Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you and your family are all happy, safe, and sound over the holidays :)

Sorry for the old photo (Feb. 2013), didn't get out to take Christmas photos this year!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Wish List

'Tis the season for gift giving and making that (very late) wish list!

While most people giving me gifts will usually ask what I'm looking for or wishing for, I'll rarely ask for equestrian stuff unless I can give them specific instructions on what I would like.  I'm very nitpicky about my tack and equipment, so I am the perfect person to give a giftcard to!

This year, I really don't have any real wants or needs when it comes to tack or equipment since I have everything I want!  Some nice riding shirts/polos would be nice, or t-shirts with an equine theme would be great, but otherwise I'm happy with what I have.  Some of the things I'm keeping my eye out for are the following though:

1.  Back On Track back warmer

Com'on Boxing Day Sales!

2.  Hunter Green all-purpose full pad, bonus points for yellow cord/trim

Brand doesn't matter, but needs to fit my 18" saddle

3.  Half-pad with shims (specifically back risers)

Doesn't have to be sheepskin!

4.  Joules polo, preferably hunter green with a nice contrasting trim

Love the style of these shirts

5.  A set of no-pin jump cups

(no photo available... yet)

These things would be nice to have, but aren't a make or break item, so I'm happy to keep trucking along as I have been, although those jump cups would be nice...  Just need to find someone who knows how to weld.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 5!

The last day!!!

21.  Favourite class to watch

I love watching almost any class.  If it's something I don't know much about, it's something I can learn about, look at how the class is placed and why, practise spotting confirmation shortfalls or good points, difference between the horses for different classes, etc.  My absolute favourite classes to watch are big jumper classes (Spruce Meadows) or cross country at any level/event.  As odd as it is, I like either sitting with knowledgeable friends/acquaintances who will give a running commentary or sitting at home listening to commentary.  Of course, it always depends on who's talking, but they usually will pull my attention to things my wide-eyed view would miss.

22.  What's in your cooler at horse shows?

 - Gatorade
 - Vector Bars (chocolate)
 - Cheese string/wax sealed cheese (babybel)
 - Bottled water (with mio)
 - Mandarin orange slice cups
 - Gel ice packs

23.  One thing about showing (or riding in general) you wish you could change?

The cost!  Although right now, it's more the distance I have to travel to get to them...

24.  Your ringside crew

Depending on when I'm showing, it's The Fiance (if he can make it), and two eventing friends of mine JS and JN.  I met them when I first started eventing in Alberta and have become my go-to's for any questions with eventing, news of equestrian events in Alberta, and are all in all incredibly wonderful people.  Free with their time, expertise, and extremely willing to help someone.  Showing wouldn't be half as fun without these two :)
Take a hop on over to JS's blog -

Photo taken by JS, JN jumping and myself watching

25.  Best prizes

I'll admit it, I'm a ribbon lover.  I'm not that big for prizes unless I can actually use them, like a pad or bridle bag or something.  I would love to get a cooler or saddle pad, but I'll always be glad to finish with a number and not a letter!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 4

16.  One thing you'd like to change about your horse

The idea that he must see and have an opinion no EVERYTHING.  From tying to the trailer (hello Black Stallion) to the flags on jumps, Koda has an opinion on everything.  Perhaps not change that completely, but make them a bit less colourful or strong.  We are working on this right now, more exposure so that Koda can learn that he doesn't need to have an opinion/reaction about any situation or obstacle he's presented with.  Or perhaps, it's more like changing his opinion from OMG to Ok, whatever.

17.  Your horse's future

I'm hoping to start consistently eventing with Koda, but from where we are it is a bit difficult. This year I have a few dressage shows on the list, plus a derby and a couple horse trials (as long as money and time allows).  Long term goals?  Keep eventing as long as he is game to play, perhaps going up to PT/T and would love to complete the BN/N long format at Rebecca Farms.

More of this!

18.  Your worst show ever

Easy, Mind's Eye Ranch Horse Trials... that was not a good weekend.
At least the dressage was ok... 
in jumper length stirrups... with no hair net..

19.  Favourite horse show venue

In Nova Scotia it was the Central Nova Horse & Pony show grounds in Truro.  Absolutely loved that place!  It's not top of the line, but it had really nice rings, great footing for cross country on TERRAIN that had all the courses twisting through the woods.  Absolutely fantastic!  The barns and human comforts weren't the best, but ah well!  Bonus - it was only 90 minutes down the road.

Dillon and I at our first hunter show at CNHP

In Alberta, I've only been to a few places, but so far I am loving Evergreen Park.  Tons of different cross country questions, a track, but only two rings (strange, but ah well).  Footing can be a bit of an issues depending on weather, but all in all pretty good.  Human comforts are good, electrical hookups with showers, restaurant on site at the grandstand.  Horse comforts, there are tons of pens for turnout if wanted, places to graze your horse, and comfortable shedrows.  

Grazing and cooling the legs at the same time.

