Tuesday 30 November 2021


 I'm sick of the weather, you're sick of me posting about the weather. If the sun ever does come out it will be a momentous occasion and you can be sure I'll be soaking up every bit of vitamin D and telling everyone all about it (so, I guess rain or shine, you'll be in for a weather update ;). For now, it's absolutely pouring out there again today and the conditions continue to make riding and owning horses difficult. 

B looking ever so impressed.

Friend S's ring hasn't been handling the excessive water well (really, no one's has though!) but it sounds like they're going to dig it up and redo the base in the spring. My worries about wrecking her footing are no longer valid and we're fine to do what riding and/or longeing we can in there.

G and I were talking about boarding last night. I have always felt like I am a good boarder, paying on time and respecting the property, but this winter I'm a whole new level of trying to be a good addition to the place - with it being a private property and S and her husband living there too I'm treating it better than my own and very reluctant to do anything that might speed up maintenance needs on the property or inconvenience them in any way.

Been procrastinating clipping this super hairy yak because I can just imagine the amount of hair blowing across S's property and all over her barn in this wet and windy weather. But, every time I am sure she can't be fuzzier and I can make do for the winter, I pull her blanket off and BOOM. The weird lines on her back and hindquarters? That's how plush she is, her blanket flattens it into waves.

While I'm a little frustrated to not have our own place further along, I'm also grateful for the extra time to plan things out and try to get the small details right. Last weekend I spent a silly amount of time trying to locate the gates perfectly and have them all open in the same direction. Not from some ingrained need for neatness, but because being able to take the most efficient route with the wheelbarrow and while leading horses will probably be appreciated by future me. My little tack room area is ever evolving - it's a bit of an awkward space and just when I decide on a layout or a piece of furniture I seem to change my mind :)

'Tack room is long and narrow - about 7' wide and has some awkward door and window placings.

In other news, I hit the feed store jackpot and managed to score a couple of bags of the ration balancer I needed, plus some timothy cubes. Supply issues and people panic hoarding are still a thing here so I was pretty happy/relieved to get the girls their feed for another month and to not have to change their diet or resort to feeding them even more hay between truck arrivals (hay is also a fairly precious commodity here at the best of times)

Did I ever post a pic of the finished hay storage? It was originally a 12x16 stall, and huge clean up job - someone had been living in there and there was garbage and broken glass everywhere. I put new doors on (with locks) but left the gravel floor. I have about a 12x12 space for hay. To the right of the camera is where the wheelbarrow and grain bins fit, behind it is a door to my tack room to be.

Finally, I did manage to score an appt with the vet for this Thursday so we'll get Sophie double checked and make sure all is well (bloodwork and checking for ulcers), then we have a clinic on Friday and Saturday. Should be interesting given the limited amount of riding I've been doing :)


Friday 26 November 2021

Biding Our Time

 In a couple of ways!

We're nervously awaiting a couple more storms bringing a lot more rain, so the horsey events scheduled for this weekend have been postponed. We're signed up for a clinic next weekend so I do still have some riding plans on the agenda - it's just going to be about dodging the weather.

Saddle fitting: the fitter came out, wasn't happy with Sophie's condition for her age. (Neither am I, to be fair). So, a saddle is on hold - no point spending $$$$ only to have her shape change. One quick vet consultation later and we're switching her diet up a little and are scheduled in for a couple of exams to make sure there isn't a physical reason she's eating so much and not maturing/putting on more pounds (unfortunately not until January - the logistics of getting the vet here (or Sophie to the vet) in person are complicated).

On the plus side, the vet is OK with her weight, didn't seem super concerned about how slow she is to mature and suggested just a small diet change. I am fine to keep her in work. The saddle I am currently using fits Sophie well. So, (despite feeling a bit like I am) I am in fact not doing it all wrong.

On the downside, this week has been a struggle. I took the fitter's feedback to heart and was pretty upset. I know she meant well and I respect her for saying it, but getting weight, topline, and muscle on this pony is a real struggle and something I thought I was making progress with. 

Anyway, we have a plan and onwards we go!


Tuesday 23 November 2021

Staying Dry

Logic should have told us the amounts of rain we’ve been seeing would eventually cause damage, but I don’t think anyone foresaw just how catastrophic it would end up being. 

Where I live was just outside the worst latest storm’s path so we are fine, but our friends just to the south weren’t so lucky - the regional gov't I work for is in a state of emergency due to flooding, mudslides, and washed out roads and utility lines. They’re comparatively very lucky compared to other areas, though. The bigger area situation is just heartbreaking and beyond me to recap here. On a horse specific note though, the rescues shared online are incredible. The local media has been showing people in boats helping cows and horses swim out, fire departments getting ingenious lifting them out of sinkholes, and even a few airlifted to safety via helicopter.

