Monday 29 June 2015

HGBH: Every Day Tack Set Up

Thanks to Stephanie at Hand Gallop  for the great blog hop!

Bridget and I are pretty basic...

No name bridle from Greenhawk because her head is weird and I can't find a nice bridle to fit properly...either the cheek pieces are too long or the browband is too small...or both! At least this one sort of fits and it was cheap. A nice, properly fitting one is on my wish list.

Standard D ring snaffle in 4.75". Cause that's what the local tack store had in her size, and it works.

Stubben reins, because cheap leather is apparently fine for pony's head but not for my hands :)

Stubben Juventus S saddle, because we're both on the shorter side. I like this saddle a lot, and although it's not trendy or perfect for our needs, I don't think it's going anywhere soon. Lined calfskin leathers and basic fillis irons.

-Cheap neoprene girth. I like them because they're easy to keep clean and feel like they should be comfortable. I have a nice matchy matchy leather one but I feel like it would rub, also a sheepskin lined one that looks mangy and stays wet all the time. I do occasionally use  an old school string one that is excellent for hot, sweaty days.

-Assorted saddle pads. I find the standard Greenhawk ones are about the best cheaper pad for holding their shape after multiple washings and hours in the rain and sun.

-Cashel foam half pad. What can I say? Old school all the way. It works, but it's another thing on my upgrade list.

-If I'm feeling anxious, I have a jumper breastplate that makes an appearance now and then as well, mostly for it's handy grab strap.

-No boots, etc. Pony likes to smash poles, and I feel like adding protection would only encourage the smashing. She's not athletic enough to overreach or anything either, so boots can wait until I find a decently ventilated pair more for the support option and that would fit a horse sized leg with a pony sized height.

Looking at this list, it becomes apparent that I have spent too much time in Middle Of Nowhere, Canada, since the majority of my stuff was ordered online via Greenhawk and isn't overly exciting. It works for us, though, and I tell myself I value function and fit over pretty. I won't lie though, I have some serious tack envy due to some of your blogs, and if more suppliers sold Bridget sized stuff to Canada I'd be really tempted!


Saturday 27 June 2015

Hello, Ginger!

First off, I know I said I was going to start back with weekend lessons on Ginger. I said that before I realized just how ridiculously tired and stressed I'd be due to all the recent changes in my life and a general tendency to over commit myself.

It's time to start setting some limits, so sleeping in for the first time in several weeks and getting some real life stuff organized took priority over another early morning lesson. Honestly, at some point in my sleep deprived state in the last week, one of the things I was committed to simplifying in my life were the finding a long term lease or buyer for Ms Ginger and focusing on Bridget. Finances and practicality and all that. Easier said than done though because of course as soon as I saw Ginny this morning it felt like it would be the wrongest of all the wrong things to do.
Can't resist this face

Not pee, but an attempt gone wrong to wash her socks. Instead I accidentally turned them purple :)

So funny how Bridget checks almost all the boxes I need in a horse, and Ginger checks very few, but Ginger is still the one I struggle the most with making any practical decisions about and daydream about keeping in my backyard when we're both old.

It's about a million degrees out every day. This is literally the hottest summer here ever.
Shiny booty

So, of course no decisions were made, and my life will remain complicated for the time being. I spoiled the big mare with a spa day and told her how very wonderful she is. Maybe next time we ride?


Friday 26 June 2015

Lazy Ride

It was super hot again last night, so Bridget and I ventured out to explore the trails, hoping to find some shade. Obviously I am not familiar at all with the area, so I stayed close to roads and a hydro right of way I knew looped back near the barn. My new barnmates seem super friendly, so hopefully it's only a matter of time before we find a trail buddy to show us the good routes :)
We both want to move into this farm. I couldn't really capture the view and the brand new deluxe barn at the same time, so use your imagination :)

Once again Midget was worth her weight in gold. New area, strange horses just within eyesight ahead of us in the road, some industrial style sprinklers inadvertently watering us, and even some sheep only got a snort and a look at most before marching onwards. I think she enjoyed the outing, even though a lot of it was up some fair sized hills and she's lost a lot of her conditioning this past month. She'll be happy that she gets tomorrow and the weekend off since I'm travelling home again, but then pony and rider bootcamp begins on Monday with our new trainer!


Thursday 25 June 2015

Back At It

Just a quick note: I'm sure that by now everyone has heard about the completely unfair hand life has dealt Lauren. If you'd like to lend some support, here's the link to the charity Lauren has chosen in lieu of flowers. I think it would be wonderful if we could all donate a little in her husband Tim's name and maybe make a little bit of good happen. Alternately, Tracy at Fly on Over has set up an account for a gift for Lauren as well. Go here for that link.

