dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Triptych: A Tale of Three Lessons

 I realized that I am behind in my lesson posts. I'm sure you are all fine with that but I like to recap them for my own learning. If you recall I asked Shanea to push me out of my comfort zone and she has taken that to heart. 

Lesson 1: Straight and Supple

This happened before we went away to PEI. Carmen was feeling really on and not spooky even from when we started. It was a great because we could dive into the nitty gritty without all the working through her emotions first. 

Shanea started by asking me to shorten and lengthen her walk- using my seat and my energy. I could use my hands to take a bit but had to give it back. I heard a lot of the phrase- have her on your elbows not your hands. It was so cool to feel how I could do this simply by how much I 'allowed' with my seat. Also cool was that, as we worked, this exercise really helped Carmen to soften and relax her back. She really began to swing. 

I love how she's reaching here

The lesson focussed on keeping Carmen straight- she has a tendency to throw her shoulder to the wall and her haunches in. Some of it is her tension and strength and the rest is all me. I spent so much time trying to keep her on the rail that she thinks she has to throw her shoulder to it. And now I'm used to that so it feels straight. Shanea is asking me to feel her straightness and where her hind legs are. It's been interesting to do that. Karen talked about that as well. Keeping her straight on her right lead is a real struggle. That has been our 'difficult' lead for a while. We have been tackling it a bit at a time. In this lesson we got it a few times and then we stopped. 

uphill anyone? 

Lesson #2: New Place, New Work, New Mindset

My rides after that lesson were quite, um, spicy. I stayed on task and just worked through it. I've been working on my mindset of viewing Carmen's extra energy as a positive thing that needs direction. I decided that this weekend I really wanted to do two lessons in a row. I thought it would help me build on what we did. 

However, to make that work I needed to bring Carmen to a nearby arena on Friday. Krista (same person who did the clinic with me) was really welcoming about Carmen and I coming. My lesson was the first one so I could lunge before. Friday was cool, cloudy and breezy- perfect spooking weather.  To be honest I considered faking being sick to get out of going. But I didn't and trailered there.  Krista has a 'guest' paddock and Carmen was quite happy in there- as long as I stayed near anyway. 

Horse Heaven: grass paddock surrounded by apple trees

I brought Carmen into the arena a good 45 minutes before the lesson. It is a lovely canvas arena and it was making some flapping noises in the wind. Carmen was not a fan- which was logical. I spied a flag in the corner and I went and grabbed it. I've done lots of work with flags with Carmen as part of the TRT Method. However, Carmen took one look and ran backwards. 
Carmen: oh my god- it's attacking
Me: it's a flag. You've seen it before. 
Carmen: But this one is small and everyone knows that they are the deadly ones. 
Me: *sigh*
However, I do know how to help her with this and 5 minutes later she was bored. I then took the flag and flapped it over her head- it sounded a lot like the canvas. Working through that helped her to understand that she didn't have to worry about the arena. 
Carmen trusting me despite evidence to the contrary

When Shanea arrived we went to work - starting with the walk shorten-lengthen work. Then Shanea had me focus on keeping her in shoulder fore to keep her shoulder from throwing it into the wall. The exercise was a series of 10 metre circles down the long side with shoulder fore in between. This was very tricky and required all our focus. Which might have been the point. 

But I found that I could really feel when she was straight and crooked and, more importantly when I needed to aid to prevent it. 

I was super impressed with how we both handled things at this new location. I am finding that my seat is much more secure so I am able to sit through her spooks and re-direct her energy. In this lesson I could feel her using her hind end more and coming from behind rather dump on her forehand. Shanea laughs at me but when she's trotting from behind and is light in front I call that trot 'fluffy'. I have no other way to describe it. 

looking light and fluffy here

Carmen worked really hard for us. Even when the arena started to creak a bit as the wind picked up. Not that she didn't notice but there were no melt downs. We finished with some canter work but as soon as it was good we stopped and let her relax. 

