Monday 29 January 2018

Thinking And Riding

Two things that often don't happen simultaneously in my world :)

I've already mentioned I've been watching a ton of video the past couple of weeks. I feel like a broken record, but our weather is still terrible. I'm riding, but I am not lingering at the barn. Which, of course makes more time for watching videos from my warm, dry home! The Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic for one, the West Coast Dressage Festival as well. Plus my usual YouTube suspects, anything Carl or Charlotte, plus Anna Ross Davies, Helen Langehanenberg, and Ingrid Klimke, to name a few. There's no shortage of inspiration out there.
Why yes, that looks like a lovely place to ride! Good thing there is the indoor nearby!

Regular readers know the thing I struggle with the most with Bridget is that she really, really, does not like to be truly in front of the leg. She might have energy, she might feel like a powder keg, but that energy prefers to go up and out or at best, forward with legs rushing and about half the engagement she's capable of.

Right or wrong, what I've got out of my lessons is to keep my reins at the desired length, soft elbows, and push Midge up into that contact. Lots of lateral work if she really doesn't want to get her hind legs under. This is hit or miss, and she's the real world, she trots around just fine with her head up and her neck straight, thank you very much! I can totally get her soft and round and using her big bottom, but as soon as I change the bend or transition, we need to start over and build the power and relaxation back up again. It's frustrating to me, and quite honestly, she gets herself all frustrated with it too.

Taking a page from the videos I've been watching, this week I really just focused extra hard on keeping her in that happy place.

From Robert Dover, she needs to feel like she's ready for anything I ask. I also need to verbally praise her every time she's going well.

From Laura Graves, don't let her be in a bad place. i.e, if she's inverted or stuck, change the question immediately and get her into a good place. Praise and ask again. Don't get stuck going around in a less than desirable way or they will learn that it's an option, even if it's not a desirable one. Work on the very edge of where they're comfortable.

And..from watching lots of dressage tests...At our level, I'd rather have the forward, happy horse in the maybe more open frame than desirable, than the grumpy, stuck looking one being forced into it. Seems obvious, but I have let myself get pressured in the past.

So. We went back to the super basics. Pony needs to go forward sharply, she needs to move off my leg immediately, and she has to listen to my seat. She also needs to be accepting of the contact while moving forward...that whole 'taking you' feel.

This whole winter, I've been riding her in a lower, more open way than I know EC would prefer. But, I felt like I need to reestablish the whole being accepting of the contact while truly moving forward...that whole 'taking you' feel. I'm of course biased, but I feel like it's been working - pony is consistently happy and forward for the first time, maybe ever.

Now, I am starting to ask her to come 'up' a bit again, to sit a little longer, to carry herself there. I'm trying very hard to choose exercises that do the work for me rather than nitpicking at if she attempts to race along on the forehand and blows through my half half, we immediately go haunches in on a 15m circle and she has to collect a bit and sit her bum down. And you know what? She doesn't quit, get worked up or frustrated about things when I set it up that way. More than any horse I've ever owned, Midge REALLY needs time to think things through, and really needs to understand the why of it all. I'm not sure she's ever going to be the type to just immediately do something because someone said so, and I'm getting to be OK with that...if she needs lots of extra time and repetition to figure it out, but will try this hard once she feels she has reason to, then why not be patient?

And all the extra verbal "good girls" for every little thing?  Magic, I tell you. who knew my independent little pony cared about what I say? Yet, it seems she does and she gets quite proud of herself, too.

What can I say, I am a super slow learner. These are all such basic things, but I think I'm only now starting to really intuitively understand the concepts and how I can apply them in the moment. I feel like I understood before, but was more going through the motions, because I had read or been told it would work. Our flat work is honestly a bit of a mess at the moment, but the good is getting REALLY good, and the consistency of the good is improving with every ride. Slow progress is being made!

We have an EC clinic this upcoming weekend. I'm interested to see how the check in goes and what short of homework and feedback I'm going to get.


Saturday 27 January 2018

Hay Math

Or, Why Paying $610 Yesterday Wasn't So Bad

First, a couple of notes:

1 Ton = ~2200lbs
Bridget is the definition of easy keeper and needs no more than 10lbs per day.
Bridget has had issues with COPD(?) in the past, also is your typical round pony, so I'm fussy about hay quality and sugar content.

