Monday, 10 February 2020

A Productive Weekend (At Last!)

Thank you so much for the ideas and commiseration on my recent post. This extraordinarily dark and wet winter has been really affecting me mentally. Even though logically I recognize what's happening and know that I'll feel better if I just get out there and do the thing, emotionally it's difficult some days to push through and get things accomplished.

Because once I just do the thing, I'm so much happier.

Lucky for me, getting out there was a little bit easier this week because the weather gods gave us a break and the never-ending storms finally moved onwards and left drier weather and even a little sunshine behind.

As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn't the only one super happy to have a break from the rain. The horses were all absolutely wild and feeling pretty high on life.

And so, when I tacked up Bridget for our first ride in 6 weeks, I felt like I was ready for anything. What I was least ready for was what happened - she just marched happily along on a loose rein - a standard, everyday Bridget trail ride. No spooking, no rushing, no antics. Right back to business as if we'd never taken a break. As always, worth her weight in gold and I'm not sure how I ever got so lucky.

The puddles are still numerous and large at the moment
B is looking good, though

Sophie, on the other hand, required just a little more prep ;) Rotten Banana has been back in full force. To watch her you can literally see her pondering bad decisions and lacking the impulse control to curb them. Usually Bridget or I catch her at the pondering stage and a warning nips it in the bud, but she's creative for sure and is often in trouble with either "Aunty" Bridget or I. I need to get video - Bridget just stomps a front foot or sighs in her general direction and S is on her best behaviour for at least the next 30 seconds ;) At this point though, poor B has to be persuaded to go through the gate into Sophie's paddock even just for a short playdate. She's so fed up with her! Just between you and me, there are days when I'm totally on side with Bridget and we leave Sophie alone for a bit and just hang out on our own like adults. Word of advice: if you're considering working with a youngster, having a reliable well trained horse on site is something you'll never, ever regret. Bridget, thank you for keeping me confident and sane  :)

I did pop on for two short rides on Sophie this week, and she was a good girl. A very good girl if we consider how very few times I've ridden her and especially how inconsistent I've been since Christmas!

We trotted a few steps in the ring for the first time, which was a big win. The mare sass was strong regarding that! I'm aware of her attitude for sure, but not super worried...she has a lot of opinions but so far seems to let go of them pretty quickly. She also really likes to hear how wonderful she is when she makes a good choice so that makes my job a lot easier. Stereotypical mare, I guess - She'd prefer that we all bow down and adore her :D I think if you brought a fight to her she'd be pretty interested in winning it, but if you ignore the drama she kind of forgets it was a thing.

Maybe I'm right in my approach, maybe I'm wrong and could push harder, but I guess better to take small, easy wins than risk rushing it or making her sour or getting myself into a situation I can't handle. She's a lot more sensitive and quirky than anything else I've started, so it's an excellent learning opportunity for me. She's more work than I would have willingly signed up for or believe I have the tools to do justice to, but that's horses I guess, the journey is never predictable and there is always so much for us to learn.  The important thing is that I do think she's going to be fantastic and well worth any extra effort.

This saddle pad made her look tiny :D

I look forward to our spring clinic to get a good progress check in and to pick S's brain about all this. A big part of having the confidence to do this is knowing I have so much excellent help available! I'm still not ruling out sending S to a pro for a bit, but for now I still feel like we're right where we need to be.


Saturday, 8 February 2020

Springing Along

We had sunshine and dry weather for the first time in 37 days (not that any of us here in Mudville were desperately counting or anything, lol!)

It felt like spring was in the air and horses were feeling very, very good. (Let's be real, us vitamin D deprived humans were feeling pretty giddy too!)

I did end up riding the shaggy, half feral baby pony (and Bridget got out too!). It feels really nice to be back at it. I have some more things planned for tomorrow so I'll update everything properly on Monday. 

For now, here's some pictures of Sophie having a good time burning off a little of her pent up energy (she is surprisingly fit!)


