Monday 30 August 2021

Silver Linings

 Well, that week didn't go to plan...

A person directly involved in where I board went on a trip, got quite sick with Covid, then opted to travel all the way home three or four days later while obviously still sick. We got warning (second hand) a few hours before they got home. So, as you might guess, my faith in them doing the right thing and quarantining, letting people know their status, and taking precautions on site wasn't strong but I didn't want to overreact. 

However, my suspicions re: them not staying out of the barn and away from other people were confirmed immediately, so we've moved the horses out (hopefully temporarily) rather than stressing about a situation beyond our control. G's mom is in the hospital and we just can't mess around with this and not take it seriously. 

(Boarding is super fun, am I right?)

My place at home is still nowhere near ready, but I have a friend right across the street from my barn-to-be who was willing to take us in short term. I owe her a ton of gratitude for finding space for us on super short notice.

So, some of my ride plans will be put on hold as the horses are in a different area without such easy access to the usual local events and amenities. 

Silver linings, you ask? The ponies and I get an upgrade - her place is beautiful and we're getting spoiled there. Plus, she's been a great friend since we were kids, so it's just nice to have more of a reason to see each other.  Also, I have added impetus to get working on my barn again. Finally, lots of  'new' area trails to explore and a built in buddy to get out there with. 

So, an unexpected plot twist, but I think we're going to have fun for the next couple of weeks!


Monday 23 August 2021

Slo-Coast Weekend Update

 After the go-go-go of last weekend and returning to work after a week off, this past weekend really needed to be a laid back one.

There are tons of upcoming clinic opportunities and events on the schedule, plus I need to arrange for EC to come here for a clinic (or me to travel there overnight) but I've currently got commitment issues and haven't organized or signed up for anything - I just want to slow the F down for a bit and keep a fairly open schedule.

Attempted glamour shots on Saturday, failed for the most part. She doesn't stand still long enough to stay in frame AND keep her ears up.

Sophie went trail riding and had a session on the longe last week, plus I rode at the arena on Saturday. Not quite the full fitness schedule I'm supposed to be keeping - especially when you consider my 'ride' was more Sophie serving as a mobile couch for socializing. Still, I think given her stress levels last weekend, I think there is value for both of us in revisiting the concept of things not being a big deal and some outings just being a chance to relax and have fun with friends.

Bridget's been out for a trail ride, but mostly the two ponies have just been enjoying extra field time. We've had basically no rain all summer, so the fields aren't doing a way that's great for ponies, but it does mean I'll need to pull them off soon and wait for rain so the grass can recover - normally they can be out there until November-ish, so it's a bit sad this is the last week or two of the grass holding up now.

Bridget: "Nom nom nom" The most wonderful time of the year for her

I got more hay in the barn this weekend as well. The plan was to get enough to tide me over until we move the ponies 'home' this fall, but probably we shouldn't talk about the lack of progress there...I may be staying where I am longer than I think! There is just not enough time in the day to get it all done, and I've got a few projects pending I just haven't found time for yet. With the hot, dry weather affecting things we've also got to wait to run machinery there due to fire hazard, but I'm worried our fall rains will come all at once and turn things into a mud pit we also can't run machines in! Honestly, I haven't sorted a schedule beyond verbally discussing plans with the equipment operator for some point in the future and ordering the wood post and beam for the barn addition. Go me! ;)

Eating last years hay for dinner, because she likes it better than the $$$$ new stuff?


Thursday 19 August 2021

Pony Camp Part2

 By Sunday, the sleep deprivation was really starting to hit, along with some anxiety. I was returning to work the following day after a week off I really couldn't afford to take from a workload perspective, so I knew it was going to be tough.

So, despite the majority of my friends firmly encouraging me to tack up Sophie for a final lesson, I opted to do what felt right and brought in the reserve team - Ms Bridget. Life is too short, my ride time was later in the day and I really just wanted to have fun on the final day of my vacation rather than sit and worry over things out of my control.

