dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Servant For Sale

Hello Bloggers, Carmen here. It is with great sadness that I announce that I have to rehome my servant.
see how sad I am? 
There have just been too many times that she has not demonstrated the care and attention that I expect from my help.

Not so long ago she disappeared for months. She said it was something called 'vacation' and that it was only for 7 days, but I don't trust her sense of time as much as my own.

Yes, the male servant stepped up. While he is diligent he does not seem to be as worried about my emotional well being as the female servant.

Yes she returned and has been making sure that I have the optimal blanket for the temperature and has brushed me numerous times.

But still. She left. Making up for it after does not count.

I could (possibly) have forgiven that (but never forget, I am a mare after all) but then I am sure she is responsible for the latest outrage.

Irish has free access to hay in his stall. I have to pick mine from this thing called a 'slow feed hay net'. It is a frustrating device that limits the speed at which I can consume my hay. It is not fair.

I am a clever mare though and have learned how to eat from it very efficiently. It seems to efficiently. Because last night I came into the stall to find this:

Look at those holes! They are tiny. A gerbil couldn't get anything from this monstrosity.

I tried to tell her how upset this has made me:

She just gave me a pat and said 'don't worry honey, it will be better because it will make the hay last longer overnight.'

Can you believe it?! I told her that what would make the hay last longer is MORE HAY but she didn't seem to understand that. She did throw a half a flake in my stall to keep the hunger pains at bay but still. 

If you think I'm exaggerating look at this:

How on earth am I supposed to get sustenance from this? (Irish stop snickering!)

The hypocrisy is unbelievable. She recently posted on FB that she was out to dinner:

do you see this covered with mesh? No, you do not. 

I didn't want it to come to this. I really didn't. But I have spent enough time trying to teach her and 'rewarding the try'. At some point you have to say enough is enough.

I spent a hungry night composing the sales ad. Tell me what you think:

Experienced Servant for sale:
Average height, mature, female servant for your consideration. Understands basic horse care including grooming, keep regular feed schedule and turn out. Not stingy with treats. Worries a fair amount about a horse's weight and manipulates feeding to compensate. Sometimes has ideas above her station and wants to ride and even show. However, with patience these things could probably be trained out of her. 

Requires an experienced horse, beginners need not apply. 
Good home preferred. 

Once I have found a home for her I will post an ad looking for her replacement. If you think you can fill her position send along a resume (attached to carrots) and I will review and, possibly, set up an interview. 

Princess Charlante of Oakfield Farm
Who does she think she's kidding?

 Honey, neither one of us are going anywhere. You will be fine and it will feel better to not start the season off over weight. Plus I noticed that all the hay was gone from the net this morning so you clearly figured it out. 

I may have to, though, start putting a net over my food..... I will take that under advisement. 

Your Servant

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Hike to an Ice Cave

I had many memorable experiences on my vacation but this is one for the books (some things may be exaggerated for dramatic effect. But not by much).

It starts with my best friend suggesting we go on a hike to see an ice cave (actually it’s a tunnel through a glacier but everyone calls it a cave). I agree because, well ‘do all the things’ is kinda my life motto.

Look up hike online, realize that you haven’t really hiked in a long time and you are 54.  Have  doubts as to the wisdom of this.

Suppress doubts.

Drive to small Yukon community with friend and another friend. The clouds are low and there is a light snow falling. On the way see wild elk and horses.

Drive by entry point and turn back. Entry point is a highway km marker and some orange tape tied to trees.

Bundle up in preparation. Be really glad you went to bathroom at gas station right before.

Walk through trees and then up a frozen steam bed feeling confident.  The snow is granular and it’s like walking in sand and your right knee is complaining. Shush knee and keep going. The world is gray all around you and visibility is limited.

Friend of friend points to hazy mountain in the far  distance and declares ‘the ice bridge is in a pass through there’.
can you see that mountain? I had to squint

Decide she must be joking and keep going.

Realize she’s not joking. And the mountain is looking just as far away as it did 20 minutes ago. At some point knee stopped bitching and has subisded into sullen silence. Decide it’s because you worked through the stiffness and not any other reason.

Mountain still far away.

Get overheated and stop to strip off layers. -13 has never felt so warm.  Pack is now heavier but the
coolness is refreshing.

Briefly wonder if this is the leading cause of death for menopausal women in the North.

Mountain is closer but incline is steeper.  Friend of friend (who's 20 years younger) assures you that it’s not far now. Look at her map on phone and feel like she’s overly optimistic or lying to keep you motivated. Decide that it's probably both.
it's in the cleft in the middle (sort of. I think)

Rest breaks are becoming more frequent. Contemplate quitting. Decide you can see cave in distance. Keep going.

