Friday, January 18, 2019

Good for the Soul

I don't often talk about my personal life on this blog, mostly because I don't feel it necessary to share intimate details, especially when this is first and foremost, a horse blog.

That being said, after well over a year of situations that had caused anxiety and distress, it all finally came to a head in the last few weeks. Although I feel more at peace now, the seas are still choppy with residual aftermath. Rest assured, I am physically OK - it has more to do with the intricacies of family dynamics that had been tainted long ago, but still continue to swallow each person whole. I won't play the victim game tho, nor will I let myself be down-trodden for too long - life is a beautiful thing and we shouldn't make ourselves endure mental turmoil just because its family.

Things will get better, I know they will. I have taken steps to avoid having myself caught in the cross-fire, and am learning to emulate a stronger sense of self, even if I don't feel it in the moment.

When life is hard, like most equestrians, we turn to our horses.

On Thursday after work, the roads were clear and dry enough that I was able to bring Annie out for a short ride.

We toodled, bareback in a halter around the street. Quietly listening to eachother's breathing and I concentrated on the animal beneath me instead of the "what if" questions I had rolling around in my head. I let her movements gently rock my hips back and forth, my torso slide soundlessly into key with hers, and my ears attuned themselves to her hushed footfalls.

I let her choose her path over some of the melting ice/snow formations, and was happy to see the snow crush beneath her weight. The sound of snow churning against asphalt and hoof, the faint smell of hay and dampness in her mane...

I hadn't ridden her in weeks, and I wasn't sure how brave or stupid it would be to ride bareback in a halter, but the look in her eyes when I pulled up to the barn told me she was willing to offer relief of the burden I was carrying.

So, I let her take it.

Take it all away with each snow-crushing footstep.

And she didn't falter.

Not once.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Doldrums

Her little lip snip is the cutest thing ever.
This blog kinda goes into hibernation mode during the Winter (no pun intended), which is pretty normal for most riders who board privately in this area. We do have a barn (with an indoor) within a 50min driving radius (Barn C, the same barn Annie stayed at during her training with Trainer K), but I am both cheap and inconvenienced by the thought of paying hundreds more in board (the increased $$ makes sense for many reasons tho bc the barn I board at lacks many of the amenities of Barn C has) as well as driving roughly two hours in total to be able to ride my horse.

I realize a lot of bloggers make this commute on the daily, but I just can't convince myself it's money well spent during the coldest and most unbearable season of the year. Factoring in unsafe driving conditions, and a large chunk of time lost to driving back and forth, I just can't make myself take the leap.

Which means riding is more or less on the back-burner, which is "fine" (it's not really fine, I miss it fiercely lol), and it gives Annie an opportunity to have a prolonged break. She does kind of need it too, as within the last month she has decided to sprout both height-wise and length-wise. So much so that her 76" blankets have her little butt poking out, haha.

This blanket used to cover her butt and part of her tail.
Now, her thighs get wet from rain dribbling.
It doesn't look like much, but the growth is fo real.
When we do manage to get out, it means any kind of riding is strictly road hacks (if and when the roads are safe ie. not icy or snowy), or little jaunts in the back paddock when the snow is light and fluffy (ie. not crunchy or topped with ice).

But sometimes, weather and outdoor conditions be damned, you just need to get on the damn horse. So, two weeks ago, I clambered aboard my mare and literally just sat on her in the pasture, feeding her many carrots. We wandered into the back paddock and trotted maybe a few steps, but that was about it.

Of course, this little shit mooched for carrots too.
He deserved them after trudging in the deep snow with us tho.
I've done quite a few in-hand walks - one of which required a small CTJ meeting because Annie was vair excited to get out and about. Mare was distracted and hyped up - when we pulled up, she was in the back paddock bucking and carrying on - so it took a few "uhm, no" corrections to get her brain back on planet Earth.

Mostly tho, mare just pokes her nose to the asphalt and lips at the snow as we walk along. She's a bit spookier than normal, but nothing out of line or violent. Just little snorts and stares, which I am just fine with.

Aside from all of this, we're just slowly plugging along until the snow melts away and we can play some more. I've started to piece together a game-plan for getting myself back in the saddle sooner (I mean, who wouldn't be?), which includes weekly hauling to an communal indoor arena - once the weather is a bit more agreeable and I needn't worry about icy road conditions.

