Friday 31 January 2014

Friday Flashback II

I'm not sure how well the first installment of this feature was received or whether comments are down due to the url name change & people no longer finding their way here.
Hopefully it is the latter case and people will find their way back sooner rather than later & perhaps I might get to spend more time in the saddle and actually give you guys something to read ;-)

Anyways no more waffle from me - here are today's Friday Flashback photos of what could have been my first pony back in '88/'89. Sadly not meant to be as my dad got a job offer in Luxembourg and the whole family moved at the end of 1989 and I had to wait until a few months after my 21st birthday when I moved back to Ireland to finish my degree after a year abroad to meet Kika in 2007.

Again no helmet -  I have no excuse other than I don't know what my parents were thinking
However I did own a helmet in & around that time as evidenced from the below...

Proof of helmet
And just for funsies, here's another gratuitous early riding pic, sadly again no dates on this pic but I reckon it was taken before the ones above. I look a lot smaller...although then again the pony is larger than a shetland...

Yes - a helmet...but no hands or stirrups, lol, pity I didn't turn into a horse-riding prodigy
All these images are mobile phone pictures of printed pictures...apologies for any loss of quality!

Sunday 26 January 2014

Sunday Saddle Time

As is sadly becoming more frequent than I'd like - I did not get to spend as much time in the saddle as I would have liked last week. Nancy was last ridden on Monday & Kika Tuesday. Although to be fair...I don't think they'll be heard complaining ;-)

Due to my last couple of rides getting me down in the dumps (LINK), I decided to try a change of pace this afternoon & set up some pole work for the three of us; which it turns out wasn't a bad idea at all if I may be so bold as to say so. My issues are far from resolved, but having something else to work on while riding gave me a much needed confidence boost to keep plugging away and trying to fix my issues - a battery recharge if you will.

Poles Picture taken from N's back after we'd finished.
Figured it'd be better than my poor Paint attempts.

I started with Kika, she was good if distracted to warm up - I took my time in walk before moving up to trot work when she proved she wasn't going to settle any further in walk & in fact was only going to start looking for ways to entertain herself if I didn't change the question...Message received my dear - and work she did. Silly sod, can't just take life easy when it's being offered to her! We warmed up with w/t/c before starting in on the poles. Doing each set in both directions before linking some of the sets together with changes of rein in between. We finished with some lovely canter departs immediately after the poles staying nice soft & balanced for a circle and one long side of the arena before coming back to trot changing direction over more poles and repeating the exercise in the other direction off the other rein. I was super happy with her, we haven't come close to resolving my crooked or poor riding issues, but changing the scenery was just what we needed to re-find our feng shui & get back on the same (misguided) page.

Nancy was also a very good girl, having the poles to concentrate on and change our focus really helped both of us today. Typically myself & Nancy get on great until the first piece of canter work after which everything tends to go down hill...I know the snowballing badness is my fault as I must be tense or closing my hands on the reins and stressing her or something to make things go so wretchedly after what is usually nice canter work in itself. It is the trot work afterward that gets stressy & her head comes up as she starts fighting with me - I am trying to work on softening my hold on the reins but struggle with it as I don't want her to careen off with me...practice / practice / practice and we'll get there I hope. Fingers-crossed I don't ruin he ruin the mean time! *blush*

Anyway, sorry got off track there!

The poles really helped me with Nancy as it gave us both something else to concentrate on and helped me re-focus, relax and release my death-grip on the reins. The split second "break" in concentration needed to line N up with the poles allowed my brain kick into gear and remember to not do the things I wasn't supposed to be doing...Sorry, that probably doesn't make sense at all - but it deff helped! We even got more lovely relaxed canter work followed by stress-free trotting combined with the pole work. Perhaps I should include some sort of pole pattern in all my rides on Nancy until I can get my brain & body conditioned into riding her properly & not stressing the little things - thereby making me tense & having a knock-on effect on her and snowballing our bad ride experiences...just something to think about.