 This might not put me in the best light, but I planned the weekend around having a vacation with horses included, rather than 'A Training Opportunity'. My lessons with EC work for me as far as being serious about this riding thing and I am quite happy with her methods, so in my mind this past weekend was more about just getting out there and having fun with friends - no pressure, no serious goals or expectations.

I'm entirely pleased that Sophie came along for the outing, travelled well, settled in reasonably well, and for the most part coped with a new and very busy environment. I took her on a trail ride, I had a lesson, I think she learned a lot, and the end result was a positive for her. So I was quite happy to leave it there - my hope was to simulate what she'd experience travelling to a show, but in a lower pressure situation for myself where it didn't matter how things went. Goal achieved.

Anyway, I know I don't need to defend my decisions here. It's all about enjoying the horses, celebrating the positives, and not taking it too seriously. I don't have the head space right now to tackle anything else.

Best pony

So, I had a super fun ride on Bridget. She was also feeling very spicy, but with B that just manifests itself in forward and some little dolphin bucks in canter. I basically told the clinician I just was there to have fun and she fully supported that plan after my ride the previous day :) She set up a very challenging pattern and gradually increased the difficulty. I really enjoyed it as it had all the components of a dressage test, but was more like a horsemanship pattern - lots of transitions coming up very quickly, and some poles, lateral work, and spirals thrown in for good measure.

I was losing B's left shoulder a little in the smaller canter circles and shoulder in, but nothing major, it's a fitness thing for sure. I am seriously impressed with how much she retains given I don't school anything regularly or make any concentrated effort to really keep her fit. Plus my fitness is really lacking - I wasn't stiff or sore, but I definitely was overheating with the hot weather and my cardio was suffering.  On the plus side, B was totally fine with the heat, and was again moving confidently throughout, which gives our working theory that firmer, more supportive footing is more to her liking some credence. Clinician was a huge fan of Bridget and her training, which was nice - B means a lot to me and  a product of my riding and decision making :)

With that, we had a nice pub lunch and another float in the river and then it was time to pack up and head home. Pony Camp 2021 was over far too quickly, but there's good news - we all had so much fun we're already planning for two 2022 camps. I'll arrange for pictures of us next time too :)


Tuesday 17 August 2021

Pony Camp Part1

 Wow...that was a jam packed weekend. Guess who took photos of all the rest of the crew but didn't arrange for any of myself? That would be me! I'm so sorry, blog land!

A couple of google images of the area to give you the idea. They have more farmland and a way bigger equestrian community there than we do. Our mountains seem to start right at the ocean.

We went over to the Comox Valley for a weekend of camping and riding lessons and ended up with a crew of about 15 people and 17 horses there.  Pretty amazing turn out for our small little community of riders. We'd originally planned something a little further from home, but given the wildfire conditions in the rest of the province sticking close to home seemed a better choice. Besides, the Island is lovely, I always forget how nice more of a staycation can be!

My two travelled over like stars. It was pretty hot out but luckily we ended up on the upper deck of the ferry with a nice breeze flowing through for the horses. I was extra pleased with my two as we were parked behind a trailer with what the ferry workers assumed were more horses but were actually pigs. I noticed some of the adjacent horses weren't pleased with 90 minutes parked next to those smells and noises!

I started out so well, taking a picture of us getting on the ferry like a proper tourist 😁

I was extra grateful for my two when we dropped them off at the farm - they settled in to a shared paddock with zero drama and good thing, because G and I were late for an unrelated appointment up Island and needed to basically drop them and go, leaving them to their own devices for a couple of hours. Not ideal, but with all the other horsey ladies around I knew they'd be well looked after if needed.

Actual photo of the trails at the end of the road near the farm. They were all lovely like this, and included mounting blocks and trail maps at every intersection. I needed more time to explore!