Sunday, 2 February 2020

Keepin' It Real

I really, really had all the best of intentions of getting stuff done this week. And I did! I got so much done! Just nothing truly horsey blog worthy :(

Despite my high levels of motivation to ride, the weather got up to it's (now usual) trickery and was pretty awful Thursday & Friday. The weather forecast was using terms like "atmospheric river", which proved an accurate description. Both horse's paddocks were a mess with water and fallen tree branches. Bridget's shelter had standing water in the front half, but we got off lucky compared to all the flooding and storm damage just a little further south. I spent a big chunk of time at the barn doing interesting things like digging ditches and shoveling muck from one place to another. So fun :) I'd happily pay full board right now if only anyone was crazy enough to offer it!
Look! A tiny bit of sunlight on Saturday!

Saturday morning we had a break between storm systems and I got Sophie down to the club grounds for an outing. I was sure she was going to be a total nut after having almost a month off, so I just brought longeing gear. Of course she was quiet and lazy and I probably could have just tacked her up and hopped on. Who could have predicted that!? She's such a funny little thing.

And so muddy.

I didn't feel quite so bad when I bumped into some friends that I'd consider dedicated riders and both said it was their first outing in a month or two, because of the terrible weather and short daylight hours. I'm not alone! Whew.

Sunday was meant to be a riding day for both ponies, but the rain turned to sideways snow and sleet and hacking down the road or to the arena simply isn't safe in those conditions. A shame, because Bridget was being a complete jerk(!) due to pent up energy and I think really would have enjoyed an outing.

Someone had an even larger than normal sense of her own importance. No one tell her that her attempts at being sassy and tough are actually more amusing than intimidating.

Honestly, I'm struggling a bit mentally right now. I want to be out there riding and having fun but the weather and my current boarding set up really doesn't make it easy, (or even possible) lately. I'm putting in multiple hours a day at the barn doing chores, only to get caught up just in time to head back out of town to work on Monday. I get frustrated with that (all that work and money for "nothing") and then am upset with myself because I know in the grand scheme of things I'm lucky and my problems are very small ones. I'm catching myself being quite negative about my riding goals and being an equestrian in general for the first time in many, many years - a sure sign I need to get back in the saddle and start having fun again!

This too shall pass, right? I'm crossing fingers hard we get some friendlier weather soon (please, no more torrential rain, even just for a few days!) I just need to be patient. In the meantime, I think the take home lessons from this winter are:

- I'm irrationally grumpy and negative if I can't ride, and;
- I need to implement some changes before next winter. I dream of packing us all up for a month's vacation somewhere sunny and warm. But a trailer and/or a change in boarding arrangements are probably more practical :)

This black eyed Susan is attempting to bloom in my backyard right now. Craziness, or maybe a sign that spring might come?


Sunday, 26 January 2020

Step One

Whoa. We've had a bit of an unintended vacation and I haven't ridden for about a month. No worries, there's no dramatic reason for that and we're all happy and healthy. I've just lacked the drive to get it done.

 The weather has been really challenging, (I think we've set rain records and had only 2 rain free days since November - everything is flooded right now) I've been busy, and the days have been short. Plus, my motivation was simply just lacking. Sophie had earned a little break and Bridget and I have no reason right now to venture out into the wind and rain. The place I board just has paddocks with shelters so drying the horses out after a rainy day ride is pretty difficult, plus with all the storms more often than not the trails have either been blocked or unsafe due to falling trees and branches. It's been almost too easy for me to just pop out my back door instead if the weather breaks for an hour and just hit the in town hiking trails solo.

The snow even stayed for a week! It melted during a giant rainstorm though and this paddock and her stall flooded, so one of my potential riding days was spent stripping the stall (all those $$$$ shavings wasted! :( )and moving ponies to new (on site) accommodations.