This weeks Plan of Attack for the Week:
- Monday: Lunge both girls
- Tuesday: The Guru has asked to ride one and I'll ride the other
- Wednesday: L can either ride both or again just one and I'll ride the other
- Thursday: Probably a day off
- Friday: I hope to ride both
- Saturday: Pole work with both
- Sunday: Either lesson with the Guru or flat work on my own

Here's hoping I am better at sticking to the PoAftW then I was last week - sometimes I really am a shambles!!

Friday 24 January 2014

Friday Flashback I

I would like to make this a regular feature on my blog pending this inaugural post's reception. Aka if you like it; please leave a comment ;-)

Possibly my first equine encounter?! Sadly photo isn't dated, but my sis wasn't born yet so i'm going for '86-'87
The idea behind this feature, besides the fun eliteration the title allows me, is the ability to share a bit more background knowledge about my "horsey" life. Although I was a latecomer to horse ownership I am lucky to have been born into a "horsey" family - although not necessarily my immediate family, however my mother & sisters can all ride and my dad likes to remind us of the "horsey" slants to his family tree also...I hope to elaborate on all these connections as this FF feature blossoms...all going well.
Concrete proof my mother only has herself to blame for my eq-diction
Each week will feature one or more photos with tidbits of background information depending on what I can remember and/or get people that were there to help me fill in the gaps. :-)

Further proof of the role she played in equine journey

Random Rambling Alert
(Touché not much different to what I normally write)
I caught the tail end of the tv-segment Riders Club on Eurosport Wednesday evening when I got in late from work & didn't make it to the yard #LeSadTimes
LINK to photosource & Article

Congratulations to Zara Phillips & Mike Tindall on the birthday of their daughter (adorably named Mia Grace) earlier in the week ... talk-about a power-couple; sod Brangelina these two combine 2 of my favourite past-times to watch: Horses (obvs) & Rugby...although being Irish - patriotism makes it difficult for me to like English teams/players

LINK to H&C Article
Also congrats extended from Pampered-Ponies to Team GB London Olympic Gold medalist Laura Tomlinson (neé Bechtolsheimer) & her husband who announced they are expecting their first baby later this year.

Baby boom has hit EQ-land!

Completely unrelated to the rest of this post, but please cross fingers & toes for the Guru & her horse O who have an appointment at a vet Clinic in Belgium today to try and suss out why the mare has been so on/off lame for the past year & a half/two years.
She has been diagnosed with navicular,  but how bad is it? What are the treatment options/injections? Is it the hereditary type or could L breed from her? Would the mare be more comfortable retired?
So many questions that I hope she gets answers to!

Fingers crossed this Happy Healthy Horse returns!

PS: Belatedly edited to add (cos i'm a muppet and forgot this when i posted this morning); the rider in the first picture is my mam's youngest brother & the other two photos are my mother holding me as a baby and were taken at her family's home place. This farm features predominantly in my obsession with horses! It is also where Kika lived when we were in Ireland (after i bought her from her breeder) and where Nancy was born & lived until i meanly brought her out here to join Kika & myself.

PPS: I vehemently do not condone riding without a helmet - nor does my mother for that matter - what can i say the 80s were a diff time i guess. Ask calvin Harris about things being acceptible in the 80s (or at least i think that is who released that song...but please correct me if i am wrong)

Thursday 23 January 2014


Sadly my PoAftW  changed due to workload yesterday I didn't make it to the barn last night!

I LOVE the BBT - Hopefully Sheldon is wrong on this occasion though ;-)

What the plan was supposed to look like for the week:

"Monday - Guru schools Kika / I rode Nancy
Tuesday - Ride Kika / Lunge Nancy
Wednesday - Guru schools Nancy / I lunge Kika
Thursday - Farrier due / down day for girls
Friday - Ride both girls
Saturday - Ride both girls
Sunday - Lesson on one or both girls"

What it is now looking like:

- Nancy not lunged Tuesday
- Neither worked Wednesday
- Farrier + planned day off Thursday (hopefully goes to plan)
- Friday will be lunging day for the pair of them
- Saturday pole work day for change of pace for them & me
- Sunday lesson with Guru or flatwork day...hopefully better for changes in scheduling ;-)

Also think I should mention that I changed the url for my case anyone was having difficulty finding me - please spread the word!
I changed my blog address from lyssatra.blogspot to pampered-ponies.blogspot; as Lyssatra is Kika's registered name & I wanted to include Nancy in the me sappy & sentimental and I'll wear those badges with pride when it comes to my girls as I want them both to get equal recognition & blogtime.

