dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, August 21, 2017

Clinic Recap: Leaving our Comfort Zone

Be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while; take the risks in life that seem worth taking. The ride might not be as predictable if you'd just planted your feet and stayed put, but it will be a heck of a lot more interesting. Edward Whitacre, Jr.
In my last post I let everyone know that Carmen and I were headed to an 'Ultimate Trail' clinic this weekend. My goal was to continue to work on my relationship with Carmen. Essentially I wanted to replace her 'NO' when exposed to new things with curiosity.

I was looking forward to the clinic but I also had some concerns:

  • I did not know the clinicians- but they came highly recommended so I figured it would be okay
  • This was a western clinic and I'm showing up with my dressage horse and tack would people think I was weird. Well no, not that, I am weird, but that I was a snob or didn't belong. I needn't have worried. Everyone was so welcoming and open I had a blast. 
  • Getting hurt. We were doing obstacles in a strange place. Carmen freaking out is not off the table and that had potential for me to be hurt. 
Let me just say that this clinic was an incredible experience for Carmen and I. It pushed out of, not just our comfort zone but out of our patterns too. If you have a change to take a clinic from Mike and Nikki Porter (Facebook group) do it. I loved their approach to teaching- it was systematic and measured. Each step built on the one before. It was all about giving the riders and the horses the support they needed to be successful and then upping the ante. 

In the morning we all meant (there were 15 of us) to talk about our goals, the horses, and the Porter's philosophy of training. It was a great group of people all looking to enhance their relationship with their horse. There were green riders and experienced horses, experienced riders and green horses and everything in between.  Then we were divided into groups based on our experience. Carmen and I were in the first group. We started doing ground work:

yes that is Carmen and I with a rope halter (loaned) and a
'carrot stick'. I never knew what it was and I ended up buying it despite the stupid name

It was fun to do this. We actually ended up waving flags and rubbing tarps on her and she was unfazed. Interestingly enough she was sticky about moving her shoulders and I realized that when I lose her under saddle it's through the shoulders too. So that's something to work on. Nikki and Mike went around to each person and coached them. Sometimes taking the horse to demonstrate something and then handing it back to the handler. It was pouring rain all day and Carmen began to react to the rain outside the ring. Mike came over and helped me to deal with that in a way that was stress free. I was so impressed with the philosophy- it was all about asking the question and giving the horse time ot figure it out. The pressure was to be as light as possible and build until you got what you wanted and then release immediately.

no my horse doesn't have bangs, it's just the angle.

In the afternoon we tackled each obstacle in turn. In the 20 x 40 arena  there were a number of obstacles and seven horses. It was crowded but it all worked out fine. The obstacles included:

  • a curtain of dangling sparkling strings (think vegas)
  • a teeter totter
  • water box
  • A frame bridge
  • a narrow platform connected to a square platform then a 90 degree angle to a taller, narrow platform
  • a cow attached to a bar : the horse pushes the bar with their chest and move the cow around the circle
  • a fred flintsone car that the horse pushes
  • a large circle to use for ground tying

There was a lot of coaching and helping. To be honest Carmen did great. She was uncertain about a lot of them but gave them a try. The biggest issue was with her letting herself go off of them and/or trying to hurry them. The hurrying is legit- I too felt the pressure to get over them before something 'bad' happened. But the idea is that the obstacles are a place of rest and the horses should stop and relax.

(The photos I'm showing of the ground work are actually from Sunday but illustrate what we were doing in a halter and headline)

This water box had a floating piece of plywood in it so that when horses stepped on it, it sunk and water came up through the holes. We started with it empty, then with water and then with the plywood. You can see that Carmen is uncertain but trying it. Which was the word of the day.

 Here's the teeter. It started as a board on the ground and then add the bar underneath. Carmen was not a fan but honestly it was more about what was in front of her.  Which is what I figured out- she would become fixated on the far side- there was an open door (behind a gate) with grass and then a road that was above us.

Working on the platform. We started by walking straight ahead and then doing the turn. Initially Carmen kept walking/falling off- usually toward me. Mike figured out that it was because she letting her attention wander and not taking any responsibility for where her feet were. He took her from me and did maybe 30 seconds of ground work and then took her over and she walked perfectly. That was an eye-opener for me. What I realized that when Carmen is distracted she abdicates her own responsibility and then becomes annoyed because she gets in a mess. And I buy into the idea it's too hard rather then expecting her to take some ownership. So we spent a lot of time walking on, stopping, walking a step, stopping. If she jumped off she was worked a bit and then put back on. 

now this is a horse taking responsibility for her feet
The vegas curtain was just fine. She was intrigued by the flintstone car and the bull and seemed to really enjoy it.

