dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Thank you everyone for your kind words about Chester. I love my cats and take the best care of them I can. They do go outside because they are part of rodent control too. Otherwise the barn and house would be over run or we would need to use traps/poison. I am grateful that I know that he passed away. I hate it when cats disappear and you never know what happened.

As for Irish I have no idea. I hadn't noticed anything before the vet visit and he seems to be fine. This is new territory for me so if anyone has any info to share I would appreciate it.

Irish: pretty sure snacks are good for heart conditions, 

I gave Carmen a day off after the vet visit and I noticed that she seemed more relaxed. I probably wouldn't have ridden (well maybe) but the weather helped because it was rainy and we had to clean for thanksgiving dinner. We invited family coming for dinner and it turned out that we had 15 people for dinner. Which is the largest dinner party I've ever cooked for.

I cooked a ham and a turkey along with all the side dishes and baked some bread. But it all worked out- it was crowded and a bit chaotic but that's family, right?  Of course everyone had to meet the horses.
Irish: why are you over there? you can give me snacks too. 

After everyone left I collapsed on the sofa and then realized that since we weren't eating supper I could go ride. Which is what I did. I was curious to see if Carmen would be different. I did lunge first to help her expend any energy. She was forward but not crazy. When I got on we had one discussion and then it was over. I honestly think that her teeth were more comfortable and that helped her to focus. I really enjoyed the ride. The vet had shown me some massage to do after a ride on her back and I tried it out. As I did it I saw her drop her head and relax.

The next day in our ride i wanted to do more than just the toodling I had done the day before. Even with the extra pressure she was pretty good. I was playing with some poles on the ground and I can feel her really start to thrust and carry herself over them rather than rush.

I worked on shoulder/haunches in. It really is easy for her when she's relaxed and not a rigid board. We did the SI to B half-circle to X and then half-circle to E with SI the other direction. It was easy peasy at the walk, she was just so supple. I then rode the same in HI and it was the same.

Clearly she feels better with her teeth. It helps that the wind had settled as well. I doubt it was all teeth. Carmen will always have her feelings. But I find it less disruptive and I feel much less helpless than I used to.

Carmen looking majestic in the morning mist.
I can't believe how much she's lightened this year

With the fall weather coming there's a sense of slowing down and enjoying the moment rather than a desire to push the training. Winter will be here soon enough so I want to enjoy the ponies as much as I can. 

on mornings like this it's hard to go to work.....
Being an adult sucks sometimes. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Chicken or Egg

Fall weather

I gave Carmen Monday off this week. Not that she needed it but I had other things I had to do (like work) so let her be. Also, when I came home I found our cat, Chester dead in the barn. It was a shock and first I thought he was sleeping. He was young and I don't know what happened. It is possible that he ate a rodent that had been poisoned (not that we use but there might some in the neighbourhood). Or he perhaps had a health issue that we didn't know about. Either way I felt horrible to find him laying there.

rest easy little one
Tuesday I squeezed in a short ride and she was awesome- soft, listening and easy. I wanted to continue to work on using my seat for transitions. She really tuned in and when I asked her to do a trot-halt using just my seat she responded beautifully and I hopped off.

I rode again on Thursday and it was less sunshine and roses and more clouds and thorns. The wind was up and so was Carmen. I focussed on staying soft but not letting her get away from my aids. She felt tight and stiff and was quite spooky. But we got some good work and then I stopped. While she was being a bit of a tool about things (like spooking at the trot poles piled outside the ring that have been there forever) it didn't feel out of control. I chalked it up to a bad day due to the wind and cold.

When I was grooming her I felt how tight her poll was. I don't know if she was reactive because of her poll or her poll was tight because she was so reactive. I spent some time massaging and it and she relaxed. It was much tighter on the right.

Today I had a lesson booked with Shanea. Again it was a cold and blustery day with a storm forecast for later. I went up early to do some ground work and lunging. When she was settled I got on and we began to walk around. Shanea came up and I brought her up to speed on the clinic. Carmen was a hot mess. She was tight and coiled. When I asked her to walk down towards the far side of the ring she flat out refused. She began to back up and then spun and bolted.
not a horse picture, I found this cool bug on my screen the other night

I sighed. So that's how it's going to go.  I rode her into a circle with Shanea being super calm and deadpan, despite being in imminent danger of being trampled.  We worked Carmen through her feelings until I could find her brain.

