Tuesday, 22 June 2021

A Normal Weekend (At Last!)

 After so many months of Covid restrictions, working far too many hours, and generally living far away from any equestrian events or training, I'm not sure I have words to describe how nice it was to spend a weekend doing normal horse things. We went to a clinic, I got Sophie's saddle checked, and I hung out with horsey friends in the sunshine. Simple things that have been so, so missed.


I did not take photos on the day, because I honestly just was in the moment and didn't think to until later. So you get pictures from when I turned them out Sunday afternoon :)

I rode Sophie on Thursday night and she was quite fussy and grumpy, still pretty outraged that anyone dare put a saddle on her (despite me running my hands over every inch of her back and not finding anything worrying).  I gave her the benefit of the doubt due to her being a little bit sore the week before from our previous saddle. I decided not to ride her in the clinic and was feeling pretty disappointed.

Friday afternoon, I left work early (yay for prioritizing well!) to watch the first riders in the clinic and really enjoyed it - there are a couple of talented ladies with lovely young horses and it was pretty inspiring to watch them work through some green horse challenges, particularly as I happen to be the owner of a young sassy mare ;)

Also, an older sassy mare.

Saturday morning, my wonderful husband tagged along and we trailered both horses down to the clinic. Despite it being a 15 min walk from the barn, I used the trailer because it's just so convenient for all the tack and supplies I can bring. My ride time was first in the morning and it was nice to just drive up there, pop them in the trailer, and go. Plus, it's excellent practice for Ms Sophie.

There was a bit of a show vibe and both horses noticed. There were a few people camping, and lots of trucks and trailers in the parking. Plus, new horses in the (normally empty) temporary stabling to chat with. It's been over a year since most of us have had a real get together or event, so even the normally steady horses were taking notice of the different atmosphere.

I rode Bridget and I'm SO glad I did! I definitely good some good input and B really showed up and tried her little heart out, reminding me a lot of why I used to have so much fun with her and kept on pushing for the next big milestone. She's rusty and out of practice, as am I, but it was fun to focus on Bridget again. 

The lesson consisted of a pattern exercise with lots of poles, and it was as complicated as you made it. We focused on extending and bringing back strides more crisply, having a more solid outside rein contact going to the right, and having me look up and around to the next set of poles or marker. 

Been a while since we had a Paint diagram here. As you can see, it works either direction, crossing the middle in a figure eight pattern, alternating the extended and collected poles. The pattern definitely helps make it all happen and kept me on track.

B was an absolute star for all the up/down transitions, lateral work, and for being honest about keeping on the path I put her on. I don't feel she's really 'dressage' fit (I'm not either, let's be real) so I rode on a longer, more hunter style rein much of the time and let her find a happy place. There were times where the exercises did the work for her and she offered to sit and carry herself for some fancy dressage pony moves and I happily accepted. It felt SO nice to be back in the zone :) Happily, she had zero issues trotting and cantering for an hour, and was only minimally sweaty...looks like I've been making progress getting the pony fit again! I was dying, though. Since B has been a bit rogue this spring, I've been wearing my xc vest. Would not recommend for a 1.5 hour flat lesson in hot weather.


Sophie managed to hang out quietly for about 45 minutes, then time was up and she was whinnying and pacing a little. Some other horses were calling and putting on a bit of a show and she's never one to miss out on some drama. I'm pretty happy with her, though - it was a lot bigger atmosphere than she's used to, and sometimes I feel like it's harder for them to go to a familiar place where things are different on the day, than just a new place altogether. Her calling and pacing was totally at an acceptable level...she has a strong pony side and eating from her hay bag was honestly her main priority :)


The hair continues to impress

As an added bonus, I pulled her out and had the clinician look at her new saddle. It got two thumbs up, so at least I know I'm not crazy in thinking the basic fit is really good. Fingers crossed I just hit a grumpy mare day/week and we can move forward happily in the new one. I will obviously still get it checked by a proper fitter as soon as I can, but I'm a bit more confident in pushing through any residual drama and getting to work, knowing there's nothing obviously wrong with the fit and I haven't missed anything.



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Monday, 21 June 2021

New Old Barn, Where Are You At?

Time for a barn update...

In my vast experience ( ha ha ) managing construction projects, I feel like we're on track for a mid fall move, despite my recent lack of time and the scaled back hours put in there. 

