dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leap of Faith

When you focus on want, you become an endless cycle of want. To get, simply release and then gently invite. ~Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life (Bryant McGill is not a trainer and I have no idea if he's a rider. But his perspective on life is a good fit for riding)

If you read my last blog post you know that Carmen and I had a ride that was bit of a breakthrough. The timing was great because my friend Karen was coming with her stallion for the weekend. My friend Janet also came (she's the one who wrote the beautiful poem after Steele's death).

If you recall, Karen is also a Centred Riding Instructor. She wanted to come and play in my full size ring with Kalimo. I was looking forward to her help with us. She and Janet arrived around lunch time. Cynthia and her daughter also came. Over lunch  I brought her up to speed on Carmen and our challenges.

It was a blustery day and Carmen came into the barn a bit excited. I got her ready in the stall as I didn't want her in the cross ties next to a stallion. She was obviously nervous and a bit excited. However, she settled for me in the stall and did not do anything needing correction. During our groundwork she was excited again and definitely nervous about the far side of the ring. I spent time helping her to settle. When she seemed more settled I got her ready to get on. What I was pleased about is that now when she's uncertain about things, she looks to me rather than looking to get away.

Karen asked me what my goals for the ride were and I said it was to get her bending and soft in the bridle. What I like about Karen's approach to teaching is that she doesn't focus on just the horse or just the rider but on the whole picture. She started by getting me to loosen my whole body. I am holding a lot of tension in my legs, arms, hips, etc. Let me just say that trying to loosen up on a horse that is tense and is thinking about running away is no easy feat. However, as the ride continued we got better and better. It wasn't the same as yesterday but I wasn't expecting that. We spent most of the time in the middle circle although we got a bit off of it later in the ride. But more important was that she was reaching into the bridle and stretching over the back. I was following with my seat and relaxed in my body but not floppy. It felt good when we were done and I could tell that she felt pretty pleased with herself. Cynthia's daughter took tons of photos which I can use to bore you with in future posts.
love this photo- I'm smiling, Carmen is listening and while I could
improve a few things in my position, it's a pleasing moment. 

After Cynthia had a lesson and Karen rode Kalimo (different post). Then Karen, Janet and I went out for a hearty dinner and then pretty much fell asleep when we got home. I was sore which I was surprised about but it seems that I worked muscles in new ways which was a good thing.

This morning I went to get Carmen out of the field and I could tell already that she was in a totally different frame of mind. She seemed very mellow. She and Irish were grazing and as I walked out they kept on eating. When I got closer Irish started to come and for the first time ever Carmen lifted her head and then trotted over, cutting him off from getting to me first. I put on her halter and brought her in. Her manners were impeccable. Our ground work was very short as she was tuned in and listening. Not that she didn't give some parts a stink eye but she was listening very well.

I got on and we started working on a circle. Karen had me loosen up my hips and follow her movement. She had me focus on where the hind legs were and ignore the head. Not that I wasn't to fix the flexion but that as long as she was coming from behind the front would follow.

In other words, horses are rear wheel drives that we often treat as front wheel drives....

Roz tells me the same thing and with the two of them it's starting to come together for me. By shifting my focus to her hind end I stopped worrying about where she was looking. As I stopped worrying about her worrying, she stopped worrying.

We did a 10 metre circle at a walk and then went from the circle to a shoulder in for a few steps down the long side. Carmen has a wonderful talent for lateral work so this is easy for her physically. However, it demands her mental attention and that she finds harder. Yesterday we finished with that exercise. Today we started with it.

It was interesting to figure out exactly what my seat was doing and what her back was doing and to figure out how we could work together to produce the result. That was a different way to think of it but it seemed help me figure out what to.

We then took this lesson down the ring towards the spots that she has not let me take her in the saddle. Karen had me focus on the ride and not on what she might do. Some of our circles were pretty wonky and Carmen kept trying to go to where she was standing (clearly her comfort zone is with people on the ground). But Karen made sure that I didn't get flustered but just keep riding her in the exercise. I wasn't allowed to keep a short rein and when Carmen got tense she talked me through relaxing myself and NOT taking the rein. And guess what? She didn't run off. She started a few times, stopped a few times but no spins, no bolts.

