Here there be dragons...

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

My dog does this amazing thing where she makes my world better simply by being in it.

So. Much. Randomness.  I figure at least four posts in one. Consider yourself forewarned...

Sasha has taught me all sorts of things since I've had her -- some more important than others ;)   She's taught me to be wary of squirrels, and diligent about keeping the yard free of them.  She's taught me that frisbees are a little part of Heaven and that one should never walk when you can bound with enthusiasm.

She's shown that one should always go adventuring with a friend, that trying new foods is bad, and that even those with the most energy need a nap once in a while.

But today she taught me some new lessons.  Let's see:
- the kindness of strangers really is a thing
- sometimes you have to let go
- sheer determination is not always sufficient

It was one of those "did that really just happen?" moments...  She was with me at the barn, so I went with her to play at the pond when I was done teaching.  She loves playing at the pond.  She found a stick that I threw for her -- a favourite game.  This pond is the best of the ones she gets to play in because she can run in rather than jump.  So all good.   Except, there's a hose in the pond, and a little part of it was sticking out.  So she jumps in after the stick, but loses site of it and fixes on the hose instead.  Uh oh.  She grabs the hose, all proud of herself, and it doesn't move at first, but with some effort she starts pushing it toward the shore.

Okay, prob not the best for the hose, but it's pretty solid and seems all good.  Except about 3' out from the edge, the hose stopped moving.  So she swam harder against it, and it still didn't move.  And I could see her getting progressively more exhausted.  "Leave it" is not a command we've ever schooled in the water -- she's great at it with anything when she's on her feet, but apparently not swimming :(   Ugh.

I was just about to go out and get her (water would've been about to my knees), when Fraser stopped me -- he had big boots on and taking in the situation promptly stepped in and pulled the hose, and therefore Sasha, to the shore...   Poor Sash was very wet, tired, and stressed.  She very quickly decided Fraser was a great new friend though doing her"you're the best person ever" bum shake.
Poor bedraggled puppy

She slept all the way home and then bounded into the house to play with Bailey, so all good.  But still.  Sheesh.

On the flip side, this reminds me of this article I came across the other day.  It's a thinly disguised advertisement, but it has an interesting point.  "When does being tough become a liability rather than an asset?"  It suggests it's when we'd be more successful if we got help.  This is one of these things that I only began to understand when I was running the farm -- I actually *can't* stack 20,000 bales of hay by myself in one weekend, so I had to ask for help.  That was the easiest to accept, because it was actually needed.  Same with our house renos -- some of it is simply too heavy for me to move; I actually need help to get it done.  Frustrating at times, but sobeit.  But learning to ask for (or even just accept) help that's offered when not entirely necessary is one I still find myself struggling to master.  Spend your life learning to be independent only to have to unlearn it.  Classic eh?

And as for our house -- we have walls!!!!   Never would I have thought that'd be the highlight of my week, but here we are.  And even more exciting -- next weekend we might even have plumbing :) hahhaha Spent the weekend sweeping and vacuuming.  Not just floors, oh no, that'd be average.  Sweeping and vacuuming walls, ceiling, AND floors.  Craziness.  All this for the ever-exciting priming.  hahaha ah well - at least it's visible progress.  There's something to be said for this.

I actually considered writing a mini-post in the dust,
but in the interest of productivity, and amused by using the vacuum to write,
I left it at this.  And maybe a happy face.

So the non-renovation part of the week involves taking the train daily.  Wow.  That's a special experience.  I think it could actually be a blog all in itself -- might amuse me for the duration ;)  I *love* the quiet zone (for those unfamiliar with the wonders of GO Transit, the quiet zone is the top floor of the train that, during rush hour, is quiet.  Electronics silenced, little to no conversation, just quiet.)  This is a fabulous idea. Although always have to laugh at the guys (and it does always seem to be men) who break the silence with their snoring.  hahaha the one sitting across from me the other day was snoring in a "white noise" style -- he sounded like static.  Seriously unfortunate.

But since lots of people like the quiet zone, I don't always get a seat up there...  Listening to conversations of strangers makes me fear for the future of the human race.  Most of the time what I hear is so stupid or ignorant it's actually painful to listen to (when you don't have anything accurate or intelligent to say, make up for it by speaking louder!).  I really need to invest in a good set of headphones *sigh*   But - I was quiet pleasantly surprised to spend the ride the other day listening to the very intelligent conversation of two teenage girls -- based on conversation I'd say they were likely senior year of high school.  They ranged from critical evaluation of homework that had been returned (rather than complaint of the grade, a discussion about why the grade was given and what would've improved it), what they were doing at their current jobs, and even some discussion about seniors and how to improve quality of life in retirement homes.  So random, and they switch topics as quickly as Jen and I tend to ;)   It was really cool to listen to.   

