Monday, 31 December 2018

Sophie Update


I kind of lost my mojo this past month, despite having an excellent sunshiney vacation to lift my spirits. I've got some 2019 goals I'm pondering, but for now here's another monthly pony recap.

The ponies took a bit of a back burner to just looking after myself, but we still did have some fun days I've neglected to blog about. Here's a few pictures of what Sophie and I were up to in December:




She still comes as soon as she sees me. Even though I know it's likely in a search for treats, the kid inside me loves it more than anything.
She's packing a saddle and bridle regularly right now. She also measures 14.1hh now - I can almost imagine myself riding her next summer!
Except on the days she's too filthy to deal with it.
Which, given our wet winter weather, is about 50% of the time.

To further foil my grooming attempts, she's learned how to untie herself
I clipped her beard off, she perfected her mare side eye
Despite "torturing" her with tack fitting, clipping, gallons of waterless shampoo, and multiple off property walks, she still waits at the gate for me every afternoon.
She made a new old friend
Managed to pull off being simultaneously awkward and fancy (and filthy, yet again):

Has a very solid grasp of walk, trot, canter transitions using verbal cues now

Continued to surprise me with her work ethic (Trying to get me to bring her into the barn here, lol)

And was just generally a very happy and fun presence in our lives.

Such a good girl






Saturday, 29 December 2018

Presents


G and I do the whole experiences for gifts thing, so our Christmas gift to each other consisted of a week-long siesta in Mexico. I'd change nothing about that, but sadly for you that means this isn't the place you'll see an awesome Xmas tack haul.

That disclaimer out of the way, I did get the "kids" some small things recently, thanks to Black Friday:

Do you see it? 


One of those sparkly things in our makeshift tree (seriously, how did Christmas come so quickly?) is a new browband for Bridget.

Sophie got her own bridle, which she's not that impressed with. It's a hand me down of bridle parts that didn't fit Bridget, but I think it looks cute. The best I could get is a picture with one half ear of approval, though :)

Like Bridget, she got her very own tiara, fit for a princess. I went with a safe navy blue for her because I simply am not experienced with dressing Barbie Dream Ponies (and all her Bridget hand me downs specially curated just for her wardrobe pieces are black or navy ;)

On the topic of navy...this Hansbo pad was on sale in pony dressage size for $25. It's supposedly magnetic and ceramic and happy making :) It is thick and very nice quality, so even if it's actually not magical I hope Bridget appreciates it.
Of course, both ponies probably are happiest with the extra attention and extra good eats they've been getting this week :) B has been on lawnmower duty at the farm, which is basically her version of heaven. She's so quiet she's been getting left out in the yard or around the buildings in the day time to act as head gardener, lol. Sophie, of course, has been slightly busier, but those adventures in training baby ponies can wait for another update.

Hope everyone is well and enjoying this last weekend before the New Year!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

December Resources


It's that time again! Here's a few of the things I read or watched that stuck out to me this month.


- Dressage For Jumpers With Laura Graves. Clinic recap with link to USEF Network video of the clinic.

Auditing Christine Traurig from A Enter Spooking. Another excellent clinic recap with great notes and lots of things I want to try.

Clinic Adventures from Journey With A Dancing Horse. I love Teresa's lesson and clinic recaps because I feel like we often are working on similar things, plus she has a knack for honing in on the important take homes we can all use.

-Mat Brown: A Case for Not Focusing on Your Goals Part 2 and Part 3. Part 2 focuses on tools to help students learn positively, Part 3 is about the horses. Kind of fun that the tools for teaching both are very similar :)

-Charlotte Dujardin Atlanta Clinic Recaps. Excellent recap, and lots of great basics, exercises and take homes I'm sure we all know but maybe need reminding to practice and be consistent about.

Mark Todd autobiography. I know this one gets good reviews, but I have to say I came out of this one thinking he seems like a perfectly nice guy, but not at all what I expected...like with the George Morris ('Unrelenting') book, I found it hard to relate to their overwhelming desire to be the best, and all the things they sacrifice to get there. At times, this one made me really dislike the sport of eventing (and racing) and made me very sad for his family. It's a good autobiography, but maybe I was looking for more about his life with horses and less about his accomplishments? I'm not sure why but this one made me a little uneasy.


