Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A place to ride..

Finally, after so many months of waiting and my fair share of winters (and autumns and springs if there's enough rain) having to turn my horse out, we finally have an arena at the grazing. Nothing makes you appreciate an arena like having to ride in paddocks for three years.

& this one is enormous.

- No riding for the next few days as I'm waiting for the courier to deliver a fresh batch of toxin binder, but once that arrives we'll be away!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Horowhenua PC ODE

The ODE this weekend was not my favourite, I must say. We ended up withdrawing just before cross country started so unfortunately didn't get a finishing score for the event.

They say that pictures speak a thousand words, and so I'll let my horse show you himself how he was feeling about the day. The ears, eyes and nostrils say it all really, don't they (#allofthemonsters!).

Although I can't blame him, the whole weekend had been gale force winds and sideways rain. The kind of wind that blows bits of your roof off and tips your horse float over. Seriously, imagine your trailer just parked up, and then a gust of wind rocks up and tips it over (didn't happen to me but someone posted a photo in one of those horsey Facebook pages for riders in my area). That's the kind of wind we're dealing with. Add rain to that mix, and a horse that's high on spring grass and we have a situation that's challenging at best.

However! I was way too excited not to have a crack at it, it had been 56 months since our last ODE after all. So no amount of crappy weather was going to deter me. Plus, we were on super late for dressage so it wasn't like we had to face the horrible conditions at some ungodly hour of the morning or anything.

We arrived at the show grounds and my horse was completely unsettled to begin with. The dressage was on the other side of the property and way out of sight, so I wanted to jump on straight away and head over there.

The dressage test was 'L4' from the 2009 book, which I was stoked about because that is one really nice test to ride! Oscar was so incredibly tense slash downright rude during the warm up - snatching the bit, nose diving and snorting. It was horrendous. He was completely braced against me, and every time I put my leg on to bend him around it, he would just throw his nose up and canter. I think he got a shit tonne of rain up his nose because he wouldn't stop blowing it! I sent L back to the car to keep warm, he was saturated and there was no point him getting sick to watch a not very nice test.

There were moments though where Oscar tried really hard and was listening to me. With the wind howling and rain just hammering us, I'm really stoked that he did at least try to behave. Our actual test went along the same lines as the warmup - mostly tense, braced against me but with moments where he tried to be a good boy.

He switched legs during one of the canter movements and switched back again - flying changes are the current party trick! There was also a corner of the arena that was completely flooded so you couldn't see the sand underneath, and the pipes had blown over so the arena wasn't even rectangular. For a spooky horse he did very well!

When I got back to the float, L was feeling really guilty for not watching and had bought me a coffee to warm up - too cute. He looked miserable, and considering he spends six days a week out in the elements with horses, I felt really guilty for dragging him along on a day like that. I offered to scratch  from the rest of the event, but he said I had to do the show jumping. Went from hella cute to hella not in about five seconds. He quickly hurried me along with switching from dressage to jumping gear and then all but chased us out to the jumping arena. Oscar was shivering underneath me, so I really need to remember to add his waterproof exercise sheet to our show box.

I warmed up and saw that there were three jumps causing heaps of problems on the course. Oscar was jumping exceptionally well though and I was spotting strides for the first time ever. Don't know where that trick came from but huzzah! There were nine jumps on course, and L told me to take number five slowly as a few horses were slipping and/or stopping at it.

When my number was called and I got into the ring, I was so excited! What on earth self?! You finally learn to spot a stride and then you get excited about show jumping?! The bell rang and if horses had business pants, Oscar whipped his on! He just felt so chipper and confident going into all the jumps, was super tidy and straight and with them cute pricked ears that he wears on cross country. I had a smile on my face the whole way around the course.

I lost a stirrup coming into jump five, of all jumps, and didn't manage to pick it up in time. There was a sharp right turn into jump six, which was an oxer and part of a one stride double. Despite fumbling my way through the turn to get my stirrup back, Oscar kind of presented himself at the fence and popped over neatly. That jump had also caused a few problems when I was watching the course earlier, but Oscar wasn't fussed in the slightest. Such a champ! The fact that I can count on one hand the amount of times I've schooled show jumping in the last four years, but he still got on with the job in trying conditions is a huge testament to the kind of horse he is. I complain that he spooks at his own shadow, but I am so, so proud of his bravery and honesty when it comes to jumping. Maybe it's having something to focus on that stops him spooking, but he's just a different horse over fences.