After that bolt it was just a lot of her getting tight, me focusing on my seat and not on writing sales ads. She would relax and we would start again.  I wanted to work on transitions so we spent the latter part of the lesson doing those.  I was actually quite happy with the trot-halt-trot transitions.

After a few she felt a bit anticipatory and like she was getting frazzled so I asked her to pick up a canter to change the topic. It was a nice canter and felt good. We switched directions and we got a few good transitions to the right. It felt that we had gotten as much as we could without starting to go downhill again so we called it.

When I was grooming her the vet called to confirm that she was on her way. I had arranged for her to come and check Carmen's teeth and give the West Nile/Triple E vaccine. In her exam she noted that Carmen had some back soreness. I wonder if it was because she was so tight or was she tight because her back was sore? Also, I was correct- she did need her teeth done. Especially on the right side. The same side her poll was so tight.

I will be curious to know if things improve now that her teeth are fixed. I know that I will monitor her back and poll for a bit to see how they feel before and after our ride.

I also had the vet look at Irish and give him the booster. She spent a long time listening to his heart. She noted that he has an arrhythmia that he hasn't had before. She let me listen: instead of a ba-dub, ba-dub it was a ba-da-bub, ba-da-bub. She also told me that every so often the beat would skip. She told me to not worry but just monitor it.  So I will. Having an older horse with health issues is not for the weak.

still the sweetest of horses

Monday, October 7, 2019

Clinic Recap: Slow Dance

Last weekend I attended a clinic with Johanna Beattie Batista . You may recall that Carmen and I have attended her clinics pretty regularly the last five years. Each time I take away something new that has a profound impact on my riding and relationship with Carmen.Add to that the fun we all have and the food we eat and it makes for a pretty positive clinic experience.

 Johanna is a classical dressage and Centered Riding coach. Which means, of course, that my seat is going to be messed with. While my flaws and the corrections are not new to me, she always finds a way to build on what we did before. It's never overwhelming but it is often right at the edge of my abilities and forces me to push myself.

Work was pretty intense right up to the day I wanted to leave for the clinic which didn't leave much time to prepare. So I parked the trailer by the barn (sorry Ed, I know that's not where it goes) and packed it over the week with the last stuff going in Friday morning. Julia came to help to which was awesome. Carmen was a bit tense about the trailer which is opposite to what I want. Rather then load her right away I let her graze for about 10 minutes until I saw her begin to relax and then I loaded her.

When we arrived at the clinic site she backed out, looked around and said 'oh, here. Okay then'. And that was her attitude through the entire three clinics. There were no meltdowns, spooks, tension or issues. It was incredible.

pretty much her approach to the weekend
Of course it could be because she was flirting with Kalimo all weekend. Which is hilarious given her thoughts about him at the show. I'm sure that he was all like 'bitches be crazy'.

I'm not going to do a lesson by lesson recap. Instead I'm going to focus on my learning and how it impacted my riding and Carmen's way of going. This means I may skip around a bit to help it sound cohesive (well at least that's my goal).

My goal for the clinic was to really figure out the bend for Carmen and I. She tends to get tight and really stiff. To sort this out for us the focus of the three lessons for Carmen and I was on two main things:

1. slow Carmen down. Don't worry about impulsion because it makes her rush. Instead slow her right down so that she and I can feel each step. Then add impulsion. (all of this is an oversimplification but I'll talk about it later).

2. Use my seat to control speed and transitions (then add leg/rein as needed).

Slowing down is hard for both of us- we both tend to want to hurry. Which I realize is counter productive but I wasn't being effective in slowing her down without an argument. The first lesson we spent a lot of time on it and it was hard. However, I could feel how soft and easy it was really helping with her bend. At first she was a bit resistant but as she began to understand it Carmen became quite obedient.

screen shot of us doing a shoulder in on the first lesson. Look how
correct and soft everything is! 
I was still struggling quite a bit with using my seat (pelvic area) effectively. I also know how important it was. At the beginning of the second lesson Johanna showed me how tight my knees and ankles were. By keeping them loose I was able to feel my seat lock in place and could use it much more effectively. I know about the soft joints but this time I could feel my body understand it. Here's a clip from the third day showing how easy it was to get her into shoulder in and straighten and then leg yield (the clicking your hear is the mike rattling against my helmet as we trot):

I love how soft everything is. It's not that she didn't try to take advantage at times- she totally did (she is Carmen after all) but it wasn't major and it was more like 'okay okay'. 

