Saturday evening diary – Alfie’s body isn’t the only body that has changed.

I have always been a curvaceous adult…let me rephrase that…I have always been a chunky…wait, no, total honesty…I have always been a FAT adult.

Like many, I was a skinny child right up until I hit puberty – between hormones and genetics – I was screwed. The weight piled on and deep down I hated myself for it. But adulthood hit, college, career, life, and I just eventually learned to accept that I would never ever be skinny.

Throughout my adult life I belonged to several different gyms, and noticed an immediate change with my body once I started working out – I was losing inches, gaining muscle but not actually losing any weight – a truly frustrating scenario. In fact, my weight has been the exact same number, give or take 5 pounds for the last 5 years. To my doctor, yeah, he’s happy because maintaining weight is much better than gaining, but what happens when your actual weight matters – to your horse.

They say a horse can safely carry about 20% of its body weight, which includes rider and tack. This is a number that is constantly in my head. This is a number that I base everything I eat or don’t eat on. Yes, you read that correctly.

Once I discovered this, how much weight a horse could safely carry, all of my food choices weren’t just for me anymore, but for him.

So while he’s in the best shape a 26 year old horse could be in, complete with a beautiful top line muscular back, so is his rider. I’m 44 years young, I’m down 15 pounds since June and I’m doing it all for Alfie. Sure, I want better health

for myself as well, but my motivation is for Alfie.

Grazing after a great ride.

So why this topic for my Saturday diary? What happened today that prompted it? Well, nothing more than a desire to ride other horses in our barn that I’m still a bit too chunky for.

My lesson today with Alfie went very well. He tries super hard all the time as do I. My weight loss journey is just that, it’s a journey, much like learning to ride. The destination isn’t important, how you go there is. ❤️🐴

My love.

Saturday afternoon diary: intro to dressage test level A done!

I love Saturdays. Saturday mornings at the barn are my favorite. I get to the barn around 9:15 which leaves me plenty of time to feed Alfie his pre-ride meal, groom and tack him. My trainer is in high demand on the weekends so being her first lesson I like to start on time.

The mornings at the barn are quiet. Most of the other boarders come later in the day so the peacefulness is welcomed, especially after a crazy busy week at work.

I pull into the barn and am greeted by 2 of our barn managers dogs, Cadence and Future. They both love their Aunty Judy and I love them bunches.

I go up to Alfie’s field, and he promptly greets me at the gate. The fact that he recognizes me still tickles me every time.

As I’m grooming my Alfie, listening to him eat his hydro hay, my mind and body completely relax. The stresses of the week melt away. This is my personal heaven.

We approach the mounting block, I get him all lined up, and look at that, he stands. His record now is 15 rides in a row! My fingers and toes are crossed that this behavior continues.

I warm him up and we decide that part of our lesson is going to be working on the intro dressage test I did earlier in the week with Martini, although for Alfie it will be done at the walk.

Before we attempt the test, we work on our circles, shoulder fore, haunches in, and Alfie is doing great going to the left but he’s stiff on his ride side, so we focus on circles to help get him bending. Needless to say, we did a lot of circles today.

There was a pretty big breakthrough with him with his stopping. You’ve heard me say Alfie doesn’t have the best of brakes, lol. But we’ve been working on that and he is much better at it now. When he is stopped we’ve been working on getting him to round his frame and bend his head down slightly seeking the contact of the bit. Today, he did it. He rounded and was looking for the contact without me asking him to. This was HUGE for him!!!

We ended our lesson with the dressage test. Some of our circles were round but ended up being oblong shaped, that’s ok, we just repeated the circles until we got it right. We completed the test, all at a walk, and man, he rocked it today.

After we were done, I did our stretching exercises, followed by a nice neck massage. By the time I was done, he was bending very easily to the right.

This week was a busy and stressful one for me. The minute I park my car and head into the barn, all the stresses of the world truly do leave.

While Alfie enjoyed his afternoon nap, I watched some of the other students and their lessons. Another amazing horsey Saturday.

My ❤️

Tuesday evening diary – Happy Birthday Martini!!

