Monday, 12 November 2018

Days Like These

Being away Monday through Wednesday every week means I have a whole lot of things at home I want to catch up on Thursdays through Sundays.

Horse time being one of the main things, of course :)

It kills me that she's still got dapples. I don't currently own a grooming tool that can reach all the way through her winter coat, so we have to chalk them up to genetics.

Moving Sophie to the other farm is one of the best things I've done for myself in a very long time. Of course she is much happier with all that room to roam, but I'm so much happier too, knowing I don't need to worry about her. The barn owners are fantastic and zero drama. They love Sophie.

How could you not? Granted, she can still be a bit of a rule testing menace, but she's very sweet and super friendly. And so cute.

The full board is also a bonus...I notice the difference every Thursday night when I am cleaning paddocks where Bridget is still semi self boarded. Random pony fact, but Sophie eats and poops twice as much as B - my work and my feed inventory needs tripled when Sophie was boarded there!

On the plus side, she's the tidiest horse I've ever owned which is much appreciated. You literally just have to clean one tiny corner of her field. And, did I mention she's cute?

I've got into a routine lately of spending at least a couple of mornings a week with Sophie, then popping back to town for an early lunch, then heading over to Bridget's barn for an early afternoon ride and barn chores. I'm usually done by 2:00 or so, which still leaves daylight for hiking with G or yard work. I'm pretty sure if I was retired something similar would be my schedule every day of the week!

So.Much.Hair. And dirt. And butt highness. I love baby ponies :)

Sophie got a spa day this weekend and got all clipped up, mane pulled, tail banged like she's heading off to a show. She enjoys being fussed over, so I wasn't torturing her as much as you might think. I am regretting buying a two year old because actual showing seems so far off. I still have a whole year to wait before I can even lightly back her!
I went a little overboard with the tail, but I kind of don't mind it for now. 

But, I guess it's a pretty good life when my biggest complaint is that I miss competing :D







Friday, 9 November 2018

Learning The Most

The recent 25 Questions survey that was circulating had one question that I really wanted to write further on:

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

My answer was Bridget. Because she's been the toughest horse I've ever dealt with, and yet, on paper, we've accomplished the most together.

I've had a post sitting in my drafts folder for months now, a general outline of all the lowlights that happened through the years - everything from straight up refusing to move to rearing and falling backwards on top of me to going through a phase of refusing jumps so hard she'd fall down. Let's not forget that dressage show where the judge complimented my riding, but followed that up by suggesting I find a slightly more 'honest' horse.
Still having fun, though.

To sum it up, Bridget's default answer to most things she perceives as new or potentially work related has always been "NO!" There was always a pretty fine line to negotiating that NO into a maybe, without it escalating into something undesirable.

My moral of that post was going to be that most good horses are very much made through training, and that a lot of the near misses and Very Bad Things were my responsibility for pushing her past her imaginary line drawn in the sand. That the very bad days were far outweighed by days of slow and steady progress and fun outing and adventures.

At the lake, looks like I must be taking a pic for you guys! :)

I keep refraining from pushing the 'publish' button on that post, because no matter how I word it, I worry that it reads as a list of all the bad things about Bridget and my relationship. When, in real life, I feel like we have a really great partnership and I'm beyond happy with her.

I think this was the weekend where she figured out sliding to a stop and bucking on downhill canters or after drop fences was a great way to lose me and I fell off about 2x a day. But again, we still had lots of fun too, this is part of a lovely uphill line the trainer kindly suggested we finish the day with :)

These days, I get frequent comments from my riding buddies about how lucky I am to own such a good horse, one that's always so easy. Don't get me wrong, I'd never argue that she's not good. She's great and she always has been. BUT people seem to equate quiet with 'easy' or 'good' or 'well behaved' and that's really a big assumption. It was just lucky that Bridget's happy place was to stand around quietly because that fits people's expectations of a good horse. Push her outside of that happy place, though, and...well...things used to get a bit 'real', lol

I was not riding nearly defensively enough off this bank lol, pretty sure I end up sitting in the bottom of the gully in a couple more strides ;)


She used to get so angry at being asked to canter

Saying NO to something, back in the day.

