Dear readers, you know the drill by now. I think you’ve heard most of the excuses, so all that’s left is an apology for my appalling lack of punctuality when it comes to blogging. Without further ado, I’ll attempt to catch you up on the madcap misadventures of the past several weeks.
Magic is now officially mine and safely installed (after some difficulty; apparently OTTBs aren’t familiar with electric fences and don’t like them much) in his new paddock. The poor dude had a rough time of it, especially during one crazy morning involving a cow, a broken fence and a fight with Achilles. Poor Magic’s skin is so delicate that even the slightest kick from another horse will leave him bleeding. Luckily, no serious injuries arose and Magic is settling nicely. Under saddle he can be rather more nervous than at his old home, but with time this is clearing up well.
His new paddock buddy turned out to be Skye. She has had a nasty persistent cough for weeks and weeks now, which has me slightly baffled. Three courses of antibiotics later, the Mutterer, the Wondervet, the Junior Wondervet and I are starting to come to the conclusion that Skye either has RAO (Recurrent Airway Obstruction, viz., horse asthma, also known as COPD) or an allergy for dust. Hence, her majesty has been moved to Magic’s paddock, where I have more control of her hay consumption and can wet it to keep the dust off.
Skye’s cough doesn’t seem to be bothering her in the least, as she frequently displays by galloping around in her paddock like a demented yearling. I’ll get back on her as soon as I can to see if the cough is indeed still present, since it usually only happens when she’s exercised.
Arwen and I are busy exploring a new discipline that I’ve never paid much attention to in the past: Western mounted games, i. e. variations on pole bending and barrel racing, all at extremely high speed and all extremely fun. Despite the fact that Skye simply doesn’t flex, her vivacity has made her a pretty cool Games horse since, when in the mood, she’s very fast. I was sure that sweet little, lazy little, unenthusiastic little Arwen would be a terrible horse for Games. Think again!
My good friend, the Cowboy Dude, was dying to barrel race, so I put up a makeshift course and took Thunder for a whirl (being Thunder, he cantered around all three barrels but could not be persuaded to gallop). The Cowboy Dude and Arwen cantered over the time line and into the course. The Cowboy Dude and Arwen shot out of the course at a pace roughly equivalent to the speed of sound and had to gallop a lap around the lungeing ring to slow down.
I was sure that Arwen simply liked him better than she liked me, so, utterly disbelieving, I shortened the stirrups (by five holes, being a midget) and got on myself. Arwen bombed around the barrels and thundered over the time line at an insane speed, leaving me with a renewed respect and a strange conclusion: My horse is bipolar. The nutter that tears around the barrels is not the same creature as pops so sensibly over jumps.
Enter the Mutterer and his partner in crime, the Western Mounted Games instructor, whom I am tempted to nickname the Gamemaker (read Hunger Games?) but that would be utterly out of character. Just as disbelieving as I was, they amended my barrel course to the proper size and timed Arwen and I as we tore around at a hair-raising pace. Despite a very wide and risky turn around one barrel, we managed it in 24.16, which the Games instructor told me was a Level 2 time (this appearing to translate to “a pretty fair clip”).
Arwen’s sensible alter ego is doing well with her more format and elegant schooling, too. Now popping over about 1.05-1.10m without trouble at home, we’ve moved up a notch. She’s also half-passing beautifully in walk and learning to do so in a trot. The quality of her gaits has improved massively, and now she has a great, supple, forward walk and a good canter (apart from the nose, which still sticks out). She tends to drag her toes like a listless school horse in trot, but this is also improving.
Thunder is being a wonderful little angel, even more so than usual. And not so little anymore, either. Now about two and a half, Thun has finally gained back the condition he lost when he was weaned. His ribs have disappeared and, while still a bit of a coathanger, his chest is starting to broaden. He has lovely big solid legs, too, and his neck is going to be stunning with work – even untouched, it’s growing out in nice proportion.
Under saddle, Thunder is so much fun that I’m afraid he hardly ever gets lunged anymore. Even after just a few months of being ridden, he hardly ever bucks. He is perfectly reliable in the arena at walk and trot, and while he won’t buck or tear off in canter, he can be hard to get into a canter and doesn’t turn well to the right. I took him over his first little 30cm cross the other day and Thun did what he always does; looked at it and dealt with it like a five-year-old, not a half-backed baby.
The Cowboy Dude and I even took Thunder for his first three outrides last week. He was a star. He stared at a pile of hay and a strange bush as though they were about to eat him, but didn’t run, shy or behave badly at all. By the last outride, if he had been any more chilled, he would have been horizontal.
Have I mentioned that I quite adore him? He takes after his mother!
Siobhan, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be taking after her mother very much. After bucking Rain off very painfully onto her head, the pony semi-behaved for a little while – limiting her bucking to one or two jumps per ride – until last week she went into a completely unexpected bucking frenzy. The trouble with Siobhan’s moods is that I never see them coming; if she gives any warning, then I never notice it. Caught unawares and on a different planet by the looks of it, I only stuck on for a few bucks before turning a slow somersault over Siobhan’s head and knocking the wind out of myself. Note to self: Don’t do another of those somersault falls. They’re not pleasant. At least Rain caught it on camera, albeit failed to capture the expression on the Cowboy Dude’s face; I reckon that that would have been quite interesting.
After that supremely stupid mistake on my part, I got up, grabbed Siobhan, got back on and called her a lot of names (none of them profane, I promise) whilst making her canter until she quit being a pest. Realising how unwise it would be to try my patience when I was in such a bad mood, Siobhan behaved.
We’re in a pickle with her, though. She’s supposed to be Rain’s ride, but she has such terrible mood swings. It’s hard to predict when she’s going to blow, and when she does, it’s not pleasant. I’ve long since given up on using her for riding lessons – she’s just too unreliable, and I don’t need my students to go flying.
There’s been a lot to distract me from Siobhan, though. Firstly, Sookie Lynn is starting to shape up pretty nicely. She’s bringing her nose in, cantering on the right lead, backing up in something approaching a straight line, and responding much better to my legs. For a three-year-old, she’s learning very, very fast. Her movement is also quite spectacular to look at as well as being easy and comfortable to ride. Although she is a dressage horse to the bone and therefore hasn’t much of a jump, I’m getting very fond of her. We still have some stuff to work on – she nods her head a bit, which makes her look amiable and not very bright, even though she is; as well as having a habit of tipping her head to the right – but she’s doing fantastic.
There is also a new arrival at Bushwillow Stables: Ruach Stud has bought an absolutely stunning Dutch warmblood stallion, who goes by name of Joepie. Joepie has competed at 1.30m in showjumping and by the looks of it he can go higher. He is a huge, beautiful, vivacious horse with tons of talent and amazing movement. He only arrived at Bushwillow on Tuesday, and the big dude sure showed off once he was put into the ring to settle in. It is the first time I have ever seen a horse performing three perfect courbettes in succession without a handler. Quite amazing! He must weigh over 500kg, but he leaps off the ground as if he was as light as air. Joepie really is something.
Without more ado, then, O reader, I must leave you to go watch horses eat. Every single day I get to stand in all the wide, sweeping beauty of the glorious Highveld and listen to the sounds of champing teeth and swishing tails, filled with the smell of hay and horses and that special secret something that touches the air after rain. I moan and gripe some days, usually whilst being half buried under a pile of wet hay or holding a cold, muddy hoof between my knees as the grateful horse leans its full weight on this handy biped. But the horses are there and every day they are beautiful and every day they are the stunning creations of my Lord and God, Whom I love. Let everything that breathes praise His name.