Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Giggle Trots

5-year-old girl's pony love...

Buttons has my daughter's heart! (and mine).

Monday, 27 April 2015

Before and Afters and a little Can'ters

I came across a picture of Savvy from the day I brought her home. I was a bit shocked by how different she had looked back then. I had forgotten what a homely little fluff bum she had been.

Big belly, little bum, looongg hooves
She did not seem to know much about standing for a farrier. The first attempt involved much rearing/fighting/flailing and only one hoof done. Over the course of that first summer we went from rodeo at farrier time to fast improvement. She now knows how to stand quietly for the whole process, thank goodness.

And here is the little goddess now...

big belly, BIG bum, gorgeous all over :)
This gem of a pony has been my side project and it is about time her training gets finished. I have promised myself to add her into the loop of horses to work with. There is always not enough hours in a day for me, but I have to be real with myself and either train her or sell her. She has a great mind and beauty to boot, so there is no way I can let this beast sit as a pasture pet.

I have also been busy riding Miss Tea since our amazing horse show and continuing to work on developing her back muscles and soften up on the bit. We have been doing some good walk/trot softening but a new frustrating issue has come up at the canter. This horse has no end to her issues. It took her a year and a half to learn to canter under saddle without bucking. Then last summer after months of great improvement, went back to bucking and ended up with a month off and saddle adjustments. Her back as an issue is always in my mind and I may have to revisit the chiropractor idea again this summer.

Me thinks can'ter blows.  Carrots pleaz :)

Anyhow, her new thing is to flail her head up into the air at the canter and counter bend. I am hoping it is all because I rushed her back into work for the show and possibly asked for too much too soon (ie. working on the bit when there wasn't the muscle development yet to support that). So I worked on myself at the canter and focused intently on sitting up straight (no leaning in to the centre on corners), softening contact while still asking for inside bend, inside leg on at the girth, and outside leg supporting. OIY! I have so much difficulty keeping my legs in the right places at the canter!!! BUT, for the few strides where I had my shit together, she was not flailing as bad. Fingers crossed this is not a pain issue, just a bad rider combined with weak muscles/diva mare issue.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

'Fraidy Cat Blog Hop! Favorite Ribbon/Prize/Award

Emma at 'Fraidy Cat Eventing had a great blog hop question and I thought I would join in!

FCE blog hop: favorite ribbon / prize / award?

What is your favorite ribbon / prize / award that you've won in relation to horses? Is there a story behind it? Or was it a bucket list prize you'd been chasing for ages? It doesn't have to be from a traditional horse show, and ribbons that are the favorite bc they are the prettiest are just as awesome as awards with a great story. 

I had just recently been thinking about this very thing because of a little project I have been working on.  I have been known to be a little bit crafty/artistic and love to make things. I may not be good at art, but I love trying just the same!

Love purple!

I do have a few ribbons that are particularly special to me and I wanted to have a way to display those few that I hold near and dear.

But teal is so nice!

So I came up with the idea of a wall hanger to display them -- but then I could not decide on any one particular colour or design, and made more.

I love how the horses turned out, but not sure of the blue.
And more...

I am still not sure which is my favorite! The extras I think I will try and sell at an upcoming tack sale that I have a table rented for.

As for the special ribbon, there is one that I think of from my 4-H days. I had made the team to go to Provincials on my OTTB. This was such a big deal for me as I had not gotten to take a horse in previous years. The group I was going with were not very nice... Most of my group had fancy, expensive horses and big family names. I had actually started to believe they were better than me.

My financial situation was scrape 'n save and my horse was just a $600 thoroughbred that I had trained myself. At most of our 4-H shows, the people with important names usually got placed in the classes and I had pretty much accepted it.
The cherished ribbon currently hanging in the tack shed.

At the provincials I gave it my all and enjoyed the classes - everything from western pleasure, reining, gymkhana and english jumping and equitation. I was blessed with a real english judge (rather than the western judge doing all the classes as per usual) and she had an unbiased mind with no knowledge of the "big shot" names of the western pleasure world I was coming from.

It was truly an incredible moment for me! I kicked ass and won first in the english class while my big shot team picked their jaws up off the floor. Hard work sometimes pays off! :)

Surviving First Horse Show of 2015 - Part 2

Saturday morning was a very early start - I was out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and picking stalls by 6:00 and on our horses at 7:00.
Due to probably the most awesome coach ever, our group was in the show arena practicing while most of the other barns in attendance were still just showing up to feed.

