Saturday, 31 December 2016

Wishes For 2017



I'm my own worst critic,  so I'm finding the goals thing isn't really working for me. Instead, here's a list of the things it would be super amazing to do in 2017. But no pressure, T ;)

Amazing: Good scores at First Level.
Super Amazing: Second Level.

Amazing: Finish an event on our dressage score.
Super Amazing: As above, but at Entry (Novice) level

Amazing: Clear, fast rounds at 2'9"
Super Amazing: Comfortable at 3'

Amazing: Spring Eventing Camp
Super Amazing: Ride at both spring eventing camps. And ride well ;)

Amazing: Breed Ginger
Super Amazing: To Cardi. And they make a perfect bay filly.

Amazing: Control the show nerves
Super Amazing: Make the show nerves work for me

Amazing: Get my beginner coaching certifications
Super Amazing: And use them often.

Amazing: More dressage clinics
Super amazing: Arrange with work so I can have time off and sign up for the once a month clinic offered.

Amazing: Better life balance
Super Amazing: G moves here or I find great job there. Or we win the lottery so we don't have to work. Whichever.

Amazing: Better horse and rider fitness.
Super amazing: Literally if we beat anyone in any kind of a race. Disney would have make a movie.

And finally, the most important wish of all: healthy, happy humans and horses!









Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 Recap

Re: the tent, thank goodness G is one of those people that runs warm and radiates heat even sleeping in sub zero temps. A "talent" I am admittedly less fond of in the summer. 

2016 certainly had some highs and lows, but I'm proud of what we accomplished this year. For a not super confident adult who'd never really competed in anything jumping related, and a green pony who's probably no one's idea of a sport prospect, I feel like we got a few things done. Most importantly, we had a lot of fun :)

Jumping wise, we moved from being comfortable over crossrails to being pretty comfortable with 2'6", and even 2'9" on a good day.
A terribly ridden course early last summer, but pony has her game face on and wants more.

We worked our butts off developing a canter. The canter went from not really being a thing, to being somewhat adjustable, and there on demand. Simple changes through trot and walk are now pretty reliable. There's some lift there now too, rather than the scrambly forehand heavy thing of last year.

Dressage wise, we moved up from barely cantering in T-1 to good scores at T-3, and are ready for First Level.

Shows: We got out there and went to quite a few shows. Some were better than others, but with my show nerves just getting out there is a win - the more we do this, the easier it will get. We went to only one three phase event, which is less than I'd hoped for, but it was a good outing and I was happy with our results, particularly as it was our first one ever and a proper recognized one too.
We look like we're having fun, right?

Clinics: All of our clinics this year were eventing/cross country based. All but one were super fun.

Go Bridget, go! This pic was the last fence on course and although we both look tired, gives me hope that moving up a level in in the spring will be possible.
Holidays: Even my non riding vacation days were horsey, with a trip to the event at Rebecca Farm, show jumping at Thunderbird, and a day at the races at Hastings.

Riding Lessons: I made a promise to myself this year that I would take as many lessons as I could afford. This ended up working out to about two per week. I made a ton of sacrifices to make that happen both time and budget wise, and have zero regrets. Learning is good! I also expanded my comfort zone and rode some different horses, and even picked up a weekly ride on a barnmate's baby dinosaur horse.

Life: I struggled a lot to balance all the things. I missed my husband a lot. Work was difficult. I lost some confidence riding, then gained it back. Bridget's training regressed a little towards the end of the year, but such is life. I didn't ride Ginger nearly as much as I thought I would,  both time and confidence being big factors there. I did not go for the testing to get my coaching certifications, simply because I don't think I currently have the time to teach regularly enough to be as prepared/good as I'd like to be at it and keep my certifications current. Perhaps next year. Still, for now I think this is a good place for me, and the short term plan is to keep on keeping on for another couple of years (or however long I can stand my boss...whichever comes first lol). We've got bigger plans on the horizon,  but for now it's baby steps, got to put in the work to achieve the dreams!


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Doing Less

I hope the holidays are treating everyone well! G and I are a little bit grinchy and don't really do the gifts and decorating part around our house. This is more a time for us to take a few days off and spend some quality time together doing the things we love, which you could probably argue is more in the spirit of the holidays than we think :)
This post brought to you by Bridget yoga. Pose 1 - "Upward Sitting Horse"

That being said, I surprised everyone who knows me and went out Christmas caroling this year! Don't worry, I didn't temporarily lose my  mind and turn into an extrovert who thinks they can sing - a group of us went from the barn and did caroling by horseback on Christmas Eve. Horses involved = obviously I'm in, terrible singer or no.  Bridget was a superstar, and led everyone through the dark neighbourhood and right up to people's front doors.
Demonstrating the difficult "Upside down table" pose

As for my rides, they've been going alright! I tried a new saddle, amd while it didn't work for me, Bridget loved it and was much more like her old self. So, an appointment with the fitter for her current saddle and some more serious shopping for a dressage saddle is in my future.