Option 1:

Full board. I pay $275 for co-op board, and am billed an additional $275 per month for hay. Doing this math, $275 x 12 months = $3300 per year to feed the pony.

B doing her best to eat $275 worth of hay.

Option 2: 

Board elsewhere, buy my own hay from feed store as needed. Feed store timothy is $24.95 per 65-70 lb bale. 1 bale lasts 1 week, so $24.95 × 52 weeks in a year = $1297.40

Option 3:

Board elsewhere, order ninja hay delivery. $610 a ton ÷ 2200lbs = $0.2772 per lb. Multiply by 70lbs per week = $19.41 a week.  Multiply by 52 weeks in a year = $1009.27

Option 4, of course, is to find a nice local farmer this coming spring and order from them, saving trucking fees. Honestly, if I had a horse needing a lot of hay to keep weight on, I'd be all over this to save money. But since B eats so little, and I have concerns about her health, I think we'll stick with the super high quality, tested hay. Option 3 is currently the cheapest, and the best quality. The math works out to $84/mo. Our cat costs about that, lol.

One of our cat's favorite pastimes - hiding in the cupboards and sleeping on/guarding his stash of $$$$$ cat food. Added bonus of scaring the crap out of me every time I open a door and he jumps out at me. It's a good thing we like him :)

Friday 26 January 2018


Taking inspiration from the standard ten code, I'm using 6-10 as my new code for a day that's just not working in my favor.

It started first thing this morning. I got a pair of new tredstep dressage boots cheap on eBay at Christmas. I've been slowly breaking them in by wearing them around the house when I work from home. This morning though, one felt a little...airy. Yep, I busted the zipper. Irretrievably, in fact, because one side is not even attached to the other anymore. Should NOT have eaten that pizza last night. Fingers crossed I can find someone to replace the zipper locally.

Then, after lunch, a surprise call. "Hey, it's John from Hay Farm. I just unloaded your hay." Me: "Wait, what hay? Hay for me? You're there now? At my barn? But I'm at work and have a meeting?!" (Also, inside voice wondering how on earth they not only know where I board but also where to put the hay in the barn?)

(Note to self: Hay Farm apparently offers ninja delivery only. You order it, and months later, when you've almost forgotten, it appears steathily from nowhere without notice. You don't find the hay, it finds you. Along with an invoice requiring on the spot payment)

So, I quickly postpone my meeting, get my non broken pair of riding/barn boots on (over my pyjama leggings no less - working from home and I have no shame.)

Partway there, I realize I probably need cash to pay the guy. Which means I need to stop at the bank. In my pyjamas. Oh well maybe no one noticed, with my boots over top and my coat buttoned up.

Bank stop complete, I roll into the barn, and hand over my cash. Except it's not enough. I owe them $610. SIX TEN?! Yep, $610 for one ton of timothy hay. Yikes.

Do you accept gold bars?
Anyway, I eventually get home, and rush through the door in a hurry to get back to work. Unzip my boots, except, yep, there are pyjamas stuck in there and guess who just wrecked another zipper on another pair of tall boots? That would be me. Sadly, these ones aren't worth the repair bill, so we say a sad farewell.

But seriously, $610 for a ton of hay?


Wednesday 24 January 2018

failing (Just a Little)

It's not even the end of January and my goals for the year are taking a bit of a beating. It's fine though, they're not goals because they're easy!

With all the things that don't go to plan, I'm getting better at prioritizing my efforts and not taking things too much to heart.

My lesson goals have gone completely off the rails so far. I have not travelled to EC's barn for lessons with Bridget, I cancelled my lessons on Audrey in order to give myself an evening off once a week (and more cash!) and the clinic didn't work out last week. I rescheduled to February's date on the 4th, but I only have 1 person probably it's not going to happen. I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to get people motivated to attend, but you know what? I can't worry about it. We've all got different goals in life. My plan is to just trailer to EC once a month, if the clinic that month doesn't fill. That way I get a couple of lessons a month no matter what.