Post-CTJ meeting.
We're the happiest clams in the bunch!
As a sidenote: does anyone think she got taller?
The tentative plan (bc the best laid plans...) is to start hauling once a week at the end of February and incorporate lessons with Trainer K in March/April before she heads back home for the Spring/Summer months. And by that time, we should be ready to rock and roll for the clinics that are scheduled throughout the Spring and Summer!

We'll see how this plan comes to fruition - we might be stuck in a winter wonderland forever.

It IS pretty... But it can go away any day now lol

Friday, January 11, 2019

Two Years of Annie

Today marks our second "Annie"-versary!

Although I officially purchased her a few days earlier, due to the arrangements of hauling and poor weather conditions, I didn't have her leadrope in my hands until January 11th.

The last two years have been a journey - with Annie being my first green horse, I floundered a bit with what I "should be" and "shouldn't be" doing - but Annie was there every step of the way without so much as a bat of her eye. We had our shares of issues (looking at you canter leads), and we still face some training problems (forward is hard, yanno), but I finally feel like things are coming together as they were intended to.

We pushed ourselves this year, seeking out as much education as I could afford both financially and schedule-wise. It has paid off in dividends, and I relish in the successes we conquered this year. Of course, it was not without some obstacles, but I feel like the way I pushed through them and addressed them was appropriate and par for the course.

In some ways, I'm kind of like "Wow, two years already!!" and the other part of me is thinking, "It's only been TWO years... we have many more years of partnership and many more rides to conquer." And in that sense, those two years were the first two years of Annie's undersaddle career, which is just insane for me to think about, haha.

This mare went from 30 days in a training facility to the middle of nowhere back-woods private barn set up, haha. Never been ridden outside of an indoor arena, one of our first rides after purchasing her was out on the roadways near the private barn I board at with cars driving by, dogs running about... And we kinda never looked back.

Here is to two years together, and to many, many more.

We started the year with a Derek Huget Dressage clinic, to address some of Annie's canter resistance issues. We broke down the canter issue to the basics - leg pressure = canter, no matter the lead she chose. The idea was to get her understanding the leg cue meant canter vs worrying about what lead she chose, considering there was some frustration when she didn't understand what I was trying to get her to do.

The clinic went really well, aside from an unscheduled dismount on my part on Day 1. We mostly worked on getting Annie more confident and comfortable vs nit-picking.

Annie went for 30 days training with Trainer K in February, so a professional could bridge the gap for Annie and I on the canter issues we had last year. It worked out really well, and the extra-instruction made me realize I needed to be accountable for certain things instead of ignoring them (and vice versa for other things).

In March, Annie came home and we resumed road-riding as the snow prevented us from doing much else.

We hauled out to ride with Show Buddy, who talked me into jumping Annie a bit higher than I normally do. I peed my pants, but did the thing.

We also conquered one of our first oxers!

In April, we did more road hacking and also took another Trainer K lesson.
It took a while for Annie's hamsters to get back into her brain, but once they did she was super.
We worked a lot on relaxation, esp at the canter so she wouldn't get frantic and balled up.
April continued with a two day Anthony Lothian jump clinic.
Annie was... a hot mess outside of the ring and made me
pretty frustrated with her theatrics. 

Regardless, we conquered the jumping thing and she was pretty decent in the ring.

Our first show of the season was in May - the Dressage left much to be desired,
but at least I had a compliant and listening horse. Annie had a cough tho, and
most of our 20m circles were coughing fits.

She was happy in the Hunter ring, and we even pulled some satin!

May also saw another Anthony clinic where I had one of my very best rides on the mare.

We worked hard in between the clinics I took this year and it showed.

Of course, we took the time to trail ride and pony Spud as much
as we could.

In June, we mostly schooled in the open meadow (Left side) due to the arena being
re-worked (see excavator). We also trail rode with a lot of friends during this time.

By the end of June, the arena was back together and we tackled some
bridleless riding... because why not.

