Friday, 19 May 2017

Apollo's New Adventure

This last year has been a huge year of transition with Apollo & I.  Actually… I would even stretch that to the last two years.  Here are some things that have changed:

1)      My confidence improved
2)      We got a saddle that works for both us
3)      I began to expect more of him
4)      He began to test me (read: bolting at the mounting block and other sassiness)
5)      We took lessons with Coach D and recently two lessons with ST (after many years without lessons)
6)      I transitioned to a life of riding three horses (goodbye time and monies)
7)      Apollo doesn’t get as much attention as he used to when I he was my sole riding horse

For a while I have thought about Apollo adding “husband horse” into his job description.  We will still lesson and continue to improve together but I would really like to ride with husband/other horses friends sometimes.  I’ve put in a solid effort to trail ride him more often and to make him quieter (which mostly is just a consistent riding schedule).  But I kind of hit a wall.  There are two things that I can’t really seem to get past. 

Baggage and incompatibility.  Let me explain a bit! 

So when I say baggage I mean that over our 10 years together some things have gone wrong (as in any partnership), and I have trouble forgetting them sometimes.  I particularly struggled when the mounting block issues came up last summer, as that was always a point of anxiety for me.  I feel like I am 95% past it but it still lingers in my brain.  Only recently have I started wearing my new samshield helmet when I ride him.  For a long time I let that 5% of mistrust around the mounting block tell me that I shouldn’t wear my new samshield when I rode him because I might fall on it and I can't afford a new one.  In my lesson on Apollo with ST last weekend she commented: “It’s very confusing to me that you will jump and canter around on green bean Henry but you are so nervous to canter Apollo on a looser rein.”  And I think the reason for that is baggage, as part of me still remembers bolty/crowhoppy Apollo at the canter and doesn’t 100% trust that he won’t do that. 

And when I say incompatibility I mean that Apollo would probably really like to go fast.  And I would really like to travel at a low rate of speed.  I am getting braver (go me!) so I feel like this struggle for us will continue to improve.  But riding a more-who-than-go Henry has made me feel so brave (#slowsoulmates) and that has made it so clear to me that Apollo and I are very mismatched in terms of our preferences for speed of travel.  I hope to keep bridging this gap and to become the rider he needs.   I can’t help but feel a little guilty that I know he would have more fun with a human who would want to hop on and go for a gallop.

Apollo is totally my heart horse and I had to make a difficult decision in order for us to move forward.  I decided to send him for 30 days with RK (the wonderful guy who trained Henry).  They will focus on trail miles.  RK doesn’t have 10 years of baggage with Apollo.  RK doesn’t mind going for a good gallop sometimes.  He is super kind and I know he will show Apollo how to be a good trail pony for me and my husband.  I’m really excited to hear his insights. 

It’s been harder on me than I went I sent the babies to be started.  I cried after I dropped him off on April 30 and although I've been visiting it's been a bit tough for me.  I have been his rider for 10 years and have very rarely shared him.  Its super weird for me to think someone is riding him when I’m not there.  And I got a fair bit of judgement from some of my horsey people IRL too.  I trail ride Mystic bareback…. So why can’t I get my old horse quiet enough on the trail to share with other people?  Which kind of makes me feel like a failure in my work with Apollo.  But I feel like training with RK is worth a try and could really improve our relationship going forward so I’m willing to try! J

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Henry's First Show!

I finally got my ducks in a row and took Mr. H to a schooling show that was about 20 minutes down the road from my barn on Saturday.  I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what his brain is like off property and get some grown-up horse experience under his belt.  I’m happy I went but more than once I found myself thinking… “Why do people show?!  This is so stressful.”

This show had a bit more of a dramatic start than I’d hoped for!  When I grabbed Henry from the field he had a bump and scrape on his head, which I suspect was from a kick.  It didn’t seem to have a lot of heat or bother him too much but I definitely wasted a fair bit of show prep time in the morning humming and hawing about it.  Oops.

So I loaded him in the trailer and off we went (he loads like a dream, which I am incredibly grateful for). 