20.  Your show day routine

For our shows, it depends.  Usually it's a weekend long deal, and I'll drive down the day before to get settled.  First day of the show, wake up early, feed, do my human routine, check over my tack, do any extra cleaning that's needed, depending on my ride times, I'll take Koda for a walk and graze, let him take a look at any distractions around the show rings (food trucks, announcer booths, the crowd/grandstand, etc.) then put him away.  Will usually catch my friends' rides since they are always before mine, give help where needed, then head back and start my tack cleaning and checks.  While I clean my tack, I'll go over everything I need for that day including before and after my rides.  I keep all of my stuff in my trailer and move stuff between the trailer and the stall with handy tote bags.

I'm AWFUL for keeping myself hydrated or full of food during a show day, but have found a good schedule that works for me, along with the right treats.    It's all about vector bars (chocolate), mandarin orange slice cups, cheese sticks, and fruit, mainly apples and bananas.  For drink, I'll keep gatorade and water with different flavours of Mio on hand (lemonade is a must!).  After the day, Koda will get walked or turned out a bit to keep him moving and wrapped with poultice for overnight.  There's always an evening walk with everyone to chill out and give the horses a chance to stretch their legs before being bedded down for the night.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 3

11.  Critique Your Horse's Conformation

Ok, I'm not the best at conformation critique, but I'll give it my best shot!

Starting with his hind end, he has fairly good angles that show he should be a good jumper, nothing spectacular or perfect, but shows a penchant for jumping over dressage (lack of the inverse 7).  His stifle is at a moderate height which won't let him get his hing legs under him as much as possible, so will have some issue with getting his hing legs stepping up underneath him. Nothing awful, but again, not perfect.  His SI joint is close to where you want it to couple in, but it is a bit far forward from the point of hip.  

Moving to the front, his pillar of support bisects the front legs (even when they're NOT set backwards...) making his front end lighter.  His humerous and shoulder angle shows that he'll have a nice front end over fences and should be able to snap up his front legs to avoid jumps.  Now, this isn't the greatest photo of Koda, but it does show that overall he has a fairly decent balance with only minor conformation issues that won't affect soundness but performance.  

For those of you who saw this and thought tl;dr, here are the highlights:
1.  Average hind end
2.  Nice front angles for jumping
3. Overall nice balance but not an Olympic contender

12.  Horse's Favourite Riding Exercise

I think Koda likes doing exercises with things, whether it be poles, jumps, cones, etc.  He's a pretty curious and cautious horse, but whenever I start pulling stuff out, he'll always go and check it out!  In particular, I think he likes grids since they make him think and I don't nitpit on him as much.

Perks right up coming into the short gymnastic :)

13.  Favourite Spa Day Products

We don't do many spa days up here (have to haul-in water to the farm) so it's usually just me, my grooming kit, and some tunes on a nice day.  My favourite grooming tool of ALL TIME is my cactus mitt.  Cactus cloth on one side, fleece on the other, you can use it for just about anything.  Best tool for soaking awkward areas (horse's face)?  Cactus mitt.  Get rid of sweat marks? Cactus mitt.  Help bring out the shine in your horse's coat?  Cactus mitt.  Remove the last bit of dried poultice on your horse's legs?  Cactus mitt.  I have at least three of them!

The all-magical mitt

14.  Three Best Things About Your Horse

1.  Honest - Koda is a pretty honest guy.  Yeah, he can get a bit of attitude or have a freak-out moment, but when we're really putting in the work, he is the most honest horse I know.
2.  Attitude - I love his attitude, even when it's a bit over the top and ridiculous!
For the last one, I asked The Fiance what he liked best about Koda, and his answer was...
3.  His size - Koda is actually a really good size for me.  Since I have relatively long limbs, Koda compliments me rather nicely at 16.1hh.  We match each other well.

My third choice would've been his canter...

Such a sweet man

15.  Favourite Picture of Your Horse

Even though he was a little intimidated/scared of it, he flew over top!

Monday, 2 December 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 2

And here we go!

6) Favourite Equestrian Book and Movie

I have read several equestrian books from tips and tricks, how-to's, source books, novels, and kids stories.  For this question I'll just use my fiction novels since usually when I'm reaching for a book to chill out with, these are a guarantee to make me happy.  One of my favourite authors is Dick Francis.  The first book I read by him was Nerve and it is still one of my favourites.  Last year I was lucky enough that my then SO now Fiance got his hands on a signed first edition copy of another of my favourites, The Edge.

As for movies, I don't really have a favourite equestrian movie since a lot of the things they put in television and film when horses are involved drive me batty.  The whinnying, the snorting, the having to have the horses make noise... just brings me out of the fantasy land of movie magic.  One thing that I absolutely love watching are true histories of famous horses like Man'O'War or Big Ben.

7) Most Common Riding Misconception

Oh, the horse does ALL the work!  You're just sitting there!

Ahem.  No.

As the Fiance soon learned, riding is definitely an ACTIVE pursuit :)
Exhausted but TRIUMPHANT!

