Sunday, April 29, 2012

Busy busy

So much to do and so little time... School is steadily busy, and I am keen to keep a lid on frantic activity, so keep at it all the time. So the weekends are very precious. Yesterday I had my lesson on  Chief White Cloud, and he was lots of fun. I was thrilled with myself because I managed some serious cantering on him, and stayed balanced and in control. Straight afterwards I went to ride Zanny. She was looking good, but my back decided to go into spasms for the majority of our jaunt around the block. Very, very annoying. She was initially a bit sluggish, but soon got into her stride and I allowed her some periods of trotting, because she loves zooming along. My poor back. I took painkillers today because it hasn't recovered yet. I think it was controlling Chief that set my back off. Anyway, Zanny was very pleased because after I washed her down I let her munch on some piles of hay left in the stable yard while she dried. Her pregnant tummy was sticking out a long way. She obligingly stood close to me so I could give her lots of scratches and cuddles. 

Today, Johnny and I went to support The Crafty Neighbour in a duathlon over in Tai Tapu. She had to walk 4km and bike 7km. John said I would have been fine entering in the shape I'm in now, but my back would have been gruesome. So I need to do some serious work on it. Johnny even mentioned going to a chiropractor. Hmmm, not sure if I like that idea. So I told The Crafty Neighbour that I'm in training for next year. At the supermarket we got lots of healthy food. We need to really focus on our fruit and vege intake. For tea we made the most delicious Thai yellow curry (not from scratch - we are not Thai experts - this was a Global Cuisine sauce). We put lots of veges in. They are lurking in the unctuous golden sauce somewhere. We cooked up some jasmine rice in the rice cooker. I love jasmine rice. We usually use basmati, but I like the jasmine rice just as much. 
 I'm counting on Hugh to give me some great ideas for incorporating lots of veges into our meals.
 I was feeling a bit miserable with myself this morning so bought a Country Homes and Interiors magazine because I've already got my English Country Living. Spoiled, I know! But enjoying my lunch (healthy, of course), followed by a cup of tea and a very pretty magazine, brightened up my day.
Other good things:
  • I did a bit of ransacking in the garden. What a jungle!
  • Good Sorts on the news on Sunday. Lovely people doing good things for others. 
  • Johnny taking my blood pressure with our new monitor and trying to get my pressure low "think of puppies and kittens and horse noses- yes, think of horse noses." 
  • Jasper - he spends most of his time sleeping, but he is about 18 years old now. He purrs like mad when we have cuddles. 
  • Whittakers Peanut Butter chocolate - so good, but I'd better steer clear of the choccy department in the supermarket. 
  • Miss Dog with her new very bright pink collar (Johnny just bought it because he knew Mr Crafty Neighbour thinks our dog looks "soft" with a pink collar). 
  • The new Midwives programme on Sunday night. Brilliant! 
  • Cardigans - love them!!!!
  • Spotty Converse sneakers- I want them. A lot. I am yet to find a pair in real life. 

I wish I had done some crafting this weekend. I suppose I won't get any done during the week. I hope to get a bit of exercise in with Johnny. I usually take my class for a walk to get them moving most days, but need more intensity in my first week on duathlon training. Let's hope my back behaves or Johnny will be talking about taking me to some evil back cracking pseudo physician.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Any holiday is a good day. This year ANZAC Day fortuitously fell right in the middle of the first week of Term 2, so that made the restart at school much easier. I think a break every Wednesday would be a great move. 

We didn't go to the ANZAC parades this morning, but at school I showed my students some ANZAC themed videos, we tasted ANZAC cookies and painted lovely bright poppies. 

Today Johnny had some work stuff to attend to, interviewing job applicants. It was a beautiful day, so I did some washing and gardening, plus tidied up the house. Then I went out to ride Zanny. She was very pleased to see me, and we had a fabulous ride in the sun. I went further than I have gone by myself before, including going past the house of the crazy chicken lady, whose dogs barked and rattled their chains vigorously making Zanny jump a little. There was a man waterblasting his roof which made her stop for a while, looking to see what was making the weird noise. Once she had had a good look I asked her to move on, which she did without a twitch. What a good lady! I also showed her the new mirror in the arena. She had a look, but wasn't at all bothered. I though we looked pretty good! 

