Monday 30 November 2020

Outside The Box

 It’s been a long while since I spent any great amount of time outside the arena. I used to spend about half my riding time out there, building up Bridget’s fitness and trying to keep things interesting and fun for us both.

With a young horse, I feel a little more limited. My two are some of the last horses boarded in the area so local riding buddies are at a minimum.  I don’t want to venture too far from home solo on the always interesting Sophie, and towing her along limits us to the wider, less technical paths.

Misty mornings this weekend.

Then COVID happened, and 'our' trails became absolutely buzzing with activity. Which is great, we’re friendly and don’t mind sharing, but the loose dog situation got entirely out of control. Bridget got bit, Sophie got chased and nipped, even my husband got a bite on the back of his leg, all in separate incidents. I love dogs, I really do, but the humans were awful each and every time, angry we had horses there, accusing my husband of ‘doing something’ to make their dog bite him, and in one case, hiding in the bush calling the dogs and never actually coming out to check up (extra bad because one nipped Sophie and the young person riding with us fell off and was crying - scared but unhurt luckily - when the dogs charged us) 

After a final incident with a dog hanging off Bridget’s tail and an angry owner shouting at me, I needed a time out. I even scouted alternate boarding options and more remote trails we could trailer to, but nothing really felt worth the effort...either the trails were not entirely horse accessible or the boarding had some big compromises.

We enjoy quiet and peaceful.

So, it’s sort of evolved that we just go straight down the road to the arena. If the trailhead parking there looks busy, I just ride in the arena. But, it’s been busy for months.  It hasn’t slowed down for winter at all - our gorgeous trails have finally been well and truly discovered. 

More arena time hasn’t been a terrible thing (and honestly, it’s still a 15min hack each way to get there with a couple of different routes I can take so it’s not like my horses don’t get out at all) but it’s certainly felt a bit like a chore to tack up for the “same old” ride some days.

This week though, I got out there TWICE. Bridget’s fitness and soundness is at a point where I feel comfortable adding bigger terrain in, and the kind gentleman across the street is letting us ride through his property. It’s a little ‘Man From Snowy River’ getting up and down from the top of his property, but it allows us direct access to the less busy trails quite a distance from the main parking area and more popular routes.

Ready to go!

I got Sophie out for a short loop (and of course we did still encounter loose aggressive dogs but they were preoccupied with a big old dog fight - sounded like the owners were going at it too, actually - just my luck!) but guess who was the bravest pony and happily detoured around it all, paying very little attention to it? Staying focused on what we were doing and ignoring the crazy around us is kind of a big deal for my little drama banana pony. Of course she spooked hard at a stump a few minutes later, but hey, everyone knows those are super dangerous, right? ;) 

We didn’t brave the steep downhill home as she’s still finding her balance with a rider on the ups and downs, in typical funny baby horse ways. It’s shameful how green she is out there with a rider. Normally I’m all about putting the initial miles on outside, but poor Sophie has got a bit shortchanged.

We can ride up to here, but you've got to tie the horses and walk out on the bluffs to get good views. 

This weekend I tacked up both girls with the intent of heading to the ring, but I was kind of dragging my feet about it. Husband suggested another trail adventure instead and I’m so glad he did. I popped on Bridget first and he led Sophie.  I must look like the biggest, most spoiled princess ever riding one pony while my husband leads the other 😁 but he loves hiking, I love the company, and it’s pretty handy to trade ponies halfway through while B gets her fitness up and S learns the ropes. Poor guy is 6’4” though so of course everyone we see either assumes I’m a super spoiled child with 2 ponies or has to ask when I’m buying a horse his size so he can ride too 🙈

Anyway, Bridget absolutely shocked me by being on a mission, even up the steepest hills. She was feeling SO good. Sophie started off very fresh too, but as is the way with young horses, she went from that to zero energy in no time at all, so she had a short day and went back to being led.  She’s more than fit for trotting an hour in the arena, but hills and different surroundings to process with someone on her back is HARD.

B's ears, but Sophie tackled the puddles with zero issues too (besides being obsessed with taste testing/drinking from every single one)

Bridget’s enthusiasm and energy totally made my day though - I’ve missed our outings so much and am so, so pleased she didn’t find the addition of the hills difficult at all. My big hope is to keep her fit and sound enough for moderate trail outings,  with a bit of arena time to keep her supple and stretched. Standing around isn’t going to do her any good, but on the other end of the scale I’m not motivated to do all the things to keep her competition ready. I’m hopeful there’s a happy medium to be found that involves minimal vet support and a long, happy, sound life. 

