Tuesday 31 July 2018

Day At The Races

This summer is just flying by!

On the Bridget and Sophie front, not much is new. I'm (hopefully) keeping Bridget at least partly in shape by taking her on evening walk/trots around the neighbourhood. It's been super hot out, and B just does not deal well with it. Since we have no big competition plans upcoming, I'm not feeling motivated to push her. We're still in tack limbo, too, so that's fun.

B needs more exercise, I think. She is getting round again!

Audrey was out tackling I-1 this weekend at the Canada Cup show and was apparently super, so my lesson is postponed til later in the week so she can have a well deserved day off.

Sophie is getting out once or twice a week. Bridget and her are in love, so ponying her off Bridget isn't as much of a hassle as it was previously. The screaming for Bridget when we leave? Super  annoying tho! On the plus side, she's looking great and maturing physically, even if mentally she remains a baby. Hopefully by this time next year she'll be getting started under saddle. Until then, blog wise my Sophie updates aren't too exciting. She loves attention, she hates being left out. She's a drama queen. Repeat theme for another year.

I had booked a few days off earlier in the year for the Canada Cup dressage show, and am feeling pretty down about not ending up going.  In general I've been feeling very discouraged about how training and showing has gone with Bridget. Even though I'm pretty sure I've been making good decisions and wouldn't change anything, it still stinks a little to not be where we thought we'd be right now.


G suggested a day at the races for a fun diversion, and I was all in. Apparently G had an ulterior motive, because he also had tickets to a celebrity sports fundraiser thing there. Being an introvert, that's really not my thing, but it worked out well - one guy I chatted to owned a Queens Plate winner at one point and coincidentally was G's fave hockey player too, so that worked well! Everyone was super nice and not being a huge football/hockey/soccer follower I didn't really know who I was talking to a lot of the time and found it a lot less intimidating than if it was a lunch with Carl Hester or Mary King or something! Plus, I escaped a few times to place some bets and check out the horses in the paddock and helped some of the hockey guys make bets.  So, social occasions with horses in the background = winning for me :)

For LWilliams :)

I bet on BC Charlie for Emma and made some money!

Back to work tomorrow, and a dressage lesson this week too. Then I'm off for another mini vacation. Life is good!

Thursday 26 July 2018

Farm Girl Workout

Living where I do presents a few logistical challenges when you own horses. I'm pretty sure I've discussed the insanely high hay prices here before. (I paid $720 a ton last winter for orchardgrass, which was actually a deal when the feed store was selling 70lb bales of timothy for $30ea)

My work commute is pretty, and walk on
passenger fares are reasonable. Purchasing deck space for a semi truck and paying the driver for his time? Not so reasonable. Photo from bcferries.ca

Guess who lucked out today and found a local hay supplier?! Me! I'm so excited. They live only about a km from where I board, the hay is gorgeous, and so much cheaper than trucking it in. There are only about 50 square bales per cut in "my" field, but I've asked to have first dibs from now onwards. 50 bales times 3 cuts a year should just about do my 2 ponies for a year.

Since this whole getting hay thing wasn't planned in advance, I loaded it in the truck and stacked it all in the barn myself. The pic below x 3 reps = a good workout!

I swear it really took me 10 minutes to load these and maybe 90 minutes to do the three trips to get all the bales off the field and into my barn. Because I was like:
Do you source your own hay, or is it included in your board? Is it a big cost where you are, or readily available?


Tuesday 24 July 2018

Horsemanship Clinic

(Horsewomanship clinic? Would be more appropriate - there was one guy and about 10 women there, lol)

Have I mentioned how much I love my new schedule? Sunday, I had a day almost entirely free to do whatever I wanted. Crazy, I know.

I decided to get extra crazy and actually be social by auditing part of a clinic that was being put on near where I board.

Long, long, time readers might remember when I first bought Bridget I signed her up for a clinic. This was the same clinician. He remembers me because yeah, I was the person who toodled through an entire "extreme" spooky trail challenge, and escorted the other horses through, and then after was like "Actually my horse has only been under saddle for a week and I don't really have any steering or brakes. I actually signed up thinking this was a colt starting clinic, but this is fun too." Bridget is a rock, what can I say, lol. Clinician was inspired then to use her as a demo horse to learn tricks, because he thought she'd be easy. B gave out her first big NOPE to that, lol, and I got to see the depth of her stubborness for the first time :) So, suffice to say, he remembers Bridget quite well too.