In actual pony news today, I did manage to make my lunchtime-mad-dash-on-public-transport-across-town to turn the girls out. My worries about the farrier not being finished in time for me to be able to turn the little darlings out for the afternoon (which would have sucked with my not being able to get to the barn tonight if they'd had to spend the day inside!) proved unfounded as he was just finished with Kika when I arrived. Sadly for him he had to contend with my broken & very poor German as i asked if they were good & their feet were ok - thankfully all seems well! *happy dance*
Took two quick snaps of the girlies feet for memorabilia sake cos as we've already established...I'm a sentimental sap!

Kika 2-front & 1 sneaky hind

Nancy 2-front & 2-hinds'ish

If i understood correctly with my poor German, he said all 6 barefeet were fine - 4x for Nancy & 2x hinds for Kika. He said that he made Kika's feet a little smaller however that it shouldn't cause a problem for arena work, but that she might be a little ouchy if too much work done too quickly outside of arenas or on I have no such plans, this is a non-issue for us. :)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Down in the Dumps

Apologies in advance for what is probably going to be a whiney/self-indulgeant post.
My Tuesday evening spin with Kika went quite pear-shaped which is unfortunate as we had been getting on great of late.

Kika was less than impressed with my impromptu photos
I was then berating myself & my incapabilities; that to have lunged Nancy afterwards would have been a pointless excercise as she is not the best on the lunge so it ends up being a needlessly stressy experience for us rather than upset the apple cart further for the evening I gave her the night off, in the hopes that she wouldn't be affected by my negative ninny energy.

Google Image

A couple of places where I think I went wrong:
- I am bent as an S-hook in the saddle on our bad rein which doesn't help matters at all save to frustrate us both
- I am trying to change my whole MO when riding as apparently I have been doing it wrong for years
  •  which is so disheartening to hear & I am finding it quite difficult to correct as I am now second guessing my first instinct
- Kika will rarely help me out by offering what she knows I am trying to ask for if it means more/proper work required from her. 
I finally remembered to snap K in her quarter sheet

I am well aware that I have many holes in my eq-cation. I learned the basics of walk/trot/canter/jumping but never properly learned the nitty-gritty of riding properly, working the horse correctly or having good eq. My hands are awful and most of the time I can't even keep my heels down - what I need is lessons on a school-master and to be brought back to basics, neither of which is currently available to me funds or time-wise sadly. So shall plug away with my horses & the Guru and hope I can regain some semblance of control over myself!

The evening was then topped off when Nancy got a fright and jumped down on my foot - she's not too light...shall see whether I still have a toenail in the coming days ;-)
Somehow her frying-pan sized feet managed to simultaneously clobber the tip of my toe & my ankle-joint (where my leg meets my foot) - shall monitor bruising & share photos if impressive LOL!

I feel terrible being such a Debbie Downer when I actually have it so good. I am healthy (bar the toe/foot), I have two wonderful kind & healthy horses and great barn (and other) friends who are there to help pick me up from my mental bashing and coach me along to help me get better. Others are not so lucky as me between injuries and other less pleasant things - I really have nothing to be so negative about & feel very bad for moaning!

I need to suck it up, brush myself off and keep trying - hopefully one day I'll get there.

Another Google Images gem
The plan (drafted yesterday!) For this evening's eq-ventures has possibly changed pending my escape time from work & arena availability. All going well on both those fronts, Kika and I may get a well needed change of scenery with some pole work...fingers crossed! Nancy will still get some Guru schooling, not sure if she too will get to play over poles or not. Whatever the outcome it deff cannot hurt any of us.

