Tuesday, 16 January 2018

First HRCAV Comp - January 2018

Well, that didn't go quite as I thought it might. Annie and I headed down to Bulla HRCAV Dressage Comp last Sunday (about a 3 hour drive) and things were very different than the usual dressage comp in many ways. For starters, the whole thing has a very amateur middle-aged woman (MAW) feel about it. Equestrian Australian competitions are awash with women, sure, but most riders are under 30, let's be real. And there are lots of big flashy trucks and goosenecks - all the professionals and more committed middle-class competitiors!

I don't remember seeing one truck and only a couple of goosenecks in the whole place - everything else was a plain old double float. Fancy ones, a lot of them, but just doubles.

That being said, we weren't in banjo country, either. The Adult Riding Clubs competitions I had been to in Canberra were rough and ready affairs with a good smattering of ex-trotters and pretty ordinary riding going on. This was definitely not like that, either.

What I witnessed was what MAWs with a bit of cash and a free rein (pun intended) can do. Lots of nice horses (nothing much flashy like in EA dressage), lots of prim and proper MAWs efficiently running about the place checking gear, looking after judges and making sure things ran to time. And it did.

The draw at HRCAV dressage comps is a little odd at first glance. A 'jackpot' event, as this one was, involves riding in two or more events over a competition. The draw puts the first test only half an hour before the second. The first time this happened, I was pretty annoyed - 30 minutes isn't long enough to hop off and give the horse a break, but too long to just keep riding around. This is something I will need to work on as it worked against me, in the end.

I assumed the 30 minutes is designed to give a buffer to arenas that run late but allowing riders to just get on with their tests without waiting around all day between tests. EA comps can involve a test at 9:00am and the next at 3pm, if you're unlucky. Not HRCAV!

I actually thought Annie did two pretty good tests. Certainly we would have done well in an eventing context, I feel. The second test was not as polished, for sure - Annie was pretty over it by then as we'd been going for an hour by that stage. There's only so much dressage Annie is likely to cooperate with, especially when trying to operate in a paddock full of cross country jumps! But, alas, the judges weren't with us. We only scored a 61.7% for the first and a disappointing 58% for the second. I didn't bother waiting around for the class to finish and pick up my tests - I found the marks breakdown online anyway and they were as I thought. Not sure why, but we just couldn't get much beyond a 6.

Annie is just a delight to take out and about, though. I am appreciating her more and more now I have baby Beretta to deal with. Everything scares him, he's difficult and complicated to ride as his natural talent is undone by his weakness and baby attitude. But Annie just gets on with it like an old hand. Stands at the float eating hay, warms up like we're at home. Does the test and goes back to stand at the float like a pro. Self-loads and eats hay all the way home. Love it.

Beretta's shoes come off in 12 days. Not like I'm counting down! I can't wait for them to come off - I find horses with shoes on inherently worrying but a young horse prone to leaping sideways when scared is really nerve-wracking! I value my feet and toes a lot! Other than that, I feel Beretta's shoes are interfering with his way of going. With heels too high and landing toe-first, he is not balanced and is struggling to lock his 'landing-gear' as he strides out. He often stumbles on the hard ground. We'll see if the transition to barefoot helps him, but I firmly believe it will.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Welcome to Baretta

The dressage queen journey is now begun. The rather handsome Baretta (by 00 Seven) is now ensconced at Pine Hill after what feels like a whirlwind romance and a marathon 8 hour drive in near-40 degree heat!

Silver Hills Skyfall (Baretta)
 Baretta is just a baby - 4 years old - and is literally at the start of his ridden career. I had my first ride this morning and it really felt like I was on a toddler! I established a good stop response with some ground work and I'm glad of it because he was all over the place, bless him! It's amazing the difference riding a well put-together horse with natural ability compared to the average horse, especially at this stage. Baretta carries me relatively easily and is balanced for his age, lack of strength and lack of suppleness.

And another plus is Baretta will need to be transitioned from shod to barefoot (well, I consider that a plus!). I will blog about this transition over the coming months, starting in just under 3 weeks when a new trimmer will arrive to take off his shoes and start the process. His feet are in good condition, though he has a little 'high-low' going on with his front hooves (the near fore heel is higher than the off fore) and it will be interesting to see how barefoot management assists in achieving symmetry.