We had a clear round, which bumped us up to third equal (I'm back number 98).

L said he was too nervous to take photos - aha! but they wouldn't have been great anyway thanks to the weather - though the rain had slowed to a drizzle by this point and we managed to get the photo of the two of us above. He looked truly miserable, freezing and tired. I was so proud of Oscar that I honestly didn't mind scratching from the rest of the show, despite being in third place and knowing that Oscar would have tackled the cross country course like a champ. Cross country is easily his favourite phase, and Horowhenua have an awesome course.

It goes from being out in the open, into a forest trail of sorts.

I would have loved to do that course, and the trees would have provided some shelter which would be well appreciated. However, both of my boys were saturated and cold and I felt really selfish keeping them in the rain for several hours whilst we waited for our turn and then prize giving. Like I said, it's our first ODE in 56 months and so just completing the dressage and a clear show jumping made for a nice outing for Oscar and a bit of a confidence boost. He was brilliant at our XC practise the other week, so now he's had a go at all three phases we're more than ready for Flaxmere in three weeks.

Flaxmere is in the Hawkes Bay, which is notoriously hot and sunny with brilliant weather - so hopefully it comes up with the goods!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 ways to get the most out of your pony club experience...

First, let me start by saying that pony club is potentially one of the best organisations ever and every pony-crazy kid needs to be given the opportunity to join! Seriously, if you have a kid - sign them up, they'll create a bunch of memories that they'll treasure forever.

The only thing that could beat pony club rally was pony club camp; which was most likely the highlight of every kids' calendar! Although every past and present member will tell you something different when you ask them about their pony club experience, chances are they'll all answer with a smile on their face (.... like the time I let my mumma ride my horse after I'd finished, and she used a water trough to climb on up. Needless to say, she ended up in the water trough, in front of about fifty other members - great memories ha...).

Really, you can't go wrong when it comes to joining a club - fun and friendship are all but guaranteed! However, there are certain things to bear in mind if you really want to get the most out of what is sure to be an awesome experience...


You will most likely find that there is more than one pony club near you. I can't tell you how much it will benefit you to visit, and if possible, try each club out. Most NZ pony clubs allow you to attend one, two or even three rallies unmounted at the very least. Some even let you participate mounted. Quite often the first club you visit isn't the best fit for you - they all have different instructors taking their rally groups, so watching the rallies held at the different clubs in your area will give you a good indication of which club can offer you the most.

Pony clubs also come in different sizes and structures. Some children will be more comfortable in a smaller club with fewer members, whilst other children will thrive in the larger clubs. Some clubs also cater for adult members, with their own designated adult rally. These clubs are fantastic if you want to participate in pony club either alone, or with your child!

Finally, the different clubs in your area all have different facilities. This may include such things as an arena or two, availability of show jumps, a cross country course catering for all levels, or even grazing for members' horses.

Either way, trying before buying can save you the stress or disappointment of discovering the club you joined is not really the right one for you.


To really get the most out of your club, you need to participate. It's no secret that pony club involves a significant time commitment, and most clubs will require you to help a certain amount of times - both in working bees and on event days. You will always take more away from your club than you'll ever put back into it, so painting jump poles at a working bee or being a jump judge for half a day at an event is not too much to ask. Nobody wants to look back on themselves or be known as the adult/kid that never helped!

If every member puts in a solid effort, a club continues to grow and improve. That increases the chances of new members joining and more event entries, which both bring in money to the club. More money coming in means more money available for spending, and guess who gets the benefits of that? That's right you lucky devil, so don't be afraid to get stuck in.

Helping out is also a fantastic opportunity to socialise with other club members and make new friends. Horse-riding friends are the best kind of friends, no question about it. It's quite likely that the person painting poles besides you is going to be the person causing havoc in the nursing home with you in the future!


