Monday, 22 February 2021


 Sophie is, unfortunately, one of *those* horses. The ones who don't reliably tie. At some point her younger self probably got scared, pulled back, and got free. She's smart and I suspect it's now forever there as an option to try if she's scared (or frustrated) enough.

I've had a couple of horses like that. I suspect we probably all have owned or needed to manage one at some point. Then there's the flip side, the Bridgets of the world who would probably stand tied forever if that's how you left them, because it would never occur to them there is any other option.

Thinks she is tied, will therefore stand at this tree until the end of time.

The old school approach with the trickier ones used to be to just tie them, leave them, and let them figure it out. I actually know someone whose horse died that way. The poor horse stuggled a while before anyone could get him free and his death was not the result of just one 'unlucky' injury. So, count me as someone who would never try that.

My go to method with Sophie is to loop (rather than tie) the rope so there is resistance when she pulls back, but it doesn't catch. Normally she stops as soon as the rope gives a little, so there is no dramatic exit or anything like that, just me coming back to rewrap a foot or two of the rope again. Those blocker tie rings accomplish the same. I've had success cross tying where there is a wall behind them too to discourage that option (like in a wash or grooming bay). 

Ropes looped around posts - an imperfect solution but it seems to work.

I also always leave her with a hay net or something else to keep her busy (she likes playing with the end of the rope or a brush (or really anything) and I let her - I want the experience to be fun and positive rather than stressful and looking for a reason to leave.

I also spend a little bit of time getting her to lower her head and give to pressure every day. Every time I put her halter on, I use it often when she wants to giraffe and be distracted, sometimes just to clip or trim her bridle path. It's a handy thing for them to know. She's a smart cookie, and it's been a long time since there's been any drama, but I'm not kidding myself that I've really solved anything - I'm just managing it until the next time her instincts take over.

Bridget looks so offended, but you can see the broken snaffle bit someone attached to the post as a cheaper version of the blocker ties you can buy.

When I see an article or video on teaching a horse to tie I'm all over it. I'd love to find a fail safe solution.

However, there was an incident here a while ago that got me thinking harder. It could have gone so, so, wrong. It kept me up at night for a while after, just in disbelief that everyone was OK. I feel nauseous just thinking it out now. As is the way, I also spent a good chunk of time wondering what I could do to keep myself and my horses safe in the same situation.

The (short, edited, version) of the story: Where I board, someone inexperienced tied a horse to some round pen panels. He pulled back and brought the whole series of panels with him. He ended up on top of and tangled in them, with a small kid, assorted saddle stands, saddles and gear, all now pinned underneath both the panels and the panicking horse. The whole mess got dragged over to two other horses who were tied at the barn(and now also trying to get out of there and kicking at the whole disaster behind them, one falling over in her attempt to get free) Only one of the three horses were tied with a quick release knot (which someone luckily was able to safely get to). None had any kind of gear that would have allowed them to break away - one was even tied in a rope halter. I have no idea how that little girl is OK (she was right under the horse for a bit), how the horses didn't break legs or worse, or honestly how anyone trying to help untangle the whole mess while it was happening (to get the little girl out) walked away unscathed. I was on a different part of the property and heard kids screaming and just arrived in time to get one of the horses tied at the barn out of the way and that felt sketchy enough.

I don't think I need to go into crazy detail on all the things that shouldn't have happened there. I doubt anyone reading this blog needs a safety PSA on tying horses properly.

It did get me thinking that I'm not sure there's any situation where I'd feel comfortable tying a horse where they couldn't potentially break away and leave if needed. So if I own one that knows they can take advantage of that, well I guess that's just life and I manage it as best I can. Quick release knots are fine and all, but it means you've got to be close enough and able to get to the end of the rope to pull it loose. Not so safe for you if there is one panicking pony, let alone a few of them.

I guess that means I just keep on keeping on with Sophie. She knows she can pull back and get away, I know she can pull back and (eventually) get away, but maybe we just keep our truce where she knows a good pony stays where they're put. If she does pull back, we have a deal where I won't make her feel trapped. Fingers crossed, she's been very honest about our little arrangement so far. It will be a bit to manage it properly outside our bubble (thinking of events where there is no stabling and everyone ties to the trailer, especially) but I can't be alone in this.

