Oh, right- I had eaten two breakfasts and taken Carmen to the outdoor.
I spent the morning chatting with others. This is why I enjoy horse events. As much as I love having my horses home I miss spending time with other horse
Carmen and I were scheduled for right after lunch which was perfect- I could lunge her and get warmed up before the lesson. I grabbed a quick bite and then got Carmen ready. She was pretty focussed during our lunging. Jane came out as I was finishing up and watched us for a bit. She asked if I ever used side reins. I have never used them with Carmen - before I'm not sure how she would have taken them. Jane thought that they would help Carmen stay focussed. I didn't explain that Carmen was being brilliant compared to other times. But I can see her point and I may try them. I will confess to being a bit on the fence as to their usefulness.
I brought Carmen over the mounting block and Jane asked if I needed help. I told her I didn't and of course Carmen shuffled away when I stepped up. I hopped off the block and brought her back and she stood still.
And then we worked our butts off. Jane noted that when Carmen was being looky to the outside I turned my body to align with her rather than for the way I wanted her to go. It took a long time for me to align so that my shoulders were turning towards the inside instead of the outside. As with anything new, it felt like far more turning then it actually was. As I was improving I could feel how this helped Carmen to turn and not do her bend-to-the-outside-and-spook thing.
Also, stay off the inside rein- I could ask her to bend but then release (not a new lesson for me but hard to get embedded). Other then the shoulders (which was huge by the way) it was repeat of things I know but forget to do: keep my legs at the girth, don't push her above her paces and give to let her follow the bit.
The arena at Five Fires is beautiful- light and airy but there is a lot to look at. And Carmen was being quite spooky about the ramp and the observation room and somewhat spooky about C (there was a strip where she could see outside). Other areas that came and went were the opening between the kkckboards and the wall and other things that I couldn't see but were a concern to her.
And we weren't allowed to avoid any of it. Jane helped me to understand that Carmen locks her jaw and neck and then can pretty much go wherever she wants. I had to keep the outside rein and get her to bend o the inside and move forward- not faster or slower but at the same pace. This came in handy down by the ramp because she had decided that 'hell no, I'm not going there and you can't make me'. Turns out I can; but I wouldn't have been able to without Jane coaching me that I was doing the right thing I just had to stay the course. That's hard to do when your horse is freaking out and you are demanding that she bend her neck and move ahead. I tend to second guess myself that I'm doing it all wrong and ruining my horse. But I trust Jane and I followed her instructions and it worked.
But do you know what? She didn't bolt and we worked through it. I'm making it sound more confrontational then it was (I think). We worked up and down the ring and addressed issues as they arose but didn't drill anything. As soon as she improved we moved on to something else. We worked on getting her to stretch to contact and not be inverted and to use her hind end and step into my hand. We did lots of patterns and changes of direction which were good to keep us thinking.
Jane had me alternate between sitting and posting trot to the right and then asked me to cue for canter and it worked really well: instead of the fussing about the first canter depart she just popped into with no fuss. And she stayed straight. To the left, the first time I asked she kicked out but that's because I asked to hard and she (rightly) lodged a protest (or a 'mare-pinion' as I've taken to calling them). I asked her again (lightly) and there were no issues. Cantering to the left up at C created some issues so we were repeating what we had done down by the ramp. It was interesting to feel it working. Up to now with our canter she would be all over the place but establishing the whole 'inside leg to outside rein' was really helping us.
She did do one big spook as we were cantering by C but that was totally my fault. I felt her suck back and I totally dropped everything so she had no direction. I was able to regain it and carry on and I called to Jane 'that was my fault- I let everything go' . Jane said 'that's right but it's great you realized it'. Love that she didn't call me dumb because it was a dumb move. But that was a small bobble and we carried on. I need to drill it into my head that Carmen needs me to ride every stride with her - not holding but with intention. If I drop everything and expect her to carry me she won't. She doesn't know how. At some point I might get away with it but not now.
Our lesson ended soon after that and I was thrilled. Carmen and I schooled in every part of the ring despite our bobbles and I felt like I had some tools to use when we return to show. I didn't become frightened or frustrated or any other negative emotion. Jane is so calm she helps others stay calm but I also think that I have made strides in that direction. I also established some patterns in the ring that I hope will help us school through issues (if they arise). Because that is my goal in the show- to do the best we can but not be afraid to school when I need to and not care about the score.
I cooled Carmen out and then put her in the stall while I packed up. Nancy helped and I simply threw everything in the dressing room. It was NOT as neat as it was when I arrived. I thought about asking for help to load Carmen but decided to not assume I would have an issue. And she walked right on as cool as a cucumber. The drive home was uneventful and I was much more relaxed then I had been coming there. I'm hoping that my anxiety is getting under control.
When I got home Irish was inside being fed supper and he started yelling his head off as soon as I pulled in the driveway. Carmen answered him but waited for me to back her off and was very calm.
I am thrilled with this first trip off the property and how we both handled ourselves. We are not anywhere near perfect but we're not the train wreck we were last year and I will take it.