dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, July 24, 2017

Saddle Fitters with Benefits

I've been wanting to get my saddle checked for a little bit. Carmen has been fine but I could feel my position shifting and becoming more difficult to keep in line. I know that something about the way that Carmen and I work together results in the stuffing getting compressed on the right side.

I finally made arrangements to take Carmen to Rachael's for a fitting. Rachael is not just a Master Saddler,  great horse trainer and teacher, she's also become my friend.

I got the trailer ready in the morning while the horse's watched me suspiciously.

Yup she's loading up the trailer.
I know it's me she's taking, where can I hide? 
Carmen loaded easily and we hit the road. This would be my first time trailering for about 2 hours each way for a day trip. The ride was uneventful (my favourite kind). We put Carmen in a stall that had 2 small pigs next door. I thought they were adorable but Carmen was less enthused. Rachael brought in her mare, Carpichosa to keep Carmen company. The saddle check took very little time- it was indeed flattened on one side and the fix was easy.
where have your brought me? I am suspicious. 

Then we got the horses ready and headed to the ring. Rachael has set up a Working Equitation course, complete with bull. Carmen was a bit spooked by it at first as I walked her by it but she was quite brave and came up to touch it.

It looks weird and smells like wood. I shall bite it. (fortunately I got her off before she damaged it)
Under saddle she was initially uncertain but in the end walked right up and tried to eat the ball.
Carmen: I think you've lost your mind.
Me: But think how easy dressage will feel now
Rachael was so good in helping Carmen and I deal with everything. She walked me through a despooking technique that was very helpful. I knew the theory but had trouble with the relaxation part. With her help we managed to be successful in playing. Carmen did bolt once- Caprichosa had just galloped over the bridge and the noise startled her just as a person pushing a wheel barrow came up behind her. That was just a bit too much for her. But we settled back down again and all was fine. We walked the bridge and even trotted the 'livestock pen'. I tried the gate and she nailed it the first time: pick up the rope, back through the two standards and put the rope back without letting go. I was impressed with us on that one. 

After, we traded horses. Carprichosa had a Dom Vaquero saddle with a sheepskin seat. All I can say is that I want one in the worse way. 
dear Santa, I have been very good this year....
I was thrilled when Rachael complemented me on how responsive Carmen was. "You have done a great job with her"  she said. If you knew Rachael you would know that she never gives idle compliments.  Then Rachael dismounted and helped me with her horse to ride the Spanish Walk, Passage and Piaffe. It was my first time every riding those gaits. It was amazing to feel the power and compression of the passage and piaffe. The Spanish Walk made me giggle. Frankly, by then I was giggling like a school girl.

We brought the horses back into the barn and Rachael brought out Elegida for us to go for a hack. Ellie was Steele's dam. She is the grand daughter of Gaucho III and Carmen is his daughter. I was amazed how similar that they look.
Hey, she's pretty cute! 

hello my new best friend.

It was funny- they took to one another right away. As we walked in the woods Carmen wanted to put her head on Elli's rump. Elli is a very calm horse and exudes the self-confidence that she passed on to her off-spring.

After we had a lunch and a chat and then Carmen and I headed home. Carmen was actually not so sure she wanted to leave but got on on the second try. After her supper she had a nap- I'm sure that the day was tiring for her. I could have used a nap as well. It was an epic, fun day.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow and I am so happy about that. The pastures can use the rain but I think that Carmen and I could use the rest!

Sunday, July 23, 2017


This week has not been all about fun times.

I love living in Nova Scotia- this is never far away
Staying home on my vacation also gives us lots of time to get some projects done.

So yes, I guess it's still fun times. I enjoy the projects. Especially when I don't have to decide whether to do the project or ride. I am able to get both done.

In the winter Ed and walked through our woods and marked some trails. This week Ed started cutting them. We only have 10 acres of woods so the plan is to have trails that loop around on each other. It's not as much fun as going off on an adventure but it's a good way to train and cool out. I went in yesterday with the clippers and cut a lot of branches and small saplings that would be in my face or prevent us from going through.

it's more open then it looks
I haven't really been in the woods since I lost Steele. It felt good to be back in there- like I was reclaiming something that was lost. I took the dogs with me and Guinness was great- he didn't wander far at all and when I called he came right back. After I was done I cleaned my tack while the dogs napped. 
how a puppy looks after helping in the woods. You can't
see d'Arcy- he's on the other side
The farrier came out and he showed me these new shoes that a company wanted him to promote: 
I put a teaser on Instagram but didn't go for it. They are 'illegal' for dressage competitions (I believe) but they did appeal to my inner 12 year old.....