We were not allowed to jump, but could go over ground poles so coach had many jumps down for us to practice. Now this was what I needed! I got to do all the quiet puttering me and my horse needed and I felt SO much better, and because Miss Tea has major respect/fear of poles, we were jumping ground poles at about a 2' clearance. This practice got my girl over her fear of the other horses and helped me feel like I might survive the day.

My first class was Hunter Lines where the course is set up but poles are all on the ground (thank you to who ever created this class!!) and we placed 2nd!

Then on to Cross Rail Hunter. I remembered my course, kept leg on and we made it through wonderfully! WOOHOO! I could have just ended my day there, I was just so happy to have overcome my nerves at that point!  I did not place, but it didn't matter one bit! Next was Cross Rail Equitation which was just as good and we placed 3rd!

At this point I decided to scratch from my next course with higher fences because I felt I had maxed out on courage, (I was feeling physically drained from the stress!) and I was so proud of Miss Tea for how she had handled everything, it just felt like the right moment to stop and reward her for her efforts.

My final two classes were flat classes: Open Hunter and Hunter Equitation. By this time we were calm, rested and ready to kill this! The Open Hunter class was huge! We all just kept filing in and I was starting to worry about how Miss Tea would handle this much congestion once trotting/cantering started. Amazingly enough, she kept her cool and I remembered to breath and even smile here and there, and we placed 4th!

Finally my last class of the day--Hunter Equitation, and Miss Tea was perfection. She was going so well by that point that I could relax, ride pretty and just enjoy it. And we placed 1st!! What a fabulous end to an amazing day!!

I packed up feeling like I had really accomplished something good with my horse. We were both completely over-faced at the beginning of this show, but pulled ourselves together and did really well. This was the first time I saw Miss Tea put in so much effort as well. I was so proud of her for showing trust in me when she was scared and showing so much "try". My girl is growing up!

When I found coach to say goodbye and thanks for the day, she handed me a shiny new bridle. WAIT. WHU?! She said I had won High Point Equitation for the day! Holly C#%&*!

Satin and leather for a hard day's work!
I can see this getting addictive...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Surviving First Horse Show of 2015

This was one of my most anticipated/nerve racking/unprepared shows of perhaps my entire riding career.

I knew I HAD to be in it as here I am, trying to make the transition from all round small town fair rider to actual hunter/jumper competitor. To do that, I needed to actually maybe go to a hunter/jumper type show...

Isn't it gorgeous!

This would be a perfect introduction for me - It was a schooling show with affordable cost to attend yet a huge venue at one of the biggest arenas in our province with fancy jumps and some very fancy horses!
I was strongly ignoring the fact that I had only been riding Miss Tea again for a few weeks after her huge winter break, I had only cantered again for the first time a week(!) before the show, and I had a knee injury that was not improving.

On Friday I trailered Miss Tea over and prepared for my assigned warmup. I had never been through this type of process before. The arena was full of all those fancy jumps with fill and flowers. Horses were lined up waiting for their turn as only 6 riders were allowed at a time. By the time it was my turn, my heart was pounding so hard I could hear it.

Miss Tea was equally terrified, especially of the other horses. My coach was ready and waiting for me in the arena and it seemed the plan everyone had was just to get to it and jump the jumps.

So much colours - um, can I go home please and change my underwear?
WAIT. WOA. STOP. Jump already? Can't I just walk/trot a bit and see if my horse isn't going to kill me first?!!??!

It went horribly. I could not jump. Coach dismantled one of the jumps to ground poles, but since there were these fake shrub fillers still there, Miss Tea and I both couldn't get our brains in our heads. I could feel her body so coiled, all I could see in my head was her launching like a deer and me flying through the air. After words of frustration on both sides, I got off and led Miss Tea over the ground poles and coach left me to figure myself out.

I just about quit. I think I might have said I might as well go home. Instead I puttered about, trying to walk around out of everyone's way and get her used to the other horses. Then I trotted. Then I said "F@)#& it, Nantucket" and told the coach I was ready to try and jump and off we went! I survived and we jumped two jumps in a bent line, back and forth. There may have been hot mess flailing from both me and Miss Tea, but each time we got a bit better.