July brought about longer trail rides now that the rivers had receded and we could
cross to the additional 4x4 trails.
We took part in a two day Sven Smienk Dressage clinic, which really kicked my butt
about the whole forward thing. And I left there feeling pretty confident despite
our issues.

It was the lesson I didn't want, but needed to have and it made me
better prepared to deal with the forward issue on my own.

We rode bareback in a halter on the hot days in July.

And we had another two day Anthony Lothian clinic where we jumped
a "big" vertical, haha.

In July, we took part in a "Ride a Test/ Fix a Test" clinic with Cat Armitage. We were at the very worst of our forwards issues, which is highly evident in the above video (I am actually super embarrassed to show it...). Cat gave me a lot of good advice, and along with the help from the two other clinics we took part of in July, I had enough tools in my toolbox. I just needed to be consistent, fair, and get my point across. The second half of the test is not nearly as bad, and I can glean moments where things are coming together really well, which was promising at the time.

We trail rode some more, during the cool evenings, and worked on
Annie's displeasure with being the "following" horse. Mare preferred
to be the leader, thank you very much.

Towards the end of August, a few friends pushed me to take part in an online Dressage show.
I'm glad I did - it felt like redemption in a way. It's not perfect, but I can see gleans of a happy and
WORKING partnership.

With that being said, the burn-out from so many clinics and shows and
hauling and schooling started to weigh on me a bit. I decided to step back
from any rigorous schooling and just enjoy the horse!
That's not to say that we completely abandoned schooling - because we didn't.
In September worked hard on keeping Annie's haunches straight and creating a quiet and
cadenced canter. 

We also went for a lot of trail rides with friends, as incoming rain threatened
our ability to cross rivers!

In October I rode with one of my BFFs and she gave me some really good pointers about Annie.
It was nice to hear that I wasn't doing a completely terrible job, haha!
We mixed it up, and played around with some natural obstacles, haha.

And rounded off the year with our last clinic with Anthony.

But we mostly spent the month not taking ourselves too seriously.
November came and I rode as much as I could, until the weather got too miserable for
the both of us.
Never fear tho, because I am still torturing poor Annie, even as the snow prevented us
from road riding.

When the roads were cleared tho, we headed out there as fast as we could!

Whew. Here is to our second year, and starting our 3rd with perspective, humility, and a partnership I hope will last a lifetime.

Cheers to you, Bannie!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2019 Goals: Furthering Education and Relationships

2019 Goals 

This year is going to kinda be a bit different for goals - not that I don't have any, but that I'm willing to be more lax about the specifics. Last year, I put numbers to a lot of things and while I still was able to achieve a good amount of my goals, I feel like having a lack of pressure to perform and "get things done" will ease me into a routine that is more helpful to me and my horse. Instead of saying "I want to jump 2'6" by October." I will say "I want to jump more, and be comfortable jumping bigger jumps".  

I found that I was less frazzled last year with the way I laid out my goals, as in years previous I revisited them monthly and found myself floundering to keep up with my own expectations. Goals aren't meant to shake every ounce of your worth out, and they certainly aren't meant to stress you out. When December 31st rolled around and I looked back at all the items I managed to tick off, I was proud. We had blips of issues along the way - lack of forwards, trail riding woes, etc - but they were momentary issues that we worked steadily on to improve. I'm sure 2019 will carry some baggage from 2018, which is fine, but I feel better prepared to deal with the issues and better developed as a rider to address the nuances and understand that they do not define Annie and I as partners.

This will be Annie's third year under saddle, and I feel like things are starting to become more "mature". The funny thing about it, is that I still feel like I'm learning about her and understanding her. I think she is still trying to figure herself out too, in some circumstances. Growing up we go through so many developmental changes so I imagine this year, she'll have a better understanding of what is expected of her as well as how to manage her own self (both in mind and body).

It goes without saying tho, that beyond the point-form goals below, my biggest goal of all is to further develop a partnership and relationship with my horses, and keep learning from both of them. Which is why any of us do this whole horsey thing in the first place!