I was really excited about how we were to not only work but to advance our work. Working in the smaller space of the indoor helped me a lot. 

I stayed and watched a bit of Krista's lesson but Carmen was only happy when I was nearby and I couldn't do both so we headed home. Frankly, it was good for us to go somewhere, work and go home. Carmen was quite happy to find herself back in the field in the afternoon. 

Lesson #3: Onwards and Upwards

I hadn't the heart to tell Carmen that we had another lesson today. Fortunately, it was at noon so we could have a quiet and relaxing morning.  When I was getting her ready she went back and forth from being sleepy to cranky. Very likely she might have felt a bit body sore from the work and I figured it might be an interesting ride. The weather was sunny, calm and warm enough to be comfortable but not hot. 

Spoiler alert- it turned out that it was an awesome ride. 

Carmen was definitely a bit spicy but not that bad. We worked on getting the walk supple and relaxed and then adding in trot work. I was doing a lot better at keeping her straight but not perfect. We did this fun exercise at the trot of: turn down quarter line, leg yield to wall, hitting at the centre letter (B or E) then riding a half 20m circle and then shoulder in down the side. It required me to be on the ball with the aids: 
  •  make sure that she didn't bulge her shoulder during the turn
  • that she waited for me to start the leg yield
  • and keep her shoulder off the wall

It was fun. Her trot got so fluffy that I could feel it all the way up to my diaphragm. 

From there Shanea had me practice our half-passes at trot. I bobbled the aids for that at first having my outside leg too far back but after stopping and discussing it I understood at least the principle first. I could feel it really starting to gel and Shanea was sounding quite excited about it. It was nice to feel the push from her hind leg. 

And all of this work happened while she was off and on worried about the outside of the ring.

The butterflies were particularly fierce. 

not too bad for a start

At this point I was thrilled and could have happily stopped. Shanea asked if I felt up to trying some canter half pass. Remembering that I had to be pushed I agreed.  Shanea had me pick up a canter, do a 10 m circle and then come down the centre line. The goal was to ask for a few strides of half-pass, come back to trot and praise.  The first few attempts were not great but not horrible. Carmen did do a big spook at the end of one but we regrouped and carried on. The breaking it down into small chunks helped Carmen and I figure it out without getting flustered. We got a few good ones on both leads and then stopped. 

I was thrilled with the work we've been doing. I swear that Carmen's hind end is taller because of the muscle she's building.   I was glad I had two in a row like that- I think it helped us to move ahead. 

fluffiness personified

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Beach Ride Master Class

 You all remember my friend Karen and her stallion Kalimo- I write about them fairly often. Kalimo is her imported PRE and he's stunning. 

Karen and Jim own a beautiful house/cottage in Prince Edward Island (or PEI as we call it). Every year she takes her horse for a couple weeks vacation. This year she and Jim invited Ed and I to come for a couple days. 

one of the many views from their deck

I looked at my schedule and found a couple days I could take off so we made a date. 

Then she said 'bring your riding clothes if you want and you can ride Kalimo on the beach'. 

The morning we had chosen dawned rather gray and wet but it was warm. when the weather began to improve we got ready. Karen rode Kalimo down to the beach and I drove her truck. When she arrived we used the tailgate as a mounting block and I got on. I was feeling a whole range of emotions and thoughts- excited, happy, worried I would fall off and Kalimo would take off and get hurt, etc. Karen, of course, was not worried (or she hid really well). 

Nonetheless we were off and I started my riding lesson. (note: the narrative is much better if you imagine Kalimo with the voice of Antonio Banderas, which he really has). 

Kalimo: Oh hello, Señora Karen told me that I was teaching her friend how to properly enjoy the beach. Come, we are off. 
Me: Wait, I want to take a between the ears photo. 
Kalimo: Señora, there is no time for such foolishness. We must go- the beach awaits. 

I threw my phone at Karen to take some photos because there was no arguing with my teacher. At some point her sister Margaret came and took many photos that I'm using in this post. 

