Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Hacking Makes Happy Ponies

Hill work for them booty gains.
I am happy to say that the weather seemed to have leveled out after a few days of down-pour - we've had some pretty nice days with temps reaching uncharacteristic levels. I won't complain tho, the sun kinda makes me motivated to do things outside, riding included (how I wish we had an indoor sometimes).

Earlier this month I had been taking advantage of hacking on the trails, which came in good time since the last week and a half I have had to avoid the trails due to bear/wolf activity. In fact, a wolf was spotted at our usual schooling grounds just the other morning... so I had to be particularly careful about heading there. I don't really fear heading to the grounds much, since it is an open space but the crowded and dense trails leave me a bit less... bold. 

Longingly looking up the driveway to the barn, haha.
I still venture them when there is company to be had, but when it's just me and my horses I tend to stick a bit closer to home. The animals are getting ready for Winter and I'd rather not run into a hungry or defensive bear (or wolf!), especially when there have been occurrences (approx 5 years ago) of bears chasing horses and ultimately killing a rider's dog who attempted to defend them.

So I kinda took the opportunity to hack out alone while there were still no real sightings or worries - I have been trying to keep it to one school (if not two!) per week where time allows, but I kinda let it slide in favor of enjoying the trails and playing around. So, following the really good school in the arena back in early September, I hacked Annie with Spud through the fairgrounds trail and around the loop which runs through the subdivision. I have been trying to be diligent in taking Spud out at least twice a week, since I don't always bring him with me when I ride Annie (I don't want her to get too used to him always being there either). 

We were all smiles by the end of the ride tho - the sunshine was
warmly welcomed!
With this particular ride, we did a ton of hill work and even attempted some canters down the better maintained trails. Spud was NOT a fan of this, haha, and ended up giving me some whip-lash bc when pony doesn't wanna... pony will NOT. So, we stuck to a slow jog which was more like a fast trot in Spud gaits. 

The ride was fun, quiet, and an easy 5k. Just what me and the ponies needed!

I am always so impressed how good Annie has been about ponying Spud - I kinda just threw her into it and she never really looked back.

Because of her good behavior and good schools, I gave her two days off and on one of those days, I ended up hauling Spud into town to drive on some old 4x4 trails and stop by the property. For those who don't know, the Boyfriend and I own 5 acres of untouched land pretty close to my old 4-H coach (and where I first boarded Suzie when I bought her). Anyways, it's been a friggen process to get the land ready and going, but the Boy and I have finally been able to get some things done (because everything costs money... SO MUCH MONEY). 

As a largely unrelated side-note, but also kind of a non-official update on the land, here are many pictures to serve as fodder for those curious:

This is what it looked like prior to being dug and back-filled.
Lots of mulch and lots of dirt.

New soil going in. In the bottom photo, I am in that cluster of trees to the
left. The property still extends a good 20' beyond that. It is an old road tho so
doesn't need to be dug or filled.

Spud is up there... way up there haha.
You can see our giant mountain of mulch/soil to the left. There is more property to the
left, right, and behind me. 
We had a contractor come and needed them to scrape and pull up the bad footing and backfill with good ground on the "horse's lot". (We have 3 properties all in a row. The 3rd lot which is about 1.5 acres is for the horses only). The spots where the properties are used to be an old swamp, so the footing itself is NOT good for building on or for ponies to be walking on. It's beautiful mulch and super rich top-soil tho... just not good for the purposes we need, haha.

Not the property, but a trail that runs along part of the property!
In order to be able to get this stuff done on the lot without it costing a million dollars, we had to be selective, up-front and calculating of our wants and needs. As you guys will notice, the mulch/top-soil mixture is a giant mountain on the lot still, which will remain there for a while. We plan to screen it and lay the good top soil down where we want to grow grass, so no sense in sending it away and paying ($$) for it to be sent away and then brought back ($$) just as top soil. 

Soon Bannie will be hitting these trails :)
Anyways, my little side-track is over. I stole the nephew and we drove some of the trails before stopping at the lot to check it all out and show Spud his future home!

So that was fun and kind of exciting!! More developments will be coming for the land, but it is done for this year as we want the ground to settle and such.

Following that ride, Annie and I tagged along with N and AJ for a 7.5k hack which was a lot of fun and Annie was well-behaved - even when AJ decided to lose his noodle for a few kilometers, haha. For a 19 year old, he is still pretty damn spry. The ponies mostly hacked around on the buckle and it served as a good opportunity to catch up and chat. Much needed!

