Monday, 25 January 2016

Two-Way Street

If you have had an opportunity to ride a variety of horses, you can certainly get an appreciation for how different each horse can be.

Lesson horses are a bit like seasoned travelers who have picked up a lot of different languages along the way, and will often be able to figure out what the rider is trying to ask for and maybe even oblige.

Some creatures just don't care what you have to say - clearly their idea is better.

On the other hand, a horse that has had only one rider and suddenly has a new person aboard may suffer culture shock and simply not have a clue what is being asked.

I have ridden quite a few horses and have been on the "just doing my job" types, as well as many "I don't know what you are doing but get the F$*& off me" types (I have always been attracted to projects).

Not my idea of fun anymore.

Once in a while, there comes a horse that not only knows your language, but is happy for the conversation. I have that horse right now and I am sort of feeling like someone who just found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Savvy is just so engaged, it is like "Oh, you want me to go like this? Well how about this? No?  And by the way don't press that hard on my side or I will bite your foot. Let's do all the things!" and she never shuts up. I love it!

But it has raised that nagging insecurity in me - when something is good, I am afraid of losing it. Very annoying!

One good thing has come of that stupid, insecure feeling: I want to do right by Savvy and make careful choices in her training that will not effect her incredible personality in a negative way. Simply put, I don't want to wreck her.

So I push myself to be better:

I will *never* pull hard on her mouth (*unless she randomly spooks - so sorry Savvy - stop doing that shit please) and will continue to work hard on collecting her body with my body, NOT the reins!

I will pause after asking a question and getting a correct answer. AKA: SLOW DOWN and appreciate correct answers before hurrying on to the next thing!

I will ask every cue with the softest phase first. I.E. If she can leg yield with a slight touch then why am I always banging like a moron?

I will plan fun things for her outside of training and appreciate her need to be a goof ball. I.E. Hand walking out in the deep snow so she can roll and frolic or playing tag with her in the paddock.

Anyone else worried they might break their horse?

Monday, 18 January 2016

2016 - Ready! Or better titled: Go away winter, no one wants you.

Studies have shown writing down goals greatly increases your likelihood of achieving them, or at least acting on them so this year I am creating a bit of an 'action plan'.

With three horses and two other people (kidlets) to plan for, writing it all down will help me organize what events can be done.  I also think it will give me an idea of whether I am being realistic in terms of financial and time commitment.

All of this year's dressage shows are at the location of our initial dressage attempt last year - loved it.


1. May 28 & 29 - Dressage Winnipeg Memorial Bronze and Gold Competition
  • Walk/Trot test: Get comfortable with show atmosphere; complete test and stay in the sandbox!
2. June 25 & 26 - Capt. DeKenyeres Memorial Bronze and Gold Competition
  • Training level test: Focus on relaxation
3. Aug 6 & 7 - MidSummer Madness Bronze and Gold Competition
  • Training level test: Focus on accuracy and timing; expect a bit more from myself and Savvy
4. Sept 10 & 11 - Autumn Classic B&G/Manitoba Provincial Championships
  • Moving up a level or more training level?
Hopefully more of this.

1. June 17 & 18 - Relationship Based Horsemanship Clinic
  • Her first road trip/event. My goal: shut up, listen, take notes. Shiraz: behave, don't hurt anyone.
And a lot more of this!
1. April to Oct. - 4-H meetings and weekly riding practices
  • Kids learning confidence in pony handling, tacking up and riding.
2. June 4 & 5 - Stonewall Horse Show
  • Both Kidlets entered in classes of their choosing (and I get to enjoy the role of show mom) :)
3. July - Selkirk Horse Show
  • Encourage kidlets to take on as much responsibility as is safe - pony care and cleaning at show.
4. August - Undecided show location
  • Continue working on confidence and independence.
I think all of this is realistic (although the dressage entry fees have not been posted yet, so cost may or may not be an issue). I am hoping to add in plenty of simple, fun adventures as well like trail riding and small schooling shows where I can pretend to be things like a barrel racer or hunter/jumper princess for the day. The more Savvy experiences, the better all-round grownup horse she will become. Who knows, I might even try this mounted archery thing that I have been hearing about! How much fun does that look!?!

Saturday, 2 January 2016

A Year In Review!

This has not been a year full of shows and ribbons and jumping progress like I had planned. Paired with disappointment and letting go came an unexpected incredible new beginning.

Lets have a look at where it all started:

APRIL 2015:
First show of the year with Miss Tea! We had a bit of time off mid-winter so were a bit under-prepared, but that's nothing new for me. It was an overwhelming venue but ended well - I won highpoint equitation and left feeling like this was going to be THE YEAR for me and Miss Tea.

