Category Archives: horses

Long Lining

This spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a clinic with Deb 
Laderoute. Deb is the first woman to drive a four-in-hand for Canada 
at the World Equestrian Games, and her experience and knowledge made 
for a very educational weekend!

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in horses, reading


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What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I’m stealing this idea from the lovely Valerie Ormond. I thought it was a great idea for getting back in the swing of things!

I went to a lot of horse shows – which is what I usually do in the summer. I’m also far busier at work in the summer time, so perhaps “Summer Vacation” isn’t the most accurate term. Summer is very limited where I live (though we’re currently enjoying a stretch of the hottest temperatures we’ve seen all year —  in September) so we pack a lot into a few short months.

Shortly before my first competition of the year my horse came up lame, which resulted in him taking the summer off to (hopefully – still have my fingers crossed!) heal. Just about the same time, my driving mare, Jamie, who was supposed to be heavy in foal, came into season. No baby this year, but that meant that Miss James was promoted (demoted?) to show horse again. After only a handful of drives we started the show season in June in Vermilion, and despite her disadvantages of lack of fitness and training, not to mention excess tummy, she had a great year. Through the summer she went to eight shows, fairs and driving trials and we both had a lot of fun.

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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in history, horses, reading, writing


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Springtime Fancy

This time of year always makes me think of Frances Hodgeson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden”, of the green veil Mary saw creeping over the dead, grey branches in the garden. That’s happening here now, the faint green buds, then bright green leaves popping out on the trees and bushes, the grass startling, almost florescent green after months and months of being dead and brown.

Behind the houses at my family farm there’s a fenced alleyway where the horses in the farthest south pasture come up for water. It’s always seemed a little like a ‘secret garden’ to me. It’s enclosed and sheltered by the hedges, caraganas on one side and catone asters on the other, grown so tall that they nearly meet overhead. Four tall pines stand down the center of the narrow passageway, further blocking out the sun.

In the summertime, when there are leaves on the bushes, it’s like walking down a rich, green tunnel. The rustle of birds in the thick branches and the drone of bees on the blossoms of the caragana is surprisingly loud. The ground is mostly bare, the little grass that manages to grow in the shade is quickly picked off by busy little horses. Despite a semi-annual pruning of branches, there is usually some spots where you can’t walk upright. Right now, a section of big caragana branches are sagged across the path, bent by the weight of the winter snow. For most of the winter, it’s impassable, snow funneling into the passageway, filling it to the brim.

The horses, even those who were born and raised here, are nervous in the passageway. Not so nervous that they’re reluctant to go through it on their way to the water trough, but alert and spooky. Often, the younger horses especially, take they alley at a run, spending little time there. The scariest bit for them seems to be right under the four big pines, where the passageway is the most narrow. It isn’t as though its tight for them to fit through – our horses are Miniature Horses, there is plenty of room.

When I see a horse hesitate, her ears pricked and nostrils flared as she gathers her courage to dash past a spot in the hedge, I can’t help but catch her apprehension. I peer into the dense branches, searching for movement, listening. I don’t know what I think I’ll see, and there, in the dappled shadow and light, my imagination runs away with me and I’m not sure I want to see. Like the horses before me, I dash past – just in case.

There is something magical about the sheltered green path, something that makes the fantastic seem possible. Or maybe something that just allows imaginations, human and equine, to run free.

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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in horses, writing


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The Bad Example

“If you can’t be a good example, at least be a horrible warning.”

Don’t do what I did.

Today, finally, after a long, long winter, I got to drive my horse. The lawn finally melted (mostly) free of snow, Aggie Days is over, my horse de-haired, and our first events and shows are approaching with alarming speed.

Hawk hadn’t been driven since fall – five months ago. For the last week he’s spent most of his time in a stall after a winter spent running on a quarter section with his buddies.

When I went out this afternoon, the wind hit – and here in southern Alberta it knows how to blow. I went back for my coat and decided Hawk would have to wear his driving blanket thingy (quarter sheet? but it’s not a sheet, it’s more like a quarter winter blanket), even though he’s only worn it once before. And it might be flappy in the wind.

I almost changed my mind. I turned back towards the house then headed back to the barn three times (Grandad counted – he was watching me from the window with great amusement). But the itch to drive, and the pressure of those upcoming clinics and shows won out and I dug out the quarter sheet and went to get the cart out.

It wasn’t easy. I almost changed my mind again – the quonset door I usually use was still frozen shut in a snowbank, so I had to open the big doors. I always have trouble with the big doors, on account of I’m a wimp, and today was no exception. I couldn’t get them wide enough to roll the cart through, but with some lifting and twisting I got it out.

I took Hawk’s blankets off and he instantly started to shiver. I hurried to get him harnessed and get the “quarter winter blanket” on him to keep him cozy. My harness pad was missing (the last thing I did in the fall was clean and oil my harness – it took a beating in the rain at the last show), so I substituted a towel. All the strap ends were out of the keepers from being oiled. Apparently, the holdback straps stretched in the rain, so the breeching was loose even on the last hole, but since he’s driven without breeching lots in the show ring, and we were just doing circles on the grass, I left it.