So cute

Due to my insane schedule and the equally insane winter weather, even though I've been riding in the dark in hurricane winds, I'm still not getting out as much as I had hoped (3-4x a week average, vs the 4-5 I had hoped) so Bridget's fitness is not coming along as well as I'd liked. It's funny, the cardio really isn't that bad now because she's got zero COPD like symptoms here, but she feels a bit weak physically. I'm noticing it in the canter, especially when I've ridden the day before. Her mind is really sharp right now and her motivation high, but her body needs to catch up.

On the flip side, goals I probably should have had (but didn't) are getting crushed right now! All this riding alone and self boarding has really helped B and I tune into each other and I think we are both super happy.

When I first got B, you'll recall she was barely awake at any given time. And, as far as feelings about stuff, she was all 'Meh, with a big side of nope'. She was perfectly polite, perfectly easy to deal with...just not interested in me or my wishes, and super, super reserved.

Very nondramatic reenactment of previous energy levels and interest

That's been gradually changing over the few years I've owned her. Recently, though, it's been changing dramatically. Reserved little pony is meeting me at the gate, is not shy at all about telling me where she's itchy, what trail she'd like to take, how much she loves apples.

Even when we're 'at work' she's meeting me more than half way. Totally willing to try a new thing, trying to anticipate what I might want next, normally with happy, relaxed, forward ears (and thinking).
Walk to canter, NBD last weekend. 

Looking for a dressage prospect is still very much on the table, and the topic of an upcoming post. But, that goal might get shoved to he bottom of the pile for 2018 as well, if B continues to be so happy (and fun!) at work.


Saturday 20 January 2018

Raincoast Updates

Sad update: I had to cancel the clinic planned for this weekend, multiple riders needed to back out last minute for legit reasons (side note, can you believe our town currently has NO farrier, so if your horse throws a shoe you are SOL until they visit again in two weeks? Crazy!) While there were a couple of people interested in the spots, without a firm commitment the week before I didn't want to risk EC being out those $. Also, to be honest, I've been pretty busy and didn't feel like breaking out the cat herding skills sometime needed for organizing horse people. We organized a ride anyway, just a get together at the ring to school together and then go for a trail ride, but the weather is being extra special right now.

Not inspiring confidence...ha ha, Weather Network, why the eye catching drama weather in big font so you notice it before the real weather? While I do live on the coast, we are tucked in behind Vancouver Island, so the winds and waves are yucky right now, but they are no where near as impressive as the little blurb above would have you you can see, it actually feels like freezing, with wind gusts at 57km/hr. I can ride in that!
I'm working on either rescheduling EC to come in a couple of weeks time, or figuring out a plan to take Bridget there for a few days. In the meantime, we had a fantastic ride in the magical indoor last night, and an average one outside in the wind and rain this morning. B was a little tense and on the muscle, but who can blame her? Hope everyone else is having a good weekend!

B is feeling good!


Friday 19 January 2018

Things To Watch

If you're looking for entertainment or inspiration this weekend, there are a few recent equestrian media options available.

-I've already mentioned the Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic. USEF Network in general is always a good place to check for live stream and on demand videos of clinics and competitions. I signed up for a free fan membership a couple of months ago and that seems to be all I need to watch all the videos.

-Down The Fence. New on Netflix. Documentary about reined cowhorse. Made me miss Alberta! I boarded at a barn specializing in reined cowhorse, and the few times I rode their horses, and watched their events, it was pretty amazing! I could see myself getting into it.  While I still question the whole starting horses super young for futurity classes thing, this isn't  about that, more a documentary about the people involved in and so passionate about the sport. The cinematography was gorgeous.

-Adequan West Coast Dressage Festival. Livestreams on their Facebook page. I'm loving this because along with good filming angles, they've got commentary from Axel Steiner. I'm learning a lot! Tuning in last night was 100% worth it just to see Steffan Peters and Suppenkasper, wow, nicely done and so much more potential there, too. It's also pretty neat to see a few of our local coaches and people I met at shows last year down there competing. It's inspiring!