PS: Spent my commutes yesterday catching up on Carrot Top's blog & love all her gif'ing (yes I have now made that a word!) - hence the slightly random images in this post I guess, ;)
If you haven't checked out her blog before, you are missing out - her posts are awesomely funny with unique handrawn re-enactments of hers & her horses adventures + cool use of gifs!
It is a super fun read & should deff not be missed!

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Plan of Attack for the Week (PoAftW)

I'm such a muppet, the whole point of yesterday's post was to lay out my plan for the week & I forgot!  *blush*

Google images

Anyway, here goes:

Monday - Guru schools Kika / I rode Nancy
Tuesday - Ride Kika / Lunge Nancy
Wednesday - Guru schools Nancy / I lunge Kika
Thursday - Farrier due / down day for girls
Friday - Ride both girls
Saturday - Ride both girls
Sunday - Lesson on one or both girls

Google Images

Hope to lay out a plan like this for myself each week, hopefully next week I remember to include it in Sunday/Monday post!

Monday 20 January 2014

Memory Lane Monday

Well sort of, the photos decorating this post will be the "memories" from July 2013 (I'm not sure I shared them here...apologies if you have already seen them); my verbal vomit will be from today - apologies in advance....but here's a photo to start us off on the right foot.

Kika was lucky today and got a schooling spin from the Guru before I arrived. L said she was very good in the newly resurfaced arena; which is deep & most people are avoiding for the moment. Which I am secretly delighted about as it's the arena with a full wall of mirrors and is usually the busiest. So I'm thrilled people are shunning it & I get to play in there to my hearts content - plus it keeps my spins on the girls short & really is very deep and I don't want to push them so hard that they do themselves a mischief.

I got another spin in on Nancy, it was one of the best spins I have had on her in a while. A few posts back is evident as to how down on myself I've been about my inability to gel with N in arena setting. Now there has been no magical miracles, we are still very much a work in progress,  but with the Guru's tips in mind and a game plan to walk/trot and then tackle our canter issues before we both got too tired. The canter itself isn't the issue as such although it too is a work in progress; we struggle with the downward transition & N being slightly wired and running rather than calmy resuming a nice balanced trot.

I think the deeper footing possibly also worked in my favour to keep Nancy's speed in check when transitioning down. However I did have to remind myself to release her head and if she didn't slow once pressure left the reins after a couple of strides I brought her back to walk; attempted to defuse the situation/de-stress us both; ask a different question and then once I had her concentrated again re-asked for the canter.
Oddly I got it perfectly on our normally bad side first go...probably because she wasn't expecting it as such. Then our typically better side took a lot of stop/starting and re-phrasing the question as we were getting our signals crossed and she'd strike off on the wrong lead or start right but throw herself about playing in the deeper footing that she ended up wrong and we had to go back to square one & defuse the situation.

"Whatcha doin'?!"

She did give me a nice big buck and some more prancing/dancing but as she was on the correct lead we weathered the "storm" and came back to trot/walk then tried again and finished with another lovely correct lead canter.

In total I was only in the saddle for 30mins as the footing is so deep and she'd been really good (the buck & leaping weren't malicious). I was super happy with the pair of us after our less than stellar saddle time logged of late.

Kika then covered me in pollen as
she had to devour all the things near me!

