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Show recap: MREC jumper rounds

6 months post-op and we finally made it to a horse show 😍 MREC is probably my favourite show location; their facility is gorgeous and the prices are so reasonable, it makes all of their shows very appealing and accessible for me of the Budget Tribe.

I intended to purchase just 2 rounds: the first one would definitely be a 2’9″ class (because I can cruise around that height without any problems) and the second one would maybe be a 3’… to be decided depending on how the first round went. And then I was going to bop around their gorgeous XC course and see if I remembered how to ride something other than a stick fence.

I had a few simple goals for our first show this year:

  1. Have fun. This seems so obvious, but I get performance anxiety and used to be a vicious perfectionist, so it always has to be my #1 priority with my riding these days.
  2. Come away feeling confident. Whatever rounds I chose to do, I wanted to leave feeling strong and ready for the next thing, not riddled with anxiety and doubt. If this meant that I arrived and had to coast around a 2′ round to make that happen, that’s what I was going to do!
  3. Ride an “uphill” canter through each round. Or as uphill as my draft cross will ever get. Which isn’t much, but we’ve been dressaging and gosh darn it if that won’t help our jumping too!
  4. Sit back and keep my heels down to the fences. Because… duh.
  5. Allow my horse to go forward in the contact and avoid micromanaging her every step on our approaches.
  6. Be knee pain-free!
Summer shinies on their way

The weather was absolutely perfect: sunny with a small breeze and the occasional cloud cover. Vesper had a freshly washed tail, freshly roached mane and much of her thick winter hair has disappeared so she looked way more like something belonging at a show than a plough horse with mange. Doesn’t it feel good when you know your horse looks great?! My mom came to watch and brought my 4 year old nephew along who spent most of the visit asking to pet all the pretty horses. #adorbs #start’emyoung

We had the usual 10 years while of warm up time before the 2’9″ rounds started, so I took my time working on elements of our dressage lessons to help keep us supple and balanced. Lots of bending around my inside leg, releasing tension in the poll, riding up under my leg to avoid dumping on the forehand… Because of how well this has all been going at home, I decided to take a risk and try Vesper in her loose ring snaffle at the show. We always school in the snaffle at home, but we show over fences in the pelham because Her Ladyship tends to get really strong when she knows she’s competing and I always felt the need to micromanage. I figured, what the hell – if she runs through it completely, it’s only 2’9″ and I’ll just not fall off. She was being very polite about balancing off my seat in our warm up so I was feeling relatively positive about experimenting with the lighter bit. Dressage is a thing, yo.

One benefit about arriving that early before our class means that I know the course to death, because I end up watching about 50 other riders go at the lower height. Memorizing a course is way easier for me if I can watch others ride it, as opposed to just reading it off the posted map. Bless the jumpers for always having numbered fences.

My first round went a little bumpy, which was to be expected after all our time off. I was sometimes seeing my distances but I definitely wasn’t being helpful enough to my horse so there was a lot of “Yes? No? Do we- Oh crap” going on. We chipped in to almost every fence, to the point that I actually had to tap her shoulder with the whip in our jump off as she started backing herself off too much. That being said, she pinged around with her usual unicorn-ness and I – miracle of miracles – sat up to the fences? Mostly kept my leg on and rode actively to the fences? I bet most of our blips were from my horse being so shocked that I wasn’t just being a passenger.

Based on that “meh” round, I decided to just keep my second ride to the 2’9 height and work out the kinks instead of moving up to 3′. I wanted to walk away feeling really confident, and if I wasn’t riding the technical aspects well at the lower height, I definitely did not deserve to move up that day.

Round 2 was absolutely beautiful in comparison. I don’t remember us missing a distance (maybe just once)! I sat up to each fence, allowed Vesper to move forward in the contact on our approaches instead of pulling back every stride and we flowed together so well! She was starting to abuse the lighter bit by the time we got to the jump off (dragging me through the contact a little too much) but I was successful in rebalancing her in the turns and kind of just let her have her way for the last couple of jumps. Plot twist: sitting back actually works to prevent dumping on the forehand! What a discovery. There’s so much that my brain has known for years, but somehow I’ve only been able to physically apply it in the last 24 months or so.