I've got a big pot of minestrone soup on. Johnny isn't home yet. Must be hard deciding who to employ. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Three Day Event

I am super tired after a very busy two weeks, finished up with the biggest South Island Three Day Event, which is held at the National Equestrian Centre at Mcleans Island. Actually, the first part of the event starts the afternoon before the event starts. There is a competition for 4 and 5 year olds, and Emily had Taxi entered. It is based on potential as a sport horse. Taxi had to do a dressage test, do some jumps, be judged on his confirmation and then do a gallop. Here he is turning the corner into his gallop. 
 What a lovely boy he is! Much loved among the grooms because he is so friendly and relaxed to be around. And he is only 4 with a failed career as a racehorse behind him (he jumped the barrier to get away from the other horses). Taxi got 6th out of about 12 horses. But then he went on to win the 4,5 and 6 Young Event Horse class in the 3 Day Event competition. We were super proud of him. Billy was winning, but he stuffed up in the showjumping and dropped to 4th. Billy is only 4 too. Wee baby sport horses.

My dear friend Oscar (Dambala) made an appearance as the "guinea pig" dressage horse. He had to do a sample test to get the judges to synchronise their scoring. What a lovely man he is. He had a few whoopsies because he was a little unsettled. He hasn't been competing due to lameness, and is getting back into action currently.
Here is Eve with her lovely mare who has a fancy show name, but is called Lemon at home. Not a lemon at all. She did extremely well and got 3rd in one of the higher level classes. Eve works and lives at Emily's place. 

Dear Lewis. He was winning his class and we all had high hopes, but he dropped a rail in the showjumping and was relegated to 4th. I was extraordinarily upset for him. He is the sweetest, cuddliest horse and I'm incredibly fond of him. 
 And look at dear Oscar. I think he really enjoyed his day out. A bit of work, lots of food, plenty of cuddles and attention, and basking in the sun. Not a bad way to spend a day.
In case you were thinking it is all roses and horse cuddles grooming at horse events, it is actually a demanding and exhausting job. I picked up a lot of poo, kept hay bags full, carried big buckets of water (my poor back), put gear on and off, trying to get it right each time, cleaned, brushed, washed, walked horses, gave Em leg-ups,  and tried to be in the right place at the right time. When not horse minding, I was dog minding. I got to walk the 2km+ cross country course. I also tried very hard not to do the wrong thing so I wouldn't be growled at or accused of interfering with anyone else's horse. 

So back to school I go!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cold then warm

Yesterday was freezing!!!! I went out to Viv and Em's to meet Tinks Pottinger and to see her give lessons. She is really down to earth, and fun to be around. No airs and graces, which made my visit lots of fun. She was giving lessons for much of the day, and there was a chilly wind and intermittent showers. Never mind. Tinks was amazing. She had an incredible understanding of the fine details of getting the best out of each horse, and came up with exercises each horse would benefit from. To be honest, it was way, way above concentrating on keeping my chicken wings in when cantering, and focusing on being on the correct diagonal at trot. I'm guessing she would be just as fantastic at getting the best out of a rider like me as well as the highly experienced riders she was teaching. Viv was excited to show Tinks Frazer, and she had lots of positive things to say about him, thank goodness. Viv is so proud of him, and he was happy to go along with show and tell, especially since I had been giving him and Zanny lots of carrots just before they came along. Tinks said Zanny looks very young! She could only see her head peeping out from under her cover, but I was thrilled because I've been putting lots of work into making her beautiful. I had a wee laugh to myself when Viv told her that she is 18.