After that, the following post seems very trivial, so I encourage you to hug your loved ones and click the above links now. Come back here if and when you feel like it.

 I snuck out on my lunch break yesterday to be there for Bridget's arrival at the barn. Pretty much the best lunch hour ever, right?

She travelled OK. Apparently she kicked up a bit of a fuss near the end of the ferry ride and had everyone a little worried. That's maybe a bit on me...I don't own a trailer and have been getting rides with others so I bet she expects to get off and do something pretty soon after that trailer stops moving! In typical Bridget fashion, the drama was minor and she managed to eat an entire hay bag during her "tantrum". Mares.
No idea why pics are so blurry. That's Bridget in her temporary paddock, I promise :)

She hopped off the trailer like she owns the place and settled right into her private paddock with zero fuss. Her future paddock mates just said a quiet hello over the fence and that was that - I think we probably could have just put her right in with them! I hid some carrots in her paddock to keep her busy for a bit and went back to work for the longest afternoon ever. 

After work, I had planned on getting her tidied up - she's looking a little neglected grooming wise. (She is also way too fat and lost a lot of muscle over her back and hindquarters, but that's a bit of a longer term project) I got a good start on the grooming, but she was so laid back about everything in the new barn I couldn't resist and pulled out her saddle and rode for a while too.
Best place to be

Short version of my ride: She was stiff, heavy, and really counter bent - straightness and self carriage not happening much today. As a result, my right canter lead has disappeared. I didn't push it at all, just tested the buttons and did a lot of walking and trotting on a loose rein just to get her moving around. We have a lesson Tuesday to work on the more serious kind of stuff! I still give her a 10/10 for the ride because new barn, new arena, she's coming back after a month off and she still cooperated, kept most of her brain in her head, and tried to be a good pony. What more can I ask for than that?
Trying to give you an idea of the arena lay out - there's about an 80x100 section under cover and a similar size area uncovered.

Friday 19 June 2015


It sounds like little Ms Bridget will be here this coming Tuesday. I can barely wait and am super excited - it's been a month already since I moved and only visiting the ponies on weekends  kind of stinks! First lesson with the new coach tentatively scheduled for the week following as they will be away at an event most of next week/weekend. I'm sad to miss out, but excited that I might be able to be on that trailer one day too! :)

Look on her face is what I imagine she would think of this big plan. I've kept it a secret from her (don't tell! ha ha) so that she will remain unsuspecting and get on the trailer  
I'm away this weekend in the big city, no no pony time this week,  but I will be sure to post an update when Miss Bridget arrives. Fingers crossed, the summer has been salvaged riding wise and there will be much riding and many more adventures of Ginger and Bridget in the months to come!


Wednesday 17 June 2015

'Final' S Lesson Recap

Because I did have a lesson last weekend too :) I'm sad it will be our last with S, but she has agreed to  help me with Ginger and come coach Bridget and I at a show in September. Yay!

Midge was giving me a sticky and unwilling feeling even on my hack up the road, so S immediately got on at the start of our lesson time. As with last week, a friendly reminder or two was needed. Yes, pony, you do have to carry yourself, yes you can bend, yes you can move off the leg quicker. Poor pony! Disappointing that she's sort of losing her work ethic as her fitness fades, but I can't blame her. It only took a few minutes to get her back to a better place. We're still miles ahead of the non cooperative pony of a few months ago!
But it's too hot and I'm fat, silly owner...
 Walk/trot felt good, though slightly stiff through her body. I may need to revisit my spurs at some point, but for now we chalk it up to pony not being worked enough. Canter though was the best yet! We had a few strides at a time of her carrying herself and bringing those hind legs under. It felt amazing to be able to take my legs off and just have her carry me along in a nice balanced canter.

Canter was followed by a brief intermission to allow a lost deer to run through and around the ring a bit. It seemed young and confused, poor thing, and kept leaving, then returning again to run around. It also REALLY wanted to get close to Bridget, so I'm not sure - maybe it was missing it's momma? Thank goodness Bridget could care less what kind of crazy antics the rest of the animal kingdom gets up to, and little deer went back to it's hidey hole in the bushes by the far corner of the ring, being sure to snort at us every time we rode by :)

Since Midge was being uncharacteristically stiff through her shoulders, we opted to teach her shoulder in. I know it sounds weird that we haven't directly addressed it when she does the basics of everything else, but she's usually really free with her shoulders so we didn't want that to be used against us! Whatever we're doing must be working because she surprised us with a decent shoulder in first try both ways. We moved up to a trot and the extra momentum helped her stay straighter and more forward and resulted in a presentable attempt first try. Good girl! It was hot and muggy, so we ended early on that note.
Treats for good ponies

I'm away this coming weekend, so the tentative plan is for Midge to have a short vacation and to be moved this coming Tuesday to our new coach's barn. Fingers crossed it goes smoothly - I can't want to get back to a regular routine! 
Blankets washed and ready to go. Don't judge our sandy desert lawn - it's been the hottest and driest spring ever and I hate wasting water for non essential things.