I sat there breathing in the sea air, watching the seagulls fly off and trying to remain relax while my inner 12 years old was positively bouncing with glee. We headed off down the beach. 

Kalimo:  Señora, you must relax, this is fun. Say hello to the man walking there so he can admire me. 
We had a brief chat with the gentleman walking. I believe that if you are out in public it is good to make sure that people are not frightened and see you and your mount as friendly. 

Kalimo: Yes, now we carry on. See the little birds? We must not scare them. 
Me: The sandpipers? Yes, I see them. 

Kalimo very carefully move sideways to avoid them. The seagulls he ignored completely. 

Kalimo:  you are feeling good? We can trot now. 
Me: ummm
Kalimo:  Trust me Señora it will be fun. 
Me:  okay. 
And off we trotted. He was so good and gentle and clearly having a great time. I'm sure that I was laughing a lot and I bet the local cottagers were wondering what weird seagull was cackling. 

I got really brave and asked for a canter. 
Kalimo: Ah, Canter! Well done Señora! 
Me: okay, maybe we come back now
Kalimo: No, no, you have just started, it is fine, we will keep going. 
Me: But I'm thinking we should trot now.  (I think I accidentally tightened up here because Kalimo shifted gears into a more forward canter). 
Kalimo:  Feel the breeze in our faces, our manes blowing in the wind. We are magnificent you and I. 
Me: But there's this cliff face coming up, maybe we should trot. 
Kalimo:  Señora, please, I am a professional, we shall stop when it's time. 
Me: *gulp*
Sure enough when we got close to the cliff he slowed so soft and gently to a walk. 

Kalimo: I told you señora there is nothing to worry about. You are with Kalimo, nothing bad will happen. 
Me: Okay then. 

I began to relax and really enjoy the ride. We did a lot of trotting and even more cantering. It was exhilarating. 

With the sound on you can hear the wind and the surf. 

I honestly do not know how long we rode but Kalimo finally felt tired enough to do a walk on a long rein. 

I offered to be done but he was not ready so we went back down the beach. I think he would have stayed there all day. Going up and down the beach, stopping to allow walkers to admire his beauty. 

But finally it was time we had to go. Karen asked if I wanted to ride him back to the cottage. I said sure as long as she was fine with it (of course she wouldn't have offered otherwise). She told me to walk him up the road and stop at the stop sign, cross the rode and then follow the track on the field to her place.  Kalimo went off well enough but half-way up the road he wanted to turn around. 

Kalimo: We have left Señora Karen at the beach. We must return and get her. 
Me: no, Karen told us to go she's following in the truck. 
Kalimo: I have never left her behind on the beach. Never. We go back. 
Me: I'm afraid I'm going to insist we carry forward. 

Kalimo: I do not like this señora but I will follow your advice. 

It was kind of funny- our walk got slower and slower the farther away from the beach we got. By the time we got over to the field and I saw Karen waiting at the house I called out to her
Me: We'll be there in about an hour.
Kalimo: I am so tired Señora, and you make jokes? 
Me: I am sorry, I shall give you many many many carrots when we return. 
Kalimo: that would be appreciated. 

I do not know any riders that don't imagine riding on the beach. I'm sure that they are out there but I've not met one yet. This ride was amazing on so many levels. Kalimo is so much fun to ride, he responds to the lightest of aids and is very sensitive but so kind and calm at the same time. For Karen to offer him to me was an honour I will not forget. 

Karen told me to lock this memory down and even think of a song to go with it. That way when I need a good memory I can call it back up. It took me a while to think of a song but then it hit me on the way home: "I Cannot be Broken" by Claire Guerreso (her work is so good, you should check her out). When I got home friday Karen had made this video for me with a compilation of photos set to the music. I was overwhelmed. 