I'm giving Carmen a massage while listening to
Johanna explain something. Look at her face. 

Our canter work was incredible. Starting on the first lesson- I asked her to step into canter and she did with the lightest and fluffiest of canters. It felt balanced and together and was so easy to sit- it took very little muscle to stay centered and balanced.  I honestly didn't want any of my lessons to end.

from Saturday's lesson

and Sunday. I loved the lighting in this one
There was no flailing or carrying on. I could steer her with my seat and keep her flexed/bent without hauling on her. Here's a video from Saturday showing how soft the transitions were:

I would find the feel, lose it, regroup, find it. Johanna always gives you time to figure it out. Once she  has you doing something she tells you to go off and play with it while she advises in the background. It's different and can be difficult to get used to not having someone direct your turns, shapes etc but it's so valuable. It creates independence and understanding with her there to mentor you. On the third day I spoke with her about what I was feeling in my warm up and wanted to know if that was what she was seeing as well. Fortunately she confirmed it which made me happy because I need to know if I'm doing it right when I'm riding on my own.

I told Johanna that I really wanted to work on having my seat so engaged and having Carmen respond to just the seat but that I was likely going to have to use my legs and hand to help her understand and to make sure I get what I'm asking. She said that of course I would because Carmen needs to build her understanding. She then said 'but I know you will get this' with total confidence. Which made me feel really good because she doesn't say things like that willy-nilly.

In my last ride (on Sunday) right at the end, Carmen and I were in the groove when Johanna called out 'now add impulsion'' . I sat up and asked her with just my seat and a little leg. Carmen lifted her whither and went into what felt like an extended trot. At the very least it was an awesome lengthen trot. I was able to sit it half-way down the long side and then had to post. Her front legs were flying in front of her and her hind legs were pushing us. It was like being in a plane at take off. Unfortunately,  there was a glitch and this did not get recorded. But that's okay. I have the feeling in my head. I brought her back to a walk and told Johanna that that felt like a good place to end. Which is also what Johanna encourages- stop when the horse understands and feels good about herself.

While Carmen is often difficult on the third day of an event this was not the case this weekend. She must be starting to understand better or feel okay with the new place. Because she never spooked once (I know I already said that but it bears repeating). She loaded quietly and unloaded calmly as well. In the stall I took off her halter and she gave me a gentle nudge before ambling out to the pasture. In the past she usually trots off without so much as a 'see you'.

What a great experience. Thank you Johanna for teaching us (and Karen for organizing, and Stacie for hosting and Jill and Angie for being supportive and fun).

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Lesson Recap: Forward Ho!

I cannot believe that it's October already! My last lesson with Shanea was at the show in early September. We haven't been too successful in booking regular lessons for a while. I have found that my progress, while it doesn't completely depend on regular lessons, it does help to have check ins.  After some back and forth texting we were able to set a time for Tuesday after work.

I was excited to have the lesson because things have being going so well. Not that Carmen doesn't have her moments but the spooks are much less spectacular and we are able deal and move on. So even though she felt a bit tight to me when we started I wasn't super worried. I stuck to my warm up plan which consists of walking her around, seeing if there are any spots that she is concerned about and then help her work through her angst.

Shanea arrived just as were dealing with the 'troll of the day'. In this case it was our old favourite between H and C. My approach is to go though on the left rein (which is her better rein) and then right after H do a tight turn back to the rail (essentially a turn on the haunches) and carry through the corner. What this does is get her through before she has a chance to think 'oh yeah, I bolt here'. I slowly move the turning point down the rail and then we're done.  Shanea and I discussed this and how it works well for Carmen in breaking her habitual spook. I can write a whole post on this but that's not what this is about.