  • Above all - keep the horse happy and healthy. Work towards bettering a partnership with her and understanding each-other even more. A lot of the points below (such as lessons) will effectively help me succeed in maintaining an understanding relationship with her while still being a fair but firm leader.
  • Keeping with the tradition of year's passed, I would like to enter as many clinics/lessons as I can. I managed 15 lessons last year, and I'd love to stick around the same amount this year. There are quite a few different clinics coming to the area (horsemanship, cavaletti clinic, etc) and I'd love to garner information from each of them. As they say - knowledge is power!
  • Attend the Fun Days! I didn't get to any of them last year, although that was mostly due to scheduling conflicts with all of the clinics I was in. This year, I'd like to get out to a few of them. Clear Rounds, Percentage Days, Gymkhanas, etc. Just for fun and exposure.
  • Keep on keepin' on with the basics - walk, trot, canter (leads), rein back, TOH, TOF. Also make moves to start getting those walk-canter-walks, counter canter, shoulder in, haunches in, and leg yielding. I'd like to play more with adjustability within the gaits - this is something we did a lot of in our Anthony clinics and when schooling on my own I kinda "forget" to play within the gaits sometimes.
  • Take part in the shows I can. I don't want to put a number on it, but I'd like to get out there as much as possible, of course. Ideally, I'd like to start the year off doing Training Level and then move onto First, but we'll see what happens. I had intended to do First last year, but our lack of forward issue kinda made it an unwise decision. I'd like to get her jumping more too, and instead of writing down a height, I wanna just do more Hunter courses and have fun - regardless of the heights. 
  • Keep up with the trail riding! We did quite a bit of it last year, and I'd like to continue and expose Annie to bigger groups. 

  • Scope out the CDE's that are happening closest to me. Figure out a game plan on attending, budgeting, and then get the ball rolling. If this summer plays out like last year, forest fires will put a damper on most of the driving season after June, so I need to plan ahead. 
  • Scope out any clinics that are close to the area and figure out a game plan on attending. A lot of the driving stuff happens a bit of a ways away from home, so it requires quite a bit of planning.
  • Keep him in decent shape and legged up. 
  • If possible to get him out there doing some gymkhanas, I'd like to take that opportunity ;) 

  • Become healthier and stronger - I'd like to run a 5K with my Dad this year, and I certainly believe that is an attainable goal!
  • Eradicate CC debt. This is rolled over from last year. I have some plans on how to make this happen, I just need to stick to it.
  • Continue to plug away at property - a barn may be going up this year pending some bylaw amendments through the city. We shall see - I am hopeful tho!
  • Pay attention to needless horsey spending. I did pretty good last year, despite buying my new dressage saddle (which was needed), so I'd like to keep myself honest to that :) 
  • Keep up with my studies and work hard to achieve my diploma - yes, I signed myself up for mooooore school work, aha.

Now... hurry up and be over Winter!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 Blogger Gift Exchange: Thank You, Journey with a Dancing Horse!

Despite ringing in the New Year with a seriously lousy head cold that somehow morphed itself into a fully fledged flu, I managed to stay awake long enough to appropriately appease the masses before crashing back into bed, traditions be damned.

And since the holidays, I've been more or less bed-ridden... other than quick trips to the pony's to give Annie her daily mash and supplements.

Most tho, my day consists of shuffling from bed to couch and back again. The ritual was interrupted when the Boyfriend let me know a few packages had arrived while I had slept the afternoon away.

Imagine my excitement when I realized one of the packages was from the Blogger Gift Exchange, and from none other than one of my very favorite bloggers - Teresa from Journey with a Dancing Horse.

I nearly died at the cuteness that is Guinness. Oh my goodness he looks so regal in his little reindeer antlers, haha. And Teresa had it on point with the wrapping paper - I love colorful and cartoony wrapping paper!

Inside was a pair of Noble Outfitters Cheyenne sheepskin gloves - something that will no doubt come in handy whilst doing barn chores. I am forever getting my "nice" (read: not horsey) gloves filthy with dirt and grime that comes with all things Barn Related. They fit great, too, so A+ on the sizing! Once they break in a bit more, they'll be super comfortable! 

And second to that was a beautiful pewter ornament which is hand-crafted in Mahone Bay, on the south shore of Nova Scotia by Amos Pewter. And after some digging, Amos Pewter is the only Pewter Economuseum in Canada! How cool is that?