Halter training the baby cat going about as well as you'd expect. I think maybe he doesn't see me as his leader, somehow :)


Sunday 14 June 2015

Being Prepared

My lesson this morning was great, but the part after went all sorts of sideways.

Friend L was going to trailer up and meet me after her lesson so we could catch up and go for a quick hack down to the beach. She arrived just as my lesson was finished and coach S drove away. We said a quick hello and she started getting ready to get her horse out of the trailer. I turned around to let Bridget eat some better grass and only heard what happened next. End result, L's horse went flying past us into the road intersection. "Oops, I'll go grab him", I said, and went and quickly caught him. When I turned around with both horses in tow, I realized something was very wrong. Either L had taken the opportunity to have a nap in the middle of the road, or she was unconscious. "I got this", I thought, and immediately dialed 911. Except there was no cell service...and now L was starting to convulse and there was a lot of blood, and I'm still holding two horses with nowhere to safely  tie/put them- L is laying in front of the trailer door and I know an ambulance with a siren is coming eventually. Shoot, first aid courses don't account for any of that. 

I could hear the 911 operator but she couldn't hear me. I could hear her saying they had no way to find me. So I called S repeatedly, as she's a first responder and had just driven away. I figured some calls might at least ring, and enough dropped calls from me and she might come back. In the meantime, the normally busy road was the quietest I've ever seen it. No help there. I ran over to a neightbour's house with horses in tow who thank goodness was home and called the ambulance. In that interval, S did indeed come back to see if I was OK and quickly got L stabilized. The ambulance arrived super fast, and I basically just stood back and kept the horses safe and out of the way. L is going to be in the hospital for a little while, but should be OK, thank goodness.

Nicole at Zen And The Art Of Baby Horse Management wrote an excellent post a month or two ago about being good in crisis. I can't improve on her post - seriously, go read it here.

Here are some things I learned today and thought I might add/reiterate:

- Lots of workplaces and organizations offer free first aid training. Take it. Take it whether you think you`d be comfortable helping in an emergency or not. Trust me, I get panicky and am the last person you want helping you. But I was the only one there. And I was glad I had a little bit of an idea of what to look for, what to say to L,  and what to tell the first responders. Even though I just wanted to run away and go cry somewhere.

- Have a plan. I had no clue how to contact L`s husband, no clue where her truck keys were, all that stuff. If you`re riding out with a friend, make sure they know who to contact in an emergency and anything special the first aid crew or even the person looking after your horse needs to know. Keep your phone on you, have a contact labelled `husband`, `call in an emergency`whatever.

-Tell the ambulance crew to drive up carefully, with siren off. Because horses.

- If you ride in an area that doesn`t have cell service, plan for that. The ring we were at apparently has in and out service - I didn`t realize that or have a plan until I really needed it! I`m not sure what to advise here beyond a sat phone if you`re out of service areas regularly, but maybe have a pre arranged place to go - like the trail head, or a neighbour`s house to call out from. That way if person wakes up they`re hopefully not thinking you abandoned them! Whatever the case, think about it first and have a plan before you end up in a bad spot.

- I, for one, am going to start wearing my helmet when I load/unload horses or on the ground in any other situation where things could get weird (lunging, leading somewhere spooky/on a road, etc).

-Ground manners, everyone. While this isn`t a super issue, I feel I should mention it because the only reason I was able to corral and keep two horses safely out of the way/traffic was because one of them (Bridget, bless you forever) knows to stand and stay out of my space. In another situation, we might have had someone non horsey handling one of the horses. Knowing they can be handled safely by others would be a huge help.

Sorry for the serious post, but I feel like this is one of those subjects that's just so important. You don't know how important it is until you're standing there feeling completely helpless. Trust me.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Anyone Looking For A Pony

Bridget's (gelded 7+ years ago) sire is for sale for a pretty reasonable price. If Bridget inherited even a tiny bit of her temperament from him, he's worth a look. If you want a fun project to play with, I believe he's had a bit of pro training (driving and riding) and is easy to get along with. I can vouch for the seller too, they're great, honest people.

