Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Great wedding proposal

This made me smile :)

I have an issue with the idea of getting married as "something dumb to do" -- but other than that, this is amazing.

Athena's first HT

SO much fun with my pony today :)   Whoever knew Entry could be so entertaining?

Mum and Sasha came too!
Once again we had a very early start -- my alarm went off at 3:30.  After falling asleep shortly after 2:30.   Ummm both those times would be am.  Times that really shouldn't come twice a day!

But such is the life of an eventer so we sucked it up and off we went.  Got there with about the perfect amount of time.  I was able to check in and walk stadium before heading off to dressage.

Athena warmed up beautifully and put in a really solid test.  I wouldn't class it as spectacular -- there was nothing really brilliant about it, but there was no disaster either.  Was just a good, solid, entry level test.  And I was really happy with her :)

Pats for the pony ;)

So I went for a quick walk around cross, while my supergroom Steph took care of my horse.   The course  seemed ridiculously simple.  Had to keep reminding myself that entry is *supposed* to be simple >;-P   And then I had lots of time to watch stadium and socialize before riding.  And let's be honest - sometimes said socializing is a fun part of the day :)   Again, only possible thanks to Steph :)  I'm so spoiled!

Eventually it was time to jump.  The course was super easy and inviting.  Maxed for entry, which I was happy to see.  But compared to what we see at home that's still pretty tiny... hahaha  That being said, our last stadium round was SO atrociously bad (well by my standards anyways - we *did* technically get around; it was just ugly) that I had a few butterflies bouncing around in the warmup.    That last course she was very sticky and backed off, so I decided we were going in in attack mode.   The course was in the new and improved giant-sized sandring, so there was tons of space and all big turns to get going if you so chose.  And I chose.  She was sticky in w/u, so I revved her into the mode I would usually use in a xc w/u.  And she started jumping better.  Sweet.  Butterflies whipped into formation and sent flying.

Now you have to understand -- attack mode is not my preferred style of riding.  I generally go for overly controlled and balanced.  hahaha but you do the job that needs to be done right?  And she needed that kind of ride.  So we powered our way in (with a slight detour to let her look at a jump I knew she wouldn't care for), saluted and away we went.

Attack mode - fence 1.  Excessive much?

And I have to say, it was the first stadium round in my entire life that I would class as fun.  Yeah, it's not exactly my favouite phase :)  hahaha but oh dear.  Let's just say we found attack mode.   And the line I walked in an 8, we rode in a 5. Yes, you read that right.  I have it on video.  hahaha.  This same line I saw a pony do in 12.  And it was an even balanced 5.   Which gives you an idea of speed and stride length *g*  Sheesh.   The fence I thought she'd hesitate at, she did.   But it set her back enough that we actually got the correct number of strides in that line.  She loved it though -- by the end she was focusing on a fence and taking me to it.  If the fences had been big, it wouldn't have worked.  But as a confidence builder it was great.   She very much misjudged the last fence, but with golden horseshoes on it somehow defied the laws of physics and stayed up.  The few people I knew there with cameras all informed me I did *not* make their jobs easy.  hahaha ah well - sorry about that.  But omg so. much. fun.   N she came out and completely relaxed.  I was so impressed.
Doing something right by the end :)

We had enough time to untack and give her a quick bath and a chance to relax before xc.  I was really happy to see her drinking; she's never done that before.   Changed my clothes, tried on the new air-vest and tacked her back up for xc before heading over to warmup.  I mostly walked around chatting with people -- we weren't going to need much warmup, and clearly my competitors felt the same.   Did a quick gallop to check how she felt on the grass and that attack mode was still installed and discovered she was fine on the grass and attack mode had intensified.  hahaha So. Much. Fun.   I might regret it in the next week or two, but for today, in the moment...  Woohoo :)