I have a few strategies in mind for making next winter easier. The barn owner is on side for adding more gravel to the paddocks next fall so cleaning is easier and mud less of an issue. I'm planning on clipping the ponies so drying them off is an achievable thing, and I'm going ask for one of the stalls in the barn so I can bring them in to groom them and tack up on yucky days, even if it costs a bit extra. Fingers crossed I should also have enough funds saved for a trailer by then so we can zip down to the indoor on the truly awful days. Finally, I'm investing in more and better rain gear for's hard to want to ride when you're soaking wet and cold just from mucking and feeding and you don't have extra boots or dry rain gear to change into.
Looks like new warm gloves might be in order, too, lol

Anyway, I feel like this is coming across as a big old pity party when in reality I'm not actually feeling too bothered by any of it. If there was ever a time for a riding break, this was it, with a 3.5 year old who really shouldn't have too much work, and a mature Bridget who knows everything (according to her, at least;) . But, while the slow winter has been nice, now it feels like spring is just a couple of months away and we're all ready to get back at it!

Bridget's back to school ears aren't as excited as they could be.

Step One of getting back at it involved giving myself some goals and inspiration and signing up for a couple of spring clinics: a riding one for Sophie (gulp!) and a driving one I probably will take Bridget to (she's driven before, I haven't)

Step two involved making the ponies presentable again. To be fair, I hadn't clipped their beards or bridle paths in a couple of months, but with the pile of hair I took off you'd think I clipped an entire horse.

After. No pic of Sophie's "makeover" because it got dark (and I was still clipping). It will be a surprise to see what it looks like in daylight, lol

The days are getting noticeably longer and warmer again, so the issue I've been having finding daylight hours is going to 'magically' solve itself (along with the bad haircuts :)

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Snow Day!

Despite living in Canada, we don't tend to see a lot of freezing weather. Snow is even more rare - sometimes we don't get any all winter! You wouldn't know that today, though! We got so much snow that my office was closed and I got to take a snow day. Here's a few pictures of Sophie - she was feeling quite silly. (Of course Bridget is doing great too, but she wasn't in to showing off for the camera today :)


Saturday, 11 January 2020

Muddy Pony Party!

The west coast mid winter struggle is well and truly here. There has been so much rain for so long. Then it snowed and melted. The ground is completely saturated and there is standing water everywhere there isn't mud. The outdoor arena is in a forested area and actually covered with snow, so it's unusable too. It's against the rules to longe in the indoor, so this week I've been at a bit of a loss as far as letting Sophie have the good run and buck she's desperately wanting.

Bonus extra hairy llama impression

As for riding, that's also out because Sophie has some lovely skin funk between her front legs and up to her girth area, I think because she insists on laying in the muddiest corner of her paddock rather than her dry stall. Her blanket saves most of her, but her belly is perpetually filthy. I'm going to clip the worst of the yak hair off so I can put something on it. Wish me luck, she's so ticklish and fussy there it's going to be an adventure :) Note to self: Next year pony is getting clipped!

Currently failing every standard of proper pony turnout, ever. So much mud, so much hair.
How is it that my hairy Welsh Cob is substantially LESS hairy than my "fancy" Sophie pony?

If only we could send some of this moisture to those who need it. In light of what's going on in Australia, I'm pretty grateful mud and some related pony skin funk is my biggest weather worry.

In the spirit of being grateful and making the best of things,  I organized an impromptu pony party today. Sophie's sacrifice paddock was entirely ankle deep in mud and standing water today , but Bridget's is still holding up really well. Bridget also has access to a small grassy area in the trees that I've been saving for a day like this, so it hasn't been used since fall. I opened that gate, then brought Sophie over for to a day to play and dry out.

Spoiler alert: Sophie was excited.

It's a win/win because they both get exercise and Sophie gets some ettiquite reminders courtesy of Aunty Bridget. You might remember me mentioning a bored Sophie is a bad Sophie and one of her favorite things when bored is to kick the fence between her and Bridget and generally make nasty mare faces in her direction.

