dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Something is Better Than Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

It was a great way to end the ride. 

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

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


24 comments:

  1. Some riding is always better than no riding. Especially when you got to access that flowing trot! 😀

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  2. Sounds like a pretty good ride all in all. Irish is just a sweetheart. He’s got the kindest face and expression.

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    1. He really is a sweetie. That expression has saved his life on more than one occasion. :D

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  3. Carmen! So sassy but trying to be a good girl! The evolution of trust between you two is so, so evident. It sounds like you've made a wealth of change for her and yourself that is only going to benefit you through the future.

    I love that quote - and it also made me giggle. For me, it was hard to learn to DO something instead of doing nothing, but I totally agree that now it is better (and occasionally easier) to do something as opposed to nothing.

    Hang in there - better weather will be along soon enough! (At least this is what I tell myself lol)

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    1. I don't mind a bit of sass. Much better than being a fraidy cat.

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  4. I'm glad that you got power back. What a relief!

    I like hearing how your tackler her tension. I have a client horse who is very similar, and your approach is a lot like what we do during lessons. The mare gets tense, and we redirect to some little task (usually bending and yielding the haunches over) to get her attention back on the ride, and off of whatever is distracting her.

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely been a learning experience for me to figure it all out. The tricky part I found was that asking her to do something she would freak out more. I know now that that is just a bluff and I need to stay on point.

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  5. Sounds like a lovely ride. Val responds well to me keeping my leg on when he's questioning my choices. Not cueing really, but more like a gentle hugging reminder that I'm there for him.

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  6. I love the flat squirrels saying. I need it on a bumper sticker. It's so painful driving around here right now. We can't get through intersections, because people just sit there looking confused and won't take their right-of-way or acknowledge our yield. People also drive in two lanes at once because they don't know if they need to turn right or left, so they just prevent everyone from passing them until they figure out which lane they should be in to get to where they need to go. Then there's the drivers who start to turn or cross a highway and then stop in the middle so that everyone has to brake and wait for them to decide where they want to go. 90% of the traffic problems are being caused by drivers who can't make a decision. You'd think in today's world of Google Maps and GPS, everyone should know where they are going. I wonder if our horses feel as frustrated with their riders not making a decision as other drivers feel.

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    1. LOL, I love this idea. Even horses have no patience with 'recalculating' :D :D

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  7. Love the photo of sassy mare.

    We have had a weekend of snow and ice, frozen ground that I have to chip the poop away from to clean. I'm done. We're going to Seattle in 7 days and I'll walk under lush green trees again.

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    1. It made me laugh. Enjoy your trip home!

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  8. Yay for electricity and even a little bit of riding and groundwork! :-) Carmen is looking great (as is Irish)!

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    1. I'm happy with where both of them are right now.

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  9. Any pony time is good pony time. Glad you had a break nt he weather to enjoy Carmen.

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    1. It was really nice to have that time.

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  10. Yay for electricity and yay for riding! Sounds like a pretty good ride. And I love that picture of Irish!

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    1. It was such a relief to have it on. Picking stalls by flashlight is no fun at all.

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  11. yay!!!!!! so excited to see the return of lovely carmen pictures!!! even if it was only snuck in between other less nice weather days.... i esp love that sassy expression too, it reminds me of charlie lol

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    1. I'm starting to enjoy sassy Carmen. Way better then scared Carmen!

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  12. Yes, some is definitely better than none. I feel very lucky to have sunshine today and more is predicted tomorrow. I feel like spring has arrived, but I'm not packing away my warm clothes or boots anytime soon.

    You know, the greatest thing I've learned in all my years and the thing I, too, wish I'd learned earlier, is the value of ground work. It is amazing the difference it makes when you listen to your horse and, at times, start from the ground. I think it builds their confidence in us. Every trail clinic I go to starts on the ground first--then we saddle up. Last Saturday's trail ride, where Leah was such a rock star, I began it by walking her up and down the road--taking my time--tuning into her--then saddling up after about fifteen minutes. What a difference. There is no greater piece of advice I would give someone than that, and I sure wish I'd understood its power long ago. Not that every horse needs it--but when you have to read your horse--like you did Carmen. Could you have ridden it out? Yes. But would it have been a good experience for either of you? Probable not.

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    1. I thought of you when I was working with her. I wish I had known about it but it's making a big difference now.

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