Having never journeyed that far East, I am so happy to have a little slice of Teresa's home hanging on my tree. Thank you for the beautiful gifts, and above all of that - thank you for being such a resilient, thoughtful, and detail orientated person. Your persistence and patience with Carmen is something that inspires me.

As always, a huge thank you to Tracy at Printable Pony for organizing - as without you, we would not have the fun and magic of the Gift Exchange. Thank you for all that you do!

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Goals Recap

2018 Goals Recap

  • Attend as many clinics/lessons as I can. Knowledge is power!  My "happy number" is anywhere from 10-15 lessons.  This was a huge success and I managed to get a wonderful 15 lessons in throughout the year. It may not seem like much for those who take weekly lessons, but compared to the 5 lessons I managed to swing in 2017, we had a hugely successful year!
  • In addition to clinics, attend as many "fun" days as I can. This means clear rounds, percentage days, gymkhanas, etc. Purely for exposure and as a low pressure segway into shows. I actually didn't attend a single "fun" day, haha. Moreso due to schedule conflicts with other events than anything.
  • Solidify the basics - walk/ trot/ canter (leads), back up, TOH, TOF. Start to get more reliability in true extensions, shoulder in and haunches in. We definitely have our basics! We need to brush up on TOH and TOF a bit more, but it's all there. She has also started to learn what extensions are vs rushed trotting. We haven't played much with haunches in due to the fact it's verrrry easy for her to do and she more or less wants to be crooked when she canters. So, we'll revisit that this coming year :o)
  • Compete in 2-3 shows; I'd like to see where we stand after Annie's training in February, but my tentative plans are to continue with Walk/Trot divisions for our first show and then move up and close out the year with Training level (tentative First Level stretch goal here pending our progress!). For flat classes - pretty much the same thing. Start walk/trot and then go into a few with canter to get her used to it. And for the jumping - continuing with 18"-2' and ideally close out the year with 2'3"-2'6" hunter classes.  OK, so there were some stretch goals here. I'm gonna still 'x' it off and say we did the thing because the First Level and 2'6" courses were hard stretches that I wasn't necessarily pushing for. We've continued to push along at Training Level and continued with the smaller jumps which I am happy with. We did three shows this year, with one being online.
  • Trail ride more - in a group and solo. I'd like to take her down a bunch of the old logging roads and haul out to the local ski-trails. There is also a Mountain Horse course 3hrs away I'd love to play around on! Didn't get to go to the Mountain Horse course BUT we've trail ridden A LOT this year. We've done all kinds of trails both with and without other horses. She's been pretty good save for a handful of rides but overall I'm pretty pleased with her.
  • Purchase Dressage saddle and pay off before end of the year. Done and done! Saddle was paid off in the Summer :) 

  • Compete at 1 CDE/FDT at 1st level. We didn't get to make it out to a CDE, unfortunately. Wildfires caused a lot of cancellations in the later dates and I didn't feel like Spud was legged up enough to compete in their earlier in the year CDEs (April).
  • Compete at BVX and go for high point. We did and we won high point :)
  • Continue to work towards a free walk and collection. Getting better. Need more march in the free walk still but not terrible!! Collection is coming - just have to remember to push him more into it vs pulling him into it.
  • Work on pivots while hitched. They are certainly better than before!

Roxy isn't largely shared on the blog, so enjoy some Roxy
from October <3

  • Complete CHSEP certificate program. Done! I actually am starting my diploma program in 2019 now, haha.
  • Eradicate CC debt. I certainly didn't clear it as much as I wanted, but it's slowly getting there.
  • Spending freeze on horsey things I do not need (like bridles, bits, etc). The only passable items are a set of jumping boots, a white show pad and the dressage saddle. That's it! I think I did pretty darn good this year! I bought a few things not listed like a fly sheet, but were necessary things at the time.
  • Continue to plug away at property - slowly but surely! Yes! I just need to finally finalize my barn plans (scary to think!!) and we are planning to build come Spring/Summer!

Stay tuned for 2019 goals coming in the New Year :)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Post-Christmas Vibes

Listening ears on Bannie after a previous evening snowfall!
All has been relatively quiet as the Christmas season starts to wrap up and we prepare to head into 2019 in just a few short days. I've been diligently playing around with the horses still, trying to keep things as interesting as I can with the terrible weather we've been experiencing lately.