The goal of the lesson was to have Carmen on the outside rein. She tends to carry more weight on her inside legs which makes the outside feel like it's not there at all. The answer is outside rein and inside leg which is simple and not-simple all at the same time. But when I get her there she flows forward and is far more happy and relaxed. So it was a lesson of getting it, losing it, getting it back.

As we progressed we got it more easily and with less flailing. She began to reach for the bit and come over her back.
she could be a bit more in front of the vertical but look at
her stretching from her whither. 

I wanted to work a bit on our 'medium' trots. It was so much fun because as I corrected my posture- staying up and open she began to really understand the ask and respond. After a few times across the diagonal she gave me her best one to date. She was pushing, over her back and soft on the bit.

I am so obsessed with this photo right now
Here's a video of it:

After this one we left it to percolate and went on to do some leg yields. I was struggling with the right leg yield but the lefts were really good. It all comes down to straightness but we made progress.

We finished with canter work. And it was some really nice canter work. Our left lead felt fantastic- soft, balanced and straight. Our right lead is always a work in progress. There used to be a lot of flailing and loss of balance. It's much better now. She's beginning to reach under and push off rather then dump herself on the forehand and lose her balance.

lots to improve but I love that she reaching under herself 

I love this clip of our canter to trot to walk transitions. I love how soft she is and how clear the transitions are. This is where we ended it because she had done so well. Shanea was really happy with us. She commented on the improvement in my riding and how Carmen and I are communicating now. She had thought that our lesson would be a spookfest (my word not hers) given how we started. She was pleased that we didn't dwell on it.

This weekend Carmen and I are headed to a Johanna clinic. I'm excited for her to see us and to keep working on improving.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A Perfect Autumn Day

Now that show season is officially over I really want to focus on doing fun things with Carmen. Not that showing isn't fun but you know what they say:  all work and no play makes Carmen a cranky girl.

So when I received a text from Nancy inviting me to a group hack at Coveside saturday I was all 'hell yes'.  I checked to see if Tanya could come as well and the answer was yes. The group at this stable are all so nice and welcoming.

The weather couldn't have been more cooperative: sunny and warm but with few bugs. Carmen was a bit reluctant to load - I'm pretty sure she was thinking that we were going somewhere to work hard.

Tanya and I met at the parking lot. I tied Carmen to the trailer to get her tacked up. This is the first time I have tried this with her and she was a star. We mounted up and headed up to the barn. There was about 10 other riders (I didn't count so not sure). It was a mixed group of ages and experiences but we were all excited to head out.

Carmen: that's a lot of horses

Carmen was a bit excited and 'up' but not too bad and we walked out she settled nicely. I normally give her a free rein but I couldn't this time because I didn't want her crowding other horses.

off we go! 

Tanya also really excited to head out

I wasn't sure what she would think about going out with so many horses but she didn't care. There were a couple dogs that came with us who wove in and out of the brush. She didn't care about that either. The woods were stunning.

I love ferns, especially this time of year
We stopped at a big open field with 360 degree views. It was stunning. One thing that was really cute. I was letting Carmen graze and relax in the sun when I remembered that I had a carrot in my pocket. Carmen I said, leaning forward and she nickered at me as though to say yes?  It was so adorable.

hey, did anyone remember to bring a flask? 

maybe one day we will canter this field

It was just what we needed.

look at those relaxed ears
We were gone a little over an hour. I think. I need to remember to set my watch! Jackie and Nancy invited us to put the horses in a stall and stay for snacks. Note: I never turn down snacks.

turns out that goats like snacks too
We headed out after chatting and eating. It was a perfect day for Carmen and I. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Second Level Debut

Thank you all for the kind comments about our musical ride. Carmen also says thank you for the compliments on her writing. I haven't forgotten about my promise to do a draw for one of my sponsors. I plan to do that this weekend.

hello fans, do any of you have a carrot?

I can honestly say that I have never had so much at a show before. Part of it is because it's always been a life goal to do a musical freestyle. It did not disappoint- I loved it. Now I want to do more. 

I also used this show to try riding a second level test to see how it felt. I know that Carmen needs to be carrying more behind at this level and our mediums are not yet confirmed (at least in a show situation). On the other hand our shoulder/haunches in are pretty good and we can get a medium trot schooling at home. So I figured a fun show was the perfect place to try. 