8) Two Strengths and One Weakness

Oh, this one is tough!  I guess one of my strengths is I absolutely LOVE riding banks and I do it rather well.  Up banks or drops, in and out of water, doesn't matter, I'll attack them.  I've jumped bigger banks (solid obstacles) than fences.  Another strength would be being able to learn something from any equestrian situation.  I love to learn and hear about how people train and spend time with their horses, whether it be natural horsemanship, your weekly lesson instructor, up to a former Olympic rider.  I'll take pieces from each person and apply it to what I'm doing with my horses.  Sometimes I won't even know I picked it up and someone will ask me how I learned how to do that, and it'll be from watching a reining demonstration or learning how to move cattle.

Out of the water at Evergreen Park

For weakness, I'll choose my biggest one - I'll forget that when I'm riding it's a partnership and start to be the "Commander".  This happened on our last ride where Koda was having issue with the "scary corner" and so my immediate reaction was "this is absolutely NOT ACCEPTABLE!!!!!" and turned the entire thing into a fight.  Which was absolutely ridiculous since if I had kept riding him through it, it would have turned into a nothing corner, but oh no, I had to go all Commander...  I'm catching myself more often and reminding myself that Koda is my partner more and more, but the big C will sometimes pop up!

9) Least Favourite Thing About Horses and/or Riding

As a lot of you have said, the cost!  No matter how you slice it, horses are pretty darn expensive.  But I love them :)

10) What Do You Feed Your Horse?

Hay of course!  Koda is on 24/7 hay (in hay bags), and pasture depending on the season.  If it gets really cold, he'll get a tiny scoop of alfalfa pellets, which I'll also use when we go away for competitions or clinics.

Always tasty!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 1

Since I don't have much blogging fodder right now, I'm going to jump aboard and do the 5 Day Challenge!

1.  Most influential person on your riding?

Well, right now that has to be... ME!  How self-centered does that sound?  But seriously, where I am right now, it's all about the self-coaching.  Before the move up here, the person who had the most influence on my riding was my previous coach (and who I bought Dillon off of) Mary-Lew Murray.  She was the first coach I had that had actual credentials, showed in what I was riding in, and really KNEW how to coach dressage.  She helped me get out of a TON of bad habits that I am now having to watch out for myself and am forever grateful for her instruction.  She took a very casual rider who had been taught by an all-around instructor (good basics, but not in detail) to a competitive rider who would usually place in rated dressage, eventing, and hunter shows (unrated for the hunters).

Thank you Mary Lew!!!

2.  Piece of tack you'd love to splurge on?

As most others are saying, I'd LOVE to splurge on a fully custom saddle to fit both me and Koda.  Now, I doubt I will ever have that kind of money to splurge, or would feel completely awful putting that much money up for a saddle, so a more realistic splurge?  A Back On Track Mesh Sheet :)  Or a week-long bootcamp at Alhambra stables (even though that's not a piece of tack...)

Wouldn't Koda look handsome in this sheet?

3.  Top 5 Riding List

I rarely if ever ride with a playlist, but when I was at a boarding barn the radio would always be pumping something.  When I ride, I'll usually tune out the music and focus on the task at hand.  I like hearing the creak of leather, the thud of hoofbeats, the swish of the (opinionated!) tail, the rhythm of breathing... that's my music for when I ride.

The tail swish 

For a grooming/spa day, I'll usually play whatever I'm in the mood for at the time, whether it's a playlist from Les Miserables or the songs from the Top 40.  Koda likes the more subdued type music, like love ballads or R&B when we're chilling out.  Back in the day, we would always have some country music or maritime type music playing on the stereo.  Favourites included: Dixie Chicks, Great Big Sea, Toby Keith, and of course Tim McGraw.

4.  Most important aspect of your barn?

Care.  Since the only option we have up here is turnout 24/7, the care is absolutely of paramount importance.  I know Koda is always checked on 3 times a day (morning, early evening, late evening), will be visually checked over every day, properly fed with free feeding hay in haybags (not rich alfalfa, but a nice timothy mix), along with alfalfa pellets if it gets too cold to help boost the internal temperature, properly heated water (some people don't water their horses up here, but let them eat snow...).

So lovely, can't wait to see this again

My dream barn?  12-24 hour turnout with the option of a stall on those extremely nasty nights, or night before a show.  Large rolling pastures, turnout sheds, some treed areas, with a natural (pond, stream, spring) and artificial (water trough) water source.  Indoor arena, heated in the winter, large outdoor arena, grass arena, sand arena, cross country field, and a half-mile track.

5.  Three winter goals:

1.  Ride as much as possible
2.  When schooling dressage, have a main focus
3.  To conquer the oxer

Hope you guys enjoy the questions and answers!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Teaching Young Riders

For the past year and a half I have been helping out as a part-time instructor for the local Pony Club.  Kind of amazing there's a Pony Club up here, but there ya go!  This past weekend we had our latest riding lessons and it's always an interesting experience.  We have three main riders that are always at lessons and these three have had the worst luck possible in horses.  One girl had a horse that would have random spook episodes and freak outs over walking over poles... plus it would kind of dose off then wake up suddenly with a start which was not an appropriate mount for a young girl!  The other young girl had an older mount whom they retired, so she got a new horse!  Seemed to be going ok, a bit slow and pokey, but that's fine... later on in the year it was found out that he had equine anemia.  Our oldest girl (15) has been trying to learn how to jump on a horse that absolutely detests jumping.  Now, all three girls are on appropriate mounts that appear to work well in the lesson group!  There's some fitness work needed for a couple, but that's a lot easier to handle than big training issues.

