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Glory to the King.

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Tremendous Photo Dump

So the good news is that we survived the unadulterated chaos that was this week.

thanks in no small part to puppy kisses

The better news is, next weekend is dressage with Destiny (walk/trot under his mom), Renè (Prelim under K), Arwie (Elementary 4 and 5) and Thunder (Prelim 2 and 3). I can’t wait.

Eagle has accepted his job as the steady hack with aplomb. He can still have the odd little spook or sticky moment, but, well. He was backed in March, after all.

His mom is also back on him now that she’s recovered from her tumble, and shows admirable handling of the expected nerves. Eagle, obviously, is being perfect. He has developed a new habit of gaping and hanging on the hand a little in his downwards, so we’ll play with different snaffles and see if something else is more agreeable.

Firepaw (from Warriors) and Meatlug (from How to Train Your Dragon) are adorable, but appearances are deceiving.

Lady Erin and I started to talk about the box. She did have one warmblood tantrum about it, but she’s currently, like, 12.2hh, so it didn’t go anywhere.

This adorable child was way more amused with riding bareback than Lullaby was with being ridden bareback.

The kid that rides Midas has put herself on a quest to be good without stirrups. I think she’s pretty good already.

Ash was mysteriously sick for a day. She ran a fever and just looked a bit off and I panicked and basically gave her everything I could think of, and she was fine by lunch. Nothing ever came of it, so that’s a bit of a mystery, but it seems like a fairly benign one.

In anticipation of his competitive debut, Destiny got in the box. He was exceedingly well-mannered and cooperative, I’m pleased to report.

I love these two round dressagey butts.

Blizzard graduated to the long-lines. He has a strangely fussy little mouth, but his teeth are done so it’s kinda just a matter of being patient and letting him learn to deal. He is very obedient and will probably only ever be ridden on a loose rein in his hacking future, so I’m not losing sleep over it.


Trooper is on a six-week semi-hiatus from schooling and jumping. The little chap is only three and a half and we already have all his basics and little tiny jumps installed, so he deserves a break. In the meantime he goes on hacks when I have nobody else to use.

In my continuing quest to get my wayward heels back under my hips where they belong, I’ve been experimenting with stirrup lengths. It seems the Wintec has the effect of ever-so-slightly pulling my leg forward because of the position of the stirrup bar in relation to the deepest point of the seat. We’ve gotten around this by doing lots and lots of work without stirrups so that I get used to sitting right and my body doesn’t get to think of excuses to do its own thing.

It appears I am finally conquering the tension through my hips, so when relaxed and unrestrained, I manage to sit like a human being at last.

Skinny Savanna is already so much fatter. The magic of ad-lib grass and a bit of balancer does it again and it makes my heart happy as she begins to thrive.

She has been SO naughty though, running out at every fence she can with her kid. I think the adjustment from huge groups all going around together at her previous yard, down to private lessons or two in a lesson here, have been a bit of a shock for them both. She’s in half training with me now so we’ll get it sorted.

It’s a bit of a menagerie around here.

Our biggest beginner group yet: five, through from dad down to five-year-old little sister. Lisna, Starlight, Lulu, Sunè, and Stardust have been impeccable.

Milady has put on so much weight this month it’s almost scary. She was about a 3/10 when we weaned Lady Erin and now she’s about 6/10. K has started to ride her for me so that I can use her as a trail horse and schoolie until she’s in foal again, whenever that may be.

She has the gentlest spirit. ❤

Typically, in trying to correct one flaw, I’ve created another. Now my heels camp out somewhere three miles behind me while I perch. I’ll find the balance. I have a patient dance partner.

Ash is loving the hack life. She’ll be terribly useful in the school once her tendon rehab is complete.

After much desensitising, I finally put a leg over Blizzard. He was, as you can see, pretty cool about it. Just the way I like it.