Mostly I am posting the link to his ad because I'm biased: I think he's adorable because he's basically a sorrel version of Bridget. I love this photo so much!:

Link to ad and photo


Monday 8 June 2015

Still Don't Wanna

Superstar pose
During my visit to our future home, I watched a couple of lessons and quickly caught on to the fact that things are a little different there than what we're used to. This is a jumping barn, not a dressage/hack barn and very reminiscent of the lessons I had when I was away last year. Bridget appears to have a lot more dressage-y type miles on the flat than the other horses there of a similar age (yay?) but has way fewer hours over the jumps (uh oh). Since we are going to be sharing lessons with someone who is cantering small cross rail courses, I went into this weekend's lesson with the goal of putting together a mini course and getting Bridget used to the idea that we can string things together and jump more than one line at a time.

But, as mares often do, Bridget had other ideas. This once or twice a week thing really isn't working for us - she came out really stiff and argumentative again, so we reverted WAY back to basics - flexions on the circle off an open rein, forward at all costs, that sort of thing. My spurs may need to make a comeback. She was so counter bent and crooked and sucked back S offered to get on and I happily accepted that offer. S quietly picked all the fights and easily won them and 10 minutes later I got back on a pony that turns and goes when you ask. Miracles ;)

We went back to our exercise where we have ground poles every few strides around the arena. We cantered them a few laps each way and then upper the difficulty and circled and crossed the diagonal, trotting at x, then picking up the new lead in the corner. Midge did pretty well - left as always was much more adjustable and balanced, but just getting her leads first try and cantering a 20m circle to the right with poles involved was a win.
No riding pics, sorry

We set up a rather intimidating looking gymnastic consisting of about 8 raised trot poles with a little vertical in the middle. The idea being the poles do the work of encouraging her to keep a steady tempo before and after without rider nagging. Since she was a bit backwards thinking, we spaced them fairly long for her and got her moving out. A fun little exercise to finish and I think she enjoyed it - she seemed quite relaxed and happy by the end, a night and day difference from the pony we started with. Maybe next week we'll be able to set up a mini course, I think she's more than ready. Really, I think she'll be fine to be tossed into a lesson as is at the new barn, but you know how it is - you hope not to look too terrible for the first day, at least :)
A short hack home

Ginger had a friend of mine come out and take her on a trail ride as well this weekend. By all accounts a good time was had by all. I couldn't make it because I had a pre existing ride time later in the afternoon with another friend. Unfortunately friend 2 cancelled out at the last minute and by then it was too late to make the earlier ride with friend 1 and Ginger. I decided to sulk for a bit then entertained myself by running around in the sprinkler at home to cool off and got massively sidetracked by that to the point that the next thing I knew I was ridiculously sun burnt and it was time to head out to the ferry to return back to weekday work location. So, Bridget and I just had the one outing this week. I have a lesson scheduled next weekend and I think rather than trying to plan a bunch of stuff I'll sneak out early in the morning alone and get my second ride in that way. Quality time alone with the ponies is one of the best ways to recharge the batteries!

Saturday 6 June 2015

Say What?!

We're down to the last couple of S lessons with Bridget, and the thought made me so sad this morning I impulsively told her to hold my weekend lesson time and I'll bring Ginger instead after Bridget moves! (Cue minor panic attack )

S is SO laid back and patient and that great mix of being honest but incredibly accepting of horse and rider shortcomings that are a work in progress. No nagging from her, she just changes up the exercises to force you or pony to work through things indirectly. I like that - progress without ever feeling like you're overwhelmed or less than adequate.

So, starting in July, look forward to some weekly recaps of Ginger rides. At one or two rides/lessons week there's unlikely to be much progress or excitement, but I'm hoping that's a good thing because there will be no pressure or expectations! I hope a low key, no pressure, just for fun approach will help my mental game in regards to Project Gingersnap. The whole I want to show/but I'm so nervous/pony is still too reactive/pony is lame/but I want to show/ohhhh but now she's been out of work and her mind isn't there/look, progress!/oh look she's lame again cycle was/is exhausting. So rather than the "all or nothing" mindset I'm going to consciously attempt to focus on just having a fun ride on the weekends and letting the chips fall where they may.

Fun lesson on Midge this morning, beach ride tomorrow. I will post about those in a few days, currently I am attempting to leash train my baby cat before I head back to work and that's obviously a task requiring my full dedication lol

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Found It!

