dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, March 23, 2018

Weather Beaten

Yesterday we were hit with yet another Nor'Easter. The original forecast had it starting Weds night and being over by Thursday morning. We were supposed to get mostly rain.

It seems that Mother Nature does not like to be predictable because it started late Thursday morning and we were hammered with snow. Normally I would leave work early to avoid the worst but it was my last day before my 'use it or lose it' vacation and I had a ton of work to do. I ended up working a bit later then planned.
not fun. Winter can piss right off
Fortunately Ed was home and brought the horses in when it got bad. Not that they needed persuasion- they had been hunkered in their stalls anyway.

Upon heading entering the barn I was greeted with grumpy horses and stalls that looked like I hadn't picked them out in a week (honestly I had done them in the morning).

Irish: Thank heavens you're home. This is an OUTRAGE. I've been in my stall all afternoon. I am a TB, I need my FREEDOM. 

Me: Actually you are half QH. Plus all he did was shut the door- you were already hiding in your stall. 

Carmen: And I'm starving. I can see the hay but there's NONE in my stall. Call the SPCA. 

d'Arcy: you need to let the horses out so I can help you bring them in. 

Me: I'm pretty sure that you had hay. You ate it all. 

Irish: Don't you dare deny me my heritage. I identify as all TB thank you very much. Plus you are missing the point- the male servant took my choice away. It's fine if I decide to stay in. It's totally not cool for him to make the decision for me. 

Carmen:  Not one stalk of hay was given to me. You can see for yourself. 

d'Arcy:  that's my job after all. 

Irish: Carmen! Stay on topic- it's about us being prisoners, not you turning yourself into a hippo. 

Carmen:  HOW DARE YOU! I am Rubenesque not some scrawny thing. 

Me: Okay okay you two. Knock it off. Carmen, I will get you more hay. Irish you are in until morning. 

I brought Carmen out into the aisle and parked a wheelbarrow of hay in front of her while I cleaned her stall. 

d'Arcy:  yes, put her out. You can't bring them in without me. It's a rule. 

Carmen: this is more like it. *nom nom nom* You should put this in my stall not that horrible hay net contraption. 

Irish: Morning? Morning? Good lord woman have you lost your mind? I want to go OUTSIDE. This is UNACCEPTABLE. 

Me: Not gonna happen sunshine. It's still snowing and blowing out there. 

my woods after the storm

Carmen: Oh Irish *nom* lighten up.*nom* It's all fine now*nom*. Have you started getting our dinner ready yet? 

Guinness:  Look I found this stick. Isn't it awesome? Doesn't it just make you want to throw it again and again and again? 

Irish:  No, she's lallygagging in the stall and playing with that dog. 

someone loves the snow anyway
Me: I'm going as fast as I can. There princess your stall is clean, I've put in fresh shavings, topped up your hay and freshened your water. 

Carmen: Wait, bring that hay buffet in here! I liked it. 

I bring Irish out and park him by the wheelbarrow. He immediately knocks hay out of it and onto the floor where he picks through it like a food critic who found a hair in his creme brûlée. 

d'Arcy:  ok, leave the grey one in but bring out the brown one. I'm ready to help you. 

Irish: don't you have anything better? I'm really not sure of the quality of hay this year. It's lacking the fresh green flavour that I love. 

Me: Well there's nothing I can do about that- the grass will come in on it's own schedule. 

Irish: Excuses. You're not trying that's what I think. I want to go back in my stall. 

Me: Not yet I'm not done yet. 

Irish:  It really is awful the way you keep taking away my freedom of choice. I'm going to lodge a formal complaint. 

Guinness: Stick stick stick. THROW THE STICK. Pleeeaaassse. 

Me: Who with? 

Irish: I haven't figured that out yet. But when I do you'll be in big trouble missy. 

at least I got to snowshoe today.

Me: There, all clean. Okay Irish you can go back in your stall. 

Irish: good thing- I was just going to get feisty. 

Me: heaven forbid. 

I got their dinner ready and they both seemed much happier.  I then headed into the house to make dinner for Ed. It was his birthday and our rule is that you don't need to cook on your birthday. I had picked up some samosas and pakoras on the way home (best time to go to the grocery store is during a storm) and made a red curry. 