We also went back and tackled the angled jump exercise from last week, and actually cantered it. Someone had increased the height of it which seemed to help B figure out cantering it is actually easier than our default during the lesson of throwing a trot step in over the pole and jumping the vertical from there.

In the spirit of holidays, I've also been way more conscious of doing less while in the saddle. Fingers crossed, Bridget has been answering that with some better work. I think EC would want me to ask for more, but for now this seems to be a good mental reset for the both of us. The majority of my rides have just been getting B forward into a soft, long rein. The moment she sucks back, wiggles, or argues, I ask for canter or gallop and just make her go. Since she needs my help a little more in canter,it's pretty easy to establish the feel we're looking for there before we transition back down. I've only been doing collected and lateral work in the canter for this reason as well. Forward and straight and carrying herself is the name of the game. Baby stuff revisited, but I feel strongly it's the right thing to do right now. Keeping it simple and fun for the both of us.

Our other adventures have involved multiple trail rides. It's not often I can ride in daylight this time of year, and the trails are a welcome diversion.


And, one final set of thoughts. Quite honestly, I've been super frustrated with Midge lately.  I was discussing my concerns with a riding buddy, and we discussed maybe competing a different horse a few times next season (Q mare? Ginger?). Both are more forward,  confident rides who might be a fun change.  I'm not ruling it out, but it did get me thinking. Basically, Bridget has zero bad habits. She's easy to have around, she's incredibly easy to care for. She's the perfect size. She's great in new places.  She'll hack out anywhere. She never does anything stupid. I can literally hop on anywhere, anytime and try anything and it's never disastrous in the typical way that horses seem to find. At worst, we get frustrated, or maybe even part company, but life goes on, we muddle through and live to try another day with zero grudges held.
Pony has packed on the holiday pounds, but gets an A+ for posing.

She is, however, typically less forward thinking than I'd like. Her work ethic also kind of stinks sometimes and she's opted out and let me down more than once.  Maybe I'm crazy, but those are all things that fitness, confidence, and training can help. Even if the perfect dream pony existed, I'd never part with the one I've got. So, there's no point being frustrated and dreaming about other options. I need to work with what we've got and make it the best I can :)
Phew,  that was a long post.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Out Of Gas

I think we interrupted Bridget's nap time last night. As EC summed up our lesson "It's not that she's unwilling or uninterested, she just has no energy to spare tonight."  She's going to put in a call to the vet and pick her brain a little, because she's concerned that Bridget is so inconsistent day to day and so difficult to get fit. In the meantime, I'm going to try not to worry about it too much.

On the plus side, we learned Bridget can easily trot decent sized stuff on an angle, and I'd highly recommend this exercise as yet another deceptively simple pattern that's easy to set up yet difficult to ride well - you need to plan ahead and be very straight with super accurate turns off your outside aids.

All you need is a standard vertical, and 4 extra poles on a bounce in and out. The 'hard' way involved some super tight turns (about 8-10m) so it's an opportunity to let the exercise do the work on the adjustability of your canter as well.


Enjoy!



Wednesday, 21 December 2016

2016 Ultimate Horse Book Review

As most of you know, I spend a lot of time commuting via ferry. A 50 minute ride each way with minimal cell service and no wifi means I have time to read a lot of books every year! I was noticing this morning that a good half of my downloaded books from 2016 are horse related in some form or another. This seems an appropriate time of the year to write a short review for each and make mental space for some new books in 2017.

*Sadly, most horse books do not stand up against actual literature, and the vast majority of these are not something I'd recommend to non horsey friends. Keep in mind my guilty pleasure is horsey fiction, so expect that my ratings are likely pretty generous. In other words, don't put down that great book you're already reading because I gave one of the following 4 stars :)

In order of most recently read:

Book: Out of The Wild - Mark Rashid
T's Synopsis: Old cowboy with a rough past and a beat up mustang find new life.
T's Thoughts: I wanted to like this one, but I have a lot of reservations. It reads a bit like a B movie you've already seen a few times, and I couldn't really like any of the characters. While the cowboy/horse details seemed well done, the dialogue and relationships between the characters felt a little off. I also felt sorry for 'The Colt' pretty much the whole time.
T's rating*: 3/5
Would Recommend?: Maybe. If you really like westerns, natural horsemanship, or Mark Rashid.

Book: Unrelenting - George Morris
T's Synopsis: George Morris' autobiography
T's Thoughts: The early years are pretty fascinating. The later years seem a bit more rushed and felt more in the form of notes than a book. The author really likes exclamation marks. I love reading and had a tough time getting through this one towards the end. It also made me feel really sad for George, which is not at all what I expected.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Yes. Even if it's just for the first half of the book and the pictures.