Wednesday 17 January 2018

RD Clinic Notes

Notes from the USEF Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic (viewable on demand here). I've only had time to watch a couple of the riders each day, but there's been a TON of information I'm wanting to make note of because it's directly applicable to my riding and Bridget's way of going. Apologies, this post is just my own notes for future reference, but I thought I'd put them here in case anyone else gleans anything from them

Re: Energy/Intention:

-Hug the horse's side if you want 'more'. No kicking!

-You should feel like anything can happen from collected gaits. Extended trot, collected canter, halt piaffe, passage, the horse should feel balanced and ready for anything. If you can't get whatever it is you're thinking of next, it's not a collected walk.

-Very fine line between positive and negative tension. Our job is to make the line farther apart.

-Everything has to be in everything else. Ie: In every step of piaffe, the extended trot should be alive, in extended trot, the piaffe should be a thought away. If it's not there, you are not present enough. You need to feel everything, all the possibilities, in all the gaits.

-Don't be afraid to ask for more. If the horse quits or you get a response you didn't want, no big deal, correct and try again. How much/how far can I go? You won't know unless you ask/try, envision the possibilities and opportunities.

Re: Balance:

-Horse's balance: visualize a cat ready to jump up on something.

-Half halt: calling horse to balance and attention. "Wake up!"

Re: Mental game:

-"What artist can create what they can't see in their mind?" Ie you need to imagine how fabulous your ride is going to be, visualize only the best things happening, then create it.

-Connection isn't just your hands and their mouth. It's in the bridge of their back, your brain and the horses brain.

-Good trainers are always thinking. What if I do this? What reaction will I get? Why am I getting this response? Why are my hands moving there when I ask for that?

Re: General riding and training:

-Lots of petting, sugar, and 'good girl!'s. So much verbal praising and communication.

-Again with the collected walk, horse should be pulling and have similar feel in bridle to extended trot. "Can you feel an extended trot in that walk?"

-Collected trot. Is a BIG trot. Think the feel of medium trot.

-Really uses corners, rides into them and uses them to half halt/collect/balance.

-Straightness for suspension. Adding bend can make shoulders 'attached to the ground', create flatter movement. (Discussed on canter circle, in relation to keeping shoulders and neck straight on circle)


Monday 15 January 2018

Show Season

Have I posted my proposed show schedule yet? I don't think so. If I have, too bad, we're going to talk about it again because I'm EXCITED! Here are my big goal shows:

March 22-24: Thunderbird Gateway Dressage Show

June 15-17: Touch of Class Dressage. (Also @ Tbird)

July: Canada Cup Dressage (@ MREC)

September: Pacific Regional Dressage Championships (@ TBird)

Before you think I've gone all super accomplished and fancy, yes, they are rated shows at nice facilities, for horses and riders I associate being in another stratosphere than Midge and myself.. BUT, for normal people like me, they offer EC Bronze level classes concurrent with the EC Gold upper level and FEI tests us Canadians associate with the "fancy" shows. Since the judges and amenities are the same at these shows regardless of your EC license level, it makes sense for me to save money on entries and memberships by attending the bronze classes as long as they're offered (I think until Second Level, then I have to suck it up and purchase a gold membership). So, in short, yep, showing rated, but only just, lol.

Hey, those two look familiar. If I was doing the website advertising I might have picked a more accomplished pair for the opening image for my dressage show page. Maybe even someone who doesn't have a big drapy outside rein and above the bit pony. Just sayin. 
As for eventing, August is open, as is April if we do have the desire to hit an event and the annual spring camp. I'm undecided, but I think it's unlikely I'll go to the spring XC camp this year, since I'm not planning to move up at all - if we compete it will just be at starter or pre-entry, and likely a one off, for fun.

Won't lie, I'm wishing for a nice warm day and a dry XC course right now. Bottom pic is an old one, Bridget and Ginger serving as jump wings, spring 2016. Top pic is both of our first event, also 2016. Never too old to try something new, right?

Other than that, we're keeping on board with monthly clinics with my coach, plus I'll likely trailer to her barn the week before our shows for a couple of extra lessons.

Of course, we've got a few local fun days I always attend. There are always a couple of trail challenge/games days, a monthly group trail ride, and of course the annual poker ride weekend. I'm in for all that because variety is good, and there is little to no cost for local club members to attend.