My first ride on Midge, Midge's second(?) ride ever :)
Back in the time machine to a week or two later in 2014, when Bridget was not impressed by cowboy clinician :)
"Is this what he wants me to do? This is kind of dumb, come rescue me please."

Anyway, off I went to audit last weekend. The instruction today was pretty beginner/basic level, but it's always super cool to see everyone out there learning and getting the job done. It's a good reminder too, that good riding is good riding. Regardless of discipline, the important stuff is all the same. There was a lot of talk about moving the shoulders to stay straight while backing, rather than chasing the hind end. A lot of talk about forward solving straightness, about how the horse being soft comes from the seat and leg, not the hand.

For the trail challenge, they had a "carwash" thing (basically a tarp you ride under), poles to sidepass over, barrels to jump, a cloverleaf pattern over poles, a plastic pool to step in, and finally a halt and back up between poles.

 I was asked if I wanted to ride a lady's horse while she was away. I said sure, thinking I'd be warming him up for her, and it's good for me to hop on different horses. You all know how not brave I am on strange horses!

Then the clinician was like "Alright, let's start with T. Show us how to do this"

Apparently, this wasn't that kind of clinic. Random person auditing in yoga pants? Please saddle up and come run through this course. Sidenote: this one time GM came over to chat after a clinic and I got so nervous I couldn't even make words. It was awkward :)

Um, uh oh. I thought they were joking, but nope, they really were asking me to ride. OK then.

My strategy was basically to attempt it all quietly and correctly, not going for speed, basically tackling it like a dressage test or jump course and making sure I had him bending correctly. I tried to choose my lines wisely by giving him lots of time to see things. I've never ridden the horse before, but I do know through the grapevine that he's got a nasty buck and spook if he's pissed off or confused. Also, I had no stirrups, the old short person on a tall wide horse issue - my legs are shorter than the fenders on most standard western saddles.

Random pic of B to break the wall of text.

(Can I just ask for a minute, how on earth do some of you ride in western saddles? My hips were ready to pop out of the sockets and I felt about a million miles away from the horse. Also, I forgot how some western horses can make it feel like you are tipping into an abyss and there is nothing out in front of you...don't mind me and my giant saddle floating through space, pointing at the ground somewhere ahead, lol)

So, we jogged and trotted pretty much the whole pattern, and opted for the alternate slow route rather than jumping...buddy is not a jumper, and I had no idea if his owner actually intended for me to take him through the course in the first place.

Long story short, he was a good boy and pretty brave and went decently for me. Our time was actually respectable, and the clinician was very complimentary about my riding and how I handled the horse, which made me feel good. I was about a million miles outside my comfort zone riding a strange horse without stirrups and I know I'm not the greatest and can get pretty nervous riding in front of "strangers".

Sidenote: I think in the future I'd best avoid this clinician. It seems to me the whole lucking out into almost looking like I know what I'm doing thing has to end spectacularly at some point :)

I can't believe I forgot about this picture, also from the clinic years ago :) This is what a 6'4" tall cowboy looks like in my saddle on 14hh Bridget, lol. (Don't worry, he just sat on her for a few minutes for fun - no ponies were squished)
All in all, actually a very fun day. I'm inspired to try some similar exercises and courses in hand with Sophie, and the whole getting way outside my comfort zone thing was pretty good for me too.


Sunday 22 July 2018

As If I Was In A Dream

Life has been pretty good of late. But, of course because real life is just peachy, my subconscious is all "IT'S COOL, I'LL FILL THE ANXIETY VOID FOR YOU! HERE'S THIS SWEET DREAM, JUST FOR YOU!"

So peaceful.

Me, sleeping: "Ahh, what a beautiful day. I'm in a farm field, that's cool"
Subconscious: "Have you noticed those dark clouds over there?"
Me: "Nice. It feels dry, rain would be good."
Subconscious: "How bout a tornado?!"
Me: "Crap".
Me: "Hang on a minute. There are horses in this field! I'll just hop on one and run for cover. See ya!"
Subconscious: "That's Bridget you just jumped on. Good luck out running anything"
Dream Bridget "Yep. Not moving. Perhaps the tornado right behind us will carry us to safety"
Me: *frantically kicking dream Bridget*

Real Greg: "Wake up T! Stop kicking me."