- Stable Lass. A cool peek into the UK racing scene, from an insider perspective. It's fun without being overly silly, and it's always inspiring to read about people who love their jobs as much as Gemma does. The jobs of the horses in this book are so similar to those in the Mark Todd one, yet I enjoyed this book so much more because the horses' characters are front and centre, along with the day to day details of their lives. So, if that's your thing, I'd recommend this book.


-All Over The Place. No horses, but a really good (and funny) read, and I keep recommending it to people. I really identified with her confidence and depression insights.

-Conquering Performance Anxiety - The Plaid Horse. Because yeah, that lesson happened.

-Comet in Summer. Actually a re-read, because I have so much time on the ferry without internet or data that my kindle book account is rapidly depleted. I loved this book the first time around, and I loved it again. It's YA, but don't let that put you off, there is some fantastically funny and witty banter throughout the book and also it's a great book for reminding us why we love horses and riding and for being grateful for what we have.

Coming Up: The 2019 USEF Robert Dover Clinic starts Jan 3rd. Link here.

Monday, 24 December 2018

2018 Favorite Things

If this was a professional sports team, we'd call it a rebuilding year. In other words, there's not been a lot of exciting content in the form of show recaps or giant training breakthroughs. Thank you again to all the fantastic people out there who keep on reading and commenting regardless! It means a lot to me to have a community out there to 'talk' to, especially since in real life my local dressage and eventing community consists of...me.

I'm loving the $900 fb Pony bloghop going around that does such a great job of recapping the year without requiring you to have done a million and one interesting things. (Even though, of course a lot of you overachievers out there did just that! Bloggers are the best at being inspiring.)

Favorite Show Picture:

Uh oh, show photos have been conspicuously absent this year. I went to one non-schooling show, and it was a bit of a challenge to say the least - everything from multiple trailer tire blowouts to my reflocked saddle being delivered and not fitting. At all. B also fulfilled my worst nightmares around competing and decided dressage was not happening once we got into the arena and I kind of fell apart.  Still, I am proud of this ribbon, because although it doesn't bring back memories of a fun weekend,  I worked harder for it than any I've ever won in the past.

Favorite Non-Show Picture:
Sophie being a rock star at our extreme trail challenge


Favorite Thing You Bought:



A Sophie pony, obviously!



Favorite Moment on Horseback:



Galloping around like a crazy lady on the beach in Mexico, not a care in the world.

Favorite Moment out of the Saddle:


Getting to know Sophie - I pretty much fell in love with her instantly and baby horses are just fun.

Favorite Between the Ears Picture:

Here's a picture of me taking a between the ears picture for you guys :)
Favorite Horse Book or Article:

You know what? I read a TON of books and articles, but nothing was so useful as discovering USEF network and riding centric Youtube videos and vlogs - apparently I learn more by seeing than reading!


Favorite Horse Ridden Aside from Your Own:

Audrey

That's tough! I love them all, it's kind of an ongoing barn joke that I want to take home every horse I ride. I'm obviously quite fond of Audrey after riding her weekly all year. But, some of my friends own pretty great horses too, EC has some wonderful lesson horses, and Mexican pony was wonderful as well. 

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse:


Yet another one of B sitting around

T Rex pony

Happy, sleepy B

Favorite Movement That You Conquered:

I have no riding pics on Audrey, despite my 50 odd rides on her this year. Here is one of Bridget I like doing a respectable W-C transition - a big win for her, many hours weeks years went into that! :)
They're not exactly conquered, but canter pirouettes on Audrey. More practically, I feel like I am able to properly sit Audrey's huge gaits now and that's probably a more useful life skill!

Favorite Horse Meme:

Tough one. I actually have an entire folder named "inspiration" and it contains all sorts of things I find hilarious. 


Friday, 21 December 2018

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

I have to fess up, I'm not talking about Christmas.




It's winter solstice! And you know what that means...longer days are coming! Here's wishing everyone lots of bright days ahead!


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

2018 Goals Recap

Here's my list from last December's 2018 goals post
This year did not turn out as I had expected, but I feel like that's just life (and horses!) I had a lot of Bridget dressage centric goals when I made these goals, and obviously just a few months later decided to not pursue those further to save both of our sanity. So, my year was filled with adventures of other sorts - trail challenges and lots of hacking with Bridget, dressage lessons on Audrey, getting to know Sophie, and random fun rides and adventures whenever offered. It was a year with a bit of everything, for sure.