Grinning like a child over our first speed-bump

"Number 67, 2 minutes" -- threw a quick 'thanks!' over my shoulder, hopped over one more fence and headed over to the start box.  5 second countdown and we were off :)   Nice easy canter to the first fence, picking up speed to the second and then settling into a rhythm to the third.  Unfortunately for us, the rhythm was more of a training pace than an entry pace.  Oops!   But since she's also not very fit, any really long run where you would usually gallop, I'd bring her back to trot.  There was also one location with a ton of pedestrians on my course, so I felt the need to slow to avoid tragedy. hahaha  And conveniently the trot sets balanced the gallops leaving us with some time faults but not nearly the mountain I'd imagined!  But what I really loved?  When I pushed her in front of my leg and half-halted, she actually came back!  Imagine that!  I don't know if it might just've been that she was tired *g*  But she really sat up and balanced.  Some of that is on video too (thanks Stephy!) so I got to see that it wasn't just my wishful thinking.  Offers hope for higher levels.  Sweet!  And basically from the moment we left the start box till the moment we crossed the finish line, I was grinning like a 10yo kid on her first xc run.  hahaha sad but true.

Balanced pony :)  Woohoo!

So yeah -- there was nothing particularly challenging or interesting in today's ride.  It certainly wasn't a ride I'd want anybody judging my abilities by *g*   But what it was, and hasn't really been in a while, was just plain fun.

Awesome day.  Fun having my mum and my puppy there.  Totally spoiled by Steph.  Got to see and chat with lots of people I don't get to see nearly often enough.  And did I mention?

So. Much. Fun.

Sometimes you just have to play :)

On Sunday I taught a "learn to gallop" lesson and the two girls who had never done it before were *thrilled*.  hahaha  As anyone who HAS done it can tell you, it's a reasonable adrenaline rush :)   It's one of my favourite lessons to teach because you can usually see the grins from a mile away; they appear about 5 seconds after the sheer terror disappears *g*  Later that evening Brena's Facebook post read " New favourite thing to do: gallop through an open field.  "   Which was seconded by Chelsea :)  

Well I had to laugh today as I was galloping Athena when I realized that my grin was easily as big as theirs had been -- and it's been a LONG time since my first gallop (yes I remember it -- I was still riding western then :)  But while it wasn't my first gallop -- or even the first time I've let Athena gallop -- it *was* the first time I've really *ridden* Athena's gallop.  As in, I've let her run before, but this time I asked for balance and rhythm and steady contact and all those other fun things that are required to jump at speed; as opposed to just 'burn off excess energy'.   Was fairly entertained to discover the gallop is evidently her best gait.  hahaha she had fabulous balance, even down hill, was soft, accepting contact, bendable.  Absolutely lovely to ride.   Oh and once she's fit, making time at any level she'll ever be capable of jumping is never going to be an issue  Now the only issue is we need the canter - her worst gait - to get through the other two phases before they let us show that one off!  *sigh*    

So yeah - fun evening ride :)

Can it stay this way all year?

I love summer.  It's really just. that. simple.

Sasha and Athena enjoying summer :)

Went for a hack this am and my horse was fairly high.  She wanted to gallop.  I wanted to trot.  We settled for a trot with so much extension I could see flashes of the blue from her boots out in front of us -- very much like when we're galloping.  Then we went back and jumped some stadium fences; best jump school I've had in *ages*.  About time too >;-P  hahaha then back to the field for some more reasonable trot sets.  All in all just a great start to the morning.

Sasha learned to swim today.  Super cute - she was soooo proud of herself.   Then kept going back in to try out her new skill -- swimming a few feet away from the edge.   I have never seen her so tired as she was tonight after that on top of her usual farm-dog day :)   By about mid-afternoon she had crashed in the middle of the barn aisle-way; the one location where she can see just about everything without ever having to move.  hahaha

Evening lessons were entertaining -- if for no other reason than I got to move around.  Started indoors with a first-timer.  Then moved to the sand ring for the grasshopper group, then to the field for the entry group, then back indoors for my adult class since it still gets dark just a *little* too early.  Fun fun fun.  Can't wait till we build some xc though!   June 3 -- mark the date!  XC jump building, spring cleanup, and potluck BBQ!  hahaha official announcement will be on GRS page and FB soonish -- prob Wednesday :)

Physician heal thyself >;-P

So I just finished posting on the GRS blog the latest in the "Traits of Improving Riders" series and had to laugh as I could so picture my coach rolling his eyes.  GUILTY!   Yes that's me.  Both with the fear of failure (really anything less than perfect has *never* been acceptable in something I care about, so why would it be for riding?) AND with the whole "well I *used* to be able to..."  *sigh*  And while I know enough to censor it -- I don't think I've ever actually *said* either of those things in my coach's presence; he's also a good enough coach to know fully well why I'm frustrated.

hahaha I guess writing can be as good a wake-up call as reading it eh?  

