Wednesday 29 December 2021

2021 Recap

How on earth is it so nearly 2022? I started writing this feeling pretty dismayed by how little I felt like I changed or accomplished this year. Then I started looking back through my posts and tried to be fair to myself. We got a lot done! 


Was a slower month. The weather was not in my favor, and the boarding situation I was in at the time meant the day to day chores took up literal hours. I called time out on keeping Sophie in work and Bridget got the most of my riding time. I also was busy planning and scheming for baby Bridgets and finalized breeding plans for spring.


We had a couple of weeks of uncharacteristic snow. Sophie went wild, as did B. I had a couple of minor falls off a feeling way to good B, Sophie continued having time off to grow. The struggle continued with the boarding barn and lack of daylight/time to ride.


I bought a trailer! Finally!

Sophie continued to be a wild child, and I enlisted help getting her back into work. After a couple of bad falls and a rough go of winter, my confidence was at an all time low and those baby pony miles were not coming easy to me.

Seems safe

I got back in the swing of things by putting a ton of hours on B, and then finally felt confident enough to get Sophie out and about on the trails solo. Plus, I decided enough of boarding, the horses are moving home! 

Exciting day, rediscovering my old barn back there in all the brambles.

I spent so much of my free time working on the barn. A fresh coat of paint for the whole thing, and then these signs I love arrived:

The ponies also got quite a bit of time out and about including some baby ring rides for Sophie and quite a few trail outings. A sad update for B in that with the Covid situation, getting her over to the vet and bred this year wasn't practical, so we rescheduled for 2022.


The month of the Heat Dome. Crazy hot like we've never seen and the horses were suffering. I hope we never see that again! After that passed, I continued working away on the property and the barn, and even managed to get both ponies to a clinic for lessons.

Practicing our future dressage pony halt at x

The fun thing for this month was that we took a 3 day trip down to my old coach's place and had some lessons. I needed the boot camp and came away with a lot more confidence in myself (and Sophie)


Another fun away trip. This time camping and lessons on Vancouver Island mid month. Sophie was super spicy and I didn't get a lot out of it, but all good experience for the pony. We did have an epic time floating in the river, camping, and having fun with the crew. We're definitely making this an annual event.

Off we go for an adventure!

The month ended on a bit of a sour note when I moved from our boarding situation, but luckily I had a friend ready to take us in.


So much fun was had. I swear friend S and I were reliving our youth and riding every day. We've been friends since we met at a barn (of course) when we were about 10, but of course life has interrupted me the last 10 or so years with traveling around for work etc. Definitely a huge silver lining to be boarding at her place and have the ability to ride together whenever we like!

Helped by the beautiful weather and epic trails in her neck of the woods.

I really started to notice a difference in Sophie. All that riding started turning her into a pretty reliable mount. Who knew? She suddenly seemed mentally more mature too. We had some excellent rides and even a try at a working equitation clinic. After a summer of walk/trot to build up strength, we reintroduced bits of canter with far less drama - a wise decision!


Came with more than a few challenges. Horse wise, we were still getting out to the arena regularly, but the weather was again record breaking awful and we were flooded and/or rained out often. Luckily our area got off comparatively lucky, but November felt like a friendly reminder of all the reasons I wouldn't mind living elsewhere :) I continue to be appreciative of friend S's hospitality, though - I got a definite upgrade in the boarding department this winter and as a result I enjoy my barn time again.


The beginning of December was rough. My husband had a serious medical emergency AND lost his job, plus we were still dealing with fallout from the flooding. But, I did get in one excellent riding lesson with Sophie before I threw my hands up in the air, gave the ponies a two week vacation, and retreated into getting all my year end work done. Since then, it’s snowed, hugely. Anywhere else in Canada that probably wouldn’t affect anything, but they’re not super equipped for it here. So, a much quieter month than expected. We got some of Sophie’s vet report back and I’m opting to give her a bit more time off riding anyway, while we see if feed and vitamin adjustments help.