You may recall that the show arena is one that Carmen has a history of being really spooky. 

Saturday night in my ride she was a bit of a handful. She got away from me a few times and I couldn't get her to stop. But once we were finished rehearsing I began to work on our transitions down being quite insistent when she did not listen. 

Sunday morning I took her to the warm up ring a few times to lunge and do groundwork. I think that really helped because when I got on for my warm up she was actually pretty good. Also helpful was that Karen coached me through it to make sure that I stayed focussed and didn't join in any melt down.

Here's the video of my test:

I will say that this is the best I've done staying focussed and not flustered riding a test. Our first SI she needed a some persuasion to not counter flex and look to the outside but we scrounged up a 6.5. For our second one she tried to evade and run away but I managed to correct her and get her back on track. That got us a 4.5 but the comment was awesome: 'disobedient. Good recovery'.

We picked up the wrong lead on the first transition- because she was trying to look outside and I wasn't preparing her soon enough. The medium was non-existent, mostly because I was working on keeping her straight. But our 10 metre circle was nice. And her counter canter was okay.

In terms of the ride overall, it was 'okay' in terms of the judge. For me though, it felt like a huge thing that we stayed on task and rode it through. I didn't get super tight and just kept schooling.  Our final score was 60.68 which was higher than I expected. And I got the comment 'good riding' so I'll take it.

Even more so, at the end of our ride Karen said something along the lines of 'you must be so proud of yourself with that ride'. And I was. Our bobbles would have been the same if we showed first level because they are more about her in the ring than with the movements. In some ways second level kept her busier and less able to find time to act up.

I love that we ended up with two pretty blue ribbons and were reserve champ in second level (of course there were only two of us showing that level but I will take it).

these ribbons are so pretty. I love them. 

Carmen tired and wanting to know
 if there are treats in that bag. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Dancing with the Stars

So this weekend Carmen and I did our dance number with our partners Karen and Kalimo. Right before I had these fears that I was going to be in a viral video featuring me in a fluffy dress going ass over teakettle in the show. Spoiler alert: that didn't happen.....

Carmen: Oh for heaven's sake, could you make it more boring? Move over, I'll write this one.
Me: wait, what?
Carmen: *waggles hoof* go along now, those stalls are not going to clean themselves. 
Me: um, but I----*Mare glare* sigh* okay

Sorry about that gentle readers. But honestly, since I was the 'star' of the show, it seems appropriate that I type it.

me early in the morning 

To be honest, I thought my show season was done. But nooo, my servant signed us for another show but she promised that this one would be fun and, more importantly, just one day. Karen and Kalimo arrived at our place on friday for this thing called a 'dress rehearsal'. They rode and then put us in the barn. I knew something was up when they left our saddles on. I heard a lot of rustling and giggling in the tack room but it didn't sound like a carrot bag. Then they came out looking like a ruffle factory exploded.

 Kalimo looked worried but I just rolled my eyes. Seriously, some days I'm sure she thinks she's 12. When we walked out of the barn Irish's head shot up and he dropped the hay he was eating to stare at us open mouthed. 
Irish: Oh my god. WHAT IS GOING ON?
Carmen: Oh, you know, she's lost her mind again. 

Apparently the dress rehearsal was a huge success. Of course it was. 

see what I mean? So.many.ruffles 

We arrived at the show grounds on Saturday. I remembered this place- it has so many places for trolls to lurk. Karen and Teresa rode in the ring and ran through the dance a couple times. I was not in the mood to play because 
A. I had to show her all the danger spots, and she paid to no attention. 
I know everyone things he's so handsome and sweet but  I am not interested. At least not right now. 

Our big number was near the end of the day, which is fitting. There were a few riders (young and old) in costumes. I have to say that this was the loudest show I'd ever attended. There was so much cheering, laughing, whistling and hooting in my life. 

In our warm up I was, frankly, an angel. Don't tell my servant but I enjoyed the rustling of the fabric and the roses in my mane. So much prettier than the black and white of dressage. I like dressage but don't you think it's time to glam it up a bit? 
more interesting this way, don't you think?

