Wednesday 31 August 2016

Say It Ain't So

Option 1: I start looking for a dressage saddle.

Option 2: I pretend new saddles aren't a thing and do my dressage lessons and flat rides in my jump saddle without stirrups.

And.... week one of no stirrups is in the books. This will make me a better rider, right?

 I am poor enough and hate saddle shopping enough that I'm perfectly happy to compromise and have my stirrups taken away. It almost feels like I'm paying my dues for having my old jump saddle fit Bridget perfectly from day 1 with only the normal maintenance.

Considering a used Stubben roxane dressage...would likely work for us both based on current saddle, also it's not super pricey. An option, but I'm worried about buying something online with even a small possibility it won't work at all in real life.

Longer term, I realize I do need to save my pennies and buy something. My coach is not at all forcing the issue, and won't be embarrassed if I roll into a dressage show in jump tack...after all, we all know tack is the least of my worries come dressage test time. But I do see her point, life is easier with well fitted equipment suited to the job at hand, and I'm all for making life easier. 
The County rep visits our barn often and the saddles are very beautiful. I've liked every single one I've sat there's that, but would likely need a new custom one to fit myself and pony. So much money. Next time she's out I'll pick her brain re: used saddles and other brands ;)

Sadly, for now i just cant get past the part where saddle shopping makes life very painful and expensive in the short term. Help me. I'm not ready. 


Tuesday 30 August 2016


The vast majority of my days at work are made up of collecting, analyzing, and grouping data. I need to be super detail oriented, organized, and have a vision for what the end use of all the little bits of data could be. I also need to be able to recognize the valuable  and accurate bits from the 'garbage'. I need to have an incredible amount of patience,  because only a tiny amount my day is spent using the final data for 'fun' things like creating web apps or 3D models - or essentially, creating visuals of our database that the average person will hopefully understand and find useful.

I wouldn't say I love my day job, but it seems to suit me and it pays the bills.
Look! Another picture of me riding a few weeks ago...who says I have no media? Actually, never mind, I still don't. this is the last remotely horsey pic I have left

What does this have to do with riding, you ask? Everything. I normally turn off my work brain the second I walk out the door, but during my lesson last night EC had some interesting input. I was struggling to get a nice left bend, I was struggling to keep pony straight. Basic stuff, and I was starting to worry I'd broken something. EC's input: Remember to ride the horse you want. Essentially, don't worry about it...ride her like she is going super well, don't try to fix things or change your inputs.  The basics are there.  I should not be worried about doing something 'wrong' or making a mistake or messing things up. I just need to concisely ask for whatever it is I want, and I need to expect consistent results. Sure enough, everything fell into place a few minutes later. Further advice: Bridget and I are at a point where we just need to refine things.  The buttons are there and it matters not what combination of them I use. Provided I get an expected and timely response, it doesn't matter if what we're doing is not technically correct as far as a dressage judge is concerned...if it's what I asked for we're happy. 
Think happy thoughts. Same day as above, and off to the beach. we're very lucky to live where we do

In a nutshell, we are at the point where have slowly accumulated and tested most of the data we need to do some fun things. The pieces are there...I just need to have confidence in what I'm looking for, and I need to continue to recognize and sort the valuable bits from the 'garbage', further refining our results. Like my work, the majority of my ride needs to consist of testing and patiently building our little database of knowledge. Eventually, we'll create our 'fun' visual in the form of a dressage test that hopefully even the toughest judge will understand :)


Monday 29 August 2016


It's the time of year for milestones!

Midge turned 7 three weeks ago, which seems hard to fathom. Baby pony isn't a baby anymore!

I turned older, definitely older.

And, Midge and I celebrate 2 years together! 

In some ways, it seems like I've had her forever because we've done a ton of things in the past two years. Yet, in others she still feels very much like the new girl and I feel like our partnership is very young.

It could be because I was/am so attached to Ginger that it took me a long time to open myself up to getting attached to another pony. And, it could be because I didn't buy her with the intent of keeping her. She was going to be a fun project, and it evolved from there. I never made a conscious decision not to sell her, the idea just became less and less appealing as time passed. So, you'll have to excuse me if I continue to feel a little surprised that my project pony is still here two years later. We have a ton of new goals and what I hope will be a lifetime of adventures ahead of us, and after so many years of trying I'm having a bit of trouble believing the one horse I bought without much of an agenda is the one I want to keep forever and the one taking me to so many of the long term goals I've held.
Happy after a good dressage test