Today Johnny had plans to do some school work, and since it was fine I though I'd better make the most of the warmer day and have a ride. I went out and Zanny was very pleased to see me (more carrots). There was no-one in sight, which isn't a problem, but there were no jumping saddles in sight either, so I had to use a dressage saddle. I did encounter a few problems with it.
1. Getting on - the back of the saddle is so high that I got my leg hooked on it and was dangling on Zanny's back. She started moving off, but realised I was in trouble and stopped patiently to wait for me to sort myself out.
2. It was so uncomfortable compared to the jumping saddles because of the position of my leg and how that worked with my dicky back. I had to drop the stirrups quite low to be remotely comfy.
3. I felt too forward compared to usual - and we know being tilted forward is closer to over the side and into the drink!
4. Finally, getting off I got my leg hooked again, and thank goodness there was no-one around to see the embarrassing fumble as I headed groundward.
Thankfully Zanny and I are getting more and more in sync, and she tolerates my inadequacies without taking advantage. I think she isn't a beginners horse, but not because she isn't super quiet. She has her little quirks, which would alarm a beginner- she needs speed management, but has a very sensitive mouth, back and sides, plus the head flick can be pretty intense. We're working on that. Being blind in one eye, she needs to look around more than regular horses. But what a treasure she is. Perfect for me . We went for another out and about ride down the local roads, and didn't have a single spook, shy, disobedience or scary moment. The grass verges are lovely and wide, and we even had a trot today. I chatted away to her about this and that, and she listened politely.

I think it will rain a bit tomorrow, but is supposed to be fine for the Three Day Event. I think Johnny and I should spend some time doing some stuff together.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Making the most of every day

What is the secret of life? Make the most of every day. I've been busy doing that over the past two days.  The tomatoes are ripe indoors and out, and will be finishing soon. We can't eat them all raw because there are so many, so I decided to make Hugh's Roasted Tomato Sauce, which is stored in the freezer, and can be used as the basis of pasta sauces, soups and casseroles. Look how pretty the yellow pear cherry tomatoes look in my spotty bowl!
 Of course Miss Dog was right there to help out.
 This tray has the yellow and red cherry tomatoes plus marjoram, thyme, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper plus olive oil.
 This one has large and cherry tomatoes and a red pepper with thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper plus olive oil.
 After roasting for about an hour at 160 degrees Celsius the trays looked like this. 

After cooling for a wee while I pressed the vegetables through a sieve, leaving skins and seeds behind. The sauce isn't particularly exciting to look at - just a reddish, thick liquid, so no photo. I've tucked containers of it away in the freezer. Very pleasing use of my crop. 

Who have we here? 

 Oh, Zanny, you are gorgeous!
 I know you can hear me chatting away to you.
 Today we had our riding date, and a lovely big groom. I didn't scrub her down because she would take hours to dry, but we did enjoy a good brush. I spent some time watching Em in the arena schooling Taxi. She has a great big mirror installed in the arena now. Taxi didn't seem to bothered by it, and Hedgehog, the pony, went right up to it to admire herself. Viv suggested that Zanny and I could go for a ride up the road by ourselves, so I didn't get to test out her reaction to seeing her expanding belly in the new mirror. I'm guessing there will be a fair bit of snorting and looking when I introduce her to it. Anyway, none of that today. We headed up the road for a quiet walk and I was so pleased with both of us. Zanny was fantastic, with plenty of head flicking, but nothing alarming. She only jumped a tiny bit when a ute went past and two dogs on the back let out a barrage of barks at us. What a wonderful experience. Zanny really seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I spoiled her when we got back. First she got carrots, then a handful of horse food pellets, and on the way back to her paddock I let her munch on a patch of beautiful long grass. She was very pleased.
 Oooh that is good stuff!
 Frazer was very pleased when his mummy returned to the paddock, even though she is very strict. Now he has been gelded he gets to hang out with the ladies again. Actually, his former paddock mate  (Johnny) suddenly turned on him and tried to beat him up. Poor Frazer.
 Zanny actualy looks quite slim here. She's carrying the baby weight right in the middle. Viv said her fat tummy will keep my legs in a perfect position.
 She has a lovely big paddock. Look at that shiny bottom. She is looking so much better after regular grooming.
 This young lady would love some regular attention too. Verve is a youngster just being bought into work. She is a real smooch. I think she is a warmblood cross. Her muzzle is very broad compared to Zanny's.
 And here's my friend Dolly. For some reason she is not at all popular. I think she's cute. She belongs to the neighbours, and in exchange for looking after her, Viv and Em have the run of two huge paddocks. Dolly looks more pregnant than Zanny, but she's just a fatty. No one does anything with her at all.
 How cute is this face. Actually she has the most gorgeous eyes with little upward points like eyeliner on the outside corners. I told Em I might take her on for lots of cuddles and attention once Zanny is busy with her baby. Em said I must be desperate. Poor Dolly. Well, I think she is very sweet.
It turns out that Tinks Pottinger will be out doing lessons at Em and Viv's place tomorrow, so I'll head out there to do some learning from the sidelines. Maybe I'll get a ride in, but if not, I'll take plenty of carrots out for my girl and her friends. I've found a home for the two giant marrows lurking in the garden as well. They are going out to decorate the cross country course for the 3 Day Event. Now I would never have predicted that future for a pair of my marrows! I'll probably find them making up a combination jump for the 3* competition. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Two Rides!!!!