We went in and after a few technical difficulties the music started. I knew that I was on display and drank up the attention. I even forgot to be afraid at the spooky corners. But not to get after Kalimo for continuing to steal my air. 
Teresa: this photo makes me giggle so hard.
(PC Hazel Caldwell)

I am sorry to say that my servant did not share my thoughts about how this was serious business.  Would you believe that she giggled through the whole thing????? It was so embarrassing. Although I will admit that she rides better when she's happy. But still, giggling is so unsophisticated. 

At the end I didn't want to stop. Couldn't Kalimo tell that the exit was right there? But no, he had to stop and look noble. I did enjoy the cheering though. Clearly they recognized greatness when they saw it.  

My servant was so happy. I guess it's not a bad idea to let her fun every once in a while. 

tone it down there missy

I might admit to enjoying myself. Maybe

I know that you are dying to see the video so here it is:

Teresa: also, the show was a huge fundraiser. Everyone's efforts raised $12,223 for Breast Cancer. Not bad for one little show! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Going Solo

Honestly, recovering from jet lag is no joke. I don't know why I am struggling this time but I really am. So I took Monday off from riding. Tuesday was cold and blustery. When I came home I really wasn't feeling any desire to ride.

But when I went upstairs to change my riding clothes were just right there. So I sighed and put them on.  I brought the horses in and then tacked up Carmen. I debated how to start my ride. I knew with the wind and chill in the air that she was likely to be spooky.
big sky and horses on high alert

I decided to not over think it. I knew I had the tools and unless she crammed me into a tree we should be okay. So I swung my leg over and walked us out of the ring. Carmen queried whether we were going left to the barn but I asked her to go right. With a brief hesitation we headed out. She was definitely on her toes so I kept the rein a bit short.

We walked into the woods and I'm pretty sure that both of us had a high heart rate and were both trying to hold it together. We walked by a felled tree and the branches must have brushed against her because she spooked and ran forward. While I was preparing to ride a full on bolt through the woods she came right back to a walk.

Camren: *cough* you are telling it wrong. It was a zombie trying to grab my legs. I saved both of us. You're welcome. 

Me: yes dear. 
Carmen: is that sarcasm?
Me: Who? Me? Never! 
Carmen: *snort*

We came back to the ring to school. I tried to shut the gate from her back. While Carmen is awesome about opening it, the idea of closing it seemed to cause confusion. She kept going back to open it just as I was just about to drop the rail in to close it. Finally I laughed and dismounted to close it. She wasn't being difficult- she was just doing what I had trained her to do. (note to self: watch Julia close it when she's on Irish).

After that we went on to have a very good ride. Carmen was still up and had some feelings about things but I stuck to my work on adjusting the aids to the situation and each time she came back. She got quite heavy and on the forehand with our canter so I focussed on the half-halt to set her up and on her hind leg. I could feel her start to shift her weight backwards and lift in front. It was pretty cool.
don't let her fool you- she was as full of energy
at the endas she was at the beginning. 

It was a good ride for both of us. I am beyond thrilled that I was able to hack out on our own. I had tried this before but I had to dismount when she freaked out over a deer (fair enough). I haven't been brave enough to try it since then. This felt controlled and like we were both trying. This felt huge to me.

Me: Well that was fun
Carmen: I admit nothing

Monday, September 16, 2019

Calibrating Aids

The rider who leaves a horse on his own in the name of lightness is not working but is just strolling with his horse. The one who pushes and pulls is a wild person.
 ~Nuno Oliviera~

This is not a new thing, but it is one that I have been trying to really focus on in my riding. Remember when you first started riding and the aids seem to be pretty binary- simply on or off? And then as you learn more you realize that it's more complicated then you thought. And then, with more learning is becomes very nuanced and complex.

Add in a sensitive and complex horse like Carmen and you can end up wanting to bang your head against the wall. I have found myself in a pattern of either not giving any aids in case she spooked to riding very heavy handed, again in case she spooked. It is easy to say that both of those things are 'wrong' but I'm learning that the answer is a little more gray than that.

What I've been playing with is the concept of figuring out the minimum amount of aid I need to accomplish what I want. In the past I would take that to mean that I need to be really quiet and soft. Now I have that as the goal and I am playing with how much pressure do I need to accomplish the task.