This little one got to try out our brand-new 17m lunging ring in the brief window between its being built and being recruited as turnout for Champagne until she settles down. I love it. It even has fancy slanting sides so the youngsters can quit whacking my knees on the fence.

Nugget is recovering very nicely. The plan is for her to move in with Magic once she’s regained the use of her neck fully. I’m hoping his love and joie de vivre will rub off on her, and he really, really missed Exavior.

For now, the tack boxes have been stolen to be a table for her cheeky little majesty.

After weeks of improvement, Arwen’s canter-walks have gone down the drain again a little. On the bright side, we suddenly have shoulder-in and rein back. Poor Arwen – Elementary is tough when neither of us really know what we’re doing at the level yet. Thunder has it easy by comparison. For now.

Life with Champagne has been a little interesting, but she is settling one day at a time. She’s used to very little turnout, but seems to settle much better outside and fret quite a bit in the stable. The poor girl is extremely anxious about basically everything – I don’t understand how she can maintain that level of anxiety for so long. We’ll sort it out.

Dusty cannot understand her new buddy. So young, so well-bred, so well cared for, so sound, so gorgeous. What does she have to worry about?

Jump judged today at coach K’s family’s event and realised just how much I miss everything about eventing. Someday.

Praying for a peaceful next week, but ready to see God’s will in it, whatever it is. Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, Ash, Blizzard, Champagne, Destiny, Eagle, Lady Erin, Lessons, Lullaby, Magic, Midas, Nugget, Stardust, Trooper | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dance

Emma and SprinklerBandit recently wrote about the why’s of riding – how the horse you have is linked to the very reason you ride in the first place. Never one to miss out on the chance to be sappy, I’m jumping right on the bandwagon.

just because I love this photo

It’s a topic I’ve been giving some thought to lately. The answers to why I ride for a living, and why I have the horses in the school that I have, are simple. God sent me, and God sent them.

Magic and old Skye are also pretty simple. They’re semi-retired pets. They’re here because they’re my friends and they don’t owe me a thing.

Then we get to the topic of dressage.

After realising that upper-level showjumping and eventing were just not going to happen for me – at least not in the next decade or so – I turned to my remaining options for a discipline I could be truly competitive in: dressage and showing. Showing judges freak me out, so that left dressage. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I adore dressage, in no small part thanks to the horse that was born for it – Nell. She gave me a taste of success and I liked it.

Then God turned the whole thing on its head.

Nell was sold. My best horse left; the carpet was pulled out from under the feet of my career. I mourned; not only the loss of a friend in Nellie, but the loss of a dream. It seemed to me that God was saying, “Enough of this selfishness. The time, money and energy you dedicate to this sport is self-serving; I want you to give it up and focus on the yard.”

And in a way, I guess He was. It shattered me to accept it, but I realised that much as I gave glory to Him in the high moments, schooling every day was all about progress and points and ambition. I laid down the dream.

Then He sent me Rainbow, and I was euphoric because I thought He was saying it wasn’t selfish after all.

And then Rainybow died. The cruelty of it was like a punch in the guts. It was all I could do not to lose my temper with God for this apparent injustice. I loved that horse and now she was gone and the dream with her, like Nell, but worse.

God said, “O, ye of little faith. I’ve got a plan with this, daughter.”

That’s why, when she basically fell out of the sky, I named her Faith. Not because I really had any, but to remind me to believe even when everything looks dark.

As you all know by now, since then everything just blossomed. Suddenly Arwen decided she was good at dressage too and went Elementary, and then Thunder was like “hi mom I’m really talented” and started scoring ridiculously well at Prelim, and now I have a dressage arena and even the sale ponies were scoring better than I ever have anywhere.

So the dream lives. But it’s a different beast to what it was with Nell. I have always been so desperate to prove to the students, to the world, to God that I was good enough  for them. I failed at jumping, I failed at eventing – dressage was my great hope.