Enjoys pretending to be wild and fierce, is actually quite civilized

How well do your horses tie? Do you have any tips or tricks to reform the ones that pull back?


Friday, 12 February 2021

Winter Came

 And I don't mind.

Like many of you, we're having colder than average temperatures and a bit of winter. Living here can be incredibly depressing in the winter with all the gloomy, rainy, darkness, so I'm currently THAT person.

Sophie always looks like she's smiling, at least. 

 The one who is beyond happy to have a taste of real winter. We got a nice dump of snow a couple of days ago, so the roads are super hazardous. To give us our due, I have lived both on the prairies and the coast and the snow we get here is more similar to that icy melty snow the prairies get in the spring - it actually is really is hard to drive on (not arguing the fact the drivers here are...less than capable... in general though ;)  Anyway, with the roads being unsafe (because obviously we only have one snowplow in the area and everyone seems to drive a 2wd car, lol) it's been pretty quiet and relaxing. Kind of nice to have a built in reason to not have to do all the things.

I almost didn't turn them out into the bigger field the first night because I was worried about Sophie playing too hard and slipping, but she was sensible for once.

The horses haven't been up to much of anything, because I need to ride on a road to get to the arena (which is covered in snow - on top of some too deep sand that's not draining properly - anyway). This weekend I might see if I can venture to the indoor, but that will just be a Bridget ride. It's only available to book on weekends, and longeing is not allowed in there. There is no way I'm hopping on Sophie after a week off without giving her a chance to burn off some energy first!

Bridget declining to leave her stall :)

Instead of riding this week I've been putting in some extra hours at work, which means I'm banking days off for future horse adventures. There are a couple of clinics coming up in March that could be doable. April/May is going to be a bit up in the air with Bridget's appointments and expenses, so it might be nice schedule and budget wise to get some clinic time in ahead of that.

Or, I may wait. It's made for a very uneventful blog, but I've kind of enjoyed this intermission I've had this week, and even in general the more laid back pace the past couple of years while I wait for Sophie to mature enough to be my next riding and competition horse.


Tuesday, 9 February 2021

A One Pony Party

 It's been drier out so I've been able to give the girls a bit of a treat and put them in one of the smaller fields while I muck out and do chores. Bridget says thank you,  the grass is tasty there. Sophie, well, she's been Sophie:


Monday, 8 February 2021

50 First Rides

Bridget continued to be a little ball of fire all last week, leading to some interesting rides. We had one more parting of ways. She uses that big neck against me where she'll slam to a stop, get me tipped a bit forward and get her neck down and buck. Sneaky pony. Even at my strongest I’m pretty helpless against it (especially on down banks, lifetime memories from that xc clinic lol) - if she gets my shoulders forward and can pull her head between her knees I’m done. Thank goodness she’s usually not inclined to pull out that particular trick and the technique she uses involves slamming to a halt first and depositing me fairly gently over her shoulder, lol. 

Non dramatic reenactment of the view from the ground :)

By Saturday she’d pretty much tired herself out and we were back to normal rides. Even though she’s obviously feeling fantastic and cheeky I’m still trying to be cautious with her and build up her fitness gradually. I’m so grateful to have her around, it’s a treat to have a relatively well schooled pony I know inside and out. The plan is obviously still to breed her this spring, but I’m working to build up my fitness again and bringing hers up too will hopefully ensure an easier time for her once she’s in foal.

We had a drier week, so the girls had some much appreciated pasture time.

On to Sophie. Sophie. Oh my goodness. The mood must have been contagious because she’s been an absolute nut all week - as the weather gets colder, the ridiculousness increases. By Saturday I’ll admit my patience with her was wearing thin (and that unfortunately just feeds more drama from her.) She was a bit much for the shared outdoor and her energy was affecting the other horses, so I ended up moving over to the indoor and just tying her in there while I rode B and contemplated S’s sale ad ;) 

Sophie dancing to the songs in her head

I did hop on S eventually this weekend for the first time since Christmas. My husband (G) and I were joking my life with her this winter should be titled  50 First Rides. It did indeed feel like a first ride on a baby,  she was overreacting because I’d been on her case all weekend about remembering her ground manners - it’s kind of a negative spiral where she pushes and pushes and I calmly correct over and over while she tries things every different way. Then, eventually, I break and she gets a bigger reaction, and then she’s sure I'm out to get her. It's a game, I know it is, and yet some days I still get sucked in to playing.