So ridiculous, but funny. And I could only think the new and improved Bridget wouldn't ignore my real life kicking. Take that, stupid subconscious. B would totally save my butt. This dream is not relevant.

Would never let me down

Or would she...?

Lol. YEP. My ride on Saturday was awful. B was so sluggish and I didn't have my spurs.  All sorts of NOPE happening, and it was that level of no that only a pony can bring. Like I was honestly "Here, B, peace offering, canter back to the barn" and she was still not inclined to move much beyond a walk.

After mocking me with lovely 20 meter canter circles in the pasture the previous day, of course. Ponies are truly evil :)

Thank goodness we don't get tornados here.


Friday 20 July 2018

Happy Ponies, Part 2

Just a few pics of the girls having fun this morning:

Hope you all have just as much fun as these two this weekend. See you on Monday!


Tuesday 17 July 2018

More Effective

Recap of Audrey lesson number...6? I've lost track.

It felt really hot out last night. We actually left a couple of the sprinklers running in the arena while I was warming up, which felt pretty nice! The great thing with the horses living at such a busy barn is that the things you might normally worry about them spooking at...are not much of an issue. So, Audrey calmly walk/trot/cantered through the noisy, heavy duty sprinklers that water the arena.

As a result of the heat, A felt a lot less energetic than normal. Still, she'll meet you halfway if you ask nicely (and let her express her feelings just a little :). Last night, although getting the energy level I wanted was a little more labour intensive than normal, we got there without much of a fuss and the remainder of the ride was good.

There's not much too exciting to recap as far as the nitty gritty details - we worked on walk pirouettes and did a lot of square corners in trot and canter before moving on to riding a lot of transitions within canter. The breakthrough for me was that I'm getting a lot better at collecting the canter and then opening it up again without collapsing my core too much or losing A's balance. I struggle with the really fine adjustments to my body, but things are getting better and I was able to bring the canter back and forth reliably and got a good feel for the amount of energy I need in her hind legs to get her 'bouncing on the spot'. So, that was pretty cool. Also, there was zero kicking at my outside leg in the canter, or inadvertent lead changes even as we played with changing the bend, so that's a win for me.
I'm getting fairly reliable at not pressing the passenger eject button
EC happily exclaimed "this is the most effective riding I've ever seen from you!" and my first instinct was to be a little embarrassed, because I feel really weak and ineffective still on the huge moving Ms Audrey...like if this is 'better' imagine how bad it is normally! But I'll silence that inner mean girl, take the compliment as it was intended, and look forward to getting better yet.

A, post cooling bath, enjoying some small snacks in the shade. I feel like the new title of this blog should be: "Project Gingersnap: Taking Bad Pictures of Good Horses Since 2011"

I have to say yet again what a fantastic horse Audrey is. She's got all sorts of opinions and makes me work, but when it comes down to it she's extremely generous. I'm not kidding myself that I've magically improved this much in 6 lessons and that my riding is making her go better, a lot of it is her adjusting to me and being quite forgiving with what I ask.

I love Bridget dearly, but I have to say the novelty of riding a mare that happily gets to work without multiple reminders and encouragement is pretty sweet. A also lets me know when I'm not up to her standards, but moves on and forgives me, unlike a certain little pony mare we all know and love. 

Good thing I actually find B's thought processes and her resulting actions to avoid work intriguing and funny a lot of the time. She's that total slacker we've all worked with that spends more time and energy thinking up creative shortcuts to avoid work, than the effort it would take to just do the job. In this picture, I'm 99% sure that she's wondering if there is a chance I've just tacked her up for a photo op or some hand grazing :)


Monday 16 July 2018

Things I Did This Weekend

I've been looking forward to three day weekends for quite a long time! This was my first one, and I can't believe how much I got done. By Friday at noon I had already worked out, gone for a hike, stacked a ton of hay, cleaned paddocks, and gone for a ride. I'm so used to rushing to fit everything in that it definitely felt weird to have an entire afternoon with no plans! As of today:

- The yard and garden are all tidied up.

- I hiked and did a yoga class four mornings straight.

Saw this cutie first thing almost every morning at the start of my walk. They're so tame they don't even move off the path sometimes :/

My favorite section of the trails near our house. This part follows a creek down to the ocean and is always shady and peaceful, with some fair sized trees
- Got all my hay for the winter stacked and stored.
- Organized my tack and gear at the barn.
- Cleaned my tack and saddle pads.