So, let's see:

What Got Checked Off The List?

-Negotiate continuing to work from home. Check, I only work M-W in the office with the longest commute ever. I didn't need to find a new job, so that's a big win :)

-Weekly lessons with EC. Continue lessons on Audrey. I probably missed a lesson here and there due to life, but for the most part weekly lessons on Audrey were a thing.

-Baby Pony or Prospect Planning. Admittedly, this was something I expected to push out to 2019, aiming for something 3 or 4 years old. But, we welcomed a 2 year old Sophie in March! The one goal on this list that I way overachieved on :)

Back in the summer when she was shiny and clean, lol


Sure, If We Fudge The Details a Little:

-Topline Back to Back Event. I went, I groomed, I helped the kids, but I did not compete. And they just announced they're no longer hosting the event...so it's a riding goal never to be accomplished. LOL, that means it's checked off ;)

-Have Fun. I feel like this year was a struggle in a lot of ways, but I still definitely had a bunch of fun.

-TBird ToC shows. I don't think the show I went to in early spring was part of this series, I think it was one of their winter schooling series ones. I really didn't bring my best, nor did Bridget (I think our high score was a very hard won 62% at 1-2), but we kinda sorta did the thing?

-Be Braver Over Fences. Well, there was that lesson that went all wrong and now I feel less confident in my abilities and jumping 'strange' horses. But, I feel perfectly happy jumping Bridget over all the things these days. Jumping aside,  I've been doing my best to ride all the different horses and am brave with hacking or flatwork on pretty much anything I hop on right now, which is actually big progress.

-Flying changes.
-Second Level. It doesn't say so, but I assumed 'on Bridget'. However, Bridget was been making it abundantly clear dressage is not her happy place, and I finally listened earlier this year.
On the plus side, I'd definitely be comfortable with Second Level tests on Audrey, and I'm confident doing changes on her too. I AM gaining confidence in my abilities and toolkit for the future with Sophie, which I guess is really the most valuable part of the puzzle.
No pressure, Sophie, but please just be a little dressage star, thank you ;)

Definitely Half Assed It:

-Work Hard on Fitness. Yoga is a thing in my life now. I rode a ton. I did quite a bit of hiking, But...generally speaking I was not consistent week to week and my fitness is not where I had hoped (but not terrible, at least)

-Organize Monthly Clinics in Hometown. Not for lack of effort! I went down fighting on this one and I worked my butt off to make this a thing, but I gave up in late spring - there simply weren't enough people committing on a regular basis and as some of you predicted, there were problems with people cancelling at the last minute (or even taking lessons and never paying!) Unfair to EC to continue, despite my best efforts.
Not relevant, picture is just cause she's cute

Nope:

-Canada Cup Dressage Show. We just attended one spring show and I moved my dressage goals on to Audrey (and Sophie). It's a fun show, though and I hope to go back when Sophie is under saddle.

-Equestrian Canada Instructor Certification. This has been on my list forever, and requires quite a bit of study, paperwork, and some testing! I didn't make this happen again this year. Although I feel like my skills have progressed to where I wouldn't stress too much over the test, I'm more and more thinking this isn't a direction I'm going to pursue. I have my hands full with my current schedule and can't imagine adding coaching even on a very part time basis. That, and sadly I don't think there is much of a market for an english instructor here (I am literally the only person I know here who takes lessons (or rides english))

-Buy A Horse Trailer. Nope, I borrowed a trailer and bought a baby pony with that money. Next year?

With Bridget living the semi-retired life, who needs a trailer? ;)

Bonus! Great Things I Didn't Expect To Happen in 2018:

-Technically a carry over from 2017, but I heard early in the year that Bridget was reserve champion at Training level with our provincial organization.
- Galloping for miles on beautiful sandy beaches
- Canter pirouettes!
- Passage, and the start of piaffe.
- My best friend bought a youngster right around the same time I did, so Sophie and I have built in training buddies :)
- Moving back to one of my favorite barns ever. Sophie is so happy there!
- Showing adventures with EC and the barn kids. Yes OK, I didn't show as much as I wanted, but there was a super cool silver lining in that I almost enjoyed attending as part of the support network even more. Plus, I met a lot of new friends and connections!