Today I had my riding lesson. Big Chief White Cloud was back in action. No sign of the swelling that halted us in our tracks last weekend. He was quite chilled out today and we worked on managing speed, with transitions from trot to walk, and trot to halt. Then we did lengthening and slowing his lovely bold trot. We did some leg yields at trot, then had a go at canter. Oh my goodness his canter is like being launched into space with every stride. I'm not sure I'll ever master it.

After tucking Chief back into his cover and putting him in his paddock, I took a crazy roundabout back road route through West Melton to visit Zanny. She was in a peaceful mood, and seems to be getting used to our little routine. We had the arena all to ourselves, which made a huge difference to what we could do. I worked on using the arena with control, and had her trotting nicely with no head flapping. We did some leg yields at walk. She was great at that! I don't think we'll trot leg yields while she is pregnant, as I'd hate her to trip with the crossing legs. I had a go at walking  circles without stirrups, and might try at trot next time. I wasn't quite brave enough to cross the stirrups over the saddle. Zanny actually looked after me really carefully without stirrups, which was probably because I was sitting very deep in the saddle, which slowed her down. We did canter circles, and on the last one I pulled out of the circle and we cantered down the long side of the arena. Brave!!! I sat her jarring canter better today. After our time in the arena I took her for a walk down the long drive to the gate and back up to the stables. She was all alert and not quite sure about hacking without a mate, but we did great. I wonder if we could try heading down the road a little bit?

It was a great idea to ride Zanny straight after Chief because I was already in riding mode, and wasn't as nervous initially. Monday is our next ride, hopefully.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A cup of tea

I never used to drink much tea at all. Now I love a relaxing cup. I've got back into my sewing this week. I love to make a lovely cup of tea (medium strength, a bit of milk-but not too much, and no sugar), then drink it in my workroom while contemplating the many project options at hand. I've made a bit of progress with unfinished projects this week. Mummy's quilt now has a back. I am considering my options for joining the quilt sandwich - that is why there's  red button lurking. 
 I also created the binding for my little Robyn Pandolph Scarborough Fair charm pack quilt. I was having trouble choosing the fabric for the binding, and finally found this pretty pink spot in my stash, where it had been waiting all along. I adore these pretty squares of fabric all put together. The quilting is fantastic too, if I may say so myself.
 Jasper is super comfy on his nest, which is made up of the Kaffe Fassett stack and slash cushion I made for him, topped with his favourite quilt. He was naughty and did a wee on the front door (inside) yesterday. Needless to say he was exceptionally unpopular all evening.