Between the travel, the appointments, a quick hike in the forest, and a pub trip, Friday pretty much disappeared in a blur. We finished out back at the farm with an informative talk from a human/equine chiropractor. A lot of what he had to say and the exercises he demonstrated tied in nicely with my goals of improving Sophie's topline, so I'm interested in learning more.

Saturday morning came early....too early. Guess what getting back late and setting up your tent in the dark in the only free spot you see gets you? An unintended neighbour - the chicken coop, including multiple roosters, lol. Tricky little things were deadly silent in the dark, then rock concert decibels at the first hint of daylight.

I lazed about in a sleep deprived haze most of the morning watching lessons, took the ponies for a trail ride, then it was time to tack up Sophie for a lesson. Who...was absolutely wild. Uh oh. And it was HOT out so the poor thing was drenched in sweat just from stressing. I think I took for granted how good she was on our last road trip/lesson weekend, plus how good she's been this summer. I didn't think I needed to do a lot with her, and that's my mistake. Poor pony was absolutely overwhelmed with the atmosphere and was completely tuned out and a sweaty mess as soon as I pulled her out of her paddock.

OK, I know I said I didn't get any photos, but I did manage to snap this one of Sophie

I longed her, attempting to keep a quiet walk/trot with lots of direction changes and transitions to get her mind back for a good 30 minutes, but then it was time for my lesson far too soon. There was no freakin' way I was getting on the dragon. To give the clinician her due, she took one look and was like "go longe her, please don't get on, we'll just do ground work today if we have to. No big deal". Sophie, when stressed, goes into an interesting panic mode where there's a bit of 'fight' mode activated. It's really not pleasant, but also I know it's not 'her', if you know what I mean. So...there may have been an incident where she tripped on a cone while I was longeing because she was too busy gawking around, then got angry and tried to destroy said cone for getting in her way. Lovely, Sophie, lovely, way to scare the children. You really can't have any sort of pride when young horses are involved.

I did eventually end up getting on, but we just walked serpentines, poles, and figure eights, with lots of halt/walk transitions, because the urge to bolt and spook was VERY strong. She's not the type where you can burn off energy, she just gets more ramped up the faster you let her move, so a lesson in being patient and focused in the walk and finding some calm in the routine of the pattern was absolutely perfect for her on the day.

Walk felt similar to this at times. More leaping, less 4 beat. Tail/ears also representative of the weekend.

You might think I'd be incredibly disappointed with that, but I'm not. I didn't prepare her well by just assuming she'd be fine out there, plus she was legit overwhelmed and there's really nothing I could have done in the moment but take a big step back, support her and be proud of how hard she tried. She was shaking at times, poor thing, and when I got off post lesson she reverted back to fire breathing dragon. I'll take from that that I'm doing SOMETHING right and she's getting a good bit of confidence from her rider these days.

Also, winning for me. You're all aware I'm not the bravest of riders so to get on the keg of dynamite horse and trust that she was going to trust me enough to try out there was a big thing. Also, the instructor didn't give me a ton of feedback beyond assigning us exercises so I'm going to take that to mean I was doing an adequate job of managing my own mental demons and staying calm and confident in the moment.

Instructor lesson feedback: "Really good job on getting it done and giving the baby horse a good experience"

Actual river tubing area, again though, not my photo ;)

After that, a few drinks and a river floating expedition were in order. We were luckily just a five minute or so drive from a nice river - much needed given the crazy heatwave we were having, and I really needed a time out.

Then, SURPRISE! It was my birthday, which I thought was top secret, but the ladies surprised me with a cake and a mini party when we got back. So sweet of them. I was way too tired to party all night though, so off to bed (with earplugs ready this time!)


Thursday 12 August 2021

Long Weekends Part 2

 I’m so grateful to Previous Me for scheduling so much vacation time this summer. I’ve been off work again this week, enjoying the sunshine and plenty of pony time - definitely living the good life! . 

