dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Crash and Burn

Okay, so the title might be a little dramatic.
happy photos from last week's show to brighten things up. 

I should also warn that there may be swearing in this post.


This weekend Carmen and I headed back to Five Fires for a 2 day show. I have to say I was my most relaxed heading to this show. By now I had my packing to a science (well a really thorough list, which is sort of like science). That morning I took her for a light hack and a short ride in the ring.

We arrived in great time and Carmen settled in well. I rode her that night in the ring and she had some concerns about an open door and the freaking ramp (oh the irony that I could get her to walk on that ramp but not go by it), but it really wasn't a big deal and we had a good and short session.

Saturday we had early ride times and our warm up was pretty good. I was happy with both of our tests. While they were not brilliant they were steady and calm and netted us a second and third place in our class. She could have definitely been more from behind and I wanted to build on that for Sunday.

Sunday morning was rainy and still warm. In the warm up ring Carmen was pretty relaxed and I was focussing on getting her marching and staying relaxed. It was going really well when I saw a gentleman walking his dogs down by the ring and into the woods path. And he had an umbrella. I felt the hamster falter on the wheel in Carmen's brain. Carmen saw him too and I called to have him speak so she could know he was a person.  We went back to work when she spied him further off and the hamster started to fall off the wheel. I kept working her trying to keep her focus on me and stick the fucking hamster back on the wheel. Sort of successfully.

Then he came back.

Carmen's brain

Carmen began to spin a bit and I tried to bend her but it was no go. 
aaaand we're bolting  I said. I was surprised by how calm I was but I wanted to give the other rider a heads up that my steering had gone to crap. She was great and gave us space and said 'tell me what you need'.  I rode it out and got her back and then decided to hop off and walk her over to the guy who was kind and let us walk up and talk to him.

I headed back to the warm up and tried to talk the hamster back on to the wheel but it was not successful at all. We had a number of bolts, some spins and general lalalala-I-can't-hear-you.  In the end I headed up to the ring for my test thinking maybe being inside would be better. And it was. Sort of. We had a couple issues at the door and ramp - but to be honest she was not scared of the ramp while she was genuinely nervous of the door. But we rode through it.

I dismounted and grabbed my lunging equipment to head back to the warm up. I only had about 30 minutes before my next ride and I needed to get her brain back. So I lunged her and got her back to focussing on me. I then mounted and we had a really good warm up ride. She was listening and on the aids. I felt much better going back for test two.

Carmen hit the ring and was done with this shit.


At the end of that clip I am telling the judge that I am scratching but I really want to ride that circle. She was great and coached us on working through it. She also said that sometimes it's better to cut the circle and lose the point then have the battle.

Which is true. But I know my mare and I know that if I caved at that corner it would get bigger and bigger until we couldn't go past E. I explained that and she looked skeptical but I know my mare and I know that once she gets an idea in her head you need a crow bar to get it out. In the end we rode our circle and it was time for the next person to come in.

I was bummed.

Believe it or not it was the first time I had ever scratched from a class at a show. It was the right call but I was still bummed.

I did some thinking and went to the show secretary and asked if I could take Carmen in the ring over the lunch break. I was done all my classes but I wanted to tackle things again. She agreed and when I went in announced to everyone what I was doing so that they didn't all pile in or think I was taking advantage.

I started working her in hand getting her focus and then I got on. By then I had gathered a crowd of supporters cheering us on. I wasn't sure how I felt at first but I then just focussed on Carmen and we went to work. She wasn't easy but not at her worst. In the end I rode my test through because, by god I wanted to finish it. I have no idea how it looked but at the end of the day the judge came up and said 'you did much better at lunch time'. That was because I could work through it. The steward gave me a hug and said I did great. Everyone was so supportive that it was uplifting.

I had earned a blue ribbon for my first test (second out of two riders lol, but I worked hard for that ribbon and was proud of it).

On the way home, in the quiet of the truck all those voices in the back of my head came out to play.

You know those voices. the ones that whisper:
you suck as a rider. A better one could have dealt with all that 
You will never get any better as a pair
See, I know she hadn't improved. 
Last week was a fluke. 
sometimes we don't suck

I let them have some play but the drive was awful in terms of weather- torrential rain for the first half which is totally not fun when you're hauling a trailer.

I got home and unloaded Carmen. Who immediately started throwing her weight around trying to graze and run by me and push me around. I was having none of it. I needed to hose the dried sweat off her and she was fucking going to stand still and not shove me while I did it and I didn't care that she was starving. It didn't take long for her to be very quiet and still while I finished. Ed came out and was so very supportive. I headed in to take a shower (nothing feels better than a shower after a horse show) and he cooked supper while I fed the horses. After he helped me empty and clean the trailer. I do love this guy.

So I have to figure this out. Carmen has a 'nope' in her and it's dangerous. It's getting more and more rare so I hope that this means it's on it's way out. I also see a pattern that she's less willing on the second day of the show and I need to figure out how to help her with that. Maybe maturity. I don't really want to go to showing just one day. I'm not sure that that's the answer. Now I'm wondering if I should go to the show in September.