I'm feeling rather tired because we've been keeping busy over the holidays. Yesterday I went out to visit my dear Zanny. Not sure that she was all that impressed about having a ride because she kept speeding up as we went towards the arena exit. I think she would love it if I took her out for a ride along the road, but I'm not sure about that without Viv. If she was a plodder I wouldn't hesitate, but she loves speed, at walk or at trot. Anyway, we headed out to the arena, which always makes her super alert and a bit tense. She has to walk past horses on her right, and as she is blind in her right eye she can hear them, but can't see them. Scary. Then once we get out there the builders are busy working on the new house, making lots of noise, and there's always a dog or two lurking around the arena. Rabbit hunting, I guess. Yesterday Em was working some of her horses in the arena, so we pottered around the edges, keeping out of her way. She is schooling a big grey and white pinto eventing horse currently, preparing him for sale. He is exceptionally naughty and threw several tantrums, trying to leave the arena area. Then he did a massive rear, with Emily hanging off his neck and her legs dangling down over his backside. Fortunately he didn't go over backwards, and she pulled herself back into the saddle and proceeding to do battle so he wouldn't win. Me and Zanny cowered in the corner, then I decided things were getting a bit scary, so I dismounted and led her to safety. I'm guessing there will be plenty more similar battles in the near future, before he is ready to go to a new (experienced) rider. Hopefully not when Zanny and I are around. I've got a lesson at Scarlett Oak tomorrow morning. I wonder if Chief will be ready for action again? Next week I'm planning a pamper day for Zanny, as we are winning the war against her scurfy coat. Plus, super excitement, Tinks Pottinger is coming to stay at the Butcher house and I've been invited to come and meet her and see her give some lessons. I hope to get Zanny out in the arena before she starts lessons, so she might see me ride. Funny. Hopefully not embarrassing. 

Johnny has been getting right into his mountain biking. Today he and I went out to Mclean's Island bike track. It was my fourth visit there. It is damn hard work and requires lots of concentration not to crash. Plus guts to get up the hills without stopping (which I can do now, thanks to discovering very low gears and thinking of Katy Perry's new song video in which she joins the Marines). I'm less confident on the downhills as some are very steep. Today I had a bit of trouble with low blood sugar as I needed to eat more before going, and I threw the toys out of the cot at one of the downhills. I was grouching about being too scared because I thought I might fall off and smash my teeth. I wheeled my bike down sulkily. There's no going back once you are on the track, and it can be 10 km of Hell, with bonus Hell of either 2 km or 5 km (or both) if you feel up to it. Today we did 12 km. I'm pleased I can now do all of the uphills without stopping, and next time I'm try not to throw a tanty. Maybe I'll think of a nice cup of tea. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Scarlett Oak Derby Day

Pop over to the Scarlett Oak Equestrian Facebook page to have a look at some of the photos from today's Derby Day. What a great day! Celine had set up a fantastic course that rode beautifully. In fact there was only one fall, and that was at a little bank rather than a jump, and the rider wasn't hurt. The horses really looked like they were having fun. I sometimes think showjumping rounds are so short that the action is all over so quickly, but with derby courses there are more jumps over a longer distance. The jumps are all like showjumps in that they are made to fall if bumped, but some may have crosscountry touches, like water or brush. There are also undulations in the course, and there can be very steep banks and drops. Celine's course covered the arena area plus the grassy slopes and banks around the riding school area. I was amazed at how bitchy a couple of the competitors got, questioning the scoring and making snarky comments about how they were judged. Everyone else was great and seemed to have fun.

I'm eating an Easter chicken. She has a very angry look in her eye, and that is probably because I've eaten all of her except her head and neck. I actually don't like eating things with facial features. I know the chicken is just chocolate set in a mold, but with a face I can't help empathising with the poor creature. I find egg eating more satisfying, but there have been slim pickings around here over the Easter break. Barbara bought some caramello creme eggs to share - those are the sweetest things known to humankind. One was plenty, and I have superhuman tolerance to sweet goodies, so they are off the scale.