Also, I can say from experience...5 year old pony was a brat who I honestly didn't like that much despite her obvious positives I bought her based on the fact that she was quiet on the trails and I thought we could get along. That's it, no emotion involved. I appreciated her strengths, but it's hard to love anyone who's go to answer for most things is 'nope!' It was a really good thing she was/is cute. 6 year old pony was better, but still had some terrible moments...weeks of repeatedly running sideways into the arena walls still doesn't seem as funny as it should, even months later. Yet somehow, 7 year old pony is turning into Best Pony, it seems even pony mares do mature at some point! (I'm not under any illusions I've magically trained or installed a work ethic in the little beastie. She's good now because for whatever reason she's decided she wants to be, and we should probably tread carefully :)

Thursday 25 August 2016

Jump Lesson Redux

I won't lie, I pulled into the barn thinking "No to the jumping! I don't want to wipe out again so soon!" so I tacked up slowly and warmed up with my leathers long, practicing some dressage-y moves (a little badly on purpose too), hoping EC would take the hint and/or be lured into fixing my mistakes ;)  However, she's totally inside my head at this point, so obviously our lesson was jumping and included the course and line that caused the issue from Monday.

To complicate matters, I had taken my boots home to clean them, and forgot to pack both those and breeches. To those unfamiliar with my daily routine...there's slightly ridiculous the amount of stuff I pack around. I live in a rural area because a privacy and proximity to beaches and trails is apparently > than actually living near any amenities. So, on my way out the door every morning, packing the day's worth of supplies is necessary. Mid week, I go to the gym super early and pack for that, then I am on morning feed/turnout duty at the barn, then I go to my real 9-5 office job, then I go back to the barn for a lesson. So, I guess it was inevitable that at some point I'd forget one change of clothes at home 45 min away!
Another cute pic of Midge from 2 weeks ago. I cropped my head out because I've never been so sick and looking at my wanna vomit face makes me queasy all over again . Shift your focus on the adorable flying pony instead, lol;)

Luckily, my gym to morning barn attire had included a reject pair of Kerrits bootcut tights. I have had them for over 10 years and they will not die! They are also very slippery to ride in, so I relegated them expensive yoga pant status a few years ago. In my barn feeding/mucking out ensemble, I keep a pair of worn out (and disgustingly dirty and gross) Ariat cowgirl boots hidden in the corner of the tack room. The shirt I had worn to work was a sleeveless silk blouse thing, and why not add that to the ensemble? So...I technically had riding gear, but it was probably one of the weirder outfits the barn had seen.
These pants won't die no matter what you do to them.

But, I digress...on to the actual lesson. Midge felt very lazy and tired over our warmup jump. also, I had no spurs. I wasn't holding out much hope for a good lesson.

EC raised the warm up x to about a 2'6" vertical and added a 5 stride bending line to another small vertical. The approach was a little tricky because there was another jump in the way, so the horses only saw the second jump a stride or two out. We trotted in, them boom! Midge the jumper pony made an appearance and she was awake and forward and excited. She owned that line from the first run through and throughout the rest of the lesson. Note to self...pony apparently thinks crossrails are boring these days :)
Monday's course again

We moved on to riding the course as we did on Monday. No issues with the 'big' oxers, in fact, there were a couple of jumps there where everything just felt really right. Much improvement from last year when a teeny crossrail oxer had me nearly in tears from anxiety. EC was kind enough to quietly lower the jumps a little on our nemesis 4 stride for our first run through.. She's truly inside my head. The line continued to be our weak point. The first time I was too backed off and pulled for an awkward 5, then Midge was stalling upon landing over the first and again an awkward 5. I finally starting riding like a big girl, and while it was never perfect, EC was happy with my attempts at positive, forward riding and called it good. We have work to do, but it's just miles and Midge figuring out where her feet are and what I want a little better. And...we didn't wipe out :)

On a side note, I'm generally OK with my position in the jumping pics I saw from the event last weekend. It's not great, I know that, but given how new I am to jumping and how I can be less than confident, I'm happy with it for where we're at. The one thing I want to fix NOW and forever is how I pinch with my knee now and then, making my heels creep up and my leg slide back. Surprisingly, my attire last night made it way easier to get my heels down and my leg under me. I think my tall boots are too tall, they are  quite stiff in the ankle from all the extra leather squishing down there, plus they jab the back of my knees. Riding without them felt pretty good and EC asked "hey, are your stirrups shorter? What have you changed? Your heels are staying down!" I'm going to be on the hunt for half chaps and paddock boots, I think....

Wednesday 24 August 2016

XC: Before and After

These pics make me happy...first pic is jump 2 where I'm seriously questioning whether we'll make it to 3, even though looking at the pic it looks like she's happy enough. But my :)

Second pic  is the second to last on course, and shows I think just how into it she was getting!


Tuesday 23 August 2016

Win Some, Fail Some

We had an 'exciting' lesson last night.

