The Next Thing

Eyes wide open, I see You working

all around me, You’re on the move

Step by step I’m running to meet You

in the next thing, in the next thing

~ Casting Crowns, “The Very Next Thing”

I had not expected following Jesus to have as much of an element of putting one foot in front of the other as it does. I expected fire and lightning, if I expected anything at all. But step by step I’m learning that a lot of self-denial, of endurance, of love is hardest – and just as important – to exercise on the ordinary little days. We’re not called to rejoice only in the storms or in our greatest triumphs, but to rejoice evermore. To pray without ceasing. And that means here, now, in our daily lives, in the next thing. There can be extraordinary power in the ordinary.

And it has been a happy ordinary around here; no dramatic victories to report but a steady, patient climb towards excellence. With God in every breath, which turns ordinary on its head a little, but right now is as close and warm as your own skin.

Sunday was training show day and the jumpers had a good outing (which ended in a three-hour trip home when the box got a flat). Starlight was dead quiet and beautifully behaved but took a pole in each class of 40 and 50cm. Renè also had a few poles, but K rode her admirably and she wasn’t bothered by anything very much except the plank in the first fence.

Apparently the plank worried Lancey too, because he stopped at it in the 60. To be fair a horsebox chose that moment to rumble past right next to the arena and he got a bit distracted; I applied both heels and we clambered over. Then something else – a butterfly, a mote of dust, who knows – distracted him and he stopped at number four too, but after that he jumped fine.

He redeemed himself in the 70 by jumping everything completely fearlessly, just getting penalties for a silly pole because he’s still a little careless with his hindlegs.

Jamaica made up for them all by giving me the most fantastic ride. The 60 was a doddle; he bounced around nonchalantly and won it by four seconds, and then came second in the 70. He was quick but focused, relaxed and attentive and I couldn’t have asked for better.

I really thought reschooling this delinquent after he broke his child was going to be a massive bore, but he’s just been such a blessing. All things work together for good, eh?

Back home today, Arwen continued with the theme of good jumping by absolutely packing my panicky butt through a gymnastic line that really quite challenged her scope. We trotted in to 75cm, then one stride to another 75cm and then three to a wide airy oxer at about 85cm although looking at it I think it was bigger. I was terrified but she just dragoned along dragging me with her. Obviously she didn’t manage three in the three, but she did get the one, which was nice.

Magicky was next and I spent almost an hour fussing over him and cuddling his wonderfulness. Such is the life of the pet horse. He is doing so well and I love him to bits.

Thunder rides his first Prelim on Sunday and I feel like he could score really really well. Of course he probably won’t because he’ll be screaming and bucking and spooking and bolting, but the schooling is there. He’s working over his back beautifully especially in walk and his trot has gained a floaty cadence that hopefully looks as nice as it feels. The canter still needs help to retain its rhythm and jump for more than a lap or so. Even stretchy trot is slowly slowly coming to life.

Midas and Sunè both learned something today; Midas learned to counter bend and improved the quality of his connection, and Sunè learned that running out at the end of a grid gets you a very big hiding. She proceeded to jump beautifully thereafter and seems to enjoy it – I’m chuffed to have found its jump button.

I also weaned Lady E today. I feel like a pig. Not to Lady Erin – she is happily hanging out with Skye and Vastrap. Poor old Milady is the one doing the shouting. It’s for your own good, Milady. Magic is not helping the situation by running up and down screaming for no reason that he really knows.

I also rode Eagle properly for the first time today and regrettably have no pictures of this momentuous occasion. He is super. I literally hopped on and said “Walk on” and he walked on without a touch. We got a lap of the ring each way with whoa, go and turn and I am very very chuffed.

Trooper got his first saddle, which I at least got a picture of. I forgot to untie him for this milestone because he was sleeping and stayed sleeping throughout. He did wake up to lunge, though, and behaved very well.

Little steps that keep taking us forward. Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, Eagle, Jamaica, Lady Erin, Lancelot, Magic, Midas, Renè, Sunè, Thunder, Trooper | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Greenies!

I’ve been going on about the big horsies quite frequently, so it’s about time we talked about the bunch of babies.

such a regal and majestic big horse

There are five not-yet-competing green horses on my list each week. (“Green” is a pretty relative term around here – since most of the competing horses have actually only started competing this year). They vary from Destiny, who can canter most days, to Faith, who has never seen the inside of a lunging ring.