I found a barn and I'm so, so excited! Bridget will be moving sometime near the end of the month to her new home away from home :) The barn is pretty small and mostly private (only 2 or 3 other boarders) so I'm feeling very lucky they had a space for us.

The place is owned by an eventing coach with a super impressive resume. This is someone I've wanted to ride with for just about forever. I was actually a little nervous/intimidated to get in touch with her, but was assured by everyone that she teaches all levels of horses and riders and is very positive and welcoming. As luck would have it, she not only agreed to coach us, she had room in her barn too!

Board is quite a bit more than I'm used to, but luckily I can work some of it off. It's only about 10 minutes from my work, which makes that a reasonable prospect, although it might mean some pretty early mornings!

Until then, lessons and trail rides at home on the weekends - we've got some work to do! :)


Tuesday 2 June 2015

June Goals

First, the May Recap:

-Weekly lessons. I've been good about this, but lately we're all working and busy so it's a bit more of a challenge.  Done, although I was luckily not working full time and able to fit a lesson in on random weekday afternoons.

-Bring a goal to each of my lessons. I've been terrible about showing up and only having a vague idea of what I'd like to work on. Done, although I didn't meet all of them since horses do have their own agendas at times and smart people adapt to what the horse brings to the table on the day:)

-Pole work/gymnastics. Again, lazy me is great for setting up single poles or jumps and not really making the pony work. Also good practice for me to set a pattern and remember/ride it effectively. Done! So many poles and patterns ridden over (and through;) last month!

-More discipline. Not of the whips and spurs variety, but of the 'looking to be better' mindset. Baby pony is not super green anymore and it's time to start expecting immediate, balanced transitions from halt/walk/trot every time. Also moving off my leg immediately in lateral work, and practicing self carriage and 'honesty' rather than me babysitting every stride. Canter remains a work in progress...Yes, although as always a work in progress. Baby pony isn't liking the new me much at times.

-Pony needs to work harder at the canter. We have one at last, yay! But smart babies think that means it time to run around really fast and inverted on the forehand, objecting greatly to any contact. Work on balanced transitions up and down and try to carry that balance into a few strides before and after the transitions. Build from there! I did this, but really didn't get as much progress as I would have liked, as evidenced by this week's runaway train canter!

-Prep for a show. At this point, I'm not sure the mid May show is a go - some people in line ahead of me for the trailer ride/coach help have opted in at the last minute. Still, we'll prep as if we're going because of course things change and there are more shows and other people we can go with. Yes, see above with all the poles and patterns practice, also buckled down on the transitions and my own bad habits. No shows yet, though

-Don't stress over Ginger I am awesome at beating myself up for 'giving up' by not riding or focusing on her. She's happy, she gets plenty of attention, and she's healthy. I need to let go of the guilt - pretty sure her feelings aren't hurt by my riding Bridget so much  :) She'll be there when or if I'm ready, but I'm going to try not to pressure myself to make any decisions. Time, we've got lots of it! Failed so badly here.
Happy ponies

Finally...that job I mentioned may just interfere slightly in my current plans. If I end up going there to work, I will need to find a house and a barn (and a coach) preferably before June 1st. I'm happy here, but $ are useful.  I'll add making a decision this week and planning appropriately to my list of immediate goals. Decisions made, and here I am with a new job.

Finally, the June Goals:

-Weekly Lessons. Currently means travelling home each weekend. Oh darn :)
Tired just thinking about it

-Keep it Fun. This is going to be a month of transition, so try to not sweat the small stuff (like only being able to ride on weekends) and any setbacks/lack of progress. Also, resist the temptation to drill the poor pony and get out for a nice relaxing trail ride at least one day.

-Find a Barn for July 1st. Should be easy, right? lol. I want to move Bridget here so I can ride and get lessons after work. Can I hope to salvage some sort of a show season too? Ginger is going to stay where she is and I've made tentative plans with the barn owner to get out on the weekends I'm home for a trail ride with Ginger's boyfriend, the BO's Morgan named Mac.

Ginger and her man

-Map Out a Tentative Show Season (dependent on above), but can't hurt to attend some of the local events in the meantime as a spectator and get an idea of what's offered/what the format is like.

-Examine Finances. (And come up with a plan moving forward). Sometimes reality sucks, and this is one of those necessary tasks I hate. Bonus: A new job. Double bonus: my truck will be paid off this month, so no debts/payments left. Negatives: Boarding here is very expensive. Travelling home regularly also expensive. Rent here is expensive, and we want to buy - more $$$$$. I would like a horse trailer - also expensive. You get the idea. I love my horses, but I need to balance them with my desire for a home base here and a savings account too :)