Riding lesson day is always interesting since I don't actually teach entire lessons, but only the tail end of lessons, focusing on two-point position and how to ride single fences or a mini course of fences.  Sometimes the girls are still on and listening, and other days they've checked out.  As for teaching styles, I feel that I tend to push the girls a bit more in terms of technique and detail.  It's such a reward to see these riders improving after all the mismatches and heart break of the previous year.  Another thing that is rather rewarding is having the riders actually start ask for help from you, that they've started to see you as someone who you can turn to for help.  That is one thing I truly value in whatever I do.  To have others be comfortable enough with me to ask my opinion and help is one of the best compliments you can pay.

I know this blog isn't that exciting, but right now we're all slowly getting ready to hibernate for the next few weeks or months depending on how cold it actually will be this winter.  Koda's getting his 6 week break starting this week and won't be put back into work until the new year.  I love giving Koda this time to just chill-out and when I come out to have that relaxing bonding time on foot.  I may attempt to teach him to bow or something, but again it all depends on how cold it gets and how cold I want to get!

In any case, sorry for the slightly disjointed post!  Hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving down in the States and have their eye on a good deal for over the weekend :)

P.S. if anyone knows of a great deal on Back on Track or Rambo blankets (heavy), please let me know!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Moments You Love

Throughout life I always try and take the time to find those quiet moments that you can reflect on.  Even just for a second, have a clear thought about what you're experiencing and doing in that moment, and appreciate it for what it is.

The one from today was kind of simple and beautiful at the same time.  Today I took Koda down to the farrier to get shoes pulled and hooves trimmed up, so had a dark start to my day (sun doesn't rise until 8:00am).  Once I caught Koda and was swapping blankets by the trailer, the sun had started to rise.  I stopped what I was doing and just stood there with Koda.  It was one of those moments where I really got to appreciate being an equestrian.  Here I am, at sunrise, just doing a basic equestrian chore that is absolutely awesome.  Not awesome as in cool (but we all know being an equestrian is the best!) but actually awe-inspiring.  Here we are, me and this other animal, just doing a basic chore in perfect harmony.  Perfect communication, everything happened seamlessly.  Enjoying the morning together, peaceful, quiet, lovely.

When I came home, I wanted to write this fairly deep blog, but Viva Carlos hit the nail on the head, so why invent the wheel twice?  Different point of view, same trend.

All for the love of the horse

Friday, 22 November 2013

Playing in the Snow

We have been in an extreme cold snap up here.  For the past two weeks, we have been getting records lows in the -20s and this past week it has been consistently in the -30s and last night it hit -40.  Now, as you guys all know, I live in the north and cold temperatures are pretty standard, but not THIS cold this early in the season!  These temperatures are the reason why I have no problem whatsoever shelling out the big bucks for the extremely tough and toasty warm blankets for Koda.  He lives turned out 24/7, so there really is no getting out of the cold into the barn, since there isn't one!  There are a few 3-sided sheds and the farm is fairly protected from wind by being surrounded by woods, but let's face it: -30 is just darn cold no matter how you slice it.

Today it wasn't too bad, and it being my early day off work I had the chance to get out to the barn while it was still light to do a blanket change and remove snowballs from hooves.  Usually by this time, all shoes are pulled and any snowballs that form will knock themselves out by the natural flexing of the hooves, but since I was away last weekend I haven't had a chance to get them pulled so when I took a look, his front hooves were pretty solid.  All I can say is, yay for hammers and having dirt ground in near the frog to make it fairly easy going to get all that ice out.  Koda needed a few reminders to mind his manners, but he handled it well considering I was chiseling ice out of his front hooves.  Once he was satisfactorily de-iced, I decided I wanted to do some ground work and play with mister Koda around the yard.  We just went on a mini hike through the property, and that's when he saw it.

The most terrifying thing

The horse-eater extraordinaire

After years of being eaten by horses, it was going to seek revenge...

The ever dangerous...

Hay Stack

I swear, some days Koda is just trying to be a drama king...
Love you, handsome!
(my attempt at a portrait with Koda... please disregard the frozen hair)

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Late Update!

Sorry guys!

I've been away for the past week dealing with the big W (dress fittings, shoe shopping, budget planning, decorating ideas, etc.) and have fallen extremely behind on my blog!  While I was back home handling wedding details, I got the chance to go back to The Royal.  Background info:  I grew up in southern Ontario and would go to The Royal every year until I went to university.  It was usually me and friends or me and my dad who would go but this year my mom and dad came for the experience :)

For those who don't know what The Royal is, here's a quick clip:

My parents and I got tickets to the last evening show.  It was a great night showing a ton of different styles of equestrian sport including driving, dressage, trick riding, liberty work, and of course show jumping.  One of the best classes was watching the 4- and 6-horse hitch classes.  It was absolutely fantastic!  Now, my family is not horsey at all, so having them there and enjoying all the classes was wonderful.  I was amazed that they were as captivated with the dressage freestyle as I was.  Of course the show jumping at the end was spectacular, having several international and olympic riders compete in the Ricoh Big Ben Challenge.
Dad standing in with the giant pumpkins!