Then there's waiting on the platform...  For those who like to people watch, that's the place to be.  There's always the one person who either thinks they're super cool to be talking on their phone, or who is brand new to a cell phone and feels the need to yell into it.  There are the lemmings, standing perfectly still, staring straight ahead and seeing nothing.  There are usually at least a couple people be-bopping to whatever music is playing in their headsets.  There's generally one person who wants to stand in the middle of the platform, but keeps darting up to peer down the tracks and see if the train's coming yet, and then darts back again.  Of course copious amounts reading or on their phones; I admit I'm often in that category.  And then there are the ones that you just don't really know what they're doing.  They're what keeps life entertaining :)

Today it was two ladies -- my guess would be in their 50s.  They were heavier, blond of the sort that comes in a bottle, and very happy.  Standing directly across the tracks from one another.  I did a bit of a double take because they looked very similar, but then didn't think anything of it.  An east-bound train came through and kept driving.  When it passed, both women were laughing.  Always good to be easily amused.  Next train came and I realized they were making faces at each other through the passing windows.  Let's be honest -- I'd probably do the same thing with my friends ;)   Although most people I know go to the same platform when they're travelling together.  So this one actually stopped, and the other platform doors opened first.  I saw the lady on my platform give her friend a thumbs up.  hahaha apparently they were concerned enough about getting seats that they parked one on each side so whichever door opened first that person could save a seat for the other.  Not an entirely bad system, although the timing isn't so far off that you couldn't get a seat from either side...   Amused me anyways -- and seemed to amuse them too, so all good.
And completely unrelated (how's that for a segue?) since this is the most random blog post ever, I have to include my recent entirely random experience.  Tonight the doorbell rang.  I figured it was a sales person of some form but the last sales person was like 10 yrs old and selling girl guide cookies, so I answered it.  A representative of Ontario Farmers who would like to give me a free steak.   Ummmm I'm sorry, what?  hahaha absolutely the most random thing ever.  Sadly I am not, in fact, the house owner so couldn't help relieve him of his dead cow, but I was definitely amused by the whole experience.

And the other day I went for a walk at lunch (imagine that -- I actually had a lunch break!) and discovered that Tim Hortons downtown does the Canadian tourist thing to a whole new level:

But far more importantly, I discovered this random city-beach.  Carved out of the cement is this nice rectangle of beach with umbrellas and Muskoka chairs.  It was so lovely.  Kinda made my day.

Love this!
Bailey's telling me to go let Sasha in, so I'm off. I suspect that's for the best *g*  Night!

Maybe she's here to stay?

So in follow up -- neither Lex nor I were particularly tired today.  And I had the same super-fun-new-and-improved Lexi!  Woohoo!  No bucking or bolting, but forward, responsive and generally a pleasure to ride :)  Yeah!   A little overly enthusiastic when we went "hacking" (read riding around a paddock she's never been in) but otherwise just all-round lovely.

Also had all kinds of Toronto silliness adventures which I'll post...  But later - off to be social now :)

A gallop down memory lane...

I'm not sure which horse I tacked up today.  She looked an awful lot like Lexi, and was the same snuggly social butterfly that my horse generally is.  But when I got on her?  That was a creature I've never sat on before, and one who reminded me far more of Zel than Lex.

For those who don't know Zelli (aka Princess Pony) was my horse.  *The* horse.  The one I'll always regret selling despite all the logic in the world that said it was the right thing to do.  But she was pre-blog.  So you had to actually know me, in real life, to know Zel...

Zel always made me smile.
This was our first XC school and I'm pretty sure I'd already 
hit the ground once before this photo was taken.

Zel had all the flashiness and all the personality to go with it.  She cleaned up in dressage.  Always. Pretty much Sasha could have ridden her to first in dressage.   Well enough that I actually did a year of just dressage.  Me.  I'm not even kidding.   And she had a super-cute jump and an awesome gallop. Sadly not quite enough power to do the levels I'd hoped to do at the time.  But everything else was there.  However, did you read the part about the personality?   Yup -- if you touched her mouth, you were likely to get bucked off in protest.  If *she* made a mistake at a jump, no worries.  But if *I* did, I'd better hang on when she finished saving us ;)   All drama all the time.

Gratuitous Zel/Summer/XC shot.  Mostly cause it made me smile.
But where Zel was the little sports-car model.  Stop, go, turn on a dime and always forward.  There was no laziness in that mare, ever.  Lexi...  Tends to be the opposite.  Big, generally calm about life, and - lately - nappy.   She *does* have far more power than Zelli ever did; Lex lopes over fences Zel would've struggled with.  And while she'll never match Zel for movement, she can at least hold her own.