I am finding it to be a very nuanced game. For example, I have playing with the 20 metre circle and how much I need to do to keep her on the circle. This means that I have to give her room to make a mistake. It's easy (well easier) to micro manage her around the circle but that makes me responsible for everything. And I would like her to take some ownership.

I usually start at the walk and put her on the circle. I have contact and my legs lightly on but let her alone as she travels. If she bulges I put on more outside aids, if counter flexes to look at the outside I put on the inside. The pressure goes up until she responds and then goes back down. It's her job to stay on the circle, I only let her know when it's off.

my mental image

Playing with this has helped me to realize how much I try to micro manage Carmen and how much I don't need to. This is, of course, the approach of 'make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy' made famous (to me at least) by Warwick Schiller.

Thinking of this way has made me feel more confident of adding aids when needed. If I'm going through troll corner and she begins to shorten her stride and retract her neck I might shorten my reins (but not too much, mostly I don't) but I definitely sit up and add leg to get her to go forward. When she does it all goes back down. The trick is, of course, to always start light. How quickly I go up will depend on the circumstance but I try to keep it within a short time frame ( no more than a  few strides).

forward ho

What is interesting is that Carmen is really responding to this. She appears to understand that I will be there if she needs me but mostly she can carry on. We have been getting in fewer 'fights' about things and it's not because I'm avoiding them but because I am being more nuanced. If we need to have a strong discussion about something we do but I'm trying to show her that we don't have to. At least for now. I know that things can change again. But I'm less fearful about those 'discussions' then I have been in the past. Nor do I view them as a failure if/when they occur.

The other thing that I've started doing with Carmen is hacking at the start of our rides not the end. Right now that is only with Julia is riding too. We go to the ring, hop on and then walk out and head to the woods. Carmen has been leading these rides. I generally keep the rein loose- after all it's a stroll for relaxation. If she wants to stop and look at something I let her. Then when I ask her to step forward she does. Yesterday there was a tree across the path (it blew down in the hurricane). We both assessed the situation and I said 'I think we we walk over it on this side'. And with no hesitation she did. If she's tighter or more up (like yesterday) I keep the rein a bit shorter but it's still loose. So is my seat and leg. If she does spook I can get her back easier and with much less drama.
I do love this view. Back when Irish had to lead.
He's now learning to follow (it's good for him)

Starting the rides this way seems to make her much more amenable to the ring work. She is far less looky and spooky in the ring (not completely but whatever, it is Carmen after all).  I think that this breaks the pattern for her of resenting/resisting ring work and lets her warm up her body and mind more gradually. I am going to be brave and see if it works when we're on our own.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Countdown is on!

in one week Carmen and I will be participating in the Canter for the Cure show.  I love that I can combine the sport I love with raising money for a cause near and dear to my heart. The show is shaping up to be a blast.
Carmen: I thought I was done with this showing thing

People are riding freestyles and there is even going to be a costume class. Karen and I will be riding our Pas de Deux in Flamenco dresses.

I’m pretty sure that Carmen will be okay with it.

It has more ruffles then my wedding dress 

We’re also making our 2nd Level debut.  Not that we have any business doing that but I decided to go for it. She is fully capable of all the movements.

It’s not too late to donate and be entered in my giveaway. Just click on the link to the right and it will take you to the post.

If you can, come and watch. I promise that  I will be posting a video of our ride post show.  Kalimo and Karen will be awesome. Carmen and I will be awesome or awesomely dramatic. At the very least It should be entertaining.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Riding in the Yukon

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time-ride a horse into the mountains. Wednesday Cynthia and I did just that. It was a spectacular ride. The air was so clean and the views stunning. I rode a solid draft (cross?) mare named Feline. She was easy going and felt like an easy chair. Once we both agreed that I knew what I was doing we could relax and enjoy ourselves. I used my iPhone for the photos. Forgive any errors. Doing this from an iPad is a real pain.
Starting out

Along the trail

The view from the top was pretty 

After climbing the mountain, We then rode down to the lake 

I love this photo 

After a brief rest we headed back to the ranch. All told it was a three hour ride.

An old fishing camp