Ground tying like a boss. Our work at home really paid off here

she kept trying to eat the car 

sure I can do this weird thing that you humans are asking of me. 

I was so excited by the end of the day and thrilled with how Carmen and I just handled everything. Not without bobbles but we didn't stand out as the 'problem team' we were just like everyone else- struggling in some things and doing well with others.

That night I met up with Paula (I was staying at her place) and Cindy Ishoy. Cindy was giving a clinic at Paula's barn. We went out to dinner that night and then went to bed early. Shortly after going to bed I began to feel ill. Then really ill. I spent the next few hours with my body completely rejecting the meal I ate. I was freaking out over getting ill at someone's place (have you ever tried to vomit discreetly? It's impossible) and about Sunday. How was I going to ride? How would I get Carmen home? Could I stay there an extra day? Who could I call to come and help us trailer home? The vomiting stopped around 1 a.m. and I fell into an exhausted sleep. The next morning the storm seemed to have passed but I felt like wreckage washed up on the beach. Pretty sure it was food poisoning. I had a piece of toast for breakfast and went to the barn. I decided to just take it as it came and leave if I needed to. 

I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride the obstacles even before I was ill but Mike gave me a pep talk and told me that they would be there to help. So I did it. Carmen and I were rushing the obstacles. She wanted to get them over with and I wanted to complete them before a disaster. Mike made us slow down and use them to rest. After letting herself fall off  the platform Carmen I repeated the exercise of before: is she fell/walked off I put pressure on her to work off the obstacle and then on the obstacle to rest. So the choice was hers- stay on and relax or fall off and work. She's a smart cookie and figured that out.  

Here we are doing our Vegas Show Girl Routine. We rode through and backed through it as well. 

Riding the connected platforms- Mike helping her know to step up on it- not jump off. 
 Resting on the taller platform. I am thrilled. Carmen is seeing if I have been drinking.

It's not enough to go over the bridge- you have to look pretty too. 

Doing the teeter like we're supposed to.

The water needs a little explanation. Carmen was VERY uncertain about walking in it with the board submerging. Nikki was helping me through it. The idea was to close the escape to the left and right and let her rest right before. I was getting tense which was not helping at all but I wasn't doing it on purpose. We were both worried about it so of course she wasn't going to go. This is so similar to what happens when she gets tight that I was happy that it happened - but only because of the ending. I ended up dismounting and leading her through. Then I got on and walked up to it. I started talking to Nikki and when she relaxed I asked her to go through and she did. See my smile. After we got through it everyone clapped and I may have done a fist pump and cheered.

It was huge for us- this box represents the trust that this mare has developed in me. Nikki said 'do you see what happened? You talked to me and took all the pressure off, then asked her to do it and it was no big deal'. And yes, I did know- I had done that on purpose. I needed to get my head out of the box (so to speak). 

After the box I did the other obstacles and she rocked them and I hopped off. I figured that was enough for that session. We had lunch (I ate very little) and then there was a 'show' in the afternoon. We had to do a pattern with all the horses outside. I volunteered to go first- I always volunteer to go first but I was also starting to be really tired and waiting in the hot sun did not appeal to me. Carmen was not happy about her new best friends leaving so we trotted a bit to get her head back on me and then did all the obstacles. All of them. She struggled with the ground tie and me leaving so far but otherwise we made it through. After I got off and joked that I had won so they could all go home now. Turns out I came second and won a prize! 

Thank god that Caelen was there - she helped me pack up and hit the road. Driving home I hit the wall. I had really pushed myself today - mentally and physically. I was done. I pulled in the driveway and unloaded Carmen. Caelen offered to clean the trailer (love this girl) and I went into the house and fell on the couch. And promptly fell asleep! 

I had so much learning from this clinic but that will have to be a different post because this one has gone on long enough! 

I will just finish with saying that my mare is amazing. 