Book: Making it Happen - Carl Hester
T's Synopsis: Carl Hester's autobiography
T's Thoughts: Pretty much the opposite to the GM biography. This one is light, chatty, and a fun read while still being inspiring. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect if you've ever seen Carl or watched an interview with him. My one disclaimer: If you're looking for riding tips or serious horse content, I'd advise reading Carl's "Real Life Dressage" instead.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes, if you're a fan, this is a fun insight into life as Carl.

Book: Turning For Home - Natalie Keller Reinert
T's Synopsis: Alex is training Tiger for a TB makeover competition post track. Drama ensues.
T's Thoughts: Like the rest of this series, this book is quite well written and the horsey content is really well done. The main character tends to be a little on the immature/dramatic side for me, but I still buy these books because well written and thought out adult horse fiction is rare.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Yes, would recommend this and the rest of the series, especially if you're into TBs and/or racing.

Book: Show Circuit Series (Summer Circuit, Winter Circuit, Hunter Derby) - Kim Ablon Whitney
T's Synopsis: Life on the hunter/jumper circuit
T's Thoughts: Show venue details and horsey details feel accurate. Characters feel super immature and some are pretty annoying - yet I still read all three books to see what happened to them, so there's that.
T's rating*:  2.5/5
Would Recommend?: Maybe, for an older teen (there's mature content that would make it unsuitable for a younger teen, but as mentioned, I feel like most of the characters are maybe too immature for an adult to really identify with).

Book: Learning to Fall - Ann Clermont
T's Synopsis: Tragedy strikes ex jumper rider in vet school. Changes in life priorities ensue.
T's Thoughts: Well written, I liked the characters and will likely come back to this one again. Story line is fairly predictable, as is the ending, but the story still felt more 'real' and gritty than most based on the hunter/jumper scene. Loved that this one didn't try to be a romance and focused more on the main character's relationship with her horse along with the business and family dynamics.
T's rating*:  4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes. Possibly even to non horsey friends.

Book: The Lady - Anne McCaffrey
T's Synopsis: Coming of age story based at an Irish horse dealer's yard
T's Thoughts: Finally read this one after having it recommended forever. I liked it, but it feels quite outdated. Better written than most, if not all, the rest of the books on the list. Some aspects of this book made me angry, but I suspect that was the author's intention.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes

Book: The Right Girl For the Job - Karen McGoldrick
T's Synopsis: Book 3 of The Dressage Chronicles. Adventures of working student Lizzy.
T's Thoughts: Again, the horsey details are bang on and some of the pages feel like you're getting riding advice you can use. Like the Natalie Keller Reinert books, the drama can feel a little manufactured, but I do enjoy these books and look forward to reading them as they come out. Probably one of the best current series out there.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: If you like dressage, these ones are for you

Book: Mount! - Jilly Cooper
T's Synopsis: The continued adventures of Rupert Campbell-Black and co
T's Thoughts: Oh boy, did I love this series as a teenager/young adult. Polo was pretty much my favorite book ever. I know a lot of people loved Mount!, but I'm not one of them. Another series I don't think has aged well. Please don't read if you have any sentimental attachment to any of the characters from her early novels. Time and the author have not treated any of them well in this latest installment.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend?: No. If you love REALLY trashy gossipy novels, then maybe.

Book: Eventer's Dream - Caroline Arkill
T's Synopsis: Aspiring eventer Elaine accepts a job at the crazy Fane sisters' livery yard.
T's Thoughts: A bit immature and outdated, so I didn't persist with this series. BUT I enjoyed this book and found it quite realistic, well written and funny. I only wish I had found it as a teenager.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Sure

Book: Higher - Evan Rice
T's Synopsis: Follows talented, unpredicatable Valerie on her journey to the Atlanta Olympics show jumping team
T's Thoughts: Meh. Unlikable characters, and the plot was unbelievable. Valerie has a huge chip on her shoulder, but I guess that's OK because she is talented, yet poor so we are supposed to feel sorry for her?
T's rating*: 2/5
Would Recommend?: No

Book: Ride Every Stride - Amy Maltman
T's Synopsis: Jed has a lot of secrets and a dark past, but finds redemption at a Canadian A circuit barn
T's Thoughts: This is a pretty solid effort. Again, maybe a little young feeling and maybe a little too much manufactured drama, but the main character was likable and there is a decent, interesting background and story line, unlike some of the lighter reads on this list. It's not perfect, but I would try more from this author, horse related fiction or not.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Sure.

Book: Kick On - Kelly Jennings
T's Synopsis: Like so many of our horse fiction protagonists, Kelly has a dark past and is looking for redemption via horses.
T's Thoughts: This is set in Panama, and Kelly is a dressage convert eventually hoping to make the Pan Am games. That aspect of the story was interesting, and again, the horse details felt accurate. There's potential here. The rest of the story unfortunately felt really far fetched and honestly this one was a bit of a struggle to get through.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend?: I don't think so, but I'm not giving up on this author either.