This morning I strapped on my snowshoes to take Guinness for a walk (d'Arcy can't handle the snow anymore). 

Guinness showing off how much faster he is in the snow

The woods were like a cathedral. I am always so grateful
for this small patch of forest that I own. 

I figure that if it had to storm it was best on the day I had to work. Now I have 11 glorious days in front of me to enjoy.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Welcome Spring!

Today is the first day of spring and for once it wasn't bitter cold or rainy or snowy or blowing a gale. Instead it was calm and sunny. Guinness and I went for a walk in the morning and the light was so pretty. I could feel the earth beginning to wake up.
Guinness is becoming the perfect walkng companion

Unfortunately, I had to go to the city for the day butI managed to get home close to five and the sun was still shining.  Ed had a meeting that evening but he knew I wanted to ride so we decided to not have supper at the same time (we usually eat together). I wanted him home since Carmen and I were still early in getting back to work.

I brought her in and got her ready. She was a bit bemused as this is normally dinner time but she was happy enough to follow me up to the ring. I started her on the lunge but she was so calm and tuned in that we didn't spend a lot of time on it. I asked her to whoa and she stopped and regarded me with a calm and quiet gaze. I'm ready. Are you? 

I hopped on we started to walk out. She felt a bit tight so we spent a lot of time at the walk just stretching and relaxing.

Actually, the truth is that we were just toodling around - I was unwinding from my day and she was stretching out muscles that were just getting back to work. While I could feel her looking around and I knew that if I 'dropped' her she would likely spook there really was nothing to be stressed about.

no media for this ride, so enjoy this one from Friday. (PC Ashley)
I have been missing having a horse that I could hop on and just relax. So I fully appreciated how nice this was. Carmen would alert to something but I'm getting so much better about not reacting to it defensively that she's starting to trust me (mostly). Irish hung out in his paddock near by, the sun was shining and the birds were singing.  I could feel myself breathe in and relax. 

I asked her to trot and she was quite tight. I didn't get after her or pick a fight (I could feel her getting ready for one). The truth is is that a quick tap with the crop would have settled it but I didn't want to mess with the mood. I trusted that she was feeling tight and just calmly worked on getting her to stretch out and relax into it. This required me to be steady in the tack and to give my rein (but not drop it). Within a few minutes she was beginnign to loosen up and give me her back. 

we didn't do anything other then walk and trot for about 30 minutes. It was enough to wash away the tensions of the day for both us. I hopped off and fed her supper (Carmen: thank heavens, I was starving to death). 

We're scheduled to get some weather Weds/Thurs (some mix of rain/snow/sleet/wind) so I was really happy that I had ridden when I got home. 

One more cute photo from Friday: Julia had hung her vest on the rail and Carmen was reacting to it. I brought her to a walk and she marched right up and put her nose on it. I love that she's trusting me enough to do this sort of thing with minimal fuss.
I shall slobber on this

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Something is Better Than Nothing

We finally got our power turned on Thursday morning. It is always such a relief when it comes back even though we were doing fine.

Thursday was a sunny day- sort of. It was one of those March days that goes from sunny to flurries to windy every 20 minutes. I had hopes to ride but when I got home the wind was fierce again. Carmen was positively vibrating in the cross ties and really struggling to listen to me. So I decided that a groundwork session would be time better spent.

I'm really glad that I made that decision. Carmen clearly wanted to listen but was wound tight. She had a few bolts on the lunge. I don't think that she was afraid though- more just full of piss and vinegar. I let her canter a bit and then asked her to slow down. She totally ignored me and was starting to get too wound up.  I summoned my best 'Royce voice' and said 'WHOA'. She came to a screeching halt and faced me looking quite relieved. We had some really nice moments of her tuning into me and other moments of her coming back when I insisted. Overall I was happy with our session. I am finding that I get the same level of satisfaction in our progress in the ground work as I do with the under saddle. I so wish I had learned about this years ago.

