Gold Stars for Ally!

After a brief Hiatus due to back problems and rain, yesterday marked what was essentially the first full-on dress rehearsal for Siege of Glengary.

Ally was a champ! We added a caparison to the mix which she calmy accepted, and also added scary stuff: full contact with weapons engaging targets.

After a little bit of nervousness, the crash bang boom of the reeds and the resounding CRACK of the lance on the quintain were met with cooperation and control. If I had to put words in her mouth, I think she would have said its in her blood to tilt!

Pig lancing didnt seem to bother her at all, Im not entirely sure she even noticed what was going on 🙂 We made two passes at the pig and stuck it both times for a flinch factor of zero!

I did have some issues with the heads row, but they were short and had more to do with communication steering than with anything else… Yes, I really want you to weave! It is, of course, quite the pleasure to be asked if thats what I want! What a pleasure indeed!

Hopefully it will stay dry enough long enough today to get another day of practice, but at this point, Im feeling at rest about having a safe, fun ride on Saturday!

Major kudos to Metallica!

And while Im at it, major Major kudos to my Wife who taught me and continues to teach me how to do all this stuff 🙂 Happy Birthday, Love!

Siege of Glengary Equestrian Reminders

To all Siege of Glengary equestrians: a few last minute reminders!

  • Copies of your Coggins Test, and Health certificate if traveling from out of state
  • If you intend to compete in the Challenge Course, please bring a prize to contribute, befitting your persona’s rank and stature (we recommend a $5-10 value).  The prize may be a product of your own hands or talents.
  • Your typed blurb for the herald during procession
  • Feed, hay and bedding for your destrier (there is a local feed store 10 mins away, but no supplies provided on-site)

Look forward to seeing you at Siege of Glengary!

Equestrian Procession at Siege of Glengary

A quick reminder to riders participating in the equestrian procession at Siege of Glengary. Please prepare a brief, typed blurb for our heralds including

– Your personas name

– Brief description of your persona

– Your horses name

– Your arms

Plan on dressing as spiffily as possible, with your finest barding and garb! Thank you for helping us create a living tribute to historical equestrian splendor!

Metallica – Training Heavy Horse

I can tell already I’m going to have fun with her name.

Yesterday was a day of straightforward run of the mill successfully uneventful horse training! The goal was simple: take a horse that had fairly limited experience with me, build on the trust relationship we’ve been establishing, and introduce medieval weapons… a rattan sword and a 12 foot lance… both for the record are very blunt 1-inch minimum rounded edges… to the equation and get her to calmly accept their presence. Uneventful was the goal! And uneventful is what I got!

Here’s how…

Ally has an awesome foundation in natural horsemanship. Rock solid foundation. I took the extra time yesterday to take advantage of that fact and stack the deck in my favor from the get-go.

Beginning with leading out of the pasture with calm presence of authority, I took the time to very pleasantly do a thourough job playing friendly with various grooming supplies and tools, ensuring a happy, well scratched and contented horse entered the round pen.

I spent time starting at square zero with the lead rope over all quarters of the body. I ran the rope around legs, etc etc; and did the same with a carrot stick. All quarters, all angles, rubbing with the stick, and tracing with the rope. At convenient points she was clicked and rewarded for calmness.

After Id exhausted the possibilities of friendly, I ran a couple cues to make sure she responded to pressure and cues, trotted her once around each way to break up the boredom, and set about the real task: weapons training.

I started off just holding the sword in front of her until she sniffed at it. After we had that calmy accepted and rewarded, we just rubbed along all parts of the body and neck gently and friendly, just like the carrot stick. After that, waving the sword back and forth, up and down, slowly by her face. Click! Reward! We’re done here!

The lance was a bit more scary and difficult… but only like walking into a light breeze. It -is- 12 feet long, and may in fact be the first large stick shes seen not firmly in the ground with leaves. I held it vertically for control and weight, about 6 inches away from her.  She moved away at first, but I just followed with the lance until she stopped and rewarded the calm. Soon thereafter, I was rubbing the 12 foot lance everywhere on all quarters and down both sides. Rewards galore!

We finished up with a brief, in-hand introduction to the quintain. No reaction at all, even when the wind pushed the shield against her nose. Our last little bit was an in-hand walk through the reeds and on the correct pathing for the heads games.

