Thursday 28 July 2022

Let's Just See

 Bridget's coming back feeling GOOD. 

I mean, the wiggly pony with less than desirable coordination is still very much alive and well and all the things we used to work on are still there waiting.  Two years of mostly trail riding on a loose rein followed by 3 months off didn't magically create an upper level dressage pony.

But, she's feeling very sound and strong. Mentally, she's night and day from a few years ago. 

Long term readers will recall she used to often be worryingly dull and uninterested in working (or much of anything, really) many days. 'Predictably Unpredictable' I think I used to call her because some days she'd come out ready to work, but the majority of days I never did find the key to getting her to fully participate. In my defense, she came to me that way and vastly improved with all the lessons and help we had, but I was constantly feeling like we were missing something NQR with her and I was letting her down, whether it was mental, physical, training program, my riding and management, or a combination of it all. Maybe she's simply not a 5-6 day a week riding pony. I truly don't pretend to know what is/was wrong even now, I just know on her 'on' days we had the most fun ever and that's what kept me going all that time before I finally just decided enough was enough.

With hindsight being 20/20 and slowly figuring out that there's a super energetic, fun, curious pony under there, there are obviously a lot of decisions with her and ideas I had about her personality and work ethic when I first had her that I've love to go back and have a re-do for. 

With B reverting to main riding pony this summer it looks like this is my chance for that re-do. I don't pretend to know everything that's working for her now vs then, so my expectations aren't high. I certainly have no plans beyond continuing to do my best by her. I'm really curious to see if a more ES based training approach will be helpful, but mostly I'm going to just keep doing what we've been doing the last 2 years as the vast majority of the 'plan'.  

Bribery via super lush grazing

Sorry for the ramble - I find this whole thing so fascinating, but I'm very much figuring it out as I go and putting it on a page helps. Glimpses of the 'dream pony' were under there all along, so I'm not hugely surprised that with the right combination of things B is not at all the dull and quiet pony she first came advertised as. Funny though how with the lack of expectations or focus on her she's really come out of her shell. Perhaps we can add that because I thought she was a certain way... she was? to my list of possible things that originally weren't quite working for us.

Current barn status from the back...we're there working for at least an hour or two before and after work but B works extra hard supervising every detail.

Perhaps it's possible to have Happy Sound Bridget and the odd small competition or advancement, perhaps not. We'll just see...right now she's saying she wants to do more again. I happen to already have some adventures booked and paid for with Sophie in mind, so let's go see what that looks like this summer with B instead :)

One of those adventures is a xc clinic next week. This should be interesting!


Monday 25 July 2022

Maybe, Just Maybe

 What a year it’s been for me to feel superstitious about declaring my (very average) plans here.

But, probably I need to start talking - explanation and context is likely required otherwise you’ll likely be wondering what happened to Sophie? And why all the upcoming Bridget media?

As a bit of a status update…my property is not quite ready for the likes of Sophie. To be fair, it’s not quite ready for the majority of horses, but Bridget is happy to accept things like fence lines that are more suggestion than reality.  Sophie’s boarded out about a 45 min drive from Bridget, living in a herd of horses, happy as anything, looking fantastic.

Is that temporary fence wire even electric? She’s convinced it is and that’s what matters. A certain blonde pony would have tested this particular puzzle on Day 1. 

Current circumstances have pushed the start of the ring and the additional pony shelter at our place closer towards the end of September. That seems like the logical time deadline move Sophie home and put her back to work. 

Until then, I have easy access to a Bridget and lots of neighborhood roads to ride her on.

Oh, and I have several things upcoming I signed Sophie up for before I got sick, Sophie got moved, and the property got so far behind. You might guess where this is going.

The bay ears have been officially drafted to the A Team, and are currently getting a lot of extra walking for fitness miles.

All of it is actually a huge blessing in disguise. 6 weeks off and still not feeling super great has a noticeable effect in the saddle… I feel less secure, tire easily and am weaker in general. With that, my confidence isn’t at an all time high. Early days back I was very much at B’s mercy should she have got any ideas, thankfully she kept all her feet where they needed to be. I couldn’t be more grateful that she’s coming back happy and sound. Although she’s quite fresh and keen, she’s definitely a comfortable, happy place for me. We’re both rapidly getting fitter and I’m already back in a far better mindset. 