AJ, with his noodle firmly reinstalled! 
Our last hack, before returning to the ring, was a simple 4k loop around the subdivision. Annie went in a halter-a-more, and I only questioned my sanity once. Otherwise, we toodled on a long rein and even managed to get a few minutes of trot in with Spud, who begrudgingly followed.

A happy couple.
Of course, it didn't hurt that I provided everyone (and I mean everyone!) with treats:

My goal for the end of 2018 was to hit 400km logged into Equi-lab with Annie, and since I've already surpassed that amount, I'm setting my sights on 500! (To be fair, I believe I have passed 500km already, since I have missed turning it on for quite a few rides and also due to the fact I downloaded the app in late March.) 

The hacking and trails have been good for racking up easy miles, not to mention it's been educational for Annie still. Because believe it or not, I rarely just "toodle" or putter around. We practice things along the trail like leg-yielding, TOH, backing up, halting and standing quiet, etc. There are always things to work on and I take the opportunity to play around with little things on these days. 

Mostly tho, I'm just enjoying the heck outta my horse and slowly putting the miles on her. She feels different as this year is drawing to a close (which is something I will reflect on in another post), and it feels good. We've both worked our butts off this year, so the down time is welcomed. Of course, it doesn't mean we stopped doing our thang in the ring, because our next three rides were all flat schools in the ring ;) Something about balance and all that, right?

Monday, September 24, 2018

FSHS Online Dressage Show Results

Finally, I am starting to catch up (albeit slowly!) on my blog posts.

In August, while a friend was visiting from Alberta, a few of us arranged to play around with our ponies and ride some Dressage tests as part of an online show to fundraiser for Alaina's home-town horse club.

I blogged previously about it here - mostly out of excitement - and shamefully did not wait for my percentages or tests to come back, haha.

Well, I have the results now!

The online show had two volunteer judges - Alaina herself and Stephanie Shannon who is a para-equestrian.

As most readers know, I did Training 2 and 3 of Equine Canada. We typically ride HCBC tests in BC, so it's a bit different trying to ride the EC tests. Through a comedy of errors, we managed to get our way through haha, and in the end had some great results!

First up is Training Level 2:

Because of the format I was sent the tests, I had to screencap them bit by bit, so I apologize if it's difficult to read. The first TL2 set was judged by Alaina, the second by Stephanie. 

I agree with most that is being said here. I am a geometrically incapable fool, haha, so I need to work on that! Otherwise, the tension/behind the leg issues in Annie are not news to me, so I fully expected to see several comments about it pop up. As per the final score, Annie and I earned a 62.5%.

Stephanie didn't write the percentage on the test sheet, but Annie and I scored a 61.9%. Which I feel is pretty respectable and accurate. Again, some issues with being behind in the leg and not being accurate. It has gotten much better, so it can only go up from here!

Onto TL 3:

Test from Alaina:

The second test we did was much improved, as evidenced by the score :) I was happy with the performance, altho I know there are a few things that could use changing. All in due time tho. As shown in the score box, we earned a 66.8%.

We even made a pretty big jump from TL2 - 3 with Stephanie, who gave us a 65.0% for our efforts.

Collectively, we earned an average score of 64.05% and managed to win first out of three. Good girl, Bannie!!

It was a fun experience - a good way to gauge progress and get some feedback without having to haul crazy distances or pay crazy show fees. I am pretty pleased with me and Annie - the uncertainty and frustration I felt from not being "good enough" has rolled off like water on a duck's back. There will be tension and there will be tough times - we can only get better than here tho, and that's what we will keep striving for. One foot hoof in front of the other!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Four Years of Spud

He will always and forever be my unicorn <3
I do have lots of things to post, so fear not my silence, haha. Life has just been busy and fun, with not much time for blogging. This post was too important to ignore, and for good reason!

Gosh. Four whole years.

In some ways it feels like I have always had him - lurking around the corner of the barn, his eyes twinkling with mischief and vigor.

So much mischief.
He's blossomed into such a self-assured and resilient little guy, which is a far leap from where he started. Being an auction pony that wasn't given the best life previous to that, he showed a lot of anxiety and sensitivity (he still is quite sensitive, but I am able to push him a lot more than I ever could have previously). The first few months of his new life with me showed he was kind, forgiving, and naturally easy-going, but he had some emotional scars and past traumas that prevented him from fully blossoming.