 A little further afield, we have a couple of percent days and clear rounds days...basically those are the ones local to my coach's barn and 'just' one ferry ride away. I'll tag along to those with EC's crew anytime trailer space and my schedule/finances permit..

2018 is hopefully going to be one of big variety and lots of fun! No big goals moving up wise, basically show First Level until it's boring, maybe delve a little into Second, but mostly lots of just getting out there and doing all the things.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Another Week

One more horsey weekend in the books. I'll be sad tomorrow morning as I drive off to the early ferry and onwards to work on the south coast. I return Wednesday night, but sadly the ferries aren't lining up super well. I get home quite late at night right now, so Thursday evening will be the next time I can ride.

I LOVED taking lessons with EC on her horse Audrey while I am working there,  but as with all things West Coast and horses, the prices have been going up, up, up, and I simply can't justify the expenditure. The current cost is almost $80 a lesson, which is still a good deal for quality instruction on a talented horse. But, that adds up to over $300 a month over and above any costs for Bridget and clinics on her. So, I sadly declined further lessons as of last week. On the plus side that money can go towards my new trailer and pony fund, and I will of course keep taking monthly clinics and working hard with Bridget.
Things they don't mention in the tourist brochures: It rains here all winter. When it's not raining, and sunny everywhere else, being this close to the ocean means the sun is somewhere above that layer of fog. This was at 2:00. Not gloomy at all, right? 
My rides on Bridget this week were a little...weird. She had a ton of energy Fri/Sat, but was pretty much wanting to use it for evil, pushing into my leg and running through my hand. I got her going nicely walk/trot both days via lots of lateral work and spirals, but the canter really wasn't the best and I had to be satisfied with ending on a few good strides each day. Her answer to everything I asked in canter was to run off through my hand. Fun times. I pulled out a couple of "cowboy" tricks I've never needed to use on her, one of which is the good old halt and back up, then canter off from a standstill every time they run off on you. I added in some rollbacks too.

Relaxing after, looking all happy and innocent

We had an interesting ride too, in which G led the adorable mini, Lily, out with Bridget in hopes of me eventually being able to pony her like Cathryn does with Spud. Lily is adorable, and so, so well behaved. She loves Bridget, and made it clear right away that Bridget is her hero, and she'll do anything she says. Sadly, for now Bridget wants to abuse that power and there was a bit of tail swishing and ear pinning. Nothing overly worrying, but out of character for Bridget so I played it safe.  Lily is too small to risk an inadvertent kick, so G just led her beside at a safe distance. It's weird, normally Bridget could care less about other equines, but she has a strange fixation with Lily. It's not even that she hates her, because she's always wanting to stop and say hi when we walk past her field (which never happens with other horses, B is really not a very social creature). So, for now it's more of a love/hate thing from Bridget's perspective, but I think she'll come around.

Maybe she saw The Fog, and scary movies get in her head?

Sunday B was a weird combination of super spooky and a bit tired feeling. I have no idea what her problem was - we ride past the same trailhead every time we head to the arena, and more often than not there are vehicles there with bike racks, quad trailers, dogs, whatever. This time, there was a black Ford pickup with a quad trailer that was totally making her mind exit the building. Rearing, spinning, trying to bolt for home. So odd. Particulary as there were multiple other trucks and trailers there, and the one immediately adjacent was a black ford too? So why was that one extra special? She got in trouble because her drama over it was totally not a reasonable response. Stopping to look is fine, walking past and looking, better. Eventually, she walked past, and I thought I won.
Who ever really knows what's cooking in that pony brain.

Except, wouldn't you know? You could almost, just about see that truck up on the road behind the trees while we were in the outdoor arena. It was literally half a km away or more, but ponies have sharp eyes, I guess. And she was obsessed with the thing. Could not focus. I'd give her difficult tasks to keep her focused, and she'd be fine, but the instant I gave an inch she was back looking for the evil truck. Ughhh, ponies, lol. We found a happy note to end on, and chalked the whole thing up as good practice for all the distractions in show season, also a mental note that rather than just hating on 2000's era F150's, what she might actually be saying is that dressage was boring/too hard today and that 3 days out of 4 this week was probably too much.
Cowboy trick number 2: Riding past the announcers booth was driving her nuts because omg she couldn't see the evil truck. Compromise: We stay here and relax, this is your new happy place. You can listen for evil trucks, but you cannot move, or else we go right back to work.

