Monday, January 28, 2013


We had a rather nasty cold snap last week and I admit, it was enough just getting down to the barn and feeding, never mind even fathoming riding. Somehow when everything is frozen solid, the simple task of cleaning and mucking takes 2 hours. And in the cold, that seems awfully long.

Moon in the middle of last week's cold snap, during a lovely blizzard...brrr....
I will say we're lucky to have a rather pleasant run-in to fill our hay nets in, and somehow even on the coldest days when you get to working, the space feels cozy and comfortable. I understand why the ponies love being in there so much they ripped the door off... ; )

Regardless, Saturday rolled around and H was curled up in bed sick. I found a quick text asking me if I'd be willing to take on feeding duty for the day and since it was *finally* a break in the cold snap, I jumped on the chance.

Out to the barn by late afternoon, spent the two hours feeding the beasts and then I pulled out my halter and clip-on reins to have some fun with Moon.

I hopped on him bareback (boy he's gotten to be a pest again about standing still for, mounting), and we headed towards the large paddock for some circles. I admit it was too cold still (and I too tired) for anything resembling proper dressage work, but large circles at a walk-trot-canter were just what I needed. We needed.

After a couple of *very* bouncy trot circles that were back jarring (I tell ya, it is ROUGH when they've gotta lift those legs high in the deep snow AND you've got a bouncy horse on a good day), I thought "Let's see what this canter can do..."

And off Mr. Moon went into the canter. He really is starting to come along on that canter depart compared to last year.

We completed a full 30 m circle and I thought, hmmm...

You see, I got this crazy goal in my head earlier this winter. I'm the furthest thing from a "natural" horseback rider. I'm not into the natural horseman crazy, tried that before I got Moon and it was just frustration and irritation. I'm not into hanging a single cord around their neck and claiming there's an unbelievable bond created by some "natural" series of events that connected myself and my horse at the soul.

I do however, believe in building solid communication. Like finding a way to communicate with someone of a different language or who can't hear, or our pets, I believe to a large extent animals can learn the basics of our body language and share a communication style with us. And the better we develop and train this language, the better our ability to communicate and in turn, have them perform tasks that we ask (granted, as we learn, you can yell at someone to do something, and that don't mean they're gonna listen if they don't want to...).

So I have this *crazy* dream in my head, for pure ability to say that Moon-pie and I have reached this level of communication (perhaps it's merely my level of insanity...both are possible), to ride him saddle-less and halter-less, around the paddock, doing circles and changing direction, with no guidance than my seat and legs.


But certainly an interesting goal guaranteed to get me working VERY hard on developing my communication with my horse. I mean, purest dressage is enhancing your seat and legs to the point where the hands merely support and don't direct. It all comes together in its way.

So there I was on Saturday, bouncing around my circle and kicked Mr. Moon off into a canter. Hmmm...

I dropped my reins.

I threw my arms out wide.

And rode Mr. Moon a full 20 m circle, bareback, in nothing but a halter and a pair of clip-on reins hanging untouched off his neck.

When I settled back and thought "Whoa", Mr. Moon slowed to a trot and a stop almost immediately.


We did it again, and I pushed for two circles with no reins, arms outstretched.

We managed 1.5 before I had a momentary freakout that he wasn't going to turn the corner and we were headed towards the electric fence. Reality is, he was a good 10 strides away and knew the fence was there...he would have turned. But I felt like he wasn't listening to my communication, so I pulled him up and turned the corner the old fashioned way.

It wasn't perfect. But it was one HUGE step closer in the dead of winter towards riding Moon the way I'm dreaming of. Someday, maybe free of the paddock. For now, we'll just keep pretending we can fly...
Silly Pony-Bums in the Manitoba Winter. 

So come Sunday, the warm weather continued to flourish, but poor H wasn't. : ( I had hoped we'd make it out on a short trail ride, but instead I headed over for solo feeding duty and then hopped aboard Mr. Moon for a replay of Saturday's formidable ride.


Not so much.

Sunday was even WARMER than Saturday. It even *felt* warmer, more springlike. I hopped aboard Mr. Moon and we did some insanely bouncy trot work. Then I asked for a canter...

And The Black and The Wizzard came WHIPPING across the paddock to run alongside us, kicking and bucking and squealing the way crazy horses do in the spring.


Moon huffed and tried to join in. He got a firm boot and pulled up to a sedate walk. Then back to trot and canter.

