dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Get in on the Ground Floor (and an incentive)!

Have you ever wanted to sponsor a world class riding team but didn't know where to start?

The trick is to start small and build from there.

And because I am so kind and generous, I'm here to help you figure it out.

Starting with a professional rider and FEI horse can be daunting.

So, I invite you to start with sponsoring a total and complete amateur.

um, what on earth are you talking about?

Okay, let me explain.

My plan was originally to ride in just three shows this year. But then Five Fires announced that they are sponsoring a show to raise funds for Breast Cancer: Canter for Cure. In addition to the proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society, riders are asked to gather sponsors.

I thought about it and decided that I could do one day.

And then I decided to register to do Second Level.

Because what could go wrong with that?

Think about how fabulous it would be to sponsor Team Carmen and raise money for a good cause.

no, not to eat but for research! 

I know that world class teams do fancy things like canter pirouettes, tempi changes and half-pass but Carmen and I can also be fancy prancers.

There's the compressed-neck-spook-trip maneuver


And the classic I'm-outta-here

Plus there's the fact that she is part dragon. (I'm pretty sure that doesn't disqualify us. )

We can also look pretty:

My mother and father were both taken by cancer. Some of my dear friends have survived cancer and one is currently fighting a battle with it. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. I really want to raise a lot money I have decided to add a little incentive. If you donate comment below and I will do a random draw after Sept 13 (when donations close) and give the winner a prize. I don't know what it will be yet - it will likely depend on the country the winner is in.

 A few of my friends are also riding in the competition so you can choose to donate in their name instead. You will still be eligible for the draw.

Here's the process:
1.  Donations can be sent via etransfer to canterforthecure2019@gmail.com
2. Put my name (Teresa A-A) in the message so that they can credit me for the donation (or whomever you choose).
3. If you want a charity receipt put your email in the message as well.
4. Leave a comment below letting me know that you did

We can beat cancer.

Friday, July 12, 2019


SUBMISSIONThe horse’s willing cooperation and harmony with the rider, demonstrating an attentive and confident attitude. Willingness to perform the required exercise as well as operate with correct basics ~ USDF

This week was quite the week. Not only was it super busy with meetings and things, we were able to get the last of our hay in (with no issues on the field). So that's a relief.

I had a lesson planned for Tuesday but that ended up being the day we had to get the hay so I had to reschedule. Shanea has become very busy, which is a good thing but it also makes things a bit tricky in terms of scheduling. She was able to fit me in on Thursday at 7:00. I don't often ride in the evenings. I prefer to ride in the mornings or when I get home from work.  But needs must and all that.

The grass is still pretty lush
I was excited to have a lesson because it's been a while. Carmen, however, wasn't feeling it. I am pretty sure that she was reacting to past experiences. As well the deer are often active and I suspect that they were in the next field.

I spent some time doing groundwork and then got on. Carmen was clearly worried about troll corner and tried to do her spinny-bolt thing. I put her in a trot on the circle and worked out from there.
Just then Shanea came and we chatted about how things were going. Up until last night I would have said 'really good'.

The truth is that Carmen is a sensitive and reactive mare. And while I have done a lot to calm it I never expect that to fully disspear. What I do expect, though is that we can work through it. If I can't work through it then I will go to the ulcer notion but I don't think that's it. I think it's the time and her own insecurity.
***back to the post***

Anyway, Shanea had us break it down to a simple exercise of walking, half- circle, leg yield. That helped settle things quite a bit. I like this exercise- it was enough to occupy her brain but not so much that she was overwhelmed.

While the far side remained a bit of an issue the whole ride we were able to work through it. Her trot transitions were actually really nice. What Shanea noted is that right before she spooks Carmen sprawls out behind and slows her hind end. Then she throws her front around making it hard to keep her underneath of me.
like this

When we trotted by the brush something startled her and she 'bolted'. I put that in quotes because she really just picked up a canter and tried to throw her shoulders around. I sat up and let her canter while trying to get her to bend. We cantered that circle multiple times. Shanea was telling me to let go of the inside rein. Which I understood but had trouble doing because I didn't want her to fly sideways. I was wanting her to bend. But when I did give she settled into the outside rein.

