely still a lot of growing and filling out to do. (Somehow I had got the impression she is turning four, when in reality she just turned 3 in May) So, that right there was a bit of a let down since I was already thinking 4 was much younger and greener than my not-so-brave-anymore self would prefer!

As is the way, (do they ever behave when a potential buyer comes to see? :), pony was having a no good, very bad day. Not overly impressed with being tied, rude about her feet, and focused on everything but her handler. In short, acting like a bratty 3 year old. The poor girl showing her to me! Pony has been well handled and attended numerous shows in her short life, so I hope she was just having a silly baby tantrum kind of day.

She lunged her quickly, so I got to see her beautiful movement. She moves like a much bigger horse - tons of potential there for someone wanting to do dressage. She got on and rode, but pony's attention was elsewhere and focus was an issue. She was really spooky about some birds in the arena and some stuff going on outside, and showed off some moves I'm glad I didn't have to ride. She did eventually settle in and showed that same really nice movement and balance under saddle. She was fairly well behaved walk, trot, and canter and was really careful through some ground poles. 

I'll be honest, by this point I think I knew this wasn't the horse for me. I got on for a quick ride anyway, but pony was pretty tired by that point. I just walked and trotted. The forward button was stickier than I expected, I think partly because she was tired, and partly because she is a Welsh - they tend to be much more sensible than they outwardly appear when you actually get in the saddle. As the girl showing her to me said, she looks quite hot and forward from the ground, but she's actually more of a push along sort of ride. She felt a little behind my leg honestly, which I'm really not a fan of - especially with a spooky horse. Size (14.1hh) felt perfect, type of ride really reminiscent of Ginger and so similar to what she was like as a 4 year old. The ride actually made me like her a lot more than before.
Pretty pony, but I don't look happy lol
Final impressions? Beautiful, amazing prospect for someone, but not for me at this point in time. No reflection on this pony - she's a really nice girl, just still way more of a baby than I'd like. Honestly, the age alone was probably a deal breaker. I think some things might have got lost in translation, because while lovely, she wasn't at all what I was expecting or looking for. She's certainly quieter than Ginger, but I'd like to take it down a few more notches yet and have something pretty chilled out. With time she might be that, but I already have a project who needs time :) I did leave it open to go back towards the end of the summer to see her again once she has more miles on her, but now that I've thought a little more (and her gorgeous self is out of my direct line of vision), both my mind and my gut are saying she's not the one. Someone else needs to go pick her up and make a superstar out of her, she'd be wasted on me :) If anyone out there is interested, I can send you the farm info - they seem like nice people who would be easy to deal with.

Saturday 5 July 2014

I Dislike Shopping

I thought I might keep the horse shopping a little on the down low, but seeing as I now have three horses to look at over the next week it's getting a little too serious to keep all to myself!

Backstory: Ginger is not going anywhere! She's a lovely, lovely girl but very hot, sensitive, and athletic. That's a big part of what makes her fun and what makes everyone get excited about her dressage potential, but I've been having confidence issues. I'm looking for just the right second horse to have fun with while we continue to progress with Ginger...kind of like I'm doing at the lesson barn now, but with Ginger rides too.

I know this should be exciting and fun, but it's feeling more than a little intimidating. True story - I've never actually gone out and intentionally shopped for a horse. They've always just sort of happened! I'm finding the whole process of looking through ads, trying to ask the right questions, and setting up appointments quite stressful. I have this big complex about possibly being too picky and therefore wasting people's time. Also, I'm finding lots of people don't return calls or give you really vague answers or try to pressure you into something you don't want. Then again, I've talked to some really nice and professional people so it's not all bad.

I've got past my introvert ways, and have made appointments to see the following ponies. All are Welsh D mares, all between 14.1-14.2hh. Ages and experience vary, but all are advertised as safe and sensible rides.

Looking at this girl next weekend. 10 year old.
Another Sec D for next weekend.
Tomorrow's candidate - gorgeous but may be greener than ideal.
This girl may also be an option to go see, and I think is the daughter of the buckskin above.
 I keep getting overwhelmed and deciding I'm just not going to bother with it and will just trail ride Ginger until we're both old and grey, then I have a great lesson and get excited to compete and do all the fun things and start looking again. I'm making an effort now to get out there to look at more horses because time is running low here - if I was going to shop, the variety here means this would be the place and time to do it.