Monday, 17 December 2018

Tu Caballo Esta Loco


I had such a great vacation. We went to San Jose Del Cabo for a week since it's a nice short flight from Vancouver. It was very non exciting by traditional standards because I basically read books and slept for the entire week! While I am a little sad to have missed out on some of the fun adventures on offer, we've stayed in the area before so I did feel a little like I had checked a lot of things off the bucket list on previous trips. Mentally I just desperately needed a time out this time, and apparently my body agreed.

Sleepy time in paradise. I was in bed asleep by 9pm most nights and the earliest I got up was 7:30am  :o

Luckily for this blog, the one thing I did do was drag my butt out of bed (relatively) early one morning to go riding before it got too hot out. And it was an adventure, for sure!

I booked a 1 hour ride at the place across from our hotel, where I could see the horses were well fed and cared for. Actually, I have to say, even the horses the competing beach vendor guys trudge up and down the beach all day with looked happy and healthy, so that was pretty nice. We've travelled to some places where the animals don't enjoy the same standard of care we're used to here and I'm always a little nervous that I'm going to see something sad.

Beach horses looking for riders one afternoon

Anyway, having worked at a trail riding establishment in the distant past, I never, ever, admit to having any experience riding...because it's a 50/50 chance whether you're going to get the fun, well trained horse, or the difficult spoiled one that's kind of not working out but it's the only one left (and you did say you weren't a beginner, didn't you? ;) So, I quite happily popped on the placid looking Bailo ("I dance")

You'd think horse blogging = horse photo skills. Not true. Poor dude, he's maybe not traditionally handsome, but he's way cuter than my bad pictures portray. 

In an amazing stroke of luck, the other bookings didn't show, so it was just me and the guide.

I started to suspect things were going to be fun when we walked out the gate and immediately took off at a speedy trot up the busy main street. And, the previously sleepy looking Bailo turned into a little wannabe racehorse. Asking whether I was ok with cantering, we popped across the rather large road median like a tiny 2 stride bank complex. Up off the pavement (Why are curbs in Mexico always like minimum 2' high?), two strides over the grass, drop back down onto the road, lol. My "technique" must have met with approval, because next I was being asked if I wanted to race.

So, down to the beach. Where we trotted, cantered in place, and trotted some more. Bailo was feeling great, and in retrospect, knew something I didn't. He didn't walk, at all. There was a bit of a language barrier, but the guide definitely said "Bailo esta loco", with a shrug and a laugh "He's named Bailo because he dances! He's crazy, but he's fast!"

Beautiful beaches

If you're familiar with the riding culture there, you'll know that a dancing horse or one with a lot of energy and expression is considered a really nice horse in a lot of circles. And Bailo really is a fantastic horse. We raced on the beach numerous times, and I'm not sure I've ever gone that fast on a horse. My 3/4 TB mare might have come close for stride length, but that little guy was in a class of his own for acceleration. "The beach sand makes the horses strong and fast!" I was told. I had to laugh a little, because at home, beach sand just makes Bridget sad and slow(er) ;)

Estuary we rode through/around. My Spanish is sketchy, but the guide was awesome about teaching me the words i didnt know for all the animals and things we saw. I seem to have a permanent goal of getting a better grasp of the language. Languages aren't something I find super easy but I try :)

60 minutes later, I was shaky and dead tired.... galloping up and down those (surprisingly huge in places!) sand dunes, through the water, off and on gravel roads, it felt a lot like we had just completed the longest and most scenic XC run ever.

Water hazards ;)

These pictures all courtesy of my husband, who walked this part later in the day. We were too busy racing along here to take pics, lol

We met up with another group for the last few minutes home. A bit of my tack was a little askew, so the other guide was asking if everything was ok.

"Oh, it's great!" replied my guide, "But that horse is crazy, and the girl is too!" (I so wish I had a better grasp of the language, because I missed a lot of what followed, beyond the teasing of whether it was me or Bailo who wants to run so fast/is the craziest.)

Marina we rode by. There were camels and dolphins here too!