I hadn't jumped Midge since the horse trials the Sunday before last, so I was actually a little excited. When I saw who my lesson mate was, I was excited, but slightly worried because she is awesome, but she is also a much better rider and jumps much higher than I do. I dislike feeling like I'm holding the lesson back, and on the flip side, I also dislike feeling pushed too far out of my comfort zone :)

The course we had set up was bigger than I normally ride, but smaller than she normally rides. A good compromise, because it also included some interesting bending lines, tricky turns, and some awkward distances to keep things interesting for everyone.

Our warmup fence went super well...Midge was motivated and kind of excited! First time in a while it's felt like she's really taken me to the fences.

Our twisty course

We started out just adding the oxers on a figure eight pattern. Repeat twice. I won't lie, they looked big and scary to me (but only 2'9" with maybe a 2' spread for you brave people). I rode very positively, Midge rocked it and I was grinning from ear to definitely felt like an effort for her, but not a difficult one. For me, I was told to shorten my stirrups a hole or two, which I did, and suddenly life became much easier as far as keeping my heels down and my hips back. I normally like riding at a longer length because Midge has such a big barrel, but it seems shorter is best if we're going to jump a little bigger.

We moved on to the course above, where I instantly had trouble from fence 1 to 2...that pesky right shoulder was drifting away from me again. So, we got a weird line and a really awkward distance, but Midge jumped and was told she was a super pony for being so honest. Re did the line with much better results, but still that shoulder was a bit drifty. Rest of the course went super well, except the 4 stride would have been nicer if I didn't add for 5.

Did a little flatwork to address that shoulder, and it became apparent Midge was really, really, wanting to show off how much she'd been thinking on shoulder in and travers from our dressage lessons last week. Silly pony...she was super crooked and bendy the entire lesson, so it was good we worked on jumping aka forward and straight!

Second run through of the course went well..until it didn't. We jumped in short on the 4 stride, EC was yelling forward, so I attempted to go for 4, got no response, tried to fit in 5 at the last minute, and again no immediate response so we basically plowed through the second and both ended up in the dirt. Somehow I stayed on, but I felt terrible for Midge. EC being the eventing coach she is, was all "pick up your canter NOW and go jump the oxer!" OK then. No time to think on things. We did the oxer super well, and Midge still felt confident, so we took a short break and ran through the course again, with much success...pony waited and did 5 strides, and went forward for 4. Good Midge!

Midge skinned a knee in our little adventure, which I feel pretty crappy about. EC says not to worry, she needed to learn to listen to me, but I think she's unfairly putting all the blame on the pony - my riding was less than stellar.

On the plus side, Midge was attacking the fences and felt more confident than I've ever seen, so our XC adventure last weekend must have really boosted her confidence. Ont the downside, I hope I didn't kill some of that confidence last night!


Monday 22 August 2016


I've been in my current location for about a year and a half now. The job is the one I waited for, and it's funding all those horsey goals I've wanted to chase since...forever ago. I'm so incredibly busy working full time and chasing those dreams that mostly I don't have time to think on downsides to my situation. Besides, there is a whole lot of good going on in my life, and so many opportunities easily taken that I've waited and worked so long for elsewhere.

Then, I travel the two hours home every second weekend and amongst all the fun of visiting, I struggle a little.

Dinner out Friday night with G was fun. Bumping into friends I hadn't seen in forever and having an impromptu birthday party was wonderful. Fireworks on the beach courtesy of a local festival, an added bonus to a great night.
Sunset from our deck

Waking up in the morning snuggled up with G and our cat doesn't happen often enough.

Saturday, I headed up to volunteer for a horsey event. The drill team from where I work during the week had travelled up a demo, and the local girls had arranged a fun games day at our beautiful club grounds to coincide with that. So many friends, old and new, to say hi to, and the sense of community there is amazing.
Coach from years past, S, upping the difficulty factor and bringing a tiny equine along for some of the games. Too cute.

Bridget's one and only ride at the club grounds, a clinic shortly after I bought her

Saturday night, take out dinner and Netflix with G (and our cat who is more like a dog). what should be a normal evening in, but it's a rarity these days

G taking Ginger to the lake a few years ago now
Sunday morning, breakfast with my bestie, who unbelievably, I haven't seen since our girls weekend to the horse expo last October.

And Sunday afternoon, back on the ferry boat to Bridget and my home away from home.

I miss living full time with G. I miss the friends I've had since I was a kid. I miss the little horsey community. I even miss our seemingly never ending hunt for a little horse property of our own.
Bridget again from that clinic, don't think I ever shared these nice pics!

But, I love the opportunity I have here. I like having a good, secure job in my field with above average wages. I really like the area. The people are great. I love being able to take regular lessons, go to shows, and check off some of those long held horsey goals. I remind myself of how frustrated I was career and finances wise at home, how busy G is, and how difficult it is there horse wise.