*all photos in this post were taken by Judith Scrimger, photographer extraordinaire. The conditions for photos were terrible yet she pulled it off. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Simmer Down

First of all thank you everyone for your kind words. The boots seem to be working so far- his legs are dry on the inside. His raw flesh is already looking better and he seems a bit perkier. I'm feeling a bit more optimistic. 

there's a reason that relaxation is at the bottom

I am trying to consciously embrace the idea of relaxing in my riding. A couple days ago Caelen set up  a little trail class for us to play with. Including 3 upside down buckets in a barrel race pattern. Carmen  went from being a bit tight to curious about the whole thing.  We basically played in the ring and then went for a hack. And she lead the whole way. 

she sniffed the bucket and then flipped it over to check inside.
Princess was annoyed at the lack of cookies inside. 

Today I wanted to ride after work. The wind was quite high and I know what that means. When I went to get Carmen out of the field I was putting on her halter when Irish took off and she went with him. this happened a couple times. Curiously enough she would run a bit, stop, walk towards me and then, when Irish took off, she would go with him but apologetically.  I think Irish is feeling better......

In the barn and heading up to the ring she was definitely up. I decided to lunge her first and I'm glad that I did- she was quite spooky and reactive. I worked on finding the balance between presenting a relaxed posture but not passive. 

It's not easy. 

I was prepared to not ride but as we worked she became more tuned in and her body relaxed so I decided to get on. My goal for the ride were to keep her calm and relaxed and supple. To do that I had to make myself relax no matter what I thought she might do. 

Again, not easy. But it got easier. And it was interesting to see how she began to respond. As we did our quiet circles and changes of directions she began to breathe and stretch out. I refused to take a grip on the bit (although I did shorten the reins a few times but I made sure the my shoulders were relaxed).  I spent a lot of the ride telling myself what to do. 

In the end I was really happy with how I was able to get Carmen from a snorting, stiff necked, spooky horse to one up over her back and responding the lightest of aids. 

Which a great ride to have because GUESS WHAT WE'RE DOING THIS WEEKEND?!!:

Yup. As part of our 'do all the things' summer we're going to this clinic. I have heard wonderful things about it and it includes a ton of ground work. My goals are to expose Carmen to some training questions in a supportive atmosphere and perhaps add a couple tools to my tool box. I don't even care if we ride or just work from the ground.

So much fun. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

House of Cards

Many years ago I worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist in our local hospital. Part of my job included working with inpatients. One thing I noticed was that often an elderly person would come in with a pretty simple diagnosis (like urinary tract infection) but would quickly decline and other things would happen. A doctor explained to me that as we age we are a like a 'house of cards'. When one part goes the rest can quickly fall. I saw it happen again and again.

What has this to do with a horse blog you ask?

Well that is starting to describe Irish.

I've written about him before but essentially Irish has numerous health issues: 
  •  He has also been prone to colic (fortunately not in the past two years #notcursingmyself). I think that his current diet has really helped with that. 
  • His feet are terrible and he can abscess at the drop of a hat. He's in special aluminum wedge shoes to support his heels
  •  approximately 3 years ago started head shaking which I manage with magnesium oxide and UV fly mask. 
  • And most critically he was diagnosed a few years ago with a 'neuro issue' - most likely arthritis (I've written about it before) and he's on a daily dose of previcox. 
As a result of his neuro problems he started being incontinent of urine  (I cannot remember if it's been one or two years- I think one). It went from every now and then to essentially he dribbles all the time. I've had him tested and it's not due to any infection. I wouldn't really care except that it gets on his hind legs. I try to wash them regularly and keep them clean but I'm fighting a losing battle. And I can't wash them in the winter.  His skin on his fetlocks and cannon bones is essentially being eaten away by the urine.

I've tried diaper cream and it helps for a bit but not enough.  His fetlocks look like I've dipped them in acid and he's even getting some proud flesh from it. He also is becoming less 'himself' and more withdrawn and a bit unhappy. I used to say that it was a crap shoot as to what would take Irish out: his gut, his hind end or his feet. Now it's looking like it might be urine and I never imagined that.  I am feeling that if Irish developed an infection because of this it might be the end for him. 

I tried bell boots but they didn't help. I have spent hours scouring the internet for a solution: something he can wear on his hind legs. It would have to cover from his hocks to his hooves, be breathable but not hold the urine next to the skin. 

Then a friend posted on FB about some boots she was ordering to stop her horse from getting mud fever:

I looked into them and it seemed that they might actually be the solution I was seeking. I found a place in Canada to order them from (My friend was ordering from Great Britain at a killer price but by the time I did the conversion and delivery I realized that I wasn't going to be saving that much).  I decided to order them and if course I threw in a few other items to get free delivery.