So, since things are starting to happen pretty rapid fire this week, I might as well tell you - regular Monday lessons start today. My old coach EC is coming up to visit and teach us Friday. Next Wednesday we leave for a week long camping trip to Vancouver Island…that also includes daily lessons and lots of fun events planned. 

A pony in the backyard is probably never going to get old.



Friday 22 July 2022

Blog List Updates

 I'm just doing some website housekeeping and noticed my old 'Rainy Day Reading' blog list wasn't updating reliably anymore. Then (of course!) I managed to completely break it. 

So...please, if you're a reader here and/or you've got a horsey blog that isn't on my new list let me know. I'd love to read some new blogs and I for sure didn't mean to intentionally ghost any of you who used to be there!



Tuesday 19 July 2022

Full Speed Ahead

 Well, maybe not *full* speed, but moderately paced doesn't have the same ring to it. After the last month of feeling sick and sorry for myself and doing exciting things like sleeping 16 hours a day, going back to a moderately paced average week feels hectic and exhausting. But never mind that, I'm just thrilled to be back out riding, puttering away at the property, and catching up with friends (for now, let's pretend I don't have a job, the less said about the backlog I've accumulated at work with the better part of a month off, the better ;)

Here, have a Sophie picture

Bridget has been pretty wild, although I know her so well I feel pretty safe up there. Despite all the snorting, prancing, and humping her back, she's not one to spook or bolt off or generally endanger herself or her rider out on a hack. Cantering and jumping would be putting my life at risk at the moment, but I'd like another week of walk/trot before we get back to a bit of that anyway. Last week I did 20-30 minutes of walking under saddle each day, this week I'll add in trot and maybe a bit of canter towards the end. She feels very strong and energetic, but I'm cautious not only because she's reverted to a semi feral state - three months off would have done nothing for her under saddle fitness and I don't want to risk straining or injuring anything via doing too much too soon.

B living her best life in the backyard :)

But also not so subtly hinting she'd like her stall in the barn finished already! We're so close, Bridget.

Sophie, on the other hand, has been not wild. Her farrier appt somehow coincided with a hay delivery at the barn, and an excavator working on the other side of the fence. She stood quietly over by the parking and was a total pro - big win for a pony who normally has trouble standing still and not fidgeting/getting distracted long enough for one foot, let alone all four. I got a message a few days ago asking if I'd bring her for use in an Equitation Science demo. They were looking for a quicker thinking, higher energy, distractable horse and somehow the organizers thought of Sophie? lol. So of course I said yes, dragged her out of the field after 6 weeks of doing nothing, took her to the fair grounds and expected her to deliver on those requirements. And of course she yawned and slept and was super dull and basically acted like Opposite Sophie with a load of tranquilizers on board. The one time she had a free pass to be 110% Sophie and she was like "no, nevermind" and didn't put a foot wrong. I felt a bit sorry for the clinician because adding to that, apparently a lot of the groundwork I do mirrors the ES teachings so Sophie just did the thing and there wasn't much in the way of a demo of how to train.

Banana Pony is consistently inconsistent. She lets her feelings be known and it's always to the extreme - this weekend we must have interrupted nap time in a big way.

On the ES subject, there is a lot I really like about it. If you've had horses a long time or had a good mentor I think a lot of it is things you might have instinctively picked up or been taught as good horsemanship, so it's kind of neat to connect the dots on why those things work so well from a basic animal behavioral science view. The basic principles of it just sense to me.  I know I've said here before a lot of the natural horsemanship teachings don't quite connect in my brain. I know they work for many people, so I'm not making judgement, but for me I think it's important I understand the hows and whys of what I teach my horses if I want to be successful. With most of the NH trainers I've been left with more questions than answers...some of it just doesn't suit my learning style perhaps.