This time?

The Black and The Wizzard decided to stand in the MIDDLE of our 20 m circle path, and Mr. Moon, lower than The Black on the totem pole, came to an abrupt halt the moment he got close.

Hello wither in nether regions. OUCH.

I barked a bit at the other two horses, who took off yet again cantering and bucking and kicking. *sigh*

Mr. Moon? Thought, "Aren't I supposed to do this too??" Um, no.

So we tried again. Nice canter circle, and the two brats go GALLOPING alongside us, and head off to the other paddock to race through the snow. Mr. Moon decides that cantering isn't going to allow us to keep up, and there bareback and in a halter, he takes off into a gallop heading towards the opening in the fence to chase the other two.


Yes, you CAN do that in just a halter.

Resist urge to flog horse.

Remind self that sitting and tight pants will be out of the question for awhile and in the future, buy horse with no wither.

Ask horse to canter AGAIN.

Get two really nice canter circles with a resemblance of control.

Head in the other direction, pick up canter, horse fights because nit-wits are charging around the paddock calling and snorting again, remind horse who has the power to A) Feed him B) Flog him, and happily achieve that nice controlled canter circle in completion.

Three walk circles to cool now puffing horse off.

Dismount and give sugar cubes, remembering that sometimes, you gotta scream louder than the boss horse. Hey, at least he looks cute.

Watch all three canter off, bucking and kicking, like complete tools, and take comfort in the fact that this must spell the approach of spring time. I'll take psychotic horses if they come with warm weather, plenty of sunshine and more daylight hours.

Here's hoping.
Relaxing after all of their fun. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


What more can I tell you? It's FREEZING out there. -15 F (-26 C) this afternoon. Which means it was -20 or worse last night. Almost all of this week to be honest. Awful. Cold. Nasty weather.

Monday I climbed up the hay pile, with the sun shining (means it's extra cold, but boy I miss sunshine!), throwing hay down for the ponies. Stuffed four hay nets, scraped the poo out of the run-in and gave everyone their grain.

It took me two hours, because it's really slow lacing nets with big ol'mittens on. I thought that the ponies might be miserable because of how cold it was. In reality??

They didn't seem to care. Moon was running about trying to hoof everyone. Yup. Even in the cold he's a total nimrod.

When I finished, the sun was going down. I was chilled. Guess what? I went home, had a hot shower and crawled into bed. Okay, I *may* have squished a little home design in there somewhere. Yup, exciting pony life for me...

The truth? The unfortunate truth is that Moon is going to be getting a lot more of this nothing if things go the way they seem to. The good news? The good news is that I'm making steady progress towards that country home. So it's all worth a little inattentiveness.

We all know he's not complaining ; )

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Depths of Winter is Who We Are.

Last night was my night to feed ponies. H called me up as I was heading home to double check that I'd be out as she had a busy night of errands and wasn't able to sub-in for me. I told her not to worry and after having some supper, headed out to the barn.

...and when I stepped out of my apartment into the night's sky, snow was thickly falling, swirling and blowing across the lot.

Oh yes. A winter snow storm was blowing in. And it was COLD!

The drive to the barn was interesting...people driving crazy slow, cutting into my lane and huge drifts on the edges of the road which meant lots of busting through them.

I rolled into the "barn" 45 minutes later and almost blew right across the riding ring. Which I should add has 5' drifts! Yes, the drifts are higher than the tops of the arena rails! It's incredible! I grew up on a bald piece of prairie and winters were always like this. Huge drifts! Except for me, as I grew, so did the trees my parents had planted until eventually our home was well sheltered and the drifts ceased. I kinda miss them.

In the garage I went, to mix up some pony feed. Then back out into the cold, in blue jeans, winter riding boots, snowmobile jacket, toque and a pair of stolen fleece lined work gloves (thanks H!). Yes, no ski-pants. Just blue-jeans.

I walked the feed tubs all the way to the hay shed, since it was a nice windbreak for the buggers while they ate, and there was a 4' drift where we normally feed by the garage! Yikes.

While the snow covered ponies ate in the gusting wind and snow, I scraped out the run-in shelter of the frozen poo balls. The storm continued to pick up. The temperatures were in the -30's (celcius...approaching -40 F) and the snow and wind whipped like crazy.

Then it was time to find the hay nets...