Praises galore!!!

That was a fine time to leave well enough alone and so we wrapped up the day with radical success… a radical success built by careful planning, encouragement, and solid foundational work setting the correct tone for trust, communications, and learning.

9 days left until showtime. And I hope to continue applying the principles of horsemanship in a careful and accurate manner to achieve not only the short term goal.. Siege of Glengary… but also the long term goal of educating the horse to implicitly trust the human!

Until next time!


Tomorrows Destrier, Today!

Metallica, my backup mount for Siege of Glengary, has officially started her weapons training! Huzzah!

For those who are curious as to what it takes to train a horse for the medieval equestrian games (and not content with a lot of patience as an answer!) I have started to document her training on Horses…Naturally! as patience and trust bear relevance to all disciplines of horsemanship.

Please follow along at your leisure!



Siege Of Glengary Equestrian Schedule

Oyez, oyez!

Equestrian Activities at the SIege of Glengary will commence on Friday, Sept 27 according to the following schedule.

(Please note, times and activities are open to modification and interpretation!)

Tentative Schedule:

3:00 Marshalls arrive, settle in.  Site open to horses.
all hands help set up!
5:00-6:00 Authorizations (by appointment), practice
8:00-9:00 Tentative Crestfallen Torchlight Tourney

8:30 Aethelmearc EEquestrian Authorizations (by appointment only)
9:00 Mandatory Riders meeting for all equestrians.  Be sure to hand in TYPED blurb for herald in procession!
10:00 Procession
11:00-1:00 Games, IKEqC
2:00-4:00  Challenge Course: Quest for the Sylver Apple

All hands help breakdown
All horses off site by noon

Getting Started with Horses in the SCA

As this year’s Siege of Glengary is resurrecting equestrian activities, a common question is, “how do I play?” The answer is as varied as SCAdians’ interests and skills! Folks of any experience level can participate in ways that are both fun and safe.

If you have NO experience with horses, begin a journey that can last a lifetime (beware though, horses are EXTREMELY addictive!) Go online, hit the library, find a local mentor in the SCA or your mundane world who can teach you about horses and horsemanship.

Horses are large animals whose evolutionary success was based on fleeing or fighting predators (humans included!) Some modern horses have not gotten much beyond that! Even the most placid horse can bite or kick violently in an instant if startled. Learn to handle and ride horses safely BEFORE you attempt to do it in garb and with weapons.

Here are some suggestions to get the most enjoyment out of equestrian activities at Siege:

  • Read the rulebook to understand the games we are playing and the historical roots we honor.
  • Willingly sign the equestrian waiver. It is an SCA wide requirement and a mundane fact of life.
  • Help set up the tourney field before the event, and breakdown when the event is over. You’ll meet lots of horse people that way and earn their enduring gratitude!
  • Respect any posted signs or verbal suggestions or warnings— equestrians are not elitists, they are obsessed with their mounts’ well-being and YOUR safety.
  • Take lots of photos (ask all horsemen before using a flash though—some horses can react dangerously to the sudden light explosion.)
  • Consider a horsey theme for your personal passion: create an equestrian-based entry for the Arts and Sciences display, help sew a caparison (full cloth covering for horses) or learn the Horse’s Bransle if you love dancing.
  • Ask lots of questions- horse people LOVE talking about their passion!

If you know how to ride but do not have a horse, consider asking private owners about sharing a mount. Bear in mind, horses are priceless companions and valuable investments. Most people would not consider asking to borrow someone else’s spouse, or the ’69 Stingray they lovingly restored. In addition, horses have individual personalities, quirks, and pet peeves which may not mesh with your own.    Do not take it personally if an owner say no!  They are not being selfish, they are simply looking out for both you and their horse.

If they say yes, be grateful for the generosity! Expect to

  • share or cover expenses, or pay a fee similar to what a wrangler would charge.
  • sign a waiver holding the owner harmless in case of incident or accident.
  • Practice beforehand to solidify your skills and communication with the horse
  • help with the horse before, during, and after the event

If you don’t have access to a horse, you can still participate. The games require a horse-savvy ground crew to reset props, hand off weapons, and keep things going on the field. Horse people ALWAYS appreciate extra hands both in the lists and in the stable area.