Sasha's first trip to Sammy's :)

Fun day today -- perfect weather!  That counts for a lot :)  Had an easy day lined up -- awesome working students doing the barn and only two lessons to teach.  First one was a very excited novice student who's fun to teach simply because she is always SO excited.  hahaha reminds me how it's supposed to be.   Then the second one was my working students who are tons of fun to teach and Em came to visit and join in too :)   She also had her camera so I got to play while I taught.  Which means that lesson *might've* gone an hour and a half or so.  hahaha  ah well.  These things happen.   The girls were still up for a hack though so all good.

While they were out hacking I took out the weed-eater and was pretty impressed when it started on the first try!  hahaha tackled a good section of the driveway before it ran out of gas.  Weed-eating is one of those chores that if I feel like doing something productive I'm likely to pick above most others -- get to be out in the sun, play with reasonably harmless power tools, and destroy things.  And this is a *good* thing???  hahaha as far as chores go, I figure that's not half bad.

Get back to the barn and Em and I take advantage of the perfect weather by making the first Sammy's run of the season :)   Took all our combined texting skills, but somehow we convinced Aileen to join us along the way.  Now I've been going to Sammy's with various riding people for the last 3 or 4 barns, but this was the first time I've ever taken my puppy :)   When I ordered my ice cream it came with a doggy treat.  hahaha awesome.  So we were sitting around the picnic table with both Sasha and her very-well-trained buddy Saoirse hanging out -- super training op for Sash since there were lots of people coming by and the occasional other dog.   And she was great - I was so happy with her!   And when the very cute little girl in her summer dress and flip-flops asked if she could pat the puppy, I was actually able to say yes without physically holding Sasha.  She was wiggling with excitement, but managed to keep it under control.  Woohoo!  hahaha that might be a first.  Had to laugh at one point though; we were the only ones there and I look over and Sasha's munching a puppy treat.  Ummmm ok...   And a few minutes later - another one!  It was raining puppy treats!  hahaha best. stop. ever.   The guy from in the ice cream booth was throwing them to the dogs :)

Home for family dinner (happy Mother's Day!!!) and then an easy evening with a movie playing in the background.   Pretty decent day all round :)

A day in the life...

So apparently I'm getting old.  Booo >;-P  hahaha after yesterday I was actually fairly tired today.   But it was perfect weather, so that helped.   Went out to the barn and was excited that a novice student who had arrived  *really* early had been successful grooming and tacking up on her own (with my wonderful working student Rebecca supervising) -- so was definitely a good start to the day.  That lesson went as well as it started with a successful first canter and a very excited rider.

Followed with my w/s lesson -- my original plan was shot down by the fact that the outdoor ring was wet, but I'd been thinking about all the fun goofy things I used to do riding and that so many students don't get to do any of them in a school setting (although *I* was in a school setting too -- but sobeit :)   Quickly filtered out all the ones that would result in bad things happening and decided on pairs.  hahaha so Louis and Bella, not the most natural of pairs, were put together so the riders could learn rhythm and pace control in the most fun method ever.  Anyways - was an entertaining lesson :)

My next lesson was cancelled and I had good intentions of getting stalls done in that time.  But the weather was good, and some moments aren't to be missed.  Tossed some tack on Athena (after a brief stall putting together a new bridle for her *sigh*) and went out for a hack with my Brena and Rebecca.  Absolutely perfect.  Sunny weather.  Perfect temp.  No bugs.  Nice relaxed walk and stretch hack.  Lovely.   And so much better than doing stalls there's just no comparison :)

