Monday, September 26, 2011


What a great weekend!!! The weather was friggin' amazing!!! It was sunny and hovering around the 24C mark.  Saw my boy on Friday and Sunday.

Saturday I went to see Cavalia. Cavalia is a production put on the by same people that brought us Cirque du Soleil. Amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, beautiful, enchanting, gorgeous are just a few of the words I would use to describe this show.....those and O.M.G.

I went with Jean, her mother and CA. CA was the only one that had seen Cavalia before, but this show was the newer Cavalia 2, so none of use knew what to expect. Having seen Cirque du Soleil many years ago, I knew the music would be great and the sets visually beautiful and engaging.

The show is done in a tent set up . I am not sure how many people the theatre held, but it couldn't have been more than 3000 people??? The small group made it very intimate. There was no "nose bleed" section. :-) Our seats were in the 2nd row!!! Cameras were not allowed, so the pictures that you see below were taken from reviews of the first production of Cavalia that I found on the Internet.

The smaller tents in the back are actually the stables.

It's hard to describe the new stage layout. It was maybe 150 feet across, with quite a steep hill at the back of the stage and level at the front. It was covered in black large grain sand, sort of volcanic looking. Sheer curtains with scenes painted on them combined with lights were the backdrops for the different acts. Musicians and singers were located on either side of the stage, one level up.

Imagine my surprise when Arabians, Andalusians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Appaloosas and a CANADIAN came galloping out at the beginning of the show. I guess I was expecting matching horses like the RCMP Musical Ride or the Lipizzaners. Their handlers had been waiting in the middle of the stage and the horses galloped around them in a large circle, eventually slowing down to find their specific handler. They then followed their handler in a synchronized sort of dance; no halter, not lead rope, no treats. It was beautiful. Jean started to get teary eyed. :-)

There was an Andalusian horse that just didn't want to participate in one act and kept trotting out of line and wondering about. No one stopped him. They simply worked around him and eventually convinced him through gentle persuasion to participate. There was some stallion attitude evident on more than one occasion. Ears pinned, the odd little kick. But these displays did not detract from the performance. In fact, in my mind they enhanced it. It showed that these horses are still able to be horses even if they are in a show.

 This video is of Cavalia I

The sets were stunning and an engineering and lighting marvel.  According to CA, this performance is much different from Cavalia I.   The sets changed from desert to jungle, through the different seasons and on to fantasy seamlessly. The horses and performers would enter the stage either from the sides or come up over the hill at the back of the stage, making the whole experience 3 dimensional. The music was also wonderful and really set the mood of each Act. The horses did not perform "tricks". Their involvement was more of an enhancement to the acrobatic moves performed by their handlers, while at the same time, the handlers were enhancing the beauty of the horses. The horses moved in a natural and free way.  When the horses were being ridden with a saddle, they were either bitless or had snaffle bits. The custom saddles used were a mix of Western and English; the seat and padding were like English, but the stirrups and a horn were Western.  I can't be 100% certain, but it looked like all were shod. 

I LOVED the show. What impressed me was that these horses were relaxed and having fun. It was gentle.  On more than one occasion, at the end of an act, they stood looking at the audience, ears up eyes bright.  In fact, I think some of their bouncy kick-up-my-heels behaviour while performing was a direct response to our happiness. :-) Here's a holy-crap-did-I-just-see-that? moment:  An acrobat, riding a horse, got out of his saddle, went underneath the horse and out the other side and back into the saddle....AT A GALLOP! I don't know how he didn't get clocked in the head!

During one act, there were 34 horses on stage. 34 horses!  Incredible. One scene that actually got me choked up a bit was when they filled the bottom of the stage with water and the horses galloped around free, up the hill, back down and through the water. Stunning.

We were pumped when we left the tent.   We were so excited we were talking over each other.  :-)    So, there are no if, ands, or buts about it.  You have to go!   You just have to!  It will inspire you and only enhance your relationship with your horse.  :-)  Boy, I want to have that connection with Gem!!  I want to be able to run beside him without a lead....OK, OK...maybe not run, but at least jog.  :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011


My thoughts are with 50+ Horses today. She has made the decision to say good-bye to her beautiful Belgian horse, Bear. It is always tough to make this type of decision. If you have a minute, please show her your support.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


On Saturday, Jean and I went to a regional fair. Jean has always wanted to own a Clydesdale and we specifically went to see the big horses. It is difficult to find a Clyde breeder around our part of the country and our goal was to check out the names on the trailers and mark down the farm names of horses Jean liked. The competitions that we watched were based on age and conformation - I am not sure what that type of competition this is called. The day couldn't have been nicer, even if it started a bit chilly. At 9:30 a.m., we were huddled with our coffee sitting on a very cold metal bleacher.

We walked around the back of the show barn to watch the horses being unloaded. Some of the trailers were massive!! Some looked like homes and trailers combined, with pushed out windows and living space expansions. Holy crap!

Some of the tack required.

Belgian waiting to be unloaded.