The birthday boy!!!

Happy birthday Martini!!! We celebrated with pumpkin donuts, our party hat and me singing happy birthday to him very badly lol 🤣🤣🤣

Our lesson today was working on an actual dressage test. I successfully completed the intro test A which is a walk trot test. I’ve completed this test before at just a walk but tonight was the first time I did it the way you are actually supposed to.

My nemesis tonight – trotting circles. They start out as circles but end up looking more like a half moon or an octagon lol. And of course, keeping Martini trotting throughout the entire circle is hard.

My goal for the spring is to go off property with Martini and compete in some horse shows. So I’ve got the entire winter to work on my circles lol.

A lovely afternoon/evening at the barn indeed. ❤️🐴

Me and the birthday boy!!

Saturday evening diary – if Alfie wants to trot – we trot!

An absolutely beautiful fall day. I get to the barn and walk past Alfie’s stall where I’ve got his ribbons still proudly displayed, I can’t hide the huge smile on my face. My boy. Oh how far we’ve come.

I start walking towards his field, looking at all the beautiful trees changing colors, the air is crisp, the sun is warm. As I approach his paddock, I see him. He sees me. He is standing next to his buddy Texas. I don’t say a word, I don’t call his name, I just look at him. And he comes to the gate. He knows me. He knows I’m his human. He’s happy to see me. I get his halter on, he lowers his head so I can kiss his nose. Oh that nose, how much I love that nose. As I go in for a few more kisses I smell the smell. It’s the smell that is what gets children hooked on horses when they are young. A few times a year, horses get that smell when the seasons change. It doesn’t last long, so you have to savor it. The aroma is hard to describe, a bit musky and sweet, the instant I smell it, I close my eyes and I’m a small child riding a pony for the first time. What an amazing way to start my day with him.

As Alfie eats his hydro hay, I start grooming him. It rained during the week so he’s got a nice layer of dried mud on himself lol. As the weather is getting cooler and his winter coat is growing in, bubbles and beauty bath time with momma is done until Spring. His winter coat is coming in nicely, when it’s fully grown in, he turns into my giant teddy bear.

Furry coat coming in.

I tack him up and into the arena we go. And as a side note, he stands now perfectly still at the mounting block. He’s respectful and patient. 👍🏻

Our lesson today focused on bending, working on our haunches and shoulder work and stopping. We are fine tuning our skills at the walk. Alfie was pretty focused today, and he didn’t give me a hard time with anything until the end of the lesson when he was tired.

At one point we were working on our forward walk and he broke out into a trot. Alfie wanted to move today. So we did. In fact, his trot was the most forward trot he’s had in awhile. My seat position was great, going in my stronger direction my diagonals were perfect, in the other direction, not so great but getting better.

I said to my trainer, if Alfie is telling me he WANTS to trot, we don’t argue with him, we go with it. I was even able to trot the corners of the arena as we went around to the other side. Normally we only trot in a straight line and walk the turns but today, nope, we trotted them – his idea, not mine.

Our lesson ends on a high note. I get him untacked and back into his stall. I make him some more hydro hay bricks, loving the faces he’s making towards me while I break up the bricks. We have our usual conversation…”Alfie it’s coming, I gotta make it, some of these bricks are hard to break up, some are easy…you yelling at me doesn’t make me go faster lol.”

I love you Alfie

While his hydro hay is cooking, I just look at my old man and I count my blessings everyday that he is in my life. I am so incredibly grateful for horses. 3 days a week I spend time with these animals. Each has their own personality, each of them teaches us something different. These animals are my sanctuary from the outside world. When I’m with Alfie and the other horses, whatever is happening outside the barn doesn’t matter. Only they matter. And for that, I am most grateful. So if you have that one place or activity that takes you away from the hardships of life, fight for it and never give it up. That is worth fighting for.❤️🐴

Tuesday evening diary – yes Martini – I’m really gonna ride you

2 days after the horse show and my body is still tired. But it’s Tuesday and it’s my date with Martini.