The last km to cave is steep and the terrain is harder. Even more breaks. Body is telling you that it hates you and will never forgive this outrage.

Cave seems to be on wheels as it never gets any closer. Begin to feel like Sam accompanying Frodo to Mount Doom. Feel grateful that at least there won't be any giant spiders. Shit, did something just move?  Realize that it's highly unlikely to be giant spiders or bears. Probably.

Decide you are going to cave so that you can tell it to go to hell. Wonder if you are overreacting.  Decide you don’t fucking care.
at last- I can see it but that last uphill was so painful

Make it to cave. Take deep breaths while it dawns on you on majestic this is. You have hiked to a glacier.

Explore cave and take lots of photos. Rest for about 20 minutes while you chew on a frozen granola bar. Wish you had a dog sled to go back.

the floor was littered with ice that has fallen from the ceiling.
It was too treacherous to walk on 

I loved striations

I'm standing in the entrance and took this photo of Cynthia for scale,
otherwise it can seem smaller than it really was. 

Start the trek back. Realize how much easier it is  to go downhill. Relatively.

 Resolve to increase fitness when you go home.

On the trek down grayness clears revealing that you are surrounded by the most spectacular mountains. Breathe in the fresh, clean air and listen the silence. Stop to take many photos. Also put layers back on because -13 now feels cold.
the light in the Yukon is just magical

walking away, the mountain seems majestic. Not daunting

Keep walking wondering if you can find the orange markers to get back to car. Point out a tree that you saw on the way back.
Me: We're almost there. I remember that tree!'
Friend looks at all the trees surrounding us and then at you with a worried expression.
Assure her that you are okay.

See a snowmobile pull out from woods and wonder if they would pick up a hitchhiker. Best friend says 'I really hope they pulled out on the trail that takes us back to the car'.

Finally you see it. Fall into car and drive back to town. Go to local restaurant (only one open) and order large hamburger and fries. Devour meal with all the grace of a starving hyena.

Marvel at the scenery on the drive home. There are mountains in every direction as far as the eye can see. Doze off at some point. Fitbit cheerily chirps at you to ‘go for a stroll’. Tell it to fuck off.

Everything hurts. Back home pour glass of wine and have  hot bath.

Hike to cave: 2.5 hours. Hike back 1.5.

No regrets.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Week of New Things

I am back from a truly wonderful vacation. I spent the time with Cynthia having a blast and having all sorts of new experiences.

If you don't mind I'll share these with you along with some photos.

So sorry that there's no horse related material.

#1. Experience -37 delicious. 

The first day there was bitterly cold and I can honestly say that I have never been out in such cold. Despite that we bundled up and went to watch the start of the Yukon Quest Dog Race. The teams race for 1,000 miles. I can't even imagine doing such a thing.

Cynthia and Renata putting a brave face on the cold

the dogs were flying

I was okay for a bit and then all of my exposed skin was feeling like it was being peeled off. We fled to the car and home. We then headed out for brunch and then drove down the highway to catch some more dog teams. 

Fortunately, the rest of the week was much warmer: -12 to -20 most days. 

#2. Trying New Foods:

I tried a bison burger and it was delicious. Like amazing delicious. Like the best burger I have had in a long time. And I am fussy about my meat. I rarely like game (absolutely loathe deer). 

I also tried Elk sausage which was made at a local deli and was really good as well. I did not have one bad meal on my whole trip. 
I also highly recommend that potato & bacon soup
#3.  Blowing Glass:
Cynthia took me to Lumel Studios to see their artwork. It is a funky little place in downtown Whitehorse. Turns out that they do workshops. So I found myself signing up for an hour to make some items. It was so much fun. I could see myself getting into this quite easily (like I need another expensive hobby). 

Cynthia had this gift waiting for me- a white horse from Whitehorse.
It's a example of their beautiful art work

I made three things: a hanging ball, paperweight and a wine glass (it has a thumb holder)

#4. Curling
Curling is not a new thing. I have been doing it for years (you know- the sport on ice with brooms and rocks). In fact I got Cynthia and Andrew into it a few years ago. They joined the Whitehorse Curling Club and needed a spare the week I was there. It was a lot of fun- the club is lovely and the people are fun. 

But what was more exciting was that we scored 8 points in one end. This is a big deal in curling. It means that all of the rocks from our team scored in that end. Think of it like a hole in 1 in golf (only more rare) or getting a dressage score in the 90's. A curler can go their whole life and not score 8 points in one end. 

 I stole this picture from the FB page for the club. 
We had our picture taken and the details are submitted to Curling Canada for awards. It was all very exciting. 

#5. Hike to a Glacier

I have a whole blog post about this hike but it was stunning. And hard. Really hard. 

But beautiful. 

#6. Dog Sledding! 