Book: Taking Up the Reins - Priscilla Endicott
T's Synopsis: Diary of a dressage rider training in Germany for a year in the 70's.
T's Thoughts: I liked this, both for the author's voice and experience and for the insight into the beginnings of dressage in the US. It's a bit short on actual training advice, but the message of hard work and determination helping you achieve things is always inspiring.Also, I can identify with being away from home for long periods of time!
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes

Book: Unbroken - Ally Sayer
T's Synopsis: Another fictional book about eventing!
T's Thoughts: Honestly, I didn't finish it because the characters annoyed me.
T's rating*: Can't give a fair rating because I didn't finish
Would Recommend?: No

Book: Margaret Fletcher Gallop Girl - Genevieve Dutil
T's Synopsis: Spoiled Margaret needs a job, and finds one galloping racehorses
T's Thoughts: I feel like this book thought it was being a lot funnier than it was. Another author with some promise. Maybe this just isn't the series for me.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend: No

Book: Equine Fitness - Jec Aristotle Ballou
T's Synopsis: Non fiction, a book more about exercises for a well developed horse rather than the science of fitness
T's Thoughts: I love this book and refer to it multiple times a year. Buy the paper copy, because there are tear out cards included that you can take to the barn with you.
T's rating*: 4.5/5
Would Recommend? YES

Book: How Good Riders Get Good - Denny Emerson
T's Synopsis: A book about how good riders get good ;)
T's Thoughts: Another I came back to a few times this year. I'm glad I bought it when I was feeling all New Year's  resolution-y, because this time of year this book would make me feel very guilty indeed. Highly recommend if you're needing some motivation and/or thoughts on getting to the top in any aspect of life.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend? Yes. You'd better read this if you have any plans of being good. If you haven't read it yet, I can feel Denny judging your motivation already.

Can you believe it? I'm finally at the end of my list. I'm surprised there were this many, do I qualify for some TLC show about crazy addictions yet? Feel free to make suggestions for my 2017 library...apparently I have a lot of time to read!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Haiku Farm Blog Hop

Thank you to Aarene at Haiku Farm for the excellent content!


*  Introduce yourself!

I'm T (Teresa,  my friends call me T). I'm originally from the Vancouver area. Hint: TV producers would have you believe I was born in Storybrooke, Maine ;)  When I was 11, I managed to trade barn work for riding. By then we were living in a small town further up the coast, so I learned to ride in the backcountry with no real instruction. And, continued to strictly trail ride for many years.  As an adult with a bit more opportunity, I'm now trying to learn to ride "for real" !

*  Introduce your horse(s)!

Ginger, 9 year old 15.3hh Welsh D. I've owned her for just over 4 years.
Bridget, 7 year old 14.1hh Welsh D. She's been my buddy for 2 years.
I bought both pretty green, Bridget had 30 days driving training, Ginger had some ground work done. I started this blog as a way to document Gingers training.  Both now event and are good all around horses.
Bridget aka Midge

*  What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?

I'm at an eventing barn. I love eventing, but I love dressage equally. I still love hitting the trails as well, and we attend a few hunter/jumper shows throughout the year too.

*  Who else in your family rides?

No one! My parents truly thought I'd  grow out of it. I have a super supportive husband, G, who loves my horses and enjoys barn time even though he doesn't ride,  and an honorable mention goes to my step-dad who has happily fed the horses for me before.

*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?

Honestly,  this is kind of cheesy, but just getting out there and having fun as an adult trying a new sport on my not overly suitable pony. Completing our first event with a decent score also made me very happy.

*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?

I was given a starved foal, and just fell in love with him right from the start. He made an amazing recovery and I kept him for a number of years hoping he'd grow big enough to be my riding horse. It was a sad day when we all finally admitted his growth was always going to be quite stunted and he was never really going to fill out, nor be suited/stand up to much in the way of competitive horse sports. He's a kids trail horse now, so my sad moment turned into someone else's happy one. It still makes me really sad that someone let the poor guy nearly die and despite our best efforts left him with issues for life.

*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?

Reward even the smallest try.


*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?

Nope.

*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?

First level dressage this winter 60%+ Put in a really solid 2'6" round at schooling show next month, don't look like an idiot at 2'9"

*  Long term goals?

With Bridget: Novice 3 day at Rebecca Farm. PSG dressage.

*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?

One of those riding ones where you spend most of the day in the saddle travelling from place to place. I've seen interesting ones advertised in South America, but the UK would be neat too. Or anywhere, really.

*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?

I had the foal mentioned above and was doing a ton of trail riding, mostly getting babies out on the trail for a local barn owner.

*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?

Dressage. Maybe eventing. Definitely trail riding. Hopefully by then I'll be riding a Cardi baby.

