I’ve mentioned before that I’m open to just about any type of riding. There are some disciplines and events I prefer over others, there are some disciplines I’m surprised even manage to find practitioners any longer, but I’m not a discipline snob. I think that all disciplines could learn from each other if they weren’t so busy looking down on all other disciplines. Not only do equestrians judge other horses and riders, we literally pay people to judge us. Any equestrian that tells you they don’t judge others is lying. You can’t be a serious rider or trainer and not constantly be evaluating every horse and rider you see. Even strictly for pleasure riders can be a surprisingly judge-y group. That doesn’t mean that you are criticizing others (although plenty of equestrians do that). It just means that you compare every horse and rider you see to an “ideal” standard you have in your head, and/or against where you or your horse(s) is currently.
My problem, judging, aside is that I’ve never settled on that one type of riding that I would want to do exclusively. Even though I tend to focus mainly on eventing, I have several other things I want to eventually try when I find the time. Things like mounted archery, combined driving events, maybe a barrel race, endurance, competitive trail, driving my donkeys, and then my eight year goal of creating a team of six driving ponies. In fact two donkeys may end up as one pair in the team of six, because how cute would it be to have a mix of animals?! However, doing any of these things even marginally well takes a lot of time, and isn’t that what I’m always short on?
Not only do I bounce between activities, I’m also slip seating animals as well. I’ve been taking two horses to shows to compete this year, and a dragging a third along so he can get some trailer miles and get used to the atmosphere of equestrian events. I sadly neglected the ponies this year, only doing a few maintenance drives, and then there are those three donkeys I just haven’t gotten around to training. Working two horses daily is doable for me, while maintaining a work/family/equestrian balance. Occasionally, I can squeeze three horses in on a single day, but that isn’t the norm. My problem has always been too many horses/ponies/donkeys, not enough butts.
It’s been a while since I wrote out a training calendar and stuck to it, but reaching any of these goals is going to require some organization, which has never been my strong point. So I’m going to finish out this show season in November, then take a long hard look at my string and the 2022 show calendar. Just brainstorming, this is how I see next year going…
Johnny Cash aka Ring of Fire In terms of priority, I want to begin competing with Johnny Cash in 2022. He currently has an “Oh $hit!” slam on the breaks stop whenever he encounters a new ground obstacle that would make a reining trainer proud. Be it a ground pole, shadow, or pile of horse poo he just wasn’t expecting. After he thinks about it, he will go over it again, again with only a minor speed reduction, but that sudden stop is not ideal in a jumping prospect. I have no idea how much scope JC has, but he’s relatively flat over an 18in obstacle, that could also be lack of respect for the height. So confidence building and show exposure will be the focus. Hopefully his eventing career can begin in 2023 after another year of desensitization/obstacle work. He’s been pretty impressive in his recent beginner novice (not sure how that equates to straight up dressage level) schools. I’m thinking maybe Level 1 dressage could be doable for him next year.
Odessa aka Indian Summer: Both Odessa and Comanche have given me performances this year that ranged from adequate to amazing at starter level. It’s time to bump them up to beginner novice where I’m pretty sure Odessa will top out her eventing career. I’m also thinking Odessa will be the perfect mount to give mounted archery a try, so her topping out at a relatively low eventing level is fine by me.
Comanche aka Comanche Spirit: Comanche may have Novice level scope in him, but there is a rather large difference of opinion regarding his age between the two vets that have treated him, and an equine dentist. My gut feeling tells me he’s in his early to mid-teens, but I have to accept the fact that he may not be, and that may limit his competitive trajectory. We’ll just keep progressing until he tells me enough is enough. Comanche has a natural endurance unlike any other horse I’ve ever ridden. A part of me has this secret wish to complete the Tevis Cup Trail, and it’s not unheard of for horses in their mid twenties to do it. So maybe in a year or two, as Johnny Cash begins stepping up in the eventing world, I’ll transition Comanche to more endurance activities.
Summer Cloud: It’s been two years since Darling Husband snatched this gorgeous little pony from the clutches of a kill buyer at a horse auction. She’s spent that time pregnant, losing the first foal, and then giving us a beautiful colt on Easter morning this year. Since weaning she’s had a few months just chilling, but hopefully I’ll begin her driving training in December or January. Ultimately she’ll be paired with Apple Jack if those two feisty little mares can get along side by side.
Thistle/Mesquite/Sage: I’m not even going to say that I managed to adequately halter break these asses. They kind of tolerate having one on their head, and lead sort of. Anyway I’d like to focus on some serious ground work, and maybe with any luck get them to accept being ridden. I can’t think of anything cuter than Jasper riding a little burro. It’s a goal, and I think doable with at least one of them. I have high hopes for Mesquite. So far she’s been the easiest to work with out of the bunch.
Tater Tot: Tater turns 4 this June, which means she’s officially old enough to drive. I may begin the ground driving before June, but I definitely want her driving by the end of 2022.
Apple Jack: In an effort to reproduce a mini relatively close in size to Tater, I decided to re-breed Apple Jack to Beau Pony. Worst case scenario, the pony will be closer AJ or SC’s size. Either way, I decided since I still have two more ponies to train to ground drive, I had the time to wait for another foal to grow up, if there was a chance of getting something to match Tater. If not we’ll still love it, and find a job for it.
Moonshine aka Dixieland Delight: This little pony is solid in every sense of the word! She’s unflappable, brave, and has more parade driving mileage than all my other animals combined. I struggle to keep her at a healthy weight because apparently air is fattening for this little chunk. She’ll most likely just maintain her current levels, and maybe do a stint as Jasper’s first riding pony while I’m trying to train the donkeys.
There are some limitations to these plans. Besides the obvious, time, I need more harness. I can train Summer using Apple Jack’s current harness, but at some point if they are going to be a pair, then I need at least another harness set. Unfortunately Chimacum Tack no longer offers the Marafun harness. If I want a matching harness set for a pair, I’ll most likely end up buying at least 2 new sets. Tater is so tiny she’ll need a custom harness to start training, which makes 3 new sets of harness, and for any of you that have priced harness, smaller does not equal less expensive. I’ve not had great success finding used tack for mini’s either. I’m finally at a point with full size horse tack, that I shouldn’t need to make any major purchases for the big guys for at least a few years. So, I’m squirreling money away in my Acorns app. With better organization/planning, luck, and my ability to find harness, hopefully I can realize some of these goals in 2022!