At pony club you are going to meet a lot of people. Everyone you meet is going to have a different way of doing things, and not one way is the right way - not even yours! The girl who rides her horse with no bridle, and the girl who rides her horse in a pelham are both riding different horses and it's none of your concern what they're doing. Do your best to avoid discussions about another horse, rider or combination - you're all there to have fun with your horses, and that is the main thing.

Also, understand that your club works hard to provide the best instructors they can for you. Your instructor can see things from the ground that you can't see from the saddle, and chances are they'll have a bit more experience or knowledge than yourself. You and your horse will really start to develop as a combination if you are able to trust in the knowledge and guidance of your coach, even if it feels difficult or scary at the time.

Unless an instructor gives you advice that is detrimental to you or your horse's wellbeing, or puts either of you in danger, try not to question or argue with them. If you have any concerns the best person to talk to is the head coach, or the club president if need be.


There is absolutely no reason why you should spend your pony club years 'contained' within one club. The NZPCA spans the whole of New Zealand, and to really get the most from your experience you're going to want to interact with as many other pony clubs and their members as possible. The best way to do this is to get onto an area team! Some area teams compete in regional competitions, against the other areas within a region, whilst other teams compete nationally.

Obviously representing your area or region is a huge privilege, and something that everyone should aim to do because the experience is entirely worth all the hard work you put in. Being on a team requires you to travel, often with your team mates, and is a great chance to make lifelong friends. Chances are, making a team will be one of your favourite pony club memories in the future - so be ambitious!

Another amazing thing about pony club is that there are so many riders competing in different areas, at all different levels. Nowhere else in the equestrian world are you going to be able to regularly interact with such a huge range of horse-people in one space- make the most of the opportunity and find the people who inspire you. There is usually one or two riders at any club that will motivate you (and I'll bet you my last dollar that they're not the kid sneaking off when it's time to help at the working bee!). It never hurt anybody to find someone to motivate them, so make the most of being able to surround yourself with the people who are where you aim to be.


For most people, pony club is a brief period of their lives where they really get to enjoy their horse or pony with a bunch of good friends. It's a time of both endless opportunities and lots of guidance so to get the most out of it, you need to make the most of it.

Befriend everybody, but only let a select few influence you. Try out for everything and anything, you never know how good you are until you try. Sign up for every camp, day trip, outing, whatever... sign up for it - unless you've got a tonne of homework or something because... school is kinda important.

And most importantly, take a heap of photos! Make a Facebook photo album, print them off or flood your Instagram feed - having a bunch of photos to look back on will trigger #allofthememories and remind you just how awesome pony club really was!

I only got to attend pony club for a couple of seasons and so when a friend of mine signed her kids up, I was more than happy to help out! If you went to pony club, is there anything you'd add to that list?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Solway Practise Cross Country Day

I mentioned that the XC practise day was unfortunately rained off the other weekend, but the Pony Club rescheduled for the following Sunday - which was really fantastic of them!

The North Wairarapa Pony Club have some awesome grounds in Solway and a neat selection of jumps. We paid a $25 fee and then had unlimited access to the flagged cross country jumps, and a selection of five or six show jumps. I left Oscar in a day pen with a hay net whilst L and I walked the course. I wanted to practise a ditch/trakehner jump, water and a couple of logs.

Whilst there were no ditch/trakehner type jumps flagged for practise, we made up the 'scary jump quota' with a wide tiger trap fence, a brush and the water jump wasn't the most inviting. I'm really unfamiliar with what a pre-training course looks like now, after being out of the game for so long. So I kind of just picked my fences and course willy nilly. There was a house jump that, despite being super colourful, looked friendly enough. It was in the open, away from spooky tree branches and facing towards home. I kind of just waved at it and told L that I would pop over it on my way around. My course consisted of sixteen jumps, in this order:

  1. Tiny wooden ramp
  2. Tiny coop
  3. Inviting pre-training roll-top
  4. Brush fence between two trees
  5. Tiny log drop into a sunken road
  6. Up a bank and a tiny drop down off of it
  7. Hanging log followed by a one stride to..
  8. Over a tiny log and straight into the water
  9. Pre-training ramp 
  10. Pre-training solid fence (can't actually remember if this was a log or a coop, or what)
  11. Scary tiger trap/box
  12. House jump
  13. Ramp
  14. Ramp
  15. Staircase combination (two steps)
  16. Tiny log type fence between low hanging branches