Baretta was used to being in a private paddock and its been fun watching him make some friends with his paddock-mates. The current BFF, understandably, is the only other gelding on the property belonging to Pine Hill, Fui. Fui is a lovely old soul and he and Baretta are already mates. 
 Fui on the left, Baretta on the right. Koko the dog in the background 

 It will be interesting to see how Baretta transitions to barefoot. Given his age and comparatively short time in shoes (no more than a year, off and on), as well as his overall health and diet, and what appear to be strong, functional hooves, I don't anticipate major problems. I have started feeding him Hygain Ice, lucerne chaff and hay, and a little Hygain Balanced. He also has a tube of Succeed digestive paste to keep his gut healthy.

Baretta having a little play with Fui.

Annie and I head off to the Bulla HRCAV Dressage comp this Sunday and I'm looking forward to it. Let you know how I go when I get back :)

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A new year dawns

Happy New Year! Like everyone, it seems, I am quite glad to see the back of 2017 and pretty excited about 2018. Lots of exciting new projects!

Well, first things first, the gorgeous Annie is up for sale and it's been quite a wrench. I absolutely detest selling horses - not because its a sad parting (though it often is) but because I have to deal with buyers. Very rarely are buyers serious about buying. Even more rarely are they genuinely interested in paying what you're asking. Now, fair enough, a horse is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it, but if you're not even in the ballpark, budget-wise, it's pretty pointless ringing up, going out to try the horse, then starting to haggle from a point significantly below what the sticker price is. Just frustrates everyone...

Not that I'm having that much trouble with Annie. Just a lot of tyrekickers and normally this isn't a drama for me, but Annie is special. I don't like random people just inserting themselves into Annie's life if they're not serious about being her new partner. Weird, maybe.

Annie is up for sale because I have made the decision to pull back from eventing and focus on dressage. I am a competitive person - I have written about this before - and I don't ride for 'fun.' Riding is fun, don't get me wrong, but I will never be a bush-bashing, trail-riding kind of rider. If I'm riding, it's because I want to be the best at it. And eventing is not an option at that level for me. I don't have the ticker for it.

However, I have developed a strong ambition to take a horse to FEI level dressage. Go figure. I'm now a boring dressage bitch! I'll keep eventing a bit - just low level to keep the dressage pony on its toes, but it's going to be more about dressage now. Not sure if I can change my blog name!!

Going to look at a very promising pony tomorrow. Keep you posted. :)

So, I've been trimming the two colts' feet for a bit now. It's so damn dry and hot all the horses have very hard hooves (which is theoretically great but bloody hard work!). I have a couple of pics of Jack (2yo ASH colt) below.

Little Jack hooves

Some interesting wall separation on the right
You can see the small size of his hooves after a trim. Barefoot horses have comparatively tiny hooves compared to shod horses. The hoof capsule is tight, strong and correctly angled. You can see, in the last pic, the lack of symmetry in Jack's hoof, though. Some of this is due to me leaving the hooves too long between trims, allowing flare to get a bit out of control, particularly in that right side. This places stress on the hoof wall, pulling it away from the laminae and causing problems.

This is about a week after the trim, but you can see the bars of the hoof haven't been trimmed back enough. It was so bloody hard that was literally the best I could do! Have to sharpen my hoof knives!

Our web page is up and running! If you haven't had a look, please take 5 minutes to have a browse. The pics are definitely a work in progress, and I really appreciate feedback.

The addy is www.pinehillequestrian.com.au

See you out there!

Friday, 22 December 2017


Merry Christmas! The summer has been a bit all over the place, so far. We've had a couple of very hot days followed by torrential rain and a week of single-digit overnights, which has been disconcerting, to say the least! It has been abscess weather but luckily (or by fantastic good management!) only one of the Pine Hill horses appears to have had an abscess. Phew.