The tails of the draft horses are docked when they are about 2 years of age. :-( Apparently this is for hygienic reasons. My understanding is that they are also shod before they hit the two year mark. Their feet are almost square and their shoes are specialized.

First group up was the 2011 babies. :-) OMG, they were so cute! All legs! They kept nickering to each other. You could almost hear them saying "What the heck is going on?" "Who are you?"

2011 Clydesdales - notice the different colours!

Each age group started with Belgians, then Percherons followed by the Clydes. I was surprised at how many different colour variations there were in each breed. Each horse was looked over by the judge, then had to trot to the end of the paddock and back. Even the younger horses had presence! So majestic. Jean, of course, was oooh-ing and awwww-ing throughout the competition. :-)

Some of the younger horses were a bit flighty, understandably. They were being spooked by the noises and smells from the midway and the announcer at the other ring. See the little stick/crop in the handler's hand in the picture below? It is used to make the horse keep its head up or it is used to tap the horse on the leg to improve how the horse is standing.

Even as youngsters, these horses are big and can be a handful (see above). One 2009 Clyde was upset. The more agitated she got, the more her handler pulled on her halter, which had a chain under her chin, and waving that crop in her face (WTH??). The more he pulled, the more pain she was in and the more she wanted to get away from him. He was also standing directly in front of her, which I thought was unsafe. Well, she started to rear. This man just kept pulling harder on the halter and waving that crop in her face. She eventually reared and struck out, hitting the man on his forehead with her shod hoof. The sound was sickening, like a watermelon being hit with a hammer. He went down, blood a-gushing. He was helped off the field and loaded into an ambulance. Another handler stood in for him and continued showing this young horse. Interestingly, as soon as the horse got away from her original handler, she calmed right down and was not a problem. In fact, she placed first.

2009 Percheron

2008 Percheron. What a difference in size one year to the next!

Check out the size of the feet on these Belgians!

Early in the afternoon, I left Jean sitting in the stands. I told her I was going to see if I could get in the show barn and take some pictures. On my way there, I noticed a young man waiting to show. He was very polite and willing to share his knowledge. Did you know that draft horses don't have a long life? When they hit the 20 year old mark, they are "old". When I told him I had a Canadian, he said that he had a Canadian/QH cross that was his trail horse - one of the best horses he ever had. :-) She was purchased at 20-years of age as a family horse, and she passed away last year at 32 years.

This is one of his family's Clydes. Isn't she gorgeous? She is a 2-year old and is "his" horse. See the decorations in her mane? He braided her hair, then fed cheese cloth through it and attached the decorations. Cool, eh?

2-year old's feet compared to a 17-year old's. :-)

As we chatted, it came about that his family breeds Clydes and their farm is located only 30 minutes away!! I told him about Jean's dream and he very kindly said to bring her over to the barn after he had finished this last competition and he would show her some of his horses. How wonderful!! I went back and told Jean. She was so excited!

We met him, and his parents, in the barn. I was impressed that immediately after he introduced us to his parents, the young man watered and fed his horse before he came and talked to us. They were a nice family; warm and funny. They obviously loved their horses and provided all sorts of information. They also didn't look at Jean like she had antenna growing out of her head when she told them she wanted to have a Clyde as a pleasure ride. Jean is not ready yet, but will be in two years. The young man's mother said that if they couldn't provide the right horse for her, they would help her find one through their Clyde connections. How nice is that??!

In spite of their young age, the horses they brought to the show were fine being touched and handled. They didn't mind having their feet picked up. I think that is an indication of the care that they are receiving. Both Jean and I were in awe of how big these horses are. Being in their presence was pretty amazing. I could completely understand how Jean would want to ride one of these giants. As a matter of fact, Jean was quite smitten with a little 2011 roan baby they had shown that day. Yep, I am thinking that Jean may have a roan Clyde gelding in her future..... :-)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Operation Yellow Ribbon

I was pulling into my parking space underneath my office building when I heard the news flash on the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade towers. A while later, I heard about the 2nd crash. It didn’t really register in my brain what was going on. Busy with deadlines and meetings for the rest of the day, I got caught up in my own world. It wasn’t until I got home and sat in front of the television with My Husband that I saw what had happened. When I saw the towers collapse, I burst into tears. Such a terrible, terrible tragedy. One that has changed forever how I view the world.

For the safety of other U.S. citizens, shortly after the 2nd plane hit, air space was shut down in North America. Canada did not hesitate to accept air traffic bound for U.S. destinations. These flights were rerouted to mostly military airports in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba. This was done to remove potentially destructive airplanes to locations where they could be contained in a controlled setting and deactivated if necessary. One of the airports that accepted international flights bound for the U.S. was Gander, Newfoundland.

Gander International Airport played a big part in Operation Yellow Ribbon. It’s a small airport, and I believe is usually used as a refueling stop for international flights. However, on September 11, 2001 the residents of Gander accepted close to 40 transatlantic flights, more than any other Canadian airport, originally meant to land at different locations in the U.S. Over 6,500 people had to stay in Gander for days, waiting for airspace to be reopened.