I honestly believe my horse knows when he's jumping and when we're doing flatwork - I change his bridle, bit, saddle and boots when we jump and so it's not farfetched to think he knows that when he's wearing a grackle noseband and fulmer snaffle, we're either going to work at pace or over fences. Therefore as soon as I hopped on and took a contact he was bouncing off his hocks, snatching the reins and shaking his head. Experience has shown that the best thing to do when he is wound up is to canter. And canter and canter, until he's settled. Just keep working that canter because Oscar is that boy at school who is always running around trying to rough and tumble with the other kids and is distracted at the drop of a hat - the only tactic with these kinds of critters is to tire them out. Well, try to. 

Anyway, L had kindly sacrificed his one day off to drive me a long way to the practise XC day, so I was really pushing myself to get around the course in record time and get back on the road to get home in time for him to go fishing for the afternoon. 

I probably should have worked harder to get my horse softer and back on his haunches more, but as soon as the worst of the head shaking was over I popped on over to the show jumps. The course was tiny! I hate show jumping though and was desperate to get out onto the cross country course so I didn't bother adjusting them - such a wasted opportunity, but I guess I'll just have to deal with the consequences of avoiding practising show jumping if they arise. 

Because the jumps were so teeny, my horse didn't even look at them. Being the kid who likes to rough and tumble he's usually ready to give anything a go - in reality the practise is mostly for my sake. 

The biggest jump, feat. me riding like it's twice the height, because... show jumping.

L was chatting to a client the first time I went over the course, so I had to do it one more time for his pleasure. Oscar didn't pull me around the turns so much the second time, so hooray for small bonuses. We then went straight out onto cross country where my horse proceeded to jig and get excited. He absolutely remembered what cross country was all about, and he was loving it! I'll let the ears and eyes in the photo below do the talking!

I'm biased but, my goodness, is my horse cute or what?!

So Oscar was super excited immediately when we got out onto the cross country course. I clicked him forward into a canter and set off straight away. The first jump was a tiny wooden ramp that we got too fast into - come to think of it, we got into most of the jumps a little fast or flat. We had a sweeping u-turn to the second jump, which again was tiny. You can actually see jump number three in the photo above, the roll top that looks to be behind the coop. We had to cross the gravel footpath after jump number two, and my horse slowed down to a trot by himself - clever cookie. Despite getting slightly strong, he doesn't lose his mind with it. 

Jumps one and two were so tiny - not sure if they'd be pre-intro or intro level...

I'm doing some crazy release over jump number two, the only explanation I can offer is that I was half halting vigorously coming into that fence and after working hard at not sitting on the handbrake when jumping, I overcompensated.... severely.

Jump three went without a hitch, but jump four was well off course and was heading towards these massive wrought iron gates leading off the property. Oscar slammed the brakes on about four strides out, and I only managed to trot him up to the brush fence by flapping my legs and clicking the whole way up to it. You can see how deep he got to this jump, I literally had to ride him every inch forwards. iPhone zoom leaves a lot to be desired...

I circled and re-jumped this fence from a canter the second time around which earned Oscar #allofthepats. He loves being told how good he is. After jump four being so hairy, I decided to canter Oscar through the sunken road before circling and jumping down onto it, just to get him going super confident again. 

Then it was the tiny drop off of the bank, to circle around over the hanging log and into the water. The log was no issue, but the water jump was less than inviting. It was murky and dark, and Oscar had to go over a log to drop in. He actually ran out for the first time ever! He had no clue that trick existed until that jump when he was like 'uh huh, no way!' and ran sideways past the water. I am a little unforgiving with horses that run out. Stop, sure. You can pause, hesitate and look before popping over the jump - but running out is a different kettle of fish. 

I probably should have walked him through the water and then asked him to jump into it, but when I made a second attempt over the log and into the water he just hopped in.

Such a champ. We turned left on exiting the water and came full circle to the hanging log. You might be able to make the footpath out from the photo above, it runs parallel to those trees. We headed up there for the next jump and unfortunately left our photographer behind.