I want him to be Ginger's baby daddy

*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most

Bridget's really, really opinionated. I like it because she's quite intelligent so it's fun to check her take on things.
Ginger is super tuned into you and very sensitive. I like that,

Friday, 16 December 2016

Hola

I finally updated Bridget's virtual adventures. Here's a big hint as to where we made it to last week:



Only 4 more weeks to go, then we'll tally up our annual totals (and take a virtual vacation ;)

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Dressastics

My lesson Monday was really, really difficult. Bridget was super wiggly and stuck feeling and my feeble attempts at fixing that were not helpful. Why can't I seem to get it into my head that tension plus tension is only going to equal more tension? Softness does not equal hanging on the outside rein! Contact is not manufactured by shortening said rein either.  So obvious yet still so difficult in practice.
Midge is still happy, though. Treats make everything good in Ponyville.

I had a bit of a moment and decided that I'm incapable of learning how to ride and really there is no point in wasting everyone's time. Luckily, EC likes making lesson money ;) and talked me off the ledge, so we ended on a good note and figured some stuff out in the process:

1. I need to ride better.
2. But don't be too hard on myself because B is a tricky ride. It's just not going to be perfect right now, and that's OK.
3. B's saddle needs to be adjusted.
4. B prefers her loose ring French link over her eggbutt snaffle bridle.
5. My idea of "being mean" to Bridget, and Bridget's idea of what is mean are very different things. In short, when in doubt, follow up with my stick immediately,  and don't feel guilty for being firm with her when required.

Wednesday, I warmed up and EC said nothing. Normally this means there is just so much wrong she can't even, and she needs to avert her eyes and just wait for the start of the lesson to fix my vices. Sometimes, like last night, it's because I was doing an alright job. Phew.  Maybe I have some capacity to learn, after all.

On a continuation of our December Gymnastics theme, our dressage lesson featured a bunch of poles. A fan set on a 15m circle, along with the standard circle of death on a 20 min circle.

Exercises were as follows:

Circle of death:

1. In trot, trot between the poles, transition for one walk stride over each pole, then back to trot
2. Next, stay in trot, but collect the trot one or two strides over the pole, then lengthen the 3 or 4 strides between poles.
3. Then, canter the poles, shortening over and lengthening between.
4. And finally, add a trot stride over the poles, canter between. Midge and I can only manage 1 or 2 accurate transitions on the circle, I simply cant keep her balanced enough to ask for more. But that's OK,  she's green, it's hard. The goal is to consistently get 2 this month.

Fan: Trot to start, then canter. Spiral in and out as needed. This is another exercise that forces you to ride off your outside aids and have a responsive horse. Its also imperative to find a good canter and keep your line, drift in or out at all and your distances get all messed up! Midge surprised me by being able to keep the 15m circle for the most part, although a few transitions and spirals out were required for balancing.

Both exercises were super useful for our current struggles. Both require pony to be on a proper bend on the circle and to turn her shoulders off my outside aids immediately when asked. For me, they force me to ride off my seat and leg and just keep my hands steady and B's head in front of her shoulders. Any tendancy to pull her nose around results in crookedness that is made super obvious when we get to the poles. Also, tons and tons of transitions are our friend right now!

Poles are almost jumps and therefore fun in Midge land too, so although there were some fresh, excited pony antics,  these exercises helped us avoid the "forward" argument and let us focus on other things. +1 for everyone's sanity.

So, there is maybe some light at the end of the tunnel. I'm starting to understand more what I need to do, and am gaining the tools to get it done. Can I dare to hope B is also possibly tiring of  pretending to be a 3 year old again? - she showed up to work last night like the 7 year old she actually is.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Seriously, Bridget?

Piccolopony had an interesting post the other day about the tendency to compare ourselves with others, along with the fantasy of owning the dream horse.

My initial thoughts were "oh yeah, I totally get this, but just like she feels about Katai, really I am so very happy with Midge that I could never replace her no matter how wonderful another horse sounds."

Then yesterday's ride happened. And I started to reconsider ;)

For the millionth time, B decided forward was optional. I'm just so done with that discussion. So, I did the ask nicely, Tell Firmly, MOVE YOURSELF NOW OR DIE!!! thing repeatedly. It's frustrating to me that each time this happens, B always needs it to escalate to stage 3 before  (with snarly grouchy mare face, naturally) she really moves. I hate beating on her, and I think she knows it.

I've broken her response down into a 5 stage loop for you:

Stage 1 -Leg. "Can't hear you."
2. Stage 2 - Use spur "Still can't hear you."
3. Stage 3 - Use whip "ARRGGGGGGHHHH OMG OK!!!1!!"
4. Stage 4 - "Arrghhh, so tired."

5. Stage 5 - Remind with leg."Can't hear you"


Thank goodness she's adorable when she's sleeping...or I'd be shopping ;)

Monday, 12 December 2016

December 10

Thank you again to the ever wonderful LWilliams for another month of 10 questions!
Virtual coffee made specially for LWilliams 

Does your horse need shoes? Fingers crossed, no, she's never needed them.

What do you think of the barefoot vs shoes debate? I think it's sort of silly, like the people who argue over disciplines, training systems, tack, feed, etc. Horses are all individuals, and what works for one might not work for another.  If B needed shoes to be comfortable, then I'd put shoes on her. I can also see possibly using them during show season so we can have the option of better traction on grass. For now, though, she's happy without.