Thursday 11 January 2018

Thursday Nights

My current favorite night of the week!

Due to me working away Mon-Wed, Thursdays are my first night back in my barn week.

This time of year, that means mucking and filling buckets  in the dark, which is pretty much novice level stuff for us horse girls. Grooming and tacking up is a bit tricker, definitely more intermediate level skills required!

My little battery powered headlamp has been proving invaluable! Definitely recommend if you're at the barn or riding in the dark on a regular basis.

Luckily, the actual riding part of my Thursdays is not so difficult, thanks to a nice, well lit indoor a 15min hack down the road.  I'm still looking forward to the longer days and some kinder weather, though. Tonight's freezing rain was a little too refreshing, unless you're in to the whole being pressure washed with ice pellets thing :)

Since it's pretty much a guarantee that Midge will have a ton of energy and also that we'll be the only ones out and about and we'll have the place to ourselves, Thursday nights are the perfect nights to practice dressage tests.

I'm trying out some different things. EC is not big on running through tests, or even schooling parts of tests. Individual movements, sometimes. At most, we'll run through a test once a few days before hand. I'm not sure if that's just how she is, or more a reflection of the level I ride at (ie its not overly complicated). She's way more about giving you the tools to train and ride and understand the concepts of the level...much less about giving you tips on actual test riding!

I'm a bit different. I like to feel prepared. I like to know how the test is going to ride, how the pieces fit together. I feel like I am not an overly quick-thinking rider, so it's good for me to practice tests and to prepare and make things happen where they're supposed to. This might be a little "out there" but I think Midge, too, benefits from knowing the tests before hand. As we know, she can be on the lazy side, and is also not the sharpest thinking pony. So, if she knows there's a canter transition coming at C, she doesn't get silly about it, she's just prepared and ready (instead of her still too frequent "Wait! What?...we're doing that NOW?!" response). The only part I do fudge is the down transitions...I never let her know where those are actually located and always ride past them or add a circle first. (please let 2018 be the year she finally doesn't burn me even once by breaking to trot a stride or two early in a test!) And of course, I reserve the right to circle and redo pretty much anything I'm not happy with.

Our test of the last couple of Thursday nights has been 1-1. Like I said, nothing complicated or earth shattering there. It's taken us this long because 15m canter circles weren't a pretty thing last spring. I feel like it's a very good test for us to ride, all those transitions within the gait, and half circles and changes of direction keep her forward but also are a nice way of getting her to use her inside hind and sit a little more without making a big deal of it. I'm happy with it, my only wish would be for it to be a little smoother...there's always at least one point where she gets a little stuck or a bit too forward and the rhythm is lost temporarily.

Next week, we're going to go back to 1-2. I'm looking forward to it! We've got 1-3 to practice as well because I'll need to tackle that at our June show (stupid "must ride the highest test of the level in at least one class" requirements ;) ...those counter canter loops are still tricky for us and something I work a little on every single ride.

Maybe You Are Ready?

This story coincidentally popped up on my facebook feed after I posted about a lot of my local riding friends seeming to never 'be ready' to attend clinics or shows. No excuses now, guys :)

Equestrian Canada (EC) is pleased to introduce the Am I Ready Program

Excerpt from the linked article:

Equestrian Canada (EC) is pleased to introduce the Am I Ready Program, created as a tool for EC Dressage Affiliates to receive feedback from certified officials without leaving the comfort of their home stable.
Am I Ready features an online portal that allows athletes to record their performances of EC Dressage Tests at their own stable, and upload the videos for review and evaluation from an EC certified dressage judge. Tests of all levels can be uploaded, from Training to FEI.
Available exclusively to EC Dressage Affiliates, at no additional fee, Am I Ready is a user-friendly, cost-effective and convenient development resource for Canadian dressage athletes from coast-to-coast – or anywhere in the world!
I know there are a lot of similar apps and programs out there, but I like that this one is provided by our national program and your test will be evaluated from the same judge you might have at a 'real' EC rated show.
I think this could make a super 'fun' day or even clinic day idea for our group. We all lesson/practice together, ride our tests, and video each other. Send the videos in, and everyone gets their own individual feedback sent to them personally. I like that it takes away any potential awkwardness someone might feel about being evaluated 'in public' and show nerves shouldn't factor in as much.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Not Ready

