dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rambling Thoughts

Sorry guys this is a rambling post, feel free to disregard. 

In light of my recent struggles with Carmen and some observations at dinner time I began to wonder if her teeth were bothering her. At 7 years she is at an age where her teeth change a lot. I called and left a message for my vet to book an appointment. It's always tricky with sensitive horses to know when it's 'just' behaviour and when it might have  a physical cause. 

I cannot believe that it's been 3 years

With the lesson's learned from last year I realized that would need to have a plan around today. So when I was given today as a date for a medical test I decided to accept it. My father passed away from colon cancer so every so many years I have to go through a colonoscopy. I don't mind the test as much as the prep (I HATE to be hungry). Then my vet returned my call and said he could come on Thursday around lunch time. By then I figured that the universe was arranging my day and I should go with it.

On Wednesday in the morning I dropped Guinness off at the vet's for her neutering and then Ed and I went and picked out our Christmas tree.  It was pouring rain the whole day and we wanted the tree to dry before we put it up.

sad, drugged puppy showing me how his ears don't fit in the fiendish contraption
Ed rearranged his whole week so he could be close by me yesterday and today. He never did anything overt or obvious but he was there. 

The test this morning went fine but after I had a reaction- I suddenly found myself feeling really nauseous and dizzy. The nurse came right over. My blood pressure dropped and they couldn't find a second number no matter how often they took it- it just showed as a '??'. My heart rate was 38. My normal blood pressure and heart rate is low but that was a bit much. After an I.V. I began to feel a lot better. I texted Ed to come and pick me up and to bring food. He asked what I wanted and I couldn't really think of anything so I asked for a cinnamon bun and fries-  I might not have been totally recovered by then. 

When the vet came I described some of the things I had noticed. I felt a bit like an idiot because it really was just a hunch.  But when he looked in he found points and a really nasty one on the very back molar. He said that it would be painful. So I'm wondering if that has been playing a role in her reactivity. We shall see. After he left I had a nap and then began to decorate the tree. 

Ed commented that I was doing very well today. And he is right. I felt far more in control of myself then last year. Obviously time helps one to heal. Another factor is a dream I had a few days ago. I often have lucid dreams and this one was particularly strong.

I was walking in the woods and met with Steele. I hopped onto him and rode him for a while through the woods. I do not know how long. After a a bit I dismounted and gave him a hug. He walked off into the forest and I woke up, feeling sad and comforted all at the same time. 

I find myself in a place where I can remember and feel both sad and happy at the same time. Maybe I'm growing up. Maybe. 


Monday, December 11, 2017


My day job is as a manager in Health care. I pride myself that I am not a micromanager. I believe that people know their jobs and often know the best way to get it done. In keeping with my Star Trek metaphors I am more of a Picard:

I tend to take that approach to many things, including riding. It's not like I am not involved or give direction but, rightly or wrongly, I don't naturally try to guide every single step. I think a horse in trot should be able to carry forward in trot without nagging from me. 

After the close encounter with the grouse my ride the next day was fabulous. Carmen was with me the whole time and I was very pleased with her. I kept the schooling short and sweet. 

Sunday was raw and cold. I was waffling about riding but decided that I would regret not riding so I put on some warm layers and got Carmen ready. In the ring she was a bit tight but really not noticeably different then every other day. After getting a relaxed walk I warmed up the trot and then asked her to pick up a canter. 

We were cantering through troll corner when suddenly she jumped sideways, then leaped forward and we were in full-on bolt. I could not get her to slow up. I did not say 'whoa' and I don't know why- in the moment it completely left my brain. Instead I got into a half-seat and steered her through a circle making it smaller and smaller until I could get her stopped. It felt like minutes but probably wasn't. 

I took a deep breath and forced my heart back into my chest. That was a job in itself- my heart had clearly determined to find a new home. One where the person realized that she was on the other side of middle age and had taken up more sedate hobbies. Like knitting or cat collecting. 

I took a deep breath and went back to work. With a decidedly shorter rein. I have no idea what startled her but suspect it was the grass rustling. I was not getting off. 

I put her back to work asking her to bend and listen. She did another bolt int he same location which I  expected and was ready. I pulled her into a one rein stop. Or I tried. We actually were cantering a 5 metre circle. I gave her enough rein to not fall over (and I hoped fervently that that wouldn't happen) but was not letting go. She was NOT carting me across the ring again. 

It started to spit rain and that turned to ice pellets. 

I didn't care. My ass was in the saddle and I was staying there. 