I'll leave you with an interesting thing from this weekend's demo. When leading or doing groundwork with my horses, it's been a thing for a while that they should follow my intention and my feet. For example, if I start walking forward, they mirror me. I take a step towards their shoulder, they move said shoulder away. No pulling, poking, touching. They have their space and I have mine. My what nicely trained horses I have :) It's fantastic for Bridget, but reality of that with a sensitive, busy horse (like Sophie, or for really long term readers, Ginger)  is that you're like "yes, good pony" except "no actually, don't swing your quarters away, I need to pick up your foot" "No, actually, please just stand still while I walk towards you with the clippers" "No actually, I just want to put this jump up, please stay back there" "No actually don't move away or follow me this time because...etc etc" Last night we added in a very simple cue to ask Sophie to start moving when I do. If that cue isn't given, guess what? She 'parks' in place until I give that cue.

So simple, definitely a 'why didn't I think of that' kind of thing. I also like that if they've been 'parked' they can just chill and relax and zone out until given a cue....I felt like before they still had to keep at least half an eye on me and what I was doing because if I was moving around, surely they should be too? How confusing that must have been for them and a good example of something that I had left a big gaping hole in and the how to fix it hadn't really connected with me coming from the NH angle...I think if I had pondered on it I would have thought my horses should read my energy as to whether to move or not, but the reality was it stayed pretty unreliable (and my energy is likely all over the place on any given day so who can blame them).

One more pic at Camp Bridget where all continues to go well and I'm just so happy to have her at our own place.


Wednesday 13 July 2022

New Beginnings - Backyard Pony

With full board where Sophie is being very pricey and me having a barn full of hay stashed away I wondered if I might as well just bring Bridget home when I picked her up from the vet's. 

Plus, covid. While the internet assures me I can't be contagious this far into the game, I still very much have a cough and head cold like symptoms and am thinking the boarding barn and general public will continue to thank me or staying away.

Our little barn and property are still a work in progress, but there is a newly fenced paddock right off the covered area in front of the barn. Bridget is no trouble at all and not one to test fences or be concerned with machinery or work going on. She's also not normally a big fan of other horses and will choose to hang out alone if she can. If ever there was a pony happy to live in a backyard semi construction zone barn, it would be her.

Happy at Camp Bridget. I still have work to do leveling and putting mats down in the actual stalls in the barn, but the covered area in front of the stalls is more than big enough for her to get out of the elements.

So, I went for it and moved her in. And of course she's happy....there is a ton of grass with all the rain we've had so I had to divide her paddock into thirds for a more gradual mow. I was looking around last night and thinking that if I only had Bridget and was careful with paddock management, likely I wouldn't need to feed hay most of the year - I forgot just how ridiculously fast the grass grows up there.

B's very efficient mowing service hard at work

She hadn't been ridden in about 3 months and I'm still pretty under the weather, so I hopped on for a 15min stroll around the block last night. What could possibly go wrong?  

Spicy and snorty but she never puts a foot wrong.

I have some tentative upcoming plans for Bridget, so there will be a lot more walking for fitness in our immediate calendars. 

Right now, I'm just deeply appreciating having her home on our own property and being able to pop on and go for a ride whenever I like. Sophie will be moving in once things are farther along, but I'm feeling a bit like a bad person at the moment - having one horse to care for is so easy, and there is zero herd bound drama. I miss seeing Sophie regularly a lot, but I'm appreciating this quiet time.


Monday 11 July 2022

We Regroup

 Sorry for the silence. While I don’t mind documenting the lows with the highs, sometimes it just seems like nothing but lows and who wants to keep a record of that to look back on? Apparently not me.

So, let’s get back into it with a short status update.

- I have been out of the saddle for quite a bit with a weird autoimmune reaction followed by covid that further complicated things; I am starting to feel better now.

- Bridget did not get in foal; I am bringing her home today. If you’re interested in the details and costs of such a venture, at some point I can expand.

- Sophie is still on a pasture vacation, she’ll stay there until late August.

- The property is ridiculously behind schedule because I haven’t been able to physically do much for a month, but I’ve got water line installs and drainage prep for the ring being finished this week and Bridget is moving in.

- I’ve got a bunch of fun horsey events and property projects coming up, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those as they happen because I’m feeling a bit superstitious about making any plans or project timelines after these past few months! 

Sophie says hi