Yes...white hockey hay nets in a field of snow, at 8 pm, with the wind whipping about, and drifts everywhere. And the buggers drag those nets to the furthest edges of those fields!

By headlamp light, I walked the large field, managing to track down on net at the furthest end. Then I wandered all the edges looking for the other. Of course, H calls and standing in a field, snow blowing, wind whipping through the fur edges of my hood, we chat about where that bloody net could be. And then I manage to track it down half buried in a snow bank. Awesome.

Back into the hay shed, shake the snow out of the hay nets, climb the stack to throw down 4 fresh bales and then stuff them. Tie them shut. Roll two new nets (4 bales) out to the ponies to eat.

And as I'm lacing up the last net, H pulls up in her car. We chat a bit, she gives me a hand moving the last net out of the way, lock up and gather the ponies' feed tubs. Of course, we stop to give everyone a couple of scratches and appreciate the beauty of the snow covering their fuzzy faces.

H snow busts through 4' drifts in her *car*, the snow flying completely over the vehicle and for half a second you feel 'buried' in the snow bank...only to emerge on the other side, cruising towards the garage.

Back inside, we dump the feed bins and head to our cars to go home. Another fun drive, as I bust through all the new drifts that grew on the sides of the highway since my journey out. By the time I reach the city, the snowstorm is no where in sight.

Ah yes. Winter storms.

Why the story?

Because standing there in that field, in the dead of winter, wind and snow swirling, I had an overwhelming feeling that THIS is what it's about for me.

And I realized that I'm at my core, a farm girl. There's riders out there, there's horse owners, there's people who care for their horses at home and do a great job of it.

But then there's us farm girls. We're not out there feeding in the blowing snow just because we have to. We're not stacking 100s of bales because we must. We don't restack those same bales for the 3rd time in the dead of winter because we had to. We don't drive out in the snow storms, we don't brave the blizzards to check on the ponies, we don't give scratches to all the fuzzy faces merely because we love ponies and this is the way we keep them.

For us, there's a passion about being out there knowing these animals depend on you. Suddenly the cold isn't so cold, the wind isn't so strong, the snow isn't quite so deep. Because we're actually, in some perverse depth of our country-girl soul, loving it.

We're the gals who are out there riding our horses when the wind-chill tells you your face will be frozen off before you make it to the end of the driveway, but hell, we're still gonna go to the end of the mile...faces mean nothing if not snuggled into pony fuzz.

Country girls, we bust snow drifts and careen down the sides of gravel covered streets, giggling just a little, not white knuckling the steering wheel and facebooking that we may not make it home tonight.

We're the girls that even though we don't *have to* scrape the poo balls out of the run-in, we do it anyway. Why? Because we'd rather freeze our fingers just a little bit more, then drive home knowing our ponies are still standing in the dirt.

It's not just about doing these things. The winters, the stuffing hay nets, the driving half the city to buy a certain feed product. Cold days and colder nights, storms and soaking wet and working so hard in the dead of winter that the sweat becomes frozen solid in your hair. It's about ENJOYING doing these things! Country girls, farm girls, we have a sense of pride about being out there caring for our animals in these awful conditions, and a huge chunk of us, actually enjoys it.

I can tell you, last night was *the* most satisfying way I could have spent my evening. When H showed up (see, country girls head out even when they don't have to!), I knew we felt the same thing standing there in the field with the ponies in a snow storm. We love doing this. We love it.

It's twisted. It's warped. But we love being caretakers for our creatures. And the more they need us, the happier we are. We're always going to put them ahead of our luxuries. We'll forego being warm, we'll tolerate broken and smashed nails, cracked fingers, sprains and frostbite, if it means they're looked after.

Not everyone can say that, and it's okay. Some of us are meant to be horse owners. Horse lovers. Horse riders. But some of us, would fill our properties with animals of all kinds, and beam with pride as we pull on our scrubbiest winter coat to go look after them all in the harshest of weather. And you won't hear us least not until we're all done our chores and are back inside by the fire thawing ; ) ...and that's just so you appreciate what we do. ; )

Bless the winter storms, for showing us what we're made of.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Whoops! Here I am!

Sorry folks! Looks like I continue to go MIA, and kinda remember to come back to blogging thanks to my friend S, who harasses me when there's nothing for her to read during the work hour. Government employees ; )

What have I been up to?

Living up the single life in a freezing cold prairie province is what!!