I have to say I was super impressed with Sprucewood Tack- they answered my questions and delivery was FAST. I ordered on Thursday afternoon and they arrived the next Tuesday. I was impressed with the boots they were soft, flexible and seemed to be really well made:

 I gave Irish's legs a thorough wash and then wrapped his legs to dry them and keep the urine off. Once his legs were dry I put them on. They seemed to fit well and were easy to adjust. Irish was less convinced and did the horse 'silly' walk when he headed back to his stall. 

This morning they were still in place and looked good. I really hope that he can keep them on for a long time. The instructions say up to twelve hours. I am going to be leaving them on longer then that but think I will give him a short break every day.

If these don't work I am out of options.

And that's not a place I want to visit.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Soft Eyes

I had great plans to ride on Saturday but Mother Nature had other ideas and it rained pretty much the whole day. The weather apps had all predicted clearing in the afternoon but that did not happen. It seems that we were the only area that had rain all day.

Sunday morning I was not taking any chances and decided that Caelen and I would ride in the morning. It was a bit foggy and drizzly but I decided we would go anyway. It was an interesting ride- Carmen was very forward and was clearly thinking about spooking.

However, within 5 minutes my glasses were covered with a fine mist of water drops and I really couldn't see very well. The universe was hazy. that made things very interested. Instead of getting more worried and tense I decided to relax and go with it.  In Centred Riding there's a concept of 'soft eyes'. The idea is  that by relaxing your eyes you can take in more peripheral information and have a better awareness of your body. It wasn't that I couldn't see- I could, but it was like looking through a rain spattered window.

And do you know what? She didn't spook at all.

I don't know how much more evidence I need that my reaction to her reactions can make things better or worse. In my defesne, cycles are hard to break. I am working on it though.

We spent a lot of time working on transitions. I wanted her to reach for the bit going both up and down. I realized that I was tightening my thighs in the down transitions which was making her pop up. I had to really focus on stilling my seat without clamping my thighs. Once I was more aware of that our tranistions improved a lot. Even our trot-canter transitions were straight and not at all flail-ly.

We finished by going on a trail ride though the woods. Caelen and Irish led us through. I am very impressed with Carmen - she's definitely alert in the woods but listening. I think I may end up my hacking horse after all.

not from that day but still shows our view :)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Riding the Roller Coaster

This week was interesting.

I gave Carmen a couple days off for us both to regroup. On Wednesday Caelen and I tacked up the horses to have a ride. But when we were walking out of the barn it was clear that she was off. I took Irish from Caelen and had her walk Carmen around so I could see. She was very lame.

Like panic inducing lame on her right front.

I examined every part of her and could find no evidence of heat or swelling. I started to calm a bit thinking it might be an abscess.

But Carmen has never had an abscess (as far as I know). What followed was a series of texts to my farrier with me trying to sound rational but actually freaking out and him trying to get me to calm down. He lives far away and we're part of his circuit so it's not like he could come out (although I tried).

I went to bend that night with my left brain telling me that it was an abscess or bruise and will be fine while my right brain was tossing up all sorts of things it could be from laminitis to a tendon tear to navicular.

The next morning she seemed to be much better and walked out to the field she was off but not as bad as the day before. I started to feel relieved. After work she was even better so I brought her out to check her over. After much examination I found a small hole on the inside of her coronet band. I did some soaking with water and epsom salts which she seemed to really appreciate.

On Thursday Shanea texted me to say she was coming my way and I could have a lesson. I told her I wanted to check Carmen first. Carmen seemed to be 99% so I decided to ahead with the lesson.

I am so glad I did.

We started with reviewing the show and what happened on Sunday. Shanea had some advice for me on how to ride it. The truth is that I was skeptical because in my opinion Carmen was just 'no' so there was very little work with. I realize that I have to get her through shutting down on me but it's a work in progress.

The focus of the lesson was to keep Carmen underneath of me and listening. The idea is that the direction gives her confidence that all will be okay. It makes sense to me to work on that - establishing patterns of behaviour when it's 'easier' will help when it's freaking hard.

The warm up was on getting her supple and responsive at the walk no matter the fluttering leaves etc. We then took it up to trot. She did do one scoot on me but other then raising my hands to go with her head I didn't really react and then just carried on like nothing happened. That seemed to end it there.