Note the scrape below his right eye in this pic

When we got to the show he came out of the trailer with a nosebleed.  I wasn’t sure if he injured himself in the trailer or if this was a delayed onset from the face trauma.  He was very snorty and whinnied quite a bit.  So as my husband and I tried to clean him up and assess the damage we both ended up getting sprayed with blood. 

Note the blood on my jacket sleeve... I am also strategically holding the reins to cover Henry blood on my breeches

The bleeding started to slow a bit and we assessed that it was likely sustained from a small cut on his nostril that he somehow did during the trailer trip (those tiny cuts sure bleed a lot!).  My parents were on their way and I called them to tell them they might as well not bother, my horse was bleeding and we had already missed the warm up.  ST was meeting us at 7:30 for coaching but I couldn’t find her anywhere.  The show took place at her barn and I was worried to embarrass her by riding around her beautiful facility on my bleeding horse.

Finally I tracked down ST and she told me he was fine (to be fair the bleeding had almost entirely stopped at that point).  And she would keep an eye on it while I was riding.  My husband carried a towel around just in case it started up again.  My parents showed up and I was happy they still came!

Off we went into the ring!  There were scary spectators, weird flower fill and a frightening judges table.  I was in the ring for about 10 seconds before the announcer said “You are now being judged.” 

Oh good. 

Does he look frickin gorgeous here or what?! 

This was my walk/trot equitation class.  Henry was definitely looky (particularly at the judges table) but he was fairly sensible.  I was competing entirely against young kids on slow moving plugs.  We had to circle quite a bit for spacing purposes. 

We ended up getting a 3rd place ribbon for this class, which I felt was incredibly generous! 

Next up was our trot pole courses.  It was the same course twice. 

My first go was pretty fugly.  Henry was really backed off and not moving forward.  This set him up to break into a walk or try to stop and stare at things a little too much.  The final “fence” faced head on to the judges table and was very close to it.  It took a few pony club kicks to get him over it.  Not beautiful.  6th place ribbon (out of 6 haha).

My second go was much better, but not exactly perfect either.  I finally got him moving forward but still struggled to move him off my leg to make nice corners/lines to the “fences”.  I think we trotted all the fences in this course…except a few walk strides on our last “fence” again.  Another 6th place ribbon.

Serious baby horse trot pole business

I was actually pretty pleased with Henry in the ring.  He wasn’t exactly set up for success (no chance to look at anything/warm up because of the nosebleed drama) but he tried his best.  For my own personal preferences I really enjoy riding a horse that has more woah than go when things get dodgey, and Henry is that for sure.  Things felt noodley and fugly a fair bit but I never felt like he was going to take off with me or do anything rude or foolish.

However he was not very patient waiting in between his classes, which did surprise me a bit as he’s usually super happy to park/chill.  I think there was just too much going on.  We were totally THAT horse/rider combo that can’t stand still and embarrass themselves.  He started backing up and wouldn’t stop, ended up backing into a wall and then a rake.  Knocked over the rake and spooked himself.  *facepalm*  He was also being super pushy with his head (which I suspect was probably uncomfortable from various trauma that day) which was super annoying.  I think he pretty much headbutted my entire support crew.

I had signed up to do the crossrails too but when I saw them adding flower fill… I was like…naw, we good.  We’ve never seen fill, much less tried to jump over it (some good homework though) and I felt like it was not the ideal place to try it.  As I look back I kind of wish I’d tried it but I felt like his brain was slowly leaving the building, so maybe quitting while we were ahead was a good idea too.

I’m really proud of Henry, there is room for improvement of course (like standing still like a normal horse in between rounds and not being so looky) but it was overall a decent first outing!   We survived!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Upside Down

I dragged my husband to the barn to take some photos of Henry and I last night.  And something happened that has never happened to me...ever.

I had fun jumping.

Henry and I did some walking and trotting on the front lawn and I had my husband set up a few crossrails for us.  I got jumped out of the tack on the first few but once I found my balance were were having a blast!

Awkward screen grab moment... video coming!