I honestly never thought that I would ever do this. We went to Alayuk to do a 2 hour dog sledding through some beautiful scenery. When we arrived they supplied us with the winter clothes to be safe. My driver was this young and very handsome frenchman. 

When he said " come to the back room and I will get you the clothes you need' I looked at him and said 'Sure you can dress me'. Proving, once again, that I can be really awkward even at my, ahem, mature age. 

The dogs were beautiful and well trained. Two of the dogs in my sled were going to the Iditarod dog race. 
ready to go

The patriarch, named Willow. I loved him- he had such presence

at break time some dogs were impatient

while others relaxed and enjoyed some attention
I got to actually drive these beautiful creatures. That was quite the experience. 
I actually took this while being a passenger. 

 It would be fun to try with Guinness but we simply don't get enough snow. 

#7. Hot Springs
No photos but hot springs are wonderful things. It's amazing how mellow you feel after soaking in these. It took all the pain out of sore muscles (that come from trying these things). 

#8. Northern Lights
I did get to see the Northern Lights. Not the really fabulous ones but still it was cool. Trying to get photos was interesting (i.e, hard). 

There were other things I did (like the wildlife preserve, shopping, exploring).  I fell in love with Whitehorse. It was beautiful and everywhere you went there was something to do. Ed and I are going back in September and will be doing some new things (like paddling the yukon river). 

Honestly, if you have a chance, go. You will not regret it. 

I know I'm glad that I went.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Get Away

2019 did not have the best start for me. I am, though, an intrinsically optimistic person and believe that the start does not have to set the tone for the remainder.

Spring will come and the weather will improve.

In the meantime we just have to keep going.  Not that we have a choice, right?

The choice comes from the ‘how’, not the ‘what’.

For me this includes having some fun along the way.

So I am off for a week of adventures.

Not somewhere warm. Nope, no sunny beaches for me.

Instead I am heading North. To Whitehorse to visit Cynthia.

It will be cold. But it will also be beautiful and very different.  I hope to experience all sorts of things that I wouldn’t be able to deal here.  Plus I will be spending time with my friend- laughing, talking and enjoying some wine.  If you follow me on Instagram you will likely see some photos.

I can’t wait.

See you in a week or so.

Bye babies. Make good choices 

Sunday, January 27, 2019


At the same time I was battling the flu, Mother Nature decided to be passive aggressive and warm up. The temperatures literally went from -13 to +10 (celsius) in 24 hours. It was killing me that I was unable to go out and enjoy the January Thaw. 

It' an understatement to say that I miss riding. I honestly think that it's an important part of my mental health. I haven't really been able to ride since last year. Yes I know that was Dec 30, so like 3 weeks, but still last year.

Friday I felt a lot better but not really full functional. Or even half. I decided to not ride (adulting sucks) but made plans to join up with Julia and ride on Saturday. 

Irish: me too? Cool. 

I started with our ground work pattern and she was fine. I practiced her parking herself at the mounting block a few times. Here's a video showing some of our work:

You can see that she really wants to eat the grass that is on the other side of the block. Carmen is really good and staying true to her goals. 

My goal for the ride weren't anything huge- I just wanted her to walk around the ring calmly and in a relaxed fashion. Walking was really all that I was up for although we did do some (very tiny amount) of trotting. When she would get tight I would work on the pattern to help her relax. Part of that pattern is to not hold with the rein. That's a work in progress but it's coming. We finally were able to walk the entire ring with her on a long rein and then stopped.

good for what ails me
Julia and I made plans to ride again on Sunday. I decided to do a little bit of ground work in the morning and then ride in the afternoon.  I've been pushing things, asking Carmen to relax in her more tense areas. My tools were the tarp, my dressage whip, a whip with a plastic bag attached and a stick with some ribbons.

When I got into the ring I picked up a rock and threw it out of the ring. But of course I missed and it the board with a loud noise. Carmen jumped and then immediately put her head down to relax herself. Which was really good because I hadn't asked her to do that. She's starting to figure it out for herself.

Carmen can be really good about ignoring me when I play with the tools. Tristan says that you have to 'ask a question worth answering'. Which means that if the horse has zero reaction then you have to up the ante. Not to frighten them but to help them seek to manage themselves when spooky things happen.

I put the bag over her back and she was all like 'yawn. silly human.  But in upping the pressure I put it over the other side of her so that she saw me in her left eye but the bag in her right. That got a reaction. Quite a large one. I held the bag there until she stopped (I had to help her by disengaging her hind end) and then dropped her head a bit, then took it away. A few trials later and she realized that when it went over her back, as soon as she dropped her head it went away.

I worked on that from both sides. She was much more worried about it on the right then on the left. Which is in keeping with her spooks under saddle. It helped me to realize something too- I think that when I'm riding and she's focussed on the inside aids (like we always ask) and then something moves on the other side it causes her to react.  Knowing that can help me work on a plan to help her figure out how to deal with this.

