Tuesday, May 31, 2016

EAADA Recap Windhaven Clinic

I’ve always been a dressage enthusiast but I came to the realization long ago that gold medals in Olympic rings was simply not going to be in my life path.  Certainly, I’ve had far more adventures and opportunities with my trick horses than I have in the 20 x 60 – and that’s wonderful in itself.  But when I received a text message from one of my favorite coaches and dressage riders, Sharon Merkle-Beattie, inquiring about hosting a Horseplay and Harmony trick-horse clinic at Windhaven, the word “nervous” wasn’t even close to describing the lump that made itself at home in the pit of my stomach!  However, I’m so glad I agreed and had a wonderful weekend with delightful ladies and their clever horses. 

What is dressage?  It comes from the French word for “training”.  Truly, it is the epitome of willingness and acceptance of the rider and working through their aids – in the tack.  I love trick-horse training because, for me, it extends and compliments the performance under saddle.  Trick-horse training allows the horse to engage, offer behavior, express themselves and willingly be a partner in training.  It also causes the human to be the leader and quickly makes itself evident when that is not the case.  Not unlike attending a dressage clinic, one needs to be ready to look in the mirror at themselves when entering the arena for a trick clinic. 

After the fact, Sharon tells me that she would have been happy for her gigantic, black, handsome gelding to stand on the box, but he certainly had more to give!  The horses and handlers started the first day off with engaging tricks like smile, touch a target and moved into obedience and movement tricks like standing on a box and waving.  We like to start with simple tricks so that the horses immediately gain a lot of reward and are encouraged to offer more and more effort. We taught wave, hugs, say “no”, and even had 3 talented geldings offer us gentle bows on their knees. 

Sharon and Donny demonstrating the pedestal
Teaching trick-horse clinics is a lot of work, but it’s one of the most rewarding ventures I’ve ever experienced.  To offer horses and their handlers a new level of communication, a foundation to build a more trusting and understanding relationship, never gets old!  The only thing that comes close, for me, is to add the experience of my equine first-aid certification clinics.  Life-saving information and knowing what to do when action and decisiveness matters most is invaluable! 

Are you interested in hosting or attending a clinic?  I travel!  Trick-Horse clinics are one or two days, equine first aid courses available for ages 5+, basic, advanced and disaster planning, between 1 and 3 days. www.standardsequine.com

Friday, May 27, 2016


If you would have told me 5 years ago half the places I would go with my $400 Standardbred gelding, I would have called you a liar. 

I have a very soft spot in my heart for the military, specifically the Lord Strathcona's Horse Royal Canadian Mounted Troop.  If it wasn't for the mounted troop, I likely would not have met my partner in life, Anthony.  Jose has been living at the garrison saddle club for the last several months and today was the mounted troop's season opener ride and BBQ.  We were invited to attend the ride from the first-aid clinic I'd done previously for the troop.  I offered them a little pre-show entertainment for their amusement, and they accepted! 

Jose and I opened the show with some fun tricks, a bunch of laughs and a great experience!  The Brigadier General was in attendance and I know I saw a few smiles and laughs come from him.  More important than that, however, Anthony and Ali were there to watch us too! 

Ali enjoyed the ride, played on the tanks and the LAV, enjoyed her hot dog and got a brand new L over lazy S T-shirt. 

Jose in front of "Catherine" the Sherman tank (yes, she runs!)
A fantastic day and a wonderful experience.  Thank you to the LdSH SMT for having us participate today.  It was a thrill for sure! 

Happy Horseing (and tanking!!)

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ba Da Bing, Ba Da Boom!

I knew if I complained loud enough, I'd get some resolution.  It's always the squeaky wheel...

Tuesday morning, I put Ali on the bus and got in the truck to head in to work.  My phone rang, it was my mother at the farm doing morning feed chores.  "Lana's giving birth!  One foot is out!"  Roger, turned around and made it back home in time to change quickly and get out just as the nose appeared.  I broke open the sac and helped Lana deliver her lovely filly Lirio SE (Rio).
She's so lovely, quite stunning. 

Wednesday evening I noticed that Fancy had fully bagged up but I did not see any wax at all so I didn't think she was quite ready. 

This morning, I woke up and looked out the window at Fancy.  No baby.  She was aggitated, running back and forth at the gate between her and Lana's pen.  No one else outside looked upset at all.  What on earth was Fancy on about?  She needs to just have her baby...  baby...  um, uh oh!!!