As always, Shanea took photos with my phone. Caelen also took photos with my camera and I'm curious to see how they came out. For now, here are the iPhone photos:
Not a bad trot but she's wanting to come against the inside leg (and away from the brush). Shanea had me leg yield her over. However, this is the same issue that came up at the show - when she's not wanting to go by a place she does not respond to my inside leg asking her come over which makes me pull on the inside rein and we go down from there (#downwardspiral). All that said, this photo looks better then it felt.

Now this is better- nicely bend and a relaxed frame.  

 Shanea had me use my seat and legs first and not my hands (oops. I know better. sigh #ridingishard). I was intrigued to see these two photos. They show me asking her to half-halt and the next one is her response. You can see her soften and bring her back up.

We worked a lot on transitions and me helping Carmen to keep her balance. What became clear to me (and no this is not new but I finally understood in terms of the 'doing') is that when Carmen is unbalanced she becomes uncertain and more likely to spook/spin etc. Which means it's up to me to balance her even if she's not always sure that's what she wants. 

We finished by coming trot-canter-trot transitions. Carmen's right lead canter is a work in progress. And she started off being very very tight.  Which is where I had to be so very careful with my seat to go with her and help her relax her frame and use herself. It was interesting to ride- because she started so stiff it was really hard to not be stiff in response. 

very stiff canter

Of course being stiff when I brought her down to a trot the transition was terrible and then she was anticipating another canter request and not in a happy way. Shanea had me simply get her balanced and happy again before asking. Slowly I felt her begin to relax and embrace the canter. Once she began to blow I knew I was getting there. Probably some of the best right canter we've had ever: 

I love this photo. 
We then worked on the left lead canter. This was easier for us but still required some work to make sure that my seat was active and following. 
ignore my hands trying to keep her from ducking away from the trees.
Instead focus on eh hind leg starting to come through

I think this is the moment of transition
Once we had a few really nice canter-trot transitions without her falling on the forehand we ended the lesson.

check out the hind leg
I really enjoyed this lesson. It felt like we were really helping Carmen understand how to use her hind end and lift her back. 

We might actually be able to do this dressage thing after all. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Meanwhile Back at the Farm

No matter what happens life at the farm has it's own rhthym and pace. It makes it easy to gain perspective  and helps me to find my center again.

I had, optimistically, scheduled a lesson with Shanea on Monday. It wasn't my choice but it fit when she was coming and I figured it would be fine. But that night I woke up in the night unable to roll over- my back was so tight as to be seized.  The combination of lugging show stuff and Carmen's shenanigans had irritated my lower back.  I got up and took some ibuprofen and realized that a lesson would not be a good idea.  I sent a text cancelling (and explaining why) and Shanea was very understadning.

Guinness felt that that was the right choice.
you spent the whole weekend with the horse-beast.
It's my turn now. 
He was velcroed to me all day. And we had a good day- walking, and playing and getting belly rubs (well he had his belly rubbed).  Ed has been doing a brilliant job on the trail he cut. It's pretty well finsihed. We just need to let the dirt settle and be packed down and then he will use the chipper to cut up the trees he cut and put on the path. It's a short path but was a lot of work. I now have a circling option which will be great to add to the routine.

It's hard to believe that was brush and trees a couple weeks ago. the dogs enjoy walking on them too. This is a feeble attempt to show you the paths using MS Paint (pretty much not to scale):
the blue indicates paths I can take
There are a lot more woods to the left of the blue line where we will put more to do even a larger circle. Below the blue line is yet more woods but that will be more work so I want to go to the left first.

Our house is finally getting the siding replaced. This had been in the plan since we moved there. The guys are a father/son team and they are doing an amazing job. They are meticulous and clean up every day. so our yard/deck is in disarray but it will all be worth it.

Soon, all our buildings will match. The big question is what colour to paint the door. I am thinking of a burnt orange. Once the siding is done we can tackle the weed garden flower bed. I need to dig it up and start over. I think I want to do a climbing plant to the left of the door - maybe roses?

And Guinness and I completed Obedience 1. He's very smart and would be much further along- it's hard to find time with work, the farm and Carmen. But we do what we can and he catches on quickly.

smart dog is smart
I am still working on my take aways from the show and will probably do a blog post about it. But for now I'm going to ease up on the riding and enjoy some time just playing at home.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Show Business

"There's no damn business like show business. You have to smile to keep from throwing up" ~Billie Holiday

Well that was quite the weekend. Hang on to your hats because it might be a long post- there's highs, lows and even an unexpected twist at the end.