Got back to the barn and Jody, who I haven't seen in *ages*, had dropped by to visit :)   She stayed till my next lesson came and the world was good :)   Lesson went well, finished stalls in record time, and actually got some more cleanup done -- just odds and ends outside that have been frustrating me cause I see them every day and they annoy me.  So always good.  And it was a valid excuse to be outside :)   Grazed my horse for a while, book in hand.  Also always a good way of enjoying the sun.   All in all today was a prime example of why I picked this job :)

Finished the day with dinner with family and *hopefully* going to be early!  Wish me luck :)

First show with Athena

First show with Athena today.  Didn't feel prepared enough for PT so only signed her up for Entry.  Every once in a while I can be reasonable *g*

As with any show we start with the basic arithmetic which calculates the key detail of how sleep deprived I'll be.  Alright well 9:36 in dressage, that means aim to be there by 8:30.  It's a two hour drive from the farm, so need to leave by 6:30.  Athena doesn't load well, so plan to load at 6.   If I want to load at 6, I need to be there by 5:15.  Means leave at 4:30.  So aim to leave at 4:15.  Up at 3:45.  Fun.  You don't have to be crazy to do this, but it helps.  Please keep that time in mind as you read this and consider yourself forewarned!

So my schedule was accurate -- after years of showing at the same locations I'm reasonably good at doing the calculations.  Except...  You may remember I recently got a puppy?  :)   She's not in the calculations yet.  Oops.  hahaha adds 15 minutes to everything *g*  But I had that figured in with the aim for 4:15 so net result was me getting to the barn at exactly the right time.  Sweet.  And as she's still recovering she was staying home, so once I was out of the house puppy calculations weren't an issue.

Went out in the dark to get my pony out of the field.  Yes you read that right.  The field.  After I bathed and braided her I turned her out. hahaha - put health and sanity above beauty.  And sure enough she came in with mud thoroughly embedded into the braids.  *sigh*  Ah well - at least the braids were still in!   Let her eat while I go hook up and pack the trailer -- there's an art to the timing :)   Then a quick groom and the bobbling of the braids and Athena's ready to go.
Athena the night before
PC - Emily Martin
Now as anybody who's been reading the blog for a while might already know "Athena's ready to go" always creates an "uh oh" moment; she's not known for loading well.  But so far she's been getting better every time -- today took all of about two minutes.  I was amazed and very excited :)   AND because of that we were now ahead of time again...

Which promptly got lost when I realized my current barn is 20 mins west of every barn I've ever ridden at -- and so we ended up again with a net result of exactly the right time.  Ok not too bad :)   Athena unloaded perfectly and took the girls on a walk around the parking lot while I went and got my number and walked the course.

Course looks good - tiny.  None of the fences were maxed, even for entry level but sobeit.  Quite slippery because it was wet grass, but I had high hopes it'd be dry by the time I jumped.  So the only actual concern was the hill -- balance isn't *really* something Athena's grasped yet and we haven't done much (read *any*) hill work...  Oh well.

So off to dressage warm-up.   And to be honest -- once I got there, I was a little puzzled what to do next *g*   You see, everything I've *ever* shown Entry level has been super-green (read barely-broke) and almost always either four years old or straight off the track.  So I'm used to dressage warm-up *really* being "get the sillies out" in an effort to get something that vaguely resembles the right gait and the right direction in the ring.  But Athena was calm.  Serious advantage to an older horse I guess.  hahaha or a non-TB.  Or a combination of both.  Foreign world here.   So I just schooled her flat the same way I would at home and she was going quite nicely.   But quiet - too quiet.  I actually had to energize her, which is far from normal.  But otherwise ok.

In the ring unfortunately she slipped in the first corner we went in and then was *very* tense in every corner.  She also seemed to feel one particular corner was really an interesting cavelleti exercise and kept preparing to jump it.  Sheesh.   But other than that she maintained her rhythm and generally did what was asked.  It was a little sticky and certainly far from brilliant, but it wasn't horrid either.  And no show ring issues which leads me to believe at some point in her history she's done dressage before.

Ok so finish up in dressage and head back to the trailer.  35 mins till we jump.  Quick brush and switch tack.  She wouldn't drink anything and was pretty much even ignoring the grass, but at least she wasn't pacing to the same degree anymore.  More just hanging out.   Got up to stadium and watched a few rounds -- fence two was coming down a lot and there were some icky spots, but otherwise it seemed ok; certainly nobody seemed to be having footing issues so I figured the grass had probably dried.