54 drafts line up for placings!

Of course, another great part of the Royal is the trade show.  If you are a bargain hunter, this is the place for you!  We didn't have much time before the evening show started once we got there, so we checked out some of the bigger shops and then had to get to our seats.  We found a few nice deals, including half-off of my favourite breeches (woot!), FINALLY getting a halter plate for Koda, and a gorgeous saddle pad for less than half of the original price.  I did search around for a corrective half pad and a nice ap hunter green pad, but didn't find anything that would suit.

Behind the scenes!

The Royal is MASSIVE

In other news, winter has reared it's ugly head up here and it is colder than ever.  I had the indoor arena booked for the weekend, but when the weather isn't going to heat up above -20C, I won't ride.  Here's hoping next weekend will be a bit warmer over the weekend!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Product Review: Nag Bags

Since we do free range feeding up here, we're always looking to help reduce waste from the round bales.  Even when they're in round bale feeders, the waste is awful.  There is always a ton of waste spread out from the feeder, getting stomped into the mud, peed on, and getting turned into mulch.  A year ago, the BO went down to Equine Affair and bought a few nag bags.  Essentially they are massive small-hole hay bags for round bales, square bales, and individual use.

I absolutely LOVE these bags!!!!  Not only do they reduce the waste, but it helps with dust control too.  The horses can't get their heads into the middle of the bales so they aren't breathing in any dust or possible mold spores.  Even though the nets do develop a hole once and a while, they are extremely simple to fix.  If you can tie a square knot, you can fix these things.  They're not always the easiest to put on by yourself, but if you have a tractor and a rake, it turns into a one-man task pretty quickly.

Case and point:

Round bale with net

Round bale in feeder

Even though the netted bale is a few days newer than the feeder bale, you can tell how the net will hold the bale together a lot better than a feeder.  (Sorry for the bad quality pictures!  Taken after sunset with my phone, the flash can only go so far!).

It's really fun getting up on the bales and watch the horses work the hay through the holes in the net:

Koda says hi!

Work those lips!  The net is about a 1" square.

Koda trying to nibble my boot

As always, I don't have any affiliation with nag bags or slow feed hay bags, I just like their product :)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Quiet Moments

Since we're going through the first cold snap with some not so good footing, I'm holding off riding Koda until we get his shoes pulled by the farrier.  The BO is out this week so I'm on night watch until I'm off to Ontario (home for wedding things, family things, and the Royal!) this Friday.  I love doing night watch when it's so quiet you can hear every nightly noise.  The thud of hooves, soft wuffles of breath, munching on hay, quiet shifting of weight on the frozen ground...


After I do my checks, I'll head out into the front pasture and snag a seat on top of the round bale to enjoy the sights and sounds.  One of my favourite places to be at the farm.  It's a great spot to watch the herd and just be at the farm.

Sunset from a couple weeks ago

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Blog Hop: Equestrian Bucket List

While perusing my blog reading list, I saw this post by Lauren at about a new blog hop going around:  The Equestrian Bucket List

I love this idea of the Equestrian Bucket List, not only does it let you really dream of the big stuff, but it can help you look at your goals now and see if they'll get you to those big moments.  Being an independent rider with minimal access to coaches/trainers, I need to keep myself on track with realistic goals that I can accomplish by myself.  I'm a fairly goal-oriented person, so this winter during our Christmas/January deep freeze break, I want to devise a plan with all those small steps and goals so that we're raring to go for next year's season.

Without further ado, here's the list!

Dream Items:
1.  Complete a long-format/traditional three day event
2.  Be competitive at Training Level
3.  Go watch the world equestrian games (com'on 2018 being in Bromont!)
4.  Go equestrian camping in the mountains with Koda.
5.  Ride a respectable half-pass

Smaller Items:
1.  Ride a 2'9" course and be COMPETENT at it
2.  Be comfortable on Koda bareback (starting this in the indoor for cool-out time)
3.  Jump 3'
4.  Gallop across a beach.  Don't care where, just a BEACH!  Or a long stretch of sand.  Somewhere.
5.  Conquer flying changes

I know my lists aren't as big or out there, but they're my equestrians dreams (for now!).

What are yours?

Thought it was at 3'... sadly only measured at 2'10"

As I'm fairly technologically incompetent, I don't know how to but the widget (?) into my post, so to see the original, check out the following blog by Julie:

Friday, 1 November 2013

Contest Time!

Sorry it's not my own contest, but everyone should head over to Sprinkler Bandit's page and check out her AWESOME contest going on featuring Dream Horse Studios (  Some of her stuff looks absolutely lovely, and the prices are great!  Now to figure out how to get The Fiance to check this website out...  Christmas is around the corner!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Day Late...