This used to be her trotting face, lol - she used to get really pissy about moving faster than a walk. 

Anyway, I like that the question above rephrases it all as something positive: a learning opportunity, a chance to be better, a gift of knowledge to take forward to new partnerships.

This journey with Bridget has definitely taught me so much.

-I've learned that sometimes you can push quite a bit past what should be possible on paper.
-She's not inclined to work any harder than absolutely necessary, so I've learned how to keep it interesting.
-She's not overly motivated to please anyone, so I've had to find ways of making things seem like her idea or or benefit to her.
-She has days where it's just not going to happen. So, I've had to learn to listen to that and be patient.
-She's not super athletic, so I've learned a ton about conditioning and strength building. 
-I've learned about equine biomechanics, about where to place her body exactly, so we can show her how to do everything from lateral work to cantering.
-Mentally, she's very quick to give up. So, I've had to learn to break things down into tiny pieces, and to be quick to reward.
-I've had to learn to be very, very consistent and fair.
-I've learned to be persistent, to not judge progress in a linear fashion.
-I've learned that despite all your best efforts, sometimes things just aren't meant to be. And that it's no one's fault.

So yes, I think Bridget is a horse that's made me a far better rider, trainer, and person. I'm just glad she came in a cute, small, not so athletic package - it was pretty hard to hold a grudge or ever get nervous.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

25

Hi! I'm away to the city for work conferences this week, so here's some blog content courtesy of the 25 questions that have been circulating. I'm not sure where it originated, but I'm sending a big thank you to the original poster. I've loved reading everyone's responses!

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?
I actually did all the normal kid sports, but I don't know, horses have always been what I've loved most.

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?
No career. I started riding at 11 via a friend by doing barn chores in exchange for a pony. There was zero structure and no adults, so we were basically a pack of wild children on ponies doing a lot of probably very unsafe, dumb things. But it was fun!

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?
I'd like to say Audrey, but let's face it, that would have been a disaster. She needs a pro.  I've actually got no regrets, everything has worked out as it's needed to.

What disciplines have you participated in?
Eventing, dressage, trail riding, english hack/pleasure, western show, reined cowhorse a little.

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?
I'd really like to try mounted archery.

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?
Haven't bought one, was given one 6 month old youngster who was near death due to neglect and that was definitely a rescue, and another one in serious need of an upgrade. Last I heard, both were still living happy, healthy lives as trail horses.

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?
I had a book of all the horse breeds and I remember there was a black horse in there that I thought was perfect. 

Look! I found "the" picture. He's a Nonius!?
If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?
England. Two of my old barnmates are there working as riders and it just looks amazing.

Do you have any horse-related regrets?
So many. I wish I could keep them all. I wish I could take back all the dumb stuff I did when I was young and stupid.

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?
I really like my current trainer but I'd never turn down a lesson with Carl Hester or Ingrid Klimke

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?
Some kind of epic multi day horseback travel adventure. I'm eyeing up a South American one currently, but can't decide which country.

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?
Of course!

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?
Riding Grand Prix dressage in a horse I trained. Eventing at Training would be goals for me too.

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?
Bridget. I know that sounds weird when she's pretty non dramatic on paper, but I've had more challenges and wipe outs on her than all the other horses in my life combined. The zero work ethic thing with the default "no' answer to everything new has taught me a ton about breaking things down into tiny steps, and keeping it interesting. Also, being persistent.

If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?
I'd have something I could actively compete on while I'm waiting for Sophie to mature. I'm concerned I'll go back to being very nervous for shows if I take a big break from them. I am very lucky to have lessons on Audrey, though!

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?
We technically checked all those off the bucket list the past few years, but I'd like to go back to TBird and earn a little redemption - we didn't have the best outing! Out of country bucket list show I could reasonably travel to with my barn remains Rebecca Farm, although the Del Mar dressage shows look intriguing too.

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?
Blair Castle. My gram was from very near there so it would be fun to mix a little family history sightseeing with some beautiful countryside and UK eventing, and also catch up with some friends based near there.


