Wednesday, 19 September 2018

The Horse You Bought

Thank you to Cathryn at Two and a Half Horses for more blogging inspiration!

This blog hop came along with pretty great timing, because facebook reminded me this morning that it's been 4 years since we brought Bridget home!

The horse I bought was not the horse I wanted to buy.

My wish list:

- 15 -16-ish hand been there done that, capable of jumping 2'6ish course and packing me around safely. Solid on trails. Solid basic flatwork. Nice enough for regional showing jumping/eventing, but doesn't have to win. Safe enough for G to handle on his own if needed. Could be older, provided no major vet issues.

What I bought:

A Bridget!

Turns out, what I really just wanted was SAFE. I was visiting Ginger's breeder to look at another horse, and ended up hopping on too young/too small/not trained Bridget, and liking her, even though the steering was non existent, she didn't wear a bridle, and trot was her fastest gear. When I found out she'd only had a few rides before I trail rode her all over the country side I was even more impressed with what a great mind she has.

Sept 2014. She was not a fan of contact or forward. Still isn't TBH, but it's pretty solid now.
I actually still didn't commit for a couple of months, because a super green pony was definitely not on my wish list, but I eventually ended up buying her, with the thought that worst case I could put a ton of trail miles on her and gain confidence for us both, and always resell once I found the 'right' horse. But, here we are 4 years later!

Navigating poles for the first time, fall 2014
First flat clinic, winter 2015

First xc clinic, spring 2016

There have been many great adventures along the way. Who would of thought that lazy pony would turn into my original wish list horse and then some? (albeit at 14hh a little shorter than planned!)
First event, 2016

Dressage show, 2017

XC camp, 2017

Lesson learned - the right temperament is far more important than training, at least for me.

Chillin' at the lake, summer 2018

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Fall Fair Adventure

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that my hack to the arena can be anything but straightforward. There's a whole lot to see over a fairly short distance.

I've maybe also mentioned that the arena I frequent is part of a regional equestrian park. Membership is cheap, and there's a small show facility, a huge outdoor arena, plus a 20x40 indoor shared with the local therapeutic riding group.

Riding in the outdoor. $50 annual membership is a steal of a deal. They even have nice jumps to use.

Back in the day, the remaining half of the acreage was used by the local agricultural association. There were some barns on site, some fields, a community garden. In other words, a good fit with the equestrian half of the property.

About 10 or so years ago, it was decided to hold a weekly farmers market on the site in summer. Again, a pretty fantastic and complimentary use of the amenities.

That farmers market has grown hugely, which brings us to this weekend's, I hope successful, Fall Fair that closes out the season. The local horse club was encouraging everyone to bring their horses to the equestrian side of the property as part of a sort of open house. As the owner of a pony who loves children and scratches, I thought nothing of popping on Bridget and taking her the 15 minutes or so down the road.

Normally, our ride down the road looks like this. Yesterday, this was all angle parking, with cars parallel parked on the other side of the road, for about a km!

Until I realized the farmers market and fall fair has drastically grown since the last time I paid attention! Apparently the parking was inadequate. It can get a bit busy on the road on a normal weekend, but there were cars parked on both sides of the road most of the way to where I board. Those cars were full of screaming children, barking dogs, and adults who apparently don't use their mirrors. Oh yeah, and a van with a wheelchair lift the owner thought nothing of using just as Bridget walked by. Let's not talk about the people who thought honking their horns or passing with inches to spare was appropriate.

We got closer, and apparently they hired a rock band? A super loud rock band, playing AC/DC of all things! Not what I picture when I think farmers market, but hey, whatever works!

Oh, and guess what else they had? TRAINS! STEAM TRAINS!With whistles! Right next to the road. Again, when I think agriculture, I think train rides, don't you? And food trucks, because obviously pad Thai, sushi and tacos are farmed locally.

Although, it would be cool to grow a taco tree ;)

Eventually, we made it to safety and rode into the equestrian club grounds, and...nada. Ghost town. No trailers, no horses. Where are all the horses that were coming? Finally, I see a friend way off in the corner of the outdoor stabling. And her horses don't look happy. The closer I get, the more I can hear why. The neighbouring band is LOUD. Like, can't hear yourself talk loud.  Serious props to her for showing up and sticking it out.