The barn inches closer to completion. Two months in, and the hay storage is done, which was an epic task. It was FULL of old junk and garbage and generally just gross (It looked like maybe someone was squatting in there). The new doors are on (and they lock, good bye uninvited guests!). I would have liked to give the whole thing a total clean sweep, but just couldn't part with the antique door and window collection I seem to have amassed. They'll be perfect one day for the backyard office I want to build. So, it's 70% hay storage, 30% construction materials - which makes my wannabe organized self a bit twitchy, but it's OK :)

Presentable from this angle


Less so from this one

I think I mentioned we dug up a whole pile of hazelnut trees along one of the fences lines and replanted them around the barn. Two months on and they are thriving, which makes me pretty happy. There's a bit of a back story in that my very best dog that I had since I was a teenager moved to the property with me in his old age (I bought the house in my early 20's). He was big into digging and burying things and one fall discovered a big sack of filbert hazelnuts a neighbour had gifted me. I discovered the sack missing and holes all over the lawn, and ended up mowing hazelnut shoots for years. It was so funny. I don't know how many of the ones we replanted were really 'his' trees (they do grow very well here and may have popped up through other means), but I'd like to think we saved a couple <3


I can't believe they're thriving like this - they are 15 years old at this point and were scooped up quite inelegantly with a backhoe and placed in alternate locations a couple of months ago.

I'm still redoing the floor in the tack room area (so much gravel to dig out first) and picking away bit by bit at the fencing.

Still looking rough! Bridget's paddock will be on this side, Sophie's in the middle. I'm changing from old (half rotten) post and rail, to just rail on top and wire below. Not sure you can see, but through the second gate on Sophie's side will just allow access to an L shaped field wrapping around below the barn.

I've got a few big projects imminently pending, but I have a secret weapon. My stepdad is retired, handy, and lives just around the corner. I've got him lined up to assist with the new water line to the barn, as well as making the cement pad for my wash/grooming space. I'm REALLY freakin' excited to have a designated space to groom and tack up....it's been years since I was that spoiled.


Double sliding door going in here, and 6' wide cement pad along front of building. I also need to brainstorm a screen or hedge to block the neighbour's storage trailer ;)

Wrapping around to this unimpressive space that will soon be my grooming spot -  a 12'x12' cement pad, water tap, and a simple post and beam roof above to keep us dry. (The winter paddocks I showed the start of earlier are being constructed in the back of this pic)

The visualization of how it will eventually look


The new ring will be the biggest project of all, and I expect that's going to be finished last. We're letting the ground settle for a bit, then planning to finalize the drainage and start filling it back in late summer/early fall.

Relieved this is getting dug up again. The greenery here is insane, considering it was all dirt a month ago. BUT, it's 99% weeds volunteering, not lovely pasture.

SketchUp version of back field and new ring in relation to barn. It's all so much more neat and tidy in the virtual world, lol



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Thursday, 17 June 2021

In Which I'm a Barn Ghost

 A coworker and I were just (laughing? crying? commiserating?) about how work right now feels like one of those anxiety dreams where you're running and not getting anywhere. We're both doing everything we can, but the normally simple tasks prove impossible to complete in a timely fashion due to unending complications. I've gone from my wonderful part time 4 day a week work schedule to us being short staffed and me working not just full time, but 6 days a week. I not so patiently hope they hire someone soon, because this isn't how my summer is supposed to go, and I don't feel like looking for a new job.

I'm sure I've hinted my boarding situation also has some added complications to it these days. Nothing hugely dramatic, more just all the little things adding up and telling me it's probably not a great fit for me anymore. Good thing we've got a plan B in the works! :)


Lets be real though, my pony has more drama and side eye than the rest of the barn combined.

The trailer has thankfully solved a few of my woes. Currently the trailer is my tack room, and my horses live out, so I don't need to use the shared areas much at all.  I do all my chores and feed prep early in the mornings, then after work I quickly pop the horses on the trailer and tack up at the destination, saving getting too sidetracked at the barn when it's busier and totally eliminating the need to work around or wait for shared spaces like tack rooms or grooming ties. It also saves me about 20 min of hacking/walking each way if I trailer to the arena or trailhead.  So at least I'm still getting some regular riding in, while still getting home before bedtime. I'm so very grateful for the long hours of daylight right now.


Sophie also enjoying the long days and field time. Please excuse the slightly out of focus pics, my camera/lens is dissatisfied with the shady field + moving ponies and I'm not experienced enough to get a handle on it.

I know I must be really antisocial and avoiding the busy times well, because I saw another boarder the other night who wondered if I was looking to sell my ponies -  she didn't realize anyone even rides or does anything with my horses anymore, lol


"We are just here to mow the fields, nothing more."

B continues to feel a bit short strided at times, but the vet feels slow and steady exercise for her outweighs any minor lameness concerns and we are not at a point of needing to start with maintenance given her current workload. So, she's getting fitter and stronger week by week. Making the decision to not breed this year has made me refocus on keeping her moving. I've just been going day by day. If she says she feels fantastic and wants to go go go, I still try to err on the side of caution. The farrier was here this morning and felt like the weather has been messing a bit with her feet - wouldn't that be an easy thing, if she's just a little footsore right now but otherwise feeling pretty good?