I also got into the ring and weedwacked the weedes that were starting to encroach. Carmen was enjoying snacking as we went around. We would halt and she would reach out and nibble some grass. To be honest it was amusing but still needed to be sorted. 
signs you need to beat back the weeds
Interestingly enough the corner that Carmen was giving me trouble on I found blackberry vines with big thorns on them. I wondered if they were grabbing her legs as we went by. Now that they are cleared out she has no issues with that corner. 

So it's been a good week so far and I have another week to go. By the time I return to work I will be tanned and fit. 

And probably tired. 

I will leave you with one last video. Turn on the sound though to get the context. 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dealing with the Heat

I may have picked the right week for vacation- the mornings have been foggy and cool. By noon the fog burns off and it's sunny and hot. When I managed to time my rides right it was easy. Even though it was foggy it was still quite warm and humid so we both ended up sweaty.

I've been trying to make the rides focussed and easy so that the rides weren't really hot and unpleasant. That of course has been dependent on Carmen but she's continuing to be really good. This week she has also come into heat. Last year being in heat meant that Carmen would be cranky and balky. This year I find her sluggish and she needs a long slow warm up. I find that if I let her do her slow trot and then build on it we have far more productive rides (by productive I mean not a big battle). I could get her more forward sooner by being forceful but I'm not sure that's either fair or required. If I can there by being patient and letting warm up slowly we end up in a much better place. I have even taken her for short hacks by herself.
"Foggy mornings are best for eating"
Carmen now understands about making full use of the ring. Not that she doesn't sometimes doubt my decisions but we are able to keep our discussions to a minimum. Yesterday was really hot so Cynthia and I decided to go to some local wineries and a tack shop. It was a great way to spend a day out of the heat.

Today was also hot and I hoped to get my ride in before the fog burned off. Unfortunately the sun came out just as we were headed up to the ring. Funny story: as we walked up to the ring I was surprised by a small garter snake slithering under my foot. I gave a jump and a squeak. I  am not afraid of snakes but I wasn't expecting it. Carmen never even flinched but she gave me a look that spoke volumes:
Carmen: And you say that I'm spooky. 
Me: Well it surprised me. 
Carmen: uh huh. Sure. I get it. Spooks happen. It's no one's fault. 
Me:  Are you being sarcastic? 
Carmen: Who me? Never. 

It was really hot and Carmen was stiff so I kept the ride slow and did a lot of walking and bending. We did some trot work and a wee bit of canter. I walked her over to drop the gate. She's now knows to stop until I grab the board and then she walks forward to slide it open. I walked her down to the barn and hopped off. I hosed her off and then let her cool off in the shade of the maple tree.

A lot of people have commented on how much more relaxed and happy she seems. I have to agree with them and I feel a sense of pride in it as well. She's far more affectionate- after our ride she put her head against my chest closed her eyes with a droopy lip. She has made me a more patient and a more focussed person. I think I have helped her become a more confident and willing horse.

I guess we are good for one another.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Puppy

Hello everyone, Guinness here. I heard that some of you are asking how I'm doing (especially Farm Buddy who understands that a blog without a dog has no real point), so I thought that I would tell you.

Mom is on va-ca-shun right now. Which is great- she spends more time with me then at this thing she calls 'work'. I don't really know what 'work' is but she spends too much time there.

The birds wake me up at sunrise, but I'm a good dog so I don't make any noise. Soon I hear mom and d'Arcy coming downstairs. d'Arcy goes outside and then mom lets me out of my den. I don't know why d'Arcy doesn't wait for me- this means I have to go looking for him to say good morning. He barks at me to settle down but how can I do that? I just got up. Mom calls him 'grumpy' but he's not grumpy- he's d'Arcy. He does sound more grumpy when I realize that he and Dad are sleeping in. I go running up and pounce on them. Then both dad and d'Arcy are barking at me. Mom says that the lazy bones are upstairs. But I've looked and never found any bones. I think she's confused.

wait d'Arcy! I have said 'good morning yet!'
 Mom feeds the giant  beasts she calls 'horses' and I make sure that everything is okay inside and out. Then it's time for BREAKFAST! I love breakfast. Mom drinks her coffee and I nap a bit. Then we go for a walk around the pastures. She goes a lot slower when she brings her black click box but that gives me more time to try to catch the tiny butterflies. One day I will get them.

This morning Mom took the black click box into the pasture with the horse-beasts. I don't like it when she does that- they scare me and I think she's in danger. I know that I'm not allowed to go in the pasture so I stay outside and let her know by my look that I do not approve of this.

how can she get so close to these horse-beasts? 