Jumped a couple w/u fences -- they were sticky.  I wasn't thrilled with them and worse - I could feel a massive bout of nerves kicking in.  Which was definitely playing with my little brain since I was sitting there trying to figure out why on Earth I was nervous when a - I never get nervous once I'm riding (occasionally on the way up or even in-between phases, but never once I'm on) and b - it was an *easy* course.  A lovely, inviting, first-show-of-the-year type course.  Tight turns were all optional -- in every case there was a nice wide option.  And the jumps were small.  Anyways - while my brain was busy analysing itself, somebody had made the w/u oxer PT height; this, of course, is technically illegal.  But that's a rule I don't entirely agree with *g*   AND it's a schooling show so why not school.   So I called the fence just as the coach went to put it back down to E height for everybody else and we had a silent eye-to-eye conversation in which she warned me it was bigger than it should be, I acknowledged and confirmed that was a *good* thing, and she agreed to leave it there for one more jump before returning it.   Well Athena cleared it perfectly.  Perfect rhythm, striding, balance.  It was beautiful.  Clearly we just need bigger fences :)

Ok go to the ring to jump our course -- but they've had ordering issues and now we're back to being several away *sigh*.   So I sit and watch for a bit, during with Athena's totally chilled.  Understand this is the horse that won't stand still even at HOME.  So I was a little disconcerted by this behaviour, but ok.   When we're one away we go canter around the w/u again and she seems good - forward and in front of my leg.  Ok, time to go.   By this point the butterflies have long since left and to be honest I'm mostly bored and just want to have my turn and get out on xc :)

In and salute, pick up our canter and head to the first fence.  And I'm fully expecting her to try to take over -- that's our usual game: she grabs the bit in her teeth and charges, and I try to convince her I'm supposed to be the one in charge.  But instead she sucked way back; I basically dug my heels into her as in "you *will* go" and she beech-balled it.  It was ugly, but we were over.   Reorganize, fix our lead, rebalance, get going again.  The "hill" that seemed so brutal when walking was a complete non-issue riding -- even with Athena's lack of balancing abilities, so other than accommodating for it naturally, I basically ignored it from that point on.   And we jumped around the course.  It was sticky.  VERY sticky.  Had lots of trot bits.  Couldn't get a decent forward rhythm for anything.  At the end I finally pushed her for a long spot just to get her moving (she usually *loves* the long spot) -- but that ended up being a very poor decision as she pulled the rail.  Stupid rider :(   I was very disappointed in myself for that.  BUT after that round, very glad I had downgraded her.  We clearly need some practice.   I watched the PT course later and it was set at actual PT height and on a normal day would've been a joke for her, but I think today it was good that we were doing the baby stuff.

But what was not good was how tired she was.   Came out and she was clearly done.  No respiration issues, but standing still and just occasionally grazing.   Which I realize sounds like normal horse behaviour, but it's not really normal Athena behaviour...  So I deem that we should probably skip xc.  Boooo :(

So take her back to the trailer to untack.  And being a good pony-clubber I leave the reins over her head as I go to put the halter on -- and she promptly wallops me in the face with her head and then throws it in the air and leaves.   Worse - she left first in slow-motion.  At just a fast enough walk that I could pull uselessly on the reins but couldn't get in front of her to actually stop her.  And then she left.  At a gallop.  With my bridle flapping between her front legs.  Frig.

Now most horses who get loose in the parking lot, run around the parking lot for a bit and then eventually stop.  But would I have a normal horse?  Oh no.  She runs out.  Ok, I think she's going up to stadium.  And she went part way there -- but did my herd animal go to the 20 or so horses in the stadium?  Nope.  She gallops on by and heads back down the hill to the trees.   Ok, maybe she's going to cut through to dressage. But when we finally get there (this is well out of sight) there's no chaos in dressage; she hasn't been there.   Follow the path in the woods till we see the very dramatic sliding stop from where her path t-boned and she wasn't sure where to go, and the galloping prints off the other direction.  Did I mention she has a *huge* stride?   So yeah, in the end we found her WAY at the top of the hill, essentially as far away as you could get from any other horse on the property. Grazing away. They'd been able to see her almost the whole time from stadium, and one of the wonderful ring crew went up to get her and got there before we did.   The bridle was thoroughly tangled around her, but she hadn't moved since she got there.