I essentially went into micro-manage mode where I was controlling where all of her body parts were. At times it was downright ugly. I still didn't care. There was nothing there to cause the spooking (well nothing that wasn't always there). We were schooling goddamn it. Which makes me sound angry and I wasn't . I was a bit flustered, definitely frustrated by not angry and my emotions were under control. 

More and more her ears were flicking back to listen to me. More and more as I put a leg on to ask her to bend or move over or leg yield or shoulder in she listened. When she stiffened and/or ignored the aid I made it stronger until she yielded. 

I was bit brought down by the ups and downs of our rides lately. I do know that Carmen is used to me backing off when she gets really agitated and I am trying to change that conversation. Sometimes that means I am engaging more in horse shouting then whispering. And if you want to lecture me about that come on over and I'll put you on her. So much of riding is feeling the moment and trying to give the horse what they need even if they don't know what that is. Parenting was very similar. 

I had been truly frightened by what happened. My first thought was that Carmen had never done that before. My second was that she had but I was usually off by the second leap. I stewed on it for a bit and sent a text to Karen (my life coach whether she wants to be or not): 

After reading that I felt better.  

But I really like straight lines. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Adventures of Teresa and Carmen: In Which we Meet a Grouse

There's a Grouse that lives in our woods. I know because I have startled it a few times walking the dogs. In keeping with Grouse behaviour is waits until we are just on top of it and then takes off in a loud flurry of flaps. It's quite alarming.

They are pretty
I have often wondered what would happen if/when Carmen and I encountered it.
this is pretty much how I pictured it going down
On Saturday at 12:15 I had the chance to find out.

But first let me back up a bit 
(cheap ploy to build dramatic tension but also to put in context). 

December has been warmer than usual and Thursday was beautiful. When I got hoe from work the sun was shining and it was lovely. I should note that by 'lovely' in Canada I mean about 10 degrees and no wind. If you are dressed properly it's perfect riding weather. I quickly tacked up Carmen and we headed to the ring. 

I had one of those wonderful rides where everything is smooth and easy. Carmen was relaxed and forward. She looked at a few things but nothing else. I am getting so impressed with our canter-it's so much straighter and our transitions up and down have improved so much. I put her away feeling really happy with our ride. 

Friday was also lovely. However, that morning there was a large machine coming down the road cutting the brush in the ditch. They were cutting just along the edge of the property (which is too bad because I have lost my privacy hedge). 

not actual machine but very close
The horses seemed to be okay with it so I decided to ride anyway. My farrier was coming that afternoon and I wanted to ride before he came. By the time I was on Carmen the machine was past our property and down the road.

Still, it must have unsettled her enough because she was completely different. She was spooky and bolty. I put on my big girl pants and rode through it all. There ware a couple times when she flatly refused to go into troll corner and I flatly refused to accept that. When she started to back up I gave her a smack and got her forward. It wasn't a battle the whole time. I was able to practice some walk-canter-walk transitions, shoulder-in/haunches-in etc. In the end we were practicing our lengthened trot across the diagonals into the corners. I could really feel her understand about lengthening her frame, not speeding her pace. I did a few free walks into the corners as well without any issue. 

So I decided to drop the gate and head out for a small walk in the woods. It would be our first in about a  month (hunting season). Carmen was impatient and fidgety at the gate but walked happily enough to the right and around the field. I was prepared to hop off if things got confrontational but she seemed happy enough to stride out. 

Just as we were coming along the woods and towards the path that goes into the trails the grouse flew up. 

Carmen threw up her head and leapt forward about 4 strides. She came right back, let out a big sigh and carried on. 

I know. 

In the woods she was a bit uncertain going through a stream - we've had a lot of rain and the dry stream bed was running. I let her stop and consider the question. 
Carmen: I am not sure it's safe
Me: It's just water moving. It will be fine. 
Carmen: But we might get swept away. 
Me: It's only a couple inches deep. Trust me. 

And she did. I put my leg on softly and she stepped forward and in. While she didn't freak out she did walk briskly and breathed out when she stepped out. We did the trail and came out by the manure pile. We had to stop and consider the old trailer and shovels. Walking up the hill to the barn I asked her to lower her head and stretch out over her back and she did 

While I would have liked a less dramatic schooling session in the ring I was happy with how things all worked out. 

I'm pretty sure I heard you cutting up apple pieces. 
(if you want to see a fabulous drawing of a pheasant and horse meeting go hereEmily Cole's illustrations)


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Welcome Back

I was able to take Monday afternoon off from work. Cynthia's daughter, Ashley came out to ride Irish.  I could tell right away that Carmen was more of like her normal self. We had a nice ride. Not that she wasn't spooky in some areas but it wasn't anything to worry about.