Poor Bailo by now was pretty fried, and so we cantered on the spot sideways the remainder of or way home. You'd think that might be frustrating or scary, but he actually felt quite safe and we just all carried on chatting and laughing while even the other horses pranced a little to let us know how much fun they were having too.


So, my expected sedate beach ride was anything but. Better yet, it was probably the most fun I've ever had on horseback. If I had a million dollars, I'd buy and ship that horse home and gallop around like an idiot all day. Or, maybe I'd just leave him be. Our sandy beach space and people wanting to randomly race me for the better part of an hour on horseback is pretty limited, and he seems to be living his best life as is :)





Thursday, 6 December 2018

This Week in Horseville

I continue to feel super burnt out and discouraged.

But, I am leaving for a week of sunshine and R&R this weekend and after that I think I only work 3 days in the next 30. So...I am also feeling grateful.

I had a lesson on Audrey last night, and it went decently. We shared again with Ginger and her new owner (see, again I am so lucky...I get to pet that cute Ginny nose still whenever I like).
She's adorable, as always. Just as fuzzy IRL ;)

Audrey actually walked up to me and said hi when I got there...which NEVER happens because she's not really the friendly type. So, I felt quite flattered. Knowing her, though, she wasn't saying hi, more like "C'mon lady, you're late, it's lesson time, we have a job to do, hop to it!"

I was later sure it was the latter thought, because Shark Bite Audrey struck again. I learned it runs in the family, because when I called her Shark Bite within hearing of EC she laughed and said her full sister is nicknamed Snapping Turtle. LOL, they must be quite the family! You'll just have to trust me that Audrey is actually very sweet and kind underneath it all.

It's so dark so early. Here's an attempt at a post ride pic of Ms Audrey :)

Anyway, it was very cold out last night and Audrey was feeling quite tense, so a good part of my ride was just on a looser rein, pushing her into a contact, flexing her and encouraging her to lift her back and use her body.

All the same things I do with Bridget, but Audrey is great because I always know we will get there, where with B sometimes she never really lets go and I can get in my head a little about it and think that it was a 'bad' ride.

Look at this cute Bridget pic...it's from years ago now, but I like it and it's much better quality than the crappy cell phone ones I provide you.
So, while we didn't do anything super interesting, it was a good reminder that even the Audreys of the world sometimes need a long and low sort of day or a longer warmup to get in the groove. (also, that I am not completely inept... as mentioned, I think it is just a fact of life that A's default is to feel fantastically free, where B's default is to be stuck....just how it is and some days I am simply not going to get B feeling as loose as Audrey, doesn't mean it was a wasted or 'bad' ride, it just is what it is)
Crappy cellphone pic, redux. B and I doing the circle of death pole exercise last weekend.

Anyway, back to the lesson. The canter work was not as good as it has been, because the tension kept creeping back in, also she was super annoyed with my legs. I swear I wasn't nagging her, but I do think perhaps her being tense in her back was contributing in that I needed to be that much looser and giving to help her come round and I probably was not and she was reacting to that. I'd like to find a time to watch EC ride her again to get a visual of how she rides her.

The sun came out! B got to go out and eat grass this week.

We did, however, find some fantastic trot work...she's quite talented, but maybe(?) greener than you'd expect for the level, so she's only just properly carrying herself without the rider doing so much. I love that once you help her find that balance, she wants to go back to it and stay there...so cool. So, we practiced having 'gears' (no definition for them, just my imaginary feel of what they are) in the trot, and in my mind I think we made nice transitions between 1-3rd (so, a collected 'imagine she's on the spot' trot to a good medium trot), 4th gear I had to be careful not to let her speed up and lose balance, and so I didn't attempt the imaginary 5th gear giant extension I'm sure she has.

Because no weekly update is complete without a Sophie mention. I don't think Sophie will have the Audrey talent, but she's a pretty cool girl in her own right and I'm very excited to start riding her a little next summer. Sophie as a foal. Not sure I shared this one, the breeder sent it after she arrived and I think it got lost in all my new pony media :)

So, with that, I am leaving tomorrow for that much needed R&R. Fingers crossed this more laid back month (and some margaritas!) refresh my mindset and gives me some inspiration for the upcoming new year.

Bridget will be on vacation also, doing what she always does...eat and sleep...sometimes simultaneously. If someone wanted a picture that symbolizes everything Bridget, this is it.