December whipped by, between Christmas and work and travelling for work. I had two weeks of training ( it), and took zero holidays. The weather wasn't bad (H informs me that in fact, the horses HAVE been blanketed this winter...funny what you don't know when they're always naked when you show up...sorry H!), but the daylight sucks. Yes, yes I could ride at night. But I'm a big bad wuss and when it's dark, my body thinks 'sleep?'.

I've been out riding...once since the New Year started!! I DID get my Christmas morning ride on Moon, and we cantered through the deep snow of the paddock. It was bliss. We did a schooling ride over the holidays too, and I'm loving this horse to bits. He's swell. And I don't think a winter of half-hearted riding is going to do him any harm. The boy doesn't even buck me off riding bareback at a canter. I'm not complaining that he's not seriously worked this winter.

This was my first ride of the year...or after it I suppose...
H and I, in our matching riding outfits (darn Greenhawk Christmas sale last year!) went out bareback (but with bridles, unlike the picture) for a hack down the road. We went about 3 miles round trip or so.

Anyway, we hacked out into the cold and the boys were wonderful. I'm loving bareback this winter. My goal is to get to the point where I can ride Moon in just a halter and lead rope by the end of winter. In the paddock. I have no serious death wish. : P

If anyone has seen the new movie Django (recommended!), let me say that the scene where Django mounts the horse from the ground and rides away bareback and bridle/halterless? Like the horse nutter I am, I turned to my man and rather loudly announced in the theatre (which was pretty quiet!) "I can mount my horse like that!". Yup. He thankfully just laughed and spent the remainder of the movie asking me what other tricks done by the movie horses my Moon is capable of. ; ) I want to add, that I went to the movie on the premise that no horses would die. And heads up, a LOT of horses die. : P

Where was I going with this??

Right, I want to ride my horse completely naked (Moon naked, not me. Gross. Horse hair on your bum??!), in the paddock someday. That's this summer's goal. ; )

So H and I went out hacking, did a little trotting and then cantered down the open stretch. It was awesome. While we were out just long enough to freeze (windchill!), we had a blast. I love it out there with her.

I also love our horses together. Granted Moon has a bit of a crush and dependancy on Manwell, these are two horses that can amble down the trail nose-in-tail. And no misbehaviour. It just makes riding a blast.


For Christmas, my sisters and I always buy each other's boyfriends/husbands a gift. My one sister is married, the other has a long time boyfriend. Since my man and I have only been together for 4 months, it didn't really seem right for him to make it into the gift giving. I'm CERTAIN he would've felt a little awkward (my girlfriends all gave him gifts, and I could read it on his face then!).

So instead, the gifts that would have gone to my man, went to my pony and my puppy. What does that mean?!

MoonSox received 10 lbs of fresh carrots for Christmas, and a kilogram (2.2 lbs) of sugar cubes. And about 400 mini elastics for his mane.

And Halo? She got the best gift of all! A bridge and a crawl-under for agility!! Yes, how cool is that?! Add it to her tunnel, and we're 1/2 way to having an agility set-up. Guess how we'll be spending our summer?!

So why am I so busy? Well, I can tell you that it had nothing to do with the new man. G worked an insane number of hours during December, having all of 2 days off the entire month - Christmas, and the Thursday before Christmas (which was going to be our Christmas together until I had to be in training). Two days. The first day he had off in January (New Years) he spent with me. Yes, I'm a happily spoiled woman. I got my first kiss under the mistletoe to boot.

If it wasn't G, then what was it?

Well's crunch time.

Crunch time??

No, it doesn't relate to the 10 lbs of carrots.

It's about building.

This spring, is supposed to be "DREAM HOME BUILD 2013". Which means the plans must be finished by the end of this month, reviewed by an engineer, estimates drawn on EVERYTHING, submitted to the bank for approval and THEN...submitted to the municipality for permits. All before we can start digging a hole in the dirt.

I'm a little freaked out, but I'm giving it my all. Yesterday on my day off, I spent almost the entire day at my computer, taking a small break for a nap (yawn) and an episode of television over dinner. Sunday morning, it was the same thing, except for the ride in the afternoon with H and then dinner and gaming with G late in the evening. Saturday? Spent the morning trying to get internet so I can start researching building at home, and got in a quick snowmobile ride in the afternoon, and my entire evening until 10 pm was spent on the house plans.