I ventured back to the arena and put in a normal flat work ride, made more fun by the band getting ever louder playing 70s and 80s hard rock. I think at 2am on a Saturday pub night they might have sounded not too bad!
I'm not sure, but it sounded like a few people there had a morning rum or ten

 Bridget attracted quite a large crowd of children. Apparently the club had advertised a horse show? LOL, B was the only horse there, but I guess kids don't care, a pony is a pony and one is better than none.
Throwback to when I leant her out for vaulting. She loves kids :)

So, I'm left wondering, did everyone else bail when they saw how crazy the place was? Or did they just not show up at all?

Also, B is the best pony. Rock bands? Loose dogs? Herds of screaming children? TRAINS? Navigating a narrow road full of irate people trying to parallel park? Not the country petting zoo experience I promised her, but she didn't seem to mind.

By the time we headed home and the ambulance with sirens and lights came up behind us, I was pretty much just laughing...seriously how much more ridiculous could it get? I feel like Bridget was pretty much rolling her eyes by that point too, like whatever, stupid ambulance, your siren is very rude.

How far we've strayed from the original small farm market and agricultural club! Also, it's pretty surprising how many people out there are truly clueless about horses, particularly as you'd think farm markets and fall fairs would attract people who are possibly more outdoorsy/farm friendly and they were definitely still breaking pretty much all the common sense rules.

Oh well, I actually think Bridget had fun! It's not too often she gets out to an afternoon rock concert, I guess ;) Still, I think we'll be giving it a hard pass next year, lol.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Table Manners

Ridget is unimpressed with this development
We've gone straight from fire season to winter rain, so the ponies are already off pasture and in their sacrifice paddock. Neither are pleased with this development. I think the banana pony might be losing teeth, since she's gnawing on anything and everything right now. In an effort to limit the damage and appease the barn owner, we reintroduced hay nets in hopes of keeping her busy longer. Sophie thought that was just great, Bridget was PISSED and thought it was completely unfair.

Sophie: "Oh, this looks lovely. Thank you."

Lol at B taking her frustrations out on the hay net, while Sophie reaps the rewards

Poor B. It's a struggle. Also, it's mud season again, so you probably wont see a clean palomino pony until next spring.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Just Dressage

Another Monday night, another Best Lesson Ever.

We continued on with the travers to shoulder in to travers exercise of last week. Having done a little studying in the meantime, I felt a lot more confident and less confused about where to put Audrey's feet. It's really not complicated at recap, the horse maintains the same slight "C" shape bend in both, you just move the front end or back end to the inside track depending on which you're doing. My brain does not do well with left/right directions somehow, so lateral work tends to happen by feel rather than step by step thought processes, which makes for poorly written blog recaps!

- Tip I found useful for both: ask for the same amount of bend and energy and hind leg activity you'd ask for on a good 10m circle.

An added complication: EC told me to grab "bigger" spurs before I got on. "Longer and pointier but not TOO long and pointy" I think were her exact words, lol. I grabbed the "TOO long and pointy" ones, obviously, because they all seemed long and pointy to me, so I was feeling pretty aware of my leg. As was Audrey, lol.

On a related note, she went from sleepy when I got on to pretty darn lively as the ride progressed :)

Bridget being lively this summer, and now helping break my wall of text.
But it was really, really good. Audrey was happy to show off her moves and add some extra flair to a pretty boring exercise (for her, lol) The trot was getting pretty darn passage-y feeling, and that added stepping under and elevation makes it pretty easy to move her body around. So fun!

The canter got a little "western" when I accidentally goosed her with my outside leg when she started to drift. It's frustrating, I know better, and yet at least once a ride I fail to use my inside seatbone and outside rein effectively, panic when I lose her, and go straight to yelling with outside leg. One day I'll learn for real!

We finished up with nice canter work in both directions, alternating having her move out a little, then bringing it back to shoulder in or travers and putting it on the same 10m circle exercise as the trot work. The canter was rougher for me geometry wise, and I had so much horse it was a bit of a novelty for me, but I felt like we got there and ended at a good place.

Given my concerns with the spurs and Audrey being so ramped up, I was glad we didn't push me by experimenting more with flying changes tonight. Surviving one mini rodeo and fixing it was probably a wise place to leave things for me, lol.

So, even with some challenges, it was Best Lesson Ever because the energy and amount of forward she brought to the table was incredible - a feel like nothing I've ever experienced. There were a couple of times I rewarded her by asking her to move out of lateral work to a straight line and the power on tap there was pretty exhilarating! Like an airplane taking off.

Which brings me to yet more pondering. People at our barn are often like "Oh, I don't jump/event/barrel race/whatever. I just do dressage." Like it's the lesser, safer thing to do.