 I rode Carmen in a shoulder in into Troll Corner and she went. Even though she clearly thought it was unsafe, she went because I asked her to. I was not forcing her in any way- if she wanted to run out she could have. But she didn't. As we rode I felt myself not only let go physically but emotionally. My eyes filled with tears. I couldn't help it and I couldn't figure out why. I blamed menopause. But really, I think it's because at that moment I felt her truly trust me and give me her heart. Ridiculous I know but there it is.

We then took the ride down to the other end of the ring. And again she was listening. Then Karen asked me to pick up a trot at "K" (in the far corner) and then do a 10 metre circle at "P" (12 metres away). Carmen picked up the trot nicely enough but had issue with the trotting of the circle. Even though we've done it before. She was so sticky that she actually piaffed (well, a sticky, 'piss off' piaffe). I just kept urging her forward and she kept looking for a fight. And Karen kept talking us through it "okay, just ride the circle. The sucky, wrong shape circle". I couldn't help it, I started to giggle. And then a laugh just came bubbling up from my toes, through my belly. I was struck by how humorous we looked- like I was riding a tantrumming toddler. I collapsed over her neck. And guess what? She relaxed. Since I was NOT going to fight her she stopped fighting.  And we trotted. And did  a sort-of shoulder in. But hey, at least she tried.

We then went onto the 20 metre circle and worked on the forward, reaching trot. I had to give with my seat and my hands, allowing her to stretch. I was to ask her to shorten and lengthen her stride with my seat. All of a sudden it clicked with my body and I sat on my seat bones as she lifted her back and trotted like a honest-to-god dressage horse. It was magical.

We finished, both exhausted and very very happy. Janet told me that I was grinning through most of the ride. Karen said that Carmen was preening. And she was.

I have no photos of that ride. But that's okay. I don't know if the supplement is starting to work on her- I wasn't expecting it to kick in for a couple weeks but she's definitely different.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Letting Go

It's the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance.
It's the one who won't be taken,
Who cannot seem to give,
And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live.
                                                                Amanda McBroom  

Six months ago two females of different species started a journey together (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2015/03/a-new-journey-begins_24.html). Both of us had baggage from our lives before. If you followed my blog since then you will read the ups and downs of us building a relationship. It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I've thrown myself into this heart and soul. 

What I've been learning is that I need to find a way to take my heartbreak and worry and desire and intensity and find a way for it to work with Carmen. She's making me take a step back and think about what I want to accomplish and then how to explain it to her. It's not easy. Much of the time she's so busy worrying about everything else that she sometimes can't hear me. Hell, sometimes I can't hear myself over my own thoughts. I had so many hopes and dreams with Steele that I would be lying if I said that it's never intruded. 

But I'm nothing if not goal oriented. So I keep working away at it. Which brings me to today. 

After a long day at work I came home and changed into riding gear. I was not sure if I really wanted to ride. No. That's not true. I wasn't sure that I wanted a battle. No. Again, not true. I was sure that I didn't want a battle. What I wasn't sure of was whether I wanted to deal with it. But I can't let that stop me from trying. 

So I brought her into the barn to get ready. She was cranky. I know that look. That look is 'I'm not in the mood so don't push it' look. Great. I figured that I would see how the ground work went and then go from there. She was cranky with the ground work but we worked through it and I decided to get on. 

Just then the neighbours children started squealing and screaming in their yard. Carmen was definitely not sure about it. I got on anyway and we started off. I have been working on ignoring any potential spooky spots so I don't set up the expectation that she will spook. I've reached the conclusion that much of it is learned behaviour and not so much reaction. (I could go through a long explanation of why I think that but let's save that for another post.) My focus was on getting her to bend and soften and use her hind end. 

