Thursday 19 May 2022

And We Wait

 I know I always say I'm busy, but this week has been just stupid. I've been dreaming of a lounger on a beach somewhere and zero responsibilities for about 6 months, but honestly I'd settle for 8 hours of solid sleep.

After my last update about the clinic that didn't go as well as I'd hoped, we packed up the trailer and sold Sophie   (just kidding!) took Bridget over the Island for her very important date. Since the ferries alone are about $400 and 4 -5 hours of life we'll never get back, it makes sense to leave her boarded there instead of traveling back and forth for multiple appointments. She'll stay close to the vet and airport until she (hopefully) is in foal. To speed things along, she has had a shot of lutalyse and will be ready for breeding tomorrow. I'm absurdly excited and anxious about this whole thing and have been checking my phone at all hours for updates. Vets honestly should consider hiring communications staff to spam everyone that has an animal in their care with non stop assurances of their wellbeing, as well as status updates and photos. I'd pay extra for that service, lol.

Bridget living her best life last week. I bring her along to hang out whenever I work on the property since she's basically a dog in pony form.

I've been away for work a bit this week too, which for whatever reason adds to my anxiety levels. After so much time working from home the office in the busier city feels a lot too people-y. It's fun seeing everyone, but I think I'm still mentally at the "meet up with a friend or two a couple of times a week and otherwise keep to myself" stage of reintroduction to the world. The weather has not been helping, we've had record setting cold and rain this spring...maybe we're just going to go straight from winter to summer? I've heard from a few people that the extra months without enough sunshine, plus the cold rainy weather has been messing with their mental health.

Anyway, back to horses. Sophie got good and drunk for had her annual check up, teeth, and vaccinations today, which, if you're keeping track, means I haven't actually ridden since that terrible ride on the weekend. (Following up with that and my current stressy self, I have some time booked with an excellent sports psychologist. I'm looking forward to seeing if it will be as big as a help as I think it might be.)

Sophie living her best life. I have never had a horse who enjoys head and neck scratches so much. I swear she smiles.

But guess what? I have vacation next week. The beach lounger thing isn't an option, but I'm hopeful for 8 hours of sleep, quite a bit of riding, and  some barn and property work completed - in that order of priority! Huge bonus if I have an in foal Bridget back home too, of course. Waiting is so hard, I am not good at it. I have serious questions about how I'm getting through the next year if I'm already finding the experience so anxiety inducing.


Sunday 15 May 2022


Just over here reminding everyone progress is non linear, and confidence wobbles happen.

Lesson weekend was a tough one. Sophie came out pretty sharp and reactive, but since that’s been our norm of late and she’s been relaxing as the ride progresses, I was in no way feeling worried or negative about it. 

Warming up, S was pretty looky at the fact there were people watching from a place I guess she doesn’t normally expect (a wood judges booth type thing), and so we walked by a couple times and said hi and I let her look. Unfortunately the next time I trotted past someone (I think) dropped something and it made a bang and scared her. We ended up tripping/falling over a nearby wooden bridge that was part of a trail obstacle left out from the working equitation clinic the weekend before, which scared her further, and finished the antics a good part of the way across the arena. In that moment, despite showing some surprising stickability and I think handling it just fine from a riding standpoint, mentally I kind of started to falter. 

Relaxing image. Ponies still have winter coats because it’s been record breaking dark, wet, and cold this spring. 

Poor Sophie’s hamster was off the wheel too, and my “she’s-reactive-but-I-can-handle-it” thoughts started to veer further towards “I Don’t Actually Have This At All” territory. I was left doing circles, figure eights, serpentines for life, in the “safe” part of the arena, we’d both start to breathe and then a new thing would set her off. 

We finished with a couple of fairly interpretive goes around a little course. It was set up to be a few sets of walk and trot poles plus a couple of jumps just set to poles on the ground. Cantering and/or deer leaping even the walk poles and spooking at the jumps and wings was the method  ( why, I don’t know…she’s well acquainted with poles and trotting through grids and crossrails, normally a great way to get her focus,  but genuinely seemed worried on the day.)