My next ride will be on Sophie in the arena - I really need to work on her canter and our trails are too technical to get much of a canter in on.  But, it still feels really nice to know we’ve got safe trail access again!

'Safe' being subjective, lol. The hour long loop we can most easily access from the neighbours includes active industry, and these buildings contain the explosives. The owner is super nice and lets us use his access roads to ride on during the weekends. Combined with some connector trails, they will make an excellent pony fitness loop as we go up the mountain to the pit and back down.

 I’m looking forward to more weekend adventures in the future. Maybe even some better riding pictures when I get brave enough to pack a camera and take a hand or two off the wheel on Sophie ;)



Monday 23 November 2020

Pushing Through

Last Monday, Sophie managed to get her paddock gate knocked down and the gatepost broken right off at ground level so we had an inauspicious start to our last week's outings. She's too smart for her own good and knows the gate is the theoretical weak part of the fence where she should be able to exit, but she's obviously not totally clued into how to make it open properly (yet).

You get totally random pictures from the past month today, it's either been too dark or too wet for nice adventure pictures this past week.

Fixing fences in the dark and rain wasn't exactly my plan for the evening! I'm grateful that despite the amount of trouble she always seems to find herself in, she's sensible about it. The farm owner found her standing patiently in the debris, waiting to be freed - despite the electric wire still being on and giving her little reminders that she shouldn't be touching the fence. You'd almost want to feel sorry for her, but such things happen so frequently I was feeling annoyed.

Another day, same palomino found outside her assigned space.

Wednesday, Thursday I was working on something on central time, so I was off work early by my schedule. It worked out perfectly that I was able to get in a quick pony outing before dark. I ended up ponying Sophie out on Bridget, which in retrospect was a bit of a mistake. It's been a while and both ponies were feeling very good. Bridget is an absolute star, though, and helped me get it done. If she was a bit taller she'd make the most excellent pony horse at the track. Sophie was attempting every trick in the book and Bridget was on it...between her blocking Sophie with her shoulder and me on lead rope duty, none of Sophie's attempted escape attempts/play/tests amounted to much of anything and she had to resign herself to walking along beside us in her designated spot. How boring for her ;) The following night I took Bridget out solo for a nice ride and then I was brave enough to hop on for a walk/trot on Sophie. 
It's really a good thing she's cute.

I'm not sure I've mentioned that her current move is to kick/bite/buck/squeal/express general displeasure at your leg rather than know...going forward. I saw it the first time I got on her, and again for her first canter, but then it went away because she understood (and honestly, probably because I was using less leg - she's a Mare in case she hasn't let you know lately).  That, in addition to her general energy levels, had me feeling like she might be a little more than I want to deal with right now without professional help. But, with a few recent outings and the edge taken off her worst impulses (plus a saddle check), I was feeling OK about getting back at it. We all know Bridget is wonderful, but her go to evasion is to hide behind the leg and I hate it. It was really bugging me that Sophie was wanting to try it on for size too, so my determination won over my confidence and I got on. After a few not so great moments, we had some solid up/down transitions without drama. Why did I get so in my head over it? It was literally so easy to fix.  I'm slowly figuring out how Ms Sophie works and there seems to definitely be a part of her that is just looking to mess around and play rather than get to work. If you get really firm with her she gets highly offended and loses confidence, but there is a place for calmly laying it all out and basically boring her via repetition into listening and learning. I think my big challenge with her is going to be walking the line between keeping her interested and focused but not letting it get too exciting or off track. Good thing I am a super focused and boring human :D

I was chatting with a friend who I grew up with and she just happens to have a bit of an interesting youngster right now as well. We kind of agreed that we can't beat ourselves up too hard for the days that don't feel like good days to push things too hard, but we've pledged to make sure we make the best of the days where it feels right! I'm the worst at getting in my head about all my shortcomings and the days I don't do as much as I think I should, so it was really nice to see someone else approaching things so logically and with so much more kindness to herself. 