I had left the poles up and I am really enjoying playing with them. I like how they give us something to think about. I'm learning to not try to micromanage her over the poles and let her figure it out on her own. She really was starting to figure out that sometimes she needed to contract or extend her stride length. I think she quite enjoyed the cantering over them. Or maybe that was me. Hard to tell but fun was had.

As we were riding, Ashley's friend, Julia showed up. She had brought a helmet and hung it on the jump standard outside of the ring. Carmen took one look at it and decided that it had materialized and was clearly up to no good and most likely dangerous.  She spooked into the middle of the ring and I dissolved into a puddle of giggles.
Julia looked at me and smiled.
Me: Oh Carmen. You are something else. 
Carmen:  I saved us. I do it all the time and you have no appreciation of it. 
Julia:  She looks so proud of herself
Me: Yup. Wanna buy a horse? Three dollars and she's yours. 
Carmen:  humph. 

We carried on riding and she was very good. Nice and forward, although I would have loved to be have her neck a little longer. At first she was trying to figure out why there was this person standing in the ring but not giving instructions.  She was clearly puzzled. After a bit I stopped and asked Julia if she wanted to hop on. Turns out that she did. I did my usual disclaimer which is that I can't promise that she won't fall off.

Ashley was riding Irish and he was feeling quite perky and happy to be out. Ashley had him going really well. I think that they both needed each other.

Carmen and Julia did very well together. I gave instructions. I had to be careful- every time I stopped walking Carmen would stop too. That was fair- it was all based on our groundwork and her responding to my body language. I enjoyed watching Carmen go. I can see a real change in how she was going.

Watching her go I felt a sense of pride - she has lovely movement naturally and I have had a lot of help but in the end I'm the one in the saddle and it feels good to see results. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

She Tasks Me

(props if you know the inspiration for the blog title- I welcome my fellow nerds)

Saturday was the last day of deer hunting season (with a rifle, muzzle loaders and bows are still allowed for one more week).  I know I'm going to sound like I am anti-hunting but I'm actually not. My grandfather was a hunter his whole life. When he was a boy hunting often made the difference between eating or not. I like to say that I'm not anti-hunting- I'm anti-idiots-hunting.

We have no hunting signs up on our property but I am still very careful. I walk the dogs in orange vests and make lots of noise when we're in our woods.

I know that is a long intro into the horse part of the post. Sorry. The point is that often during our rides the horses can hear people in the woods. Carmen is not a fan of this (for that matter neither is Irish).  I know that it's legit to be worried about the noises in the woods. I also know that for horses there almost always is a legit reason to be spooky.

I am working on recognizing that there is something but not being okay with her being distracted and not listening.  And that is not easy. I find myself sometimes thinking 'it's okay that she didn't bend through there, at least she didn't bolt'.

Nope. Not anymore. I am not accepting her to slightly do what I'm asking.

Stay with me. I'm going to tie this together.

With Saturday being the last day of hunting season there was a lot of activity in the woods around us. We even heard a couple shots that seemed close but probably were not.  So when I brought Carmen up to the ring I figured she might be a bit tense to start. I left Irish out in the front field which may have been a mistake. Anyway, when I mounted Carmen flatly refused to go past B/E towards the bottom part of the ring (close to the woods). And by refusing I mean spinning and bolting and generally throwing a fit.

I recognized this state- essentially there is no horse brain to reach- it's all adrenaline and self-preservation. Irish was running around his field as well which didn't help. Although she's not normally reactive to him.

like this
After trying to ride through it I hopped off and had to bring her back to the barn to get the lunging equipment. We headed back to the ring and I spent a long time on the ground getting her to tune in and listen.  We spent a lot of time in the part of the ring close to the woods. Finally I felt confident to get back on and ride her. 
Which I did and it wasn't bad. It wasn't great either. There were moments. She took exception to the lunging equipment on the ground by the gate although she was there when I put it there and went by it at least a dozen times before suddenly losing it: 
Carmen: WTF is that? OMG. 
Me:  Oh FFS, it's been there every time we've gone by. EVERY.TIME.
So I spent some time working on that. Finally I reached a point where I felt we had done some work and I hopped off. 
Which brings me to today. I wondered if some of Carmen's issues was related to her wanted to be by Irish. So today I brought Irish into his stall to eliminate that part. I brought the lunging gear up to the ring. I thought that having to dismount yesterday and head back to the barn was a bit of reward for Carmen as well. 
I also set up some poles for us to play with: 
I have to say I really like this configuration of poles. It gave me so many options to play with them.  I stayed focussed on what I was asking of her and keeping my seat relaxed. I wasn't always successful but I managed to fix it each time. Even once when we were cantering wildly and I just pulled my legs off so my set went into the saddle. That made such a difference. 