So yeah - the horse who won't leave her pony at home and is SO nappy I have to carry a crop if I want to pass the driveway back to the barn w/o turning, will quite happily leave ALL the horses and go off on her own adventure.  Only in my world.

With profuse thanks to the guy who caught her, we got her untangled and checked her over.  She seemed fine and *very* full of herself.  Trying to invade my space and/or trot away as we walked back.  As though to say "see, I AM fit enough for xc!"   I'll consider myself told.  Athena my dear, the next one is a full HT -- you'll have three phases!   But, when we got back to the trailer she parked herself and didn't move more than about an inch for almost an hour.   Standing quite happily in the sun.  Occasionally grazing.  Drank only a couple sips - not enough, but I wasn't surprised by that.

So I suspect the oddness of today was a combination of adrenaline being balanced by not feeling 100%.  Not sure what was wrong; certainly when we got home and turned her out she behaved normally in the field.  But such is life.  Loading on the way home?  Walked on like a pro.   Didn't need any extra encouraging at all.  That alone made up for the mad gallop around the property :)

Also got to see Sienna take her new rider around the PT course like the pro that she is.  She's looking in good weight and healthy and happy so that was super-nice to see.  The girl's going to have a fun summer :)

Supergrooms unbraiding Athena when all was said and done
So HUGE thanks for the day to my supergrooms Nicole and Olivia (how I got so spoiled as to have TWO amazing grooms, I have no idea - but I'm incredibly grateful :) AND just as importantly to Kirby and Brena who stayed home and took care of the barn for me during the day and Katrina who brought all the horses in for me at night, so I wouldn't have to drive all the way back.   You guys are awesome!

Oh and end result - we finished in 5th.

Sasha's surgery

My poor puppy went in to be spayed today :(

She went into the vet all happy and bouncy and trusting and I left her there with people who hurt her.   I don't think I've ever felt so horrible :(   And I'm not the one they carved open with a knife.   But how can I explain it to her?   And now she's sad and hurting and drugged.   Boooo :(   And worse -- totally forgiving.

I also realized how exceptionally attached I am to her already.   So sad to leave her there and the barn was way too quiet and not nearly as much fun without her.  And yes I stressed about her all day :(  And it did occur to me that other than being asleep I don't think we've spent more than two hours apart since she came home with me.

She's trying to be happy she's home, but it hurts too much to wiggle and run around.  Poor girl.  I def drove home as though I were driving the horse trailer -- super slow on every turn and crawling over the tracks so she wouldn't lose her balance since she was clearly too sore to lie down.   Was kinda glad there was nobody behind me; people understand with the horse trailer -- they get super annoyed, but they do understand.  But how do I tell them about the sore tranqed puppy in the back seat?  :)

And now she has to be home for four days -- I'll be abandoning her yet again.  Admittedly at home with people she adores, but still...  And then she's not allowed to run for two WEEKS.   Ummmmm it's rare for her to last two awake MINUTES without running.  I'm not even convinced she knows how to walk.  Not sure exactly how we're going to do that, but I guess we shall see...

So sad :(   Never done that to an animal before -- Sherlock came from the shelter, so he was done when I got him and Bilbo's a single-species indoor-only pet so he's not done (at vet's recommendation -- apparently anesthesia can kill bunnies).  And the horses were either already done or mares.

The only plus side of the day -- the receptionist at the vet clinic, Meagan, was *amazing*.  I wish I had an excellent paying job to offer her  (hmmmm maybe should've just left that statement at 'wish I had an excellent paying job'?  -- on a different note >;-p)   Anyways - I watched her dealing with three different people about three different topics at the same time (two live and one on the phone) and still be able to pay enough attention to what the vet and tech were doing off on the side to fill in the information they didn't have.  Took multitasking and general awareness and competency to a whole new level.  And did it all while being pleasant and not seeming stressed.  Well I was impressed anyways. :)