Hawk was pretty goosey while I was hooking him up, and I was hearing Grandad in my head, telling me that hooking and unhooking is the riskiest part of driving a horse. Luckily, I’ve insisted on Hawk standing for harnessing/putting to ever since I started training him, and after 5 years of consistent training (well, for half a year each year, we do live in Canada 😉 it’s pretty ingrained.

By this time I was counting the number of strikes, things I shouldn’t be doing. I looked up to see that my grandparents had headed to town. Strike … well, I’d lost count, but I was on my own.

I jumped into the cart and convinced Hawk he had to walk to the lawn were we drive. As he was jigging along, spooking at the flap of the blanket, I remembered my cell phone was dead.

I made this all sound bad, but Hawk is a well trained (if I do say so myself ;-), sensible boy. He was pretty lifey there at first, but walked when I said walk, and very quickly settled into a free walk on a loose rein, which is how we usually start our training sessions. He was perhaps a little more forward than usual (which suits me, actually!) but he was his usual steady self and we had a very nice drive, especially when we weren’t facing the wind that was strong enough to take my breath away.

If I’d been driving another horse, with all those strikes against me – the weather, the poor fitting harness, the strange blanket, driving on my own, no cell phone, and perhaps most significantly, my horse’s long layoff –  things might not have gone so well.

I’ve seen some scary wreaks here and there, and while anything can happen and horses are unpredictable, often they happen because people didn’t take every precaution they could to ensure a safe and successful experience for their horse.

A few years ago some guy asked me how I start horses in harness. I outlined the steps I take: bitting, ground driving in the round pen, ground driving outside the round pen, ground driving everywhere in the yard I plan to drive them and some places I don’t, long lining, etc, etc. He told me, “You don’t need to do all that, we just walk them up and down a few times then hook them to the cart.” While I was trying to think of a reply, he started making excuses for me. “Oh, but you probably don’t have an arena to drive in.” Well, no, I don’t. But I would do all those steps anyway.

I want to do absolutely everything I can to set my horses up for success. All it takes is one bad experience, and a horse can be traumatized or injured, and never again be able to be a driving horse. We have one horse that spooks and runs if he so much as SEES a cart – I don’t know what happened in his history, but I will do my best to make sure that whatever it was doesn’t happen to a horse I’m training.

In the meantime – today was my first drive of the spring so it was a GREAT DAY!

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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in horses


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Because She’s Beautiful

And isn’t there something called “Wordless Wednesday”? Or did I ruin that by typing this?

This is the incomparable Blue Hors Matine. I love her. This video always, always makes me cry.

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Posted by on March 9, 2011 in horses


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Combined Driving For Miniature Horses

I entered my first Combined Driving Event in the fall of 2009, so while I’m far from being an expert on the subject, I wanted to share what I have learned, in the hopes that it will encourage more people to come and try it out!

In combined driving Miniature Horses compete in the Very Small Equine (VSE) division, which is open to horses (or ponies or donkeys or mules) 39” and under at the withers. Horses do not need to be registered, and you can compete with a single, pair, tandem or four-in-hand. You also enter for your level: Training, Preliminary or Intermediate. You choose what level you enter, and you can stay at Training level until you’re comfortable moving on. Some of the competitions in Alberta run under the new AEF rules where you enter  Level 1 through 6 based on the experience of the driver and/or horse.

There are three phases to each Combined Driving competition, whether a full three day Combined Driving Event (CDE) or a one day Driving Trial.


Driven dressage is a series of compulsory figures performed from memory.

Before anyone says, “But I’ll never remember!”, you can find all the tests on the American Driving Society webpage, and the test you’ll be asked to perform for your level will be listed in the prizelist, so you’ll have lots of time to practice at home. Also, at Training level, you are allowed to have someone call your test, so that you won’t get lost. And if you DO get lost? The judge will blow his whistle, you drive over to him (or her), and they will help you out and tell you where they’d like you to restart from. You’ll get some extra penalty points, but it’s not the end of the world. You can get lost three times before you’re eliminated, and even then you still get to play in the rest of the phases. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 2, 2011 in horses


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Friday Five

Five things that have interested or amused me this week:
  1. “I know, I need to stop talking.” This blog has kept me giggling all week – I keep going back to read more.
  2. Horseplay: A Novel, by Judy Reene Singer A actually downloaded Kindle for PC specifically so I could buy this book and read it right away on my netbook. I laughed out loud three times during the funeral scene alone. Definitely worth it!
  3. Great Books For Horse Lovers The blog where I discovered the Horseplay book. I’m a horse lover and a book lover, I’ll be stopping by regularly!
  4. The lovely Emlyn Chand from Novel Publicity did a very comprehensive blog review for me, looking forward to implementing more of her suggestions! If anyone is interested, head over to Novel Publicity and sign up as a blog host.
  5. My favorite song this week: 

What fun things have you discovered this week?

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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in horses, reading, writing


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