She has this whole morning roll/yoga stretch routine I really need to document better.

Sophie showed her off new grown up mindset this morning, standing quietly and patiently for the farrier. Until said farrier put her last hoof down and was out of the way. Then Sophie let fire with her hind legs multiple times, before standing square again, waiting for us to admire her amazingness. 

"MY feet. They are MY feet. I wanted to do that all along, look how good I was being!" is how we both read it. Sophie, we love you, but still, please no.

Every morning when I open the gate to the bottom field. She does nothing at half speed, lol


"Anyway, how's your home barn reno coming along, T?"

Oh, so glad you asked! This turned into another long ponies only post, so tune in tomorrow for that ;)







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Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Small Delays: Part 1, Pony and Saddle Updates

Pony wise, I'm still messing with saddles. Sophie was ouchy over her back behind the saddle last week, so I'm done with that. I'm honestly grateful it lasted as long as it did, and with her changing shape so much this spring it was only a matter of time before enough was enough and I was shopping. A more organized person would have sorted things before it was an issue, but time keeps getting away from me (and is it just me or is the resale market insane? Both saddles I decided to sell sold same day!) so we went a week without a saddle.

"Are we doing anything yet?"

Her new-to-her dressage arrived yesterday, but it looks and measures on the narrower side than what I thought I was buying/it is stamped. It's also way older than I thought, but on trying it out, I absolutely love it for myself. Funny, since really I was just interested in finding something to fit her and get us by until she's finished filling out. 

Probably the first Amerigo dressage saddle ever made. I exaggerate, but according to the company rep it was manufactured in 1999 (not 2009, surprise!). It's also a monoflap, another (this time happy) surprise. Saddle shopping is fun, right?! I think what I really like for me is the knee roll is gradual and soft and the seat is shallow and open...supportive without that locked in feel most of the newer ones seem to have.

I am getting the specs so I have a starting point should this not be a long term solution. It does look to fit Sophie perfectly now, but she was grumpy in the up transitions. That may just be her (we were definitely having a mare day and on those days it's not uncommon for her to kick at my leg/be offended by me just existing up there) or it may be the saddle. We'll keep testing. Or maybe someone can send me a saddle fitter for an hour? If it's not right, it's got to be so close that a minor adjustment would do the trick, but S is dramatic and does not tolerate any margin of error. Fingers crossed we can organize a fitter this summer, travel sounds like it's going to be on the table again.

Vacations are not a good idea for Ms Sassy, when will I ever learn?

The other (close contact) saddle to try has of course been lost in the mail(?) somewhere for 3 weeks now and the company is non responsive. I'm getting worried, but I'm crossing fingers I get a parcel or update soon, it is coming from a legit company. Sorry Sophie, I am trying!

I have a clinic this weekend to attend and feel super ill prepared. If I don't have a saddle Sophie likes, I'll take Bridget, I guess. I hate going into a clinic with nothing specific to work on, but I'm hopeful I'll be able to run through a couple of dressage tests on her and get some feedback. She's been feeling great over little fences but her flatwork has got a bit stuck again where she wiggles around behind the contact and forward/straight are suffering a case of the noodles. I find it difficult, because from the ground she almost looks like she's moving out nicely and she's certainly very reactive off the leg - people I think look the the pony and are willing to accept she's just got an average way of going on those short pony legs.

Short legs = optimal ease for reaching grass to sustain round body.

In the saddle you can feel it's not really connected and she's not working consistently behind, so you're always working to keep her from diving off in all directions. Once I get a handle on it, I start getting comments on how fancy she suddenly is, but it's not...it's just her finally carrying herself in balance and IMO just what her working trot or canter should feel like. She's actually quite athletic under that cobby body, it's just she's smart and is totally willing to fake it rather than go to work :)

Anyway, lest you think I'm trying to get B tuned up to get out to the next big show, no, I'm not. She gets to stay semi retired. I just like her and find her to be an interesting puzzle. There is a dressage percent day coming up in August she'll likely go to, but her main role will be to support Sophie's first show experience.

"Say what?!"

 I am glad Sophie is so straightforward under saddle - despite the fraction of a percent of hours she has as compared to Bridget, she's naturally a lot more willing and capable, so she's starting right about where I was after a year of full training on Bridget. I am looking forward to getting a handle on the saddle situation and continuing to move forward with her. 

Part II: Property Updates, coming up next.

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Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Belated Wordless Wednesday Photos

 Because I took the 'nice' camera to the barn last night (finally!)

Two dapple-y ponies posing. 