As always we had good and bad moments. The squealing increased in intensity after a bit and she was getting quite upset. 
"look" I said "I don't like it either but that's what human foals do. I did it when I was a kid. We just have to not worry about it". 
After that she seemed to settle. I asked her to transition from walk-trot-walk while maintaining the bend. The first time she was quite annoyed at this 'ask'. After that she seemed to get it. Her trot to the right got better and better. I let her walk and stretch and then switched direction. After a few sticky transitions all of a sudden she began to float. She stretched over her back and became very soft in the bridle. It was fabulous. And tricky. All of a sudden she reacted to the least little movement of my seat. This meant that I had to be very very careful in what I asked. But she walked and trotted on just a breath. I was no longer thinking of anything but the ride. Everything else disappeared. It was the same for her. She no longer was thinking of outside of the ring. She was right there with me. 

It was amazing. I asked for a canter and we were as light as air. I was grinning from ear to ear. 

I brought her back to the barn and she just wanted to snuggle. No more cranky face. 

There will be days when I despair again but for now I'm going to enjoy the ride. 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Data Keeping

If you follow my blog at all you know that I have definite geek tendencies. So it's probably no surprise that I decided to start collecting data to see if there really is a pattern to Carmen's moods and behaviour.

I decided to keep it simple and use a basic 5 point likert scale to capture her level of 'spookiness'.

1. Very Calm (Parade horse - aint scared of nothin')
2. Fairly Calm (hacking horse- spook at very spooky things, like wolves and helicopters))
3. Neutral (some spooks but easily brought back to work)
4. Somewhat spooky (easily distracted and reactive to blowing leaves)
5. Very Spooky (hang onto your hat because we're getting the hell out of dodge)

My ride on thursday would be a 5. The next day would have been a 4. Both days she was in heat.

On Monday I rode again and Cynthia joined me. The conditions were very similar to Thursday, except that she didn't seem to be in heat. When I went to mount and put my foot in the stirrup she took a step forward.

Whoa I said. At this she took a very careful step backwards and stood still.

Sorry. I got a bit ahead of myself. 

Our ride after that was pretty good. I gave it a 3. She was a bit spooky here and there but I was able to  get her back to work. We worked through some stickiness and some steering. We were able to use a large chunk of the ring. We worked on rein changes, bends and transitions. On our first canter depart to the right she gave a buck but picked it up nicely. I let it go and rode it forward.
Me: Not the best transition. We should try again. 
Cynthia: yes, it was a much up as forward. 
Carmen:  that was self expression. Besides, you surprised me. 

I brought her back to trot and then asked again, making sure that I was steady in the saddle and she was prepared. She picked it right up, nice as you please. We carried on for a circle and then we picked up a trot. We finished by walking out of the ring and down to the barn.

Today I rode her again. This time we were alone. Again, she was a 3. We had good moments and bad moments. Spooky moments and calm moments. Overall the good outweighed the bad. Again she did not seem to be in heat. After she seemed quite pleased with herself.

On my way home from work I stopped and picked up a mare supplement.
I added it to her supper and she gobbled it up. I hope that it helps her through her PMS (Pissy Mare Syndrome). I will continue to collect data and see if it helps.

Who are you calling PMS?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Weekend Away

Last weekend was our annual weekend away at Broadleaf Ranch. I look forward to this trip for a few reasons. It's a relaxing time spent with horses, horse loving women. Many of us only meet up on this one weekend.  We eat, share wine, stories and talk about horses. 

There were 9 of us this time. We stay in a large chalet that has five large bedrooms. It has a giant deck with a stunning view of the hills. Plus there's this giant hot tub. We arrive on friday and have dinner. Conversations are picked up where they left off. Most of these revolve around family and horses.  We are an eclectic bunch of women who might not encounter one another except for our love of riding and horses. 

I was thrilled that Joanne, our horse sitter came along. 

Cynthia always organizes this trip. Thank heavens for her organization skills. She always does a fantastic job. When I die I want her to organize my funeral. Unless we go together. a la Thelma & Louise. 

In that case, well, I'm sure that the guys can do the arranging. Right? 