B wearing all freshly cleaned gear
- Ordered a wider gullet for the new saddle (and some sale shirts...I'm not to be trusted!)
- Both ponies trimmed and groomed to a shine.

Bridget is an almost coppery color right now, so shiny!
- Rode 4 days in a row.
- Paddocks are all picked and cleaned.
- A nice dinner out with G
- A nice dinner out with friends
- Built the cat an awesome fort

Actually just the box the saddle came in, plus some assorted paper to shred. 
- Floated on the lake (without the cat ;)
- Read two books. Sheila Wilcox biography, and Girl With The Dancing Horse (Charlotte Dujardin). Both were OK, not great.

Friday night, I started organizing my things for Monday, and I was like "WAIT...technically the weekend has only just started!!" Pinch me, this schedule is wonderful!

My rides this past week were pretty low key. It was quite warm out, and B has had too much time off of late, so we mostly walked around the neighbourhood, with a bit of trot and canter mixed in. I couldn't resist cantering around the farmer's market grounds adjacent to the barn. That's possibly a no-no these days, but it's still technically part of the regional agricultural park, so I don't know. Prior to life as the farmer's market, it was part of the equestrian club grounds and even had a little cross country course. There are a few small logs left around the perimeter that proved too tempting for us to resist. Midge was having fun, but we kept it to just a few, I don't want to overdo it as we both are regaining fitness and her jump saddle fit is dubious.

Toodling around the neighbourhood yesterday


Saturday 14 July 2018

Estimating Pony Height

Growing a Sophie pony = slightly more expensive and labour intensive
With a 13.1hh sire and a 16hh dam, odds are Sophie should end up somewhere in the middle, but who's to say for sure...there are all sorts of examples of foals ending up shorter or taller than both their parents.  Her two full siblings are 14.2 and 14.3hh, which made me feel a little more confident she'd mature in the height range I'm hoping for.
Sophie and her momma

Sibling <3

When Sophie arrived, her vet records and import paperwork said she was 14hh at just about 2 years old. Not true. She was visibly shorter than Midge, and measuring confirmed she was closer to 13.2hh.

4 months later, she measures just over 13.3hh, and is still very leggy and a bit bum high.
Bum is noticeably quite a bit taller than Bridget's...front end, not so much, lol
The statistics say an average 24 month old horse is about 97% of it's mature height. At 24 months, Sophie was 13.2hh, so according to the averages, she'll make just about 14hh.

There's a couple of reasons I'm not sure the average statistics are going to apply in this case. She's still visibly quite immature looking, (still pretty leggy and gangly) and she's of pony and Warmblood breeding...I don't think either type are known for their speedy rate of maturity.

Her bum currently measures 14.1hh, and since both parents are built level to uphill, I'd expect she'll at least even out to that.

I did a string test today and it says she'll be 3-4 inches taller than she is now, so 14.2 to 14.3hh. I think her build is going to be on the leggier side, tho, so who really knows.

For quality control purposes, I string test measured Bridget too, and she needs to subtract 1.5 inches to be proportionate. Poor B :) I did have to laugh before I sadly informed her she's past done growing.
Sophie waiting for her vitamins this morning. Grow pony, grow! :)


Wednesday 11 July 2018

Bear With Me

I know I'm a bit of a broken record over here. Basically, every week I'm like:

-"AGGHH I'm so busy!"
-"I'll post better media next time!"
-"I'm burnt out and didn't want to, but guess what, I did the thing anyway, and it was fun!"

Bridget's nose is always fun to pet, tho

The real story is so much more, but I've been holding out because I thought I'd wait until I had some 'real' things to report. But right now, with things in flux, that amounts to radio silence the majority of the time!

So, let's just go ahead and share, why not?

The barn I'm keeping the ponies at isn't working for me. It's stressful. I'm sad. I haven't come up with a better option yet.

Bridget "Let's get outta here!"

We looked at an acreage. I love it. G loves it. I'm not wanting to get too excited because guys, we've been looking for 10 YEARS and there is always some reason we end up not purchasing. Everything from legit deciding the property isn't suited to us after further thought, to getting outbid, to discovering some crazy covenant on the title. Yes, we're not super motivated, because we like our existing home well enough. So, this is more of a case of waiting for the perfect thing. Perfect things are very rare. This one feels so right and perfect (especially with the timing of the boarding barn drama) that I'm freaking out a little lot. Fingers crossed so hard it works out for us. I'm scared by how much I want this, like actually a bit nauseous just typing this out .