I saw a video with some cows getting flown out in cargo nets - if we filled the cargo net with hay like a round bale net B would happily hop in the middle and fly anywhere!

The worst we have to contend with here is some grocery and fuel shortages due to the highway and rail routes to the coast being flooded or destroyed. I was OK with that until yesterday, when I had a moment. The feed store is out of the things I feed (alfalfa hay cubes, timothy hay, grain) and not likely to be restocked for 3 weeks. Why? Apparently people panic buying and hoarding. I found that pretty discouraging and frustrating - not an understandable supply chain issue but a 'people being selfish' issue.

I’m grateful to have a barn full of hay (feeding Sophie just local hay isn't ideal, but I can up her ration and I do have a tub of vitamins that should get me through - we're still luckier than some, right?) 

Local hay is already Bridget's main diet, and I'm appreciative of that.

 The forecast is for yet more intense storms coming in tomorrow through to Sunday, so keep your fingers crossed for everyone, particularly those south of us.

I haven’t ridden this week - my work has been going late and it’s dark out extra early with the grey and miserable days. We tried to book the indoor arena for a regular weeknight rides, but it seems everyone else had the same thought and we weren't able to come up with a free time that worked for us. Outdoors it is!

Feels like I've been making headway on her weight and topline so I'm trying not to panic.

On the weekend, I did some roof and gutter fixes to our little barn, plus redid the perimeter drainage - and dug in some culverts - there was a large amount of water running through my barn for a while there! I’m grateful the horses hadn’t moved in yet and my hay is up off the ground! Also grateful that where they currently are boarded is overengineered as far as drainage and surfaces, so my horses have been high and dry all winter. I’d hate to think about how deep in water and mud we would have been elsewhere. Always so many silver linings to be found, right?

In a further good news/bad news situations, my husband’s work is shut down due to the current supply chain issues and inability to transport their product out. But, guess who suddenly has lots of time to put in new fences and help with the barn renos? He's pretty epic at fencing. We're getting enjoyment over that : "I redid the south fence line yesterday" in a farmer/rancher voice sounds pretty major if we don't mention it's 1 acre and literally 12 fence posts ;)

Anyway, a happy little before and after - I finally got my new tack room wall up and door hung this week:

The sliding door is a win as far as space goes - lots more storage!

 If nothing else the last couple of weeks have been a good learning experience for what we need on our property as far as improved drainage (and feed storage). It's been a good reminder to have a plan in case of emergency and that being a little more self sufficient here is never a bad thing. 

I've been looking hard at outdoor lighting - I'm hoping this time next year my ring will be in and I'll have some form of lighting to be able to ride after dark. Being able to ride every day after I get off work will be a game changer - currently I am limited to 2 weekdays.

Stay dry, everyone!


Monday 15 November 2021

Weekly Happenings

 The awful weather trend continues, but I’ve settled in to my easy winter work schedule and am motivated to ride. I got Sophie out for 3 rainy rides and one longe this past week. 

She doesn't love hanging out in the rain (the stalls at the arena aren't covered) but she's not dramatic about it at least.

She’s currently so hairy. I don’t know why she grows such a horrible winter coat. I think it seems more genetic than management related. Imagine your fine haired TB had the quantity coat a Shetland would and that’s where we’re at...despite our mild winters it’s super long and fine and prone to matting and nastiness under her belly and between her legs. I was hoping to not have to clip this year given she’s not in daily work and living outside (with a blanket and a shelter) but I think I’ll have to.

Pictures surprisingly don't convey the amount of hair. You'll have to trust me.

Rides are going well. I still struggle with her tendency to be a banana to the right. It’s hard work,  but that’s standard baby stuff. She’s very good about keeping on the path I put her at the speed I ask, so we do have a couple of the basics solid these days.

Single longeing pic because it's too wet to bring out the nice camera for any length of time.

She still feels happy to work and comes out relaxed and confident, which is again a huge improvement.

I’ve been adding in some trot poles and a bit of canter again. The canter transition is still very green and often includes a big buck, but it’s getting better. Trot poles are a piece of cake, so I’ve started moving them in and out and putting them on curves. She’s getting great about going forward or coming back in balance.

Walk/trot/walk, walk/halt/walk transitions are really coming along. I’d say I’m very happy with what she offers 50% of the time, and the rest is always a “me” thing, solved by setting her up a little more or riding it more accurately.

Lateral work basics are all there - leg yields, spirals, moving front and hind independently, changing bend. It’s just a matter of practice and putting the pieces together now so it flows better and the tempo doesn’t vary. 

From a couple of weeks ago, sorry I am short on media :)

I actually feel a little guilty when I write out these little progress updates. She finds things so much easier than B and is naturally so much more agreeable, balanced, and forward that I almost feel like I’m cheating somehow. Don’t get me wrong, we are still decidedly average and I’m putting in hours of work, but it’s not nearly the level of effort or dedication I’ve felt was normal up to now. To be fair, perhaps as a rider I’ve learned a little and am better at explaining things these days, but S still picks things up at light speed and finds them easy compared to poor B. Lateral work with B was literal years in the making to get to where Sophie is in a couple of months. Sophie already is much simpler to keep together and softer than B in all gaits and transitions too. 

The obvious gaping hole right now is the canter, but that will come. Her canter is huge for such a small horse and the slow progress is a strength/confidence thing rather than a mechanics or willingness thing. I actually backed off completely a few months ago after she had a time out to mature, and only reintroduced it regularly a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to loosely follow what we did with a Bridget and use walk and trot exercises to build the strength and coordination. For now we canter only for short periods and focus on quality over quantity, quitting well before it falls apart. Unlike B, she’s got a really nice canter naturally and a big desire to please, so I’m happy to not mess with it.

Upcoming: we finally have a saddle fitter coming next week and I’m hoping to get the dressage saddle sorted for us (if I go custom that obviously means she’s never to be sold and staying forever, lol) plus some ideas for a used jump(!) saddle. Two weekends from now we’ve got a weekend dressage clinic. I’ve booked private lessons this time in hopes of getting plenty of winter homework.

Attempting photos for saddle fitter so she can bring some samples that might work

In short, it’s going well, and I’m happy! 


Monday 8 November 2021

Wild Weather (with a side of riding)

 The weather has been horrible this fall. Every second day we have some kind of wind/rain/storm advisory - a couple of days ago we even had waterspout/tornado warnings, which is just plain weird. The remainder of the time it seems like wet and windy is the name of the game. The lakes and streams are overflowing, the ground is saturated, and it's generally very unpleasant out there with the winter temperatures just above freezing combined with the rain and wind. I'm game to ride in the rain (you kind of have to be to live here) but what I wouldn't give for even one dry day! Add in the time change so it's dark at 5 if the sun's out, 4ish if it's cloudy, and the loss of a favorite garden tree to the wind and wet, and I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied.

Really? I thought earthquakes were our potentially catastrophic 'thing'. Now we need to add forest fires and tornados.

G and I have been looking elsewhere (NS being a top choice) and pondering a big move for a while, so we spent some time hiding inside perusing real estate this weekend. I realize there are actual winters and weather events elsewhere, but I'm kind of done with the 8 months of rain we call fall/winter/spring here. Plus, it's fun to dream of all the spare cash we'd have - prices in most parts of Canada, even in bigger centers, are maybe a third of what they are here currently, cost of living (taxes, utilities, gas, groceries, etc) is usually far less too. Nice farm with personal indoor riding arena, here I come, lol :)

Hello yes, I would love to own this lakefront hobby farm with cool house and barns, plus have a few hundred grand left over for fun things.

Don't worry, though, it's not been all sitting around complaining and dreaming of nicer days - I did do some horse blog worthy things this last week!

We had planned to ride nearly every day, but the weather got the best of us as far as hitting the trails (it's just too dangerous with the falling trees and branches in the winds) so longeing has been my go to at the barn. I trailered down to the indoor in desperation mid week, but a group had it booked last minute and it was already dark out, plus the outdoor is flooded anyway, so no ride. On the plus side, Sophie trailered super well all on her own and was entirely sensible given how noisy it was in there with the wind and rain pummeling us. She was so good we stopped and did some grocery shopping on the way home while she happily stayed cozy and ate her hay net.

Between being soaking wet and filling hay nets - this was the state of me. One day maybe G will find someone who looks civilized to hang out with. Until that day, he gets to go grocery shopping with half a bale of hay and a trail of mud following him.

The following day, inspired by Emma, I cleaned up the trailer and all my tack/gear. The trailer right now currently serves as my tack room and daily hay/feed storage so it gets messy pretty quickly. I want to get a battery installed in the trailer to run the lights without having the truck hooked up, but for now I put in some LED light strings to tide me over and they're great - I'm going to leave them as a fun alternate light source even after the 'real' lights are hooked up permanently.

Tack room, it's just a USB powered light string running off a power bank at the tack room light switch. I got all 'fancy' in the horse side, their lights have a remote and sync to music and change colors if you like. No real purpose to that, mostly just thought it might be funny for camping ;)

FINALLY, I got out for a ride on the weekend. The weather was again horrible, but this time the indoor was there invitingly empty, so off I went in there.

And, umm, at 3:45pm it was this dark given the gross weather. The lights ARE older in there - but to be fair it seemed dim and shadowy but not this dark IRL.