In the morning we have breakfast and then head down to the stable. There is a brief flurry of activity as we are assigned to a horse. I like the horses at Broadleaf- they know their job and are safe. If you want to have a 'training' ride you will be frustrated (and so will your mount). However, if you give the horse a long rein and let them do their job you will have a much better time. 

Here we are lined up and ready to head out onto the dikes. I love riding along the dikes, the views are stunning. Sheena is our guide and she's a ton of fun. She knows that we love to canter and trot so she makes sure that we get lots of that in.  I quite enjoyed the horse that I was riding. His name was Ray and he is draft cross of some sort. He quite likes to run as well. Once he realized that I enjoyed it as well he relaxed into the ride. We did cause a bit of trouble as he liked to pass the other horses (sorry Barb and Kim). Somehow I find that my inner child comes out and I just want to fly. 

We ride for about two hours and then stop for a picnic lunch. 

the horses are tied up for a rest

resting and enjoying the sun
I shared the apple from my lunch with Ray. He enjoyed it quite a bit. Then I put his bridle back on and mounted.  We finished with a canter along the dikes. After our ride we headed back to the Chalet.  

I am quite used to riding but four hours in a western saddle riding a somewhat bumpy horse and my legs were sore. After a shower I gratefully climbed into the hot tub. I thought that the seat was a higher than it was and I started to slip under water. With lightning reflexes I raised my hand and saved my glass of wine. As I started to go under the wine remained safe and sound in it's glass. 

None of us managed to stay up late that night. The next morning some of the girls went for another ride. I did not go. For me the treat was to sleep in and not have any chores to do.  The ones who went stopped for a visit on the way.

Then it was time for brunch and packing up. We said our goodbyes and hit the road. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend away but I was happy to come home. Carmen and Irish looked happy to see me. Of course that could have been because I was late with supper. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Crossing a Line

So yesterday Carmen crossed a line.

I've come to realize that having a five year old mare is LOT like having a 15 year old daughter.

Cynthia was coming to ride. It was also a windy day and she's back in heat (not sure if she's ever out of it to be honest). I lunged her earlier thinking that it would help later. And she was very well behaved. Even with Irish running around having a tantrum in the field.

When Cynthia came we got the horses ready. Carmen was well behaved on the lunge. She was obedient and listening. So I got on. We walked down the ring and she balked. I gave her a tap and she kicked out and kept going. She then tried to go down by Irish. When I kept her on the circle she began to object. And then she threw a tantrum. She opened her mouth and locked her jaw and I had no steering. I quickly realized that I had no control and that she was escalating. I hopped off and put the lunge line back on.

And we went to work. She kept trying to go to where Irish was. She even ran backwards dragging me with her. I was determined that her ass was to go where I wanted it to go and that there was no other answer that she could give. The only words I wanted to hear from her were 'yes' and 'ma'am' . Did I mention that it was a hot day? In a few minutes we were both dripping sweat. I kept it up until she was listening to me and ignoring Irish and the blowing stuff outside of the ring. I then got back on.

now in the past, after a session like that I would ask for a little and end it. Not this time. We were working. there were a few times she tried to run to Irish and a few times that she spooked at the grass and I was honey badger- I just didn't give a shit. We were circling, trotting, walking, whatever I had decided we were doing by god we were doing it. Slowly she began to work over her back and listen. I gave her praise when she was good and when she tuned me out I would growl 'listen'. By now Cynthia and Irish were done. They stood in the middle while we kept working. I asked Carmen to canter. We cantered by Irish and she wanted to stop. I urged her on at which point she executed a canter pirouette back to Irish. I circled us back and she did it again. This time I circled her back but before she could spin I halted her. Then I trotted her on and once past I picked up the canter.

I asked her to halt in the middle and she began to walk sideways to the gate. I asked her to whoa and she blew off my aid. So fine, if you want to sidepass horse, then by god, let's sidepass. We went to the right, then we went back to the left. And then to the right. And then left. And then I asked her to whoa. she did it again. The third time we repeated the above she stopped. She thought about going sideways but I felt her thinking 'oh just screw it'  And she stood still. I walked her forward 10 steps and  got off. I had to hose her off after and her saddle pad was soaked. I peeled off my riding gear.