The rest of the course went without a hitch - Oscar seemed to find his stride after 'defeating' the water and just felt so bold across the rest of the course. Our twelfth jump was the house, and as we rode up to it I remember thinking 'oh lord - that's huge!'. It was really wide, and if it wasn't a pre-novice fence then it was max training height. Oscar bashed his feet on it going over as it's the biggest thing he's jumped in forever. It felt amazing to jump something that required a bit of effort again though! 

We found our photographer again at the staircase. It's so nice having photos, even if they are blurry and taken on a cell phone. 

L takes his job as chief photo taker really seriously and even papped us walking back to the float once we finished. As per usual, my horse's tail looks magnificent. I didn't even brush it out!

I walked back to the float incredibly excited for the upcoming ODE. I'm nervous for the show jumping, but the cross country will more than make up for that I'm sure! L had somehow sneaked an apple past me whilst I was packing, and had stashed it away for Oscar once we finished. Once I had washed, dried and loaded up my horse he just whipped out this juicy little treat. He can be so sweet, especially for a male and even more especially for a farrier!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Let's go to the beach!

Last Thursday, as in the Thursday before last, I was somehow successful in winning the battle with L to float Oscar and I to the beach! It's not that I am violently adverse to driving myself and my horse there, but I wanted company for the first beach trip in a long time.

I needn't have worried! A few years ago (maybe five or six) Oscar spent a solid week or two on the beach, well on a coastal property, working on the beach during his stint as a movie star. As such, he's pretty comfortable with waves rolling in and sand for miles. Also, Manawatu beaches are a hundred times tamer than the wild west Auckland beaches he's used to.

Still, I packed up the dogs and my obliging other half and we headed out to the coast on a family adventure of sorts. Unfortunately, I come from a long line of people cursed with the inability to get out of the door on time when it involves more than just getting themselves ready. I knew high tide was around lunch time and despite being ready first thing in the morning, by the time we actually got our shit together we rolled up at Tangimoana around 11.30. Excellent, right on high tide.

Still, there is an (tide affected - thanks Coastal Environments paper at Massey haha) estuary at Tangimoana with sand flats on either side of the river mouth so you can ride on wet sand despite the tide being in. If you're unfamiliar with Tangimoana beach, there is a tonne of driftwood washed onshore. That beach is a driftwood graveyard.

Thankfully the estuary isn't as packed as the beach with driftwood, but there are still a few logs scattered around that make pretty sweet makeshift cross country jumps! And the bonus of a beach that collects heaps of driftwood is that it also collects heaps of sand, and that sand makes sand dunes! Yay for sand dunes. The Manawatu has one of New Zealand's largest dune fields, which means that we got to go for a little explore around them. My geography loving brain was in heaven - exploring coastal processes and landforms on the back of a horse was such a treat for me. Having L and the dogs explore besides us was hands down the best date ever, even if nobody else appreciated the geography in the situation haha.

Once I was dragged away from my explorations we'd done exploring, it was time for a little cardio on the sand.

(I wish I had the technological skills to have all of the above photos equally square and in a visually pleasing grid - alas, my talents don't stretch to HTML!)

I was so blown away, in a good way, with Oscar's behaviour on the sand. We cantered around for a while meandering between bits of driftwood, and even jumped over a few of the more solid and safe looking pieces. Despite being on his own out on the coast (during movie making he was amongst five other horses at all times), he never once tried to bolt back home or get strong or snarky to pull up.

We had a short gallop both heading out to the coast and heading back home, and even when we picked up a bit of speed going back towards the float he was easy to slow down and halt. He might be a bit of a spookster but on the whole he's just such a cruisey horse. I haven't had an opportunity to gallop him literally in years!- and it was something I definitely wanted to do before our first event.

Once I had finished riding, L and I tried to get a photo with Oscar and the dogs. It proved to be way too difficult, and despite the estuary being super handy for riding when the tide is in - it's not very picturesque. The day was overcast and pretty grey, so we just walked back to the float where we had two cold drinks and a bag of doritos waiting. Such a great day!