I feel like I'm pretty good at picking conformation apart, but have zero ability to envision what a young horse will look like at maturity. My baby horse purchasing game is probably weaker than most, but I got lucky and really like what she's turning into. My type of pony, for sure. (I am aware she's standing on a bit of slope, she's built closer to level than uphill IRL :)

Last but not least, enjoy this picture of the start of the one month a year when Bridget doesn't have a beard or fuzzy coat. Looking very sleek, Ms B!

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Monday, 7 June 2021

Broken Records

 I'm a broken record over here, beating myself up for giving Sophie time off, then coming back all "OMG I'm so glad I gave her time off, she's better than ever!" Perhaps I'm not the person who should have baby ponies - I had a weird underlying guilty feeling every time I gave her a vacation...even though slow and steady and time off to mature is what you probably should do with young horses.


We still have been getting out for weekly adventures once or twice a week. Just not been much focus on anything arena based.

Anyway, this week Sophie had her first arena rides in a couple of months. I've felt like she's growing one last time, but I have zero data to support that - my measuring stick has gone missing. I can tell you I now need a bigger mounting block and she feels taller than she did mid winter, but with my other ride being a 14hh Bridget 'tall' is a relative term - I'm guessing she's 15hh-ish now?

She's been so good! Mentally, so much more mature. Way less anxious and distracted, so much more happy in herself - in and out of the saddle. I'm pleased (and glad I've been taking it slow - life with S feels much easier this spring than it did even a few months ago)


Love how we all look still miniature from super tall G's perspective. Also, Sophie's been so, so good about the whole trailer/being tied to the trailer experience.

I rode Sophie home on the road for the first time last night. I haven't done that until now because despite walking up and down that thing multiple times a week for just about 3 years (I get my 5k walk in on those days at least) cars are scary. Trucks are scary. The boat with the flapping tarp. The dogs. The farmer's market.  The scrap metal yard. The auto repair place. The chainsaw carving dude (I wish I was making some of this up - it is a pretty intense stretch of road).

We hit it well, so we only met a few cars and one friendly Labrador retriever. The businesses were closed and chainsaw dude was just quietly chillin with a beer, burning his off cuts on a bonfire. 

But hey, it happened. It was fine - she was a bit anxious about having so much responsibility but didn't put a foot wrong. It's one of those little milestones that probably don't look like a lot on paper, but are a big deal for the pony in question. I have a few friends who don't ride that stretch of road at all on their horses, equally Bridget tackled it with no issues the first time. It's so individual!


No pictures of the road because I wanted both hands on the wheel. But we were working on walk halt transitions this weekend and I'm kind of proud of this square halt at x!

In other 'broken record' news, it's time for a new saddle for Sophie. The one I've been using is adjustable so I've been getting away with it, but for me it doesn't fit at all. Then, this morning as I groomed her, she told me her back is a bit sore. Ughh. She's old enough now we should be able to find something that will work for us both for a while. I hope. In good news, someone else wanted that saddle badly and paid me for it this morning, so that worked out rather well. 


Large and in charge, modeling Sophie's temporary adjustable jump saddle.

Bridget has been doing super well. I also sold B's dressage saddle a few weeks ago because she just wasn't as happy in it as I would have liked. The new to me one is delayed at customs, and suddenly I realized with selling Sophie's adjustable jump one as well a few weeks back I literally have nothing to ride Sophie in as of today. Oops, let's hope the trial ones arrive soon! 

Last week, since I seem to be on a selling spree and am short on saddles, I pulled out B's old saddle that's been sitting in the back of my tack space for years now. (bareback pad not an option - she's been WILD) It's a stubben jump saddle that served us very well for years, but at some point the tree got a slight twist to it and it was decided replacing was a better option than repairing. Please don't hate on me - I know it's less than ideal to ride her in it, but equally it took three saddle fitters to notice it's not quite symmetrical..  We're not talking anything obviously unbalanced. Anyway, it was flocked to fit B temporarily while I waited for a replacement (that never materialized - they aren't manufactured new anymore and don't seem to come up used in our specs), and has sat ever since.


Tried this saddle on B and it was a no go. She made her feelings known on the longe before I sat in it (thank goodness)

 Anyway, that saga aside, I pulled her old saddle out because although I know it isn't perfect, also she went well in it for a very long time with no complaints. I went for a ride, and what a difference, we even had other riders wondering about how they never noticed how 'fancy' she is before. I think she just loves that freakin' saddle and has been going better than ever the last couple of weeks. I've got some messages out to the company reps to see if there's anything out there remotely similar to the specs for it. If there is, I will buy it and be done with it - I will dressage in a rock hard jump saddle for the rest of her life if that's what B wants.

So there you go, broken record me. Saddles need re - fitting, ponies need riding, ponies also need time to grow ;)



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