Here it is if you want see it: 

This is a trip that I doubt I will ever forget. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020


Like I mentioned in my last post I had a lesson booked for Friday. When Shanea arrived I confessed to my recent funk and that I hadn't been riding but that I had been doing other things. She shared that she had heard that confession from many of her students this week so maybe it's not just me.  Anyway, I told her that i realized I needed some pushing to get out of my comfort zone and I asked her to do that. It was (of course) a much longer conversation than that but to make it short, she rubbed her hands together gleefully and said 'All righty then'. 

And push me she did. Carmen was feeling quite hot and wanting to lean on the bridle. It's a hard thing to fix because too much rein and she bolts, too much hold and she leans and carts me around. However, I do have some tools from my Better Balance Clinic (and past lessons based on Centered riding). I realize that I need faith in myself that I can ride out the shit and not freeze. 

How Shanea see our lessons (probably)

Shanea's goal was to keep her hind leg under and not have her all strung out - that's when she gets away (which is also what Carmen told me). So, to a certain extent, there as a bit of hold the rein and boot her hind leg back under. Not as bad as you might think- just making it clear that her legs needed to be under me, not waving around out behind.  

Pictured her: Carmen leaning on the bit and
shoving her legs out behind

It's no surprise the Carmen is a hot horse. Her sire was known for being hot and her full sister is also quite similar (we met via FB last  year I think). Sometimes her hotness becomes a bit too much for me - and I think for her as well. But she is who she is.  I need to ride it and figure out what she needs. Shanea likes a lot of going straight and forward into contact. I like to do circles when we lose it but then I can see her point that I'm avoiding the going straight. So we compromise. Which means I try to go straight and she ignores the occasional circle I throw in. 

That said, most of this lesson was on the circle to help her bend and push with her inside leg. I could definitely feel when her hind legs were under me. 

Better with her body. I let the reins get long and then my hands were
all like 'omg, we're going to die let me crawl under your chin'. 

All told it was a good lesson. I used a lot of the breathe/ground/grow and that kept my seat pretty solid in the saddle. There were some really good moments and by the end of the lesson she was pretty much over the concept of running away from the leaves. 
so much better here- and the rein is loose because I'm trying to get her
to stretch that Andalusian neck out and unlock herself. 

I realized that I can push myself and her and not end up in a train wreck. The next day I rode early and she was really good. I wish I had a lesson then because it felt like we could have really built on the day before but c'est la vie.  Sunday she was in between Friday and Saturday's mood but it was still a good ride. I set up some  puzzles in the ring to play with: trot poles with every other one elevated, a gate, some cones for bending etc. 

Saturday morning was beautiful 

Monday I decided to not ride and head to Zumba class instead. It was my first time since the pandemic started (they've only been going in person a little while). It was a lot of fun and she one of my favourite songs by Lizzo - Juice. It was fun to get back to it. 

Tuesday Carmen was lit. I had to dismount and work her hard on the ground. Then I got back on and worked her more. I was pretty clear about my line and it did work.  We were both sweating but Carmen was using her hind end and not bracing so I counted it as a win. 

Tomorrow Ed and I head out for a couple days of vacation and I'm really looking forward to it.  Maybe Carmen is too.  Joanne will be babysitting and the animals all enjoy being spoiled. 
Joanne with her grandson and Irish. 
Irish is the sweetest horse on the planet, I swear. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

If You Love Something Set it Free

 Lately I've been finding my motivation to ride lacking. Which is really weird for me. I know it happens and I know that I would tell someone else to just be patient and let it work itself out. 

But since it's me my inner criitcal voices all decided to weigh in at the same time (you're sick, you are chicken to ride, lazy, what will Shanea think. etc etc.). These voices are not helpful. 

Yesterday I got home from work and was not feeling the need to ride. In fact I was feeling pretty tired. But I have a lesson booked for friday and my voices were singing full on in my head. 

I decided to try something new. I went up to the ring and using a variety of poles and jump standards I made a small space to try playing with free-lunging/ liberty work. I have tried it in the past but my ring is too big and Carmen can simply just go from one end to the other and not really listen to me. I have also signed up for a liberty clinic in October so I thought that I might as well see where we were. 

I brought Carmen up to the ring and walked her around on the lead to see the new set up. She was intrigued and, because she's Carmen, highly suspicious. 

Now way back in the day I learned how to 'round pen' a horse. I also know that the philosophy has changed- or maybe it hasn't. But I wasn't interested in chasing Carmen into exhaustion to get her to tune in. 

You have no idea what you are doing said the loudest voice in my head. And Carmen definitely reacted to that. At first she was ignoring me then getting upset with me. I know that it wasn't just me she was reacting to- I was asking her to go into the corner that she hates and I had no line/ halter or anything so she probably felt a bit unprotected. 

I realized that while I might not know much, I do know some things about ground work, body language and intent. So I decided to focus on what I did know, starting with being clear in my head that I wanted her to do X rather than hope (honestly, at some point I will learn that with horses, like many things, hope is not a good strategy). 

Carmen: what new torture is this? 

And so she began to respond. Not without testing, but with less drama. She began to tune in and respond. I would put on pressure and then remove it. When she would stop and look to me I would let her be. If she became distracted or tried to graze I would ask her to work. Not in a punishing way but in a matter of fact way. 

A few times she thought about pushing through the poles (or going under). I was prepared for that and the main gate was closed so I figured it would be fine if she did get out. It also helped me to rate my pressure. 

pressure on but my body language is not tight

In the last few minutes I decided to set up my camera and video us doing some work. I divided the clip into segments - probably poorly but there you have it. 

I am playing with transitions here using my voice and body language. It's not perfect but she's trying and we're working it out. You can hear Guinness barking in the background. I tied him up because he likes to try to help. Partway through you see him trot though looking all proud of himself because he slipped his collar (little bugger). I mostly  ignored him, except to order him out a few times. Which Carmen took as a instruction to go. I like how one ear is on me- she's aware of the stuff around her but also paying attention to me. 

In this clip I'm playing with 'leading' without a lead rope or halter. I played with this earlier and I realize that I needed to walk with purpose and she would follow. If I kept checking she would leave. I liked how she hesitated to follow me into troll corner but then decided to stay with me, even though she could have left at any point. 

I'm playing with starting/stopping/backing up/jogging to see if she would match me. Which she's trying to figure out. I used the whip and my voice to help her understand what I wanted. Guinness is being a brat and in the middle you see me waving my hands as she and I discuss her trampling him. I'm asking her to move her hind quarters or shoulders by where I'm standing and where my energy is going. I then ask her to follow my shoulder and stay with me. 

This was fun. It definitely felt completely different. I can't emphasize enough that I don't know what I'm doing. Do not use me as an example. 

I'm just playing. But maybe that's the point. Maybe I need some play time. 

Carmen: that was fun

Monday, August 24, 2020

Best Laid Plans of Horse and Rider

 I had a lesson booked for Sunday at 12:30 and I was really looking forward to it. I had been working on my lessons from the Balance Clinic the week before and it was working.I've also been introducing Carmen to the concept of relaxation and forward. Mostly on the lunge/ groundwork. I can get her nice and relaxed but then everything stalls out. So I've been working on establishing the relaxation and then asking for more. 

I was ready in plenty of time for our  lesson and Carmen was doing really well with the groundwork. In fact she was even overtracking at the walk (not an easy thing for an Andalusian!). Shanea arrived after I was mounted and I put on her coaching system while I chattered happily about what we had been working on and how she was doing. We started out lesson and I was in the zone. Carmen was marching forward, my seat was following and I was doing a good job staying in the moment (my thoughts can wander): 

walk forward, give with the hands, ask for bend through the corner, straighten outside shoulder, march on, there's C, oh and cows in the yard....

wait, what? 

Carmen and I came to screeching halt (well as screeching as you can get at the walk) and stared in disbelief down at the yard by the house. There was a small herd of cattle happily exploring our yard. 

what the fuck? 