The result of the classes was a 4th place ribbon, although I wasn’t there to get a place; I just wanted to check off my goals and it genuinely felt like the nicest round we’ve ever had, so I count us as winners there!

When everyone in the photo except you has their selfie face on

After a break, we took to the lovely XC field for some fun. Vesper decided back in October that ditches suddenly require close inspection and/or avoidance, so we spent some time schooling those which was a bit difficult for anxious me. I wanted to support her to go forward but had to ride defensively so that I didn’t get dumped in the dirt, and it’s been 7 months since I last rode anything resembling a XC question. We managed to get through it a handful of times (all of which caused me to lose one or both stirrups), and did a bit of work with the water which had also become an element requiring too much consideration. Vesper became an absolute dragon the moment she realized what we were out there to do – as much work as it is keeping her from just blasting off, I do love how much she enjoys that type of work.

Happiest pon

We only spent about 20-30 minutes playing, and managed to enjoy ourselves over some of the PT fences we rode last season which was a lovely confidence boost. I was intending to attend a local derby show the following weekend, but based on our shaky confidence with some XC elements, I decided we’ll skip that one in favour of some more play time in the big grassy field 🙂

I will also mention that this was my first real test of the Millbrook stirrup leathers that I purchased back in February, so keep an eye out for my review of those coming soon!

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review, Uncategorized

Review: Mondoni Aspen boots

I am looking forward to doing more reviews on my blog this season, as I’m the type of person who loves to read reviews of products before purchasing. I’m also a super budget buyer so if you’re looking for deals, I’m your girl; I never shell out for the expensive stuff.

Let’s dive right into this one! These are the Mondoni Aspen boots from Divoza Horseworld, an online tack store in The Netherlands.

Hello, gorgeous

I had been hunting for decades months for a brown tall boot that I could wear as a daily “lifestyle” boot after I discovered the exquisite (and wrenchingly expensive) Regina boots by Fairfax & Favor, over which I thirsted for many weeks before accepting that my wallet could not justify that kind of price. Especially because the conversion from GBP to CAD is absolutely brutal. My size is also never in stock apparently, which is probably for the best because then I had no other option but to accept my fate as a non-owner of Fairfax boots.

My tall boot search was greatly hindered by my height of 5’9 and my acclimatization to riding boots which fit nice and tall; most fashion boots fit a lot shorter (like 14-16″) and those just make my muscular calves look enormous. I wanted something at least 17″ tall, brown, no heel, simple design and doesn’t cost the equivalent of my left kidney. Major points if it had tassels. I literally spent months hunting on every site I could find, checking all the local shops, to no avail – everything was less than 16″ tall and/or had a heel. It was a dark time in my life.

I first discovered the Mondoni brand when I bought a pair of used tall boots off a Facebook horsey buy/sell page, because I’d given up finding something online and figured these would be as close as I could get to my Unicorn Boot. They were too big in the foot, and slightly different colours (from sun exposure maybe? Who knows) but I was exhausted from hunting. I went online to see what I could find out about the brand as far as retail value, reviews, etc. and as I was scrolling through their online selection, the Aspen boots revealed themselves in all of their glory.

I’ll skip the part of the story about my elation and trepidation, but including shipping to Canada they cost me a total of $285 CAD. I was willing to extend my fragile budget up to $250 in order to get a pair that I loved, which was a success except for the $30 duty fee which I forgot about and was dinged with when it arrived.

Shipping was quite quick for what I expected from Europe, I think they arrived in about a week. I literally gasped when I opened the box and saw them for the first time. They were basically everything that I had been hunting for.