Things have mostly been pretty good - Annie has been a bit uncharacteristically spooky for a few in-hand sessions, but I feel the cooler temps kinda bring out the inner feral Mustang in most horses. I err on the side of caution tho, because Annie is not clipped at this time and any amount of excessive work gets her sweaty and warm. So, we keep it low key and stick to the monotonous (but still fun!) regime of hand walking, in-hand work, and desensitization work.

I was lucky last week though, as I managed to get two rides in on Annie - one with Spud and one without.

For having an inconsistent ride schedule, Annie was as cool as a cucumber for both rides.

Little snowflakes fell during a portion of our ride :)
The day after Christmas, I was excited to see that the roadway was pretty clear and bare, so I figured it would be a good day to ride! I had to hand-walk her down the driveway to the road, as the driveway is a bit slippery at the moment from the vehicles driving over the snow. When we got onto the road, she was a bit snorty and looky, so I just did some in-hand work to get her back on the same page. It didn't take long, and before I knew it we were well on our way, Annie's head at her knees.

We did a bit of shortening and lengthening the reins, as Annie started to toss her head and break into trot when I would pull up the contact on the last two rides. So I just went back and forth, gradually bringing the reins in and out. She was pretty good about it, and it seemed to help her understand moreso that we could bring the contact in and out without having to get up tight about it.

The ride was nice and low key - we added a few small trot-sets in where we could, but otherwise stuck to a quiet walk. At one point, I had to dismount and hand-walk, as one of the roads was unplowed and I feared it would be slippery. It wasn't too bad, but I didn't want to tempt fate.

During the handwalk, I held onto the buckle of the reins while checking
my Equilab. Annie likes to stretch quite a bit, so she was doing her thing and
then she stepped on the reins -_-. Thankfully they didn't break, but it made me realize
I needed to coil up the reins and leave her less slack, lol.
Annie got stuffed with many carrots and wrapped back into her lightweight before being turned out. Good girl!

Our second ride was Saturday afternoon, after a rather large downpour the evening before. The sun was shining, and although there was a blustry wind, it seemed like the perfect day for a ride!

So ride we did!

Annie, making Spud look Pony-sized.
Or... Spud making Annie look Pony-sized?
Annie was great and as we wandered down the streets, Spud gave his most eccentric display of head tossing, leaping, and grunting. He also spooked like a freight train at one point, and I almost lost hold of his leadrope.

Besides Spud being very... excited to be out (haha), both horses were pretty well behaved. Especially once Spud quietly fell into line like a good little pony.

I was pretty pleased with both horses, considering the road way is narrower than usual with the snow on the sides of the road. Unfortunately, this means slush accumulates along the sides and when cars move over to give us a wider berth, slush sprays like a firehose from under the cars and right in our direction. Which, can be easily avoidable if the cars just slow the heck down. But, non-horsey people don't feel the need to slow down to avoid sending sprays of slush in our direction, so both Annie and Spud spooked a few times as wet slush flew at both of them.

It was a pretty sunny day - this street was quite shaded.
Thankfully, both horses are pretty sane and didn't seem too overly bothered by it. I kept double checking over my shoulder for vehicles, and would pull into nearby driveways that didn't look slippery to get out of the way to avoid any kind of slush-spraying, haha.

Despite the slush, it was a good ride, and most drivers were pretty sensible. I made sure I waved and mouthed "thank you" to the ones who were cautious.

I didn't end up staying out too long on our second ride, as the wind started to cut through my jacket and I wished I had thicker socks and jacket on, haha. As we made our loop back down towards home, we ran into a few people hand-walking their horses, and it took some cajoling on my part to convince Annie that these horses were not meeting up with us and no we were not going to sniff noses. She plodded along quietly after a pony club kick to the gut after stopping stiffly as the two other horses passed.

A more appropriate angle to show each horse's size, lol.

We passed them once more, heading back home, and Annie was less interested in them (but still interested enough to snort and try to sniff out at them).

Nothing remotely exciting, to be frank, but at the same time... having a quiet and "boring" winter ride on a young horse that's been in inconsistent work for the past few months is pretty damn exciting. Haha.