I was surprised that when put in with Bridget, she took that to the next level and immediately went on the offensive. They're obviously neighbours, are ridden together often, and have lived together before, so I thought they had things figured out. I guess they had enough time apart things needed sorting again, or maybe S had got a little too confident being a bully on her side of the fence. One of Bridget's many awesome attributes is that she's firm in her boundaries without being unfair, so S got a wake up call quite quickly and was put in her place quietly and effectively.

Trying to act tough

After that, it was game on, and they had a great time playing, napping, and grooming each other for a few hours this afternoon.  They absolutely trashed the small field and Bridget's paddock is looking a lot worse for wear too but they had so much fun running and playing and generally being silly. It was well worth it.

Part of me wishes it could be a regular thing, but the winter sacrifice paddocks don't have shelters big enough for two, plus Sophie gets stupidly herdbound and Bridget gets tired of it. Fingers crossed, maybe we'll get a week or two of drier weather soon and they can go back out into one of the bigger fields.

Maybe one day if I have a bigger space and room for three or more out together. I'd like them to have group turnout, but for now the best I can do in winter is to give them the odd pony party together :)

Friday, 3 January 2020

R and R (and some thoughts on where we're going)

I took this past week off from riding. My husband's work closed down at the last minute over Christmas, so he unexpectedly had time off! We never have the same days off, so instead of trying to get things done around the house and with the horses, I decided to just have some proper vacation time with him. He helps me so much with the horses in and around the million and one other commitments he normally has that it didn't feel right to fill up his vacation time with my horsey goals.
Out for a hike

We both like hiking so every morning we picked a new to us destination and went exploring. We're so lucky here to have a huge amount of backcountry to explore. Even growing up here, I've maybe explored 10% of it. 

I can see the top of this hill from our house, yet had no clue there was a trail to the top with such a nice view.

Of course, I couldn't help but scout the new to us trails for future riding opportunities. Sadly most of the ones we hiked had at least part that weren't horse friendly, but I did find a couple suitable for future adventures. Afternoons I mucked out the horses and did feeds and other chores, then evenings I was back at home for dinner and a movie with my husband. The weather was absolutely miserable the entire time, but we had a great week and honestly, the shorter hours and smaller to-do list at the barn were a nice change.

We found this Christmas tree in the middle of nowhere. So fun.

Anyway, I'm back at work now and normal life speed has resumed, so it's time to start planning 2020 vacation time and start thinking about what I'd like to do this year with the horses.

I've enjoyed not setting hard goals or deadlines the past couple of years, and I'm keeping with that this year. I like to check items off the list as much as anyone, but I'm also that person who beats myself up and gets anxious if things don't go to my plan. The only answer to that is to is not have very many firm plans ;)

Bridget has been kind of in and out of work all year and I can't see that changing in 2020. I have nothing I want to accomplish with her and my main goal is to just give her the happiest life I can. I'll keep her exercised as it keeps me exercised too and she likes getting out. I try to add in new and interesting things to keep it from being boring, but honestly there's nothing groundbreaking. I've been tossing around breeding her and even have a contact with a lovely Sec D stallion I can send her to, but haven't quite made a decision on the risk vs potential reward aspect of that.


Sophie....I'll keep picking away over the winter. I'd like to have solid W/T/C and hacking out short distances alone by mid spring, but we'll see. I still feel like she's very immature physically and mentally and so things might just take as long as they take. I'd like to aim for a local dressage show or two in my coach's town, with the possibility of lessons and training in the fall when my coach's competition season slows down. It's all very much open to change. The big picture goal is to get the basics established under saddle and get her out and about as much as I can while still keeping her happy and interested.
Did I mention it rained in December? and rained...and rained some more.

She's looking a lot more proportionate, but she's still got so much filling out to do.

It's kind of non exciting from a blogging point of view but I'm seeing 2021 as the year where I'd potentially have a proper dressage competition season and maybe try eventing again too.

On a personal level, I pretty much just want to do my best to stay happy and healthy. Riding ponies, there are some wishful numbers on the scale associated with some of my riding goals, but I'm more concerned with keeping a good mindset and just treating myself well overall.

Onward we go!