I got two lovely compliments yesterday & today. First was an elderly lady who has a young (same age as Nancy I think) Iberian mare, I want to say Lusitanien but I'm just not sure. Kika & I shared the arena with her yesterday and when I was finished (after her) and rejoined her in the grooming bay; she said she really liked how I warmed K up in walk first and then eased her into trot/canter work. She said she has seen a lot of people go straight into demanding trot work (with draw reins or the like) without warming the horse up properly. She said she would have no qualms in asking me to ride her mare for her if she couldn't make it one I'm not sure I would accept if that ever does happen as I don't think I'm a good enough rider for her young horse. I'm happy to tinker with my girls, make mistakes & learn from them...I don't think I'd be good enough to school someone else's young impressionable horse!
The second compliment was this evening & less for me as for Nancy.  She has won herself another admirer. A lovely French guy, who is a fab rider & has had some of the most rotten luck with his super horse being more or less out of work for the two years he has been at the yard...but when they have been able to work, man are they like poetry!
He was full of praise for my Nancy & really liked what he saw - even though it was me in the saddle! I think, he like a lot of people initially dismissed her as heavy or plain due to her breeding/looks but man can she fair float when ridden properly...not that she often looks lile that with me. *blush* but sometimes we can coordinate wnough for it to look kind of nice ;-)
I wasn't talking to him myself, but L was while N and I attempted to work at the other end of the arena and she relayed the message to me afterwards. Apparently he was excited, yet surprised at the thought I'd let him ride her. I'm only too happy for better riders than myself who want to try my girls, seeing how others ride them & how the girls react can only be educational for them and me.
Does that make me weird?

Right enough waffle out of me, thanks to whoever has read this post to the end! All pbotos were taken the 19th of July as the girls supervised my poo-picking of their field ;-)

Sunday 19 January 2014

Rider Review: Ariat Windmere Boots

I had a quick search of the Ariat website but I'm not sure they sell these boots anymore which is a massive pity as I'd have bought another pair in a heartbeat.

Winter 2012

I picked up my pair on offer at the RDS Dublin Horse Show in Ireland in August 2012. Getting them back to Luxembourg travelling with a budget airline in the hottest month of the year was interesting and a fun start to my life with them as i wore them home ;-)
I got them at almost €100 off, to say I was delighted would be an understatement. I adore them and have gotten so much wear out of them. Heck I practically live in them during the Autumn/Winter and even some Spring months.

Pre-cleaning today
I wear them daily to go to the yard on my lunch break to turn out the little darlings and have ridden in them before but prefer my jodh boots & gaiters as my feet/ankles felt too loose in the Windmeres. However that is a personal preference and not a reflection on the boot itself which is made to be ridden in as well as worn for "country" wear.

Post-cleaning today
I will hold my hand up and admit that I have not always taken the best care of my boots, but as can be seen from the photos accompanying this blogpost they clean up alright when I bother. I have been known to wear them to my office job and in fact cleaned them up today to take me to the theater to see West Side Story :-D
Now I would never lay claim to being a fashionista in any way shape or form, but these are a fab multi-purpose boot that take me from everyday life to the yard and back.

My boots at the theater today
These boots have kept my feet dry & warm in rain and snow and have great grip when walking on icy routes.
Now that it would appear (from my brief google) that the production of these boots has been discontinued I shall be scouring the net for a back up pair for if/when mine give up the ghost.

Nancy sussing out the new arena surface
In actual pony news I got both girls ridden this morning for quick spins after their vaccines last week. Kika was an angel in a busy arena as we worked through our paces. W/T/C without asking for too much or breaking a sweat.
Nancy was a superstar in the largest arena just the two of us as we tested out the new surface. It is a bit deep at the moment but that probably worked in our favour as we struggle with my teething problems ;-)

Saturday 18 January 2014

Saturday Stills

I have some media to share as the girls enjoy their 2 (3) days holiday post annual vaccines, so no new riding news from us.

I am walking a friends OTTB gelding for 10mins twice a day this weekend and next as she is off sunning herself in Florida for a week for her husbands birthday (lucky buggars). Her poor OTTB did himself a tendon injury a month or so back and so has to walk for 6 months :-(

Neither Nancy or Kika got turned out Thursday nor Friday so I thought they'd be Cray-Cray today when let loose, but the video above is as mental as they got. Fast forward 0.50ish seconds for the most explosive action offered, other than that it's just the girls getting down & dirty (rolling).

Kika sniffing out the electric fencing - always on the look out for a weakness

Please send thoughts and prayers to sprinklerbandits who had to make the very heartbreaking brave yet tough decision to PTS her Heart Horse Cuna. My heart aches for her following this very hard decision, I hope that should the time come for me to make such a call for an animal in my life that I can handle it with the care & grace she did.