Carmen practicing her whoa- note how her mane is blowing
(also not that I managed to keep her from getting too chunky over the winter)

 Friday however fell firmly into the category of 'okay' weather. Julia arranged to come out to ride Irish and Ashley decided to come and take photos and hang out. I had been hoping for more sun but it wasn't simply breezy and not bitter cold so that was something. I just put on my layers and decided to get on with it.

I hopped on Carmen and we walked off. There was none of the shenanigans as our last ride. Not that there wasn't tension- there was but it wasn't like before.  I did my best to not shorten the reins but instead put on my legs and asked her to walk into the contact. There were patches of snow in the ring but the footing was good. The snow was a great training tool.

I'm really making progress in keeping my legs on when she gets tight and asking her to do something. I've learned that I'm much better off doing something rather then nothing. Even if that something is a mistake. Like the poster says:

When she gets tight and feels like she's going to spook I simply wrap my leg around her and ask her to do something -bend through the corner,  go straight, transition, leg yied. It doesn't matter what I ask. I will see what has her attention but I won't focus on- instead I say on the task at hand. And it's really working for us.

When she started to feel relaxed at the walk I asked her to trot. I could feel her whole body stiffen as she considered her options:
 A. canter off
B. buck
C. spook
D. throw haunches in
E. all of the above

Me: Easy girl, do not do any of the things you are thinking of. 
I kept my leg soft, I let the rein stay the same and I just rode her without fussing. She settled into work. Through the ride I could feel the tightness in her back and I just kept asking her to stretch out. I gave lots of praise (when warranted).

Funnily enough she didn't spook once. But she had moments of sass. Those I rather enjoy to be honest. I'm starting to appreciate her for who she is- sassy, opinionated, perfectionistic and easily thrown off her balance (she kind of sounds familiar but who could that be???).

sassy Carmen- but hey look I'M NOT PULLING ON THE REIN!
(ignore the leg that is too curled up)

We picked up a canter and it was lovely and forward. Well, until I asked her to go up through troll corner. Which also had a pile of snow there. That caused her to really sit back and I had to sit up and ride her through.

I love this photo: Julia and Irish are clearly having a ball. Meanwhile, in the background, Carmen is clearly reviewing her life choices that brought her to live with this crazy Canadian.
hey look- I'm not leaning forward. Irish is ignoring our shenanigans and
focussing on being saintly (yes he lost a bell boot in the ride)

After our canter we walked for a bit and then I asked for a trot. And BAM there it was- a forward, flowing trot. It was beautiful to ride and one that I have felt only a few times riding her. I tried to ride it and not interfere. A few times I could feel her lose control of the power from her hind end - she would get faster and fall on her forehand. I would ask her to half-halt and she would come back. 

It was a great way to end the ride. 

Today was the return of bitter cold winds so no riding for us. 

But that's okay because I got some riding in. And that's better than nothing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Basically my life right now. 

Yesterday a Nor'Easter blew through our province. It hit hard and fast. I was at work and saw that it was starting. I figured I had time to finish some things up but in 30 minutes the world outside my window was white. I hurried out and had one of the worst drives home through a raging blizzard. 

The wind was insane- we could hear it howling outside like a banshee. 

Opening the barn doors was a challenge. Sometime in the night we lost power and it's still not on as I type this. Thank heavens for generators. Also at some point in the night the snow turned to rain so there was not as much snow down as when I went to bed. 

Ed and I headed out to survey the damage. In general we got off fairly easy. There was no major damage but still some work to do: 

The doors literally blew off the shed. Which is a pretty neat feat when you think of it.

 Some flashing from the barn was blowing around. I held the ladder while Ed climbed up and tore off the dangling piece. I had images of it blowing free and chasing my horses around the field. Yes, my imagination has some bizarre turns.

There was more damage in the woods. There were some trees down blocking my trails so that will be more work.

Not even sure how? 

I would be tempted to leave this to pop over but I don't think that Irish could do it so it will be removed. 

 This one I managed to drag away myself.

Farm chores make you strong.

More carnage along the edge.

March is doing me in. But what can I do? I can't change the weather. And I'm trying to not let it get to me. Miraculously enough my ring seems okay. Once this wind stops I might actually get to ride.

And as though there were not enough trees down here's video of Ripley (my son's dog who's with us right now) trying to chew down a tree:

We figure that she's part hound and part lab but could she also be part beaver?