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Milk chocolatey goodness

The full grain leather wasn’t as orangey as the online photo suggests; it is the colour of milk chocolate and I’m pretty sure I had literal heart-eyes when I peeled back the packaging. The leather definitely looked on the fragile side, like it would scuff really easily. I pulled them out and they felt super soft and more durable than I originally thought, and as beautiful as they looked. To my surprise, I discovered that the entire boot is lined with sherpa, which I obviously did not notice when ordering online. I had mixed feelings about this, since I was hoping to wear them through spring and fall and had concerns that they might be too warm. There is a stretch panel with elastic in the back which is always a yay for my calves, and a really adorable button closure at the top of the zipper. The sole is rubber and very sturdy.

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I was anxious about the size, since I can wear anything from a US 8 – 9.5 depending on the brand. I ordered a 39R which comes with a height of 18.5″ and a calf width of 14.2″ (my calf generally measures in at 14.5″ so I was biting my nails). The foot bed is actually about half a size too big, but the calf fits nice and snug with the elastic panel; as much as I’d prefer a more snug-fitting foot, I could never squish into the calf of the next size down. I have a pair of Ovation paddock boots in a size 39 which fit me like a glove, so clearly Europeans have the same problem as North Americans where sizes are totally different across brands.

I immediately applied leather conditioner and waterproofing from Nikwax because these were going to be my “dailies” through the rain of winter and spring in Vancouver, BC. It turns out that they are already super waterproof without it, but I felt better being extra careful. I also had my heart set on having a pair of boots with tassels, because Fairfax ruined me, so I marched off to the nearest Michael’s craft store to make my dream come true. High five, crafty self!

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Look at the adorableness of this

So I’ve had the boots for 4 months now and can speak more to their longevity. As far as the leather goes, yes it does scuff very easily but it rubs out just as easily with some leather oil or conditioner, which leaves them a beautiful rich, chocolatey brown. Here they are after a few weeks of no conditioner:

As far as fit goes, they are quite loose through the ankle on me (did I mention my calves) and have “fallen” a bit, and they give me very minor rubs around my upper heels but only if I walk for extended periods in them. The leather is soft but the structure of the boot is still to be fully broken in; they feel firm without being uncomfortably stiff, which leaves me hopeful that they won’t drop or sag much. The sherpa lining is wonderful for cold winter days, but can be warm when our weather fluctuates into spring; wearing a thinner sock helps but the foot bed is still too large for me. I’ve been meaning to try a liner to fill space but keep forgetting! The height of the shaft is perfect for me and the sole is extremely sturdy with great grip during the winter months.

The leather strips over the elastic panel have some fraying and cracking but that appears to be inevitable based on the way they’re attached. It’s negligible to me TBH.

Overall I love these boots. They’re beautiful and almost exactly what I was looking for at something like less than half the price of the Fairfaxes. I would call them very comparable to the Fairfax Imperial Explorer which appear more sturdy than the Reginas. Considering that you can pay $250 for a pair of fashion boots at a department store that are way less durable, I’m pretty chuffed with this purchase. I do wish they didn’t have sherpa, but whatever. They’re tall, sturdy, waterproof and gorgeous. And I can interchange my tassel colours so basically I’ve won at life.

**I’m editing this to add that I went onto Divoza’s website again today and discovered that their shipping prices to Canada and the US has gone up to 75 euros standard rate, which is the equivalent of $113 CAD! Unfortunately nothing could justify me ever spending that much on shipping, so I’ll have to quit drooling over their bridles. Those of you shopping from Europe or the UK won’t have that same price to worry about, you lucky dogs.

Uncategorized

Digging in

So we all know that I had to take 3 months off from riding this winter due to a major knee surgery (I’m still bitter that the snow didn’t start in December and get itself over with like I expected, but instead held off starting until I was back riding in February. You suck, winter), and due to other extra curriculars happening in my life, I didn’t start riding consistently again until late March. That’s almost 5 months of down time, and rebuilding my stamina has been a work in progress. We aren’t going to discuss relearning how to post the trot. Or irrelevant details like how to ride in general.