It's beautiful here too
So, we continue on with the longer term plan. But, wow are there days where it's tough to keep moving forward, because I can't help but feel I'm in danger of leaving some great things behind.

Friday 19 August 2016

Tougher Than I Let On

In the theme of riding like a seven year old, I actually showed up for my Monday night lesson rather than heading home after work and nursing my extreme horse show hangover.

Midge warmed up as I thought she might, which was tired and stiff feeling. Poor pony. However, we all know moving around a little is the best thing for it, so onwards we went. Surprisingly,  Midge got better and better, to the point where we had one of our best rides ever.
Our entire ride was just about suppling and loosening those tired muscles, mine as well as Bridget's! So, walk spirals to shoulder in, changing the bend repeatedly down the long sides, then repeat in trot. Finally, back to shoulder in at walk, then transition up to canter. That's tricky to the right for Bridget, who would rather twist and fake it than really push off with her right hind (seriously, bendy pony is sometimes a mystery to what world is it easier to canter around in an S shape than a nice arc? ) We got it sorted with minimal fuss, then moved on to keeping our shoulder in position while also spiraling in. And, viola, our first legit collected canter for a few strides. I'm in awe of how generous this pony is.
"Build me some more jumps already!"

Wednesday night, I returned again for another dressage lesson. I was pleased to notice smart little pony thought about what we'd learned earlier in the week. Shoulder in was no big deal, but when we changed the bend to renvers poor little pony had her mind blown and lost track of her feet :)

Moving forward, that will be my homework. At a walk for now, a step or two here or there, no rush, no big deal, let her figure it out. We do need to practice because some day in the future counter canter will be a thing :) The more collected canter from Monday night is also my homework. Use 10m circles and/or spirals and/or shoulder in to help find it/weight the inside hind, tell her how amazing she is, then bring her back before she loses her balance.

Further planning - EC wants me to ride with her dressage coach to check in about our bigger picture plan moving forward. Her coach is amazing, and honestly I am flattered she thinks we are at a stage/have enough potential where we could benefit from such input and planning for our "big" goals.

I have no idea why the universe gave me such a great pony when all I was really shopping for was a confidence boosting trail buddy, but believe me, I am grateful every day for my midget wonder pony.

In virtual travel news, look how far we've gone!


Wednesday 17 August 2016

CVES Horse Trials; Final Day

By day 4, I was completely sleep deprived, exhausted, and oh yeah, super ill. I think now I probably was struggling with heatstroke all weekend...either that or I caught a nasty flu bug that is scared of shade and air conditioning :)

My ride time wasn't until 4pm, so I basically just slept in the shade when I wasn't looking after the pony. Sorry, barn mates, I know my contributions to the day were essentially nil!

By the time I tacked up I felt extra special awful. Still, show jumping was only like a 90 second course and I was supposed be channeling that inner 7 year old, right?

I kept in mind the specific 7 year old I was emulating somehow managed to fall out of a tree this weekend and get a piece of metal embedded in his eye. This resulted in a trip to the emergency room, where they froze his eye and then used a dremel tool to drill out the area around the metal. He came back complete with pirate patch and apparently zero tears, off to race bikes with the other kids. I bowed out then and there of our 'who's tougher?' competition because that's just beyond bad ass. Not to mention this is the second show in a row that he has needed a trip to the life as a 7 year old is apparently quite hazardous to your health.

I tacked up Midge, started to warm up, and felt so nauseous I had to get right back off. I'll spare you the details, just advise you to never be ill in extreme heat where your only option of privacy is a 4 day old port a potty.

I told EC I was scratching, then went off to find some shade. The world's best barn kids walked Midge around and gave me water and poured even more water on my head.

EC did not scratch me, and about 5 minutes before our round, I felt well enough to hop back on, so that's the story of how I rode straight into show jumping without actually warming up over a single fence :)

Long story short, I rode terribly and Midge wanted to be done, but she still saved my butt numerous times. The arena was fenced of with flags which the horses thought were scary, and also had a lot of spooky jumps and signs. There were a few antics from even the Midge, but she somehow pulled through and honestly jumped everything I pointed her at, even with terribly planned approaches and a super floppy rider. Double clear. Pretty sure they must have made a scoring mistake there, even though the jumps were like 2'3" and easy, there should still be rider penalties for riding so awfully your pony has to basically cart you around the thing ;)
Sneak preview of the only show jumping pic I'm buying...I look like an idiot but Midge is so cool she can jump and pose at the same time ;)

We moved up two spots and finished 9th/24 overall, and two tenths of a point out of the ribbons. Good thing I wasn't checking scores, would have been so sad to be so close to satin on our first outing!
No worries about the ribbon, that's exactly what MS Paint is for ;)

Final thoughts:

- My pony is amazing
- I can't believe how grown up she was for just turning 7, looking after me so carefully in the show jumping
- I don't often get the feels, but I might have actually cried I was so proud of her.
- I'm not sure this was Midge's favorite weekend ever. She was a super good sport about it all, but we might stick to one "big" event a year more for my own fun and otherwise focus on the dressage she seems to enjoy more.
- That being said, I think we'd be fine to move up to pre-entry, the show jumps and the course XC felt a little tiny and boring. No regrets though, a super positive first event for us both and successfully completing something I've wanted to do forever feels pretty good!