Dogs are weird. 

Friday, March 9, 2018


No not Carmen.

How could you think such a thing?
It's me.

Winter has decided to have one last hurrah and it's putting a serious crimp in my plans. The lesson I had booked today had to be cancelled.

Stupid weather keeping me from this

I've tried to get to Karen's but weather and other commitments have gotten in the way. 


Today I thought I might be able to squeeze a ride in between the snow but it started to rain around 8 and then turned to snow. 

So I made cookies. 

Ginger cookies for the humans
Because nothing says 'I give up and I'm just going to get fat -so screw you winter' like baking cookies. 

And since I don't want to get fat all by myself I decided to try baking cookies for the ponies. 

I know that it just looks like hamburger but it's  basically oats,
carrots and molasses. 

Based on taste testing I would say that they were a hit. 

Of course, I also discovered that the fridge in my tack room is kaput. 


I didn't just make cookies and get fat- I also took the dogs for a walk in the woods. Guinness' come is really coming. 

Spring is coming, I know. 

Just hurry up please. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Heart's Ease

I know I should not be complaining about the weather- it's certainly been mild. But I still have not been able to get back into a regular riding schedule and it's driving me a bit nutty.

Last week there were some beautiful days but I was 500 kms away for work. When I returned home the weather had turned cold and rainy.  This weekend had mild temperatures but oh my god, the wind was terrible.

Call me a wimp but I could barely face being out in it for a little bit of time.

Riding was out of the question.

On the plus side the wind is drying out the mud.

Irish is starting early with his 'let me into the grass field now' stare. 

Fortunately I had a distraction- a few of us from work were in a Curling Bonspiel. It was a fundraiser for the hospital. It was a lot of fun and a great team building exercise. I do enjoy curling. We had 6 of us sign up- only four can play at a time so we cycled in and out. We didn't win any games (there were a lot of very experienced teams and three of members were new to curling) but I think that we had the most fun.

So I  had a good weekend and I should feel happy. And I wasn't unhappy.

And yet, I found myself cranky this afternoon. I took the dogs for a couple walks and I cooked a roast beef supper complete with roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding.

And I was still out of sorts. So after supper I left the dogs in the house (much to their dismay) and went out to the barn.

I started with Irish. I groomed him from nose to tail while he stood there enjoying the scratches. Carmen watched closely and gave a nicker. I figured it was at Irish but when I moved away from him she nickered right at me.   I brought her out to groom and she soaked it all up. She showed me a couple itchy spots and while I detangled her tail she just relaxed.

I then cleaned both the stalls and told Ed to let the dogs out. I played fetch with the two young hooligans before coming inside.

And I felt completely better and content.

Anyone else out there feel out of sorts if they don't get their 'pony time'? And it's not just about seeing them -I see them every day because I feed them and clean their stalls. When I boarded I used to believe  that my horse would be more attached to the barn owner but now I realize that there's a difference between care and caring.

Now I just need this weather to improve so I can ride. In a fit of blinding optimism I have a lesson tentatively arranged with Shanea.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fire and Ice

Since my last post I have worked with Carmen three times. Friday she was a bit tight and spooky in the far corner (not Troll corner) but I was happy with how we worked through it. It was interesting- with one particularly big spook I lost both stirrups and came unbalanced in the saddle- but rather then be afraid, I was putting my feet back in the stirrups and getting my seat settled while steering her back to the fence all in one go. My thought wasn't 'oh my god',  instead it was 'oh FFS, knock it off'. 

Saturday was sunny but had a bitter icy wind. I opted to just lunge and I was glad I did because Carmen was lit. It was good to work her through her profound fear of blowing trees (that are only really scary in the ring, otherwise they are mildly alarming).

Sunday I went to the curling rink in the early afternoon. Our office is going in a fun bonspiel and two of the women have never curled in their lives. It was fun showign them what to do and coachign them through it. I had decided to take a break from curling this winter but I realize that I miss it so will go back next year.

After having fun on the ice I went home to meet up with Julia and Ashley. The original plan had been for the three of us to take turns riding the horses. Carmen was a bit grumpy in the cross ties but I wasn't too worried about it.