There’s not a whole lot to say about Faithy. There’s not a whole lot to do with a two-year-old Nooitie – we’ve accomplished most of what we needed to this year. Basically it still needs to get in a box and show in hand and then I’ll be twiddling my thumbs until backing time.

She just has the best attitude. She can still wander off when I want to catch her, but she’s obedient and responsive and loooooves to be groomed. I just adore her work ethic – every time we leave the field she perks up. Let’s go learn something!

Her body has been changing, though. As you can clearly see, she’s still very much the awkward two-year-old. But I think I spy that the front end is rapidly catching up with the bum. That would be really rather nice.

December vs March

Then there is Exavior.

heartthrob horse

He is looking the best he’s ever looked. Seriously, the creature is rather drool-worthy.

and 16.1hh

I still haven’t been on him again, and I don’t plan to get back on him until he can walk/trot/canter like a school pony under the Mutterer. I have decided to not give myself any frights on that monster. I love him too much, and I have worked too hard on it, to lose my nerve on him and ruin our relationship.

So I lunge him on the days the Mutterer doesn’t ride. He was an absolute jerk the first few times he worked in the dressage arena, including trampling me, rearing at me, and kicking at me (this is why it’s my last warmblood ever) but now he is back to his very pleasant self.

being babysat by Stardust so he can calm down about the scary stable

The horse does have a very good mind in there buried under the baby-warmbloodness. When he’s not worried about anything, he is intelligent, hardworking and honest as the day; when he is worried he’s violent, sensitive and huge. I really love doing things he’s not afraid of – he learns fast and is easy to teach when he’s not scared.

Yesterday we lunged over a little fence. I keep waiting to see some scope from Mr. Fancy Bloodlines, but he’s severely unimpressed by my little jumps. He is dead honest, though. And I think he loves it.

*plop*

The other redhead baby is Destiny, who still never feels good but still makes good progress anyway. We don’t lunge before riding anymore and these days I make him go large in three gaits, which he does with surprising balance and ease. Schooling him would be so, so easy if he’d just give up on the spooking.

Regrettably, D has a very dishonest spook. He picks a spot each ride that is going to be the spook spot of the day, usually something he’s seen a thousand times before (and not always the same thing) and just has a little wiggle at it the first time we walk past. I dutifully take him over to it and let him touch it and lick and chew. Then we carry on and he’s apparently unaware of it in walk and trot, and usually in canter left too.

But the moment we come by in canter right, he spooks hugely. Luckily he’d given me the wiggle when we walked by, so I’m always ready for it and can sit it out. But it drives me nuts. He has the capacity to be such a lovely little chap – and then he has to pull out silly tricks like this.

We’re still progressing fairly well, though. He canters large fairly nicely and can make circles – they’re a bit motorbikey, but they’re there. He just needs to give up this new game and then we can start doing cool stuff like connecting and jumping and going to shows.

tired pony hopefully learned something

Eagle is doing super. I didn’t sit on him yesterday, because we introduced him to the dressage arena on the long lines and I’m not quite ready to do backing outside of my 15m comfort zone.

He was really, really good. He didn’t mind standing in the stable and he was not worried about a thing when I long-lined him large. The circling was a little more trouble; he was so chill I couldn’t get him to go forward. He’s also one of those super supple babies that wiggle and squiggle and flop all over the place on the lines because pulling the head around doesn’t achieve anything. Having a leg on either side of him will make that job rather easier.

no big deal

And lastly, there is cute little Trooper. I think we have finally resolved the lunging issue. He now takes responsibility for going forward in walk and trot, and I can get four laps of uninterrupted canter with only a little waving of the whip and shouting. He actually has a very cute little balanced canter – possibly because he doesn’t bother to go fast enough to lose his balance – so we are finally ready to start putting on a saddle and long lines. I think being on board with a dressage whip is going to be much easier than clumsily schooling him on the lunge.

“Not forward going” is not the worst vice a kid’s pony can have. I think he’s going to be as safe as a house from the word go.

so handsome!

We finished the day off with lessons,

I’ve only partially stolen Thunny back from the riding school – the poor little ponies don’t have to carry all the tall teenagers

and a super little relaxing hack on Sunè accompanied by a very thrilled groom L on her new lease – Starlight.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Destiny, Eagle, Exavior, faith, Trooper | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Being a Little Brave

Today started with Revelation 1, and goosebumps down my arms at the terrifying description of our King with stars in His right Hand and a two-edged sword blazing forth from His mouth. Yet this majestic Person, this almighty Ruler of all that is and was and is to come, the Alpha and Omega, reached down to touch a lowly little worm of a man and said: “Fear not”.