... but I got the ride I wanted!  Went out yesterday and had a great ride with the BO with her gelding Mik.  We did some nice long trots and one lovely canter through a summer fallow field (beautiful footing) that was absolutely fantastic.  I still can't believe we have no snow and the ground isn't frozen solid yet!

It was kind of interesting watching Koda with Mik.  At the beginning, he would try to nip at him, but I put a stop to that (the turkey) so Koda settled down nicely and kept his head.  Throughout the ride Koda seemed to relax more and more into the ride which was nice to have happen.  I think what happens is he just gets so worked up when Cain or Dandy are out.  Of course the two (Mik and Koda) got a bit competitive when we were cantering through the field, but nothing crazy and easy to bring back.  Mik was getting a bit more worked up every time we would do anything faster than a walk.  Poor guy was lathered by the time we got back to the yard!  It looked like every time the BO touched the reins to slow down his MASSIVE walk so that Koda and I could catch up, Mik's head would pop up and he would resist and fight.

As we cooled out back at the yard, I noticed that even though the sun was setting, I could still easily see clearly across the yard to the collapsed quonset because of the fixed yard lights, which means no matter the time, I should be able to school in the yard until the snow comes!  The footing isn't the best in some places, but right in front of the quonset and right by the trailer are perfect spots to school.  Both areas are large enough to accomodate a 20-30m circle so dressage time here we come :)

While we made our way back to the yard, the BO and I got to talk about, what else, our horses and what we're looking to do in the winter/next year.  As the talk progressed I was happy to hear that she has the same view as me that we can ask our horses (specifically in this instance Mik for her, Koda for me) to do a lot more than what we usually do.  I know Koda has a LOT more to give, but I need to ask for it or else I'll never see it.  It's that demand of proper riding and demand for more from yourself as a rider and asking your horse to give you more at the same time that both of us want to strive for.  As the saying goes, check yourself before you blame the horse for a mistake.

In other news, I am not a big fan of Hallowe'en (something about having to dress up and everything is scary, like it's out to get you or something), so I am going to be a bad partner and leave The Fiance to handle the kids as they come by tomorrow night while I sneak off for another sunset ride.

Love this shot, absolutely lovely
Please note: new bridle!  Doesn't it suit him?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sunshine Award!

I've been nominated for an award!  Thank you to My Life On Horses ( for nominating me for this neat award.  As always, there are rules to follow for each award.
Here's the spiel:
The sunshine award means, bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere. Of course all awards have rules for awarding people.
·         First, the nominee must thank the blogger that nominated her and link to her blog. 
·         Next she must nominate ten bloggers for the award and let them know. 
·         Then, she must answer a list of ten questions and post to her blog.  
·         Finally, the Sunshine Award button must be posted on the blog
Without further ado, here are the questions and my answers
 Do you prefer Mares or Geldings? 
Geldings all the way.  I haven't ridden a mare that I truly like or connect with yet
2. English or Western?
Predominantly an English rider, but I've been known to chase a cow or round a barrel or two.
3. Do you prefer "younger" or "older" horses?
I like the middle of the road horses, those who have seen some but still need a bit of finishing and can still grow/learn in their abilities.
4. Have you ever trained a horse from ground zero?
Nope, but I think it could be fun/interesting... as long as you get the right youngster
5. Do you prefer riding or ground work?
Riding, but ground work can be fun, specifically loose lungeing/round penning (when done not in excess).
6. Do you board your horse or keep it at home?
Boarding at a friend's place.  I actually like boarding since you get that barn atmosphere with other people, can bounce ideas off of others, and just enjoy being surrounded by others who love their horses just as much as you do.
7. Do you do all natural things or commercial stuff? (In the sense of products.)
From reading other blogs, people seem to be tripping on this question.  I think what they're getting after is if you use all-natural products (natural fly spray, natural liniments, essential oils, sheepskin or wool pads, etc.) vs more processed products like neoprene, synthesized chemicals, etc.  I use whatever works and doesn't harm my horse, be it natural or otherwise. 
8. All Tacked up or Bareback?
Give me my tack, baby :)
I did school Dillon bareback when I could (dressage schooling in the indoor in winter was the BEST!), but I don't trust Koda as much with our riding situation.  If there was an indoor at the barn, absolutely I would!  But since there isn't... not so much.  I should look into doing more dressage schooling bareback at the arena this year though...
9. Equestrian model?
I love the way William Fox Pitt handles his horses.  At every competition, he seems to have them completely prepared and ready to tackle the task at hand.  They are all calm, fit, and if they seem to be not on their game that day, he will withdraw (Rolex 2013).  Being such a long rider, he handles himself brilliantly.  It's ironic since this year I'm getting to go to the Royal in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) and he'll actually be there for the indoor eventing!  Sadly, he's leaving before I'll get there so I'm missing out by 2 days.  Damn  
10. What's your, one, main goal while being in the horse world?
Complete as many horse trials as I can with Koda with a number, not a letter.  Would love to get to Training Level, or complete a traditional three day, but would need to go down to the States for that.