Favorite season for riding? Fall, or a sunny winter day. Usually the barn is a bit quieter than spring/summer, the air is cooler, and there's the feeling you've got a few months to work quietly, while still looking forward to a new show season.

How many shows do you think you’ve gone to? I don't know...in the last year, maybe 10? Not many at all for a few years before that, and maybe a couple a year as a teen.

Do you consider yourself a good rider? No. I'm not confident enough and it shows. I think in lessons with constant feedback I probably look good, but when I ride alone I am not as assertive, so while it might look correct, I'm not always as effective as I should be. Also, I picture a good rider being a lot fitter than I am.

How experienced do you think someone needs to be to own a horse? It depends. If they are part of a program including full board, farrier, vet, saddle fitting apps etc and regular lessons with a good coach, and want to learn then it could work. If they just read about horses on the Internet and want to train a baby racehorse in the backyard, then maybe it might not :) 

Have you ever gotten into a fight with your trainer? No. I've politely disagreed, but I like to keep it professional and respectful. I wouldn't pay someone if I didn't trust their opinion. If something happens to break that trust, I tend to just move elsewhere. 

Describe your dream horse. 15hh or so. Bad ass jumper, with movement for dressage. Probably a pony cross of some sort. Forward, but sensible. Honest, but intelligent. Brave. Friendly and easy to have around. Never needs shoes or a vet. If it could be any color, maybe a dark bay.

Does anyone in your family ride? No, I don't think anyone I'm related to has even met my horses or seen me ride. G counts as family though, right? I chose him for qualities including excellent horse husband abilities. He's definitely the best family a girl could ask for.

If you could ride any horse in the world, which one would it be? why? Portersize Just A Jiff. Because everyone wants to take their pony club mount around Badminton.
Link to original photo and story about Jiff 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Location, Location, Location

Thanks to Sarah at A Soft Spot For Stars for the blog hop, and Cathryn of That Red Mare for the push to add some Canadian content :)

Location: BC's South Coast. Land of mountains, giant trees and rainy fjords requiring a ferry crossing or two.

I work and board on the lower end of the map. G and I live on the upper end...hence the ferry trips to get home on weekends.

Boarding:

- Full board here would likely run $800-$900 or so. I do chores 2 to 3 times a week to offset costs and pay about $500 depending on hay prices. $500 is probably a reasonable estimate for pasture board here too, although I've never seen it - we have a shortage of agricultural land and very few farms large enough!
Not my pic, but this mountain is visible from my house, and the lake below is a favorite summer spot. This gives you an idea of the terrain...it's not really farming country and we all live on the side of a hill one way or another.

- Hay is trucked in, usually from the interior or Washington State. $500/ton is a good guess. It's about $550 now, but it's about $475 in summer.

- Farrier: a trim is $45. Fronts about $120. Full set about $180. Fingers crossed, my girls haven't needed shoes yet!

- Training: Shared lessons $40-50. Privates $60-$100 depending on whether they are local or travel costs are included. Full training would be about $1000/mo plus board.

-Services: Vancouver is a ferry ride away and has everything you'd ever need. Here, we are more limited. The population is maybe 50,000 in the summer and it's spread out over a huge area, so we've got the basics you'd expect from a mid sized town and that's about it. Winters are slightly more limited as some of the services like restaurants and even hotels close for the season. As far as horse related services, we have 2 farriers for the entire area, no large animal vet, and one feed store. The tack store here just closed, which makes me sad.

- Weather: You need to know it rains here A LOT in the winter. We had 3 days without rain in all of October and November. And those 3 days were foggy/cloudy. On the plus side, it's mild and if you have good rain gear you can ride outside all year. Snow is a rare event, we just had our first snow in 2 years last week, and it melted the next day. Summers are also moderate - more sunshine of course, but the ocean breezes take the edge off the heat and truly hot days are rare.
Why Vancouver tourism reps wait for summer to make their ads and brochures ;) Also reminds me of the time last winter when Bridget had to dodge floating pool noodles in the arena.

Demographics: Relatively wealthy elderly people, and lots of them. I think the most per capita in Canada. Everyone retires here. I always notice how many children there are elsewhere when we travel. It's a little weird to be in my late 30's and meet pretty much no one my age living or working here.

Riding Demographic: The adults here are mostly pros who've retired to the area from other parts of Canada. Otherwise, my lesson mates a whole lot of ambitious kids and teens. I'm very lucky that the two main pros who still teach are both ex Canadian Eventing Team members, so the area is a hot spot of eventers! Quite a difference from my hometown only an hour away where everyone trail rides recreationally.