So I went home, drank wine and cried. What had I gotten myself into? Saturday was suddenly looking a lot less like a great idea, but I went to bed determined to just get through it and try hard to just not embarrass myself.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Two smiling kids and a pony named Buttons

My daughter meeting the adorable Buttons for the first time - perfect little pony!
I finally secured lessons for the kidlets at a local arena!

We do have horses right in our back yard, but none are kid safe yet. Our pony Silver needs some more work. So this would be their first time taking the reins and not being led around.
My son's trusty mount, Kojo

My son was right in there with a huge smile and ready to go. My daughter was a bit more cautious about the whole thing.

After a bit of instruction on how to turn, stop, back up and of course how to do an emergency stop, they were off to wander as best they could!

My daughter had a bit of a hard time getting the whole steering thing down. Patient little buttons just calmly plodded around and sometimes listened to my little girl's confusing signals.

By the end, my son was really figuring things out and mostly taking his horse where he was hoping to go.

You don't even know how happy this makes me! I want to be a good mom and support them in their interests, what ever that may be and not push them into anything they don't like (but I really, really want them to get the riding bug!!)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Outdoor is dry!!

There is officially 6 days left before my first show of the season.

Prep for this has been a true struggle. First of all, my knee injury really knocked my confidence that I could do this. Miss Tea is not exactly an easy ride and had a pretty big winter break. She has a strong tendency towards bucking at the canter if not kept in constant work.

Miss Tea as a 7-month-old, back when all of the "show" business was just a future dream. <3

 Second, weather. Ugh. Stupid slippery snow (from which my knee was injured in the first place) then on to slippery mud in my outdoor arena at home. Trailering over to my coach's arena was my only option (fabulous but expensive).

This weekend my outdoor arena at home was finally dry enough to ride! Oh my god, it was so wonderful to just work on things at home. We cantered and there was no bucking and I even started popping over a little half cross rail.


I will continue with trotting over poles and looking for the soft canter on correct lead after the cross rails. I am so pleased with how she is going right now! She has a tough time in spring with the whole being a mare thing, but everything seems manageable at the moment.

My goal for this show is to just take in the Hunter/Jumper experience and give Miss Tea some exposure to a new venue over some very tiny cross rails and loads of flat classes. I'm starting to get excited about this! :)

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Psychology of People and Horses

We all have our unique personalities, quirks and patterns of behavior that knit together to make us a one of kind. Anyone who has spent a reasonable amount of time around horses has discovered each horse's personality can be just as distinctive.

When we begin the search for a horse, I am sure we all have a pretty similar list: Sound, sane, conformation suitable to our preferred discipline, etc.

And handsome of course

But what makes that one special horse and you "click"?

I have been noticing an interesting trend around the barns I have ridden at. Many of the horse/human relationships seem to have something in each other! Is it just coincidence or something deeper?

Artist: Doug Grundy
 If you are lucky enough to have that heart horse, have you noticed any similarities between you and your horse's personality?

These possible "coincidences" got me thinking. Miss Tea is definitely a horse I click with and have a very good relationship with. She feels like part of the family and I know she is here to stay. So what is it that holds my heart while other horses have been easy to say goodbye to?

After going over my personality and hers, it didn't take long to see we are a lot a like...

1. Pretty easy going, but I really have a deep seeded bossiness. If you ask for my opinion, watch out because I will have all sorts of thoughts and ideas for you!
2. Anxious. I was born slightly on edge. I am jumpy. I worry. This will be a life-long struggle. :(
3. I like to attack a problem methodically in small steps and avoid looking at the big picture so I don't get overwhelmed (see anxious above!).
4. I am nice. For real. Not a people pleaser but kind and I worry about other people's feelings.
Obviously so much more to me, but these are the top four you might pick up if you met me.

Now for Miss Tea:
1. Lead mare in any herd she is put in with. Always.
2. Spooky. Always has that look in her eye saying "You want me to do what?!" even if it is just stepping over a pole she just walked over yesterday, 20 times.
3. Needs to not be over challenged or will seriously melt down. She will do pretty much anything for me, but I have to take it slowly, in small pieces and build up to what I am wanting.
4. She is nice. For real. <3 <3  Ask her farrier--she says she is one of the most gentle, cuddly horses she ever met.

Has anyone else noticed similarities? I'd love to hear it!

Love this horse.