This was the theme of my humdrum little day too, apparently. I’m a little shocked at how much God really has achieved in me, how far He’s taken me beyond the very limits of my courage.

I thought losing Nell and Rainbow would end the dream forever. Fear not, He said.

Faith is so fat and happy and shiny right now. And Thunder’s schooling today was amazing – I totally underestimated our big baby.

After a troubled little grey gelding called Dirkie bucked me off onto my hip, turning it several fascinating shades of red and purple, I thought I’d never start another youngster again in my life. Much less any sensitive or nervous ones.

But, Fear not, He said.

When I was hanging in the saddle over Eagle’s back like a sack of potatoes today, he gave this beautiful body-shaking big sigh and I knew he was ready. So I threw a leg over him and he slept for a few minutes while I patted him.

Also Destiny, to date one of the most remedial horses I’ve ever had on the ground, can now do walk/trot/canter large and circles in the dressage. He will reliably spook every session (only on the right rein and only in canter) but this has become rather half-hearted since I called his bluff.

I thought I’d never lead another hack with kids again, not after Jamaica chucked his kid off and broke her arm. The kid never missed a beat; I was thoroughly traumatised. But, Fear not, He said.

Sunè, Lullaby, Stardust

Liana and poor little Sunè again (willing horse…)

After years of falling off stoppers and dealing with poor old Magic’s nerves, I thought I’d never jump the required 85cm for module four, not even on a horse I know. But God said, Fear not, and today jumping an exercise at 85-90cm on Jamaica felt positively routine.

Arwen’s clipping last year was so horrific (like, going across the stable on her hindlegs with enough sedative in her to knock a carthorse flat, kind of horrific) that I thought we were doomed to woolly, overheating misery this winter. But even in this little thing, God spoke power and love.

She ate grass. I clipped. It took half an hour.

first attempt at a chaser clip – coulda been worse

All I ever did was let go.

And watched my star-holding, flame-eyed, blade-speaking King landing the punches straight and square on the jaws of my demons.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, Destiny, Eagle, faith, Jamaica, Sunè, Thunder | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Changing Seasons

Winter’s about here.

Although I’d welcome some frost right now with open arms. AHS is perilously close all around us.

They cut the hay for the first time yesterday, as Arwen and I discovered on a midday hack. “Midday” and “Arwen” are not a good combination right now – we did half an hour of walk/trot and the sweat was absolutely pouring off her.


Her routine riding time is 6:15am right now, which suits her well – she’s been schooling those simple changes really well. I’m using my ten-steps exercise, which is freakishly hard, but I love it.

so majestic


The ten-steps exercise is simple enough to remember: on a 20m circle or figure eight, don’t stay in any one gait for more than 10 steps. I do halt-walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-halt on the younger horses and canter-walk-halt-canter (with counter canter mixed in) for Arwen. Trying to get exactly ten steps is practically impossible, as is any good dressage.

Jamaica and Thunder schooled this exercise too. Thunder was very obedient but his gait quality wasn’t always there. I changed his bit to the French link, though, and that had him off my hand and carrying himself a lot better. This exercise helped him to immediately go forward into a good swinging gait because he only had 10 steps to prepare for the next one.

somebody’s on his forehand, possibly cuz I’m staring at it so fixedly

Jamaica, on the other hand, was disobedient and unbalanced throughout but forward and connected through the gaits. I actually threw in the halt for his benefit and it helped greatly because otherwise he’d quite happily just tank along. He loves to dive onto his forehand and just flop. This exercise helped him to balance, wait, and listen. I suddenly and magically had a soft, rebalancing half-halt after this.

Midas played around with a bit of flatwork this week under me, working on an accurate centreline and trying for a bit of stretchy trot. I also asked him for his first tiny leg-yield, quarter line to track. I love how he totally understands the basics so well that I just added inside leg, opened outside hand and there we go, leg-yield. He jumped a bunch of one-strides with a kid to help teach him to jump his way out of trouble with minimal managing. And we went for a little hack without a single spook.

Olive back with her tiny buddy

Sunè is working in the lesson program quite a bit lately, mostly because she’s just fantastic and so safe. I’ve been on her a bit to jump and that’s shown massive improvement – I’m going to try to do the 60cm at SANESA Q2 on her, too.