Not the actual cows but used for dramatic effect

Carmen was staring totally rigid. I was too close to the rail to dismount and totally forgot that I can dismount off the right side. I asked her to sidepass two steps and then hopped off, all the time aware of my vulnerability should she decide to explode. Fortunately, she stood like a rock and didn't move while I dismounted (training is sooo useful in moments like these). 

I sighed deeply, threw the reins at Shanea and headed down to get in my car to drive to the neighbours and let them know that their cows were on the lam. 

I was annoyed. Not at the neighbours so much as at the universe. I drove down to the owners house and for the longest time no one answered my knocks. As I was walking back to the car I heard a shout behind me and I knew it was the woman who was profoundly hearing impaired. I pulled out my best charade moves to let her know that the cows were at my place and it worked because she hit her head in the universal 'oh no!' sign and then hurried into the house. I got back in my car and headed home. The cows were now headed to another neighbours and I waved good bye at them. 

Now it's 5 after 1 and there's like 25 minutes left in my lesson. Julia had arrived and said 'I almost hit a cow in your diveway'   I asked Shanea and she was so awesome, texting her next one that she would be late. We then decided that this was the perfect time for her to hop aboard and ride Carmen. We've been planning on it for a while so why not today?

It was really interesting to watch the two of them work together. I could really see Carmen's tension in her shoulders and those muscles were very active in the beginning. It helped me to see what was happening to me from the ground. 

you can see her shoulder muscles here (also no criticism of
 Shanea here please- that's not what this photo is for) 

Carmen's preferred way of going is with tight shoulders and her back legs out behind. In riding it feels that she's totally disconnected - which I guess she is. 

her legs coming out behind is her first sign that she's 
thinking of exiting stage left

As Shanea began to work her I could see her hind legs starting to come under her more and those muscles begin to engage. She began to track at the trot and over trot at the walk.  And then I saw her core start to work. It was really cool. She has a lot of power when that happens. Which, to be honest, makes me a bit nervous and likely her as well. Shanea, however, has a ton of confidence and really solid seat so she can simply take that energy and channel it. 

beginning to work but trying to decide if the grass
was hiding vicious snakes. 

Also cool? Shanea complimented me on how light she was off the leg and sensitive to the seat. And that she has a new appreciation about how Carmen works my core. 

I did not have the lesson I planned but I did have a good lesson. It was good for me to see how she can go when asked. I know that I don't ask a lot from her and I'm trying to fix that- maybe this is the kick I need to get me going. 

I really want to ride that trot

Later that afternoon the cows came back. I think I should sign Carmen and I up for cattle penning lessons.....

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Better Balance Clinic Recap

 The clinic weekend is over and Sunday night I was too tired to write anything. 

First of all the clinic was a great success (from my perspective anyway). There were a variety of riders and horses and everyone learned something new or got clarity on things. What I love about Centered Riding is how it focuses on increasing your awareness of your body and how to make small (and large) adjustments to help your horse. 

was surprised about how tiring it can be to host and ride in a clinic. Even a relatively easy one like this where everyone was friendly and easy going. I was able to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. With COVID-19 we had precautions and the clinic was basically split between my place and Krista's. 

What I love about Karen is that each lesson was different while all were on the same principals. I saw some big changes in horses and riders over the weekend. I don't like to talk about others because I want to respect their privacy. So I thought I'd share what I learned over the weekend. 

Friday night we all got together and Karen reviewed the principles of CR:

  •  soft eyes- a hard gaze increases tension and the horses can feel it. 
  •  anatomy of the rider with a focus on the pelvis. We all talked about the imaginary ball of energy (or the center) in the pelvis that we can spin or rotate to help the horse. I've always struggled with this concept in terms of putting it into practice but more on that later. 
  • Center, ground and grow: the idea is to balance yourself physically and mentally so that you are able to influence the horse. 
  •  energy and mental states: energy and mental states can be positive or negative and will create a different 'state' that must be recognized and then dealt with. We also talked about how our horses also can be in the different quadrants and how that can affect our rides. 
We had wine (well most of us) and got on our yoga  mats to try exercises. There was a lot more detail (obviously but that's the bare bones).  Part way through it started to rain (we were out on the deck) so we moved into the loft of the garage to carry on. Then we had cupcakes. Frankly I think every clinic should start with wine and cupcakes, right? 