Have you ever thought about quitting horses?
All the time - it's a very tough and expensive hobby to make happen in this part of the world. These days, my horses are pets and I'd be unlikely to sell them completely, but I do consider it in the context of removing myself from the horsey world by not training or competing and just having backyard pets.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?
Eliminate mistreatment of any animals.

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?
All of it. Logically, just having horses with my available time and finances is kind of stupid. But hey, I make it work, and I'm happy.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
Being bankrupt due to horses/vet bills ;) Serious answer: I'm more accepting of change and risk the older I get, so strangely enough, I'm much more at peace with myself and much braver now than I've ever been.

What horse-related book impacted you the most?
Books are actually what got me hooked on horses. I read all the Billy and Blaze books in Grade 1 or 2 and just thought horses were the coolest thing ever and that I needed to see one in real life. I read a book about the most amazing Irish Setter in the same time frame and wanted one, but that didn't stick ;)


What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?
Like: forgiving, wants to please
Dislike: lack of a work ethic

What do you love most about your discipline?
Dressage: feeling like the horse and I are totally in sync.
Eventing: pushes my boundaries.
Trail riding: relaxing getaway.

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?
My fitness/weight.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Weekend Photos


I've had a nasty chest cold for about a week now, which sadly means I've missed two Audrey lessons with EC, plus I've been taking things pretty easy in my own barn life.

I've been failing at gym time, but very much winning at reading and watching all the riding and training books and videos I had queued up over the summer.

Still, as always, there are some photos and small adventures to share with my two horses.


Bridget's face when I hooked the longe line on her bridle :D

Going to work



I left her alone for 2 seconds after

And this is what she did. Ponies! :)

Was NOT going to ride this home bareback, lol



Barn door vista for Emma

Sophie seems like she is growing again
So friendly

So close, yet so far on the black background portrait, lol




Friday, 2 November 2018

Just That Easy


Now that Sophie has had her wolf teeth pulled, I can get her used to wearing a bridle. I figured now was as good a time as any:



Me, joking: "Here Sophie! Come put your bridle on!"


Me : "Ha! This will make a funny blog picture."

"OK?!"

"You're freaking me out a little here, Sophie."

I guess the moral of the story: never underestimate a curious, mouthy baby? She literally walked right up to me, smelled the bridle, and started chewing at the bit as I held the bridle in my hand (a happy mouth so I guess it smelled interesting.)

So, I took her to her paddock, slipped the bridle on like an adult pony, and gave her a bunch of treats. Apart from some mouthing and figuring out how to chew food with it, she wasn't fussed at all. 

When I took it off, she was just as curious about it as before and we had to have a investigation of the whole thing. Funny pony!

And, with that, another small milestone in the books and a step closer to riding her one day.
Ta da!


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Small Wins - October

This post is going to be half recap, half little pick me up for myself. I'm great at setting my bigger picture goals and bench marks, way less great at celebrating the little accomplishments and milestones. I have a tendency to focus on all the things that are "wrong" or "not good enough" with myself, and while being realistic about my weaknesses is fine, this time of year the self talk can get a little too self defeating if I'm not careful.

Sophie  - October Small Wins

Loves her new digs

- Moved her to a new farm and she's super happy there!
- Attended a spooky trail challenge event and she was great.
- Got her out for walks once a week and saw all kinds of interesting things. She was a good girl!
- Found a new farrier! Sophie was excellent for her, too.
- Used clippers on her with zero fuss.
- Got shots up to date, wolf teeth pulled.
- Did a couple of mini round pen/groundwork sessions and she's really coming along.

Bridget - October Small Wins




- Changed her living arrangements so she has pasture on the drier days.
- Based on LWilliam's review, got a FeedXL subscription, and revamped B's diet.
- Farrier and Vet up to date (she always is up to date, just it's quite the scheduling challenge in our isolated town to make it happen - definitely a win ;)
- Got her out 4 days a week, even if it's just walking her to keep a bit of fitness while we investigate minor lameness.
-Superstar at both spooky trail challenges.

Self:

- Kept up with my crazy schedule
- Audrey lessons x2, hack x1
- Read a ton, watched a ton of training videos
- Kept fairly calm/reasonable re: barn drama
- Gym or yoga every second day all month.
- Lots of walking/hiking
- Found time to volunteer at local equestrian club on 2 weekends
- Got an early start on No Stirrups November

No Saddle November?