She’s not the only one that’s doing some jumping this week. Lancey, Jamaica and Starlight are jumping in a training show this weekend under me, plus I had a lesson with K’s dad G today.

I rode babysitter Al for the lesson and was sweating profusely when we rode in – K, her mom, another guy that rides professionally all on their babies and me just kinda sitting there on the schoolie. G is brilliant and super nice though, so it was good. I spent most of it panicking about running into everyone else – I haven’t had a group lesson since June. But when I was focusing it was really technical but not at all scary. Three months ago I would have been quaking at the mere thought of putting a leg over 16.2 Al, so this is excellent. K and G are both so kind. And God is mightily at work in me.

Lancelot was a bit crazy on Monday; he was spooking and stopping and majestically overjumping all over the place. I actually surprised myself by staying very secure in the tack through all his shenanigans, though, so it turned out to be confidence-building and today we could come back and pop around everything at 65-70cm without trouble.

Starlight and I have come to an agreement to be civil to one another and jumped very successfully this afternoon. Video here!

Back at work on the babies tomorrow – I’ll get pictures and updates on Trooper, Eagle and Destiny then.

Glory to the King.

workaholic pony is tired now

Posted in Arwen, Jamaica, Lancelot, Midas, Olive, Sunè, Thunder | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Gauteng Nooitie Show

Once again, I failed badly when it came to media. On the bright side, I finally have some photos from HOY – which I will share with you once I’ve decided which ones to actually purchase.

Either way, the show happened, and our horses totally rocked our socks.

After lots of predawn schooling and panicky last-minute test learning, Arwen and I came down the centerline at Elementary for the first time ever. I was tense as anything, but it became a dance between God and Arwen and I and when we halted after our last tense I was a little dizzy and could barely recall what actually happened. I remember we fluffed our simple changes, but I don’t remember scoring a couple of 8s and a bunch of 7s – which we nonetheless did for 63.8% in Elementary 4 and 67.6% in Elementary 5. I still don’t believe it.

Her working riding was a little dragonish but totally fearless and well-mannered. We were the only ones in the class, but I was really wishing there were some bums to kick because I think she would have kicked them.

She jumped a slightly crazed and very messy clear round in the 70cm to win it, followed by taking a pole in the 80cm. That was my bad. She was fearless and jumping effortlessly, but the judge had scolded me for our messy round while pinning our ribbon on for the 70cm and it messed with my head, so I started to pick at her and ask for lead changes at the wrong kind of moments. She took the pole when I was hanging on her face and after that I let her do her job and she jumped easily.

Midas did Prelim 3 and 4 with me in the irons and dazzled me greatly by scoring in the 65-66 zone. He was inattentive at moments and squeaked for his buddies a few times, particularly in the second test, but he happily did everything I asked and nailed a 7 for his super awesome little canter. We also got lots of comments on being accurate, which was lovely. Having the dressage arena probably pushed up every single mark by .5 or so. It’s also rather easy to ride into the corners on all 13.1 hands of Midas.

He also jumped his first round under a very skilled kid at 60cm, taking the spooky fences in his stride. Regrettably he ran out of the second element of the one-stride – poor chap is still trying to figure out how to get his teeny legs to fit one in a horse one – but he came back to jump it great and finished strong. He was also dead safe for the kid.

Renè and Sunè did pairs together; it was a bit of a mess and K and I couldn’t stop giggling but it was fun and we were alone in the class so we got pretty satin out of it. Renè wasn’t having the best day but still managed to do everything she was asked in a safe, calm manner for fourth in hand and working riding.

Sunè competed under a kid for the first time and did great, most unsurprisingly. The little kiddo wouldn’t quit kicking her so our show riding was a little more fast-paced than desired (especially by huffing, puffing, sprinting me), but he looked super up there and remembered his test perfectly. The working riding was even better. I rode her in working riding too, and I think she would have won it except she wiggled a bit as we stepped onto the mat and knocked a flowerpot over so that wasn’t too good. Everything else was foot perfect.

It was a super fun, low-key little show and perfect for wrapping up our showing season until Spring Show. For the next five months, it’s dressage, showjumping and SANESA galore – and we’re ready for it. Facing our giants and honouring our God.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, Midas, Renè, Sunè | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Mist on the River

An old farmer around here used to say that once there was mist on the river, the frost would come in seven weeks or less. In seventeen years, he hasn’t been wrong.