Paula brought Georgie, her beautiful warmblood mare. This created a lot of excitement in both horses and Irish turned into a major level creeper. He would just stare and stare at her. If she or Carmen wen in he would lose his mind. 

Full on Creeper 

Saturday was cool and breezy- there was a definite feeling of fall in the air. I had put myself first in the schedule so that I could then be available to host. Carmen was definitely up. In terms of energy she was in the high energy/negative state which leads to her being spooky, reactive and ready to fight me. I was probably there too (but not as high as Carmen) because i was tired, worried it wasn't to go well and wanting everything to be perfect. I was up 30 minutes before to do groundwork and lunge. 

tension anyone? tight neck and back, short steps

She was much better when I got on but still felt a bit like a powder keg. Karen had me a do a lot of centering (finding my ball and having a neutral pelvis - not tipped forward like I do when I'm worried), grounding through a deep breath and growing (lengthening my spine and stabilizing my core). It worked really well to bring Carmen back to me and keep her underneath. As the lesson progressed I began to feel more in control of myself and, therefore, in control of her. Carmen likes to drop out her hind end and then fling her shoulders to get away. She may not be big but she's pretty powerful. The key is to use my seat/core to keep her under and stay balanced. Here's a video of her doing a pretty big spook and us recovering. 

I didn't know what set her off and then I saw Willow cutting across the ring with a rodent in her mouth. Well that's what I saw. Carmen maintains it was a grey tiger carrying the carcass of a horse. We agreed to disagree on that. However, I was impressed with how quickly we were able to recover and carry on. 

Getting on our listening ears

Julia rode Irish in the clinic and he was really good. Julia did a great job keeping him on task and listening to her. Georgie was really good for Paula too. She is a big strong mare and there's a lot of distractions at my place (and one creepy, staring horse). But she was listening and responsive. They looked stunning. 

We had a quick lunch and then I drove everyone to Krista's for the second half. It was fun to sit and watch the others take in what Karen was teaching and I saw a lot of good work and happy horses. One horse and rider opted to do an in-hand session and that was fascinating to watch Karen teach and then the rider apply the strategies. I filed what I saw away for future use. A half-sister to Steele was in the clinic too. She is a lovely half-andalusian black mare and I was so excited to see her go. There was an adorable 'medicine hat' paint mare and Krista's horse was adorable. He was a rescue and the hypothesis is that he's a draft/paint cross. He has beautiful feathers and looks a bit like a gypsy vanner. He looked fun to ride. 

That evening I had a bit of stress moment. Ed had dinner ready for when we arrived but the horses needed the stalls done and to be fed, I had to drag the ring and the water pump for the barn decided to conk out. I thought that the well was dry (the barn has a dug well). And I also needed to make dessert. I felt a little overwhelmed and snapped at Ed when he came to tell me supper was done. I then went in the house and vented with my friends who then stepped up and helped get dinner on the table (Ed ws dealing with the pump) and threw dessert together. After a good meal I felt a little better. So next time I will plan a bit better. 

I had a better sleep Saturday night and Sunday was nice and sunny. I did groundwork with Carmen and then some in hand work while I practiced my centering and grounding. It was interesting to see how that worked on the ground as well as in the saddle. 

When Karen arrived I told her that I wanted to practice centering, grounding and growing at all three gaits so I can learn how to use it to control her speed/tension.  I also played a lot with my 'center/ball'. It was fascinating to see that visualizing the ball turning left or right resulted in Carmen turning left and right without me using leg or rein (at least not conciously). We were able to stay light in the contact throughout the whole ride with only a few times of her leaning.  