The snow made a very pretty Xmas morning


A quieter year, but I'm proud that I managed to get monthly clinics in, plus a couple of away camps in the year of insane weather and Covid. The new trailer was a definite win and made getting places so much less stressful. The biggest win was Sophie - I'm so happy with where we've finished with her and glad I was patient and have taken my time. I've also got my confidence back, which feels like a big deal, despite it being one of those things that just took a little effort every day.


Wednesday 22 December 2021


 Sophie's blood work came back and with me being a "they really just need plenty of good hay and an appropriate amount of ration balancer" person,  I learned a few things.

Here I am sharing in case it helps someone else out.

Sophie's Vit E levels came back very low, and zinc levels were on the low side. As per the vet this means:  

 "Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, essential in tissue/skin/fur/foot growth and repair, normal nerve and immune function. It is plentiful in fresh grass but degrades very rapidly in all forms of cut/dried forages, therefore almost always requires supplementation in horses since unlike other vitamins, they cannot make it themselves. She is also low in zinc, which also plays an important role alongside vitamin E for normal growth/repair and function. Deficiencies in Vitamin E and/or Zinc commonly present themselves as poor/abnormal coat and hoof growth, neurological deficits and/or muscle weakness."

Well, that all adds up, doesn't it? 

Two of my big questions: "Why is she not gaining more weight or topline given the amount of food she is consuming?" "Why is her winter coat so excessive?" 

I was previously adding a 'complete' pelleted feed with her hay, as well as a vit/min supplement at the high end of the recommended intake for a horse her size. On the vet's suggestion, a few weeks ago I substituted a ration balancer for those two items as it's higher protein/fat. We've upped the ration balancer a little further to account for the zinc needed.

That leaves the vitamin E. The best place for horses to get vitamin E is in fresh, green, spring pasture. That's a difficult thing to do mid winter. 

Hay can provide some, but the vitamin content goes down drastically as the hay ages, so by this time of year your spring cut hay is very likely not providing much at all. If your hay was a later cut or the quality wasn't great to start with, you definitely need another source of Vit E.

Googling tells me that the ration balancers and generic vitamin/mineral supplements available to me here don't have the amounts needed to overcome a deficit, they're more on the minimum baseline level. 

I'm reading that in the wild, horses would have a surplus coming into winter, and gradually use those reserves until spring, so it's somewhat normal for amounts to fluctuate through the year. Many horses have low amounts at any given time but don't show any clinical symptoms.

I think I hit the worst case scenario - we had a drought all summer so the pasture wasn't overly rich, my hay was also harvested in similar conditions, and then we moved and Sophie lost a bit of weight, so came off fall pasture a bit underweight. She'd likely had already used up whatever she had acquired in the spring. With normal vitamin mixes just providing a minimum healthy amount, we weren't ever going to catch up and no matter how much forage I feed it would have never been adequate.

Not the best pasture even in the best of times - I was thinking it's perfect for ponies, but I'm now aware I can't rely on this type of pasture to provide enough for S without keeping her on the higher end of supplementation.

So, that's where we're at. We're going to give a vet prescribed Vit E supplement a go for a couple of months and redo her bloodwork. There is still a good possibility there is more going on affecting her weight and ability to process her food effectively, so unless there is a drastic change we'll likely proceed with scoping for ulcers at that point as well.

Here's a link to an article that I thought provided a helpful overview of vitamin E in a horse's diet, even though some of the references to supply chain issues are likely not relevant anymore.


Tuesday 21 December 2021

Holiday Ready

 And by that title I mean ready for a break from work, not that I’m in any way ready for seasonal celebrations ;)

December kind of beat me up a little, but on the plus side I put in so much overtime at work that I’ve only got to show up one more half day between now and the new year. Which is good, because Sophie’s had two weeks off at this point and is feeling pretty fantastic. This is normally the time of year the ponies get a couple of weeks (or even up to a month) off so it's not unexpected. The days are short and usually  I am working like crazy to get things done for year's end, or I'm away on a vacation myself.

I've longed them both the last 2/3 days, in hopes of reminding them to be civilized.