We kept it light today, we worked on our haunches and shoulder work. At one point Martini seemed bored at just walking so we trotted a bit but honestly my body was in revolt lol.

After our lesson, I stayed to help feed dinner to our amazing horses. Every horse in our barn is so loved and appreciated for who they are.

Tonight I will sleep well, and tomorrow is another day closer to the weekend when I get to ride again. Yeah, I am addicted to riding. ❤️🐴

The magnificent Martini.

Sunday Diary – The Horse Show

Ok, it’s not Sunday, it’s Monday. What an amazing Sunday it was. It was the first horse show held at our barn. It was an in house show where all of my trainers students competed. There were children and adult classes. Several weeks ago I made the bold decision to not only ride Alfie in the show but also Martini. Go big or go home!

Alfie enjoying a pre show meal

The classes I was doing with Alfie included an in hand demonstration, and the adult walk class.

Entering Alfie in the in hand classes has always been hit or miss. Usually his behavior is such that no matter how well I do with him practicing the routine and especially standing still he is usually anxious, fidgety, or down right rude. Today…he was none of that. He was perfect. In fact, he was so relaxed he actually fell asleep during it.😂

Giving him kisses to keep him awake
Showing him the fake flowers are not scary.

We ended up taking first and second in the in hand class. My first Blue ribbon win with him.

Next it was the adult walk. The adult walk was comprised of 4 classes, equitation, pleasure, poles and obstacles. The equitation is judged on the rider, how the riders position is, how well the rider communicates with the horse. Alfie was perfect for this. We won first place in this class. Then came the pleasure…

So the pleasure class is judged on the horse. It’s their time to shine, the winner of the pleasure class is the horse that the judge would want to ride. Well, Alfie apparently only wants ME to ride him because he broke out every obstinate action he could. Let’s start with refusing to move…throw in some head tossing for dramatic effect…and of course his ceremonial bathroom break…and of course, I couldn’t curse, or yell, because people were watching – a lot of people, so I laughed on the inside and politely tapped him with my stick of influence and we continued. We took 2nd in that class.👍🏻

The next class was the poles class. Again, let’s just be stubborn Alfie lol. He firmly planted his feet in the ground and didn’t want to complete the opening circle…another polite tap and he was much better. We did well with that class but took 2nd because of his statue impression in the beginning.

The obstacle class he did well with, and we took first in it. He had to step over some poles and then weave in and out of a pattern of cones.

Half seat during the equitation class
Completing our circle
Finishing the cones.
Walking next to the scary fern 😂
So proud!

Next up…Martini….

There wasn’t much of a break between my rides with Alfie and getting on Martini. I quickly untacked Alfie and got myself on Martini.

The classes with Martini were the same as with Alfie except there was trotting involved. My final ribbons with Martini were 2 first place, one third place and one fourth place. I know I won first for the equitation and I think for the pleasure. The poles and the obstacle I did very well with but he broke several times at the trot and getting him going again was a challenge for my tired legs. At one point when we were trotting and I felt him slowing I tapped him with my stick of influence and he gave a little crow hop which is a precursor to a buck to which I quietly told him to “shove it.” Lol.

The beautiful Martini
Trotting poles
Trotting our circle
So proud!

This show was the culmination of countless hours of hard work. First with Alfie. This was not my first horse show with him, this was my 5th show with him in 4 1/2 years. The first 2 shows were at our old barn. The other 2 were local town shows, and then this one. In all the shows with him, we’ve always done really well, but never well enough to win 1st place…and we didn’t win it just once, we did it 3 times. Alfie has gone from a western horse into a dressage horse in just under 2 years. Oh and so have I lol. I remember the first time I sat in a dressage saddle and didn’t have a horn to hold on to that is found on the western saddles. I sad to my trainer where is the “oh s*it handle”? But there isn’t one. The “oh s*it handle in a dressage saddle is you. It’s your seat, your legs, your feet and your core. There’s nothing to rest your hands on, your upper body strength keeps your hands balanced just above the horses withers. There’s no way to “cheat” in a dressage saddle.