Neither of us  worried about the same jumps and poles the week prior

 I wouldn’t be honest if I said I didn’t walk away feeling pretty demoralized. My inability to get her back and consistently checked in with me was a very hard thing for me to work through. Even with an hour of time and super positive coaching, I definitely had moments where I was ready to quit and find my horses a better rider.

So, that kind of stunk. But, we move on, and of course I’ll get back on and keep trying to improve. 

Also, pony appears to have the makings of a pretty scopey jumper, so there’s that. 


Tuesday 10 May 2022

Clinic Notes

 Once again, busy, busy, busy since the last update!

Sophie’s been gradually getting less reactive and is gaining confidence back. It’s still not 100% but I think we’re on the right path. I’m at the point of freely admitting the whole sending her away for miles thing last month was more of a mistake than not, hindsight being 20/20 and all that. We’ve got a camp getaway planned for the end of summer in the interior of the province and I’m very much looking forward to getting her out myself on the open hills in some positive group outings and redeeming Sophie’s not so great experience.

In good news, we went to a clinic this past weekend that I really enjoyed. With recent struggles the help was very much needed, and we lucked out with an excellent clinician. I could only ride Saturday but I still took home a ton of new knowledge. Clinician is a very experienced eventing/dressage rider and coach, but also has a great way with words and shared a lot of training nuggets based on equitation science. She’s very adept at breaking complicated seeming things into simple solutions and explanations that make sense. I know there’s no guaranteed step by step approach to anything horses or horse training, but I dislike coaches or trainers trying to keep things mysterious (or even worse, magical) or telling you not to worry about it, you’ll understand when you get there…wherever ‘there’ is? I better understand when people are able to share solid, logical bits of knowledge or experience. This lady is very much about explaining the “why” behind her methods and how the correctly done basics now will eventually build into the bigger future.  I appreciate that.

Breaking the text wall with Sophie

With the added anxiety lately Sophie’s been leaning and pulling and her legs often feel like they are spinning at odds with her body. At times it feels like a very wobbly runaway train, so addressing that was my ask for the lesson.

Clinician started having us do lots of walk/halt/walk transitions and got after me about making them happen neater and quicker, 3 second rule to start, aiming for 1 sec response time as fair for greener horse. If result hasn’t happened in 10-15 sec you need to change the subject, the opportunity for the horse to firmly link the question with the answer is likely lost. From there she had us walk/trot/walk, then finally adjusting back and forth within the trot. Sophie surprised me by offering up extended trot here and there. Wobbly and breaking to canter now and then as you’d expect, but the name of the game was just keeping things very black and white as far as whoa and go, simply forward and back and expecting a reaction within 3 strides. A perfect exercise for Sophie since there was lots of opportunity for her to move out and burn energy so she wasn’t so frustrated and anxious about the slowing down parts.

One 8 sec video is what I’ve got for you 🙈😁

For me, I’m riding a bit defensively and I think by keeping my shoulders back and my feet forward I’m unintentionally sitting a bit heavier in the saddle, creating a driving seat and complicating things further. First time ever (normally I’m being told about tipping my shoulders forward) so fingers crossed not something that will take forever to fix.

On a general note, I have to add that there was a lot going in both in the arena and out and Sophie handled it pretty well - I’m feeling relatively confident she’s mentally got the tools now to handle a show environment. Of course our flat work has now kind of fallen apart,  but hey ;)

Mowing lawns like a champion, tho

It sounds like this clinician is happy to come back on a semi regular basis, which I’m excited about. It’s been tough trying to travel to see our old coach EC even semi regularly for coaching, but this clinician is very similar in background and approach. If I can find time and finances for semi regular visits with both I would potentially have regular coaching and they would compliment each other very nicely. Very exciting!

Upcoming we have more lessons this coming weekend, Bridget goes for her romantic getaway Monday, and Sophie gets a vet checkup and teeth/vaccinations Thursday. Pony property improvements continue.  I should probably also schedule in a midweek panic over how much I’m spending on ponies this month!