Frustrations: It's very expensive to live here. An average house costs about $750k, but average wages are something like $40k a year. Jobs are few and far between, unless you're in health care. Things like public transit are lacking. We're also a ferry ride away from Vancouver, which adds a bit of complication and a lot of cost far as attending horsey things goes.
This view will set you back $3.9 mil and it's not even close to much in the way of services, but there's probably dock space for your yacht :)

Loves: Riding weather all year round. I like the lakes and living on the ocean. So much gorgeous wilderness right out the back door. I only realized how lucky we truly are after a trip to the US last summer. Our beaches are all Crown Land, as is something ridiculous like 95% of the land in the province. (Crown Land = managed by the province or federal gov't on behalf of the Queen, I think. What's important is that almost all Crown land is free to ride and explore, no need to worry about trespassing on that beach or on that mountain top!) Also, I  love the showing and training resources available nearby - Vancouver area has a wealth of excellent trainers and shows to attend.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Gymnastics, Round 2

Lesson 2 of our December gymnastic boot camp is in the books.

It was something like 10 degrees C colder than our normal winter average,  and I was definitely feeling it. I need to break out my Alberta winter gear for the weekends rides, I think!

Bridget warmed up kind of fresh and stuck at the same time. I tried my best to be soft and patient with my bouncy pony  ball of tension. Eventually, it felt ok, then all of the sudden it felt like I forgot to ride. Either my butt was too numb from the cold to post quietly, or Bridget was really lifting her back up and it and the saddle were meeting me a millisecond before I expected. As I was adjusting, EC again proved she has eyes in the back of her head and voted for option 2. Good to know, now I have a feel for the trot we really want. The good news is that trot flowed into a lovely canter, and I was able to get that trot back again pretty easily after. There's hope yet for our dressage!

The previous lesson ended just as I was inadvertently finding a dressage groove, so the change of focus to jumping felt a little abrupt. Luckily, we started easy, with grids made of poles on the ground like so:

Then progressed to the first of each turning into a crossrails,  and eventually ending with all the poles bumped up to about 2'.  And, we did fine. I still have so much to work on, but compared to last year, I feel quite secure and balanced not matter what is going on and am much better able to make corrections to my position. I can implement suggestions mid grid, rather than my previous go to of just getting in there and hoping not to die :) Will I ever look pretty over fences? Likely not at this rate. I do believe good equitation equals good riding made easier so I will certainly not give up and will keep trying to be a little closer to GM approved.

Bridget was a good girl. I would have hoped for her to be a bit more forward thinking, but if we again compare to last year she's much improved. She was amazingly honest and had zero issues with finding where her feet should be this time. She still requires the odd bit of encouragement not to quit mid way, but she's getting so much closer to the place where she will be experienced enough to just take me thru with minimal rider input.

 I'm impatient and want to be better/fitter/braver NOW, so it's good when we have these types of lessons where I can see a little improvement in my riding.


All in all, an excellent, confidence boosting ride!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Mini Break/Quick Check In

I feel like I'm quite good at juggling all the things. Of course Bridget is super high on the list, but there are still weeks where life gets in the way. This has been one of those weeks. This past Fri-Sun I as up the coast visiting home. One of these days I'll buy a trailer and take Bridget along, but even then I'd have to budget carefully and make it a special occasion - ferry rates for a truck and trailer are about $200! For now, Bridget gets to spend every second weekend under the care of  "Aunty C". She loves that because C takes her trail riding in addition to letting her jump all the things that scare me. Win/win for everyone because C is Q-mare's owner and I ride Q on Wednesdays for her.

Anyway, Monday morning came bringing snow. Snow = local apocalypse around here, so the roads were awful and I missed both work and my lesson Monday just trying to travel back from my mini break at home. Good times.

Tuesdays I feed in the mornings, and Bridget gets used for vaulting class in the evenings, so again no riding.

Today is the day I finally ride again. It seems absolutely crazy that it's been nearly a week. I'm so lucky that my barn is so great and Bridget gets regular exercise regardless of what life throws my way. I still have some longer term plans that involve moving home, so I am enjoying all the resources on offer here fully!

I haven't posted a Ginger update in a while. She's doing really well. The teenager who leases her does super well with her and they're aiming for Training next season. My big mare is pretty athletic for her type and a really fun ride. I share lessons with them often, and they're amazing together! I do still ride Ginger once in a while, but still have no desire to make it a more frequent thing. We have a lot of fun on the trails, but as far as arena work goes I prefer Bridget.

Ginger has grown up a lot in the past year. She's generally more accepting and if something offends her her brain returns to the building a lot sooner - who knew she'd be 8 before her grown up brain would appear! :) In other Ginger news, breeding late next spring is still on the table. Crossing my fingers.

Bridget's virtual adventure is still happening - I'm keeping track of miles, I just haven't had time to update the site. The goal is to track a full year, and we're nearly there. I'm hoping to make it to Mexico!

On a final note, it's show planning season. Even though we're in a bit of a rut training wise, I'm getting quite excited for spring shows and setting goals for the new year.


Friday, 2 December 2016

Truce

Bridget and I are like an old married couple.