Today I rode this morning. I brought her in and asked her to ground tie in the barn. which she did. She didn't move as I got her ready. I put the flash on her bridle. If you read my blog you know that I'm not a fan of flashes unless they are needed. I decided that I needed it so that I could prevent her locking her jaw and carting me around. I fastened it loose enough to get a finger under it so that it would only come into play if I needed it.

I lunged her in the bridle and there were a couple early discussions on direction and pace but we worked through them. I got on and we went to work. I have to say that she started a bit spooky but ended in a better place. I got us working in a 20x40 metre area and we worked on changes of rein and bend. I found that I could be much quieter with my hands because she couldn't open her mouth and avoid the bit. This led to much less head tossing and rooting. At one point an ATV was in the next field. I decided that I was still honey badger (honey badger reference) and we were still in the ring. It was a much better ride than yesterday. In the end she was tuned in and listening.  We walked all over the ring with a stretchy long stride.

It wasn't that she didn't worry about stuff out of the ring but it seemed that she is finally beginning to realize that who is in charge is actually not a negotiation. It seems that I need to be certain and firm. Not mean, not harsh but very very clear.

One day I will review this blog and realize how far we have come. I just have to hang on until then,

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Fall has arrived with cooler temperatures and fresh breezes. I am, for the first time, sorry to see summer pass. The heat was helpful in keeping Carmen calmer. Now , as with most horses, fall brings an extra pep into the rides.

The last thing that Carmen and I need is more pep.

In the past week I've had a fantastic ride, a ride that was okay but I was able to salvage it and then a truly awful ride. She was not in any mood to be in the ring: she was tight, reactive, argumentative and spooky. I finally had to dismount and lunge her again. It made no difference so I settled on getting to work in hand and listening.

I felt pretty bummed after it.

However, I gave myself a talking to.
self I said, it was one ride. Things have been going in the right direction. 
When I reflected on it, I realized that she never tried to dump me or fight me. She just was really really worried and tense. Neither one of us were enjoying the work.

I then reviewed in my head the things that I might have done to make it worse and what I should do instead.

I also made some adjustments in her feed ration. (Princess is not impressed by that).
don't think I haven't noticed what you did to my feed

Today I approached my right with calm determination. It was not great. But it was fine. I made sure that I did not react to any tightness but stayed on task. She had no choice but to focus on me because I refused to focus on whatever was distracting her. I gave her space when I could and was firm where I should be. It was breezy and it was supper time. Irish was locked in the barn. It had all the conditions that could make it a terrible ride.

But it wasn't terrible. It wasn't great either. But it felt like I made some progress. Those moments when she's using her hind end and relaxed over her back are what I live for. It just feels so damn good.

Tonight I  started catching up on blogs tonight and I noticed a theme.

It was my theme- many riders were experiencing the exact same thing as me. 

The reality is that progress is seldom a straight line. Add in thinking, breathing, feeling creatures with opinions and things can really get interesting.

I instantly felt better. I am Adult Amateur rider and so very far from perfect but maybe, just maybe, I don't totally suck.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Follow Me

I had grand plans to ride today. After all I had homework to do. However, work kept me later than I had planned so I got home much later than I wanted to. I still had time to ride but I was feeling a bit stressed from the drive and my mind was full of 'work stuff'. I realized that I could decide to have a good session working on the ground or hope to have a good ride with my brain not 100% in the game. I decided to do ground work. 

We went into the ring and I had a goal- I wanted to get her working on the lunge. It no longer has to be about relaxation- I can use it for getting her working through and bending. She struggled a bit with the idea that she should trot and bend and attend to me rather then the potential dangers outside. Her idea was that I could ask for 2 of the 3 but requesting 3/3 was really too much. 

I persevered though and soon enough she was actually working through her body and stretching out. I was really happy with her attitude and her work. After I worked her up and down the ring asking her to be the same no matter where we were in the ring I asked her to halt.