But this whole year has basically been about one thing: the only opinion that matters is God’s, and nothing I ever do will make me good enough for His love, and it actually really doesn’t matter at all because He died for me before I even knew Him to say thank you to. It is the purest freedom from guilt to glimpse the depth of amazing grace, yet the strongest motivation to live purely, all at once.

So what is dressage to me now? A way to prove myself? I don’t have to prove myself because it just isn’t about me. My students are here and I give them my whole heart; as long as I keep doing that they don’t seem to care how much satin is on my wall.

Is it something for me to finally be brilliant at? Well, what does brilliance matter? Sport is temporary. I won’t be taking any ribbons or tests into the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s become something more to me now. I don’t really have a name for it, but the closest word I know is this:

Worship.

I don’t deserve to be saved from eternal agony, yet I am. I don’t deserve to be loved by the God Who is Love, yet I am. I don’t deserve to become a dazzling, new, adopted member of God’s family, yet I am. I don’t deserve Arwen or Thunder or Faith or the 60x20m patch of sand or the opportunity to compete or anything – yet I have it. All that testifies to just one thing and that thing is grace.

So while I believe brilliance will be a by-product, and while I still hope one day I’ll get to ride Grand Prix, that’s all temporary. All just small things blowing by on the wind.

When I school now, I still tend to centre on selfish ambition. But this is my proclamation of a new mission statement for every time I throw a leg over one of the dressage horses.

The horses, the shows, the dances are a gift I don’t deserve, a reminder of the greater Gift. In riding every stride, I ride with empathy because I love the horses. I ride with diligence because I honour and appreciate the gift I have been given. But above all, I ride with love and passion, looking not at a number on a scoresheet but at the face of my God. I care less about how good the mark will be for a movement and more about the compassion behind the aid that asked for it. I care less about what the bystanders think and more about giving every breath I have to the God Who gives me life.

Dressage can be a sport, a dream, a torture session for horse and rider, a career.

To me, I choose dressage to be, in the style of Psalm 149:3, a dance.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, faith, Horses and God, Thunder | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Comings and Goings

So things have gone a little nuts around here, but God’s absolutely handling it.

It started on Monday when poor little Nugget decided to colic out of the blue. I always feel terrible when anything happens to Nugget. Surely she’s used up her allotment of bad stuff for her life? Anyway, so I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me to get vitals and gut sounds without any protest. I gave her some Buscopan on the vet’s advice (calling the vet out at this stage would be kinda pointless seeing how the vet can’t get near her). It was a hard call because it’s meant to go iv, but on these tough little pony types it occasionally takes me a couple of attempts to get the vein, and I sincerely doubted Nugget was going to stand all that still for even one poke. I didn’t want to run the risk of a) poking the artery and killing the poor thing or b) not getting pain relief into her at all (she was very uncomfortable), so I went ahead and gave it im because it’s my horse and I felt it was best for her. I have seen it done before without negative effects.

Well, it sorted the colic. She was comfortable within ten minutes and created a wonderful gigantic pile of poo a few hours later, without needing any tubing, to the vet’s enormous relief. But the next afternoon the poor little soul’s neck was so swollen and tender she’d flinch if I just raised my hand near it.

I feel such a fool. Lesson learned. Anyway, I think she’ll be fine; it’s coming down a bit and she is eating and drinking well as long as I hang up her hay and hold the bucket for her.

Then, on Wednesday, while one of the grooms was on leave, the other got sick. Poor L tried to come to work despite feeling disgusting, so she gets full marks for effort. The yard is turned on its head a little, but somehow God has been handling it so that I got all the horses fed, lessons taught, and most of the youngsters ridden yesterday.

and this youngster got her snuggles

On the bright side, our really beautiful new addition has arrived. Champagne is here for schooling, and she’s a picture-perfect little Barbie pony, except for being rather shellshocked when she arrived and running around madly for a bit until we managed to catch her and put her in a stable. I don’t think the poor soul has ever seen a cow before, and we have about 200. Bit of a culture shock really. She didn’t hurt herself, though, so all’s well.

palomino + dapples + blaze + adorable Welshie head = Dusty is not amused

And on a good but sad note, yesterday beautiful Exavior headed off to a temporary new home. A lovely local showjumper offered to school and sell him very affordably for me and I can’t watch him stand all frustrated in a field anymore. The horse loves to work and he just isn’t working here. So I packed him off, a little brokenhearted, but knowing it was best for him. Hopefully he finds his forever home quickly.