Tuesday 16 August 2016


XC day dawned bright and early and stupidly hot. Although still feeling pretty miserable, I was grateful at least for my 8 am ride time. I felt pretty gross and sick to my stomach, which I chalked up to nerves. Midge felt like Midge, a little lazy and pretty backed off from the fences during warm up aka exactly how she's felt for a few months now when we jump. I was seriously reconsidering my life choices as the starter counted us down.

Midge happily cantered out from the start box, but despite my repeated urging, ground to a stop at the first jump, which was unfortunately one the ones she couldn't just step over ;) Now I was REALLY second guessing those life choices. Since we actually stopped with enough momentum that Midge had a hoof up on the log pile, I made my point by making her climb over awkwardly the rest of the way. We are classy, no doubt about it :)

All fence photos taken from This was actually how the first fence appeared in our course walk...they thankfully removed the top log about 10 minutes before we left the start box, making it perfect for a surefooted pony to climb over!

Jump 2 was a little log going up the big hill and while a little sticky, went ok.

Jump 3 was another small log pile at the top,of the hill. The line you needed to take involved heading straight uphill to a spectator area with a tent and some scaffolding for a platform for the announcer, then making a hard 90 degree turn with room for about three strides before a little log pile. The combination of the distraction of the spectator area and the uphill/away from home approach combined with the ground line disappearing a little behind the fence caused a lot of problems, us among the victims. A refusal there because she was distracted by the surroundings and I don't think she really saw the jump until too late. We circled and jumped it no problem the second time.
Like so...unfortunately slightly too big for me to feel comfortable making Midge to jump from a standstill.

Jump 4 was a bigger log pile with lots of flowers decorating it this year. She looked hard, but by now I had my inner 7 year old channeled and we got over.

Jumps 5 and 6 were more logs on a big bending line heading downhill. 5 sat beside a ditch, but no challenge there for pony.

this might not even be the right jump 6...all I remember is it was yet another log near the forest :)
Jump 7 was similar to 3 in that you where at the crest of a hill and it appeared to drop away to nothing behind. Obviously at our level, that's not really the case and Midge trusted me enough to give it a go and was happily surprised.

Next was a nice long gallop through the trees, downhill over probably the biggest jump on course, and onwards to the far bottom corner of the property before hanging a right back up the hill to surprise! more raised telephone pole logs. The only tiny challenge here in this field might have been the fairly busy truck route adjacent and the weird lighting coming in and out of the trees...if your horse hasn't seen a busy road or is generally spooky alone in a trail type situation you might be in trouble.

Jump 12 was sort of sneaky, hidden between a large hedge and a HUGE brush fence and not really visible until you got fairly close to it. Midge thought I was nuts to point her towards that huge brush, but then was happy when a few strides out our jump became a little more obvious.

Jumps 13 and 14 were a little 4 stride line of baby logs maybe 2' high. By now, Midge had her game face on and I was really starting to enjoy myself.

After 14, I saved a big wide turn and took a short cut through the water. Since that went just fine, we took the option of going through the second water rather than jumping 15. Actually a bit of a game time decision because by now we had pretty much caught up with the person in front of us and they appeared to be potentially stuck at jump 15. So, taking the water route was doubly wise. It also set us up very nicely for the one jump on course I wasn't sure what Midge would think of, a little log palisade type thing about 5 strides out of the water. It was on a bit of an uphill and the way it was built I think made it appear much more substantial than anything else out there. I've seen the preview of the pro photos and Midge was taking no chances with it either and over jumped it by a foot or so lol.
Water option

This year's starter fence 16, a mini palisade 

17 was our final jump, in the form of yet another friendly log.

I finished super happy with the pony, while I wouldn't say she was super keen, over the course I think she figured her job out and was quite happy to canter around and jump all the things. Her little ears look happy in all the pics I've seen so far (and yes, I am ordering some and will be sharing here)

I think the level was appropriate for a first outing, and while I think the course was tougher than most expected, I was happy to have the opportunity to give the pony experience with water and terrain. I also think the obstacles were wisely placed, everything from the pretend drop fence to the brush that wasn't and the ditch that was actually a log...super confidence building for everyone!