I have jumped some fairly big jumps in my life (mostly in my teenage years) but I have never had fun.  I have always been glad when it's over.  In my younger years I just never really got a feel for striding but my horse was so hot and athletic that he would just jump from wherever and I just tried to stay out of his way.

Now that I'm in my 30s... I want to do it properly.  And I'm learning... but I'm just not a great natural judge of distance.  I have jumped a bit at Coach D's (on lesson horses) and on Apollo as well.  And when it's sort of an okay round I want to stop.  Because I don't want to screw anything up, so I want to quit while I'm ahead.

But last night on Henry I didn't care about getting jumped out of the tack or if everything was perfect, I just wanted to keep going.  The only reason I stopped is because it started raining (you can see some of the crazy ass clouds in the photos).  My face actually hurts today from smiling and laughing so much.


Jumping is fun.  


Everything I know is wrong. :P

This horse tho <3

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Tale of Two Clinics

Even though March was completely insane I somehow managed to attend two clinics.  One was fantastic and the other was a huge waste of time and money.

Clinic #1 was intended for horse owners who wanted to learn more about diagnosing lameness, saddle fit and stretching.  

Clinic #2 was a saddle fit clinic from my good friend (with the proceeds going to her horse rescue organization).  I’m really curious to learn as much as possible about saddle fit and with the weather being so lousy I decided to devote some time to off-horse learning opportunities. 

Spartacus is feeling much better (although he is annoyed to be on a diet) 

I had taken a First Aid clinic from the same ladies who ran Clinic #1 and I absolutely loved it.  I learned so much and still refer to some of the reference materials I received at that clinic.  I felt it was a little pricey at $75, but since it was a full day 9-5 I felt that was fair.  I probably wouldn’t have paid that much if I hadn’t already taken the fantastic First Aid course.

I was incredibly disappointed in this clinic.  

I felt like the whole thing was really rushed but I didn’t learn much.  We watched slides in the morning in a cold shop (thank goodness I have multiple coats and blankets in my car) from about 9-12.  This was just to give us basics on anatomy and common saddle fit issues but there was very little time for questions or discussion.  I didn’t learn anything new but I was hopeful the hands-on portion would be more in-depth.  I also thought for $75 they could have provided lunch/snacks for us but there wasn’t anything.   I did bring a lunch just in case as I didn’t think there was any food provided at the First Aid course either.  There was no lunch either :( 

Please put foods in my bowl

I probably enjoyed lunch time the most (although my lunch I brought was from a gas station... not exactly fine dining).  The other women in the clinic were mostly in their 40s and 50s and they were super interesting.  Three of them had just bought acreages and I loved hearing their stories about finding the right place.  They gave me a lot of suggestions for my acreage hunt too.

In the afternoon we examined a few horses on the property, at static and moving.  This was sort of interesting.  None of the horses were majorly lame or anything so I gained a bit of experience noticing subtle unevenness.  Is it wrong that I wished we looked at some super lame horses?   Or even watched a video of lame horses...

Then we zipped through the basics of saddle fit and tried a few saddles on the horses at the facility.  I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know here.  The clinician sells treeless saddles and seemed to always circle back to how treeless saddles are the best for all horses.  I think treeless saddles work great on some horses and riders but they are not for every horse and rider combo.   This kind of annoyed me.  I consider myself pretty open-minded but I will not drink the natural horsemanship kool-aid that all horses should be barefoot, bitless and treeless.  And that was the only thing served at this clinic...no food or anything (clearly they let me get hangry).

I don’t drink the traditional horsemanship kool-aid either that all horses should be shod, bitted and treed either.  I think each horse and rider team needs to figure what works for both of them and their goals.  So yeah… the treeless thing kind of put me in a grump.

I was the most excited about the stretching section.  I do a few stretches with Apollo post-ride that I learned years ago from a lady I rode with in my teens.  I was looking forward to adding a few new stretches to our repertoire, as I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of them.  I did learn a few new stretches but we spent very little time on them.  The clinician and two other students ended up kind of going off away from the group to discuss something for like 20/30 minutes and I was pretty close to just leaving. 