God’s plan for this horse is just huge. First He saved him when he was a baby that nobody wanted; now, just when his broke owner can’t afford for him to be trained, someone magically steps up at the right moment to do it. I don’t know where He’s going with this, but He sure does!

new digs

I also made possibly the most newbie error it is possible to make. I was feeding a horse treats and not concentrating and fed him my finger along with it, which did not end well. It was my ring finger too so we better hope it heals quickly or I’ll be exhibiting one-handed dressage next weekend.

God’s got this. Glory to the King.

Posted in Champagne, Exavior, Nugget | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

SANESA Q4

Last qualifier of the year, and we found ourselves having a weekend full of exceptional performances from our faithful steeds.

he’s so good even his halo is straight and narrow

St. Vastrap was his reliable self, despite putting in a cheeky stop during a practice last week – most unlike him. He and his kid blasted around the speed for a third place, then had an unlucky pole in the competition for seventh. They’re going to finals!
This little team has everything they need to go to Nationals, but VT’s kid will need to up her game in terms of focus in the arena itself and riding the plan we work out. All part of growing as a very hard-working and promising little athlete, riding a pony in a million.

Zorro and Z-kid had a wonderful qualifier, thanks to huge personal growth and super riding from Z-kid, which has resulted in Zorro going better than he ever has. They had a silly pole in the competition, but came back strong for fourth in the speed, then jumped a lovely clear for second in the working hunter. They’ll also be headed for finals in working hunter if I have it right.

Liana and her kid had by far their best show yet, even if that didn’t earn them any ribbons. Ana was the quietest she’s been and kiddo rode very well. Pony overjumped an oxer in their first jumping class, sending kiddo onto her neck, but they recovered well, just getting penalties for circling. A mature decision from the rider, as it was the only way to negotiate the next fence safely. They were clear in the ideal time, but – get this – too slow for a place. Up till recently, Ana didn’t know slow was a thing.

Continuing on the quiet and well-behaved theme for the day, Liana was wonderful in the prix caprilli and kiddo rode so accurately, getting 67.72% and third place.

old photo because I have no media and also because he’s so handsome

K and Thunny were busy winning their equitation test when the GPS malfunctioned and they jumped the same fence twice in fine style. A bummer for K, but she handled it with enormous grace. They upped their dressage score, too, getting 59.16 and 62.5 despite all the monsters beside the arena. I think we finally have the leads mastered.

Lullaby and the tiny tot rode in the midst of great chaos – I was riding dressage as their course opened for walking. Usually I’d have K walk with her, but tiny tot speaks no English and K speaks no Afrikaans, so yeah. I watched the kid before us and then dragged Lulu around in more or less the right direction, and tiny tot wasn’t worried (her poor parents were less blasè about it), so it added up to a positive experience but she was out of the ribbons. I think we could have done better, but I also think I can’t teleport. Such is SANESA. I would happily have skipped Midas’s test but I can’t let Lancey’s young owner down so there you have it.

Speaking of Midas pony, he wasn’t really on his game this weekend, but to be fair to him the errors we had in showjumping were mostly my fault. I feel sorry for him dragging my fatness over fences so I don’t really jump him myself at home, and I kept panicking and chasing him at distances he didn’t have to try and make. We had two poles in the speed and one in the ideal time, but he was dead honest. So we didn’t get our showjumping goals of going clear but I’m not worried. Pony is a bit bored at the height too, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Dressage was in the most appalling location – the arena appears to have been cut right out of a wood of young poplars, and the wind was howling, causing the whole thing to rustle and wave about most alarmingly. Midas never actually jumped but he was drifting, tense, and hollow in that corner. Having five minutes to warm up didn’t help either. Still, we had 65 and 67.5, so that’s not horrible. Maybe at finals I can finally warm the poor chap up for a change.