Over the weekend, I met a couple of good friends at the big arena. Everyone brought their young horses because I think we're all a little in the same boat right now with our babies and the shorter days and COVID limitations. The giant arena works perfectly since we all hack or trailer in from different directions, use different access gates and generally have tons of room to ourselves while still being able to keep an eye on each other. 

One of the horses was on a longe line and VERY exuberant and at first Sophie was intrigued, but even with the giant arena now and then he was a little too in our space for her comfort and prone to seemingly random explosions (every time he got near - I swear he was showing off for her) so she was pretty worried and jumpy. While it was not our best ride ever, I was proud of her for trying her best - we even got some lovely transitions right off the bat this time. I took a page out of my coach's baby horse book and eventually parked her in the middle and let her enjoy a nice long time out before I got off, hopefully starting to give her the idea that the other horses activities have nothing to do with us and she's perfectly fine to just hang out quietly and enjoy a nice reward for being a good girl.

I feel like I'm not giving Bridget much attention here, because despite all the "Sophie, Sophie Sophie" I have been getting B out regularly too. I've added in some trotting on straight lines and she's feeling super good. Riding B is very much something I am grateful for and one of my happy places, so I almost feel superstitious about going on too much about how I am enjoying getting her out again.

In other most excellent news, the indoor arena is open again as of this week! 

I also have a decision to make re: what trailer I am buying, but I think that's a topic for another post!

Hint, one of options is the one we've been borrowing.



Monday 16 November 2020

Highs And Lows

 Oh my goodness, you wouldn’t believe how rotten Ms Sophie was this past week. Actually, if you read this blog with any regularity, maybe you would.

My horsey week ranged from texts from the barn that Sophie was playing so hard in the field that she was wiping out repeatedly, to having her wipe out under my supervision in the round pen. We were back to the non stop attempts to nip and paw, and of course standing tied is TORTURE again. 

Has feelings. Knows better than to fully express them so stands like this with her leg in the air...just so you know she wants to paw. 

The first few days of super energetic and naughty Sophie I chalked up to just paying my dues for giving her time off. Eventually though, I started to wonder if Adult Sophie is just going to kind of be...a lot. With a side of Capital D Drama.

But I’ve been super good about getting out consistently again. One of the great things about having horsey friends and a huge arena is that we can easily plan riding meet ups while still being responsible and following all the COVID guidelines. The second great thing is that I feel like I've got a super good group of riding friends right now and they are keeping me motivated!  My work schedule is just perfect now too and I’ve been quite lucky with the weather, only getting totally rained out on one ride recently. 

Mid week, I totally chickened out and asked friend R to hop on. Which proves what a nice person she is and what a crappy friend I am, because Sophie could have definitely done with more longeing (and a new attitude) first.

I finally got quite frustrated with S on Friday (as did Bridget, lol, I let her out to 'play' but by afternoon she was begging me to be put back into her own field away from the Sophie pest), so Bridget and I went out for a quiet hack instead. 

"Who me? She tells lies, I am the nicest pony."

Saturday started out the same as the previous week, but at one point Sophie’s eyes got big...I was like “Don’t you DARE!”...and so she didn’t and was actually fairly civilized the remainder of the afternoon. Maybe I did finally get my point across? Or she understands english and knows I was shopping online for something that doesn't need to be in as much of a program. She's a pony, either option is equally likely.

Yesterday, she must have finally run out of steam because she decided being asked to move faster than a snail is highly offensive, so opted to make that her daily daily drama, kicking at R's leg and bucking.



Is tired now.

I did break down and message the trainer last week to book a spot for Sophie, but since she's a very good trainer we're waitlisted until May. We'll see where we're at then. Surprisingly, I'm kind of on the fence about it. The part of me that gets tired of how much work she is, is looking forward to her not being my problem for a bit and hopefully coming back with some more buttons I can use to keep her busy and focused. The more pragmatic part of me knows it's just a rough patch, it's typical smart young horse stuff, and that I have the tools and a good support network and we're doing just fine.

Two pony bottoms ready to go.

In other news, Bridget has been out quite a few days as well recently. Just walking around the neighborhood, acting as a portable couch, and generally keeping my sanity intact. She's feeling like a million bucks (literally) but walking and a little trot is where we're at as far as her fitness goes. I'm so grateful I can afford to keep the two of them, selling B would never be an option and I'm lucky to be able to have Sophie to keep life interesting and challenging!

B excelling at lawn mowing the other night while I did chores.

