Thursday, 1 March 2018

Not Falling and Other Wins

Since our new saddle arrived back in mid-January Henry and I have been getting back into the groove.  I never really stopped riding him when I didn’t have a saddle but there were often long gaps between rides.  And when I did ride, I didn’t ask for much.  To be honest I never really was 100% comfortable riding him bareback.  He’s quite bouncy and narrow… and I was still a bit tentative after my hat trick of falls last summer.


Our riding schedule is still unfortunately not the most consistent (sorry Henbot) due to my ankle injury/death flu and then the condo renovations taking over my life.  But I clocked more hours in February than I did in December/January combined.  I also look forward to riding him instead of feeling nervous about it.  I was really whiteknuckling it those last few months with the bareback pad.

I am hopeful that now that the condo is listed we can get to work for real.  And hopefully start cantering and doing some small fences again soon.  At this point both of our fitness needs work and I don’t want to rush him without re-establishing some communication/straightness basics. 

I ate only health foods while completing the renos 

We had one ST lesson in February (on the 10th) and our homework was to develop a proper forward trot.  A forward trot feels way too fast to me but apparently it just looks normal.  I’m used to a smoother shorter-strided drafty trot I guess.

I was working on our forward trot on February 24 when my dog popped out of the corner we were riding by.  After that the corner was haunted and Henry needed to be dramatic about it every time.  I tried a few approaches (mainly circling and slowly getting closer to the evil corner at the walk and trot).  I also at some point just decided to ignore him and make him go in there regardless of how weird and giraffe-y he was about it.  I was proud of myself for digging in and making him work through his tantrum.

This canine decided to pop out at a terrible time

Then, all of a sudden, as we were finally softly trotting through the corner… he exploded.  It felt like a rear but I think it might have just been a big leap.  I lost my left rein and stirrup.  My whip was somehow lodged under the left side of my saddle.  My brain was like “oh crap, I’m going to hit the dirt”. 

There was a split second in there after the leap where I was 99% sure he was going to start bucking.  I was in a very similar position (tipped forward and off balance) to what started the 1st and 3rd bucking incidences.  In that pause I could almost feel him thinking about it.  But after the initial leap when I calmly (in my mind I was calm at least) said “whooooa buddy” he stopped.   I praised him (almost in tears of joy) for making a good decision and listening to me.  I straightened myself out and we walked calmly through death corner a few times and then moved on to a different exercise. 

I know this is kind of a dumb thing to be so happy about, but I really am.  He had a very clear shot at dumping me on the ground and didn’t.  I attribute it somewhat to luck that I was able to stay on but also that I started stroking his neck and speaking to him in a calm voice when he panicked.  The other times I tensed up and gripped for dear life (not that I blame myself for that but it didn’t help matters).

I realized after the ride that the big “explosion” was likely due to water (like half a cup) getting dumped on his neck from the sprinklers.  I didn’t see it when I was riding but he had a huge wet spot on the left side of his neck that didn’t correlate with a sweat pattern.  He lives outside and you know... has been hit by rain before so it’s a bit ridiculous to leap into the air over it but…. for a baby horse getting back into riding life I can give him a pass on it this time.

After we finished our other exercises I hopped off to cool him off and we spent some time in the scary corner eating cookies and getting pets.

I am super proud of my baby horse for using his brain.  <3  And I’m very grateful to have stirrups!

Monday, 5 February 2018


January flew by!  Mostly because there was so much going on.  I have a lot of happy news to share!

Mystic is home!  It's so nice to have everyone together again.  I was really bummed to leave my sweet trails and riding buddy, C, but this was a really smart decision.  Also my husband and I are currently sharing a vehicle (I never ended up purchasing another vehicle after my accident in the summer) so having the herd so close helps me be less of a truck hog. 

Mystic is learning to be an arena horse again and continues to be the most wonderful creature ever.  <3 

She had a month off and I took her out in the hayfield bareback - and she was rock solid.  She truly has the best brain and heart of any horse I've known.  It's been really beneficial to my confidence to have more rides on her.

I got my saddle for Henry on January 15th! AND I FREAKING LOVE IT. 

It arrived right before my trip to Las Vegas so I haven't been able to deck it out yet because I can't afford it haha.  So I am currently rocking ancient stirrup leathers and a used $8 fuzzy girth.  But who cares.  I have stirrups! Yahoo!

I haven't had as many rides as I'd like due to hurting my ankle and the horrible weather.  But I have been really happy on rides I have squeezed in!  I have never felt so comfortable (and somehow very secure) in any saddle before.  Totally worth how broke I am.

I would really like an ecogold secure pad (the jumper or xc version, don't care which) as the saddle is just very slightly wide on Henry.  I'm currently just using one of my thicker pads but it's ugly and I want a fancy new one. 

Apollo (who is usually quite aloof) has been overly friendly and really keen about going to work lately.  He usually goes through some stiffness when the temperature drops and isn't super keen about being a working horse in the winter - this year is a complete 180.  I hadn't really planned to do much with him this winter but he seriously waits at the gate for me when he knows I have another horse inside, so homeboy has been keeping busy too. 