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We have this totally under control

Last week I decided that we were fit enough that we could handle a dressage lesson, since a full length jumping lesson would still probably be too much for my knee. I did warn my coach that we had been off all winter and she would need to go a bit easy on us, but otherwise I was feeling very optimistic. Call me psychotic, but I actually really enjoy dressage lessons… Almost more than jumping lessons? I love the feel of unlocking things in my communication with Vesper and the sensation of what I fondly think of as “leveling up” in the simplest things; plus we know that I get anxiety when jumping, so there’s that too.

I jumped this for fun, because I am 784% mentally stable obviously. I’m 5’9.

Most of the details aside, during my lesson I ended up blowing through all my reserves of energy and strength that I had in the tank and went way beyond physical perseverance into the realm of mental perseverance. I felt like I had been beaten with a hammer on almost every part of my body, and I could barely walk that evening! In retrospect, I clearly just needed to request more rest breaks to prevent that kind of physical exhaustion – but in the moment all I could focus on was putting my best effort in to achieve what my coach was asking of me. Much of it was super simple things, like just getting my really long, front-heavy mare to work correctly over her back, but I’m a lazy rider if I’m not in a lesson and I’m not very disciplined at developing those muscles. I swear Vesper activates her draft blood the moment I put the dressage saddle on.

It made me consider the psychology of sports and about the fortitude of our mental “grit”. Equestrians are some of the “grittiest” folks I know, but most people who have played competitive sports know the feeling that I’m talking about: when you physically do not have anything left to give, but somehow you bear down and will yourself to keep going. Part of me is embarrassed to admit that I practically had an out-of-body-exhaustion experience from a dressage lesson of all things, but to ride Correctlyrequires a lot more effort from me than just bopping around a stadium or XC course .

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It’s really hard to get even this much collected from either of us

I read this great quote from Henry Ward Beecher:

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t.

I love the difference here between a positive, “will” and a negative, “won’t“. There’s a sense of pride that comes afterwards, knowing that I could overcome what was physically hard and reap the rewards of success. I find that a mindset of “won’t” tends to block progress, especially with horses! It’s something I have to be mindful of daily when working with an independent and strong-willed mare.

There’s something about horses that inspires me to dig deeper into my resources (be that physical capacity, mental capacity, determination, etc) than other areas of my life. Perhaps it is the partnership and knowing that my horse is giving to me unreservedly; so why shouldn’t I be doing the same? I find the feeling of us working together 100% to be totally addictive – when we’re both super focused and determined and pushing ourselves physically.

What about you? Are there areas in your riding where you find yourself tapping into that deep perseverance?

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Welcome back

Well folks, it’s been a while! I took a long break from blogging for a few reasons; the primary one is that I had major knee surgery in November 2018 and had literally nothing to post about since I didn’t ride for 2 (tragic) months. I also didn’t specifically know what I wanted this blog to really be about beyond chronicling my riding achievements and adventures.

Now that my knee has healed enough to allow me to get back into riding, I decided to revamp my blog a bit and get back into posting, with the intention of recording my training and showing progress this year, offering product reviews and perhaps discussion topics. At the very least, it’s a handy space for me to keep a riding “journal” for my own future reference.

A brief recap:

• October 2018 we competed against almost 20 other riders at a horse trial in the Pretraining level and came away with a 3rd place. I was over the freaking moon! I didn’t end up recapping that one for some dumb reason.

• I finished up the show season with a jumper schooling show doing PT level just to lock it in – after that, I felt like it’s time to move up to Training (which I actually cannot wrap my head around; not long ago I couldn’t jump more than 2′).

• We had a fun little photoshoot because!