I used to spent so many frustrated tears trying to catch him, because he would rather... not. And the second he knew I was upset, he got upset. And then it was like trying to catch a feral pony. A very scared, feral pony.

No longer scared (for the most part!), no longer feral.
For a large portion of my equestrian learning, I was often paired with bold and eager creatures - not easily intimidated and often lacking manners and respect. Learning to adequately and appropriately react to Spud was a learning lesson in itself. There were many situations I could not easily get through to him - and these situations took a lot of trust building and understanding.

It can be funny at times. This little horse who can have complete panic-induced meltdowns over simple things like bathing can flip a switch and become the most confident soul in the universe once he has his harness on. He's unstoppable, unflappable, and oh so reliable.

Just a steady eddie doin' his thing.
I think a lot of the emotional scars of his past will always be there and in some ways, he won't be able to move past them. Which, instead of fighting to change him, I've come to respect and understand.

It's not to say I avoid the difficult things or even the easy things (that he finds difficult), but I no longer sweat the small stuff and work around his uncertainty with more patience than persistence.

We have overcame mountains (oh the rearing fits, how I miss you not), and sailed smoothly and seamlessly into new experiences. He is the horse I choose for so many things - parades, festivals, pony rides... And he has made me so proud of the confident and bright little horse he has become.

He really is the best.
What was supposed to be a resale project at some point (the idea was that I would sell him once I had two full sized horses), is firmly no longer an option. Spud will always and forever have a place in my heart and my barn.

I have, since our second year together, said that Spud is that horse for me.

He's captivating, confusing, and just so damn good for the heart.

And there is no part of him I would ever change. I love him as he is.

All 34 inches of him.

Happy 4 Year Anniversary, little potato.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Who's On Your Team?

Show Buddy and I have shared quite a few years of horse showing together!
I think an intrinsic part of horse ownership is having those you can not only lean on when shit gets tough, but also celebrate with when success takes place.

The sport of horse riding is hard enough to do solo-style, so having a group (or even just a few friends) that can apply themselves thoughtfully and appropriately throughout your riding career to help you grow as a thoughtful and well-rounded rider. And also, vice-versa!

We can't deny that horses are wonderful creatures. The whole Black Stallion Syndrome thing is fun to watch on the big screen and forging a tangible relationship with them is kinda where we all aspire to be one day. The sheer spirit of them can give us so many things we otherwise wouldn't know we needed. And while they may lift our spirits and mend our hearts, they can also break them.

And I'm not talking about death here - I'm talking about the tangible, non-linear progress that is horse riding. The frustrations, disappointments, uncertainty... it can all take it's toll on us as an individual, and to have a team that backs us, supports us, and is there to help pick up the pieces is not only good sportsmanship, it's just plain old camaraderie.

This buckskin bucked me off more times than I care to remember.
The circle of friends who silently pat your back and remind you, "Tomorrow is another day" when a class didn't go as planned, or a"Yup, been there before" hug as you wonder why the hell you chose a baby horse are the ones who help us navigate this path of horse ownership relatively unscathed. Because as we forge our relationship with our horse, we kinda need those people to keep us grounded and keep our eye on the prize so to speak.

Even more than that tho, are those who are on your team when things go well. When the endless amounts of 20m circles have finally paid off, those people who can be truthfully and wholly happy for us matter just as much. Being able to celebrate your victories with the same level of excitement and happiness you do is imperative. And it isn't just being there when you earn blue ribbons.

It's the ones who celebrate successes that matter to you. A perfect canter serpentine. A non-spooky trail ride. A clear jump round. A solo hack around the barn.

And a friend to help you celebrate your hard-earned wins.
Because you guys, this red horse was a fucking demon when I first rode him.
All the blues we won were damn well deserved.
It's not to say that there is an expectation to ass-pat or drop everything to have a celebratory dance party, but the ability to react and share excitement in something that means something to someone is... everything.
It's been an interesting process for me, to look back and see who has been there along the way with me and my horses in both our triumphs and failures (and there have been a lot of them!).  The amount of "firsts", "seconds", and "thirds" each have a special place in my heart, regardless of the situation being negative or positive. The entire process of bringing up Annie has been enlightening, scary, and completely engrossing.