I went to catch her last night and she was like 'Nope. I am still mad at you." She's apparently got a history of being difficult to catch, but fingers crossed, this was the first time she'd tried it with me. Mares. I caught her in very short order. I could be imagining things, but it seemed more like she just wanted to let her feelings be known rather than actually not wanting to come into the barn for a visit.

Pre ride, I switched up her bridle and went from the current eggbutt snaffle back to the loose ring french link she used to tolerate. Couldn't hurt, right?

When I got on, she was immediately thinking forward. To the point that forward was the new answer to every request?! I called truce and just let her be - so what if the bend wasn't as great as I would have liked or the canter was a bit rushed. I'll take that over the previous night's deciding not to move at all!

She's still very fussy in the contact, but I forced myself to be patient and give the bit change a chance. There was some moderate success, so I think we'll stick with it and see if it might be part of the key to getting back to a happy place.

Left lead walk to canter was still not the best. She thought about things overnight apparently and got herself a little worked up over it. Instead of dealing with 'Don't wanna move!' it was more 'Can't wait, I got this, let's do this thing now!!' *gets self in a muddle and forgets how her legs actually work. Offers multiple counter canter and random lead changes. Gets worried she's in trouble again* So, lots of repetition, and lots of changes through walk, so I could tell her how fantastic her collected walk and that right lead transition is amongst our multiple tries for a relaxed left transition. We found a happy place to end on, and fingers crossed, we've found a good place to compromise. I don't know what has prompted the recent lack of confidence in making a left lead canter transition, but we'll figure it out. I've said it before, but I think I need to remind myself again: for all her confidence and opinions she really is a sensitive little thing and quite the worrier.  Once she gets herself organized the canter itself is lovely, but the initial stride or two are a bit of a muddle and she's reverted back to wanting to be counterbent. I tried with and without my reins in case it's rider error (I do love to hang on the inside rein now and then), but I didn't notice any difference. She's up to date on everything but it's been a year since the saddle fitter visited, so we'll get that checked again just in case....last time we were having similar issues her saddle needed the flocking adjusted a little.





Thursday, 1 December 2016

Bridget Says No! No! No!

I had extra time last night, so I sat and watched a lesson prior to my own. That's something I wish I could do more of, I feel like I learn almost as much listening and watching as when I'm  riding.

Bridget warmed up awful. She was supremely fresh, but behind the leg - even a smack with my stick resulted in pinned ears and inverted rushing for a stride or two before she'd attempt to quit again, suck back and spook at the world. Since I'm not a fan of bad pony tude, I was irritated right from the start and really got on her case about moving forward without wiggling and fussing. Which honestly, in Bridget land, means kicking and smacking the pony. Not something I enjoy doing repeatedly in a ride, but subtlety is not a thing when she's in that mood. Back to basic riding horse bootcamp for Midge! We warmed up mostly in canter, since for Bridget, at least, canter seems to be the key to getting her unstuck.

My angry, wound up ball of a pony finally started to soften, but the sparkle was lacking. Good Pony B was just not in a mood to play, I guess.

Our exercise du jour was ground poles set up in the following pattern:


We started at trot. The blue poles were spaced a bit far for Bridget, so they were helpful in getting her moving a little more. Of course she was unimpressed and her method involved a bit more giraffe sulkiness than I think EC was hoping for. ("AHHHH, the evil poles are making me go forward!!1!"). The bendy line coming back was worse, since now we had to change the bend, and once again B couldn't bend left. Eventually, though we started seeing progress and had some nice work.

We moved up to canter. The task: Walk to canter, canter through the blue poles, back to walk, pick up canter again in the corner and go through the bendy line. Sounds good, except B decided to opt out of cantering last night. I guess she used up the daily canter ration in the warm up? Trotting off was a thing, bouncing around in place was a thing, popping the outside shoulder and flying sideways was a thing, flat out ignoring and walking was a thing. Cantering? No. So, I spent the last half of the lesson on a 20m circle reminding B that walk to canter is indeed a thing we do every ride, as is bending left and cantering without randomly stopping or bolting off. Naughty pony. Eventually, I was told to just drop the reins, kick her forward and follow up with the whip. Doesn't matter whether she trots a stride or two or picks up the wrong lead...just make the pony move. We ended when she finally (grudgingly) cantered from my leg alone. I guess even EC was losing hope in getting a nice transition.

EC gave me a pep talk basically saying it's entirely possible to make a dull horse sharp, easier than making a naturally sharp horse less reactive. In other words, don't be discouraged, hard work and consistency will win in the end. Still, much as I adore the Midge, I went home frustrated with my riding and my pony. We seem to fight the same battles over and over. I was OK with it when she was green, less so now that she 100% knows what we want, but just declines to show up to work. I'm also upset with myself for playing into it and investing emotion into things by getting so frustrated with her. On the plus side, these days used to be a regular occurrence, now they're a once every few weeks sort of thing. Progress, even when it doesn't feel like it in the moment :)