I mounted up and we walked off. As we approached the far side of the ring she began to jig. I asked her to slow up and walk and she exploded. Suddenly she just could not horse. Not even a little bit.

she felt like this- only with a saddle and rider on

She tried to take off on me and I pulled her into a one rein stop. It took a long time for her to stop circling and just 'whoa'. I won't go into the nitty gritty of everything but essentially she threw a major tantrum about being ridden and was trying run off and spook and generally just being pissy. I did consider if it could be the saddle (and I will get it sorted) but I don't think so. It felt more about wanting to do what she wanted to do and how dare I have another opinion on it.

Ashley watched us for a bit and then asked if I wanted her to get the lunge line. I said sure. But in the end I never used it.  I needed to work through this and having people there helped me to feel braver about it.

Essentially I kept my legs on (not clamped but always there giving directions). This prevented her from being able to leap sideways. I would  not let her bend her head out to gawk at nothing (but really scary nothings). I stuck to my plan of the work. Which really at this point was just walk a freaking straight line.  I asked Ashley to watch and let me know if I leaned forward (my old response to feeling insecure) but she never had to. I caught myself a few times starting to lean but then reset myself.

I was also periodically calling out things to Julia who was riding Irish. I like doing that because it stops me from buying into Carmen's game. She would be acting like she was going to fly sideways and I would just put on my inside leg and half-halt on the outside and carry on talking.

Irish gave a spook in Troll Corner which was just what Carmen needed- she exploded into a bolt towards the gate. I had no brakes but I did have steering and I was ready for this anyway. So I simply rode in a circle. Many many circles. I didn't even ask her to slow down with my reins- I kept my seat in the saddle and rode the circle. Ashley said 'that canter looks really good'. And it was nice and forward (the glass is half-full). When I finally felt that I had some brakes I kept riding the canter. Then I felt her want to break to trot and I pushed her for two more canter circles before bringing her back to trot and walk.

And after that the battle was pretty much over. Not that she didn't get tight or act all 'oooh I'm gonna blow' but we could actually work on things. Our leg yields were great. We did some shoulder in  -she's getting much more malleable when she throws her haunches in to get them back out. It's clear that she understands the work.

I also did way better and not lifting my hands depsite her being just like this

I wanted to practice some lengthens so I put her on the right circle and started asking for walk/trot transitions. Carmen was sure that I was going to ask for a canter and kept offering it. I let it go for a few strides and then brought her back. Given how hard it was for her to have a balanced canter not that long ago I was happy that she's becoming a cantering queen. Finally I just let her canter a few circles to get it out of her system. We then went back to trot and I asked her to shorten her stride and then move out. I could really feel her begin to stretch out over her topline with the ask. Which is perfect- that's what I want. I don't want her to fling her legs or speed up- I just need to her stretch out over her back and take slightly longer steps. The rest will come with time. I was happy with that and ended it there. I decided that it would not be fair to put anyone else on her (fair to either one of them to be honest).

kind of like this only not overbent
It's always hard to recap these rides and describe what is going on without sounding like a bully. I was very very clear in what my expectations were and I was not taking no for an answer. But I was only as hard as I needed to be to make my point and then immediately softened.  I was a bit concerned for my safety so I rode a bit conservatively. My rein was shorter then I really want but I could not let her have enough rope to hang both of us. I gave forward with my hands as much as I could.

Every now and then Carmen has to have this battle and then it's over. Looking back over the three days I could see it building. I honestly don't know if I would have kept riding if I was alone but I also am not going to let her intimidate me out of the saddle. She knows what I'm asking and this is her third year in our ring. We will get there. I am sure that I accidentally taught her that I would back off if she got really agitated. Then I woudln't back off but would end soon after she improved. Now I'm staying with her until I get it done. Part of me wishes she could understand that she can choose between 30 minutes of work or 30 minutes of shenanigans and then 30 minutes of work.

I am feeling pretty good about my stability in the saddle. I'm doing much better at being an active rider rather then one who freezes. I've decided that doing something is better then nothing. I would rather make a mistake and fix it then just be a lump. I used to be afraid of the mistake- not anymore.

I need a pink polka dot ribbon