Don't forget to hug your horse as often as you can - I'm off to do just that with mine...after cleaning their stables and setting everything up nice & cozy for the spoiled creatures!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Salon du Cheval - Paris Report + Photos

On the 5th of December the Guru & I had a very early start - the TGV train left Luxembourg at 6.10am to arrive in Paris shortly after 8am. The amazingly generous @EquestrianTrend (you should all check out her fab blog - although it should come with a shopping warning...she finds & shares the coolest products!) offered me two free passes to the Salon de Cheval in Paris!
O-M-G right?!

I shall hopefully keep this post word-light & photo heavy. It was an amazing day trip, as we caught the 19.40 train back to Luxembourg - we were home for 10pm.
Talk about Legendary!!!

I snapped a few interesting trade stands that caught my eye of products I hadn't heard of before in case the super kind @EquestrianTrend was looking for inspiration

There were also plenty crazy boot options on display!

These were in a revolving glass case

While on the subject of boots - I also came across this funky product to protect your boots made from rubber. I didn't go up to the stand, but it would seem you slip them on over your boots to protect the soles from mud/dirt/water/dust ... etc

I also had a proper fangirl/drool-moment over this stand...@Hillary I am super jealous of your latest splurge

There were also lots of little arenas set up where people were putting on stock displays, Studs/breeders & Riding schools/Professionals were showing off their horses many of which were for sale - so many cuties, the Guru & I were really tempted by the Arabo-Friesian weanlings!

A lovely 6yr old Frisiean mare - apologies for blurry camera phone photo

The adorable Arabo-Friesian weanlings
Right is the filly I was after, the Guru prefered the colt on the Left
Cool as cucmbers chillin out in the middle of the massive Expo Hall

There were also National & Amateur Jumping & Dressage competitions being held in the middle of all this - snapped on panoramic shot from the stands between dressage riders while we scoffed our lunch.

Panoramic shot - click to enlarge for full effect
I also have 3 little videos; one of the two Arabo-Friesian weanlings literaly floating - oh my what a step & two of really cool voltige horses & riders from an extreemly talented group - we only caught the tail end of their display, but they were fab & fun. Really got the crowd going...hopefully I can get the videos uploaded onto youtube & add them to this blog post tomorrow from work...shhh don't tell the boss ;-)

The first video is ready, check out the awesome floaty-ness. The filly (who was my fav) is on the inside with the red flower in her mane.

I did make some purchases: three pairs of reins & two bits - so far I have actually only used one of each - and completely forgotten to take photos *le-shame*. Will see if I can remember to remedy that!

I cannot thank @EquestrianTrend enough for her unbelievable generosity, I'd never have thought of making the day-trip, although it is obviously extreemly do-able, only for her so kindly offering me the tickets. The Guru & I are now infact considering returning to Paris for a day/overnight for the Saut Hermes in March...I must actually get to thinking about that and see if there are tickets available & cost it out etc!
The Sunday of the Salon du Cheval is actually the Gucci Paris Masters - who knows maybe next year we'll head down on the Sunday for a gawk....

In actual horsey news, both girls got their annual vaccines this evening so they shall have two days off work completely and be re-introduced to some light work on Sunday all going well. Vet had been out yesterday to other horses on the yard as apparently there is a cough doing the rounds - but fingers crossed the combination of fresh air & not being in the stable 24/7 will help my girls steer clear of infection!
B (my vet) did say that while at the yard yesterday, she saw the Guru schooling Nancy and complimented us on how well she has muscled up & in the right way - can't hear nice things like that often enough.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

A Year With Nancy

 A year ago TODAY Nancy arrived in Luxembourg!

Here is her arrival post (LINK), I can't believe how far we have come in 12 months. This post is going to be a bit of a year in review/celebration of Nancy joining Kika & myself out here in Luxembourg.

We still have random teething problems and regularly run into issues - more to come on that, but this is to be expected when working with young horses coming into their teenage years and beginning to question everything you ask.