It was interesting to work with Carmen over the poles.  We started just walking the outside both ways, then a serpentine. After multiple trips she began to melt down between B and P. I wasn't buying it but couldn't get her to not jig. So instead I put her in a trot 10 m circle at P and made her work. I then asked her to walk and by then she was happy to oblige. 

The poles gave her just enough to think about but not enough to give her reason to pitch a fit. I liked having them to guide my figures. It also kept me focussed in the ring and not on all the things that Carmen could spook at.  I played with leg yielding, using the poles to guide me. 

Partway through the ride it began to lightly rain, but I refused to stop. In the past riding in the rain with Carmen was flirting with death. Now it just added a bit of spice to everything. Cause you know- we don't have nearly enough of that. 

We had some nice canter work over the poles - she actually does better then at the trot. I brought her to a walk to have a rest and she gave a dirty spook at R by suddenly spinning away. This usually unseats me enough. Now they just unbalance me. As I got my balance back I gave her a smack with the crop. 

Before you say 'now Teresa, you can't punish a horse for a spook', I don't believe that this was a true one. First of all we had been by there so many times by then. Carmen also has a history of spooking when she's tired and thinks we should be done. She took exception to the smack but we got ourselves back together and carried on. The spook didn't end the work, instead I picked up a trot and we went back to work practicing our trot lengthens. They felt pretty good across the diagonal. 

We finished with some much better work then the day before and I was happy for us to finish on some nice trot-halt transitions. 

I prefer indoor arenas- much less dangerous

Friday, December 1, 2017

Steady as She Goes

Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself.  Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.~George Matthew Adams

I would quibble with Mr. Adams or at least require that he add in horse sports. However, I seem to be on a nautical theme as late. Sorry about that. 

Knowing that winter is appraoching and it will impact my schooling I've been trying to sort out what my priorities are for riding. 

What I've decided is that it is creating a calm and steady dynamic between Carmen and I. From that I can build. However, it won't really matter how wonderful her trot lengthen is if I can't get it reliably beause her brain is all over the place. 

This requires such awareness of my mind and body- I need to be calm and steady and make sure that my seat is with her not tensed against her. It sounds so very simple but the body reacts in all sorts of subtle ways when the brain thinks it's in danger. 

It is getting easier. I am definitely less worried. Cynthia came out to ride yesterday (on a sad note she will be moving to the other side of the country but let's put that aside for now). 

The same old spots were creating difficulty and I had to just keep my seat relaxed and my brain on the task. It was interesting- she would come and go in her attention but I stayed steady and kept bringing her back. She did one small spin away from some rustling grass and I just sat it out, gathered up the rein she pulled out of my haand and we carried on. 

I'm really taking the fun out of this. 

We worked on some leg yields and shoulder in. She kept with me and we managed to get some half-decent strides and some really really nice strides. All depending on where her brain was.  I had to be a bit insistent at spots where she was sure that she just couldn't because of all the danger but nope, here we go. 

We finished up with some beautiful canter work. Her canter is really coming nicely undersaddle. It's very powerful which makes it difficult for both of us - it's so easy for her hind end to dump all her weight onto the front rather then to pick up and carry. I played with shortening and legnthening the stride on a circle and that seemd to help. I could feel her start to understand the 'ask'. Although she wanted to use my hands as a prop to help her carry herself. 

We also had some true and proper free walk where she was marching over her back and over-tracking with her feet. Cynthia looked over and said 'hey that's new!' And it is. We even practiced riding it into the scary corners and I refused to pick up the rein in anticipation. 

If I can keep building on this steadiness next year will be so much better. 

let us take a minute to appreciate how lovely she looks in her
new saddle pad. :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Smooth Sailing

Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
~Van Morrison~

the joy of living near the ocean- being able to take photos like this

I didn't really have explicit goals for the weekend. I just had a 'sort of' plan. I think that that was a good idea because it allowed me to enjoy the time and not get caught up in whether I was meeting any specific goal. 

I am sure that you are all shocked that I could be super-obsessive about goals and achieving them; but I have been known to be a bit intense. 

What I did want to do was to break our pattern of tension when I'm riding. It's become so that I can predict when Carmen will start to spook or act up. So instead of a goal of a calm ride, I decided that I would just ride and school. 