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Teamwork

Making the dream work and all that ☺

Shout out to Cathryn for providing blogging inspiration (again) with last month's "Who's On Your Team?" post.

Life with a baby pony who mostly eats and sleeps, plus a Bridget pony without many 2018 goals is a bit boring, blog wise. Be grateful to Cathryn for sparing you listening to the ins and outs of Bridget's hacks and flat work rides four times a week.

So, who's on my team? 

1. Childhood friends (and books!)

My 'team' has historically been very small. Like a few of you I grew up in a pretty isolated area with no organized barn or horse time. I traded barn chores for a pony to ride when I was about 11, and had zero supervision or structure. We were raised by ponies!

No roads connecting this place to anywhere. It's ferries or an airplane to get out. We moved here from Vancouver when I was 6 or 7 and I remember even at that age it was a shock! Now, I mostly love it.
 I've still got a few friends from those days, but even my best friend has always been into trail riding and western showing, so while we support each other in the day to day stuff, the discipline specific riding goals and knowledge gap for my desire to jump and learn dressage was filled for years and years with books from the library.

Hanging out with old friends at one of favorite places to take the ponies as kids (and adults)


2. The internet and the best farrier.

Fast forward a few years and the internet more and more became a source of educational videos and a huge variety of information. Thanks Internet, for being on my team :) I went to school and got adult jobs, and started to have the finances to own my own horses and travel for the odd clinic. The best farrier ever started business in the area around that time, which was amazing. He retired recently, which makes me feel super old. He remains on the support team though, because he's my go to guy for all hoof and health related questions.

3. Riding coaches! (Finally, EC shows up ;) and barn mates.

Finally, around the time I started blogging, I moved to Alberta and got a job in an area with some decent coaching. Yay! For the first time, I was part of a program, and had a support system on hand for my goal of learning to jump, which was super amazing, even if I was about 20 years older than the kids sharing my lessons. For a few years, I was back and forth between Alberta/Saskatchewan and home in BC, working contracts and soaking up whatever horsey knowledge I could while I was away.
Flashback to the original blog header


My Alberta barn commute


Then, in 2015, I got a job somewhat near to my hometown. Almost as important, my new job was about 10 minutes down the road from where a most excellent coach had recently moved to from the city. Wow, did we get lucky to have someone so qualified living in an area not exactly known for it's equestrian offerings!

Current commute. 2.5 hours of ferries and driving is better (and cheaper)than 2.5 hours of flying to Alberta!

Since then, it's my first time being part of a barn team that feels very in tune with my own goals and outlook on life. My barnmates there range in age from about 6 to 80 something, and they're all an absolute pleasure to be around and definitely a great team to be with.

4. My workmates, and G.

About a year ago, my extra awesome work agreed to adapt my schedule so I could spend most of my time in my hometown, making my work/life balance infinitely better.

Moving Bridget home with me this past year has added some logistical complications, and the loss of the very valued vet and farrier who only travel to the lower coast, but it all works out.  I can't fail to mention my husband G who has 100% been the most important and supportive teammate anyone could ask for for many, many years now. He might not be horse obsessed like me, but he's quite happy to take the horses hiking with him, muck paddocks, move hay, and patiently wait in the truck while I raid the tack store :)
G does not like me posting photos that he's in, which is hard because he's in a lot of them! He's with me at the barn or hanging out with the horses the majority of the time.




5. The ponies.
This xc camp with B was only 25 years in the making :D


And, of course, the other most important part of the team, Ms Bridget. She's taught me more than anything, and while our opinions often differ, she's completely reliable and together we've achieved a lot of the little dreams I'd had in my head since I was a kid. I'm very lucky. EC's lovely mare Audrey has stepped up this past year to help Bridget out, and I have hopes Sophie will take over for both of them one day.

6. Bloggers!

I also can't forget bloggers and blog readers! I definitely feel you're a huge part of my support network. Being somewhat isolated in real life, it's very cool to be able to put my thoughts and goals out there virtually and follow along with everyone else's journeys.