Not warming up at all worked brilliantly for Lancey, however. K saddled him up, led him to the show arena, and held him while I rode the test on Midas; Lancey’s warmup consisted of walking around to the judge. He greatly exceeded my expectations. I thought he’d be dreadful, what with the howling bush monsters and all, but he actually just had a little look as we walked around and then paid them no attention at all. He was so focused, probably because I hadn’t had time to cook his brain beforehand. He tied first with Midas in the second test with 65% and had 67.3% in the first one.

His jumping was improved albeit still rather erratic. He had a pole and a stop at the combination in the first class, once again, but this time I jumped the first element again and thus we finished with the eight penalties. The second class had the most dreadful fillers throughout and I quickly scratched my goal of getting no stops – everything was stopping. I’d be happy just to get him round. Sure enough he had one stop at number four, but to my amazement it was because of a wiggly approach and really had little to do with the fillers. He didn’t look at a single thing for the rest of the track. It was a huge lightbulb moment for him. “Oooh, all I have to do is jump the jumps!” Ya think, Lancey?

I was VERY impressed with the little chap. He tries so hard.

another old photo, but at least now he has a loin

Last but not least, Jamaica in the 80cm. After the debacle we had last time, I wasn’t sure whether or not to expect an utter disaster. He felt forward in the warm up but that could have been my imagination. We did about four thousand canter-walk transitions after the jumps, then went in to the course with all the scary fillers, white-knuckled and white-faced. I nearly died when he had a big look at number one and all I could get my frozen limbs to do was feebly wave my stick, but he jumped. Then after that it was just perfect – from Jamaica, anyway.

I hung on his face and made him canter as if we were doing flatwork, adding strides with wild abandon, burying him to fence after fence and every single time he patiently tucked up his little black knees and popped over without any fuss. I don’t know how, but he didn’t even take a pole. No bucking, no running away, he just sweetly hauled my sorry behind around like the quiet old packer he actually really isn’t – a six-year-old remedial problem horse with a sketchy background.

Who’d have thought it? Eighteen months ago he was somersaulting over a fence and breaking his shoulder. Six months ago he was handstanding his child off and breaking her shoulder. One month ago he was bucking and bolting. Today, he is helping, fence by willing fence, to lay the bricks that repair my potholed, ripped and ruined path to riding confidence. Who’d have thought it? I sure didn’t!

Above all we ask or imagine, my God is faithful, my God is powerful, and my God – oh, you have no idea how my God is in charge!

Glory to the KING!

Posted in Jamaica, Lancelot, Liana, Lullaby, Midas, Thunder, Vastrap, Zorro | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rocking E Blog Hop

I haven’t done one of these in ages, but everyone’s jumped on the bandwagon with Rocking E’s Summer Blog Hop Series and it looked too good to miss out on.

Summer-blog-hop

(Technically, us being in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s winter, but I’m a rebel.)