Sunmer draws to a close, promising the end of midge season – and therefore AHS season – and summer coats, and boxing horses in daylight for shows.

It also means cosmos season, and that means outrides. Summer never goes out without a fight; it always puts on a last defiance in white and purple. It’s the best time for hacking.

Arwen was so quiet today I was kind of worried, except she would not stop eating the whole time. Arwie LOVES cosmos flowers. She didn’t bat an eye at anything and was a total pleasure.

ain’t no double bridle gonna stop Arwie eating flowers


We rode in between the fields of ripening maize,


in and out of the weird hole with the epic banks,

and through the field of gently waving hay, almost ready for its first cutting.

We even got to see a pair of rooibok… cows? Ewes? Lady rooibokke, anyway.

The horses were wonderful and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did. We kept it pretty slow for the little kid’s sake (and mine), but they were all super. Vastrap was hot of course but never bad. Renè, Lulu and Dusty were perfect.

In other news, we’ve had a peaceful week so far with today being a public holiday. We got a bunch of riding done yesterday between K and I, so today is a little slow. Jamaica’s flatwork has shown an improvement again. Arwen ran through Elementary 4 – one of the tests she’s riding on Friday – without apparent effort. Sunè popped through a little working riding test, including straw bales (the only thing that’s ever given her pause in a working riding class), in fine form.

Thunder is now very relaxed in the dressage arena and even packed K over a fence with straw bales under it at 80cm without apparent difficulty.


Midas and Lancelot were introduced to our new jumping stuff. We got ourselves a white plank, which will shortly be a white plank with Scripture painted on, and a picket fence. Lancelot was TERRIFIED at first, Midas couldn’t really care less and both boys jumped great in the end. Midas has been pretty point-and-shoot – he’ll jump the first time, every time.

investigating fully

Eagle and Destiny both got visits from their respective parents, and both pleasantly surprised me. Eagle is a good guy but he can be rather on the sensitive side so tactless handling sets him off like a firework. I coached his mom through lunging and he actually did fantastic – didn’t get in a flap at all if she made a mistake or two. She cottoned on really quickly, too, and by the end of the session they looked quite harmonious.

He’s still a little flinchy about flappy stirrups and having me jump up and down next to him, though. Definitely not ready to sit on just yet.

Destiny has been driving me up the walls by protesting that the dressage arena is Scary and therefore he can ignore all my aids. We had some arguments for the past two weeks, but yesterday it all came together and he gave me two circles of canter each way in the “safe” end of the arena. And today his mom rode him for the first time. He gave her three gaits without batting an eye. I think he feels a lot more resistant than he looks – because he looked fantastic.

Little Trooper also had a breakthrough; we seem to have effectively eliminated the napping. He’s still not the most forward-going chap but consistently gives me walk/trot/canter on the lunge. The canter still needs building, but the balance is there, just not much strength yet. So we moved on to introducing the bridle. I think his rescuer must have done this already because when I put it on his reaction was this:

Yeah. He’s not bothered.

The rest of the week will be consumed by preparing for Nationals on Friday. It feels like quite the doddle compared to HOY, so let’s see how it goes. Always in God’s Hands.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Arwen, Destiny, Eagle, Jamaica, Lancelot, Lullaby, Midas, Renè, Stardust, Sunè, Thunder, Trooper | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beauty

The world is broken and sad and dark and hurting, but God is brilliant and beautiful and healing and joyous, and He shines through the cracks in plain sight for everyone whose eyes are open. Glimpses of Him take my breath away. I don’t see Him as often as I should, and certainly not as often as He is there. But when I do, He sets my heart burning inside me, like the disciples said in Luke 24.

He’s here, in the wildflowers framed by delicate Arab ears. (Photo taken between spooks).

He’s here in the glimmer on Trooper’s coat as he starts to blossom. I love to see what He created shine through as the pain of a sad past falls away.

He’s in the fact that I did three manes today and they were all fine, a miracle in itself.

He’s in the fact that my DisasterDog is still fully happy and mobile despite having lived for six years with severe hip dysplasia.

He’s in the quiet companionship of moments like these with my stalwart little school pony colleagues as we hack back to the field in the golden evening light.

He’s in the unfailing loyalty of my little shadow.

God’s right here, closer than my skin. And I am grateful.

Glory to the King.

Posted in Lullaby, Thunder, Trooper | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments