dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Best of Times: Sunday Show Report

 Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny. I was still feeling good about Saturday and I was looking forward to another day at the show.  Both horses appeared to have had a good night. Quaid was a lot more quiet then he had been on Saturday but as the activity picked up he got excited again.  Whenever I went into his stall he'd totally relax so I tried to be systematic in moving away so he could learn to settle. It actually worked pretty good even though he'd answer any horse that called. This annoyed one competitor (whose horse was also calling) and she was a bit snappy with me. But what can you do? A lot of horses were calling and it's all part of the learning. I tried to be zen about it all.  Carmen was pretty chill though. 

from Friday's ride in the show ring

I was trying to decide if I should ride him in the warm up ring or not. I kept my eye on the warm up because I didn't want to interfere with anyone wanting to show. I realised that it would likely be empty at lunch time and I would simply do my one step at a time approach. With that in mind I tacked him up and started to lead him out of the barn. Jane asked if I wanted her to come and I told her that she had been working hard all morning and it was okay to sit and rest. Ilka asked if I wanted help and I asked if she could come and stand while I mounted. I led him around the ring and he seemed pretty good so I left the ring and lined him up to the mounting block. Ilka stayed closed but he didn't need to be held. We walked into the warm up ring and I tried to be relaxed and supportive.  After a couple walks around I looked at the door and saw all of my friends standing there making sure we were okay. It was very heart warming.   I don't know if I would want to show if I didn't have such a great circle.  At the far side of the ring the door was open and there was a guy there with a portable hot water washer. Quaid was quite worried about it. Jane began to coach us and even had us trotting around.  She told me to give the rein up by the spooky item so he didn't feel restrained. It worked a charm. I was over the moon about how well Quaid listened and tried his heart out. 

I was sooo happy

Soon it was time to warm up Carmen. She felt a little more tired and less keen to work. Which was totally fair. I got tight trying to get her forward and soft. Jane really helped us so that we didn't dissolve into a battle of wills.  She warned me that because yesterday was so good I wanted even more but I needed to still be fair. Soon it was our turn to go in and do our test. 
the best mare doing her best

I was really happy with our test. We had a flubbed lead but corrected it and carried on.  Our score was 61.29 and earned us a first place ribbon.   

Our ride times were exactly the same as the day before so I walked her around again. Carmen (and I) were tired and hot so I didn't ask a ton until right before. But I didn't let her just plop around either because then she'd think she was done and get cranky with me. (Carmen here, I do not get cranky I simply expect her to treat me like the magnificent creature I am).  

I took a deep breath and brought her in for her last class. I was really really happy with it. Still lots of room for improvement but still a solid effort from both of us. Carmen tried her heart out for me and I tried my heart out for her.  Our score was 61.15. 

In the end Carmen and I were reserve at Second Level. However, there were only two of us at this level. Normally there wouldn't be a champion/reserve but the committee decided to do it for everyone. I don't care that I came second out of 2. This was the first time I showed and didn't feel like an imposter. I was happy with how I rode and how mature and good Carmen was for all 3 days. There hadn't been one spook. 

the first saddle pad I've ever won

I felt like this was a huge triumph for us. I had so much fun at the show and didn't feel unsafe riding even once. That is a huge win for us. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Best of Times- Saturday Show Report

 Last weekend Carmen, Quaid and I headed to our first show of the season.  Julia also planned to join us.  She came early Friday and helped me finish the packing.  Remembering the last time when Carmen refused to load I started a little early. It wasn't necessary- Carmen looked at the trailer, gave a small sigh and walked right on and then so did Quaid. 

This was the first time I towed them with the new truck (I had done a test run with the empty trailer) and I was really impressed with how easily it handled. 

I love this set up

The drive was uneventful until we arrived. Just as we were starting to unload Julia got a call that her grandfather had passed away. A good friend of hers came and picked her up to take her home to go to her family. I felt so bad that I couldn't take her but it all worked out. 

I had requested that Carmen and Quaid not be beside each other and they were  two stalls apart.  Neither was happy with this but it's all part of helping them not get too attached when we travel. At home they are fine separated. However, I realised that I need to work on this more because there was a lot of calling. 

Quaid quite liked his neighbour Archie

I had booked time in the show ring for both of them. My plan with Quaid was to take it one step at a time.  For him the purpose of this weekend was to learn about being a show horse without actually showing. A dress rehearsal if you will. I tacked him up and took him in only planning to mount if he seemed okay. Which he was. Although definitely up he was really able to focus on me and so I mounted outside and had Julia help lead us into the ring. 

little horse in a big world

He was definitely tense and uncertain, but tried really hard. I tried a little trot but he was a bit too excited for either of us to feel safe so I settled for just walking.  Here's a quick video if you want to see: 

Then it was Carmen's turn! I tacked her up and brought her out. And she was fabulous.  We got straight to work and she didn't even look at anything. Which was (spoiler alert) how she was all weekend in both the show ring and warm up ring.  

On Saturday I wasn't riding until 2:30 which gave me lots of time to organise myself and the horses. Quaid really struggled on Saturday with all the horses coming and going and the excited atmosphere. He would call a lot and spin in his stall. My goal is for him to learn that this is all okay and how to settle. As soon as I would go in his stall he'd calm right down and start to relax. Of course it's not practical for me to spend the day there so I worked on increasing my distance and leaving at times. By Sunday he was a LOT better. Both horses would get upset when the other left but by Sunday they were pretty much over it. 

I took Quaid in the warm up ring to lunge at lunch time when there weren't any riders. He was excited but it was easy to get his attention on me and he relaxed over time. I was quite happy.  I left it at that. 

When it was time to warm up Carmen it was a bit warm but not too bad. And our warm up was incredible. She was with me right from the beginning. Jane helped us warm up and she kept saying how good she was. It felt fabulous and like we were truly partners. I kept saying I'm having the best time! And I was. The warm up alone was enough to make me happy. 

When it was time for us to go I I felt really ready. I walked in and heard the announcer say our name and number. I looked at her bridle and was horrified to realise I didn't have her number on her bridle.  I swore out loud. Krista (who was reading my test) ran to get it while I quickly left the ring trotting after her. She grabbed it, put it on and I trotted back to the ring hoping I wasn't going to be disqualified. As I trotted back in the judge rang the bell for us to start. Totally fair. But now we were a bit unsettled. We never got our groove completely back but you know what? It didn't matter, Carmen was still awesome. We have a *hem* history in that ring of being tight and spooky but she was not remotely stressed by anything, although slightly peeved that I trotted her to the barn and then back to the ring. Fortunately, Paula videoed my rides: 

I was thrilled with our test. Definitely a whole bunch to work on and our final score was 60.14. The judge is a strict marker but every comment was spot on and helpful. 

Our next test was less than 30 minutes so I stayed on and walked her around for a bit before doing a warm up before going in to do our next test: Second level test 2. Again it felt like we were a true partnership. 

I was really happy with this test and the score was 62.56.  

At the end I walked out of the ring smiling. I untacked her and hosed her off before putting her back in the stall. 

In the end I had two second place ribbons, which was the icing on the cake. 

That night a bunch of us got together for a potluck bbq on the show grounds. It was so much fun to sit around laughing and talking. We teased each other, complimented each other and generally were just enjoying being in each other's company.  I got a lot of ribbing about forgetting my bridle number.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day.  That night I slept like a log. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Ready, Maybe, But it's Fine


the fresh mowed fields look so pretty

All of a sudden it's June and this weekend we are heading to our first show.  Normally I'm freaking out about not being ready.   But this year I find myself feeling more relaxed about it all. 

not Quaid level relaxed, but still....

Which makes me start thinking about what I mean by 'ready'. I used to think it meant that I could go and score well.  

Now I think about it more about my horse being able to go, understand the job and be able (emotionally and physically) to do it. This makes me think about any horse activity (show, clinic, etc) differently. 

Carmen has been really good since I had to draw a line for her. This week Ed was mowing the fields and it was breezy which made her quite spicy. This made our ride a lot harder and by the end we were both sweaty. I jumped off by the end of the ring near where Ed was mowing. I always take her bridle off so she's free to go. She never does leave. 
Carmen: I don't like it down here. The leaves are blowing and the male servant is making noise in my paddock
Me:  You can go if you like. 
Carmen: but I know you have carrots in your pockets. 
Me:  yes I do but you have choices. 
Carmen:  damnit! 

(in the end she stayed and enjoyed the carrots). 

Remember when I was trying to decide if I should take Quaid in a work/trot test. After chatting with Jane I decided to not do that. He's just not quite ready to be judged (the judge might miss his genius). But I did reserve a warm up spot in the who ring. So my plan is to take him to the show and ride him (or not) in the arm up ring and show ring so he can have the full experience minus the satin. It gives me the ability to curate his experience to keep it positive. It's a good dry run for me to practice showing 2 horses. At my age, what am thinking?  However, I am in the best shape I've been in in years. 

He's looking so good these days

Carmen is definitely ready. She understands her job, I understand how to support her and be clear in my aids.  Is our medium trot/canter confirmed? Well no. How about our Shoulder in/haunches in? Those are pretty good. 

Will we be able to do this in the moment? Well that is the unknown piece. There is always potential that things will go off the rails (like with the pigeon of doom). I am not too worried. Can things go wrong? Sure. Things can go right too. I also get to hang out with a great bunch of people so it's more like a fun weekend away with ponies. 

Don't wish us luck but wish us a good experience. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

Small Steps

 Riding a green bean is definitely an experience. The last green horse I rode was Steele.

Quaid reminds me a lot of Steele in many ways. Both of them are pretty easy going. Quaid worries more than Steele but tries really hard and has excellent concentration skills. Like Steele he has an 'old soul'. 

the apple trees are blooming

I've been working with him regularly just quietly building on the skills. Linda has been doing a lot of posts on what makes a horsewoman. One thing that stands out for me is to work towards being better not perfect. When I used to try to for perfect I did a lot of drilling. Now I aim for whatever I'm working on to be a bit better. I find that this pays off with a happier horse who tries (even Carmen). 

When I first started riding him at home I started on the 20 metre circle at the top of the ring. I then added in the centre. Each ride I tried to expand it. Why like that? I didn't want him to be worried about the various parts and to be tempted to gallop off. Now I can get on and walk him all over the ring. And this week we trotted the entire ring. Green horses are so honest. Not that trained horses are NOT honest. But there are lot more layers to things. With Quaid I know right away when he's trying, tired, distracted, happy, etc. He really tries to figure things out. 

Halting at X (ish)

Straightness is always fun with a green horse. I've been taking Jane's teaching to heart and making sure that my reins are not unbalancing him. I've started to introduce walking on a straight line on the quarter and center lines. It really helps him to figure out that the legs mean more than just go and to balance himself. I'll introduce trot on the quarter line soon. 

One thing I haven't done with Quaid is canter. I've been waiting for our balance to improve and to feel like we won't be flailing too much.  I wasn't worried about it, I figured the time would come. And it did this week. We were working and he was being great. It was a hot day and he had more whoa than go, which I don't mind. We were near the end and were trotting a circle and it felt right. So I sat up, grabbed a bit of mane and said 'and caanter'. He flicked an ear back and trotted faster. I stayed balanced (as best I could) and asked again with a kiss. He picked up a canter and we did about 1/2 a circle when I asked him to come back and I hopped off. 

Each ride we are building our confidence. In ourselves, in each other.  

It's fun

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hissy Fit

 On Sunday I had 2 lessons again- 30 minutes for Quaid and an hour for Carmen. My friend Stephanie offered to come and help which was great. The plan was to lunge/groundwork with Quaid and then ride. I had them both tacked up and Stephanie held Carmen while she grazed.  The weather turned cold for the weekend (of course). Sunday was a bit better but it was foggy, cold and windy.  Because of the weather I didn't set up my Pivo so there's no media. 

the pasture is doing great

Quaid was a bit up and required more lunging and moving out then is typical but I felt he was in a good place when I went to mount, just as Jane was arriving.  I lined him up but as I started to mount he walked off. I hopped off the block, brought him around and lined up again. This time he walked off as I swung my leg over. With the high cantle of the Spanish saddle I hit it with my leg and he got a bit upset as I tried to find my balance. Fortunately, he didn't do anything and I got him to whoa. I hopped off and lined him up again. For me, standing while being mounted or dismounted is a non-negotiable for me. I hate feeling unbalanced and I'm not nimble enough to just go with it. This time he stood and we did our usual stand there and flex to the rein before walking off. 

He was tight and because of the mounting issue I was also tense.  When we walked down the long side two blue jays burst out of the brush screeching.  I got to experience his spook. Which turned out to be a sudden jerking stop, splay of the feet and then breathe and carry on. So that was nice.  

Jane was getting on my case to follow with the reins. I thought I was but she said my elbows were moving too much and if I'd just put my elbows at my side they would move naturally with him. Turns out that as soon as I did that his fussiness in the bit ended.  We worked on the circle at walk and trot teaching him about the outside leg and steering. I was also to ride him forward, especially at the trot. I was riding him too slow. As soon as we got forward everything smoothed out.  I could definitely feel things falling into place. The 30 minutes went really fast.  

I untacked him quickly and turned him out. I then put on Carmen's bridle and hopped on. You may recall that I said she was being challenging lately. When she was a bit a strong to start I honestly didn't think anything of it. Until we went to walk down the long side and she began to throw the haunches around. 

interrupting the wall of text with
Me and Mini Me

We went on a circle working on bend and half-halting. Carmen totally blew off my half-halts requiring me to get quite strong. But about 5 minutes in when I was supposed to leg yield down the long side Carmen threw a massive hissy fit. She tried to bolt, throwing her shoulders around. When that didn't work she began to spin. I did not feel safe. I asked Jane to come in and hold her so I could get off. I apologised to Jane and said that I needed to lunge her before riding and it was okay if she had to leave. 

I'm pretty sure that there were a few things going on with Carmen,. One was that she's now on grass which always gives more energy. But the big thing was that she was in a massive heat and frankly didn't want to fucking do the thing. What she wasn't was scared. Before I got on she was grazing calmly and without issue. It was a big middle finger at me. I put on her halter over her bridle and brought her down to the end of the ring she didn't want to go to. She immediately picked up this relaxed jog. 

Nope I said. You had energy and you are going to move your ass. I worked her butt for a solid 10-15 minutes at a trot and canter. She was to go forward with energy and when she tried to be lazy I chased her. I was, understandably pissed but I wasn't looking to punish her. I was looking to match my energy to her resistance. As we worked I was able to begin to use softer and more subtle aids. And she was not ignoring those. When she did (at first), I raised my energy and got after her. Carmen is really good at giving me half (or less) of her attention. If she was human we'd be talking while she scrolled on her phone. 

Jane was still there when I mounted again. This time we were able to have an actual lesson with Carmen. We worked on getting her to bend and maintain it while half-halting on the outside so she wasn't blasting off. She was not allowed to bend herself into a pretzel to carry on a circle while looking out.   Only once did she act like she wanted to bolt. Fuck around and find out I growled because we'll go.  And that was the end of that. 

it was hot today so she had a bath

In the end it was a really good lesson and Carmen had some great work.  My body felt like I had done an intense workout. Which I guesss I had. My abs were actually sore.  

I usually give her the next day off or just do a stretchy walk. But I knew that I would obsess about the debacle of Sunday, and I needed to follow up. I tacked her up and went for a ride. And she was letter perfect. Not a hint of any hissy fits. That felt like vindication. I know we've come a long way and I've done a lot of work. Carmen will always be Carmen and at times her feelings overwhelm her. Add in her tendency to be dominant and she can be challenging. It helps that I don't buy into the feelings nor do I buy that she's frightened. She just, well, Carmen.  

Fortunately, Quaid is a little more easy going because I'm not getting younger. 

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The March of Time

 I realise it's been a while since my last post. Part of the reason is shortly after I wrote it I came down with Covid. Believe it or not it was my first time. I have to appreciate the irony of dodging it for four years and all the travel to actually get it after a single visit to the local rec centre. It knocked me on my ass for a bit and even after it was gone I had zero stamina.  Fortunately, it's all gone and I'm feeling normal.  I was happy that I was all better in time for my birthday. It was a big one: 

It feels weird to be 60. Like, I officially have more years behind me than in front. Which was true when I was in my 50's too but it felt different. Anyway, I had a small party to celebrate with my family and friends and asked that people bring donations to the local animal shelter rather than gifts. The balloons though- I kept those.  I don't feel old even I'm officially a senior. I guess that's the key.  

We also lost our OG hen, Beth about 10 days ago. She was such a lovely hen and my favourite. I believe she had heart failure. She lived to be 4 which is fairly aged for a commercial layer.  I will miss her hanging out with me. 

The weather has finally decided to cooperate and I've been getting more riding in, now that I'm feeling better. Carmen and I had a lesson last week. While I was sick I transitioned them to the back pasture. AS always, when Carmen is full time on grass she gets a bit strong and pushy.  In my lesson Jane commented that, while she was definitely challenging, she wasn't out of control and we worked through it. 

We had some nice moments

and some hilariously bad ones. Like what are we 
even doing here? 

After Carmen and I had previously worked through her going forward she's decided that she needs to do everything at speed. And still not stepping up behind. So we're trying to find that middle ground of a working pace and pushing from behind. It's hard work.  I realised that we've learned that if she goes fast when I put on my leg I'll take them off. Sigh. So I have to fix that screw up with the idea that my leg means more than go faster. We shall get there. 

Quaid, however, is being a superstar. Every ride is better than the one before. There was one day when he was quite up that I decided to not get on. I'm thrilled that it was just one. The next day he was great. We can actually travel in a sort of straight line. Our travel on the right rein is getting better. I love how he tries to figure stuff out. Most rides are 20-30 minutes. 

It's fun to see how quickly things can progress with a young horse. He reminds me a lot of Steele in that way. 

Cordelia is growing like a weed. She's very smart and sweet. Most of the time. Every now and then she gets overexcited and turns into a nipping/hyper puppy. It usually means she needs a nap. We're going to puppy classes and she's super smart. 

do you like her new tag? 

I can't believe May is almost over. There's our usual show the beginning of June and, as usual, I don't feel ready. But I'll go. I'm trying to decide if I should register Quaid for 1 or 2 walk/trot classes for the experience. He'll be there anyway.  We'll see. 

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Twofer

 On Sunday I not only had a lesson, I had two! 

My original plan was to alternate lessons with Quaid and Carmen. However, Quaid is only being ridden 20-30 minutes and we've had to cancel quite a few lessons. So when the call went out to sign up for lessons last Sunday I reached out and asked if I could have a lesson and a half. And Jane said yes! 

Cordelia: I have my brush, where's my pony? 

Now I had to work out how to limit the downtime between the two. I did a lot of thinking and decided on a plan (and you know I love a plan). That morning I put Quaid's saddle, pad, girth and both bridles in a wheelbarrow and took them up to the ring. I also hung a hay net and put a ring in a post. About 30 minutes before I brought them both in and groomed them. I put a saddle on Carmen and then led the both of them up to the ring (thank heavens I had worked on that).  I tied up Carmen then tacked up Quaid and began our groundwork. 

Carmen was funny. She thought about being worried, then annoyed then happy she wasn't working but insulted she wasn't first. 

I set up the PIVO too. Unfortunately, my phone battery died during Carmen's lesson. I'm thinking I'll dig out a portable charger and tie it to the tripod to keep the phone charged. 

When Jane arrived Quaid was ready for me to get on. I talked about what I'd been doing with him. I've ridden him about 11 times since I brought him home. I need guidance on what I should be asking from him and how to support him. Jane asked if she needed to hold him while I mounted. I said 'no, if he won't stand for me to get on then he's not ready to be ridden'.   Here's a video of how we do the mounting. I pull the block out the middle, mostly because I don't want to have the discussion about grazing on the edges. 

As you can see he stands very still while I get on. The slight backing up once I sit needs to be fixed but I'm trying to not make a big deal about it. Mostly because I don't want to ride off as soon as my butt hits the leather. Instead we stand there and I do a couple flexions. It's just to have him thinking that my ask will be something other than walking off. 

Jane's feedback basically was for me to ride my horse and stop trying to baby him around. Which is exactly what I needed to hear. I've been too caught up into being careful.  And, my god, my arms are so tight. I didn't even realise it until Jane pointed it out and I watched the video. I think it comes from me being careful- with him and myself. Even though he hasn't done anything when I've been on him, I am still not sure what he will do if/when he gets upset. Which makes me ride defensively. Throw in the general unsteadiness of a very green horse and it feels quite awkward at times. 

pats for the best boy

Despite all this, we weren't really half-bad. Quaid tried really hard and I tried really hard and we each gave each other grace. He's such a cool horse that way. The lesson was walk and trot with steering. So only interesting to a few people, I'm sure.  There was a definite draw to Carmen, which you can see here. But he responded to my outside leg. No one is surprised that I was relying mostly on my inside rein and Jane was clear that I needed to get off it. 

Carmen is watching us here. 

I also need to keep my legs draped on his side and not try to keep them off.  Poor Jane, she kept having to say 'stop riding him like a baby'.  And by that she didn't mean that he wasn't a baby but that he needs to have clear aids and I need to do them properly. She also worked on me getting him to do downward transitions with just my seat, no hands. 

looking down but not otherwise looking good

The time really flew during the lesson (for me anyway). He stayed pretty attentive through all of it. Here's a video of the end. 

look at his reach! 

After our lesson I untacked him and put him in the paddock. I then put Carmen's bridle on and started lesson # 2 (honestly, thank heavens I started working out last winter).  I shared that Carmen has been really good. I've been really happy with how quickly she connects with me.  Jane had us a do a lot of walking, adding in shoulder-in and leg yields. I am so guilty of letting Caren bend her neck and not her body.  We did a lot of giving the rein and taking it back at all three gaits.  In the past when I gave the rein too much Carmen would become really uncertain and would often spook/bolt. Now she's learning to soften and lengthen her neck. 

Carmen: finally it's my turn

We did shoulder in on the circle too and that is so hard. We had to do a 10 metre circle and then keep that bend coming onto the larger circle.  But the pay off is that I could feel her come up and soft and balanced. When Jane asked us to canter for the first time she just lifted off into a balanced and soft canter. It was lovely. I gave the rein forward on the canter circle and she just stayed really steady and didn't lose her rhythm at all.  We even did leg yields at the canter and Carmen did not get all emotional about it.  I love not having to spend 30 minutes getting her mentally in the game. Instead we can just go to work. 

Doing the lessons this way was a lot of work- the organization and riding two horses in very different places in their training.  But it was so worth it. 

Carmen: move over baby genius it's time for the expert