Since I am a farm dog I help her with all the chores. I bring her distractions like balls and things 

playtime is important too you know

Mom sometimes puts me in my den for a 'nap'. She comes back smiling and smelling of the gray horse-beast. d'Arcy says she's 'riding'. I have seen her sit on the gray horse-beast. It was very freaky. 

But after, we go walking to the lake and I LOVE the lake. I swim and catch sticks. It's so much fun and I never want to leave. I try to keep mom there longer by staying in the lake and not coming out. She can't go in the lake. Maybe people can't swim? Also, what are 'leeches'?  

Mom is like me and loves to be outside. She sometimes naps and I have to guard her. After all it's a very important job. 

don't let my pose fool you- I am fully alert. Really. 
So that's what I've been up to. I am growing and learning about my responsibilities. 

I call this my noble dog pose. 
But I am still a puppy at heart. 

I miss Ripley. She needs to visit soon so we can play

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dancing on Air

Shanea and I booked a lesson for early Sunday morning in order to beat the heat. I had a good feeling about the lesson as soon as I brought Carmen into the barn. She was calm and mellow and seemed in a great mood.

In the ring once I got on we started walking around warming up before Shanea arrived. I found her to be soft and forward. There were no issues in any part of the ring. We worked on bend and leg yields fro about 15 minutes and then Shanea arrived. We discussed the show results and what we've been working on. Then we got to work.

And you guys- I had the best ride on Carmen that I've ever had. She was soft, listening and responsive. With everything we asked she tried her best to figure it out.  We started at the walk working on shoulder fore. Finally I figured out how to keep her straight through the shoulder so that she was really carrying herself.
I love everything about this photo- she's soft and listening, her hind leg is stepping through.

We then added in haunches in. After a bit we were doing shoulder in to straight to haunches in. It was cool to have her soft and bending- even in troll corner. When we went to trot there were no issues at all like we often have with the first transition (although that has been getting better). She simply moved into trot promptly and energetically.  We repeated the same exercises at the trot too.

After some initial posting trot, Shanea had me work on my sitting trot. We started off just on the short sides. When Carmen's back is tight it's very hard to sit. But when it comes up it's so much easier. But not effortless because I have to hold myself without tensing. That takes a lot of core strength and I could definitely feel it as we worked. But as sore as I figured I was going to be I didn't want the ride to end because it felt so easy.

We worked on leg yields. To the right Carmen tends to lead with her shoulder and to the right she leads with her haunches. So I have to be aware of this and ride accordingly. But it's amazing the nuances you can feel when you aren't dealing with a stiff horse refusing to go into a corner. Shanea had us go into the corner, pick up a shoulder fore and then ask for a right lead canter at A. And she picked it right up and we went forward. We cantered around the ring and it was so much fun. Except that she began to go faster then she could handle.  I was to allow the canter but not let her fall out behind or onto the forehand. That was hard to do without clamping or arching my back.

so much to hate about my position here. But at least Carmen is doing her part by stepping under
I could really feel her power and Shanea had me sit up and use my seat to get her to keep coming from behind. It wasn't easy for either of us and she broke a few times just because it was so.dang.hard. But we were working together, figuring it out and nailing it.

artsy canter photo catching the moment of the half-halt. Look at those ears. 
We finished working on her stretchy walk. When I start to give the rein Carmen will 'snatch' it and then stick her head straight up. I was to ask her to stretch forward and when she 'snatched to put my legs on and ask her to move forward. That really worked and she started to figure out what I was really asking.

we even got more stretch then this but I love how she's reaching

We halted Carmen and basked in the pleasure that a good lesson can give. Many times I heard Shanea say 'good girl' and I don't know which one of us she meant but it felt like both of us. Carmen really wanted to stay close to Shanea and tried to follow her. It was kind of adorable.

Tonight, when I was doing the night feed Carmen was highly affectionate and wanted some snuggles. I feel like we starting to unwrap Carmen and letting her out from beneath her layers of anxiety and worry. I know that this is not it- we will still have days that are less than ideal. But for now I'm holding onto today and how good it was.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Recreational Pursuits

I started off my vacation by trying something new. Ed has always been an avid golfer. It's worked out well because Cynthia's husband, Andrew loves it too. We've had many nice days where the guys golfed and we rode, meeting up for dinner after.