Since the weather was baking hot and I wanted Midge to have fun, I wasn't worried about time or penalties, my goal was simply to get around and end with a happy, confident pony who wasn't too tired. Mission accomplished :)

When we went to the vet check, Midge was only worried about eating grass, so the vet waved us through..."she's a pony and she's eating, I think she's fine ;)"

And, since I did of course check scores once the weekend was over, I can tell you we obviously had the 20 penalties for reattempting fence 3 and a further 20 time due to our adventures on the first part of the course where I didn't rush her in favour of letting her look and figure it all out.  That sounds like a lot, I know, but we only dropped down from 10th to 11th place. XC must have claimed a lot of victims!


Monday 15 August 2016

CVES Horse Trials Days 1 & 2

I'm going to drag this out over a few posts, because as a newbie there was a lot to take in and a lot to learn. Notes for the future are always helpful. Also, real photos should be coming, I'm going to order some pro ones once they're posted :)

Day 1 consisted of getting to the park, setting up camp, having a lesson and getting signed in with the entry secretary.
Midge and her friends traveled just fine on the ferry, and we made it to the park at around lunch time.

Stabling was in the form of little pole corrals, which Midge is of course fine with, but the last few times we've gone to places with that set up it's caused a ton of chaos with some of the more 'dramatic' ponies hauling in. Loose horses in the night are pretty much a guarantee, as are substantial renovations to the fencing every morning.

Notes re: 'rustic' stabling.

- Bring a hammer, screws, and baling twine!
- Bring a sturdy stall guard, or at least some spare lead ropes.
-Some sort of waterproof tote or box to leave by her stall for brushes, etc, to save me packing all that little non valuable stuff back and forth from the camping area.
- I really wish I had brought a tent shelter of some sort for Midge - it was hot out there.
- I need a bigger water bucket for her to drink from, also a smaller one for packing water from the water tanks...or one of those muck bucket carts...that would have been genius for transporting water.
-Also, never assume there will be running water, apparently in eventing land it's an optional thing :)
This thing would have made me very happy for moving water and gear around.

My little camp site was simply a tent under an apple tree. Being poor and not having a fancy rig actually worked to my advantage, I'm pretty sure I had the only shady spot in the entire place. Also, unlimited treats for my pony!

If you can't guess by my repeated references to shade and water...the temps were insanely hot all weekend. Gorgeous place and wonderful event, but I was miserable in the heat.

We had a dressage lesson in one of the rings and Midge felt amazing...the new venue gave her a little added spark and it felt really promising for the morning. I also took her for a little gallop partway around the track to get her in eventing mode :)

Following that, we went to the rider's meeting, which as a new person I found helpful. It's nice to put a face to your contacts for the weekend and get a bit of an idea as to how things are going to be run and any park specific rules to follow.

And then, off to bed for a sleepless night! Horses are not fun camping neighbors, I think they were partying all night long :) Also, it was hot.
Luxury accommodations, actually more comfortable than most

My dressage ride time the next morning was super early, as competitor number 3 of two hundred and something I got to ride at 8:10 AM. We went out and got it done, but we were both pretty tired feeling. We did a correct and relaxed test, but maybe a little too relaxed. We were definitely tired and feeling the heat and lacking sparkle. Overall, I was OK with our test, but more on the disappointed side of OK.

Notes for dressage day:

-Multiple warm up rings because multiple arenas. Make sure you're in the right one, and sign in with the whipper in if need be.
-Tack checks before every phase. I did not know this but luckily everyone was super friendly and nice and I was sent in the right direction :)
-Practice braiding prior to showing.
-Don't need to wear a number on your back if you have a bridle tag....I need to invest in bridle numbers.

I wasn't checking scores because I just wanted to worry about giving Midge a fun and positive weekend, but I can tell you now we scored a 65.8% on our test which in Canada equates to something like 53 penalties and put us 10th out of 24. Also, the remarks on our test were as expected, lots of positive comments and even a 'lovely pony!', but no real criticism, just in the final comments a note about Midge not being quite as consistently forward thinking as the judge would have liked. The entire test was 6's and 7's.

Post dressage Midge remains skeptical, also jealous of the other horses with tents
On to Day 3: XC...


Wednesday 10 August 2016

Riding Like A 7 Year Old

Our jumping lesson tonight felt a little flat and rusty, but otherwise alright. EC kept the fences teeny tiny but made a super twisty, complicated course. Fun, and confidence building for sure.
The famous blue gym mat jump

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy my homework for the weekend :)  :

- "You're on a pony, so you get to ride like it! I want to see you kicking that pony every time she feels even a little behind your leg."

- "Bum out of the saddle, hands out in front of you, everything about your position needs to say 'GO pony go!' This isn't a hunter show, you don't need to look pretty."