After a while the 'fleeing' became a bit tiring for her but I kept her going and we got her to go down the long side.

the prettiest bolt ever

I hope I'm not sounding too down on this ride, because I am not. What made me happy was that we were able to work though this. After all this cantering Carmen was much more relaxed. I could feel her begin to relax and feel less uptight. 

To help us go down the far side Shanea set up a little grid of raised trot poles. It was literally just two poles but it was enough to keep her occupied. When she tried to put her attention to the outside she would trip herself. 

about to trip (and could her neck get any shorter?)
Slowly everything began to come together and I was able to relax with her.

figuring it out

We were able to work on lengthen trot. I was pleased to see that the work we had been doing was paying off.  Carmen was a little energizer bunny and I was starting to fail. I suggested that we might be done but Shanea wasn't having it. So I tightened my sore abs and went back to work. We were even able to work on our free walk. 

Not our best work but that I could drop the reins and let her stretch without worrying that she was going to take off. 

Even better, I was able to work on the same things today without a lesson. We had some similar issues but worked through it much more quickly. 

The big issue is the concept of 'submission'. Now I don't like that word because it sounds like the individual has no right to an opinion. That said, Carmen does need to listen to me and not make her own decisions about when she will or will not pay attention. I recognize that it's a negotiation and that I don't want to shut down her spirit. I just want her to let me direct it and to learn that things actually feel better my way. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Feast or Famine

In good news Ed and I were able to get hay in on the weekend. Saturday Mrs. Hay Guy asked if we could take 200 bales.  Of course I said yes. This is essentially two loads with our truck and trailer. The down side? We couldn't get it until around 5:00. The second downside? After so much cold weather we actually had a heat warning.  The thermostat read 37 at one point (or 98 Fahrenheit). Given that it was 10 degrees last weekend (or 50 Fahrenheit), no one was ready for this level of change.

I rode really early and we were both still sweaty at the end.  Carmen was nice and forward and we played with some trot poles.
so many options with this configuration

My goal was soft transitions and suppleness. We had a few discussions that she didn't get to counter flex by the trees when we were working. I am being quite insistent on her attention and listening. We finished by working on the stretchy trot. If I have her honest in the bridle and going to the bit then she will stretch down and carry herself. If I don't have that then it all goes to pot.

In some ways it was nice to go to get the hay later in the day when it was starting to cool off a bit. The field was by a lake so there was a nice breeze. When we got there there was another truck and people there so we drove down to the far end away from them and started to load. The bales were all stacked in groups of three or four and I honestly didn't think anything of it. About 10 minutes in to loading the trailer and a man came down to us and said 'now I don't mean to be a bad neighbour'.
'uh oh' I thought. When someone starts like that nothing good is going to come next. I had noticed them all looking at us when we drove in but dismissed myself as being a bit paranoid.

It turned out that he had some people with him who he was paying to pile up the hay bales to be picked up. We apologised and said we hadn't realized. He went on about us not taking the bales. I looked down the field and said 'okay, but you have them all piled and some of this hay is for us as well so you can't claim all of it. I'm not going to wait for you to get your portion and pick up what's left'. 

He stalked off and then drove his truck down where we were. In the end, Ed and I basically followed the baler picking up the hay. When we were loaded we left and stacked it in the barn.
I was worried that the quality be less because it's so late but it's great.
I am so relieved.

We debated going back, wondering if there would be any hay left. Ed called and left a message asking if we were wrong about how much we were supposed to get but didn't get a call back. In the end we drove back and saw that there were some bales left (not 100 though). We decided to take them and then call our hay guy and tell him how many we got. As we were stacking our hay guy drove in. We explained what had happened and he said to not worry about it. He also said that there was a small field across the road that we could take. We took some of it then and left the rest for the next day. We left all of that load on the truck and trailer and decided to devour eat supper instead. We let our hay guy know how much we had taken. He shared that the other guy had come to him bitching (well that's my word) that we took his hay. Mr. Hay Guy said that we wouldn't have done it if we'd know because we're not like that. Also, that this guy was wrong to pile all of it like that and expect us to wait for him. So I'm glad we told him what happened.