My job change is official now (finally!), and my new hours start this week! So, three days away, 4 at home from here on out. I need to come up with a reasonable riding schedule for all the extra barn time I'll suddenly have! Bridget is going to need some gradual fitness work - she's been pretty much on the back burner for a few weeks now.
Bridget: "You're kidding, right?"

I'm going to start mixing in some jumping lessons on Audrey on my work nights. My lower level eventing goals just won't die. While A is definitely Ms Talented Dressage Horse, she's actually more jumper bred and is almost as bouncy over fences as she is in the dressage arena. I'm a little scared, TBH...I am not so great at this jumping thing and A is not the easiest to stay with. #lawndartingisinmyfuture
I'll have to read this book again


Tuesday 10 July 2018

Got This

I was a little nervous for this week's lesson. My coach tolerates all sorts of things from me, but I know people who don't put in the time and do the homework aren't her favorite people to teach. And, guess who didn't do any homework? Me. I failed spectacularly. Not only did I not follow up on my lesson 2 weeks ago...I hadn't even ridden since then. Such shame!

Even my cat is judging me for the amount of sleeping I'm doing.

I had "reasons" to not be in the saddle...I was away on vacation, away working, away at the horse trials. Bridget had a cough. And then I was just plain old tired.

Alternate place to sleep, free of judgmental kitties.

So, yeah. I nearly cancelled. Feeling like I hadn't ridden in forever, the first Monday back to work after a holiday, plus the early morning ferry ride and 2.5hr commute made me a little sad. Then I remembered my promise to myself to never back out of things or make excuses because I'm not ready or the timing isn't right. If the opportunity is present, I'm supposed to be grabbing it.

And, you guessed it, I had the best lesson ever. The transitions were sharp, and the energy was good. I kept myself accountable for my body, Audrey kept herself honest about hers. I didn't back off from pushing her a bit, and OMG we even got a few steps of passage (she's very much still learning it too, so it felt pretty special to me that she offered it up for me and my not so perfect asking)

I'm still woefully out of shape, so I didn't play as much as I would have liked - it's hard work riding big moving, sensitive ponies! There were lots of moments that just felt amazing in the saddle, though. Like I might be addicted to the feel of going from collected to medium gaits and back...totally understand now Robert Dover saying that you should always feel like no matter what you're doing, that you could instantly access any other thing. It made sense, obviously, in my mind, when I heard that, but the energy required for the horse to be that on the aids and reactive is a different feel than I would have imagined. Bridget and I can play with extending and collecting, but it's very much a balancing act and it evolves over a few strides while I generate the appropriate bounce/energy. Riding A, you get the energy established at the beginning of the ride, and then she's pretty honest about keeping it at the ready for you. You literally just sit up a teeny bit and keep your leg there and you're bouncing on a trampoline :) Loosen your hips a little and you're bouncing across the arena in huge leaps. SO MUCH FUN!

Fingers crossed this little cutie is half as much fun to ride as Audrey when she grows up.

Thinking on it, I believe I had a great ride because although I dropped the ball on actually riding, I've been doing yoga every morning and walking most days too. I know that's not the same as riding, but the yoga? Totally life altering for me and really helping me sort out all the tightness in my lower back. I'm making progress towards getting better mobility in my shoulders too. I'll never be a super bendy, flexible person, but I'm enjoying how each morning is a bit of a check in for where my body is at, and I'm starting to become a lot more conscious of all the little movements and changes of posture that affect me positively or negatively. So, for example, in the saddle, when EC is like "looser with your lower back", I'm better able to do that because I'm more aware, but also because the range of motion is improved. I think Audrey appreciates that.

Actual image of me doing yoga. Never said I was good at it, but I do like it :)

Apologies for my continuing bad media...I have new pictures on my tablet, but of course here I am at lunch on my work computer with no media. In the spirit of actually posting updates, I feel like I'd best just get this out there now :)


Saturday 7 July 2018

Happy Ponies

I moved the girls to some new fields yesterday. Here's Bridget's reaction to that:

Nom nom nom nom
And Sophie's:

See ya!

It's cute how she's always got ears or eyes on me. She's driving the barn owner nuts with how active she is tho, lol. Personally, I like that she's having fun and has lots of room to run and grow up in.