Alright everyone, here is the hard part:  choosing 10 bloggers to award this to!  Since all of you are so wonderful, I'm going to take a post out of Andrea's blog over at, and say all of you who are reading are nominated!  Take this post, copy and paste it and have at 'er!

Such a kissable nose

Monday, 28 October 2013

Memorial Ride with a Twist

Today is the second year anniversary of Dillon's fatal accident.  I wanted to go out and have a lovely ride and just relax with Koda as we rode through the fields.  This happened... after a touch of minor fireworks.

I pulled up into the yard and not 5 seconds later, the BO pulls up in her truck.  I let her know I'm heading out for a ride through the fields and invite her to come, she's pumped and says yes so heads to the house to get ready.  I pull Koda out of the field after he gives me a bit of sass.  Usually when I go to catch him he'll either walk all the way up to me or at least meet me half-way.  Not so today.  Luckily he wasn't too far off, so I go to catch him but he decides to swing his haunches my way.  Oh no, mister Koda, I do NOT let that fly so I push him off and away from the round bale.  He trots off, rather reluctantly, then stops, turns and comes back and puts his head down into the halter.

I start tacking up and the BO comes out to catch her horse to tack up.  I then notice that she has not one, not two, but three halters... Ok, not what I was expecting, but I assumed she was catching the others to check them for something.  As we tack up, I notice that the BO is tacking her one horse with her pack rigging!  So our quiet ride of two turned into an experimental ride of one lone rider and one rider plus two pack horses.  We started off heading into the field across the rode and went straight into some trot work.  I immediately knew this wasn't going to go well since Koda just felt like he was on springs waiting to go up or out or somewhere other than where I wanted him.  I would have just let him out on a tear, but the BO's saddle horse would get very upset if Koda went too far ahead.  Since the trotting really didn't go so well, we decided on just going on a nice walking hack around the field.  Easy enough, except when you have a horse that decides he absolutely NEEDS to be in front yet doesn't walk as fast as the other horses... oh Koda... I was insisting on him walking, so he decided to go up.  Nothing major, but more than he has before with me (Jess/Jon, think of what he did at the trailer, but me on him).  We did a quick one rein stop/march in a tiny circle to get rid of that attitude and started again.

After that, Koda seemed to slowly settle into the ride and we finished the hack.  Since there was still some daylight left, the BO and I played around in the yard doing some circles, transitions, and serpentines.  I got some more nice trot out of Koda, but I want to get some good eyes on the ground to make sure what I'm feeling is actually what is going on.  What I want is for him to really push from behind and be tracking up, but at this point I don't think he has the strength to hold that for very long.  Homework for the winter - balance, straightness, and proper transitions.  I got two semi-decent canter transitions out of him, an improvement on what we've got in earlier rides this month so I ended it fairly happy :)

I'm not sure what really triggered Koda's attitude, since it felt similar to when he gave me some fireworks when we went out with the BO and his herdmate Cain.  Perhaps when we're out with them, we either need to keep pace or be infront to avoid this type of attitude, but it is something that needs to be dealt with.  I may do some round-pen work this winter as well since the BO has taken out all of the saplings and old stumps from the pen so that it is now useable!  I know round-penning doesn't help all things, but I do want to work with Koda on that level along with in the saddle.

Either way, plenty more riding in my future and we still have no snow!  I saw a few flakes the other day while I was out, but nothing substantial here yet!!!!  I'm hoping we still have a few more days (maybe a week or two?) left of no snow, but it's inevitable that it's coming.  But for now, I'll enjoy these lovely fall days for as long as we have them.

Sunset shot taken on the way home

Monday, 21 October 2013

Checking In

Nothing very exciting here to report, for the last few rides we've been doing flatwork working on transitions and getting Koda to work in balance.  Since the time off I gave him in September, his canter work has turned into him pulling himself forward with his shoulders and doing a bit of a side-winder canter he did when I first got him.  Goes to show, the moment this horse loses his muscling he'll easily fall back into an old habit.  I'm extremely lucky that I have the yard to ride in as it has a similar geometry of a very long dressage arena.

Along with the lose of Koda's lovely canter, I've lost my ability to sit his canter!  With the new (correct) way my saddle is sitting, I need to re-learn how to sit Koda's canter.  This is where the fun part begins.  When I'm not sitting right, Koda will suck up behind my leg and either slow to a stop.  When I put my leg on to push him into the bridle, we get some attitude pony but he will go and a shadow of his previous canter is there. What I also need to watch is to make sure I don't sit too heavy since that will also cause the hiding behing my leg.