The next morning I had to drive to the airport to do my Nexus interview (scheduled because I was sure that I would have hay by then!).  When I got back we went and got the last of the hay. By then it was stinking hot again. I wanted to ride so I tacked Carmen up and we just schooled the walk. There's a lot you can do at just the walk and it was a good session.

I was looking forward to sunday and having a day of 'rest'. Which I filled with riding in the morning, ring maintenance, barn chores and tack cleaning. But it was a great day anyway. Carmen was less inclined to argue during our ride and settled in to the work.

sunshine, beer, tunes and tack cleaning. What could be better?

While I was cleaning the tack the neighbours walked their steer down the road. I wanted to see if Irish was any better. He was. For him:

Irish: OH MY GOD. They are coming. Wait, where'd they go? 
Carmen: They went into the woods. It's good now. Maybe I should roll.....
Irish: Get behind me! I'll protect you! 
Carmen: *chomp*sure thing. 
Irish: I'm watching!
Carmen: *chomp* yes *chomp* I have never *chomp* felt more *chomp chomp* safe. 
Irish: are you paying attention? We may need to flee at any moment. 
Carmen: of course *chomp* you stay right there *chomp, chomp chomp*

So after a total lack of sun, hay and riding, I managed to get a surplus of those things this weekend. I am dirty, tired, sweaty and you probably shouldn't be downwind of me.

And  I am very happy. 

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Oh, You Mean it's Leg to Hand?

First of all, my post about the great Hay Crisis received a lot of comments.It clearly is an issue near and dear to the hearts of horse owners. I had a number of people reach out to me on FB and offer their hay. Which goes to show how good and kind people are.

I recieved a call last night from the people who I get my hay from and they assure me that I will be able to get hay Friday (or possibly Saturday at the latest). Or as she put it 'it's full on haying'

So phew.
I won't be fully relieved until I see this. 

I have been putting Irish and Carmen up in the ring after supper to graze. I don't fully trust the fencing so I stay out in the barn and do chores while keeping an eye on them. I can see a real benefit for Carmen as she taking herself to all the scary parts (because they are also the parts with the most and best grass).

It's really hard to take her seriously when she insists that an area is too scary to be ridden through but I've seen her there eating away. #busted.
yup. totally terrified

I've been shifting the focus of my rides to more on the task at hand and that she can't blow me off because she's looking for trolls in the trees, grass, sky and whatever. We start with a longish rein walking around the ring. If she wants to look at something I let her. Then it's time for work and I expect her to stay with me. 

Some rides that easier than others. On Tuesday she started off quite tense but relaxed into the work and I was able to finish with working on the stretchy trot circle. I started at the walk to explain what I was looking for and then picked up the trot. What is key is keeping her forward and reaching for the bit. 

This was made clear to me at the clinic a couple weeks ago. It's not that no one has told me that  horses need to reach for the bit and a backwards hand solves nothing. But watching riders with the same issue being coached through it really helped it to clarify in my mind. So at the trot I made sure that she was forward and steady on the bit. When she wasn't I put on leg. I refused to take back with my hand (trust me that is really hard to avoid when she sucks behind the contact). Once I had her there I released a little bit to invite her to stretch for it. If she grabbed it I shortened the contact and we started again.  

 I started off with a small reach and then gradually increased it. I could feel her really start to understand the ask. Oh, you want this? After a few rounds of this I called it a day. 

Yesterday she started off calm but was less in a mood to go forward (Carmen: what does she expect, it was close to supper time and I was STARVING).  I didn't give up, even when she threatened to spook. I kept a short rein, steady contact and pushed her forward to my hand with my leg. At times I needed a few pony club kicks to get my point across. 

forward and reaching 

It wasn't a horrible ride, just one with a few more discussions. I didn't work on stretching, instead I focused on transitions and staying over her back, not accepting that she can hollow and fall on the forehand. It was far more work for both of us but it ended with some nice square halts and some true double transitions (trot-halt and halt-trot). And she didn't spook at all or run out through her shoulders (although she tried a couple times).