They went around and asked if we had any more questions.  I couldn’t really think of anything…. Just like… where is the rest of this clinic…?  (I didn’t say that but was tempted).  So they let us go early at 3pm.  And on my way out the clinician said: “Don’t forget to pay the remainder of your clinic!”… Turned out $75 was the deposit, the clinic was $150 (plus GST) total.  WTF.  No food… no helpful resources materials (they “forgot” to do any hand outs for the stretching exercises)... UGH.  What a waste of time and money.  I was livid by the time I got home.   I guess I’ve learned my lesson and won’t be taking any further clinics.  I stopped and rode Henry on the way home and I think that prevented a ragey e-mail to the clinician, demanding a refund.

The great shed has begun

Clinic number 2 on Saddle Fit was $30!  It ran from 11-2 (it actually ran until 3:15… and would have kept going but I had to leave unfortunately).   All the funds raised went to a local horse recue.  And it was AMAZING!  We all brought our own saddle(s) and evaluated eachother’s for various things like flocking consistency, unevenness (in wear, shape, and stitching). 

I brought Henry’s new Amerigo and Mystic’s western saddle to share with the group.  The Amerigo is a little uneven in the flocking towards the back but I’m planning to get it re-flocked shortly anyway so that doesn’t bother me too much.  One lady did get a little upset because her flocking was quite lumpy.  Everyone was super nice and supportive about it (not judgey), we were all like “well now you know, and you can fix it! don't beat yourself up!”

We learned how to make our own templates which was super neat, I actually might do a post about it in future if anyone is interested.   We also learned which behaviors on the ground and under saddle could mean there is an issue with saddle fit.

We evaluated the conformation/muscling of three horses, we made templates for each of them and then tried their own personal saddles on the horses and against our new templates.  SUPER INTERESTING.

I was also able to geek out over a lady who had a barnsby dressage saddle.  It was in beautiful shape and I love barnsbys, so I said something like “Oh my gosh, your saddle is lovely.  I love barnsbys.  Do you know what model it is?”  She  said “Oh thanks.  I’m not too sure what model it is.”  I asked “Does it have the Schleese tree?  Because if it does it’s a Barnsby Crown.”  And she said “Yeah I think it does.”  When she flipped the flap up later I saw “Barnsby Crown” written clearly and I was like FUCK YEAH I AM A GENIUS.*

*This knowledge is thanks to Jenn The Saddle Geek ;)

So that clinic was awesome.  I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for another one in the series!  You win some you lose some I guess J

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Henry = Awesome

So I have a lot of things to catch up with for Henry (and really all my herd but Henry has been doing the most neat/new stuff).  

Just a couple of weirdos

Here are a few of the highlights over the past two months:

- We rode in the arena with other horses for the first time.  One of them was a stud (who is in love with Henry and thinks Henry is a lady horse).  The other started bucking as soon as the rider mounted up.  Henry gave zero fucks.  Although he was thought it was super fun when all three horse/rider teams were trotting around, but his brain was still accessible.  

- We had our first hack of 2017.  I haven't ridden him outside in ages (mostly because no saddle, but the footing was not ideal either).  We started off on the front lawn to remind ourselves that cars and cyclists were still a-ok.  He didn't care at all.  We crossed the road over into the hay field and he was mostly sensible there too.  Such a great way to start off hack #1 for the year!


- I let my friend ride him and he was a very good boy for her. 

- He is continuing to improve at the canter (correct leads usually, flying changes if not - FTW).  He's also doing a lot better about going forward in general.  Sometimes maybe a little too forward, but we can work with that!


- I've been jumping a few small crossrails on my own and he has been such a good sport about it.  

It goes without saying that I am thrilled with Henry.  We have a lot of fun together and I feel so brave when I ride him! 