I walked up to her and unclipped her lunge line and walked away. She followed right beside me. Right up to troll corner. I spent some time walking around the ring and she stayed right with me. She even backed up when I did. I did a major test of walking to the gate and then away. She hesitated, looked at the gate and with a sigh followed me. I decided that was a way to end it. 

At least in the ring. We walked down to the barn. Every time I walk down to the barn I play with my walk pace and she does perfect of matching my pace. This time I walked down to the barn and kept going. We headed right down to bottom of the field and around the end. She was a alert but stayed with me. when we got down to the bottom she looked around a bit, shrugged and then began to graze. 

On the way back we headed up the driveway. She was fascinated with sniffing it. 
Me: Remember that this was the way you came to the barn when you first arrived. 
Carmen:  It looks and smells different. 
Me: No kidding. 

I really hope it doesn't look like this again
We headed up to the barn and in. Irish was happy to see us. 
Irish: Where did you go? 
Carmen: Do you know how they say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence? 
Irish: yes....
Carmen: Well it's true. And it's delicious! 
Irish: Man. That's not fair! 

seems fair to me

Monday, September 7, 2015


My last post was about two good rides. I was beginning to feel very positive about the path that Carmen and I were on.

Friday night and Saturday I was helping at a dressage show so wasn't able to ride until Sunday morning. I won't say much about it other than to say that she was wonderful. There was very little arguments and any discussions we had were very short lived. We were able to school in more of the ring then before. I was very very happy.

Monday I had a lesson booked with Roz. I gave her the synopsis of our work since our last lesson. She watched our groundwork and, according to Cynthia, commented on the difference that she saw in us. She noted that Carmen was far more tuned into me.

As I walked her towards the mounting block I said to her 'Now I've told Roz that we have had 3 awesome rides. Can we make it 4?"

She didn't say anything but walked beside me nice and mellow.  Our lesson was the best one yet. Not that she was perfect and I was far from perfect. But over all we were on the same page. Roz taught me to have her leg yield a few strides on the circle to get her straight and onto the outside rein. The first benefit of this was it got her soft and listening and not braced on the inside rein. When Carmen is resisting she stiffens her inside rib cage against my leg, locks her jaw and turns to the outside. By asking her to leg yield out and bend to the inside she needed to unlock herself.  Further into the ride using this really got her working from behind and she gave me a beautiful, forward trot.

She had some moments of distraction. Most pronounced when Irish came up to the ring. Roz had us do lots of changes of directions to keep her listening to me. As I have found before, doing this doesn't frazzle her more but gets her more focussed. I think that she likes the challenge. Roz said 'this mare just needs a job description' I have to agree.

She balked once or twice but went forward as soon as I asked.

We did some canter work. To be honest, we weren't stellar in this, which was disappointing because when I school her in canter it usually is very good. But I believe that the saddle is becoming a bit tight on her shoulders. Her shape has changed quite a bit in the past couple months with weight and muscle. She's not sore but I think Princess finds it a bit tight. Once we work through it, she is fine and the resistance goes away.I have the next size gullet on order for her saddle and should have it soon.

1.  build suppleness through bends, leg yields and transitions
2. sit up, give as soon as she responds
3. allow her to carry herself, I don't have to hold her
4. post like I mean it- I've been riding her lightly like she's a 3 year old. But this stops me from using my seat effectively.

There's probably more I should remember, but right now that's it.

After I hosed her off and we hung outside of the ring watching Irish and Cynthia's lesson. Well I watched. Carmen had her nose buried into the grass. While it may contain trolls, apparently it's delicious.

Later tonight when I went to do my night time chores she kept getting in my way- she wanted to snuggle and have a scratch. It's the first time she's insisted on getting attention from me.  The other day some friends stopped in and also commented on how much more friendly she has become.