I'm sure those who have brought up young horses continuously will kinda shrug off the small advances in a young horse's riding career, but I am deeply entrenched in sharing, discussing, and just figuring it all out. Because for me, this is firmly uncharted territory and even when I'm floundering along not sure what to do, I appreciate the friends who quietly let me figure out my next move without jumping the gun and assuming I was lost amongst a sea of uncertainty.

I can appreciate those who have nodded silently from the sidelines as an act of support, even when they didn't completely agree with x, y, or z. And I can appreciate those who pat me on the leg after a class, reminding me just how awesome my mare is. And I sure as hell can appreciate those who can laugh alongside me during a good trail ride.

Which is the whole point of it, right?

We're all out here to enjoy our horses, and the friends we meet along the way make it just that much sweeter.

And sometimes, our biggest cheerleaders aren't even riders themselves <3
That's not to say that advice or unwarranted info from a friend will always be welcome tho. Because, maybe an idea wasn't presented properly, or a thought wasn't executed accurately. The best thing to do, unless some serious what the fuckery is occurring? Kinda what our moms always taught us - say nothing at all unless your opinion is being asked.

Sometimes tho, unneeded advice doesn't come from friends - there will be the Rail Birds both in the ring and in the barn, keen on dissecting and attempting to manipulate your groove. Friends are important here too, because it's easy to make assumptions or conclusions based off of scattered viewings. Here, it's the friends who remind you no one else's opinion matters in the grand scheme of things are those worth keeping.

It's not to say you should shield yourself from criticism, because at some point in horse ownership we all grow a bit of a thick back bone. And sometimes, ya, your backbone has to break a little bit to keep you humble and realize maybe you are making a mistake. But, at the same time, it's worth more to take advice or simple musings from those who want us to grow and make decisions thoughtfully vs emotionally.

So in a way, you have to be a bit attentive as to who's in your circle and why they are there. Are they there only when things go right? Are they only there to offer their form of "advice" when things go wrong? Are they there to feed off of your achievements as if they were their own?

Because at the end of the day, we are all just trying to do the best for our horse. Which brings me to a post Emma made not so long ago that can actually be applied to this post in a weird, far out way, haha. Kinda like the issue with gimmicks, we can't cover ourselves with friends that only bring us down or friends that make us believe horse-shoes and rainbows fall out of our ass.

Supporting a friend and her mare at their first show undersaddle, while
another friend covers the media angle and Spud-sitting.
There needs to be balance, and certainly a healthy dose of respect between two people to make it truly work. It's pretty simple - keep those who are true to you and your horse on your team and even more than that, make sure you are a good cheerleader right back.

With that being said, being able to share my horses and our training journey with like-minded individuals is largely why I write and share as much as I do. I certainly wouldn't do it (or keep it public) if the wide-variety of comments were impolite, rude, or just plain mean. Which, I am grateful this platform has been such a positive experience for me, because I don't have the ability to share or commiserate within the aisleways of the barn (the whole self-boarding thing can make a person feel kinda isolated).

I am thankful for the people who, regardless of being here in flesh or spirit, have continually supported me throughout my riding career.

It can be done alone, but it is funner with friends.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Rain or Shine

Weirdly enough, this Summer didn't see much rain. Being on the North Coast of British Columbia (with our little slice of heaven is firmly sandwiched between two of the rainiest cities in all of Canada) it was pretty uncharacteristic to not see any form of precipitation for weeks on end.

Unfortunately, the province of BC did not bode well with the lack of liquid gold we are so known for, as a vast majority of our province was swarmed with thousands of wild-fires (some of which still continue to burn today).

The change in weather has been a bit of a warm welcome tho, what with all the fires and unrelenting heat. Fall is by far one of my favorite seasons - the cooler weather paired with the crisp contrasting leaves makes for some beautiful scenery.

Nose pets keep the inner red-headed demon at bay, ahha.
Mid-Friday afternoon, N ended up messaging me asking if I wanted to ride in the rain with her. I hesitated - only due to the fact Bannie still needed a reset - but figured with a farrier appointment (finally!) booked for Sunday morning, we'd be just fine.

We stuck to the regular loop around the rural subdivision, which is roughly 5-6km depending which outer-perimeter streets you add in.

Both Annie and AJ were happier than pigs in shit to walk along at a sedated pace on loose reins, which made for an extra pleasant hack around the neighborhood. As per usual, AJ sent Annie into a very fast and erm... heavy... heat, ahha. She kept a pretty good lid on it tho, and only mildly protested when we broke off at the end to head our separate ways.