Sophie’s been hitting the trails more often than not - it’s just been so easy now that she’s so much more predictable in traffic. It’s also helped that I’m able to just hop on without longeing most days. I’ve got some thoughts brewing about why she’s so much easier these days - it’s definitely a summer vs winter thing, so I’m going to have to brainstorm ideas of how to carry this happy, easier version of S over into winter.

They love their forest paddock.

I’ve checked in with her in the ring as well, but it’s the same old basic things...going forward immediately is sometimes an issue, going forward and not being a llama also something we continue with. The forward thing is on me, when she was hot and bolt-y this past winter I was definitely shutting that down, the llama moments are just strength and balance. Progress is being made, we had a few up and down transitions last night that were lovely and balanced.

Throwback to Winter 2021 Sophie. Was “fun” to ride.

I continue to follow EC’s advice and am focusing on building up her strength and topline with lots of easy walking miles on a light contact too.

B striking a pose

I’ve started reaching out to get Sophie her “grown up” saddle. I’m hoping the County Epiphany model I tried and loved can be fitted to her. Ongoing saddle compromises haven’t been helping either of us out and I’m just feeling done with it. As with all things here, there will be travel involved to get to the fitter so I suspect this will be a longer than average process to coordinate. I joke that once it’s done it means Sophie is staying forever, but it’s kind of true...the saddle costs more than she did, lol.

Speaking of travel...surprise!...we’re off to pony camp for adults this weekend. There’s a group of us heading over to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island first thing tomorrow morning and we have lots of fun things planned, including daily lessons, of course! I’m taking Bridget and Sophie and planning to camp too, so I’m pretty excited.


Tuesday 3 August 2021

Long Weekend

 Last week was absolutely slammed from work/life perspective, so I was looking forward to a long weekend even more than I normally would. I hope to be back to a more relaxed work schedule soon, but that goal post keeps moving back. Maybe by mid fall? On the plus side, I'm banking the extra time worked (and money) for lesson days down at EC's. I will be grateful for this slog when I'm taking the ponies on a ferry cruise mid work week ;)

ANYWAY. I have been riding. I have been doing my homework (somewhat). My truck and trailer hitch were borrowed for the week, so I was trailerless, plus the main arena is super dry and dusty (and busy) so on the days I ride I've been venturing up to the trails in the early morning. I feel like hills done right are going to accomplish similar topline building goals and it's easy enough to do transitions and check in on my riding position out there too. The side effect of consistent trail miles is that my spooky pony is becoming more and more willing to check in and trust my choices in the saddle, plus I'm ever more confident in her ability to think before reacting. 

Yellow trail ears still a bit of a novelty after so many years of fuzzy bay ones.

Last week, but you get the idea.

I did sneak away and spend a few hours at the beach, (and another few at the lake) this weekend.

From a feeding perspective, the ponies have been out grazing for 8-10 hours most days this spring/summer and I've cut their feed right back. Their nighttime hay is pretty poor quality because I was looking through the lens of keeping the weight off.  But, with the lack of rain we've had and the pasture quality degrading, I think I might do well to add some extras back in for S (Bridget, is of course, thriving on it and looking like an ad for a feed company). The trick will be to balance the calories Sophie needs to work with also keeping her energy levels from becoming unmanageable.

Barn updates, you ask? That's what I've been letting slide. I'm a little stressed about it because I really want to move the horses, but much of what's left is dependent on a return of some heavy machinery - everything from the concrete needing a solid base built up first, to the water line, to the ring construction. I know once the machine gets here it will go really fast, so I've been taking a barn reno vacation. I mean, I could dig fence posts in super hard ground, or I could wait for it to rain and get the machine operator to push them in.

Nothing to see here. It's at that state where almost everything is torn apart...but it's only going to be better from here.

I added a tiny xc jump to the back field because I couldn't resist

The blue door found it's new home in the future tack room...ignore the fact nothing else around it is completed ;)