• November was major knee surgery: a microfracture to fix my chronic arthritis issues. They chipped into the bone of my femur to stimulate new bone growth; it was 2 weeks of total non weight-bearing and then weeks of painful rehab. 2 months of no riding was really hard, but so far I’m seeing success. I’m ahead of the predicted recovery and my specialists are very hopeful for a full recovery. It will likely be a year before we know for certain.

• Husband decided to take some riding lessons to help keep Vesper ridden while I was recovering. He took a few western lessons but ended up preferring to ride Vesper english and have me teach him. He hasn’t kept up with it since I’ve gotten back in the saddle, but he picks it up really quickly and even has goals of learning to jump!

He even bought himself a helmet, boots and gloves! Who is this guy

• I kept busy through the winter with another theatre performance which meant almost no riding anyway. We also got tons of late and unexpected snow? Yuck.

• I just got back from a Caribbean cruise and am finally ready to get back into full time training for this season! *twitch*

Pretty, but seriously lacking in horses

• Vesper just turned 19 while I was away! She’s a real senior citizen. I could tell she was bored of the winter break so I’m sure she’s just as happy as I am to get back into a schedule.


That’s about it for now. I’ve got a few products on the go that will receive reviews here (one of them being the coveted Millbrook stirrup leathers!) once I’ve had some more consistent time to trial them. I’ll be posting my show season plan shortly, too!

Thanks for checking in 🙂

Hunting, Show recap, Uncategorized

Most expensive week EVER.

Last week was a ton of fun and absolutely filled to the brim with horse things – which we all know is equestrian-speak for “my wallet weeps.” But we also all know that it is 107% worth it every time.

It started out with an invitation from my co-worker to audit the local Ingrid Klimke clinic that was happening last Saturday and Sunday about 10 minutes from my house. Co-worker’s barn manager’s daughter won a ringside table of 5 for the clinic at a dressage competition, and they gave him 2 of the seats to join them – he offered me one of the tickets and I just about expired from jubilation. My first ever clinic, and it’s with Kween Klimke?! Somebody grab the defibrillator.

I don’t attend clinics because, as you may have noted while reading through my blog, I am hella cheap and when I basically get to choose between boarding my horse or auditing a clinic, I can’t justify the money towards a clinic. Love the idea of them, but just not my financial gig. So when offered the opportunity to audit one of the greatest riders of all time FOR FREE at the RING-SIDE with a CATERED LUNCH (and excellent company, thank you co-worker), I immediately cleared my schedule and basically bounced up and down like I was headed to my first ever riding lesson. Kween. Klimke. *Heart eyes*

She was 2 tables down at lunch and I wanted to touch her coat as I walked by in hopes of being blessed…

The short of it is, she’s just as amazing as you think. The Saturday was dressage focused and the Sunday started with dressage and cavaletti and finished with jumping. I thought that I would benefit more from the jumping day, but I actually took the most notes from the dressage and cavaletti lessons. Now I need to spend even MORE money on cavalletti, blast.

Now, although I did not have to pay for the clinic itself, of course I bought one of her books. (Cha ching). I was very good and did not purchase anything from the tack booths… However Greenhawk chose to have a big anniversary sale that weekend and I really wanted some Woofwear XC boots, so naturally I popped to Greenhawk during the lunch break and dropped some cash on their very pretty Smart Event boots because my mare is the Queen and also practically a senior citizen at 18 and packs me around like the empress she is, so she deserves quality leg protection. Yes. (Cha ching).

Pretties

Now, all of these beautiful horses riding in the clinic were clipped so wonderfully – shiny, with no visible lines, clean limbs… nothing that I am familiar with because at most I can pull together a very poor trace clip that isn’t even and shows every line I make with the clippers. My vanity was stirred. I had the last hunt of the season coming up the next Saturday, and conveniently my friend/dressage coach clips professionally… You can see where this ended up. Gorgeous full nekkid body clip for Vesper to look like a magnificent show horse instead of her usual “I just came off the plough” vibe. (Cha ching).