It's funny how you can hear something and even think you understand it but it doesn't truly resonate until you see it with someone else.

post ride bath and snack

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Quietly Panicking

You all have, by now, seen my whiny posts about the weather.
Canada day was cold, wet and windy. 

It's been a horrible spring/summer with lots of cold weather and rain. Not only does that make it difficult to school, it's making it really hard for farmers to get the hay in.

I am literally down to four bales of hay.

As a horse person that is basically a cause for a nervous breakdown.

I am fortunate that my pastures are lush but I don't leave them out 24/7. And to be honest, I don't want to. I don't trust that they won't get spooked by coyotes (which are quite large here).  My fields are also not large enough to leave them out that much. I would end up with no grass, just a field of weeds by September. I use my paddocks as part of the feeding program and manage them carefully.

That said I am leaving them out as late as possible. Which, if you have horses that are used to a schedule is causing some consternation.

um, excuse me? My reservation was for 5:00 and it is now past 6:00
The feed they are on is essentially hay + vitamins (fibre nuggets) and can be fed as a hay replacer. So I've upped that too. But that is not a good fix, especially when you have an ulcer prone horse that you want to keep a slow trickle of food into the gut, not all at once. I semi-joked to my husband that I needed something that would drop a few nuggets every hour to keep her going.....

I have been putting them up into the riding ring after supper which has the dual purpose of them eating the grass that is trying to encroach and feeding them at the same time. This morning I plotted out where I can put some temporary fencing. I can't go anywhere with Carmen because I don't have the hay to take with me.

finally, some ring work Carmen can get behind....

This means that I only need to give them some hay overnight. But I look at my dwindling supply of hay and feel anxiety starting to rise. Normally I would have at least 2 loads of hay by now.

The problem is that there hasn't been enough of a stretch of dry weather to cut,dry and bale the hay. At this point if you deny climate change I'm just going to call you stupid, k? I'm done trying to convince anyone that their google search does not actually make them more qualified then scientists who study this issue. 

I called my hay guy this morning and his wife called me right back. She said that he hasn't even been able to get onto some fields with the tractor because they are too wet. That said, she informed me that he was planning to cut a field tomorrow that he normally reserves for his animals and giving some to his customers to tide them over until he can cut the rest. 

This is making me feel a bit better but now I'm watching the forecast obsessively and it might not be safe to mention the words 'rain', 'cloud', 'rainfall warning' to me in the near future. Please keep your fingers crossed. 

Because I am out of options.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

In The Groove

Nothing really exciting is going on here.

Which is a good thing. Carmen and I are hitting our groove and it feels good. it also probably looks like watching paint dry.

Stacie sent me these photos from the clinic back in May

We seem to be getting into a pattern of riding 3 days and then 1 off. Sometimes it varies a bit depending on my schedule and the weather (which continues to be unsettled).

Some of our rides are just awesome from beginning to end. Others are less so. I try to evaluate her mood in the barn and make some decisions from there.

The other day I was planning to ride but when I came out to the barn both horses were quite unsettled. The steers were in the woods across the road. I don't know what the handlers were doing but there was lots of shouting and some crashing and banging. If I didn't know better I would say that they were using the steer to demolish a shed. But we couldn't see.

I decided to spend our time working on our groundwork patterns rather than riding. I was sure that I could ride her through it but I wasn't sure what would be accomplished. So we practiced the patterns from the TRT method. Carmen was really trying to be good about the whole thing and relax. I could see her working really hard on it. We never got to the point of full zen but that's okay. I don't have that expectation of her. I am working on settling for good enough if the try is there.

When we do ride I'm working on keeping her coming from behind and lifting up into transitions, not falling on her forehand. It is coming. She even seems to be understanding the idea of lengthening in the trot and not going faster.