And Martini. This horse has taught me so much in such a short period of time. I got on him with such confidence and ability I even impressed my husband. My husband who is my biggest fan, saw me ride Martini for the first time. When I was done all he could do was smile and he said, “damn you can really ride.” I told him I know right?! I really know what I’m doing!

As my tired legs recoup from the show, my heart is full with pride and joy and a feeling of accomplishment. ❤️🐴

My Alfie ❤️

Saturday afternoon diary – horse show prep!

Today was my last lesson with Alfie before the horse show tomorrow! And what a day it was.

Our lesson went very well. He stood totally still at the mounting block for me. We went through the classes and he is ready. Tomorrow might be a different story. Same barn, same horses he knows but there are going to be spectators – not something Alfie is used to.

After our lesson he got a lovely bubble bath, pictured here drying with his cooler on.

Another picture mom??

While Alfie enjoyed his hydro hay bricks, there was no resting for me. As my trainers assistant, I taught several kids today how to properly clean tack. But my day wasn’t done yet lol, while Alfie took his afternoon nap, I helped give Martini a bath and I had the pleasure of having help from Allan, the son of our barn manger Regina.

Martini is as you all know a big horse, over 17 hands tall. So having someone helping to scrub him and rinse him made the bath much easier.

After bathing Martini, it was time to show Allan how to clean tack, my last job of the day.

Tonight, sleep will be hard as I always get excited butterflies for things like this. I told Alfie tomorrow, we are just gonna have fun and do our best. My boy has come so far, I am so proud to do these things with him.🐴❤️

Tuesday evening diary – Martini and I are gonna do GREAT at the horse show.

Today was our last lesson before the show. We practiced the entire competition. My diagonals in one direction were great, but were a disaster going in the other direction. It took me several tries and I finally got it. That’s one thing about me, I don’t give up until I get it right.

We are gonna have some stiff competition on Sunday. Most of my trainers adult students are competing on Martini. Out of all of them I have been riding Martini the longest and know him the best. But her other students have more experience than me. I keep telling myself it’s not about winning, it’s about showing up and doing it. But I am determined, like really determined to set the bar high, do my best, and not give up if I fail. I love this horse, and all that he’s teaching me.❤️🐴

Me and Martini

Sunday Diary – a beautiful crisp fall day spent with Alfie

Fall has arrived. Yesterday, my husband and I went apple picking, it’s a yearly tradition that we both enjoy. We each get a bag to fill. My husband picks apples for baking, and I pick apples for Alfie. Yes, you read that right, I pick an entire bag of apples for Alfie.

Alfie size apple.

I took 3 tiny apples from my bag to share with Alfie today.

Our lesson was really good, we worked on the horse show patterns. We will have 1 more lesson before the show, but I’m very confident we are going to be superstars.

After our ride, it was hydro hay time followed by a nap.

Enjoying my lunch.

So while Alfie was napping I took a walk on our trail and snapped some really pretty pictures.

A beautiful weekend. ❤️🐴

Tuesday Evening Diary – I FINALLY conquered my diagonals!!!

Today’s lesson with Martini was going over the poles and obstacle course pattern for the horse show. This is all at the trot.

First up, posting trot a 20 meter circle, followed by trotting over 2 poles in a half seat, more trotting, 2 more poles, repeating the pattern so it’s a total of 2 laps around the arena and we end with another 20 meter trot circle. 🤪

The obstacle course was next, trotting over 4 poles in the half seat, some walking, trotting through cones followed by a hault, backing up 3 steps, walking forward and trotting over a cross rail jump.🤪🤪

Oh and doing all this while on the correct diagonal and BREATHING!

I rode amazingly well tonight. The biggest takeaway for me was getting every diagonal correct. I finally figured out when I ask for the trot, look down and post when I see the outside leg forward. It only took me 4 years to figure that out lol.

As I was cooling out Martini, I proudly announce to my trainer Kari, I want to go first with Martini (several other students are riding him) because I want to set the bar high. I most certainly am ready for this horse show. Go Big or Go Home! ❤️🐴

The fabulous Martini on the Rocks.