Thank you for listening to me vent. This blog is useless if I just talk about the fun stuff and not the shitty stuff.


41 comments:

  1. Yes, you will go to the show in September! You have come so far with this mare and this is a blip in the progress, not a dead end! I watched the clip and you handled it. I admire your determination to make it work with Carmen; you have a whole new skill set to deal with her and have become stronger in yourself. Tell those voices where they can go and what they can do to themselves!

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    1. You are right, I probably will go. :)

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  2. hugs <3

    You made the right call. It can be frustrating bc sometimes horses just don't wanna play. I hope Carmen gets back on board asap for you and you can have some more awesome adventures.

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    1. A bad ride is a bad ride. A bad show is expensive! But we will persevere

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    2. It's expensive and frustrating, I know <3

      Think of how far you guys have come already though!

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  3. With dogs, the magic age is three. By three they know the things they need to know and they’ve settled emotionally. Dogs live with us day in and day out, being taught through routine as much as deliberate teaching.

    It seems that the magic number for horses is ten. Horses are a bit slower to mature and we don’t work with them day in and day out the way we work our dogs. It takes a little longer for their head to get to the point where they are solid and not as freaking emotional.

    That said, Ashke has been under saddle for six solid years. He still gets spooky and hesitant when he perceives we should be done. If we are working and we stop to converse (with trainer) and then go back to work, he gets squirrely. Spooky. Has been known to try to bolt. Even now. I view it as an evasion. And it used to be enough to get me to stop. Once I figured out to keep riding and not let him change the conversation, things got so much better.

    All horses can be dangerous. You are the only one who can decide if Carmen is too dangerous for you. Things got better for me once I recognized that Ashke wasn’t going to do anything to deliberately try it hurt me. Doesn’t mean that I can’t get hurt, just that he’s not out to get me.

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    1. I hope you are right about it being 10! My comment about it being dangerous refers more to us being out on a hack- we could have a wreck.

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  4. So sorry things didn't go as planned, it's always so disappointing when that happens. Re: the "nope", I deal with it plenty with Bridget (although she's less dramatic) and it's been a matter of doing exactly what you did - she has to give me an effort and we quit when I'm happy and say we're done. On the plus side, it's been forever since you've written about a disappointing outing with Carmen, and you've totally got a handle on her bad days - your determination won the day!

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    1. You are right- it has been a while. Maybe I should put it in perspective.

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  5. First of all, you DO NOT suck as a rider and you two have improved SO MUCH since you first brought her home. Don't ever lose sight of those two very important facts.

    After all the solid tests she has put in lately, I wonder if THIS is just a fluke. Also, was this the first time she spooked in the test (like it started well and then suddenly things went downhill at this moment in the circle? If so, could it have been because of the person in the corner taking video?

    This is one bad day (which you were able to work through, which is great!!!) and you were able to leave the show in a much better place for both of you. I think the more you work through these spooks and she matures/remembers, the less it will happen.

    It is hard to not feel defeated but you are doing a wonderful job!!! *hugs*

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    1. Thank you. We had issues with that corner in the past. For this show it was the 4th time we'd ridden in it and she just decided to nope. As for the person she was there every time!

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  6. Good for you to go back in there at Lunch time and make Carmen work it out! That deserves a standing ovation!! I was at a clinic this weekend and there was a drill team practice: 15 horses with full size American Flags streaking through the arena next to ours...all the hamsters fell off the wheels of everyone's horses....and sometimes it just won't get back on the wheel in time - HUGS!!

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    1. I'm picturing that event and it doesn't sound good!

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  7. I love that you show us the good and the bad and put yourself out there. Kudos for taking the problem on and working through it - you deserve a ribbon for that. :)

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    1. Thank you! I wish that there was a ribbon for that!

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  8. I think you are being too hard on yourself. Everything I saw was a success: you stayed on, you stayed calm, you stayed in control. Even race cars break down at the track and they don't have a brain!

    I also think that it makes complete sense that Carmen is worse on the second day of the show. She is probably tired because she didn't get to sleep in her own bed that night - I would be. To help her with this, you might try varying her sleep routine at home. Lock her in one night, lock her out the next, switch stalls, play a radio one night a week. Get her used to sleeping in other places so that the shows will just blend in rather than be a big deal.

    Showing is stressful for both of you and that stress is going to get the best of you now and then. You handled it well, rode through it and no one got hurt. You may not have gotten the ribbons you wanted this time, but I'd still call that a success.

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    1. It could be that she's tired. I think she's missing her turn out too so I have to figure out how to keep her thinking. The hand walking doesn't seem to be working. It could also be that she will adapt to that.

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  9. I'm sorry that test went so poorly. I can totally sympathize. Levi just checks out sometimes and there's nothing I can do to get him back on track. She was so good at the last show; I can you can find a way forward with her.

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    1. I know that you and I have a lot in common with our horses. :) We will figure it out.