Sure enough, when I first mounted I felt her tense up. As we approached the far left corner (the one she spooks as in every ring), I felt her tense up. I flatly refused to copy her. I left my legs dangling and ignored all the scary things she wanted to notice (like the diffirent coloured dirt, patches of sun, crack in the door). Instead I just rode like it was all fine. 

And so it was all fine. Our rides were nice and productive. I worked on what she was doing in the moment. I spent a lot of time getting her to stretch into the bit. And on Sunday was able to get some pretty consistent transitions without her stiffening her lower neck and hollowing. 

I also discovered that her canter has become strong and powerful. Nothing like riding in a 20 x 40 arena to realize how quickly a corner can come up! 

Karen rode her for a bit on Saturday. It was great to watch them work together. Carmen started off as 'I just can't do shoulder in, it's impossible and you are mean for asking me to' to 'oooh I can do it!'. When I hopped on after to cool her out she was so soft and relaxed over her back. It was lovely. 

It was wonderful to spend three days riding and working on things without pressure or an agenda. I could do a little leg yields, then switch up to something else. 

On Saturday Karen, Janet and I went out for lunch and then to Bits N Bridles tack shop. Where I found a very special saddle pad: 
Carmen: "hmm, that might just be fancy enough for me"
While some individuals may think that I have a saddle pad problem I know that it's perfectly normal to have about 15 pads. After all I have 2 horses so it's really just 7.5 each. Right?

Anyway, I have had my eye on the Baroque saddle pads for a while. Last year I had decided that if I had a good year of showing with Carmen I would buy one. Of course by the end of the year I hadn't gone to one show. 

All for very good reasons and I have no regrets. It was time (and money) well spent. But I had a plan and so while I could have bought the saddle pad I decided not to. You may think I'm silly and that's okay. It made sense to me. 

However, this year has been a huge success for us. I know that Bits carried these and I was not disappointed. I fell in love the blue and black one. I am impressed by the quality of them as well (fashionhorse.com).

As you can see it looks perfect on her. I rode in it on Sunday and she was so good. I'm sure that would be lots to fix if I was getting a lesson but she was trying hard to figure out what I was asking and I was trying hard to give her what she needed.

Obviously it's the magical saddle pad.

It really was a perfect weekend. There was so much laughter and sharing the joy that horses bring us that completely recharged my batteries. Riding is becoming fun again. And not just every now and then but all the time. Having another eye watch us go and give some advice was wonderful. Watching others ride was fun.

I even got to ride Karen's stallion. He's amazing and so powerful- I call him a Ferrari! I had him cantering and I couldn't figure out how to get him stopped (I didn't want to haul on the rein, he's trained to respond to the seat) but I never felt in danger. Just like, uh oh, where's the brake pedal? 

I am sure that Carmen felt the vibe as well. She was so calm and relaxed through it all. I had to laugh because on Friday she nickered to Kalimo (Karen's stallion) and raised her tail (I realized she must have been in heat!) but on Sunday she pinned her ears at him and her tail was firmly clamped. He didn't seem to notice either way.

The mare who walked off the trailer calmly and meandered out to her field later on sunday is miles different from the mare I had last year or even this spring. She has a confidence now that wasn't there before. And maybe I do too.

I definitely want to have a few more of these weekends over the winter: horses, friends, food and shopping. How could it be better?! 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

From the Ground Up

I am back from what was a perfect weekend. There were wonderful friends, beautiful horses, delicious wine and food. Oh god. So much food:

Saturday morning there was a Dr. Suess challenge thrown down and Chef Jim did not disappoint. 
yes, we even had a 3 layer santa gingerbread cake that Karen won at an event.
it was amazing
authentic Thai dinner. 

There was also shopping but I shall save that for a different post. 

I am sure you are all dying to know how Carmen and I made out. 

In short, we both had a wonderful time. 

In this post I want to talk about the ground work. Karen has the perfect indoor to do liberty work. I haven't done much of it with Carmen- my ring is too big and has far too much grass. I thought that I could use the ring to play. 

On Friday when we arrived there was no one there yet. I put her in her stall and unpacked. I then relaxed for a bit in the tack room before taking her out into the arena. I let Carmen get used to the place and move around as she wanted while I made myself useful by cleaning up some poop. 

I then picked up the lunge whip and we began to play. I know that I have done a lot of work with Carmen on ground work and lunging but I was amazed at how she responded to my body language. She stayed in a circle around me and moved with me as I moved. If I stilled my body (like a half-halt) she would slow down. If I pulled back from her she would stop and turn in. I was blown away. 

I did a short video. It was hard to get because with the phone between us she was much more uncertain. She went from Canter to trot and to halt all from body language. 