Can someone please remind me why I decided to try to navigate these waters again?! I only barely managed myself and Kika's partnership together thanks to unbelievable help from the Guru - she is a LEGEND and thankfully she is invested in nacy and myself as well as continuing my progression with Kika! I cannot say enough good things about L, she truly is one in a million - I am blessed by her friendship!

Arrival Confo shot for comparison
Poor phone quality shot taken tonight

Sorry she's not standing great in these but I had no one to hold her for me
12 months ago the initial introduction to Kika went heaps smoother then I thought it would as they became Fast Friends, completely blindsiding me Kika was super sweet & welcoming towards Nancy. I think the fact that N was born and bred at the yard I used to keep Kika at in Ireland (my mother's family farm now a livery yard & foaling unit run by her sister) bode well for her as Miss Kika can be territorial and snarky towards other horses...what can I say she is a mare! Perhaps K had seen N from across a fence divide as Nancy would have been a foal/yearling when Kika was in Ireland and Miss K is nothing if not maternal - she loves foals & ponies that are smaller than her. I may be kidding myself but I think she knew Nancy from before, even though they never shared a field - maybe it was enough for the introduction/safe-haven/welcome from Kika that N smelt "familiar" - although perhaps I am personifying equine behaviour and am in fact way off the mark!

Throughout the year Nancy has been a super star, taking everything in her stride and being phazed by very little; not melting snow falling from arena roofs or horses getting out of their lunging equipment (think completely loose in arena - as in managed to get out of their tack) - LINK, N couldn't care less if horses are being lunged in the arena with her - even if they spaz out and buck & fart about the place. She is a dream to hack (LINK) and doesn't blink at anything, in company (LINK) or alone (LINK), in front or behind - she is one happy camper...which is great for me after Kika's far from smooth forestry outings although she is a lot better than she used to be but she will always have her moments and a certain edge to her.

In June both girls and I had our first off-site outing when we all went on a rally which took us through woods, fields, towns/villages with food pitstops along the way. So lots of stop starting, mounting & dismounting - both girls behaved liuke angels. Photo blow-by-blow post HERE
We also moved both girls off-site for 3 months of the summer, where we had no arenas and care-free hacking for the remainder of summer. The Big Move - LINK, Kika got ponied as we hacked through the woods from the yard to the summer turnout field a couple of towns away.

Sister 1 & Nancy - LINK
 Nancy ha snot only been a superstar for me, but 3/4 of my immediate family members have all had spins on her! My dad being the exeption - but he has never really ridden and doesn't see the need to start now, but he does come to say hi every now and then and has been a great support to me playing chauffeur if i need a lift!

She looked after the Mammy for me
Sister 2

Super Nancy as also minded a uni friend who rode when she was younger and a work colleague of mine's daughter.

My war-horses in their fly-gear - LINK

I was also able to pony Kika from Nancy's back as we hacked back to the yard at the end of summer - typically in drizzly rain as the light started to fade - so sorry for poor quality photo!

We have had our ups & downs this year. While our ridden work seems to have come full circle with my issues re-surfacing now that I am trying to ride properly in an arena after so much forestry hacking - I cannot pretend that it hasn't been an amazing year as we tackled many firsts together. Including my first ever horse-riding holiday with my girls & first time EVER riding on a beach do so with my own girls was just the icing on the cake (LINK). Even though I combined that first with my first fall from Nancy, it was a nice soft landing ;-)

The two ladies being very cute - LINK

Apologies not a great angle for photo
 LINK 03/11/2013

While remembering firsts - I musn't forget N being a great big brave girl for her first & later second time being clipped - she is such a LEGEND.

And for the end of our trip down memory lane with firsts & recaps - I cannot forget her first time with the Guru at the training clinic in December - LINK to all the videos of N strutting her fancy stuff. Here's hoping I can ride her like that some day!

"Baby" Sister & the two girls just before Christmas LINK 24/12/2013 
Despite the wonderful first year we have had together and all these lovely firsts - sadly my arena time with Nancy appears to have come full circle and I am having issues when "working" her. I had the Guru watch & give me some pointers on Sunday, below are the take-aways from that & my thoughts since.