Sure enough, I get out in my pajamas and rubber boots and, in the corner of Lana's pen all frightened and COVERED in mud, a filly.  Fancy had indeed had her foal but she'd delivered her at a bad angle right against the fence between her pen and Lana's and the poor thing slipped right under to the wrong side!  Lana had been across the pen in the corner when I'd found her but she likely would have been right there during the birth and rejected the foal. 

When Fancy saw me coming, she came running to me to help her.  I opened the gate, brought her through, caught the baby (who was NOT impressed with me manhandling her) and put them back on their own side of the fence.  Fancy wanted her baby right away but the poor filly didn't have any understanding who this big horse was and just tried to run away! 

With some help, we got filly and Fancy working together, nursing and finally bonding.  Before leaving for work (late) this morning, they looked to have everything under control. 

Filly's name is Niveus, named to accompany her full brother Ravan (L'Image SE) from the Winter Chronicals written by Ravan's owner, Sharon Cramer. 

 It looks like Ritchie really has a program with his foals.  If we want colts, we need to breed late as his only two colts (the first born) were foaled in late June and late July.  The May foals have all been fillies. 

So far, everyone is now happy and healthy with straight legs.  I will have to add "born on the right side of the fence" to my mantra for next time...

In the mean time, happy horseing!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Keeping me Waiting!

While Billy made his appearance early, the next in line, Fancy, seems intent of keeping me right on edge.  She's full, soft and ready to go, just no wax.  Her "official" due date (335 days) is My 20 - so only 2 days from now.  Lana looks at nearly the same place and her date is June 1.  Mares! 

I was looking at my calendar this morning.  Last night, one of my favorite coaches contacted me inquiring about hosting a trick-horse clinic at her facility, which is literally just down the road from home.  My calendar tells me that I have literally 2 open weekends between now and mid August!  Clinic season is rolling out hard!  Oh well, I'll rest when I'm dead.  :) 

It also tells me that the majority of my show season has officially wrapped up, unless we want to look at something in September?  Could happen.  Then again, I'd be pretty happy to take Jose out, adventure to Beaumont again, experience the Brooks' Medieval Fair and call it a year. 

I have been getting more and more attention on Princess.  Had the pleasure of meeting a LOVELY lady from Calgary.  They really seemed to be an ideal fit for each other - in my eyes.  However, nothing is certain until it's certain.  I'll just keep my fingers crossed that this wonderful home does, in fact, want to bring Princess Leia home. 

That's all the news for today, I'm afraid.  When we have more action, I will be back!  Threat/Promise, take it as you will.  In the mean time,
Happy Horseing!

Friday, May 6, 2016

All Hell for a Basement

That Big Sugar song "Heaven in Alberta" keeps playing in my head. 

The city that brought so many hard-working, honest people good jobs and steady income to provide for their families (including my own husband and so many friends) is a literal hell right now.  With over 101,000 hectares of land on fire and over 1600 buildings in the city damaged, so many have lost everything. 
When the fire was at 85,000 hectares, this is the area it would be consuming.  It's 101,000 hectares currently.

I've had the privilege of spending several weekends up north between "Tower Road" and "Clearwater" horse clubs.  I am very proud to call many horse owners there my friends.  On Tuesday, hell took over as a wild fire burned out of control.  Many friends had packed up some horses and moved them to where they thought they would be safe.  Some of them far away from Ft. McMurray, some of them in their own backyards.  The fire grew and came into town so fast, may never got the chance to get back to the horse clubs for the remainder of their horses before the highways were shut down.  Both horse clubs were fortunate to have a few members able to get in and open gates and let out the horses left behind.  In my mind, playing out that scenario, not being able to take all of my equine companions to safety, having to open the gates to my pregnant mares and my young foal and his mom, my yearlings, and wishing them the best of luck, it brings me to tears. 

From that point, the back-yard horses were stuck.  My one friend rode her horse and ponies the second throughout the night to get to safety.  I've seen viral pictures of more horses being ridden and led through the city or down the highway trying to keep safe and find a way out. 
Good Samaritans have stopped and put horses in trailers and brought them to safety.  Perfect strangers just ready to give a helping hand. 
Countless teams have collected donations of water and fuel and headed up the highway to help people stranded by the evacuation - run out of gas on the side of the road, nothing but the clothes on their backs.  Gas stations run out of fuel to sell... Dire situation. 

The fire is still raging on.

Help is coming in.  It is still such a dangerous situation, there's so many unknowns yet.  I understand the military has sent in some members who located a herd of 14 horses in Tower Rd.  It sounds like some are my good friends' boys.  Prayers that they are!  Many more left to be found.  I heard of 70+ horses who need to be evacuated from a property up there and moved into permanent homes.  I don't know if that's factual or not, but the numbers are staggering in a province that's tinder dry - no rain = no hay! 