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  10. Best wishes, my mare is the same in the spook/bolt hamster wheel failure. I think the solution is making them work..shoulder in, half pass, ect and implementing before the spook. Not so easy during a test or on a narrow mountain trail. Good Luck! ��

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    1. She knows the shoulder in and will resist it but I will keep it going!

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  11. Extinguishing bad behaviors can be so so so tough, especially when we're unable to identify a good pattern for what's causing it. It DEFINITELY seems like what you've been doing has made a HUGE difference, so I'm sure you'll work through it. Doesn't help that defeated feeling today, though. Cheering you on from afar!

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  12. I hate those little rodents.
    How can you change up your second day routine? Can you do a quick lunge in the morning? My old guy used to need just a 5 minute lunge, to literally get the squeals out - when he stopped squealing when doing a canter transition I knew he was good. It would have to be a short lunge though, so that you don't tire her out and give her that excuse.
    Do you think her Day 2 behaviour is due to extra energy from extra stall time, or because she's tired and over it?

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    1. I think I will try the lunging to see if that helps. I worry about tiring her out but probably shouldn't worry about that!

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  13. Oh wow... tough day! I think you did a stellar job to find a positive training experience out of the horse that came out of the stable that day. You should be very proud of yourself in being persistent and finding lateral ways to deal with the situation. Sometimes I find that being brave in the moment takes some mental recovery time after where I can process all the negative stuff, until I'm ready to come out again. My horse defintiely uses spooking as a response to stresses; I haven't figured it all out yet, but it's definitely more than being scared of a particular object, although it is that too.

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    1. you are right, it does take time to figure it out after. And I am positive that it's more than fear.

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  14. How fortunate you were allowed to go in at lunch and ride through it. Emotional endurance takes time and loads of shows to develop for some. It is so much more difficult to be brave when your tired! Perhaps you need to find some three-day events so then two days feel like a piece of cake? :) Seriously though, I feel you--the shitty stuff is shitty and writing about it is cathartic.

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    1. I was really glad that I could go in and work through it again. :)

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  15. Way to handle a tough ride and end up getting back on and handling it. You have worked so hard with Carmen and know her really well. It is really hard to be a proponent for your horse especially when a judge is telling you something different. That is a big win for the partnership right there.

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  16. i'm so so so sorry it was such a tough weekend. i HATE that for you. things have been going so well. but i love your attitude. this has become more and more and more rare with Carmen, and your strategies and effort HAVE been paying off. coming away from my own horse's version of a crash and burn last month, i know how you feel but can also say fairly confidently that there's usually good lessons to be learned from this sort of thing, even if they definitely weren't the lessons we thought we signed up for. i'm sorry tho, it's definitely *not* the fun and glamorous side of horses.... good luck formulating a plan of attack for your next outings! and don't be too hard on yourself!!

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    1. I wish we could get just the lesson we want, lol!

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  17. As you know, I'm in a similar space, and it's not fun. I think you did very well riding out her evasions, and you were very smart to work her from the ground at lunch. I think horses have bad days. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I think mares are more prone to bad days than geldings. I think that when they're having a bad day, there's very little we can do to accomplish our agendas.

    Try to focus on all your accomplishments together and let them feed your horse soul. They have been GREAT BIG, and recent, accomplishments.

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  18. Sorry to hear about your weekend. But when you weigh it on the balance scale there have been more good than bad experiences with Carmen at shows lately. Crappy days happen but you’ll get through it and soldier on. Hang in there!😊

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    1. You are right, I do need to weigh it in the balance.

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  19. I wish I could just pop by and give you a big hug. I KNOW that behavior so well. With Q, I call it "seeing red" when she nopes out of EVERYTHING. It's SO frustrating. These quick-thinking mares can kind of be The Worst sometimes. Still though, I think you handled it so very well and with a ton of grace! I absolutely love how positive and supporting everyone was, too. I bet it helped to feel that support <3

    Maybe it was something about last weekend and the way the magnetic poles were aligned that triggered Carmen because Q also had some moments lol At mile 13 and 14 of our 15 mile ride last weekend Q suddenly decided she couldn't handle the world any more and began "seeing red" and spooking at EVERYTHING like a total twit. (The majority of the ride was SO GOOD and I was SO PROUD of her.) I brought her back from the first half of the spooking behavior but the final bit we were both DONE with one another. I ultimately dismounted and yelled at her from the ground, "YOU REALLY PISS ME OFF," to which she did have the grace to look slightly abashed (anthropomorphism, yes, but oh well lol). I then jogged with her for a half mile on foot and remounted to a mare who was once again calm and confident (for her).

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    1. Thank you for the hug! I laughed at you yelling at Q because I have done the same with Carmen! The support I got was wonderful.

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  20. Oh man, I'm sorry you had a rough show. We've all been there, especially with younger horses! Soon you will look back and hardly remember this phase.
    I have my first 2 day show with Cupid this weekend, and I have no idea what to expect day 2! It could really go either way, he is more settled or he's had enough.

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    1. Yes, I do need to keep this all in perspective! I am going to figure out Carmen's day 2 issue. It's not like she isn't ridden multiple days in a row!

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