I've got enough people for the clinic mid month, and it's worth noting I have had an equal number of people asking to audit. Fingers crossed that means more people riding in the future! :)

The one thing I wanted to discuss here is that a number of those auditors don't want to ride because "they're not ready".  Everything from being worried they're not in good enough shape for a 45min lesson to wanting to wait until their horse is less green.

I've also had some recent, very similar conversations about showing - lots of people with bucket list goals that are too intimidated to take the first step towards achieving them.

More random pictures

Part of me gets it, life happens. Another part of me is like "But there's never a better time than the present to start working towards your dreams! You'll never be perfectly ready or prepared for anything in life, so just get out there and go for it if you want it!"

I think part of the problem locally at least, is that the equestrian calendar is sparse and the community is relatively small and static. To my knowledge there are no shows, and very few opportunities for lessons and clinics. In the past, that's meant clinics can kind of turn into a bigger deal than they are, with lots of spectators and an overly opinionated peanut gallery. More "show" than lesson for many, which leaves some reluctant to come if they're less than confident or "ready". Traveling away to shows can be a huge deal, too. I get that, because as an adult living in this community I had no idea what to expect at a 'real' show and that alone felt overwhelming the first time.

I wonder if this is a problem in a lot of small communities? People want to participate, however the calendar is limited and there isn't a lot of exposure to things. It's not easy. Here, there is also a weird local rider hierarchy with some finding security in thinking they're better than others, and a lot of opinions and pride on the line. I know as grown ups we're supposed to be over caring what others think, but it really can get a bit nasty and I'd never blame anyone for being intimidated.

Recent input from the peanut gallery: "Look how fast and stampy that canter is! It's scaring the other horses!" LOL

I'm not sure what I can do to help make it a more positive environment beyond what I'm doing. For lessons,  EC is kind, but pretty blunt, and is honestly genius at quietly taking you down a peg if necessary or building you up if that's what required.  More than anyone I've ever met, she really doesn't do drama. So she's an ideal clinician for the situation.

I'm not booking clinics where there's a sound system and a comfy place for people to hang out and chat. Its just a set of scheduled lessons, and if you're coming, you're going to be there to watch and listen. EC will happily answer questions and chat between lessons, but otherwise her attention is soley on the person riding.
random garage recently serving to inspire my barn design ideas

'Show' prep wise, I wonder about putting together a weekend 'showing 101' clinic in the summer. I have a friend who's bucket list thing is to go XC. Another wants to do a reining show. Another, a hunter show. Not huge goals, but intimidating when you've got no real coaching or eyes on the ground and never done it. I wonder if we can put together a weekend with a few talks about basic show prep and rules, followed by an opportunity for everyone to try their 'thing' so they can all run through a few practices following real tests/courses and with real feedback in the form of EC (she's a licensed judge at the provincial level as well as being a dressage and eventing coach/rider). Good idea?

Myself, my current small contribution is that I try to find only positive things to say about everyone, and pointedly change the subject if things start getting said that I don't think the person in question would appreciate. Riding is hard, and we all have our struggles. I don't think anything bad should be said about anyone out there trying to learn.

Anyone out there living somewhere similar? What do you do to help keep a positive and happy learning environment where everyone feels welcome?


Monday 8 January 2018

Maybe Just Happy

Objectively speaking, Bridget and I sacrificed a lot to move up coast.

Knowledge wise, there are no more weekly lessons, no more trainer rides, no expert help at the barn.

As far as amenities, we waved goodbye to nearly everything you'd hope for. Bridget has a pen with a shelter now. And...that's it. I buy hay and shavings, I clean up, I carry her water out to her via buckets. So long, heated wash bay, laundry, and washroom. Adios, onsite arena. Hasta la vista auto waterers and tack room. Sayanora ready set jump courses.