It looked like a massacre
But lookit how gorgeous! 😍

Oh, and she’s due for her hoof trim, and since we’re hunting and the weather should be drying up any time now, we should put front shoes on for the spring/summer season! (Cha ching).

I also took this week to sign up for a session with my bestie who is a newly-minted personal trainer at her special discount rate – she kicked my butt in the best way (I paid her back for it when she came with me to the hunt!). (Not horse related, but still: Cha ching).

This all led up to the final drag hunt of the season, which is more Cha Ching but seriously I would spend more than that – it is the most fun you can have on horseback if you like eventing in any way. My personal training bestie also got to come along as they had a couple of horses for rent, which was her first time hunting and her first time jumping in over a year. She was so badass – I mean who meets a horse for the first time and then moments later takes it galloping and jumping in a herd of horses following hounds?! She might kill me for mentioning that she fell off at a fence, BUT she got right back on, and we’re both so sore 2 days later that she couldn’t fight me if she tried. Love you Rachel!

We rode together for basically the first time ever, in a group of like 15, and managed to not get any photos together except a selfie. Knobs.
She fit right in

We got super lucky with the weather, as the rain held off right until we got back to the trailers. I must say that Vesper and I probably looked the best turned out thanks to her BOMB body clip – we received so many compliments from the other riders and I think I could have upped my bra sized based on how puffed my chest was from being proud mamma. I could barely walk the next day (not exaggerating), but it was 1000% worth it. Seriously, hunting is the most fun I can imagine with horses.

Now, because apparently I just can’t seem to cap this, I have booked a vet appointment for the beginning of April for teeth float and vaccines. (Cha Cha Ching). I mean, it had to happen anyway, but seriously this is getting out of hand… Horses, expensive?!

I also need a haircut but maybe I’ll just call my friend and see if she’ll clip me too for super cheap. 😂 It’s that or the husband’s beard trimmer I think.

It’s a good thing that my entire May and June will be consumed with theatre – my bank account can finally take a breather.

Quality #mareglare
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Happy birthday Vesper!

If you’re following me on social media, you may have noticed that today is Vesper’s birthday!

She certainly doesn’t look…

Or act!

Like she’s 18 today.

Being a unicorn can be tough sometimes.

She’s the Queen of my heart, and taken me to places I never imagined possible.

Love you forever, V. ❤️

Show recap, Uncategorized

Riding to Hounds

Things have been quiet on here due to the lack of riding that occured over this winter – between gross weather and a theatre play I’ve been in, I wasn’t in the saddle a whole lot since about November.

Bless you microscopic arena for allowing even a modicum of riding

There was some ground freezing, and a crazy ice storm that lasted for about a week, but otherwise we didn’t have the snow dump that we had last year, for which I am very grateful. The times that I could go out to the barn, at least I could get in a decent hack.

The entire city looked like this. Beautiful, but a death trap

I recently found a leasor to ride Vesper once a week, which has definitely relieved a bit of the strain of trying to keep her fit while juggling a full time day job, a theatre production, a different theatre company, a husband, family, friends… Overloaded? Me? Never. Thankfully I’ve managed to be more regular with our rides, so she gets more like 2-3 days off a week instead of 5.

This was a massive blessing when our local drag hunt (no foxes) posted on their FB page that the next hunt would be on a Saturday instead of the usual Sunday (which I can’t attend right now due to theatre) – I had a week’s notice and scrambled to cancel all of my plans (sorry wonderful dressage coach/friend) and get insurance on the trailer to be able to join the hunt. I knew it could very possibly be the only one I attend this year.

Forecast called for snow and very chilly temperatures, but the morning of dawned as clear as you can imagine and about as warm as my freezer. I poured myself ungracefully into as many layers as I could safely ride in, packed the show coat and tall boots and buzzed off to the barn early, knowing that my trailer tires badly needed a fill up.