Also this month the kidlets started riding lessons and I promised myself to dedicate more time on training Savvy.

MAY 2015:
I was looking to keep the ball rolling with Miss Tea and entered a schooling show that was somewhat disappointing as it really highlighted our inability to canter a course.

JUNE 2015:
June started off with a small local show (but is always a big deal because everyone you know is there and its not the place to be making mistakes --  horse people love horse gossip.) This show went well and on retrospect I think the fact that the footing was SO wet and deep that Miss Tea had no choice but to dig in and use her hind end which equaled much more stability and power and resulted in our first cantered course with no wobbles or tripping.

Also the best show of the season happened -- kids and mom showing together -- could life be any better?!! This was also the show where Miss Tea and I jumped perfectly with no anxiety issues on my part (kids are a great show distraction!) and I recall saying "That's it! That was so good I never have to jump again!"

This was the month I also had the pleasure of meeting a talented dressage coach with a) a barn not too far for trailering. b) affordable lesson fees. c) a horse-minded training philosophy that was a must for me. It seemed like a good idea to get into a program with Savvy to keep me on track and give her the consistency she would need to be officially 'broke'.  
Can't I just stay here and eat hay? - Savvy
JULY 2015:
Savvy attended her first show and I took in my first experience at a dressage show! It went so much better than expected and I kind of started to see how dressage could be appealing to some.

In July we also added a new set of hooves to the herd - Meyla!
The summer slipped away fast but there were still shows on the horizon and although I was starting to have serious doubts about Miss Tea's cantering abilities, I was still optimistic that I could teach her to use her body correctly for a more balanced, safe canter. Then the big trip happened. Not going to lie, my confidence dive bombed and the quiet struggle turned into a shouting wakeup call.
My focus over the course of the year turned more and more on to Savvy and this was the month she
cantered with a rider!

Reflection, tears, booze, and a decision. Riding a balanced greenie like Savvy just highlighted how off Miss Tea really was. It was so hard to let go of my simple little hunter dreams but having such a great little horse like Savvy to work with certainly softened the blow.
Snow had me slowed down, but I am so excited about where Savvy and I are headed!
Another year has come and gone. It was not what I had expected, but I am learning to roll with things, listen to myself more and allow better things into my life. I am surprising myself to say I am hooked on dressage. I am a bit daunted though by just how much there is to learn.
I am literally starting on the bottom -- a horse that knows nothing and a rider that wishes she knew so much more...let's do this!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Mr. Brown #HobbyFarmProblems

We are the proud owners of a beautiful old (possibly antique) tractor.

Meet David Brown - couldn't you just pinch his little metal cheeks?

It is quite the necessity on our farm.

I do feel lucky to have him and admire my husband's driving skills on the little beast. Unfortunately I have no knack for it and hate tractoring, especially snow. Although I usually avoid driving the thing at all costs, a bit of guilt about how much work my husband does mixed with a bit of unexpected spare time had me thinking a bit of snow clearing would be a good idea.

It all started well, but lasted all too briefly when I ran. out. of. diesel.

For educational purposes, don't EVER do this.

I immediately abandoned ship, ran for the house and ate some chocolate. I then convinced myself it would all be fine. I would just get some diesel, and it would magically start - all before my husband got home so he wouldn't have extra work/stress dumped on him at a time I was trying to offload some shit for him.

With diesel poured in the tank I climbed aboard, crossed my fingers, whispered some sweet nothings to Mr. Brown and turned the key.


Still holding onto optimism, I thought maybe he was just too cold and decided to try plugging him in for a bit. Five extension cords later I reached the tractor as he had died quite far from the closest plug in.

Back to the house, more chocolate and delusional positive thoughts that it all would work out just fine and to wait for the tractor's block heater to do its thing.

The next starting attempt was a massive fail. Not only was it not catching, but the turn over sounded quite like a low battery. humph. Time to ask for help from my 18-year-old son because I had never hooked up a battery charger and did not feel lucky enough to make this the day for practicing.

Back to house and looked in cupboard for hard liquor. Googled how to start a diesel tractor after running out of diesel.  Pissed by their pessimism so turned off computer and returned to believing next time it would just start.

With the help of my son hooking and unhooking the charger and a few more attempts/waiting to try again, IT TURNED OVER AND STARTED!

I got the little hunk of metal back in its shed so fast I forgot to unload the snow that was still in the bucket...
Happy New Year!