So, while I know that we will have our challenges, I believe that we are headed in the right direction.

photo from a previous lesson- there were no cameras today!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Today is a Different Day

So I totally stole an idea from Kate at Peace &Carrots to set goals for September. I liked the idea of choosing short term goals.  I figured it would keep me focused. After giving it some thought I settled on just 2. I didn't want to have too many because that can be distracting. So for what it's worth here are my goals:
1.  Walk, trot and canter the entire ring.
2. Teach Carmen to do the stretchy trot circle.

Both of these require a horse who is on the aids  and listening but are very concrete.

yesterday I had to go into the city but I figured I could squeeze a ride in if I started early.  So that's exactly what I did.

I'm becoming quite tuned to reading Carmen from the first time I get her from the field.  She was calm right from the second I put her halter on. She stay d that way through the groundwork. When I got in her I had to smile.  She was totally with me.  And she stayed that way.  She gave one spook as we trotted around a circle but it was just a quick hesitation and then she carried in without me doing  anything. Rather than be frustrated about staying on the middle circle I realized that I could that it as "home base". It is our safe place to establish rhythm and balance and then I can take it out beyond that spot. I believe that was what Roz was trying to teach me (first prize for being a slow learner). Using this approach we were able to go farther away from her safe spot and stay relaxed.  When she seemed to be getting more worried I just brought us back to the middle.

We finished working on getting her to stretch at the walk. At first she would just grab the reins and root down. I had to help her figure out that she didn't have to. So I would establish the walk and bend and then give a small amount. As she stretched I gave her praise.  When she snatched I put my leg on and tightened my core so she couldn't grab the reins or pull me out.  By the end we were making real progress.

I was over the moon with her.

This morning I again had to ride early. Sh was a bit tense relations. But that made sense- there was a car accident down the road and I'm sure that the commotion affected her. I couldn't expect her to be thinking "yesterday was so goo I want to repeat that experience ".  That's how humans think.  Horses react to the moment.  Knowing that I was more careful with my groundwork. It paid off because when I got on she didn't move. She was definitely more distracted and gave me a few moments of attitude. I was clear on what was acceptable and what was not.  She had a couple bigger spooks and gave me attitude at the gate but it didn't last long. We worked much more on the home base circle but I was able to be patient and as a result we trotted and cantered into troll corner with just tension, no freaking out.  And we worked more on the stretchy walk.

I was over the moon today too because it could have gone badly but I was able to turn it around.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Better Safe Than Sorry

Today was a long (but good) day at work. I had to leave early and came home late. My favourite way to decompress is to putter in the barn. Carmen and Irish were out grazing in the field. I was happy to see that they were over in the back part of the field next to the woods. They had been avoiding it, most likely because of Carmen and her worry over the brush. However, due to the neglect all summer, that part now has some of the best grass.

I was puttering away cleaning out the little paddock, making their beds, refilling the water buckets, restacking the hay I got in on the weekend (as an aside, is there anything more satisfying then a barn full of hay in preparation for the winter?) and generally just giving my brain a rest while I got my muscles working.

I swept up some hay seed and was throwing it in the pasture when I heard thunder. I looked up and the horses came flying up over the hill in full gallop. It was a breath taking sight.

not from tonight, but it gives you the idea 
I watched them gallop up to me and come to screeching halt.

Me: What's up?
Carmen: *snort* TROLL!
Me: troll, really?
Carmen: yes. it was very scary.
Irish: yeah. 
Me: We don't have trolls.
Irish: well I didn't actually see it.... 
Carmen: I'm telling you it was a giant wild Canadian Troll. 
Irish: We have trolls?!
Me: No. Canada does not have trolls. Those are just on the internet. 
Carmen: I know what I heard saw.

I heard a blue jay screaming over in the woods (most likely laughing his head off).
Me: I'm thinking that it was a bird. 
Irish: Well this is embarrassing. 
Carmen: *sniff* well, better safe than sorry. 
Me: Well come on in. I have your stalls all made up and it's getting dark. 

I gave them both a good groom in their stalls. For the first time Carmen nuzzled me while I gave her a groom. I gave them their bedtime carrot and came inside.

I may or may not have kept my eyes peeled for Wild Canadian Trolls.