  1. What is your earliest, clearest horse memory? Definitely coming off a pony for the first time. I was four and taking lessons at a local riding school (the same one where I bought Lullaby for our own riding school, some fifteen years later). The pony, Prinsie (“little prince”), was a small, hairy brown object of indeterminate age or breed. It was trotting along in one of their odd little double-fenced lunging rings and I just sort of poppled off. As you do.
  2. Describe the perfect summer day. A self-confessed hater of hacking, I find myself forced to admit that it would be one of those fly-ridden, deep green hacks that you only ever get to have in summer, with the horses’ coats all on fire from that relentlessly bright sunshine that is characteristic of Africa. The green world thrown wide before us; pools of still water, watched by dragonflies, to splash in; the birdsong so prevalent it’s practically deafening. But then again, when I think of summer I think of HOY – all the spotless summer coats and the  green, green Bob Charter and the horses all surrounded by a cloud of mixed hairspray and bug repellent – and that’s pretty perfect too.
  3. Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it!  The British Horse Society’s “Coaching and Teaching Riding” and the German Equestrian Federation’s “Principles of Riding”. #nerd Also the Bible, although I guess that’s pretty obvious.
  4. Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you? Tell me. NOW. Well, I wouldn’t say follow, but I also cannot confirm nor deny that when Chris Hemsworth pops up onto any screen anywhere, I am not able to look away.
  5. What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?  Oh, we all know I leave the dreaming up to God most days, but there’s something in equine-assisted psychotherapy that won’t stop calling my name. Probably God, too. I start my course in 2018 and I can’t wait. Dressage too, obviously. I have no delusions of riding overseas someday, but I sure would love to go down centreline in a Grand Prix test. I just want to feel what that feels like – I want to know how it is to dance like that.
  6. If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order? I’ll just slink away in embarrassment because, once again, Africa. Never been to Starbucks. But if I did, there would be chocolate in it.
  7. What is your biggest equine pet peeve? Evolution. Need I say more?
  8. With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between?  Y’all Americans think you’re having political fun, try Africa sometime. I avoid reading about politics like the plague, beyond the essential basics. My entire country appears to be addicted to whining about our politic situation, usually on social media, using their freedom of speech, their privilege, and their literacy. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t achieve anything and things could be a whole lot worse. Whining (especially from Christians) is in very poor taste when people are getting their heads blown off in public for what they believe in elsewhere.
  9. If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose?  Just covered that… for all of them, here.
  10. What are you most looking forward to this summer? Well, it’s winter now, but for this upcoming summer, definitely the SANESA Nationals if some of the kiddos go through. They’ve got a fighting chance!

Glory to the King.

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SANESA Q4 goals

With the last of the SANESA qualifiers on the horizon, I’m going to try something new. I’ve always got goals in my head for each show, but let’s put them on paper (in a manner of speaking) and see how they turn out. It’s an exercise I’m encouraging my teenage riders to do, so I’d better lead by example, eh?

Midas

Midas1

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 60cm A2 speed – clear 1st
  • 60cm ideal time – clear 1st
  • Prelim 3 – 60.8%
  • Prelim 4 – 68.4%

Midas performed better than I could have asked for at his last show. While he was tense through his first test due to having a short warmup, he still had a decent score, and improved on it for a personal best in his second test.

SANESA Q4

  • 60cm A2 speed – go clear and cut some turns
  • 60cm ideal time – go clear and in a nice rhythm on the right lead
  • Prelim 3 and 4 – show an improved score, depending on warmup circumstances

 

Lancelot

Lancelot1

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 60cm A2 speed: 2 poles, one stop – TE
  • 60cm ideal time: clear, unplaced

Lancelot had a gimpy first round, but was brave to all of the fences and remained calm and under control. He came back strong for his first clear round in ages.

SANESA Q4

  • 70cm A2 speed: don’t get eliminated
  • 70cm competition: don’t get eliminated (and try not to stop)
  • Prelim 3 and 4: don’t get eliminated

Goals are easy things when your horse is a total baby.

 

Jamaica

Jamaica11

Last show: SANESA Q3 (20-21 May)

  • 80cm A2 speed: bolted, bucked and had a circle in an attempt not to die
  • 80cm competition: double clear, 1st

Jamaica was a total lunatic last time and very naughty, but he did jump everything I asked him to without hesitation. We did lots of work on brakes this month and hopefully it’ll stand us in good stead.

SANESA Q4

  • 80cm A2 speed: keep calm and don’t stop
  • 80cm competition: keep calm and don’t stop

 

Overwhelmed by grace to get to take these partners into the show ring once again. Glory to the King.

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