It has been a frustrating couple of months with Annie's feet. About September, Annie started to become sensitive in her hooves - something she only exhibited for the first two weeks after her shoes came off. At first, I assumed it was the spring grass, or a change in feed. I had changed her from KER Low GI Cube to Hygain Balance as she was in with the young horses and they were all being fed Balance. Annie has not been particularly sensitive to feed in the past - certainly not in her hooves.

It got to the point where I simply couldn't ride her on anything but grass. The one comp we managed to go to was our first HRCAV dressage day and, after warming up beautifully on the grass, she could barely manage to get around the first test on the sand and I retired her. So disappointing. And not a great day to exhibit a lovely big barefoot horse. Reckon I was in with a chance to win the damn thing, too!

This went on for two months until I got Di Snow, a local bodyworker and equine nutritionist, out to give Annie a treatment. While chatting during the treatment, and whingeing about Annie's newfound hoof sensitivity, Di asked what I was feeding her. I said, "The usual - Hygain Balance, lucerne chaff...oh, and Rose-Hip Vital for her joints." Di said, "Ah. Rose-Hip Vital is just sugar, basically. It's made from fruit sugar. Could be your problem."

And it was. I took Annie off it and within a few days there was a marked improvement. A month later, Annie is back to walking on gravel and working comfortably on our hard, dry arena. Just goes to show how even a couple of tablespoons of sugar a day can dramatically affect a horse's hooves.

These are Annie's hooves now:

Front near. Note the big frog but also the wall separation.

Annie's hooves are now about 80%. There was some hoof wall separation and no doubt getting back to true rock-crunching will take a little longer. I'm pretty annoyed at myself! But you live and learn, don't you?

Things are ticking along at Pine Hill. We are now taking a limited number of agistees, and have started our ambitious water project. We will be linking our three dams and pumping stock water up to a header tank at the top of the property. Water will then be gravity-fed to troughs around the property. Once again, an Equicentral design is our template but, since we are also setting up a working stud with resident stallions, there are ergonomic factors that need to come in that aren't really addressed in Jane Myers books.

So, we have a mare and foal paddock right out the front of the house, and another paddock that adjoins it. These two back onto the very large 'Back Country' paddock with its spring-fed creek and rocks and wildlife where the youngstock and broodmares are spending their summer. It's lovely. We also have a more Equicentral 'cell' of three paddocks that use a central 'loafing' area.

The next four months will be spent on the water and fencing more paddocks up the top end of the property. We will create another 'cell' of three or four paddocks around a central 'loafing' area. These areas are like big yards with shelter and the only water source. They are surfaced (we are using plumbers grit) and the idea is that horses are only every in one paddock at a time and use the loafing area for all the standing around they do under trees or around water. This saves the paddocks and minimises those horrible bare dust/mud areas created by this behaviour.

Pinehill Ellen
And here is our little filly, born mid-November to one of our Stock Horse mares. This girl is just a bit gorgeous and loves a scratch!

Merry Christmas and have a safe and happy New Year. Lots more to come at Pine Hill next year, no doubt!

We now have a website so feel free to have a browse - www.pinehillequestrian.com.au

Friday, 20 October 2017

Two weeks in and our first comp in over a year looms

Well, it's been nearly two weeks since hubby and I started the Blood Sugar Diet. It's definitely been a challenge! But, we have both lost a significant amount of weight and, more importantly, centimetres off our waistlines. We are eating a shitload more vegies and zero bread and pasta. We are both very energetic now - it's actually the best part of the whole thing - and I'm riding more, gardening more, just doing lots more. Hubby has fenced a whole paddock!

Downsides are not to be sneezed at. This is a huge change and it's been a massive challenge to avoid foods I would normally just shovel in without thinking about it. Bread and toast are things I miss a lot on some days but not at all on others. Buying lunch is an absolute nightmare - we can't have bread or rolls, or rice or whatever. So, no sandwiches, wraps, rolls or sushi. What's left, I hear you ask? Sashimi. Soup. Green salad with tuna or chicken. Eggs. That kind of caper.

Last night, we had a blowout and had takeaway with the kids. Burgers, chips and beers. It was pleasant, but not really fantastic. Both of us were so full afterwards, and the glow had worn off by this morning. But, neither of us feel at all bad about it, which is also a big change. We needed to let the leash loosen for a night and now we're back on track. It's quite a lovely, forgiving way of going.