I'm just going to put it out there: If the amount of athleticism, energy, forward and power required to do upper level dressage well is anything like what I've been experiencing on Audrey - holy crap, "just dressage" riders have some serious guts. There's a fine line between brilliance and crazy in some of those horses, I bet.  It's incomparable to anything else I've ever done, and at least for me, a bigger adrenaline rush. I wish I was a better writer so I could give you some sort of apt comparison to sports cars, coiled springs, airplanes, bounce grids, whatever. But I've got nothing. Just some advice:

If you ever get the opportunity to ride an upper level horse, try it.

I'm pretty sure I'm now well and truly addicted to dressage. Not exactly where I thought my life's equestrian adventures would take me way back when, but here we are :)

Actual picture of us post lesson ;)

Monday, 10 September 2018

Even More Musing

Because apparently the poo picking pondering never ends.

- I hate screaming baby ponies. I have no idea why I didn't do this sooner, but I gave Sophie a hay net when I took Bridget away this weekend. Not a peep was made, problem solved. Such a simple solution. She is a pony after all, so of course food is more important than your best friend possibly dying and never returning  leaving for a ride ;)

"Oh hi, that awful screeching wasn't me!  I was just happily standing here! Promise!"

- After months of drought, the rain has returned. 3 days in and I'm already over it and booking winter beach vacations.
The barn here is fine...but as you can see, this barn is pretty old school and most of the stalls don't have an in/out or a window. Currently, it's still pretty warm, so they're staying out. Even in winter, I tend to leave them out with a blanket as many nights as possible as I think they're happier.
B says "Leave me out, please!" Finishing her fall cleanup of this overgrown paddock is worth getting a little damp for.

-My old mare Josie used to be terrible about getting herd bound. She couldn't be trusted to not run through fences and/or injure herself. 20 years later, nothing has changed - poor girl has navicular and still gets so worked up if her paddock neighbour leaves that she basically cripples herself from the pacing. Shes being PTS very soon, and I find it strange/sad that in all these years she never learned to cope or figured out that her buddies always come back (or that there are other pony
neighbours to make friends with!).

- I was telling G about how a person drove thru a 4 way stop on my way home. "They just half halted and kept coming!" He didn't question my use of "half halt", so either he wasn't listening, or he knows what I meant. We might officially be an old married couple.

Also, I'm 99.9% sure we've inadvertently taught the cat to pose for pictures, which pretty much screams that we're childless/ spending too much time at home ;)

-The ponies were both handfuls this weekend, but I had very little anxiety over it. I feel like a huge part of conquering my nerves was not only having the knowledge to deal with situations, but having the physical riding skills. I wasn't good enough to always handle drama before, and I knew it. So, maybe less of a confidence problem and more of a actually-my-brain-is-being-pretty-smart-about-my-chances realism? Whatever the case, a good part of my drive to be better is knowing I have a Sophie pony to train who will likely be a challenge for my skill level. I do not want to go back to being nervous!

Rainy day adventures with B this past weekend. We had a couple of nice trail rides, and an excellent dressage school.

-WEG! Who is going? Who is planning to watch? What are you most excited for? I signed up for FEI TV and am pretty excited for the dressage and eventing. Even tho I have a love/hate relationship with anything over about prelim level eventing the equestrian world is small and I've got minor connections I want to cheer on. I'm hoping to watch the combined driving and show jumping some of the para dressage.

Saturday, 8 September 2018


AKA Things I Ponder As I Pick Poo

- I've been having some really fun rides on Bridget lately. She's forward, sharp off my leg, and she feels good mentally and physically. She feels like she wants to be my dressage pony. Except no, we've been down that road where I get all excited and I think our struggles are solved and B wants to do dressage for real. I'm promising us both to continue to keep it fun and light. I can still learn a lot on her without pushing things.

-Audrey has been teaching me a lot about riding. I wonder if Bridget is going so much better because I'm more effective and blocking her less with my body.

- On the topic of blocking: I'm not sure coaches emphasize enough how important it is to be "loose" in the saddle. I know my brain is always translating "shoulder back" to holding it there, or "use your core" as being solid/strong. I'm lucky in that my coach is more concerned with effectiveness and what works for your body and horse rather than her students looking like the traditional equitation picture, but I still was holding my body where I thought it should be. Audrey is teaching me that if I can't be perfect, being slightly too loose is better than holding tension anywhere in your body.
Bridget is getting a slight winter fuzz already!