My heart is pretty much exploding with joy and I don't know how to put it into words any better than that :P

Happy Easter everyone!  Strap on your feedbag like Mr. H :)

Monday, 3 April 2017

Ride or Die

I’m hoping to have a few more detailed posts coming out shortly but in the meantime I wanted to give a few quick updates and share my plan of attack for April. :)

There are lots of exciting things happening with the horses and some not so exciting (read: condo board – rot in hell) things happening with my soon-to-be-listed condo.  But here are the Coles notes about the horse stuff:


- Apollo has been fantastic lately!  He had a lesson with ST and we got some great homework.  He has been a little spicy I have more tricks up my sleeve to channel that energy now.

-Apollo is booked in for 30 days with RK (the wonderful human who started Henry) to learn how to be a trail horse for my husband, starting May 1st. 

-Apollo’s current saddle is out on trial as I look for something more husband-friendly (and also sort of hoping for something he can share with Mystic).  I have mixed feelings about this but I honestly can't afford to buy something without selling something.



- Mystic is doing awesome!  She had a week or two off because the weather/footing was gross for a bit.  We had our two rides back over the weekend and she was pretty much perfect.

- She has had more chiro work and has a dental appt booked next week. 

- She randomly sprouted a legit wither and suddenly our little barrel saddle fit like crap and seemed to be bugging her (so I sold it, and am back to riding a 4 year old baby neigh neigh bareback….#barebackhobo4lyfe).  Yay for more saddle hunting. 



- This horse tho.  So I’ve been cantering Henry on my own and he seems to be getting the leads more consistently.  Our ride schedule has been a bit all over the place (sometimes lots of rides and then like a week off) and he has been super sensible.  

-He did a flying change my last lesson with ST when he initially started on the wrong lead.  HOLY CRAP HENRY YOU ARE AMAZING.  I have a whole brag post about him coming up soon so I will shut up for now.

- Henry’s saddle is working well, I am planning to have the flocking customized to him a bit more in the near future.


So yes, ponies are wonderful!  I have decided to make a goal for myself in April to ride Henry and Apollo for 15 hours each and to ride Mystic for 10 hours (total for the month).  That probably doesn’t seem like a lot to many of you but I am the queen of the 20 minute ride… and we need to start expanding beyond that into some semblance of fitness.  Especially for Apollo & Henry, as one is going to learn some new skills and the other is getting fit to go on some other adventures (ie schooling shows when I am less broke).   That works out to 3.75 hours a week for the boys and 2.5 hours a week for Mystic.  I would love to ride Mystic more too but I am unfortunately somewhat at the mercy of the weather/footing at this time of year.

I found that the first two weeks of March I did great with riding quite a bit but with the stress with the condo board/house sale I lost my consistency.  No excuses this month, ponies need to be fit and ready for a fun/adventure-filled summer.  Hope to share more soon! 

Also, a bit of sad news :(  My cat Spartacus is having some health issues at the moment.  Good vibes appreciated.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Eventing Bingo!

Thanks Emma for the fun contest!  I'm getting my entry in just under the wire here :)

I was assigned cards M & H (this is from card H, second row)....

These will be stories about my hypothetical first season event with Henry!

Henry's grandsire, Frenchman (selle francais)

Henry and I were very excited for our first event.  Well mostly me.  But whatever.  I managed to keep him still long enough to get half-decent braids in for our dressage test (which was the part I was most worried about).  It started pouring rain just as we entered the ring.

We got a few comments about our "tense" trot work but lots of positive comments too.  

Frenchman again

But I didn't predict the horror we would encounter on xc... THE JUMP JUDGE.  She was a friendly enough looking teen in a bright yellow rain coat.  She had a super sweet chair that looked like a dog and was covered in a large red blanket.

She was not cool with Henry.


Who has the nerve to sit in a weird looking chair when Henry is just trying to trot over some tiny logs?!?!  He was super offended!  We just barely squeaked through the flags.  His head was straight up in the air... it wasn't pretty but we somehow made it.

We headed off into the last section of fences that was in a more wooded area.  That area had been closed for schooling the last time we'd been there so I didn't really know my way around.  I must have zigged where I should have zagged somewhere because I got totally lost for a minute or two.  

Eventually I found my next jump and we were finished!  Only got 20 time faults for being too slow :( But we made it! 

Frenchman <3