 It’s the same type of thing she does with other horses (and she has the scars to show for it) - she pesters them all day long and she lives for the exciting moment when someone finally chases her off and she can then be super dramatic and gallop around and play. That's usually immediately followed by over the top repentant, can’t-survive-without-your-friendship mode. I don't think she has any desire to be the boss of anything, I think she thinks it's all just fun and everyone should want to play and then she's upset when no one thinks it's funny...she's 4 years old and still does that funny lip smacking 'I'm just a baby, don't be mad' thing they do. Anyway, at the very least, she is definitely going to teach me to be better. 

"Help! Bridget is mad at me!"

On paper I guess it looks like there were a few frustrations and negatives this week. I’m actually feeling pretty happy though - B is feeling great, which means the world to me, and it feels really good to be be starting to put Sophie back into work too....the days are getting long enough now that even on week days if I plan well I should be able to fit in a short ride or outing before dark.


Monday, 1 February 2021

Winter Struggles

 Just a quick little update this morning, sadly without any recent pictures - it's been dark and rainy and honestly I've been prioritizing just getting the horses exercised and chores done before sunset.

Sophie has been so, so, full of it. It's the time of year where the paddocks are muddy and she's not a fan. So, she spends a lot of time in her stall looking out at the rain. She was starting to sample some not so great habits like eating dirt, chewing on things, and an interesting repetitive rear/spin/stomp thing. Unfortunately, for where we live and the time of year it is, she already has the biggest turnout space one can find (I'm guessing it's about 80'x100'), and it's already available to her 24/7 so I'm kind of limited. The ground is just not conducive right now to the amount of running and playing she likes to do ( it's a little too dug up and slick) so she's frustrated. She's by far the most active and playful horse I've owned (or actually even met - Amanda's Presto looks like a virtual soulmate though!)

I wish we had her big gorgeous fields here!

I feel like half my camera is full of 'Sophie playing in the mud' pictures right now.

 At a minimum, I get her in the round pen once a day for some exercise, and I've had her out to the club grounds and on the trails a few times this week for some exercise and exploration.  I've also given up trying to weigh her hay appropriately into meals so she has an unlimited supply of hay in strategically placed nets and hay balls to eat or waste as she sees fit - I'd rather that than her eating dirt and fences. I'm dreaming right now of finally getting the plans and permits done for our own place and building her a big gallop friendly paddock with a gravel base for winter. Next winter she'll be able to have a proper job, and making time to have her in a full work schedule will have to be a priority. It's not exactly giving me the warm fuzzies right that her living situation is so obviously not suiting her. For now though I will just have to cross my fingers for a few drier days so the ground can drain and she'll have better footing to play on.

Is not starving under that coat, is just bored :(

And then we have Bridget. Also entirely too full of it! She seemed a little 'up' on Saturday, but it's Bridget and I had some decent rides through the week (even being the calm babysitter for a friends young horse's first trail ride), so I hopped on anyway. And, she proceeded to unload me in a very naughty pony type way :) Nothing hurt but my pride (and B's reputation - why is there always someone watching and ready to gossip when weird stuff happens? It's like a built in law of equestrians or something) so I got back on but she just didn't really settle. It's an odd day when I can't tire B out! Yesterday, I opted to longe the little monster prior to getting on and that was a wise decision. Again, not so great of a ride because she was super spooky and wired and honestly despite all the hiking and yoga I feel a bit too unfit as far as saddle time goes to really manage it as well as I could. It's B, though. By tomorrow I'll probably be struggling to wake her up :)

Fairly accurate representation of normal energy levels.

On the plus side, she's obviously feeling fantastic, is at a perfect weight, and to my eye looks and feels 100% and ready for bit more of a work schedule this spring.

On another note, I have fallen off twice recently after a nice hiatus of managing to stay in the saddle for a couple of years. I also have some new riding tights. I have worn them twice. I have fallen off in them twice. I'm not superstitious, but still...they have a 100% fall rate and while it's not exactly unheard of for me to end up on the ground, this seems a little excessive 🙈 Just in case, I think those tights are going to live in the back of the closet for a bit 😏

So, horses in winter in the BC raincoast. This is fun, right?