- You really can make a better trail horse thru dressage. B mechanically has a good walk, so we never wanted to change that. What did drive me nuts was that if left to her own devices, her walk was more of a slow meandering path that was not getting us efficiently from point A to B. We worked hard on getting her moving out in the ring. I've been noticing since we moved home that if I let her move out at that same free moving, steady pace on the trail we're usually ending up way out in front of everyone rather than the meandering along behind that used to be the norm prior to EC's help. Riding with the same group of people again has made the difference super obvious. I like this confident pony who now goes places happily and with a purpose. It is such an improvement!
From last weekend. Nothing in front of us except a few wasp nests, lol

- B's dressage saddle...I really like it. I was kind of "meh" about it at first, but a few weeks ago my hip was bugging me so I lowered the stirrups a couple of holes. Total game changer...I feel like my leg can just hang and I'm not fighting anything. I'm finding myself getting on and kind of sinking in to the saddle and feeling pretty comfy! The seat is still a bit big for me and the flap too long, but I can live with that when the balance of the saddle puts me in the right spot and it feels so close to the horse. That being said, I'm not sure I'd like this saddle on the Audreys of the world - I do enjoy the security of the thigh blocks on hers!
Nothing fancy - it's a 10 year old Jeffries Elite in a wide tree. I'd highly recommend trying if you've got a cob shaped horse and are shopping on a budget- they're British made and IMO equivalent quality to County of the same vintage for about a quarter the price I think due to not bring repped or trendy here.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

If I Had A Million Dollars...

Joining in on this idea taken from Hellomylivia. Thanks for the inspiration!

With a million dollars I'd be living a fairly average lifestyle if I chose to stay where I am. I'd venture a guess your average person here has a net worth far exceeding a million dollars. (Except me, because I'm one of those people who underperforms career wise in order to have time and energy for my hobbies. )
Me: "My time is more valuable than money."
Me on payday: "Oh wait..."


Things I'd do if I was more gainfully employed, or won a lottery:

-I'm actually fairly happy as I'd stay here. I'd purchase a small acreage, preferably vacant, and build a small house and probably a slightly bigger barn. Definitely a nice outdoor ring, and maybe a small xc field.

Images are random ones I've downloaded as inspiration over the past few years. Sorry I have lost the links to the originals to credit them.

-I'd probably travel a bit more.

-I'd buy G whatever he wants :) A new truck? A boat? A beach house somewhere?

Serious upscale beach house style here.

-I'd finish my freakin' truck restoration. I've owned it since forever...and it's been in pieces about half of that time due to me getting distracted and spending my money on horses. 

-I'd pay for EC to fly here once a month and teach me. And fly in a good farrier and saddle fitter too. 

-I'd probably buy or lease a nice schoolmaster horse, probably to pursue more jumping or eventing to gain confidence. 

I feel guilty even writing that when I have 2 wonderful ponies, and access to a third PSG dressage mare. I'm already very lucky.

-I'd ride every day, and probably find a way to take lessons nearly every day.

-Custom saddles for everyone.
County Epiphany is still on my wish list.

-If I truly had no worries about money, I'd set up some kind of program where kids (or adults, why not) can learn to ride for free or maybe in exchange for paying it forward by volunteering for a charity or something. Also, I'd set up something for people interested in any sport/art/path to bettering themselves. Coming from a background where I had very few opportunities, I'd like to make a difference to other's lives.

-On that note, I'd give a ton of money to legit animal rescue/welfare organizations.

So, actually, that was fairly boring. Apparently the rock star life is not for me, which is good given my actual income desire to dedicate more of my life to making money :)

How about a list of things I'm eyeing up and likely to buy/do in the near-ish future (on my actual income)

Real life wish list:

-We're still eyeing up that farm. I'm still nervous as anything about it and trying very hard to trust G's judgement since he's far less emotionally invested in this whole venture. We're approved but have not made an offer. Our real estate market is making a very sharp downturn, so hopefully patience will pay off?

-Hire a personal trainer. What can I say? I'm not to be trusted to keep myself motivated.

-A horse trailer. Been on my list forever. Time to make it happen.
Probably something along these lines. Logan Crossfire. Basic, but newer.

-Continued weekly lessons on Audrey. It's a sacrifice financially, but it's worth it.

-A dream vacation. Not going to jinx it, but I have time booked off for Fall 2019.

Ride Andes has some fantastic looking trips.

- A Soloshot or Pixio. The reviews worry me for the cost, but I love the idea of recording my rides and sending EC video for feedback (it's cheaper than the dream of flying her here or taking daily lessons, at least :) There's also the option to upgrade to a package that would allow for real time remote coaching, which is very tempting, but likely too spendy for me.