Seriously. Exhausting. And hopefully oh-so worth it.

It's insane when you realize what you're willing to take on to achieve a dream. This is my dream. Since I was a little girl. I've been drawing house plans since I was 6. I used to cut people out of the Sears catalogue and make them walk around on the floor plans like they actually lived there in 3D. My dad used to bring home the Real Estate papers and mark out which areas we could "live in". Then my sister and I would buy imaginary land, build imaginary houses on them (sketch it all up in pencils and markers) and when we were a little older (10 and 12) my dad would help us make up imaginary budgets to boot. My imaginary self (some middle-aged brunette Sears model) would buy a little city house cheap, fixer up, get an impressive job, marry a fancy-pants man (a brown-haired man from the Sears Catalogue of course), cut a little golden retriever out of the catalogue to boot, and sell that little city house to move onto some 200 acre lot in the Manitoba wilderness. I'd draw out how many acres were pasture, and hay and grain, and pretend that we build a beautiful mansion there. We'd have some inordinate number of children (cute little model children from the Sears catalogue of course), not because I wanted a ton of kids when I was older, but because I just liked sooo many names and thought it was bad enough that each already had two middle names!

lol. My sister's husband was always "John Ken" And mine? "Ken Johnson"

I think I wandered off onto memory lane there...

My point is that as children, we dream. Often, way too big for our own capacity. I never became the veterinarian that saved EVERY animal she touched. I never met Ken Johnson in a vet clinic and we never married. I don't have an inordinate number of children (thank gawd!) and I have a beautiful white husky instead of that golden retriever. There isn't 200 acres of land. There's 15. And while I drive the car of my dreams from when I was a little's a giant lemon (side note: car needs new brakes, the starter wire fell off, the battery won't hold a full charge, the licence plate mount fell off, a bunch of plastic pieces in the engine were just balancing there, the block heater cord is broken, the driver's window jams and the command start stopped work. Love that car).

I don't look like the woman in the Sears Catalogue I used to pretend was me. I'll never build that beautiful mansion.

But age, doesn't destroy our dreams. It tempers us to see that the possible, within the reality, is far more wonderful than any dream we could fathom as a child.

I don't want to marry Mr. Fancy-pants and I wouldn't trade my husky for a retriever. I have no use for 200 acres, and would rip my hair out if asked to raise 6 kids (thankfully there isn't even 2 names I like anymore!).

I do, I will, still build my beautiful home in the country. It will sit on 15 acres and won't have the grandest foyer. But it will be the most welcoming front door you ever did see. Each kid won't have their own private bath, and I won't have a multi-floored master bedroom complete with in-suite kitchen. I don't even want to think about cooking when I'm lying in bed. Instead, it will be cozy and warm, and something I'm willing to spend a weekend cleaning, not have to take holidays or hire a maid.

Cozy. Warm. Inviting. Those are words I'd use TODAY to express my dream home. When I was a little girl, I wanted square footage. Size. Lots of bathrooms and a huge recroom and a movie theatre. I wanted a big garage for all my fast cars, and glamor and glory.

Today, I want cozy, warm and inviting. Peaceful. Retreat. A place for family and friends. The way my parents and friends' houses are. Grandeur no longer means the size of your master suite. It means how content the people who pass through your home are when they leave. It's little things now. It's the pantry full of scents and flavours and choices. It's the warm kitchen where many people can gather. The crackling fireplace to relax at night, and the cozy bed to curl up upon when you dream.

Yes, I am busy finding my dreams. And making them happen. Last year, I found an amazing amount of success with Moon. We had a year of coaching and it made us amazing partners. We moved to H's and grew a great friendship even greater. We showed, we won ribbons, we pushed ourselves harder than we ever have before. We bonded.

And that means, that this year, I can focus on the next dream, the next piece of my puzzle, without worrying about how Mr. Moon is doing. We're established. Like the best relationships, I know that what we have will never fade, because we're linked at our soul. And while I sometimes might not be there as much as I want, and sometimes I only show when something has gone wrong, we always pick back up right where we left off. We're tied.

Maybe, if I'm lucky, next year he'll be home with me...

But I'll still blog, I'll still keep you updated. I have a private blog with a ton of updates on building, and if you're interested, I can probably sneak you over there. I'm still here, I'm still writing, and I'm still riding. I'm just doing it differently.

To wherever 2013 takes us...