I spent time each day 'playing with her in the ring. 

Practicing our ground tie. I was able to get 20 feet away and
all around her. 

Karen has a large ball she uses as well with her horses. I got it out to see what Carmen thought of it. She walked right up and sniffed it. She seemed to like rubbing her nose on it. I asked her to play catch with me. Based on her facial expression in the video it seems that she figures it much easier to just humour me. 

I set up some trot poles to play with when we were riding. I asked her to trot over them. The first time she went around on the rail. Which was perfectly fine. The next time around I drew back from her to bring her off the rail and with just a brief consideration she trotted right over. 

On Saturday evening I wanted to tackle the wash stall. Carmen would not go near it any time I was there (she was the same at Stacies). I tried to get her in before but I failed. I was also disappointed with how I tried- there was far too much pressure. That was last year. I had done some thinking and decided to tackle it like I would trailer loading. I decided to do step by step and not move ahead until I had relaxation at the step I was working on. 

I started with walking her by it a number of times. We then stopped by it. I then walked in a step but let her hang outside just looking. Each time I released pressure by walking away. The whole time I didn't care if she went in or not. I was totally chill. I would ask her to come in a little bit but didn't fight if she didn't want to. I just assumed it was too much and backed off. In about 15 minutes she walked right in and stood there totally relaxed and checking it out. I wanted to do a happy dance but thought that might be a bit much for her. I praised her heavily and put her back in the stall. 

I was so impressed with she and I connected over the weekend.  I was able to see how much she has come to look to me for direction and how much she trusts me. I have learned so much from her on how to control myself. 

That would have been enough to make the weekend a success but the riding was pretty spectacular as well. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Go With the Flow

As winter creeps ever closer riding is a hit or miss affair. I have to take advantage of the weather and ride when I can. I don't mind cold but I need the footing to not be frozen and, frankly, I don't want to ride when the wind is strong and biting. Sometimes the weather is great but my work schedule won't let that work.

Interestingly I am not super frustrated by this.  I ride when I can and really, what else can I do?

Carmen is certainly energetic these days. Our rides are not bad but there is sometimes far more drama then I would like. Which part of the ring is spooky is a moving target these days. I am sure that there are hunters in the woods which does not help (not in my woods but around us).

Also interestingly I am not frustrated by this. I am trying to not buy into the cycle of tension and it does work (but is not easy). I ride out the shenanigans and make sure that we have positive work.
from October: exit stage right

What has happened to me?

In short, 2017 happened. I did a crap load of things with Carmen and pushed us outside our comfort zone. Neither one of us was hurt or died. I believe that I know what her repertoire is and it does not bother me. I've learned how sit deep and strong and not try to clamp on.

I don't mean that I'm causal or careless.

I'm just 'whatever' when she's spooky and full of praise when she's good. I'm pretty sure that I've taken the fun out of it.
We can be balanced (again from October)
But when you have done this: 

It's hard to believe that your horse is a nervous wreck and scared of the universe.

So I go with what going on and just try to figure out what we need to come together.

A collateral gain from this season is that my anxiety about trailering. I used to find it tiring but now I find myself very comfortable. Probably because I've done so much of it and because Carmen is so good about it.

This weekend Carmen and I are heading to Karen's for a fun weekend. The plan includes riding, eating, possible a tack shop visit, some wine (for me, Karen doesn't drink really) and lots of talking/laughing. There is no schedule, a brief sketch of a plan and that's it.

We're just going to go with the flow.

I can't wait.

Monday, November 20, 2017


A few weeks ago I received an email from our Provincial Association inviting me to an awards reception. At first I thought it was a generic one inviting all members but on re-reading I realized that they were saying that I had won an award. I spoke to Ed and we made plans to go (apparently if you need me to go somewhere just send me an email that I have won something). 

I actually didn't know what I had one and when I was sitting there listening to all the awards I thought that I had misunderstood the email and was going to have to explain to Ed that this was a mistake, but hey we had a nice day together. Plus we went to Ikea so it's really a win. 

Then I heard my name. Not once but twice:
Champion for my 'region' and Reserve Champ for the Province in
Training Level for the Provincial Scotia Series

I was, of course quite chuffed about the whole thing (NB: 'chuffed' is a word meaning very pleased).  But not because of the ribbons (although those are very nice and going on my wall) but about what they represent- the work that I put in. 

Back in January i wrote a post about my goals for 2017. I met all of them. Well, except for going to Hobby Horse but we did lots of other things. Carmen and I went off property to show, do clinics and to play. My main goal was to have fun with her and enjoy the experience. As the season unfolded we gained in confidence in ourselves and each other. 