There is a pathway going up the side of the area we longe in - I was admittedly distracted trying to take pictures while longeing and Sophie hopped up and cantered up the long 'ramp', She jumped off the bank where the arrow is. Then I think thought it was fun and has continued to try to escape over there to attempt some xc ever since.

You know who's been completely awful though? This monster:

We love you B, but you are not to be trusted. 
OK, that pic was a little mean, here's a nicer one.

I'm actually a little nervous to hop on her - she's absolutely full of it and has years of experience being a crafty, devious pony. Plus when she's in a mood it's like sitting on a giant bouncy ball. There is no neck in front of you and really nowhere to sit at the best of times. Luckily she's normally happy to roll along and be a good girl, but I'm kind of dreading the initial ride back - B has a couple of patented moves I can't sit and she knows how to use them. Good thing she's cute and fun.

Working hard on her beach ball body

I'm excited to get back to a light winter schedule with Sophie and I think she'll be happy to get back to work too. She's gaining weight slowly but surely (yay!) but unfortunately the alfalfa cubes make her a very spicy tamale. 
"Who, me?"

I'm slowly learning a spicy Sophie does not equal a spicy Bridget, though - she's a lot more honest and so far the increased energy means she just puts 'extra' into whatever you ask. That may be an inherent character thing, or just that I've made less mistakes so far and she just hasn't learned how to Pony yet ;) I struggled with her energy levels last winter, but fingers crossed I feel like this year she's educated enough that I can direct that energy better and she's a lot more confident about it.

And yes, she's sporting another terrible looking clip job. My lines are actually straight this time and tracks are minimal, but the rest of her coat is so long it makes the boundaries look ragged. In another boarding situation I'd probably just opt for a full clip and be done with it.

Anyway, Happy Solstice! Here's to increased daylight and ramping up for 2022 with ever increasing time to ride!

Backyard Stonehenge. The sunset aligns with our trail this time of year. This is from 4pm last night...if the weather stays clear I'll try to get a proper sunset shot down the trail.


Thursday 9 December 2021

Slightly More Detailed Pony Update

 With all the bigger picture things going on, I've kind of been slacking on the in depth pony status updates. Which, for my lovely readers is probably just fine :) For my future self, though, I do like to keep more detailed notes and thoughts here to refer back to later.


Riding was limited last week due to weather and general chaos. 

I've been trying to take a long lunch break and exercise her while it's light out, but my plans still get cancelled when it's raining really hard. This was a 'stay warm and dry in the truck while Sophie just eats lunch' day :)

I've been good about longeing, but with limited daylight hours, I have been not good about tacking up and using side reins. My gut says that's not a huge deal - I think they've served their purpose. She's got a pretty good idea of where her feet and balance needs to be these days. She spends most of her time using her body well or stretching without the reminder of side reins or vienna reins. If she goes back to wanting to be inverted and holding herself like a giraffe, I'll revisit. For now she still lacks balance in the canter but it's coming.

pre ride longe

Clinic - as mentioned, went very well. We had a very similar lesson as last time. A lot of walk/trot transitions and back and forth in the gaits, followed by some leg yield exercises, followed by a little 'jump' course that was just poles and grids on the ground. She's absolutely fine with poles, but I am guilty of just trotting over random ones if someone else sets them, they're not something I set up or regularly work her over. Even so, she was a lot more confident with distances that didn't quite work for her and way more willing to adjust and figure it out. I think she'd probably be a careful little jumper if I ever went that direction.

In general, she was very spicy and forward and leaning on me, which took a lot of getting used to. She's normally very light in the contact and while forward, it's in a rhythm, not dragging you and accelerating. So, I feel like I got too handsy as she was blowing off my seat and running through me. In other circumstances I would have gone back to transitions and spirals, but this was a good experience - it was good to know where the holes are (I may have resorted to using the fence a few times to stop her).

We finished with a little canter and zero bucking into it. So, that was exciting. Unfortunately I had to miss the second day, but maybe it's just as well - she felt very tired by the end of day 1.