Sometimes when you come inside you get a massage from your BFF at Vitality Equine

I'm just feeling really grateful about where things are at right now.  I mean... yeah I only have one saddle and things aren't perfect, but they are so very good.  I was even kind of happy about hurting my ankle because I caught I death flu at the same time so I could take care of both things at once rather than being off for a longer period of time (it was also like -30 so staying indoors was fine by me).  ST has also been away so I couldn't have done lessons with her over that time anyhow. 


I have lots to catch up on and big plans in February!  Our condo renovations have started and the condo should be listed again March 1.  I also am in the works of booking some lessons with a cowboy challenge guy, a long-lining specialist and of course the wonderful ST. 

2018 - I like you.

Apollo hair heart <3

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Peace Like a River

Happy holidays everyone! 

I arrived back from Mexico just in time to spend a lovely Christmas with my family.  The tropical vacation was exactly what I needed.  I was so run down before we left, and just really not myself.  A lovely combination of sand, sun, sleep, swimming and blended cocktails revived me.

I had a lot of time to reflect on 2017.  Initially I felt like 2017 was total crap and the worst year of my life.  But after some thought, that idea proved to be overly dramatic. 

There were tough things in 2017 for sure, but there was so much more to be grateful for.   So instead of ruminating on the boohoos of 2017 I’m going to think about these three things when 2017 pops into my mind:

1)      I rode my young horses bareback so much (which is sort of brave and they were really sensible...go team).

2)      My husband and I became closer than ever dealing with the challenges that 2017 brought, our relationship has truly never been better than it is now.

3)      I am incredibly grateful for my life and the people and animals that I share it with.   It’s so important to enjoy and appreciate your tribe, you never know how long you get to keep them.  Time is a precious thing. 

As I look ahead to 2018 I’m going to keep it simple for goals. 

1)      Sell condo
2)      Buy acreage
3)      Be happy

As we prepare to re-list our condo I know real estate buying/selling takes a lot more time and energy than I originally anticipated.  If the condo sells I can certainly afford a horse trailer, some semblance of a show season and more tack.   Until I tick number one off the list I will hold off on making more concrete goals. 

Thank you everyone for your kind words about Toby on my last post (and all the support I’ve gotten over the years).  I truly value being part of such a supportive community. 

Onwards and upwards into 2018! 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Love and Hard Times

I had to say goodbye to my dear friend, Toby, on the weekend. 

I will write more about it all when I'm ready but I just wanted to share a picture of him I took about two weeks ago. 

I could pretty much never get him to look directly at the camera for the past 9 years but I took this great shot at the ball diamond near my house (which I use as my private offleash park).  It's probably the best photo I've ever taken of him.

My husband's cat escaped (again... he escaped from my in-laws house back in October) late last week and that was incredibly stressful.  We did find him, thank goodness. 

Between that and Toby's passing my nerves are completely shot.  I'm a mess.  Apollo has chosen this time to be impossible to catch again (he was recently dewormed, which is sometimes a trigger for him...but also his human being a crying mess really freaks him out). 

I just wanted to give a quick (although somewhat depressing) update.  I hope to have a little bit of time to catch up on my blog reading list in the next day or so :)

I leave for my tropical vacation this weekend and hope to return feeling a lot better.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Ballad of the Absent Mare

I am 90% happy and 10% sad to be writing this post.

I have made a big decision about Mystic’s living arrangements.  She is moving back to the property where the boys are.

Sleepy snow pony

The happy part is all my horses will be in one place again! 

I can see Mystic every day if I want to as she will be 15/20 mins from my house.  I will also have an indoor arena to ride her in so I can ride more than once or twice a week.  I’m currently limited to being a weekend warrior with her because the short days/my work schedule but if we get lousy weather on the weekends I can’t really ride then either.  When I worked three evenings a week it wasn’t a big deal… but now I have more time to ride and would like to make the most of it. 

It’s also handy because eventually my horses will live together at my property (#acreage2018orbust) so if they’re already living together before the move it will make the transition slightly easier.  They have lived together before (for about three years) but Mystic was at a training/lesson barn for a year and then moved to her current spot for another year so they will likely be “new” to each other again.


It is slightly bittersweet too - as I love the beautiful trails and I will deeply miss riding with my friend, C.  I usually prefer to ride alone (because I am a legit hermit in my heart) but I had so much fun riding with C.   Mystic also is handled/checked multiple times daily in C’s care and is fed her daily grain ration.  Those responsibilities will be back on my shoulders once she joins Apollo and Henry.

I made my mind up on November 22 and gave C notice that day.  Mystic won’t move until January 2nd as I don’t want to change up her routine and then leave for Mexico/family Xmas festivities. 

I am SO excited to have my girl closer to home! <3

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Always (Nameplate Debate)

I need some opinions on saddle nameplates! 

I have never had one before but I have been thinking about getting one for Henry's fancy new saddle (it does come with one included in the price but I suspect that does not include engraving).  If I don't like the color/shape of that nameplate I will probably order another one elsewhere online.

Don't fret, my actual saddle will be a much longer flap than this!