So I got to the barn and the heavens opened.  So much for riding outside.  Booooo :(   But by the time I was actually ready to go, the rain had stopped.  There were approximately hurricane-force winds happening, but no rain.  So of course I rode outside.  Why not? ;)

Lex passaged her way to the sandring.  Arguably that should've been my first sign...  But she stood quietly enough while I rebuilt the course that had blown over.  I could still leave her and she'd stay about where I put her, but she wasn't her usual puppy-dog self.  Wait, maybe she was actually *more* like my puppy dog!  hahaha alert and enthused but not being ignorant.

Hop on, warm up in walk/trot with no issues.  She was actually being remarkably good given the weather.  Trailer door banging in a nearby shed, things blowing around, jumps falling over randomly. All nbd.  She was definitely high, don't get me wrong.  We did nothing that even vaguely pretended to resemble relaxation or submission, much less dressage.  

Yup, kinda like that.
I don't know why I decided not to canter in w/u.  Intuition maybe?  hahaha Instead I pointed her at one of the jumps.  And lets put in perspective, the biggest jump was maybe 2'3".  She could easily step over any of them.

And all of a sudden I was on a TB.  A very enthusiastic TB.   About a stride out she charged, landed, bucked (in stride fortunately) and charged.  
Athletic displays while moving forward are much easier to stay on ;)
I was totally run away with.  The sandring is *not* big enough for that and when I insisted, she tripped over her own feet and gave one of the giant "that did NOT happen" bucks and then was off again.  Fortunately at a more reasonable speed *g*

So okay.  That's new.  Not sure who this horse is, but glad she's at least enjoying jumping ;)   Probably best if I get it under control though -- this would not be a good game for her to decide to play on a regular basis.  

This time, I have the brilliant idea to jump one of the fences pointed into the corner.  Maybe with no obvious straightaway she won't run away.  Brilliant.  And it worked.  One flaw...  She was still super enthusiastic.  So since she had nowhere to go, she went up.  Bronc style, back all kinds of round (why can't I get that in dressage???) leaping in place.  Sweet.  Fortunately managed to get her going forward again before hitting the ground, but I feel like that one was close...

Tricky.  Maybe two fences in a row would help?   Yup.  Backed her right off the first one so she took it super quietly.  And then promptly charged the second *sigh*   And gave me a giant Zel-style F-you when I dared to touch her mouth.  This is my unfit horse who has never shown a true TB side before.  Hmmmmm okay.   I credit Zel entirely with the fact that I didn't hit the ground today.

This game was admittedly less than fun.  And when I started, I was alone.  Definitely had a moment of "maybe I should wait till someone else is here" but so did NOT want Lexi to figure out that if she does this, she doesn't have to work.  Do you remember the liverpool game?  She's a *very* smart pony and all about using her powers to best suit her ;-P

So instead we jumped fence after fence after fence.  Keep in mind, these “jumps” are really no bigger than a canter stride for her.  Just as well as I don’t want her hurt.  But quickly enough (yeah lack of fitness) her brain came back.  I still had tense and enthusiastic but the buck/bolt options seemed to have disappeared.

And then all of a sudden I had the most amazing, floaty, uphill, balanced canter.  I could make wickedly tight turns, balanced and in rhythm.  Not once in all the drama or the beauty did she miss a distance.  We were jumping lines and combinations and turns with all kinds of suppleness that I would've sworn wasn't even close to within her abilities.
Okay so Lexi's were maybe the size of the first rail over the flowers, but some day...
So then I lengthened my stirrups and did some of the flat work I'd originally hoped for.  She was still alert, but way more focused and soft.  I got some absolutely amazing results!  Of the "think of transition and it happens" variety.  I've missed that ;)   She was entirely off my seat, and the upward gaits (which have been ugly since the nappiness games began and tbh, never great) were gorgeous! Connected and  through and required so little effort.

At least we only had wind and no torrential rain
It was absolutely amazing and gave a tantalizing tease of what could be...  I suspect tomorrow I'll have a very tired horse.  And rider ;)

The latest Lexi adventures

So as some of you know, my horse has been essentially feral since...  ummm about September.  She had an abscess, which blew out a good part of her hoof and basically killed the last of the nice riding weather.  And then I began working full time but was still teaching every night and, well, shall we say my motivation did not exceed my exhaustion.   And then I moved her and she wasn't even at the same barn I was teaching!   At that point at least she was being ridden by Steph and slowly considering getting something that might, one day, resemble fit.  And then she went lame.  Fail.  And, to be honest, I was rather focused on my wedding.  So I deemed my pony could be on vacation until I returned to take care of her.