While many events team up with local stables to offer rental horses, there are no rental horses at Siege.

If you know how to ride and have access to a horse (this includes folks from the previous paragraph who have secured a steed), prepare, prepare, prepare!

  • If you are not authorized, find out if authorizations will be conducted at the event. If not, get in touch with an equestrian marshall or your KEO to find out if there are alternate possibilities. We will have some authorizations at Siege, check the websites for more details.
  • Think about everything your horse needs to be able to do and practice it at home. Practice the skills required for the games, then the games themselves. Acclimate them to their barding (horsey garb) and to seeing other horses in barding. Expose them to the mayhem of heavy fighting, general event ruckus, and crazy people in garb. Make sure they load and travel willingly in a trailer. Check the accommodations provided and make sure your horse will be comfortable and safe- he may need to tie (without breaking away or getting upset), high line, stall (this can be tough for pasture dwelling ponies) or stay within a small temporary pen. The event is NOT the time to train them! A solid foundation will ensure a fun day on the playing field.
  • Research and satisfy mundane requirements. Most events, including Siege, require a negative Coggins certificate for all horses, and a health certificate for out-of-state equines.

The equestrians of Sylvan Glen began preparations as soon as the site was approved. As Siege looms closer, we continue to weave unofficial practices and project days into people’s crazy schedules. Watch the yahoogroup for updates, and come join the fun!


Aethelmearc Equestrian Site:

Destrier Today! warhorse news and link library

Sylvan Glen yahoogroup:

Dolly Madison to miss Siege of Glengary 2009 Equestrian

It is sadly and with heavy heart,
Do heavy horse not take her part,
Unsound of hoof shall miss the beat
Of drums and chants and marching feet

A mighty steed made weak by chance
And foul unlucky happenstance
Siege of Glengary will miss her thunder
Until the next year’s tales of wonder


Yep, unless an especially kind Lord creates miracles of hoof growth, my mighty warhorse Dolly will miss Siege of Glengary.

She is, of course, receiving the absolute best of care, but there is no reasonable expectation that shell be anything resembling sound in 10 days… and it would probably be unwise to try even if she does make radical moves towards four-leggedness.

As far as my riding goes, I will be continuing to work with Ally to prepare for the Equestrian Games at Siege of Glengary 2009.

I suppose there are a lot worse fates in this world than having a big, beautiful Clydesdale with lots of feather to ride as an alternate mount. They are about the same size heightwise, and its possible that Dollys barding will fit. And shes a Scot breed, so its even appropriate!

Of course, the only less period name I can think of than Dolly Madison happens to be Metallica, Allys proper name! LOL I hope everyone has a sense of humour!

Well, that all for now. Assuming no major training/weapons issues, Ill be changing mounts for Glengary.

Sliante Mhath!


Shorter days, Longer trails…

Well, the SCA heavy combat practice was a huge success for us here at Almost Heaven.

The many comings and goings of people, the noise of sword on shield, the clattering armour and the cacaphony of voices went from idle curiousity to gradual boredom on the part of the horses. Nothing out of place, nothing abnormal, just a strange human custom! Radical success!

While that was happening I managed to knock out some much needed tractor maintenance. With fall about to kick in were getting antsy to get the horses and the grove ready for winter. Lots to do, lots to do.

Nothing like the change of the seasons and faltering sunset times to give a sense of urgency! Two more pastures were cleared of unwanted growth on Monday, and the trails were largely cleared last week of overgrowth… Just in time for fall leaf rides! I cant wait!

Kirsten continues to teach and train, on the farm and off, and were currently in the process of plotting out the dates and events she’ll be riding at for the next couple months… while doing her best to dodge compliment after compliment on the quality of her training and work from the various clients, customers, students, and brokers that have worked with the horses she’s trained! Google “perfect horse trainer” some time and see who comes up 🙂

As for me, My next huge project is the clearance and rebuild of the Grove fence. Ive got a few good hours of work to get 3 more fields ready for horses, then the replacement of an 1100 foot fenceline between the first and second fields will get the 5th field hot, leaving me with the hard one, the upper perimiter fence. I’ve still got some mowing to do up there, particularly in front of the downed trees there. Anything to make the tree removal easier is welcome!