It wouldn't be so pervy if AJ weren't 3x Annie's age...
Love has no bias tho, I guess haha.
Being a mare is hard, I tell ya. Especially when you're confronted by some serious gelding tail, haha.

Following the ride, the horses got their feet done on Sunday (wherein Annie was a bit of a douche, but not a total supreme douche... so win?) and I swung back up in the saddle the very next morning to a blue sky and sunshine.

Only being a bit of a douche. Not a whole douche.
The initial plan was to hack, but Annie decided to spend nearly 15 minutes fucking around at the barn once I mounted so I was pretty bound and determined we would be schooling and getting her egg's back into their basket. I appreciate the fact she is excited and happy to get out and about, but I am NOT keen on having a horse that tries to jig down the driveway and flip me the bird when I half-halt or ask her to stand quietly.

So we did a lot of circling, halting, dismounting and remounting before I even let her step foot down the driveway. As soon as I threatened her with lunging, she started to get her shit together and we headed out... finally. I took the opportunity to ask for halts and have her stand quietly, because #fuckyoumareidon'tcareaboutyourfeelings. She protested a few times (rooting and yanking the reins from my hands, attempting to walk off, scooting out from under me when I asked her to walk off...) and got a bit humpy once, but finally sighed when she realized I wasn't gonna let her walk all over me.

This was after she decidedly had less feelings.
Hold on there you crazy mare.
Once we hit the dirt road, she was back to her usual professional self which I appreciated but still didn't entirely forgive her, so we schooled down it at both the trot and canter. She was good - lazy, but good.

Seriously tho... only my mare can have a shit fit for 15 fucking minutes about wanting to go out for a ride and then drag ass during a canter down a dirt road.

We continued our way to the arena and once there, I was keen on setting to work right away. Hacking to the grounds takes about 20 minutes, so Annie was more than warmed up by the time we arrived. I had wanted to start chipping away at our cross-firing issue and applying the things I had gleaned while lunging over the last two weeks.

A reverse barn door vista.
Doesn't she look cute... and unassuming?
To summarize the ride - it was freaken fantastic. Mare was a bit disorganized and frantic for the first few minutes of the school, but otherwise went to work and did the thing. She did try to change in the back twice, but I kept a firm outside rein and worked on pushing her body to be straighter and walla, she didn't even make it past *thinking* about it.

I was super happy with her - she was quiet in the canter, responsive to the aids, and light in the bridle with enough pressure I could keep a working contact with her.

We played around with some leg yielding, 15m trot circles, 15m canter circles, "lengthened" canter and "collected" canter as well as quite a few (straight) canter transitions down the long sides of the arena. I am terrible for always asking in the corner (or making a circle to ask), and when a friend made a comment about having her own horse aware of which canter leg she is asking for by riding her in a straight line, I thought it was pretty genius. I wanted to start applying it and working my way to asking for counter canters, so thought it was a good idea as any.

Something looks like it's missing here...
Annie struggled slightly on her left lead, but quickly became receptive to which leg I was asking for and was quick to correct her mistake after that. I was happy with her tho - this straightness stuff is very difficult for her and the fact she was trying to meet me halfway was more than I could ask for.

We finished the school after a particularly pleasant extended canter down the long-side. I sat deep, asked her to whoa, and immediately hopped off to shower Annie with many good pony scritches and pats.

Once the good girl dance was over, I led her out of the arena, remounted, and we headed home. At one point during the ride home, I had to dismount to grab Ella (a woman was walking her leashed dog down the dirt road and I didn't want her to run up and disturb them) and upon remounting, I decided to undo my reins and hack home bridleless.

Probably unsafe. Definitely not Pony Club approved.
100% enthralling and fun!!

Annie was super - quiet and responsive to my aids as we went along. I also ended up dropping her bridle one turn from home, which ended up turning into a bit of a laughable moment... As we rounded the corner, we came face to face with a young girl crouched in the ditch catching little fish.

She said hello to me, so I said hello back and she took the opportunity to run over and show me what was in her bucket. Now, I trust Annie to behave when she is in a good mood, but I wasn't exactly sure how this would go over being bridleless and all, and was ready to dismount if the need arose. But, mare was perfect and instead of spooking, tried to drink from the bucket when the girl presented it to us, haha.

Probably not the smartest thing to do, but damn it was fun.