Mindfulness and exercise are a big part of the diet. I have started brief mindfulness sessions using an app I downloaded and I think it's helping quite a lot with anxiety, hunger, generally getting through the day. It's an interesting journey.

Horse-wise, things are getting busy. I've been out judging all last weekend and now have my two sit-ins ticked off for upgrading. So close now. I have to admit, I have not developed a love for dressage judges through my time judging. I find them, on the whole, pretty condescending, unforgiving old women with very inflated senses of their own importance. No wonder riders dislike them. I am determined not to be like that, especially when I get more senior.

Annie and I will be off to our first dressage comp in Wagga next weekend. I had entered a Novice and Elementary test (eek!) but then the opportunity to do my last shadow judging arose and now we're just doing a Novice test at the end of the day. Luckily, we have a clinic with Manu Mclean next Mon/Tue so that should set us up nicely.

The grass is absolutely amazing at our property now. We put down lime and dolomite in Autumn and wow is it paying off. The mares are out in the driveway every day eating down the long grass and everyone is looking fat and shiny. I am a little concerned about the sugar content, though, and Annie showed a little tenderness walking on the gravel this morning, after only one day eating the lush grass. It's amazing how quickly they can react to a change in diet!

Cleo's baby is due in the next three weeks or so. She's looking so fat and shiny, still very athletic, despite starting to waddle. She's like that woman at work who runs marathons then gets pregnant and just keeps running every day until she pops the baby out. I wasn't one of those women. ;P

Monday, 9 October 2017

Day 2 of the Crash Diet

Well, the good news is, I've lost nearly 2 kilos already. Yey! And I'm feeling pretty feisty. And not hungry quite all the time. In fact, not even hungry much of the time, though I'm keeping as busy as I can and drinking lots of water. I am, however, starting to feel wistful for chips, and cakes and ice cream....But that's what got me here in the first place so I know sugar is the devil!

Spring is a crazy time on a horse farm - any farm, I'm guessing. The grass is growing which is awesome, but so are those hooves! I've been trying to trim a horse per day and it's hard work. I'm especially trying to get them all up to date before the weather dries up and their hooves turn to solid rock. I struggle with hard hooves as I just don't have the strength or endurance to rasp them forever. I don't own any nippers (though I'm seriously considering buying some!) and I try hard not to let their feet get long enough for nippers to be useful. But there are a couple of the paddock ornaments that are probably a bit far gone now....need to get on top of them!

Our first event that it looks like we'll actually make it to is the Irish Draught and Sport Horse Show in just under two weeks. Annie the big legend will finally be getting to go out and show those prissy show horses what a real Irish eventer can do (which will probably include winning exactly zero prissy show horse events, but potentially taking out the 'Working Hunter 100cm' class because we are the only ones in it). I need to dust off the fancy pants gear and I'm hoping I actually squeeze into it all by then given the current starvation regime!

Wagga Dressage the weekend after that we're I'm judging and riding the big girl. I really like the Wagga vibe. Probably since I went to uni there for a couple of years and had the time of my life!

Then we're heading to our first HRCAV (grown up pony club) event just up the rode. The ARCs run these great 'jackpot' weekends where you ride a couple of dressage tests on the Saturday, then a couple of SJ rounds on the Sunday. Points are awarded and you win a rug. A RUG. Woo! So, Annie and I are going in our first one and I'm quite looking forward to it. No plaiting allowed (not ALLOWED, I tell you!) and I get to wear a groovy club t-shirt rather than stock and jacket. Loving it already.

Lots of dressage judging in the next few weeks too. I'm really hopeful I finally get to complete all the shadow judging and sit-ins required to upgrade to the next level of judge. Fingers crossed - it's been a loooong time coming. Lots of support from the Jindera and Wagga Dressage clubs has been an absolutely fundamental factor. It makes a huge difference!