Colty has grown a sufficient amount that Ive shut off the bottom lines on his field, greatly easing access through at feeding time. Gates are great, but ducking under is priceless. We may have to call him Mack though, hes built like a truck!

Lastly, Calico has a new friend, Argent. This cute grey kitten with light rings on his tail introduced himself to almost every horse on the farm one afternoon and I managed to catch it on video! Once I get it off the camera Ill post it!

Best to all,


Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Clydesdale Rides Trail! Putting the Natural in Horsemanship

Yesterday was a story of turning bad happenings into good results. A bit of background: Much to both mine and Dolly’s chagrin, after spending the afternoon on Tuesday last week mowing the trails through and around the Grove, I took the saddle up to grab Dolly and go enjoy them with Kirsten. Dolly, unfortunately, had limped up to me with an injured hoof, trail ride was over, and now she’s getting treated like the queen she is while we wait for time to do its healing work. Every day she gets a little better, and she’ll come out of it just fine, but it will take time.

That said, time is a fickle master, and Siege of Glengary is approaching. Rapidly. It’s a hit and miss situation, and my warhorse is, for the moment, out of commission. She may be ready in time, but it’s equally like that she won’t. We’re holding out hope, but one advantage of being at Almost Heaven Horse Source is… well… lots of horses to choose from… although not all of them are in -my- skill set yet! We’re working on that!

Let’s face it: given the choice between riding my horse at Glengary and riding my horse for many years afterwards: she can sit it out if she’s not healed. Yes, it stinks. And we’re going to try to make it happen… but not at her expense. If the hoof’s not sound, she won’t even go on the trailer.

So Kirsten set about getting me on Ally’s back as our fallback plan, as much to reassure us we’ll be ready in three week’s time, as to expand and refine my horsemanship while helping to bring along another fine Destrier. Kirsten had already had her out a few times, after dark, prepping her for her new role. Riding around at sunset, making sure the cues were in place, and making sure there were no cobwebs needing to be brushed off; provided an immeasureable foundation for this author to build on. With our dear friend’s beloved Shire hobbling around on a hoof abcess of her own, Ally the Clydesdale might just end up being -both- our steeds for Glengary. Which come to think of it is singularly appropriate; A Scot horse for a Scottish event!

Now, on to the challenge. Let’s face it… I came to horsemanship late in life. The odds of me sailing over 5 foot jumps and turning times in a cross country event are pretty slim… and really not on my radar. But the ability to get on a horse I don’t ride, earn its respect, and develop a working partnership? Absolutely vital!

With Pete no longer in the picture (Graze well, old friend!), the rock-solid steady fallback I could turn to was gone. So day before yesterday, I started to work with Ally in the arena…. moving her through and around the games course, slowly working on our turns and brakes, stops, gaits, and speeds. We went down the row of reeds, started working on the heads row, did command turns round the barrel circle weaving in and out to develop steering communications. We had some false starts, but we patiently worked them through and got to the other side of the ride with a great sense of communication.

I’ve gotta say, it’s really hard to see your horse standing injured in the roundpen while you get on another horse and ride off. She’s my first horse, my partner, and my destrier. And I think almost as much as Kirsten, she taught me how to ride. Leaving her behind was tough.

Yesterday’s goal was a bit sad at first, but turned out really well. Myself on Ally, and Kirsten on Lucy, went up finally to explore the trails I had cut.  After we got out of the barnyard, and we had made our way up to the entrance to the trails, K and Lucy circled around behind us and Ally and I led the trail ride! Ally bravely ventured forth into the woods and calmly ignored the cars buzzing by on Bower Rd, the fawns jumping out of the brush, and all the other manner of natural and mysterious happenings so far away from the barn. What few areas she had issues with were worked through calmly and instantly and on our merry way we went…

…which is rather the point: Every single lesson I had learned from Kirsten on Dolly carried directly over to working with Ally through fundamental trust, confidence, and communications issues; developing a working partnership in effectively two days of rides. With a lot of patient teaching, Kirsten has provided me with an incredible tool kit with which to build a relationship with horses; to guide them through their fears; and to teach them how to do new and exciting things….Naturally!

One way or another, we’ll be riding at Glengary….