I had A LOT of pony. I hadn't ridden in a week, she'd been cooped up in her pen for most of it, and it had been months since she'd been in the indoor (and I don't think she'd ever been in there alone). Last year I would have just longed or at a minimum been very anxious about getting on. I was so fed up with not being able to ride, though, that I just crossed my fingers and hopped on, and guess what? It was FINE. There were some minor antics and silly spooking, but I put her into a big trot right away and she happily got to work. I had no real brakes for a while, but neither did I overly feel like I was been run off with - she just wanted a nice forward, expressive trot and didn't really deviate from that if I left her alone. Honestly, it probably would have scored quite well in a dressage test and since she's often a little disinclined to be really forward (and I have a history of not being brave enough to really allow it when offered), I just let it be rather than fussing with making her come back when she got too flat or rushy here and there. Let the exercise (serpentines, circles, and spirals in this case) do the work for you and all that.

Quite brave, really, in this dark indoor with the wind blowing through the open bits.

So, that was a fun experiment and a real positive out of all the struggles with weather. I CAN hop on with minimal prep and some time off. She's probably not going to mess around being super silly anymore - just give her a job and we'll be fine. I feel like we're turning the corner as far as partnership goes. She's not so much of a baby anymore and there are enough buttons installed that I can give her a variety of jobs to do. I trust her more to make good decisions, plus she's slowed down mentally a bit and thinks before acting. She checks in and trusts me to take care of anything she's concerned about. That's not necessarily measurable progress, but I think it's the most important thing we can have going for us and a great building block for all the more quantitative things.

This post is super long already, but G came along and watched us and brought up an interesting point. "Bridget would have tossed you if she was that excited, but Sophie just looked like she wanted you to make her work" I could only agree. He carried on: "Bridget always does the same move, it's like the most efficient way of making you fall off and it looks intentional.  I know you don't always trust her but Sophie always looks like she's trying to do what you want. Even when she's being extra dramatic I'm never worried for you." True story. Despite her silly, mare-ish exterior, she's never once been anything less than 100% honest and ready to work when we get right down to it. Sometimes the husband has great horsey insights.

B is the cutest and can do all the things, but when she's in a 'mood' and says no, all bets are off and she can be VERY naughty.

Also why my go-to with an excitable horse is not normally to just hop on - Bridget has trained me well in the darker side of ponies, it seems ;)


Monday 1 November 2021

Plans for Remainder of 2021

 It sure feels weird to consider there are only two months left in 2021! It hit home when I signed up for the next monthly clinic and the dates were December ones! What!?

My riding friends are mostly all saying they're going to take a break through all or part of December and January, which I totally get. The weather's iffy, it gets dark so early, and the holidays are a busy time for most.

Pre Halloween ride. The running joke...those who know me know hair and makeup aren't things I do, it's probably an annual thing at this point. To some people's amusement I happened to civilized on the day people would normally dress up, "great costume, barely recognized you..." lol

Anyway, time off sounds nice, but I'm not sure that's a good idea for Sophie. Plus, I guess I'm weird, but often our winters are when I ride the most. I think in summer there are so many other outdoor activities, where in winter it's basically just hiking or riding for me.

Bridget won't have a real 'job' until next spring, so she can keep being trail pony deluxe and official manners enforcer for Sophie until then. 

Best Pony

Sophie, though. I feel like I have so much to do this winter, and we all know how well time off for her goes anyway!

Not in work Winter Sophie = this at Level 100. I top out around Level 2 on my (completely made up) pony sass level chart. 

So, we have continued weekend adventures planned to the club grounds for November.

We have a dressage clinic Dec 3/4.

Oops again on the camera settings. Her trot work, when she is not annoyed by me, is actually quite cute more often than not now. Canter is needing much work, and non grumpy up transitions are a work in progress many days (She puts me on 'ignore', then how DARE I touch her!).

Leg on, ears pinned, mare 'tude flag flying high. We're sure to get great marks ;)

I am finally back on my nice work schedule with free time during the week to ride. I also have 10 days off work at the end of December AND I own a horse trailer now, so the plan is to keep her ticking over all winter (hopefully with a side of progress!)

Plus, let's not forget I have my own place I'm supposed to be working on. With Friend S and I being so happy with the current situation, there's been no pressure to get my place done so I let it slide when the weather was absolutely horrible this fall and the machine we book broke down. What will be, will be, we'll get back at if the ground dries out sufficiently this winter, otherwise we are now looking at spring for arena building and water line installs. I did hear a rumor I am getting a load of flagstones and fir beams delivered as an early Christmas present and I excited to get to work on that.

As always, the big picture plans remain the same. Bridget is booked for breeding next spring, Sophie I would love to get out to do some training level dressage tests and maybe a tiny xc or jumping clinic as our next steps.