dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, August 9, 2020


 August 8 was our 33rd anniversary. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really signify much in terms of special anniversaries.  Although 33 is a 'master' number in numerology it is a highly spiritual number. Regardless, being with one person for 33 years is nothing to dismiss lightly. Typically we don't get each other presents for our anniversaries but we will often go out for dinner. 

This year we made plans for dinner with Karen and Jim and I had a special surprise planned. 

from 2 years ago when we were in Prague

For this story to make sense I need to back up a bit. You may remember that our good friends, Andrew and Cynthia moved out to the Yukon for a couple years. Every summer they would come home for a visit and Andrew would get his little red sports car out to drive around. Except this year they couldn't come home (because of C-19) so Andrew asked Ed if he'd like to 'exercise' his car for a few weeks. I was hesitant- being responsible for someone's fancy car is a bit daunting. But Ed was excited and who was I to argue. 

Ed has been having a blast with this little red car. And it was clear to me that he was falling in love. He started looking at ads and talking it over with me about buying one. But, unless you want to buy new, finding the perfect car is not easy. So I started messaging Andrew and he agreed to sell me his car. In the meantime Ed started asking Andrew if he'd consider selling it and Andrew kept saying no no no. I was encouraging Ed to just keep working on him while inside I was laughing maniacally. 

It seemed like Saturday would never come. I made a special card for Ed and my plan was to wait for him to go to the bathroom at dinner and put it by his plate. But as dinner went on he sat and sat and sat there. So just as we were ordering dessert I got up and went to the washroom. I nabbed our waitress and asked her to give him the card with dessert. 

When his coffee arrived he saw the card and gave me a quizzical look. Open it!  I said. Later he said. No! DO IT NOW! So he did. As you can see it's a chintzy home made and cut out little booklet: 

So corny

Now he's looking at me thinking I must have been drunk to write this

getting really confused 

Now he's sure that I've lost it. What is this all about? he asked me. 

On the next page was a photo of the car: 

she's a 2013 Mazda MX5 hard top convertible

Ed stops at this point and says, what the hell is this all about? 

Turn the page! I say, grinning like a fool. And on the last page is a photo of the transfer papers. 

Ed puts it down stunned. What? he asks. 

I bought you a car!!!!  I say. And he's speechless. Absolutely speechless. And overwhelmed. 

And I'm so happy. All these years and Ed has never complained about the money I spend on horses (well not much). He helps me take care of them and supports me to do what I want to do. His dream had always been to have a red 2 seater convertible and I decided he should have it. 

that smile says it all

Besides, since there's no horse shows this year maybe I can win 'wife of the year'. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Unplugging and Recharging

I just finished a glorious two week vacation. We had planned a big vacation in September but that ended up having to be cancelled. That left me we some time I wanted to use up so I decided to take vacation over the summer.  Before I started I was definitely feeling the stress of work so  I used it as a time to unplug and unwind. 

I basically got up every  morning, went outside, and didn't come back in until supper time. My plan was to take each day as it came. I even went out to the pasture and sat to see how the horses would react.  
what are you doing down there? do you have carrots? 

It started off great with the obstacle clinic. Not only was Carmen an angel but I had so much fun hanging out with Karen and Paula. There was much laughter. As a bonus, a young girl was offering to clean out our stalls at the end of the clinic for a small fee. We all jumped on that one! 

fun was had by all and it got me off to a good start for riding at home

I rode almost every day and squeezed in a couple lessons. 

I got some projects done, like painting poles that had almost all the paint worn off. 

Ed: why are the tips of Guinness' ears red
Me: ummmm

When I wasn't riding or puttering I sat on the deck and read. I think I read 3 books while I was off. It was glorious. 

The little women are providing lots of entertainment. They 
come running every time they see me FOOD!!!!

Ed and I took a day and drove over to the valley to tour around and have lunch in a lovely little restaurant. It was a fun day. 

The last two weeks were exactly what I needed. I returned to work Tuesday (Monday was a holiday) feeling rested and recharged.  And the best part? After this week I am also off next week. But don't tell Carmen! 

Carmen: Vacations are hard work. Somebody save me

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Being Cut by Occam's Razor

A few weeks ago I was contemplating calling the vet to do an evaluation on Carmen. Our rides were deteriorating and bolting/ resisting was becoming more frequent. I couldn't figure out why. 

Then I headed to the Obstacle clinic and she was absolutely perfect. For example, on sunday we were standing beside another horse when a loud and strange noise happened outside the arena. The horse beside her began to freak out, she looked at him, blinked and then went back to standing with one leg cocked. 

Two days before she lost her shit over a sparrow outside the ring. I was sure it was something physical and I had numerous theories:
  •  ulcers, even though treating for these wasn't working
  • sore stifles- even though she wasn't lame and was able to spin on a dime
  • tumour on her ovaries
But her behaviour that weekend put all these theories out of my head. 

Clearly the issue was me. 

I was so worried that she was hurting that I was too tentative in my asks and backed down when she protested. From this she learned to use her behaviour to get out of work. For the past two weeks I've been making sure that I'm very clear on what I'm asking and reward when she's trying. When she engages in her  negative behaviour I increase the pressure and don't back down until she softens. 

That lead to ride we had, frankly, a brawl. It was not pretty. 

But since that time we've been steadily improving. 

Nice and soft here, no sign of the brawling Carmen

Our rides consist of me being super clear and honest and having expectations that she will respond. In stead of worrying about her  tension I use it as a 'tell' and ask her to do something (usually bend). If she spooks we work hard in that area and, when she softens we move on. 

When things are good we stop and have a break. But even the break has a rule- we stay in the same spot until I pick up the reins and ask her to move. If she moves on her own I put her back, however many times it takes to get her to stand. 

You can't tell here but we're standing on a long rein. Last week she could no more stand here than I could stand on my head. Of course the heat wave has helped her to enjoy the shade. 

Shanea is very supportive of this and doesn't object when I stop and drop the rein as a reward. She's seeing how well Carmen is responding to this. 

We can now work on actual dressage things. Like trot to square halt transition.

and half-pass

The change in bit is helping too. She's more responsive and less likely to lean. 

She's becoming more focussed on what is happening inside the ring and less worried about outside. 
It's not perfect but it's much better. 

I should probably bummed that I was so wrong and made this so complicated. But I'm not. In fact I'm relieved. I've learned some important things about myself and Carmen. I've changed my mind set of Carmen being a 'spooky' horse to one of her being a sensitive and somewhat dominant mare. I've learned that I can actually sit her antics and make her work through them. I definitely couldn't do that before. 

Unless I'm completely wrong again. But what are the odds of that? 

Carmen: don't worry, I'll let you know when you're wrong. 
Me: Thanks. I think......