So I will celebrate these ribbons- not because I won, but because I went out there and did the things.  And we totally slayed it. 

And didn't look half-bad either: 

one of my favourite things

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Ah, That's the Spot

There was something I didn't share about the Jacquie Brooks clinic: I won the main door prize! It was a free massage session for Carmen from SoulWay Equine. The owner, Mary, is certified in Equine Sports Massage Therapy.

I couldn't believe that I had won. And the timing was perfect. When you ride a horse that is frequently tense and will throw her haunches in you have to wonder if there's a part that is related to a musculoskeletal issue.  I was pleased with how quickly I was able to arrange an appointment.

Before Mary was due to arrive I brought the horses in and tried desperately to scrub off the muck that Carmen had managed to get on her neck/face. I have never seen equine massage before so I was curious about it.

Mary asked me about Carmen and if I had noticed anything. I said that I find that she gets tight and tense in her lower neck/withers and in her poll. I also mentioned that, when tense, she will throw her haunches in to the right but lately I had noticed that she was travelling straighter to the right (yay). However, travelling to the left and being straight was harder (it's never easy, is it?).

I like Mary's approach to Carmen- she was calm and quiet and constantly checking in to see how Carmen was responding.

Carmen was adorable- you knew right away if something felt good or not. Her face when through so many expressions.
what you doing back there?
Mary did indeed find tension in Carmen's poll as I suspected. Carmen loved the release of it.
oh yeah, right there
Overall Mary didn't find anything glaring or awful. A few muscle knots- a big on in her pecs and in her haunches. She said that these are normal in  training (just like people). Interesting enough there were more knots on her left side (where she was starting to struggle to be straight). Overall, Carmen's left side was tighter. 

When Mary would work a knot, Carmen's face would tighten, her eye would harden and her ears would pin. Mary would back off until she found the right amount of pressure and work at it gently until Carmen's eye started to soften. I know how Carmen felt- massage therapy treatment doesn't always feel great in the moment but it does help release. 


Mary said the didn't see any soreness in Carmen's back. She asked how often I had the saddle fitter out and I explained that I monitor it pretty closely. Carmen is really good at telling me when she's not comfortable. 

Mary recommended that I not ride that day and let Carmen's muscle settle. It was easy to comply with that request because it was a cold, blustery, raw day.

I did, however, take Guinness for a walk. He's a big and incredibly strong dog. Most times he walks on the leash really well but when he's excited he can pull me off my feet and I am just not strong enough to hold him. A few weeks ago I bought him a halti leash:
I quite like it because there is only pressure on the nose if he pulls. Otherwise it is nice and loose. He's had it now for a few weeks and is doing well with it. He takes exception to it at the start and then forgets about it. It's also working for when he decides to bark at other dogs: a quick correction and he stops.

On this walk, however, he decided to try some civil disobedience (I think he goes on the internet when I'm not home):

I.just.can't.go.on. Leave me to die
If you look closely you can see his eye fixed on me to see if I'm getting the message. I stood there to see how long he would stay and he didn't move at all. Just played pathetically in the leaves. Finally I had enough and told him to get up and get on with it. That was the end of that. 

For reference this is a photo from his baby days when I first put him on a leash and he realized he couldn't go the way he wanted:
HALP! She's killing me
Dramatic dog and dramatic horse. I wonder if there's a common thread here????

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Product Review: Dublin Performance Tights

Back in October my husband went to Arizona with his brother for a vacation. Ed's brother has a house just south of Phoenix and the two of them love to golf.  Ed is not one to spend time shopping when he's travelling and I took full advantage of this by ordering some things from tack shops in the U.S. Often finding things I want is difficult here (even trying to get it special ordered) and shipping from the U.S. to Canada is expensive.

I placed an order from Riding Warehouse and saw these breeches for a great price:
Dublin Performance Warm-it Silicone Full Seat Tights
I have winter breeches but they are too warm unless it's really really cold. I thought that I could try these and if I hated them then sell them to someone else.

(I should say at this point that I paid for these and am receiving nothing for this review)

They are now my new favourite breeches. I love them. They are the most comfortable breeches I have ever worn. They feel like yoga pants. The cut is high enough to *ahem* hold things in but not so high that you feel like they could be worn as a bra.  I have a 10 inch difference between my hips and waist and my thighs are NOT skinny. These fit like a glove- nothing bagged anywhere. The fabric is soft, with a nice weight. The fleece lining is not heavy.

