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!