So we got back and she was still nqr.  And we played the mystery lameness game for a bit.  I finally decided that she must've pulled something in her shoulder -- if I had to guess I'd've said playing a little too hard outside.

Gave it a little more time and then sure enough one day she randomly trotted out sound.  Sweet!  Conveniently just as the weather began to consider turning :)   Gave her another week, just to be safe, and then started bringing her back.

That first day was the nappiest mare ever.  Have I mentioned I own an oversized Thelwell?

I am not even kidding.
Yeah - I was alone, so not *quite* that dramatic, but I definitely got a pretty solid No.  In the way only mares can truly manage.  Until today I would've said only pony mares.  It wasn't the chestnut TB temper-tantrum -- that, I'm used to ;)   This was just uh huh, you can't make me.  And let's put this in perspective -- I was asking for a 10 min walk and 5 min trot.  But, I will say, when she did finally go, she was absolutely lovely.  And sound.  Sweet.

Day two was Steph's turn.  In retrospect, I probably should've finished the behaviour discussions before letting Steph have a go, but it was an interesting exercise.  Steph's never really dealt with either mares or nappiness before.  And, well, they didn't make it very far *sigh*

So then Lexi got a day off, because despite her less-than-ideal behaviour, I was A impressed that there was no drama or insane athletics surrounding the first rides back, and B really taking the whole "bringing my horse back slowly" thing seriously.

Next day I get on and she was lovely.  There was a moment or two of nappiness at the very start and then just awesome.  Walk/trot through and connected.  Stopped while things were good. Sweet!  Next day, she was super high going in; I was fairly excited.  First few mins fine, but then she took an odd step.  Obviously she felt it too because she instantly hit the breaks :(   Got her to walk on and seemed sound, but I'm playing the over cautious game and so stopped.  So very disappointed.

Gave her the weekend off, and then it was Steph's turn again.  This one was way more successful and she had two gaits, seemed sound, and both directions.  Yeah!  Progress.

So now you're caught up to tonight.   Ah tonight.   Did I mention it was sunny out?   And the sandring footing was almost perfect?   And well, she was so sensible about her first ride back, why wouldn't she be equally sensible about her first ride outside?  Because clearly that's the logical thing to do.

And you know what?   She was.   Yeah - I know, boring story.  Yeah for grown-up horses ;)  Hahaha I was alone, so I was smart about it and wandered around the sand ring before I mounted.  She was high for a bit and nappy again (horses she's never seen before turned out next to the sandring were her new best friends!) but not horrifying and eventually we were walking and trotting quietly all around the ring.  We even did a *gasp* canter each direction with no drama!   You have no idea how excited I was by that.   A plastic bag fluttered near her feet which was definitely good for a moment, but even that had no recurring issues.

But then, while we were quietly walking around, a GIANT LION attacked us from its hiding spot behind a fallen jump wing.  Holy Epona, you do not understand the severity of the situation.  The *only* reason we survived was due to Lexi's incredible escape!

Yup.  That happened.  Or so Lexi would have you believe.  In *my* mind, what happened was a slightly overweight orange cat woke up from its nap by the standard, strolled over to where the sun had moved, and flopped back down to continue tanning itself.  But, it would seem, my horse is afraid of cats.  And seriously afraid of cats -- like not going anywhere near that end of the arena and must keep an eye on the monster at all times, afraid of cats.

Just to put this in perspective...  Look to the left, by the wings.
Remember though, I'm trying to fit her up slowly and quietly.  So mad gallops from fearsome predators is not, exactly, in the plan.   So we wandered to the edge of her comfort zone -- where she tensed and grew an extra hand, but wasn't spinning or running away.  And we stood there.  And we stood there.  And thankfully the well-fed feline lacked any ambition and was quite content to provide a training moment.   And we stood there some more.  Until eventually Lexi got bored and relaxed.

I got bored long before she did.  Apparently I lack self-preservation.
Take a moment and compare mane in this photo, with the Thelwell example above.
Oh dear.
She got some pats, we walked forward a bit, and we repeated the process.  It was very long and very boring.  But it was, at least, productive.  And while still with all senses on high alert, by the end we could at least walk calmly around the vast majority of the ring (still giving a healthy respect to the lair of course!)  I parked her in that corner and dismounted there -- which was good for a healthy shy.  Clearly the lion had pounced and tackled me!  Despite not actually having so much as moved.  hahaha ah dear.  She eventually chilled and we went for a bit of a walk.  I wanted to take her to meet the cat, but it was on the owner's lawn so I didn't feel that was appropriate.

But, the real takeaway from today, is that I Got To Ride Outside!   Woohoo!   And that is all.