But Teresa, I hear you say, how are they for riding?

wearing them at the J. Brooks clinic

I wasn't sure what I would think of the silicone- I have heard mixed reviews of people in terms of the silicone seat. However, I found it to be perfect. My seat felt still when I needed it to be and able to move when I needed to move. They are also warm.  I have ridden in them frequently since the Jacquie Brooks clinic. I love how I can stay secure in the saddle no matter what Carmen was doing underneath.  There was no bagging, no pulling, no riding up in the, well, you-know-what. 

I am planning to buy more of these breeches to see if I love the other styles. I have looked and there are no retailers of Dublin in my area. I shall have to see if I can get a tack shop to look at their products. Otherwise it will be on-line. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017


I returned from the Jackie Brooks clinic all inspired. I felt that we had made some leaps forward in our learning and I really wanted to keep going.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

The weather has turned cold and Novemberish. I don't know why it's such a surprise but it really is.

I miss this weather

So I squeeze in rides when I can.

Carmen has definitely noticed the change in weather. She's also very very fit. Not that this is an issue at this point in our relationship. Carmen will likely always notice things and I don't think that she'll ever not have opinions.

Often our rides start off a bit tense and her threatening to spook/run away. At times she will actually spook. And it really doesn't matter. Because, as I stay on task and keep us on the work she comes to me and meets me half-way.

Riding is fun. No more do I have a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. At times I actually laugh at her antics.

Today a young woman named Julia came out to ride Irish today. It was a cold day but fortunately the wind was gone. Both of them had a ton of energy but were using it positively. Every time I looked at Irish he was having fun.  Carmen gave a couple spooks but otherwise was nice and forward.

What I am finding with our rides is that while we might start tight and tense we end soft and loose. Today I played a bit with the canter-walk departs. Those are really coming although Carmen still believe that the 'cue-pin ears-flail' maneuver has more flair. Her canter seems to be so much improved - I think it's because I'm remembering to make sure she's loose and straight and slowing up before I ask.

I'm remembering Jacquie's instructions praise every time the horse even tries to find the answer. It's funny how much that works. Even for things that I know that she knows (and she knows that I know she knows how).

Today I played with the lengthens in canter and trot and she was really stretching out over her topline and reaching. They wouldn't score well in the show ring (yet) but she's getting the idea.  And from the idea we will can build.

I need Shanea to come back and work with us but she's away.

After the ride Julia and I went in the woods for a short hack. She was surprised at how different Carmen was in the woods. As we came up to the barn Irish picked up a canter and so did Carmen. which was fine. And then we were galloping. And then I lost steering. I called to Julia and she slowed up. I didn't mind the gallop per se but I didn't want to gallop into the barn or slip on the grass.

While I may not have much time left for training until winter stops us (although I am still thinking of taking her a few times to an indoor if I can line it up), I am still happy with where we are going.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Handy Man

Let me start by saying that I have the best husband. He has embraced country life with enthusiasm. Which is great because there are often puzzles to solve when owning a farm. 

One such puzzle involves feeding hay. I hate feeding hay on the ground. Horses make a big mess of it and then won't eat it. It's wasteful and difficult to clean up. 

Enter the hay box: 
Steele eating from the hay box that Ed made. 
That worked okay but they pulled the hay out and made a mess. Then when we got a lot of snow it would be buried. That caused some concern with me that a horse might get injured. After the winter of 2015 we ditched it and started again. 

The next attempt was the slow feed hay net suspended between two posts:

That saved a ton on hay wastage and made clean up easy. That worked great for the winter and then in the spring the horses broke one of the posts which led to safety issues. Then they did it again the next spring. 

Back to the drawing board. Obviously more study was required. 

One day this summer I walked into the garage to see Ed building something. 
What are you making? 
This is a garden box for Andy's wife. She wanted one and I said I could build it. 
I circled around it with my mind whirling. I realized that with some modifications this could be the answer I was looking for. 

We talked about it and Ed came up with this: 

It's an elevated hay box. It's large enough to fit a full bale (or more). The hinge makes it easy to lift the hay in. The legs are black because they are painted with some stuff that rubberizes them to keep them from rotting. The whole thing is made out of hemlock which is a great wood for outside. But the  hay doesn't sit there waiting for the horses to drag it out and make a mess. We purchased a slow feed hay net that is suspended between the two arms. 

Carmen modelling. Also, not impressed with how the net is slowing her down.
I'm really really hoping that this will work for us. I may have to put some metal around the edges if they start chewing on it but I'm hoping that they won't.

I told Ed that he could sell these if he wanted. I think he was intrigued with that idea. I will be his agent of course.
(I find him both)