I hope you have had a happy Easter break. I'm always a bit dubious about celebrating a horrible event that took place long ago. Anyway, apparently Easter is not the actual date of the dreaded Christian incident (and resurrection - is that bit supposed to make us forget the horrible death part?). I prefer to think about the springtime chickens and bunnies, plus lots of chocolate and flowers, even though it is autumn here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Riding lesson

Today I had a riding lesson booked with my big friend Chief White Cloud. Johnny dropped me off, then went to Mcleans for a bike ride. Once I had walked the derby course for tomorrow (being chief judge, I need to know my stuff), I started getting Chief ready. He was so quiet, and I thought it was because he was next to his best friend Teddy. Usually he is quite restless when being groomed. I noticed he was standing resting a hoof constantly and when I had a little look I noticed that his lower leg was swollen, and it felt puffy, especially below his fetlock and above his hoof. When I trotted him to see if he was lame it was clear that he was very sore. Poor man! Erika hosed his leg and took him for a gentle walk, then hosed it again, and the swelling started to go down. He'll have to be rested for a few days. He was getting right into holiday mode, munching on grass alongside the arena. Did I detect a twinkle in his eye?
 So, instead of clambering up high, I rode my smallest horse friend, Navarro.
I adore Navarro. He is a character, and a safe ride, so I get a lot out of lessons on him. My problem is that he is used a lot for jumping, and is therefore not available for me to ride often. I focus on dressage mainly, and when Navarro is jumping he is only available for one lesson a day. Today our paths crossed once again, and I had an amazing time working on my canter, and generally having fun working around his little tricks. He tries it on with the beginners, and has apparently taken people out of the arenas, rubbed them up against the fences, and makes steering tricky. So I had fun keeping him busy - cheeky boy! It felt strange sitting on him after Chief and Zanny, because they are both much bigger, with a lot more neck. I do like being closer to the ground. I don't like to think of falling off, but I'd much rather fall from Navarro's height - about 15.2 hh than Chief's at about 17hh. It makes a huge difference getting on and off (voluntarily) too. 

The Crafty Neighbours have gone camping tonight. It is WINDY! I wouldn't be too keen on sleeping in a tent in a strong wind. Hope the wind dies down for Derby Day tomorrow. I will have to be out in it, and my skin is never happy being whipped by wind. Hopefully there'll be some interesting stories from the competition tomorrow! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Making me happy today...

Darling Zanny! Hello! Thank you for the ride today. 
 I headed out early for my third ever ride on my sweet girl. She's my best horse girlfriend until she gets too plump to ride anymore. Look at this tummy. Not too big yet, but I think she has expanded a little since I saw her last.
 We are going to have plenty of rides over the holidays and we've got plenty to work on. She has a head shaking habit that we disagree on. I think it is a bad idea for a girl with only one eye that works to vigorously flick her head up and down frequently. How on earth does she see where she's going? She thinks it is a fun habit, and has no intention of stopping. Emily told me to hold onto the saddle when she flicks so she can't pull my hands with the flick. We'll work on that, plus speed control, over the next two weeks. She is very forward moving and loves speed! I want to get cantering as soon as possible, but I need to be sure I've got plenty of control first. Actually I'm sure she'll only do what I ask her to do, but I need to be confident in my slow down aids before giving her free rein to go faster. Tomorrow I have a date with Chief White Cloud. Another speedster! Then on Sunday I'm judging at the Scarlett Oak Derby Day, which I am counting on to be highly entertaining.

These gorgeous pelargoniums are catching my eye currently. I love them so much and must remember to plant lots more. They are so easy-care for the colourful show. It takes only the most brutal conditions to kill them.
 Miss Dog is making me super happy too. So cute!
 The outdoor tomatoes are delicious this year. These yellow ones came up from seed all by themselves.
 The feijoas are fattening up. Slowly, I might add. I like feijoas. Hurry up!
 The reason for my absence for a couple of weeks has been the loss of our dear Nanny. 89 years old and  she quietly slipped away snuggled up in her bed overnight. We had a lovely funeral for her, if you can call a funeral lovely. We've got these bunches of flowers in the house at the moment- a reminder of Nanny. She loved flowers.
 Aren't sunflowers the happiest of blooms?
I've got no grandparents left now. Another stage in life, I guess. 

Do you know what makes me happiest of all? Even more than dearest Zanny? Today is the first day of two weeks of holidays. Time to unload all of the stress that inevitably builds up over the term. I'm super proud of myself because I won an acting senior teacher position for next term. So I'm going to make the most of every day of these holiday weeks.