- "I want to see you channeling a 7 year old. Get out there and have fun on your pony, gallop around and jump some stuff and don't worry how it looks or if it's too fast or slow"

-"Please, whatever you do, don't win. You can't win your first event, because then it's all downhill from there..."
I love that Ginger and Bridget still hang out and are still  besties

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Floating Along

I've just been floating along over the past few weeks. My mind is still stuck in vacation mode, and my body is beyond exhausted for whatever reason. I go to work and I ride, but the fun moments are the unexpected invitation for a night out where it turned out a long lost friend or two were playing in the band. More unexpected fun going to some drag races. It was super fun, but I was content enough with my current choice to spend all my spare hobby $ on horses. Maybe I'll finish the hot rod when I'm an old retired granny, it'll be cooler that way anyways.

Pony needs a better diet and exercise regime

In short, while I have been riding regularly because I like to spend time with Bridget, I have not been focusing much energy on riding better or training anything. We just hack around, jump stuff sometimes, and generally just drift along in the fairly happy place we currently occupy.

Of course that changed last night when EC returned to give us our first lesson in weeks :) When I got on, Bridget felt so soft and loose and wonderful that I was crossing my fingers for a dressage lesson. Also, our jump schools have mostly been sucky and avoiding it makes it go away, right? Anyway, our warm up must have looked as nice as it felt because EC came in, sat down and just quietly watched me. Normally, at least a few tips are shouted my way, and sometimes a full on intervention is necessary. Last night, the silence said it all.
Pics from last week...B makes it very easy to set jumps, just park her wherever and do what you've got to do and she'll keep an eye on things from her parking spot. Or maybe she thinks about what she's going to jump and what she's not...I'm not sure :)

Our lesson mate has a super lovely mare who also wanted some dressage work, so my wish for a dressage lesson was unanimous. Pheww.

We started with some walk/trot transitions, then our game of coming forward and back in the trot. I've been playing with this because it's fun. B felt great, and again, beyond the odd encouraging word, silence from EC. We mixed it up by finding B's current biggest possible lengthen trot, and her tallest collected trot. Of course they're still in the wobbly baby stages, but I'm lucky that she has the conformation that allows her to sit and use herself if I ask nicely. Just a stride or two here and there, then back to her comfort zone for a few. She's getting the idea! First level is looking to be well within sight this fall.

Next, up to the canter. It felt really good for her, no bracing and she is starting to think about bringing those hind legs further under when I ask for more, rather than trying to flatten and speed up. We did some spirals and I was beyond thrilled when we got some good quality 10m circles with no loss of balance. It's been a super long time coming...just a few months ago a 20m circle was beyond difficult for the pony.

Bridget earned herself a nice break, and I was in desperate need of one too, because we'd been trotting and cantering for 45min by that point. I need more fitness!
She does look happy I came back for her, at least.

After a few minutes, off we went to do "proper" shoulder in. Until now, I've been coming off the circle and asking for a few strides before straightening, or doing more of a modified leg yield where her front end is on the correct bend/track but her body is straight, not bent around my leg, and hindquarters are also a little too far out behind us to be super correct. Baby steps because the pony finds lateral work quite difficult. Last night, we put all the pieces together and she surprised me by being strong enough to do some lovely shoulder in both directions, with minimal asking from me. I realized after that I had been posting the whole time as well, in days past I really, really needed to site and use my seat to help her along. Of course the shoulder in is not a goal unto itself, it's a tool to help her strengthen and bring those hind legs under and eventually give us more power and cadence. Because yep... one of our next steps in this process is adding grown up pony collected work :)

Oh, and a jumping lesson tomorrow night, because for now we are still pretending to be eventers and we have an event coming up this weekend. I might puke from nerves.

I love my smart little pony. She might not be the most athletic or talented thing out there, but she's just so much fun.


Thursday 4 August 2016

Practice, Practice

We jumped back into things last night with a short, but effective ride. The pony felt amazing, and I felt great too - it's amazing what a week off does for all those little aches and pains that normally follow me around. In the moment, I don't notice them too badly or consciously make any accommodations for them, but after I've had time off I'm always surprised at how easy everything feels and how much I was apparently compensating (and inadvertently blocking the pony) before! Midge has been  hacking out every few days and did a couple of vaulting classes in my absence, so she wasn't super fresh...more just relaxed and loose feeling.

My partner in crime who had about as many difficulties as me at our last xc schooling showed up to ride around the same time as I did. I had planned to just do a relaxed W/T/C and get a feel for where were at, but with things feeling so good, I opted to join in a little with the jumps barn mate had set up.

Since we both had issues with the houses at our xc clinic we made pretend houses in the arena by leaning the gym mats the vaulters use against our jumps, creating a solid triangle shape. We also added tons of fill to everything 'open', including barrels, cones, and random shrubbery. Finally, we draped a blanket over an oxer to create a pretend rolltop.