Several groups are working to collect donations. The Red Cross has seen MILLIONS donated in just a few short days.  It's incredible to see the province, communities and people come together to help each other. 
A facebook group: Farms for Fort McMurray is working quickly to set up collection depots throughout Alberta for donations of feed, supplies and money for horses displaced.  They are working with the AEF and SPCA in their efforts.  The Edmonton Garrison has graciously opened the barn doors at the stables for horses displaced and to be a central collection location to warehouse and inventory donations and ready donations for distribution by AEF and SPCA. 
My roll?  What I do best.  I bring people together.  A notice comes to me that someone is looking to have a fleet of trailers ready to move in to bring a herd out - I have that contact information.  A notice comes in that there are tonnes of hay bales that need to be picked up and hauled to donation sites - I have that connection as well.  When horses come to the garrison barns, I will be there to assist hands on with first aid, identification and care of received horses. 
A portion of the proceeds of my upcoming first-aid clinics will go to purchasing of first-aid supplies for horses displaced by the fire. 

In July I will be taking my disaster preparedness training with Equi-Health Canada to help people prepare for the unknown.  This year it's a wildfire, but 3 years ago it was flooding.  Disasters come in many forms. 

Make a plan, be safe, hug your horses and loved ones.
Happy horseing.

Monday, May 2, 2016

And All the Pretty Ribbons

I've learned a lot from my boy.  I love him to the ends of the world and back; he's been a wonderful partner and teacher. 

This weekend I learned that I don't just have 1 horse in him and really, I shouldn't treat him like I do or expect him to be just the same horse all the time. 

Ponoka once again hosted the Silver Dressage Championships for the PAADA show series we've been attending this season.  I entered Ritchie and I in the first-level classes, a regular silver test and the same championship test each day, plus the freestyle on Saturday evening.  This weekend I had 3 distinct horses to ride.

Horse #1.  Yeehaw!  This horse came out a humpy backed and ready to rip.  This horse is the first horse I rode on Saturday (note, not the horse I rode in warmup on Friday evening...)  He was not interested in partnership, focus, or very much try.  I had a few crow hops, and no bend.  A very stiff horse and not at all a fun horse.  We rode, though, we got through that test and I didn't see horse #1 again that weekend.  (I didn't miss him either!)

Horse #2.  This is the horse I'm so proud to own.  I love this horse.  He lets me be the pilot, he bends, he works and he goes in that arena like he owns it.  This is the horse I had for my championship test on Saturday.  I liked that test much better.

Horse #3.  This is the spoiled little boy with a pout on.  After completing a dressage test, the ritual is always the same: go get checked out by the steward and get off, go to the barn.  After the championship test on Saturday, we were only a short time before being back in for the freestyle, so we stayed on and stayed in.  The steward saw him not just once, but TWICE and I still did not get off!  I had the gall to put him back to work!  Suddenly we had a right kick-out every canter depart to the left.  Made for a "dynamic" freestyle as he was quite certain I'd lost my mind when I put him back in the arena.  It was not a fun ride, he was not giving me anything extra.  But we got through, one more lesson learned. 

Sunday we had a little lunge and worked a nice warm up.  Horse #3 was back although not nearly as naughty.  The kick-out was back but it was less work to have him go.  The test was much more smooth with a pair of 7.5 (one for a coefficient!!) I took him back to the stall and left his saddle on, halter on but plenty of room to eat hay and drink.  An hour and a half later, I came back for him with only about 5 minutes before we went in for our test.  We walked and did one trot transition before going in for our test.  Guess which horse I had?  Horse #3!  He loved the test because he knew it well, he'd ridden it every time we'd been to Ponoka.  He felt confident and willing.

What am I most proud of?  The fact that I took my horse and rode every single test we'd entered. No matter the horse that came out, we went in the arena, rode the test and came back out in the right order.  That's the first time I'd done this solo without my friend and Ritchie's Aunty there to help my confidence.  I'd planned a coach to warm us up on Saturday and I'm so glad I had that foresight.  Beyond that, I did not engage if he tried to fight, I simply kept riding. When he cooperated, I praised him. It worked.  It worked a treat!  And, in the end? 

I did good, yes?
Another pair of first-place ribbons for his tests, Provincial Reserve Champion, Provincial Champion (freestlyle), Show Reserve Champion, and Series High-Point Champion. 

Ride the horse you have, ride forward and look up and happy horseing.