There are other horses I'm interested in seeing, but let's be honest, that's if the cobs don't work out :)


Wednesday 2 July 2014

Too Hot To Trot

I admit, when I first came out to the prairies to work, I made fun of all the rental/sale ads emphasizing the places air conditioning. All I could think was that Albertans had to be wimps, because they get like two weeks of summer every year. "Tell me more about the furnace or fireplace!" was my thinking :) Now I get's hot, muggy and miserable and I'm totally grateful for the air conditioned basement I'm typing in. Without the ocean breezes I'm used to, I'm suffering. "What's this have to do with horses?", you're thinking. Well, it's Wednesday night and I had a the outdoor arena. No stirrups, two point, the usual routine. And it was miserable. I had the ride on Checkers and I just slacked off and let her do her thing at the pace she saw fit. So, your lesson recap is short, because I rode for an hour, yet did nothing notable - the whole thing is kind of a blur, honestly :)Checkers jumped a nice round, some trot fences, some canter - I didn't care. Some nice corners, some more like long as she kept truckin in the right general direction it was all good.She's a superstar, and my theory that she would pack someone around with little to no input while still making them look good has been proven true. Maybe we can count this lesson as a win for me too, since I used to like to be control freak rider girl, and obviously I've let some of that go, at least temporarily. Also, riding wise, there is no way I would have been fit enough a few months ago to ride even half the lesson we just had, and certainly not in this heat.
Right now I have the air con set to roughly this.

Old picture of Checkers, in case you've forgotten which one she is - she's a big warmblood type who is more grey than chestnut these days. She's also queen of the barn, and we are all her minions.
In super exciting news, I have a horse to try out on Sunday. Not just any horse, either - a Welsh Sec D mare who lives about 20 minutes away from me. Not the little bay mare in the pictures I've been posting, either - that's another trip in a couple of weeks time. I had put an enquiry out quite a while ago, and finally got a response from a breeder just down the road from here. I knew having a Welsh breeder in such close proximity could prove dangerous :) Honestly, I'm not sure this one is exactly what I'm looking for, but I'm excited about it anyway. If nothing else, I get to go meet a bunch of beautiful horses and ponies and talk cobs for an afternoon.
A baby pic of the pony I'm visiting this weekend. She's about 2 here (sorry, the only picture I could find on the Internet)
Also we're nearing the end of the work countdown - I should be done here mid August, then home to G and the wonderful Gingersnap. I can't wait - while it's been fun here, I pretty much knew about 2 seconds after I accepted the job that I had made the wrong decision and was done with the whole long distance/working away from home thing. Even though the lessons here have been great and the job/coworkers are excellent, there really is no replacement for home.
I'm sure I've posted this picture from my last visit before, but she's cute and it's my blog so you get to see it again :)

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop : Interested Parties

What originally attracted me to Ginger was her size and nice movement. I was struggling a bit confidence wise and was taking a lot of dressage lessons on my old horse Lainey, who while lovely, is built more for galloping and not so much a fan of boring things like dressage. I didn't want a 'serious' dressage horse, I wanted something smaller and more of an all arounder just in case I got bit by the eventing bug again at some point. Ginger seemed to fit that bill, so I emailed her owner and received a video. The video was what sold me - Ginger was obviously super green and worried but tried SO hard to do everything asked of her. Again, I was coming from Lainey, whose alpha mare attitude made left me feeling like we were constantly in a power struggle....a cute and cooperative pony seemed just the thing I needed.
Original picture sent to me of cute 3 year old Ginger
No regrets either. While I've since discovered that a lot of what I took for super green reactions is just standard Ginger drama, I know that she will always give you 110% of what you ask. She never, ever shows up in a bad mood and is always happy, interested, and curious about what the day will bring. She's the first horse I've owned that doesn't seem to have any hidden agenda for herself - she really just wants to get along with you.
More pics from the ad. She's still got that weird grey color here - amazing how her color has darkened so much

Little Ginger in her winter coat