I also used the stick with ribbons- which was great because the ribbons are kind of like fluttering birds (another thing that really bothers her).

Going over the tarp is no big deal. She feels really confident with that so I used that periodically to help answer the 'easy' questions. I don't think anyone can learn if everything is super hard.

photo fail: it's hard to take a photo while doing this!

While I was up in the ring doing the ground patterns with Carmen  Julia sent a text saying she couldn't come. Because I am all alone I decided to not ride. I worried that it would make me more tense and that would undo the work I had been doing. I was disappointed but still happy with the work we did. While I answered the text Carmen decided to chew on the ribbons.

I am feeling much better now and I'm sure that the horse time and time outside have a lot to do with it. Also, Ed's care. :)

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Louder Than Words

This week I was laid out with the flu. It was a nasty bug that made me incapable of doing anything other than lay on the couch and watch TV.

It's never easy to be ill with animals because they do not understand sick days.

Usually I can muster up the energy to take care of them but this time it was really hard. Staying upright was hard. Let alone doing barn chores.

But I was fortunate that Ed was home and he stepped into the void with not one complaint. In fact, he was quite emphatic that I was to rest and not do anything.

We have been married for a number of years (32 this year!) and our verbal communication is often of the mundane- plans for supper, work gossip etc.

Words don't always show the inner truth of feelings and thoughts.

But actions cannot mask who we are. For example, Ed went to the store and bought some oranges. He asked if I wanted one and when he brought it to me I saw that he had peeled it for me. He knows that I don't like orange residue on my hands and always wash right after peeling. By bringing a peeled orange he kept me from having to get up.

I took this from the kitchen window. Ed is in the barn taking care of the horses
Guinness kept me company, making sure that I was never lonely. 
Nothing helps you feel better than a loyal dog, says Guinness

As I began to feel better I began to try to take back more chores. It was not easy because he fought me every step of the way. On Friday, while he was showering I snuck out to walk Guinness. When I got back he was not happy but I explained that I needed some fresh air. Which was true.  

This morning I set my alarm to get up to do the morning feed and as I was heading to the bathroom he yelled what are you doing? Go back to bed. 

Drat. Foiled. 

Rather than argue I let him go out while I made the morning coffee and fed the cats. 

Ed has a torn rotator cuff and it has been bothering him more with the additional chores. While he was out getting a hair cut I got the tractor and emptied the manure cart. 

He was back when I brought the tractor back up. 
You know I said that I was going to do that. 

Yes I know but I didn't want you to further irritate your shoulder. 

So I'm trying to protect you from feeling sick and you're protecting me from hurting my shoulder? 

I laughed.  Welcome to our later years. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


I'm continuing to work through the lessons with Carmen whenever I can. The weather is not helpful but I try to apply the principles in just my general day to day work. I can see that it can clearly help her.

What I like about the program is that you are not to strive for perfection: you work on something and when the horse is starting to show understanding you leave it and let them filter it. The theory is that if you continue to drill the horse starts to think that they don't have the answer and it leads to shut down. So our sessions consist of cycling through things, starting with the easy thing. For Carmen that is the leading exercise where she has to measure the space and maintain it no matter at what speed I walk. When she seems to get frazzled we go back to that as a 'reset'.

All progress is rewarded with a rest, even if the horse went backwards. You let them rest if they try to do the right thing, even it is less than what they were doing before.

In our last session I introduced the idea of going by and over potentially spooky things. I put the whip with the plastic bag attached in a pylon. When were walking up to the ring Carmen spied it flapping and went on high alert. However, she never pulled back or balked. When we came into the ring she demanded to walk up and investigate it.

We worked though the leading and ground pattern. Then I reviewed the approach of the bag and other objects. She did not care. I then put down a tarp between pylons to walk over. I didn't expect it to be an issue and it was not. I propped my phone up on a post and did a short video:

Right at the end the phone fell off the post but was unharmed. I need to find a gadget to attach it.  You will notice that I don't lead her over/through. We're not supposed to- because then it's not about them figuring out to manage themselves. I'm probably explaining it poorly but it makes sense. When I'm sitting on her I can't lead her either so I can see how it can transfer.

I've noticed that she is expressing more curiosity over strange things rather than being wary. The other day I was trying to repair Irish's stall door to the outside (it was frozen). I felt a nose at my neck and looked over to see Carmen.
Hey, what are you doing? Let me see. Also, do you have any carrots in your pockets? 

So even if this doesn't result in a perfectly zen magical unicorn it is a good tool to add to the toolbox.

waiting (somewhat) patiently for me finish cleaning her stall
during the storm. I'm really happy with her weight this winter.