I got so many great shots of my friends riding, but haven't been pulling out the fancy camera and lens for myself. I need to do that!

Vet: We're waiting on more bloodwork to come back. The basic results were normal but we're waiting on a mineral panel too. Vet agreed she's not looking as well as she should be, especially given what I'm feeding. She's also very low on energy as compared to last year. While I appreciate quiet and well behaved, I'm not entirely sure that's who she really is. So she's likely not feeling the best and probably not using her food efficiently, but it could be for any number of reasons. The vet mentioned that with these gradual changes it's often it's a combination of small things rather than one specific big fix, so we start with the easy things (higher protein diet, blood work, mineral panel) then progress. We're currently trying new grain and a supplement for a month, then if the lab results come back normal and she still hasn't made improvements we'll likely investigate ulcers.

I bought a hay net that holds a whole bale and put it up today so hopefully she'll never run out of hay. BUT with Bridget accessing it too, I'm a bit skeptical this is a good idea (or that it will even last 24hrs).

I was given this to try, too. It's active ingredient is spirulina, which I was also feeding Sophie. She finds this much more palatable, but it is also 2x the price for equivalent grams/day of plain spirulina so unless it works miracles I'll have some reservations about using it long term :)


I just haven't had time and daylight to keep two horses in work. Thank goodness for the Bridgets of the world who happily go for a ride whenever you can fit them in. I miss her and feel guilty about letting her sit, but she seems pretty happy to just eat dinner and be groomed most days. I cross my fingers next winter we'll have a lighted riding space and this won't be a thing.

Was pretty excited for the giant hay net. May need a grazing muzzle before this experiment ends.

More interested in flirting with her neighbour, of course. Not like she's stressing me out by being thin or anything ;)


Monday 6 December 2021

It Was A Week

 This is my all-things-equine-related thought space, but of course life outside the horses heavily influences progress, perspective, and enjoyment in my hobbies. 

This has been a tough couple of years, and I’m proud that things are coming together regardless of that. Yes, we could be further ahead, yes it would be optimal to have lessons and other equine services available to us more frequently, but we make small gains anyway, and bit by little bit change happens.

This past week was a bit typical. With all the flooding and continued supply chain issues, my husband was laid off his job. Then, this week, they announced they were shutting down permanently (after 100+ years running). He’s fine, he’ll just retire early and maybe do something else for a bit, but it’s a big blow to this community. 

The vet came the following day, but was running late for the ferry so she literally was there for about 5 minutes to pull blood. So no big immediate answers, but then again, I wasn’t expecting any. Do I cross fingers the bloodwork comes back with something? Not sure :) She left me with a sample muscle building supplement to try, and I’m excited to see if it helps. 

Friday, we went to our clinic and Sophie was SPICY. I wasn’t happy with how I rode. I am not used to not having brakes and it seems I haven’t installed them overly well! The temptation to pull back against her was strong. She was fantastic, however, and there was definite progress in all things since our last clinic. Such a good pony and I’m so proud of her. 

To add to the country song theme of this post, look! No tall boots. Lol, the zippers both broke just before my lesson because that’s how the universe works sometimes (or more likely because it was very cold out and the metal was already tired ;)

Just one big spook at that root beer jump standard - she hates it plus it seems to frequently change locations so it’s extra scary :)

Throughout the week, G wasn’t feeling well, and finally on Saturday it was decided he needed to be on Vancouver Island for an emergency procedure. We do have a hospital here, but it’s limited. The reality, though, of having an hour to get from the riding clinic, get the horses sorted, our things packed for overnight, grab G, and try to get to the only available ferry? Then a 90 min sailing with a very ill G before we can even drive to the emergency dept? Such a helpless feeling. That feeling of frustration has already been circling around with trying to get any support for the horses (hay, feed, farrier, vet, saddle fitter, instructors, all come from outside the area) but having minimal medical support for my husband is where I apparently break.

He’s now home and recuperating, but riding time is cancelled for the next few days so I can keep an eye on him. We’ve had snow this morning anyway so I plan to put up some Christmas lights and spend some quality time with G at home.