A few weeks ago Andrew asked if we wanted to participate in a 'Nine and Dine'. This is where people play nine holes of golf and then have dinner at the clubhouse. It sounded like fun. At first the thought was that Cynthia and I would tag along in the golf cart and drink wine. However, you can imagine that I would allow an activity to go on around me without participating. I stated that I wanted to play too.

Cynthia and I rode in the morning. Carmen was a bit of a challenge. It was interesting because she was really testing my resolve that we actually would go into corners and bend and not speed up. But I stayed with it. I honestly thought that I was going to have a massive explosion but that never materialized. Even when Cynthia and Irish left to make a tack adjustment. We finished up with a hack and then came into the house for some strawberry shortcake.

We picked up the guys back in the city and headed to the golf course. I wanted to play but didn't want to hold up the others who were actual golfers. But I needn't have worried. Andrew turned out to be an excellent teacher.  There was lots of great instruction. I had no qualms about picking up my ball and walking it closer so that I didn't hold up the play. I made some half-decent shots and some laughable ones. There was a fluke where I actually out drove Ed. Cynthia drove the golf cart and was also the wine fairy. Afterwards the group had dinner and it was delicious. I do like to try new things. This was fun and I think I might even want to try it again.
I still think that it would be a nice place to ride. 
Ed and I spent the night came home this morning. Guinness and I went to the feed store. He was so good- staying with me, waiting when I stopped and greeting people politely. I put him in a sit-stay and he was so good. Even when someone came up he just looked at them "Sorry, I'd love to say hi but I have to sit right now' . I was so proud of him.

I had some plans to ride but in the end I decided I wanted to be lazy. Instead I gave Carmen a nice groom. She was quite affectionate and I told her that tomorrow we would play in the ring.

You won't be giving me up for golf are you? 

And one more thing: Karen has her own blog and you should check it out: The Reflective Rider


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Bold and the Beautiful

This is describing the relationship between Carmen and I right now.

She is the beautiful one. I know I'm biased but I still believe that it is true.

Me, if you get me in the right light and squint I could be considered cute. But hey, as Judge Judy says "beauty fades, dumb is forever". But I have a reputation of being brave. Not sure that it's deserved and that is not false modesty. I do believe that I can be brave but not always and am often struggling with inner demons that tell me I suck. What I am is stubborn.

Steele was easy to be bold on- he was naturally self-confident and it made it simpler. Carmen came with a lot of baggage and some anxiety of her own. While I don't believe I created her issues- I didn't help initially either. Mostly because I didn't understand. So when she would spook or bolt I inadvertently rewarded her by easing up on my demands. Royce pointed that out to me but it's been a work in progress.

Because it's easy to ease up on things even when you don't  know you're doing it. It can be as simple as not asking for the bend going through the spooky corner, letting go of the inside rein and generally letting her dictate how we go.

Lately I have learning how to be 'bold' in my riding. I don't mean running screaming at things a la Braveheart but to ride boldly. To sit up and ride with pride and head to whatever lies ahead. I did it at the last show coming down centre line and that nailed us some of our best scores. I can feel Carmen responding when I do that.

The show help clarify some things for me. Carmen can be spooky and then she stops listening. My goal is to get her listening even when she's not sure. It's easier now that I'm no longer worried that I might be seriously hurt.

In our ring our 'spooky spots' continue to be there. To be honest I believe it's become a habit. The other day I was riding her and dealing with those spots. Then we trotted down the long side by the trees and as we neared B a small black creature (I think it was a mole, might have been a small cat) leapt up the hill from virtually under her feet.
ARRGHHHH  Carmen sprang sideways.
I went with her, just losing a stirrup. What the fuck was that?  I said loudly. I really hope my neighbours are too far away to hear me. Otherwise they will think that I'm really weird and crazy.
We turned in a circle and she was not sure at all about heading back towards whateveritwas. But we walked up and surveyed the hill wide eyed.

Me: I think it's gone. I wonder what it was. 
Carmen: It was a baby troll and you  know you can't get between those and their mothers. We should leave now. 
Me: It will be okay. 

And it was. Even though the first few times she was tense she settled back and it's not been an issue since.

The other day I was riding with Cynthia and we were having some great work. I dropped the gate and she and I played in the tall grass and over the bridge waiting for Irish and Cynthia. Then Carmen and I led the whole way out on our hack. At first she was uncertain but walked forward nicely enough. At the hill going back to the barn I asked her to trot and she did. Irish was meandering and then realized we were leaving him and picked up a canter behind us. Hearing him canter behind us did not set her off at all.

I am on vacation for two weeks and have tons of plans in regards to our riding and being bold. Even going to new and exciting places. I also need to get some up to date photos of the dogs and horses.