Then it's getting my country on in November for the Stock Horse boys' shows. There's a couple of them on before the end of the year so I thought I'd take the two colts and just do the led classes. It's interesting, the ASH community seem very keen on starting 2yo horses and riding them a lot. The ridden classes all start at 2yo and there's even campdrafts and other events for horses under 3yo. I really don't understand this mentality - the horses are not even close to being mature enough for that level of riding and work at 2yo. I'm sure there are lots of injuries in the 5yo and up ASHs. Come to think of it, you don't see many ASHs over 5yo for sale. Not real quality horses that would have been out doing shows and drafts as babies.

Maybe I should do a research paper for the ASHS....in my spare time!

Speaking of spare time, we are now very close to announcing the new business venture. I hope to get that all nailed down by the end of October. Exciting!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

And another reboot ;)

So, it's been almost exactly a year since my last post. And it's been one hell of a crappy year! This will be a far more regular blog, I promise, though it may be taking in more non-horsey topics, which I will get to in a minute.

Moving to a whole new state where you know no-one, have no riding facilities and no money is pretty must the hardest thing you can do when all you want to do is what you were doing before! I fell at Lynton Horse Trials a year ago, tore the ligaments in my ankle (very painful and slow to heal) and then found that my confidence was really messed up. I basically struggled to get on and ride the whole year, and haven't jumped a jump since. I even sat out of the Lucinda Green clinic. Not good, right?

I am slowly getting into a better place. I have done a couple of Manu Mclean clinics which always help my self-esteem. I am definitely aiming to do the Lucinda clinic next February, and I'm now a member of an Adult Riding club down here (my god, ARCs in Victoria are huge - like Pony Club for grown ups!).

I am now a proud Australian Stock Horse breeder (Pine Hill Stud, baby) with my very own young colts standing next year. Though, I fell off one of the breakers and hurt my bloody back a couple of weeks ago, sheesh....

In the last year, amidst all the turmoil and, to be fair, loneliness, of leaving my friends and equestrian community behind in Canberra, I stacked on the weight. It's terrible! So, today I'm starting the crash diet developed (I mean to say, 'marketed') by Dr Michael Mosley, the Blood Sugar Diet. It is an 8 week torture fest during which I will live on 800 calories per day. But, I should lose about 15kg, re-set my blood sugar to normal levels, kick-start my metabolism again, and, most importantly, not look like a fatty on poor Annie. White breeches are unforgiving, people.

I plan to blog about it and share the torture. :)

I also have a busy few months ahead as I start a new business (details to come when they're finalised), take the ASH boys to my very first Stock Horse shows, take Annie to our first comps in over a year, and generally ramp up to Christmas. We have a little ASH foal due in 6 weeks, too. So, I promise this will not turn into an awful, over-sharing weight-loss blog. It will only be a tiny bit of that.

I want to blog about this because the equestrian community is all about appearances. We all want to be improving and doing fine all the time. We don't want to show we're scared, we feel fat or uncomfortable, or how intimidated we are by the pros and their bloody gorgeous horses. But we do feel those things - lots! And I want to share my experiences and do a bit more embracing of the amateurishness of those experiences.  I want to do a bit more showing how it really is, including the mis-steps, the bitching and the judging. Oh yes, I'm doing lots of dressage judging too - heh heh heh.

Until literally a month ago, I had this weird mindset of thinking I was a professional, that I had to be riding at a certain level, had to be going up the grades all the time. I had never questioned this - never even really acknowledged it. But, my unconscious seemed to have me pegged as a future Olympian (I'm not actually exaggerating here), and every time I didn't do well, I beat myself up for it. Which was obviously all the time, since I ain't winning no trophy rugs!

I stopped wanting to ride at all when I fell at Lynton. What's the point, I thought? And I was scared of falling. Really scared. I stuffed up the approach to a difficult jump and Annie just couldn't get high enough to get us out of it. There were a couple of things I might have done to avoid the same fall, but really it was just a mistake and they happen all the time. The prospect of making a mistake and getting seriously hurt still makes my stomach churn.

So, this blog will be my way of documenting my ordinariness. My life as an amateur, a grassroots competitor and an average punter. Don't get me wrong, I'm still competitive as fuck, but now I'm not focusing on 3*! And this blog will not be full of how awesome I am (well, not all of it, anyway :D), but will be full of honesty, self-reflection and journey.