I have no idea if our plan will translate into real life solid jumps, but it did make the horses look! Midge was hesitant, mostly about the gym mat fake house. If you remember, the first time she met the gym mats in the form of a fake liverpool we let her look at them and she got a foot on one and managed to kind of half fall down somehow, laid on it, and decided it was comfy/it ate her and she was dying and didn't want to get up. Strange pony. After that, those mats are met with a ton of suspicion on my part  :) Luckily, this time there was no napping mid course, instead she jumped it huge a few times while I told her how amazing and brave she is. We jumped everything else a couple of times with no issue, so I called it a big win and quit while she was still feeling good.

Huge win for me too, because I felt her considering refusing a few times, but managed to stay soft and confident and not make a big deal out of it. Just staying calm and
trusting her to get over seems to be working better for me than making a move and adding more pressure.

Fitness wise, there was a little huffing and puffing going on, even though we probably jumped 12-15 times total with plenty of walk breaks in between. Poor pony, even after only 2 weeks of low key rides she's lost a noticeable amount of cardio fitness.

Tonight, we dressage. Because next week we head out to our first 'real' horse trials!

Wednesday 3 August 2016

August 10

My little riding vacation is coming to an end, and we'll be jumping back into things in a big way with multiple shows and events over the next couple of months. For now, though L Williams once again bails me out content wise with her 10 questions for August...

1. What is your biggest source of caffeine that gets you through your day? (drink, not just brand)

I'm the strange person who doesn't really do caffeine. I still haven't developed a taste for coffee, and don't drink much tea or soda so I guess my answer for a pick me up will have to be chocolate? If it's truly desperate times I'll have a mocha. That happens once every few months and then I get all weird and jittery and remember why I don't do caffeine.

2. Do you honestly think your trainer is the best for you?

I'd be surprised if a ton of people say yes to this...grass is always greener and limited resources and all that. I'd say in this area she is the best for me, and as far as coaches I've ridden with she's top 10%. I feel pretty lucky. Of course there are a couple of people I've clinic'd with that I'd love to ride with on a more regular basis :)

3. One token of advice from a fellow rider/trainer/horse person that you still remember to this day?

Treat your horses fairly and consistently. Break everything down to the easiest step, reward the good, ignore the bad.
So cute that you could never be unfair to her

4. If riding meant costing your family so much money that they’d be basically on poverty line, or making your family terribly unhappy (if they were not supportive or understanding, etc.) would you still do it?

I have managed to set up my life so I can spend all the $$$$ on horses. So:

- no kids,
- a husband who is cool with time consuming and costly obsessions  hobbies, and
- a good job to finance the hobby myself

5. Would you ride while pregnant?

Again, no kids. But if I was planning to I'd take my doctor's advice and be super careful if he gave me the OK.

6. How do you tell when a horse likes someone/has bonded with them?

Generally speaking, happy ears when they see you coming and tolerant of your quirks. With my two opposites, Ginger is a normal friendly horse if she likes you (rare), and comes when you call and tries to anticipate everything you might want from her if she really likes you (super rare, maybe two people). If you're the majority she doesn't like, you'll never get close to her and she will act terrified of everything. Bridget is a normal friendly horse at almost all times, with the exception of a few people she dislikes and even then she still cooperates, just makes a lot of grumpy faces.

Ginger's default view of you

7. Are horses capable of loving?

I don't know, but they're capable of pretty complex social relationships. When I was a kid the pony I rode had a best friend and after he died she slept in the field away from the herd for hours on end and just generally started going downhill in a big way. She had been abused and didn't like people, just me (probably because I was the most non threatening tiny child ever) so she would get up and say hi when I was there but her interest in life was pretty minimal. Coincidence? Not sure, but it was heartbreaking and eventually she was PTS too.  After that, I lean towards saying yes, in their own way, they can.

8. If you could have one horse from your past come back for 5 minutes, who would it be, why, and what would you do with them in those 5 minutes?

The above mentioned pony (with her bestie). I'd spoil her rotten and tell her how special she was one more time.

9. Should a trainer also be a friend, or should it be a student/teacher relationship?

I prefer to keep it student/teacher. I feel like that way the lines don't get blurred as far as time and money goes and also I like feeling that my coach holds me accountable without worrying (too much) about making me angry ;)

10. One piece of advice/training you were given by a trainer or mentor that you look back on now and view it as incorrect?
So much bad advice. The one thing that is still a bit of an issue is from the trainer back in the day who essentially advocated for making your hands super busy until your horse drops it's head. Luckily, I never got too crazy with that, but I definitely still tend to fidget a stride or two before I sit and use more leg instead to create an actual round pony.