I googled nameplate ideas a while ago and ended up on a bunch of threads about how people think nameplates are tacky.  I've always thought that they were cool so this never even occurred to me... and perhaps as a naturally tacky human being I didn't really notice/mind.

Here is the color of the saddle again just for reference.

1) Silver or Gold for the color?  I lean towards Gold (seems like a classic choice) but silver seems a bit more subtle.

2) What should I put on it?  I am currently leaning towards Henry's registered name, Harfleur B, but it seems a more common choice to do the human's name. 

My husband thinks that this saddle should have magical powers because it costs so much money for few pieces of leather... er go...

This just makes me laugh (I refer to my noble steed as Henryhugglehorse  a lot)

3) Font?  I like the fancy but still legible handwriting fonts best.

3) Which shape should I go for?  I don't have an opinion about this yet.

Simple rectangles, some with slight variation

I call these "swirly do" shapes in my head

Any other thoughts?  Are nameplates just tacky AF?  Any suggestions on where to order them if I don't like whatever comes free with my saddle?

Can you tell that I am SLIGHTLY excited about my saddle arriving... ?!?!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Take this Waltz

I had a really interesting (read: slightly sketchy) ride on Mystic about a week and a half ago. 

It somewhat mirrored this scary ride I had about a year ago (TLDR; she was panicky/jumpy/bolted into the path of a truck).  And I’m going to admit something that I’m not proud of about that ride last year – I was incredibly mad at my horse.  As we rode along that day I tried to make her circle/stop/chill the fuck out with increasing intensity… with almost no success/improvement throughout the ride, in fact it got worse and worse.  I was mad at myself too, that I wasn’t a good enough horsewoman to get a handle on my about-to-explode-volcano of a mare.  We were fighting each other at every moment and I was not winning.  I can remember how frightened I was as the oncoming vehicle locked up its brakes and I made eye contact with a terrified looking driver.  I hopped off and walked the rest of the way home, in a strange state that hovered between shock/anger/fear/frustration/embarrassment.     

I read something around that time that essentially said: “horses misbehave for two reasons, pain and fear”.  And it got me thinking.  My best guess was that the saddle I used on her that day was uncomfortable. 

I pooled what remained of my nerve and rode her bareback, she was 100% fine and back to her normal amazing self.  That saddle was sold and we have been hitting the trails almost exclusively bareback ever since.  We have encountered moose, loose cows, angry neighborhood dogs, horses galloping up and down the fenceline, people shooting guns on nearby properties, chainsaws, random wildlife popping out (birds, squirrels, chipmunks) at inopportune times, sudden weather changes (snowstorm/windstorm etc), farm equipment/hot tubs/other weird things being hauled down the road, motorcycles, cyclists and pretty much every random thing you would prefer not to encounter on the trail.  And Mystic has not taken a wrong step. 

I rode her on November 11th & November 12th.  On November 11th we were constantly getting splashed by oncoming vehicles (first time we’ve ever encountered that…. super slushy snow eek).  The first time one passed I grabbed some mane and braced myself, she didn’t even flinch.  After a few more vehicles passed I stopped grabbing mane and just gave her a nice pat every time we were passed.  I felt like luckiest human being on the planet to have a horse like her.  I almost cried driving home, I was so incredibly grateful for Mystic.  If someone offered me a million dollars for her I would have no, slept like a baby and never thought of it again. 

November 12th was a whole new ballgame.  She was fine at first (on the property she lives on) but once we got off the property she was not herself.  She pooped like 3 times in the first five minutes down the road.  Her back felt tense.  She was lookier and spookier than I have ever known her to be. 
I thought about what I’d learned the previous year.  Pain.  Fear.  And I decidedly to take a different approach. 

I spoke calmly to her and stroked her neck.  When she had a more calm moment I rewarded her heavily and told her what a good girl she was.  I made extra effort to “sit chilly” and reminded myself keep breathing.  Although I found myself being a little worried about her state but there was no longer any anger/embarrassment/frustration.  I ride with my friend C whenever I ride out and she didn’t say anything (on either scary ride) to make me feel bad about myself or my horse, she just asked me what she could do to help.  I wasn’t angry at Mystic, I knew she was scared and was doing her best.  We made it back to the property in one piece and I gave her lots of pets and carrots. 

When I stopped for gas on my way home I heard there was a cougar sighting in the area I was in.  That seems like a valid thing to be afraid of!  Not sure if that’s what was troubling her or not.  And I will never know. 

But I had a pretty big breakthrough about my own riding/journey with horses.  I come from the old school of “you gotta show him who’s boss!” attitude.  And while in certain situations that attitude has its place, that’s not how I look at things anymore.  I want to be my horse’s partner.  I want to be the safe place when they’re afraid.  On my first sketchy trail ride I was getting mad at Mystic for behaving badly, whether she was in pain or just afraid… how would that help?  If you are afraid/frightened and someone yells at you – would that help?  Or would you feel resentful of them?  That kind of dynamic doesn’t sound like a partnership to me.   I hope in future when I’m struggling with my horses I will be able to check my ego at the door and listen to them.

And if someone showed up with a million dollars on November 12 I still wouldn’t have sold Mystic.  Sometimes she is my rock and sometimes I am hers.