I was holding Irish while Julia practiced using her core 
to prevent being pulled forward in the saddle. Those lines are
Irish's whiskers because he kept photo bombing. FYI, that was
a great exercise 

From the trail clinic a few weeks ago I began to visualize our path as being on a 2 foot wide balance beam so that we wouldn't fall in. I find that visualization worked really well for both of us. But I struggled to keep both the ball and the track in my head at the same time. Then I started visualizing a marble track to combine the two and that worked really well for me. I said excitedly 'I got it! It's a mable track!' Which I then had to explain to Karen. She humoured me about this but honestly it went well. The idea is that my center was a marble running along a track. I suppose a bobsled track would be a similar idea. 

Looking much better

Here's a video of using centering, grounding and growing at the trot and walk to keep her from speeding up. I can definitely see a change in her coming back to me. This will really help us with our lengthens. 

And canter...

In this video I am asking her to come back to me and not speed off across the center line using my core. It's not perfect but it's so much better. 

And here I'm using my core to guide her on a smaller canter circle and then transition:

I was really happy with this lesson. I felt like I had developed some skills and made some progress. Plus I had a lot of fun with horse people. I will definitely do this again. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

How to Prepare to Host a Clinic

 I am sure that you all remember that I posted I was going to partner with a near by barn owner to host a clinic in June. Of course, due to all things COVID, that did not happen. But we did manage to find a weekend that worked for everyone at a later date- August 14-16. This is my first time actually organizing something like this on my own property. While it's been fairly low-key, I did learn a number of things that I'd thought I'd share. 

DO: Listen to your husband when he suggests you should take the week off before in order to prepare. Even if you think you're just humouring him and you might as well use up your vacation. There is more to do than you think. 

DON'T:  Tell him that you're humouring him unless you want the odd  remark when you're working really hard to get ready and it's over 100 degrees outside. 

DO: Decide to weed whack the ring early in the week. 

DON'T: assume that you have enough twine in the weedwhacker. You don't. But do show it to your husband who will miraculously have twine and know to re-wind it. 

Husqvarna battery weed whacker. this thing is amazing. 

DO: Brush the dog before engaging in any house cleaning. Do this outside because it's hot and you will have enough fur to actually knit yourself a new dog (if you want to spin it into yarn but you won't want to do that. Trust me). 

DON'T: Assume that brushing the dog will make a difference. It won't. As soon as said dog comes inside and scratches an itch your floor will be covered in fur again. But at least you know that you tried and that's something. 

DO: Spend the better part of a day taking everything out of your tack room and cleaning it. It will look really good and lift your spirits. 

DON'T: Walk your mare over the bridge outside your ring because she will will stung by a wasp on her fetlock and it will swell making you panic (she's fine). 

DO: Rope your husband into helping you at dusk to flip over the bridge while you spray wasp killer on everything. (normally I avoid killing any bugs around here but I just can't have them that close to the ring and taking over my bridge). 

Optional: As you are spraying all the freaking nests and egg (there must have been a dozen!) say "hello I am Teresa Alexander-Arab, you attacked my mare, prepare to die." If you do say it make sure you use a terrible spanish accent. You may also want to use your own name- that's up to you. 

I was shocked- there was one largish nest and number of
smaller egg nests. Ugh. I think they were paper wasps

DO: Make sure you bake on the hottest day of the summer. Not that you couldn't buy the blueberry muffins or chocolate cupcakes (with salted caramel frosting) but that seems like cheating. 

DON'T: Obsess over the weather forecast. You can't control it. Oh who am I kidding? Go ahead, just know it's futile. 

DO: Find a shirt that will match your saddle pad and bonnet perfectly and order it online. Be surprised that it comes on time and that it actually fits. 

That's all the advice I have for now. Oh wait, one more thing: 

DO: Get really excited because you are going to be having a ton of fun with your friends. Also remember to appreciate your husband who agreed to do all the cooking for the weekend. 

stay tuned for updates!