The residents of Gander jumped into action and food was prepared, buildings and homes were made ready to accept guests and even entertainment was organized to help weary travelers from dozens of countries pass the time. They not only opened their homes but their hearts.  Lufthansa has an airbus named Gander/Halifax as a thank you to both cities.  :-)

At a time when our southern and international neighbours needed us, Canada did not hesitate to step up.  This is a sad anniversary and my thoughts are with the families that lost someone precious to them on that day.  This anniversary also reminds me of how very proud I am to be Canadian.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Barrels + Rocks = Smile

I had an extended long weekend.  The weather has (thankfully) started to cool down a bit.  Flies are still bad though.  Gem’s turnout has rocky areas and he has chips and chunks out of his hooves from stamping his feet.  I can’t keep up with the bot fly eggs (gross) on his front legs.  I scrape off as much as I can without causing him injury and the next time I see him it’s back to square one.  Sigh.

Sunday was actually a good ride.  I was alone at the stables so I had the front paddock to myself.  I had my Nano turned up and all was well with the world.  My singing did manage to frighten a few pigeons that were hanging about, but my beautiful boy is getting used to my performances so he didn’t mind.   A few songs that were particularly well paced for jogging/trotting were Midnight Rambler and Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones, Billy Jean by Michael Jackson and Cold Shot by Stevie Ray Vaughan  

A barrel was set up at the far end of the paddock about 8 feet in from the fence and in the middle.  Two cones were set up across from each other at the other end, 8 feet in from the fence and about 8 feet apart.   Initially, I used the cones and barrel to help with turning Gem using neck reining, at a walk.   Perhaps it was the music, perhaps it was because I was relaxed…I don't know..... but I got brave.  :-)  I did the turns at a jog and then upped the ante to a lope!  We loped to the barrel, slowed down to a jog to go around it and then loped back.  Ya-hoo!  Gem was enjoying himself.   We both actually worked up a bit of a sweat.  The bugs were crazy and I think that was his encouragement to keep moving.  In fact, he kept kicking at his belly every time we stopped and when I dismounted, I found and pulled off this blood sucking bastage bug that had anchored itself to the tender inside of his back leg.  He was obviously relieved.

Monday the barn was crowded!  The weather was iffy, so most of us ended up in the arena.  The Young Ladies were loping their horses through upright poles, doing lead changes as they went through each pole.  Sigh.  It was beautiful to watch.  Such balance – horse and rider!  Gem and I decided to give it a go….but at a jog.  :-)  He’s actually quite good at zig zagging through the poles and I can see this becoming a fun exercise in the future for side passing.  We managed to join in on a group lope a couple of times.  It’s so funny…Gem feels the need to catch up with the horse in front of him and “eeeeeeeeeasy” was a reminder a couple of times to slow it down.  Perhaps he thinks he’s a Thoroughbred…:-)

Tuesday's ride was…well…weird.  Instead of standing still while I was tacking up, Gem would move away from the brush or I would have to ask a couple of times for him to lift his feet for cleaning.  It had rained Monday night, quite hard, and the paddock was wet mushy sand.  The breeze was lovely though, and I decided to ride outside.  Gem would not stand still next to the mounting block.  It took a few tries to convince him to “stand” still to allow me to get on.  Walking was fine, but he protested when I asked him for a jog....again and again.... Even when we were jogging, he showed his disdain by shaking his head or slowing down and resisting starting up again.  Then he started reaching around and nipping at the air near my foot.  WTH??!  OK....perhaps he's getting bit again....

 I dismounted and checked him all over for bugs.  Nada.  I checked under his girth, under the saddle blankets for burrs.  Nada.  I took him back to the mounting block and got back on.  He resisted everything I asked.  It was at the point that I though, "Geez, I wonder if he's sore?"  I walked him around the paddock a few times and then dismounted. His rhythm did not seem unbalanced to me, but to be honest, with the paddock being so muddy how could I be sure?  His legs looked fine to me; no swelling, sensitivity or heat.  Feet were clean.  I am not sure what else it could be other than he may have been a little muscle sore.  Being ridden 3 days in a row, which included some loping and lots of turns, may have made him stiff.....I know I was!  Could that be it?   Or maybe he just didn't want to work!  We all have days like that. :-)  I gave him a nice bath and let him graze for a bit.  With the exception of Gem's chomping, it was very quiet.  Every once in a while an aggressive Blue Jay could be heard.

After his beautification, I turned him out. I had brought my own spade and started digging some of the offending rocks out in his turnout area.  He and DH hung around, watching and sniffing the rocks that I dug up.  I managed to remove quite a few rocks, but it will take forever to get rid of all of them.  I may not have had a good workout riding, but I sure did digging up rocks!  Who would have thought that being in the sun pulling rocks out of dirt and manure, and breaking a newly manicured nail in the process, would leave a person with such a sense of accomplishment.  :- )  Later on, I met up with co-workers at a restaurant for dinner.  It was a business event, not a social one really.  Every once in a while when the table talk would become too technical/boring for me, I would look down at my broken nail and my thoughts would wander to the afternoon.... and I would smile.

What was I thinking....?