We have a LOT of work to do on balance and correct transitions with straightness, no more side-winding!  Of course, as the weather gets colder, the sun is setting sooner so I'll really only be able to ride on the weekends or trailer out to the indoor at night.  I'm not a big fan of trailering at night because of some issues I had with Celtic a couple years ago since, typically when I haul at night I'm going alone.  Now I know Koda isn't like Celtic at all but we'll play it safe rather than sorry for now :)

And the token Koda photo

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

That "I finally GET IT!" moment

Have you ever had those moments when you're riding and it finally just CLICKS and that concept you've been trying to get finally just works?  I had one of those moments this past Monday while doing a dressage school in the yard.  The concept that just came was one we've all heard many MANY times before: "Leg ON and have a soft and following contact" or "PUSH the horse into the bridle" or "Ride from your leg to your hand", etc.  The bulk of the ride was just simple stuff, doing some lateral work and getting both of us comfortable riding in the yard again and using it as an arena.  Circles, leg yields around round bales, transitions were all on the docket for the ride and I wanted to end off with some no stirrup work for myself to help work on my leg position.

Tired but happy pony 

I dropped and crossed my irons and off we went to work on my sitting trot.  Somewhere in the mix I've lost my soft back and seat so I feel like a sack of potatoes bouncing about on top of the saddle which is no good at all.  Koda is a pretty sensitive guy when it comes to his back and to show his unpleasantness with my seat, he'll shut down and fall behind my leg.  Since I'm focusing on my seat, I end up either missing my timing to get him back in front of my leg or just go with him and slow down (not good, bad rider!).  While we were trotting 20 m circles with 10 m circles in every quarter, I suddenly remembered something I heard at a dressage lesson I audited back in August: "PUSH the horse's head down".  I don't know why, but it really resonated with me and gave it a go.  Lo and behold, the moment I put my legs on (and kept my seat/body soft and hands following), Koda lifted his back, pushed from behind, and down went the giraffe head!

I'm extremely thankful that Koda is such an expressive horse in this instance because it really hammered home what I needed to be doing to ride him correctly and have him going in any type of balance.  I see a lot of no stirrup work and going from posting to sitting to posting in my future.  It didn't hurt that I made a custom riser pad for my saddle as well :)
Recycling the foam from an old life jacket

When I'm in the saddle it settles quite nicely

After that first revelation, I played around with it going both left and right.  He's MUCH more willing to push up under himself to the right but not so much on the right which tells me that right hind is still recovering from its bout of thrush in September.  He's not lame but is just not willing to push off that hoof as much as the other, or perhaps he's just not as developed going to the left than the right.  I know I'm a stronger rider to the right than left so that could easily be it as well, let alone his preference for the right over the left.  

Love this horse

I know plenty of you are doing a two-point challenge right now, but I'm going to put myself into a different challenge.  During this off season, I will end every single one of my rides with no stirrup work of at least 10 minutes walk/trot.  I know I won't be riding that often once the snow gets here so while the weather is good, we'll keep going!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thanksgiving Ride

For those down in the States, this weekend was the Canadian Thanksgiving.  To celebrate, the Fiance and I usually go up north into the Northwest Territories to hike along the waterfalls and have a mini vacation.  Since we're saving money this year (have a wedding to pay for!) we stayed at home and did some day trips instead.  One of the quick trips we did was go hiking along the Rocky Lane trails by the indoor arena.  These trails are absolutely fantastic, non-motorized transport only, and are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.  There's an outdoor skating rink and a rentals shop for skis and skates which makes it a great place to go to have some winter fun!

Down the trail we go

Happy puppers!

This time we brought Shiloh with us to spend some time with our boys.  Now, we're not completely comfortable having Shiloh off leash yet, particularly on public trails so the Fiance was manning the camera and holding Shi who was running all about trying to mark everything, silly boy.  We went up and down some steep spots, but the footing held nicely

Slowly picking our way down this hill

Was holding mane for this one (is steeper than it appears)

We just wandered about for an hour checking out trails and I've now discovered some great spots for conditioning in the spring as long as the footing holds.  Even walking was good since the hills are fairly frequent!  Of course when we got there, Koda was acting like a complete ninny, calling for anyone and everyone but once we were under way he settled in.  Even when he trotted or cantered up those steep hills, he'd come back to me very easily once at the top. 

Great spot for conditioning

It was great going out with the boys, everyone seemed to have a lovely time on the trails.  Next time we may go out with either Shi or Koda since both together could be a recipe for disaster while Shi is gets overloaded with all the new smells and sounds.

Ever since the private lesson with Kathy Playdon, I've been slowly ramping my riding back up.  I think it's possible to ride at least 2 perhaps 3 times a week during the winter as long as we don't get too much snow at a time (the barn dosen't get plowed out until a few days later for some reason) and it doesn't stay cold for too long.  Talking to others who've lived up here for all their lives, the consensus seems like we may have a long autumn which I am extremely excited about.  If the white stuff can stay away until November, I'll be extremely happy!  We haven't started blanketing yet even though we've been getting below freezing temperatures over night.  I'm quite happy to let Koda fluff up as much as possible but he still keeps a fairly thin winter coat compared to the others.  Once we start blanketing, I think I'm going to play around with doing some minimal clipping with Koda.  I want to do a few more competitions this spring and summer (some dressage shows tossed in there) so will need to ride more throughout the winter than last...  Let's just hope nothing disastrous happens this year :)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!