Just some random pics from the last week

On the plus side, we've gained so much more time with my hubby G - that's worth any barn and living situation compromises right there.

We're forced to hack more, and that's a good thing. There's way better trails here. Speaking of which, we have fantastic trails from our house as well, so I've been getting out for hikes almost every day, and then trail riding at least once a week. This makes me happy.

We've met up with old friends, and made some new ones. But, we don't have to ride with others if we don't want to - there's far more space up here! No more sharing the ring with every other 9-5 worker and all the lesson we have a huge outdoor, and the indoor all to ourselves more often than not.

Being more hands on with Bridget's care means her weight is at a much more appropriate level, (fingers crossed) even without medication.

This might bite me in the a$$ one day, but when I get back from rides, I untack her and let her be free to eat the grass around the barn while I tidy up and put everything away. So far, she's been very trustworthy about sticking close...Worst case, she runs off, but the property is fenced and safe so I'd just look like an idiot.

The best part, for me, (besides actually being at home with G most days!) is the financial aspect. I went from budgeting $1000 a month for all things horses (and often going a couple of hundred dollars over that), to having a grand total of $225 in expenses last month (including the $75 for my clinic lesson). I'm saving my money, and dreams of buying that fancy GRP in the spring are a lot more feasible.

Me and B looking fuzzy mysterious

Ohhh, and barn trailering costs/scheduling? Buh bye. Guess who was discussing buying a trailer and then had the best person ever just offer up their (not currently needed by them) trailer for us to use this spring and summer? This is going to be a great way for me to figure out how often I *really* would use a trailer and whether the investment is a smart one. It's easy for me to say that if I had a trailer I would go everywhere all the time, but will I really, or will I still only head out once every couple of months? :) I'm also going to keep track of all expenses vs what I would have paid others to trailer us and see how the finances shake out. Lucky, lucky me.

She was so happy when I put her in this round pen as a treat - look at all the tiny bits of grass! Where to start?!, lol

Maybe I'll feel differently in the spring when the shows are that much harder to get to (that one extra ferry adds so much travel time, and of course extra cost). My relative lack of recent lessons may also cause some regret later, but for now I'm very, very happy with how things have worked out. Most importantly, I think Bridget is too - her ponytude is shining through more than ever, but in a good way.  99.9% of the time her ears are up and forward and she's running to the gate to meet me - ready for whatever adventures I might point us at.


Wednesday 3 January 2018


What can I say, I sat around making great 2018 riding goals this past week, but didn't actually ride. We've had slushy snow on the ground since Christmas which is pretty much unheard of around here, but mostly I was sick and simply not able to ride. So much for my week off work that I was going to use to learn and practice dressage tests for the show in March I want to attend!

Requisite blurry photos or it didn't happen, right?

I finally got out this afternoon. I hadn't planned to - I phoned in sick to work and had big plans of just cleaning B's pen and checking water then going back home to sleep :) However, poor Bridget has been getting increasingly bored all week, and today she was literally bouncing around as I tried to do chores. Silly pony, acting like I'm leading her as I just try pick manure, while she crowhops and bounces beside me. She couldn't be much clearer about wanting to get out and do something, I guess!
Sidenote, still doing flat work in my jump saddle. I sent my dressage saddle off for reflocking and new billets in October, I think. And I have heard nothing...horsey professionals, why must you stress me out by communicating so poorly!? Is it lost? Or forgotten? Or on it's way back to me? No one knows.

The road was way too treacherous to ride, so I led her down to the indoor and hopped on, just letting her trot and canter around and blow off steam. I'm grateful again that she's always pretty careful of the people riding and around her - even when she's really, really full of it it's pretty rare she'll deliberately to try to lose her rider or barge into anyone's space.
Dressage, spaghetti western style.

Not much of a ride to recap - after a week off standing in the snow and me still feeling under the weather this obviously wasn't a ride to accomplish anything beyond simply getting out.

Fingers crossed we get back on schedule soon - it feels weird to not be riding or practicing!

Oh yay, as I was writing this I got the final person signed up for January's EC clinic. We're a go (weather permitting) for Jan 20th!