I headed off for the show with high hopes. Carmen and I have been working along and making progress. The trip there was interesting and could be it's own blog post. But it would be a post about how drivers are stupid and should just get off the road and who really wants to hear that rant?

Carmen settled in really well and our ride in the ring was lovely. There was zero drama and she was just so settled. I kept it short because it was hot and humid. Caelen and I headed to the hotel. Because it was the long weekend I found one hotel with a room available. It was very basic and there was a sign that said that the hot water would only last 15 minutes in the shower. But it was only 15 minutes away and close to everything.

At least it was clean. 
I planned for a 35-40 minute warm up for the first test. It was not enough. Carmen was blowing through the aids and not really all that keen on listening. But we went and did our test and really it was not bad. There were places where she was more resistant and our scores ranged from 5 (stretch trot which was legit because we had maybe 2-3 strides of reach) and 8 (final halt- nailed it and our medium walk!) . I got an 8 on my position and seat and 7.5 on effective use of aids. I was thrilled with that. The judges final comment was "lovely mare- lots of potential. Needs to get straighter in right canter and more supple over back. Lovely moments". Our final score was 67.5. Totally fair.

Our next test had a better warm up and I was feeling more ready.
jackets were excused by then thank heavens. It was HOT. 
I felt pretty positive about the test- it felt smoother to me but there were some moments of resistance. There was one funny Carmen moment that I posted on FB:
Carmen & I: Trot to B and then circle- no problem.  
Me: it's a beam of sunlight 
Carmen: so duck away?
Me: No, keep trotting and bending
Carmen: so jump it then
Me: Just keep going. It's a fricken sunbeam 
Carmen: got it- jump with the front and twist the hindquarters around.  
Me: *sigh*
Carmen: phew. I saved us. You're welcome.

Our final score was lower: 62.9 ranging from 5 (stretch trot) to 7. Once again I scored an 8 on my position. Caelen was near the judge's table and she told me that she overheard the judge compliment my position more than once. Her final comments: "well ridden. Too bad about the resistance. Lovely moments. Needs to get straighter in shoulder for right canter.  

That night I took her out for a brief lunge in the ring focussing on the 'spooky spots' and getting her calm. 
I had her comments and reflected and I determined that the next day I was going to warm up focussing on keeping her straight. What happens is that when Carmen gets tense she throws her hindquarters in and will NOT straighten out. I need to establish her responding to my cue before that because in the moment it's useless. I have to say that we had a brilliant warm up. I kept my focus on straight and ignored any spooks or resistance. I praised her heavily for being straight and corrected when she went crooked. I felt her to be 100% on the aids and listening to me. 

We were ready. 

Then disaster struck. 

By which I mean the heavens opened up and there was a torrential downpour as we entered the indoor. I have no idea if Carmen is used to rain on a roof, I suspected she wasn't used to it on a coverall. So I walked her around the ring carefully. It was so loud I had to ask the judge if she rang the bell. You could not hear at all! We entered at A and Carmen was a bit tense but listening. We then turned right. Just past the corner was a door with a gap at the top. Into that gap was a waterfall of water streaming in. Carmen took one look as was 'nope'. 

we're supposed to be going my 'M' not bolting across the ring. 
And we then had a ride that really was more like a wrestling match. We circled up by M three times and then I took her down the long side and leg yielded over. I began to talk to her through the whole test.  I figured we had blown it all anyway and that she needed my support. It doesn't appear that the judge heard me. All I can say about the test is that we made it through. We had some moments of her listening- she was really trying. But was getting totally freaked out by the storm. I am not sure how many times I tried to do the canter circle in the middle before saying 'screw it' and heading down to side to finish this disaster. 

So that was discouraging. Five minutes earlier and we would have been before the deluge. Oh well. 

I put her in her stall to rest. I looked at the rain coming down in sheets and decided that I was not taking her out to warm up ring. I went to talk to the show manager and she was kind and said that she was going to let riders hand walk in the ring during the break. Which was perfect because I was right after the break. Then they realized that the warm up ring would be impossible so they allowed for riders to have a 5 minute warm up in the ring and then ride the test. Since we are all training through first and Western dressage that worked well. 