I am to keep my leg on every stride and release in front with my hands - not let go of the reins or throw away teh contact but move mz hands/arms forward to release the pressure on her mouth so she has nothing pull/lean against.
I am to hold the outside rein and let go inside while playing with the inside rein - i have this completely backwards and need to re-programme my brain to hope to get it right!

When Nancy gets defensive/leans I am to move my hands forward and release pressure on her head, I am subconsciously applying pressure with my hands/fingers. If I feel her pull/speed up I have to go against my natural (read:bad) instinct of trying to slow her thereby pulling against her - engaging her in a strength battle I cannot hope to win & don't actually want to get into nor encourage her to lean on the forehand. I am to release in front and apply leg so she has to move forward and catch herself or fall on her nose as nothing left to lean against - not pretty, but with practice and some faith in each other we should hopefully get there.

I need to give leg aid with calf and only if she ignores me am I to use heel. Apparently I move my leg back when applying leg and this could also be confusing the horse. Typical - my legs used to swing too far forward when I was riding so I worked on that and have gone to opposite extreme. *rolls-eyes* it's always something with me - i won't know what to do with myself the day I am told that I am actually doing something right on a horse...I have developed such terrible habits!

I also need to look into center of ring/circle when I'm tracking left as I'm completely crooked & twisted over to one side. I know I'm lopsided as horse is struggling and on that side of my back my muscles hurt after the spin. I am such a crock :-(

The lesson ended in tears of frustration & disappointment in myself (not the horse) that I have everything backwards. Its so difficult to fight against instinct - worse is realising my instincts are all backwards so I'm now doubting everything I do for fear of stuffing everything up & messing Nancy up like I almost ruined Kika.
It is a vicious cycle cos I want to do things right, so I concentrate trying to think of everything I do wrong, correct it and re-educate myself to fix my bad habits - sadly this then makes me tense and upsets and unsettles Nancy - who is now entering her testing phaze and only too happy to latch on to an excuse to get out of working - well that's not entirely fair. No she doesn't help me out, but that has more to do with the fact she doesn't know any better and I am confusing her with my backwards mixed signals.
Sorry for woe-is-me end to this post, I'm feeling a little down in myself and possibly being a little hard on myself - but what I am doing wrong is such basic stuff that I'm really annoyed at myself for having developed such bad habits!

Will leave you with one of the few shots of myself & Nancy in tack
LINK 03/10/2013
I did ride Nancy again last night and it went much the same as Sunday as i tried to remedy my issues and work on the pointers I had been given. We are fine warming up w/t/c - it is after the first canter that we lose our connection as N tries to run and we enter the power struggle, which is not how I want to describe it - but basically she wantsto run on, I want her to settle back down to work - if I close my fingers on the reins to slow her she pulls/leans against me and if i do as I have now been instructed and close my legs and release in front we completely loose the run of ourselves - not pretty & far from an ideal situation when sharing the arena with others.
A Work In Progress is the only way I can describe our arena endeavours at the moment - it starts out lovely and soft, but once we canter it goes to pot. The Guru rode her today and has asked to ride her again tomorrow as she has the day off work - Nancy isn't the issue though - I am and all my bad habits & backwards way of doing things.

Kika and I had a good spin this evening, after two lovely spins Saturday & Sunday. I tried to transfer the tips I had been given about outside/inside rein to Kika as I have obviously been riding her in the same wrong way as Nancy - the difference is Kika and I have learned to cheat and smokescreen what we are doing wrong so that it isn't immediately obvious - back to the drawing board there too then. Fingers crossed my bad habits can be fixed once and for all with lots of practice and patience from the Guru as we lesson on Sundays.

PS: Just realised this happy post had ended on a bit of a downer. I had to edit it to say that i am overjoyed to have both Nancy & Kika in my life - the only black spot on the horizon is my disappointment in myself and my nasty bad habits.
New Year - New Attitude...time to clean up my act and reall work at bettering my eq!