I have a feeling today's ride is going to be a good one :)


Thursday 12 November 2020

Garbage Dressage

 I wanted to submit some online dressage tests, but I was in need of some new markers. I’m guessing a lot of people are having similar thoughts because the cheap sets of cones are sold out everywhere (at least in Canada).

My next step was to just look for white cones. Nope, sold out too. White buckets? Maybe my google skills stink, but those white home improvement useful buckets are a pricey $15 each right now. Plus the metal handle needs to be removed.  Plain old traffic cones? Same story. I stopped in at our neighborhood recycling guy, but he didn’t have any old cones or buckets I could repurpose either.

Then, as I was picking out things for my new office space, I stumbled on these $2 IKEA garbage cans. They’re plastic, they’re stackable, and I think they’re going to work. 

If you’re looking for me, I’ll just be over here on my feral baby pony doing some walk/trot tests, and hopefully staying between the garbage bins 😁


Monday 9 November 2020

Catching Up

 Finally, my brain and body are feeling more energetic and in sync and I'm feeling a little better about life. Last week was a trial of a new daylight savings time work schedule and I LOVED it. I work half days Wednesdays and Fridays and of course still have weekends off. That means I have four not too crunched for light or time days I can ride or just generally horse around. I'm not sure how much my boss actually cared about the saga of the indoor arena being closed this year and sad me having nowhere to ride if it's dark... I'm just grateful he humors me :)

This week was just all about getting the ponies back to the idea of working. (TLDR catch up version: I got overwhelmed with work and depressed and didn't ride for 2 months. I've since quit the second job and amended the hours of the first. Not being exhausted and stressed makes everything better, who knew?)

Been a little while since there were ponies x2 waiting to be tacked up. S is SO much taller than Bridget now, I need to measure her again!

Two months off for a Bridget is actually sort of fine. She was a total wild child the first two outings and I didn't even end up getting on, just walked her around the neighborhood. I ended up doing 3 short rides on her this week. Trying to keep in mind her (lack of) fitness and on/off lameness, we just walked for 20-30 min or less and did one day on a short trail with a little hill. She says she'd love to do more, but she's feeling SO good, I don't want to break her! As always, I keep in the back of my mind that maybe we'll find the magic combination of diet/meds/fitness and she'll come back totally sound one day. 

Also... I popped Sophie's adjustable saddle on B (B's is not fitting...again) and it was a total revelation. WHY did I not ever ride her in a monoflap before? It's the best thing ever for a wide, round pony. So weird, because I don't like riding in that saddle at all on Sophie and have been saving pennies to get something better, but I LOVE it on B. Safe to say, we are keeping that saddle!

Someone is looking rather rotund (do I ever say otherwise? She gets two hours of this crappy grazing in the morning, one flake of hay and a scoop of hay cubes and vitamins morning and night...easy keeper or what.)

Her usual paddock. There's Sophie in the background, grazing pasture all day. I feel so mean some days.

Two months off for Sophie. Well, I'm sure we all knew that wasn't going to be a big success. I actually have no regrets about giving her a break, she did so well this summer and is growing and filling out like crazy....I think physically the time was a very good thing. Mentally though? Pony needs a job.  It would have been nice if I had have at least kept some kind of consistent routine with her, because feral doesn't even begin to describe the first few days. 

Arabian tail and dragon snorts all day.

She settled down a lot by Saturday - I took her out to the club grounds for a visit and she was pretty civilized even with other horses cantering around and doing horsey things. Yesterday was the first day she came out and checked in right away and I probably could have hopped on and ridden. I didn't though, because I've got a helper lined up for this Wednesday afternoon. S has been incredibly sharp and spooky this week and 'forgotten' just about anything she knows (I should have videoed her reaction to the saddle when I longed her in it...omg, rodeo, anyone?),  so despite being 99.9% sure she's back in a good frame of mind,  I think it's a wise choice to wait until we have adult supervision. 

See? There's dragon steam! ;)

Fingers crossed, this will have been the last big break she's getting and she'll be on an adult riding horse schedule now. In the past I've often given my horses a week or two off here or there throughout the year, but I think I'm going to nix that plan with this one. I keep waiting for her to mature mentally, but at 4.5 years old I think this might just be who she is :D

Yes, we see your attitude, Sophie.

I love this one.