I handwalked Carmen during the break letting her see that the rain coming in. She was tense but was listening. But when I got on we had a disastrous second test. I think it was less disastrous then the first one but can't say for sure because I totally forgot to go get my test. I remember looking at it but they still needed it to place the class. I know I saw scores as low as 4 and perhaps as high as 7/8. 
'nope' with a frosting of 'hell no'

All I can say about the test is that I didn't give up and I didn't come off. I came close to both of those things. I did pick up the last test (see total mind freeze). Our scores ranged from 5 to 7 with a score of 58.86. Once again I got 8 on my position. Perhaps for the velcro seat. Final comments 'well done. Too bad about the tension today. Lots of potential'. 

I was bummed and a little upset. Not with Carmen, not with me but that we did not show what I knew we were capable of. It did show us that there is more work (and that Carmen will be able to nail canter pirouettes). But I am nothing if not goal oriented and wanted to do better. 

The rain had a lull and the weather was predicting thunder and lightening later. I did not want to be trailering home in that. So I went to the office to apologize and explain that I wanted to leave before it got worse again. Ed had let me know that it was clearing up in our area so I felt that we could drive out of it. I have left a show early only one other time- when my father in law was dying in hospital. I believe that organizers work hard and we, as riders, should be there for the final ceremony. However, Carol was very understanding and gave me a much needed pep talk on how well I have been doing with Carmen. She told me that she was seeing real improvement and gave me details so I know she wasn't just trying to make me feel better. I can't say enough about how great the shows there are and how helpful to everyone. 

With Caelen helping we were able to pack up and clean up pretty quickly. The first part of the drive was awful- at times the rain was so heavy you could barely see but after an hour we drove out of it and it became easier. 

And the plot twist you ask?

Well when I got home there was a message from Carol telling me that Carmen and I were reserve Champs for the series. I think it was based on your highest score of each of the three show. I was happy with that and will try to get there soon to pick up my prize. 

And that was what I did this weekend. 

How was your weekend. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Youthful Enthusiasm

I remember when I was much younger I had endless reserves of energy. Now, not so much so I have to be careful how I 'spend' it. I need to treat it as a precious resource. 

I mentioned in my last post that my niece, Caelen was visiting. She came last year as well. I am always amazed that any teenager would want to spend time at our farm but I assume that figure she must be horse/dog/country life crazy (perhaps taking after her aunt?). She has been riding Irish fairly regularly but not doing too much more than walk because he's nursing an abscess. Typical Irish - the symptoms come and go and then get really bad right before it blows. It's been fun to ride with her in the ring - occassionally stopping to give her some directions. It's been good for Carmen too because she has to stop and stand in the middle (practicing patience) and then go back to work. I also use her as an example to demonstrate bend, etc. She seems to be quite happy about that although she can get a little restless standing there while I talk. 

It was also helpful to have Caelen because she helped with a birthday present. My house/critter sitter's grand daughter is obsessed with horses. I offered a pony ride for her birthday and we made arrangements for it to happen. Caelen led Irish around while I gave some instructions. Mom and Grandma also came but were very good at not interjecting, instead they took lots of photos. I love watching Irish with young children. He takes this job very very seriously and is very careful to not do anything that would jostle them. I mean look at his face here: 

PC: Joanne 
Is that not a face of total care and concentration. I think that he would excell at being a therapeutic riding horse for adults and children who need to be led around. As you can see, Marissa had a ball and really did not want to get off. 

Irish and I are benefitting from the youthful enhusiasm of Carmen and Caelen. This weekend we are headed to our third show in the schooling show circuit. I am riding T2 & T3. We can definitely do the moves, it just whether we can work together mentally. 

I'm liking how her neck is developing
Here are my goals for the show: 
1. keep Carmen on the aids and prevent any spooks
2. make sure that my warm up is focussed on getting her supple and coming from behind. Not always easy to do when she's feeling tight. 
3. do a credible stretch trot and free walk (I want to score at least a 6 and would be ecstatic with a 7). 
4. Have fun. 
I would be happy with this in the show
Our  ride times are an hour apart- not enough to let her totally relax but too long to stay on her. Any tips? I was thnking of puttig her in her stall to pee and have a drink but leave her saddle on. Is that a good idea?

Also, I took a deep breath and sent in the entry form for a rated show in Sept. It will be bigger and busier with a lot more to look at. The show ring is actually in an hockey arena . But Shanea will be there and I know we're ready in terms of the moves.