I may have never felt so adult in my life

Thankfully Vesper wasn’t much of an idiot getting on the trailer, so we left the barn right on schedule. 95% of the drive was on our big (interstate) highway, which made the trip easy once I became accustomed to towing at 110km/h. I inevitably couldn’t figure out where the property entrance was once I arrived, but made a friend in a gal who was also looking for the right spot. She and I eventually found the group.

Perfect weather is perfect

Vesper of course needed to look AT EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE but after 3 years of this, I am quite accustomed to tacking up a moving target. It was a small group, only about 9 of us this time, and only 2 hounds left. They recently went through a restructure and rehomed the pack – Leopard and Oliver are the only 2 left for now.

I was secretly thrilled that Leopard begged for pets – he seemed happy to just stay for scratches and forget the hunt!

Once I mounted up, Vesper didn’t take long to settle down, bless her. She’s a unicorn in disguise, I’m convinced. Milling horses, monstrously loud farm equipment, a train blowing by us: none of it fazed her. She may not enjoy standing still just about ever, which is super annoying, but I would not trade her for anything.

We had to wait for about 20 minutes for the scent to be laid and for a couple more riders to arrive and join us, and some of the horses weren’t comfortable going near the passing train, but eventually we kicked off onto the massive property.

Helmet cam footage:

We crossed a running river 3 or so times to begin with, which Vesper wanted to stop and play in very inconveniently, and we took it very easy to start as I didn’t want to burn her out. We partnered up with the gal I met at the beginning, who was attending her first hunt, and our mares got along great in tandem.

Galloping over fields, through water, through woods and across roads is my absolute favourite way to ride. It can be super technical and also utterly freeing. The conditions were sublime: firm ground without being too hard, sunshine to reduce the chill of the day but not too cold or too hot for a 2 hour hunt.

Unfortunately I only got the first half on my helmet cam. We took part in 6 “runs” total, with about 10-15 minute breaks after each one. Vesper wasn’t nearly as unfit as I worried she might be, and even going unshod she didn’t come up sore at all this time (last time we left with a stone bruise). I loved dressing up in show attire and taking part in such a traditional event. Vesper is utterly in her element while hunting – the only thing that needs work is her brakes.

We didn’t jump much, as I barely did any jumping this winter and I wasn’t feeling confident to hit some of the prepared fences. In the second half, I did take all the fences offered once we’d had a chance to warm up. Vesper sort of deked out at the first one as I didn’t set her up correctly and basically didn’t ride her to it at all, but after that it was smooth sailing.

In tandem with Kaitlin and Sun

At one point, I had to close my eyes and drop my head into her neck and pray that she wouldn’t crash into the horses ahead of us as we barrelled through some very grasping branches; I would probably have lost an eye. One of them even cracked the screen protector on my phone that was tucked into my arm holster! I won’t make that mistake next time.

Another adventure resulted in me losing a stirrup as we bounded up a very sketchy, loose-footing hill into the trees. It’s moments like that that I want to feed my horse all of the carrots in the world and make sure she knows how absolutely epic she is. I couldn’t tell what was coming up, only that we had to follow the leaders, so I had to just add leg, hang on and trust my steed. One of the things I absolutely love about the hunt is that there isn’t really time for worry or hesitation; you often have to just trust your horse and “kick on” to get through a messy patch. I have long been an anxious rider, so this has been an excellent exercise to boost my confidence and build the trust between Vesper and I. Hunting is the reason I felt eventually confident enough to try eventing.

The spectacular location along the Fraser River
I pansied out and took the smaller fences this time. I’m calling it wisdom and sticking to that story

We were in the saddle for 2 hours, and unfortunately I had to skip the brunch afterwards as it was a 45 min drive back home, plus the inevitable cleaning up and replacing the trailer which feels like it takes decades. I had a theatre performance to get to that evening so time was not on my side.

All in all, it was a thrill and a challenge, and it is my solemn goal to attend the final hunt of the season at the end of March – since that’s the next time I’ll be available!