I've not been able to have a lesson for a while which is frustrating. I had one booked for friday but there was torrential rain and a thunderstorm in the morning which caused quite a few cancellations and made it not worth it for Shanea. Instead I rode in the afternoon with Julia and it was a fun ride. A few discussions but nothing major.

We had rebooked the lesson to 7:30 this morning (ugh) but that ended up being cancelled too. So, because I was dressed, I rode anyway really early.  Carmen was a little more opinionated about the far side of the ring- but only on the right rein. I asked her to bend and she gave me the middle finger. I wear spurs every ride now so that allowed me to add some 'teeth' to the bending aid. Which she took major exception to. This resulted in a short but intense discussion that when I ask her to bend I expect Princess Pissy Pants to at least try, not throw her shoulder against me.

With that settled we were able to work on leg yields, transitions and lengthens.  We had moments to discussion but for the most part our work was pretty good. While I might not classify this as a 'good' ride, I would have last year. I find that I'm able to shrug those off and not buy into the whole drama llama thing.

After your horse has grazed quietly under a water slide, it's hard to take her fear of song sparrows seriously. Especially when she's only worried on the right rein.

Of course it's not all about Carmen. I need to make sure that I'm sitting up and back and not tensing with her. I am getting better at just shrugging off the occasional spook and carrying on. this whole zen thing might actually be working for me. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Trade Secrets: Clinic Recap

Last weekend I attended a clinic on test riding and judging. It was a clinic designed to support educating judges but it was also to assist the riders in improving their test scores.

You may have read Austen's experience with attending an L Program. I thought that her experience sounded a bit, well, harrowing. But when I saw this clinic posted by The Fraser Equestrian Centre (a great place) and at Coveside (another great place. You may recall my posts on riding there on the trails) it was a no-brainer to sign up to audit.
despite a night of torrential rain, the ring on Saturday was perfect

But Teresa, I can hear you say, why didn't you sign up to ride in it?

Honestly, because at the time I had no idea where Carmen and I would be in terms of riding. I figured that I didn't need to throw a large chunk of money at a clinician to be told that bolting half-way through the test would impact my scores. This is also assuming that I would have been accepted anyway. Also, I knew that I would gain more by being able to focus on watching and listening and not having to care for a horse too.

Spoiler alert: it was awesome.

The format was as follows:
- Movement demo on the first day to show the upper level movements
-test rides: training through PSG.

The judge was Elizabeth McMullen (her qualifications include FEI 5*, EC/USEF Senior  and FEI young horse dressage judge). She sounds intimidating. But I actually quite liked her: she had a dry sense of humour which I really enjoyed.

Each rider rode their test while the judge scored and commented over a sound system. Then there was time for a coaching session focusing on some key 'issues'. This was supposed to be with the rider's coach (if he/she was there). Often though, Lib (she likes to be called 'Lib', not 'Libby') couldn't resist  and she would take it over and coach the rider.
Lib coaching a rider

Her comments were pointed but never mean. I liked her dry sense of humour. In one test a horse began to shake her head cantering down the long side and she commented 'needs more fly spray'. Another time a horse was quite enthusiastic in his canter departs. In reviewing the test Lib said 'he was dicking around in the canter depart. But you can't write 'dicking around' so you need to find a different way to say it'.

Everything always boiled down to the basics (doesn't it always?):

  • don't throw away points by being inaccurate (clearly she had read my last post)
  • the answer is almost always more leg 
  • unless it's more bend
  • except in leg yield- people bend too much
  • at home practice how much you can push so you know at a show- this related mostly to the free walk and lengthened/medium trots
  • you keep a horse steady in the rein by being steady with the leg
  • most people have too long reins: Lib had them shorten them and then leave the mouth alone
  • more snaffle less curb
  • transitions need to be clear. Judges hate fuzzy transitions- especially with lengthen to working gaits.
  • in the free walk a swinging back is critical to a good mark 
  • ride the horse up to the bit don't use your hands

A lot of people had trouble with the stretchy trot. Which made me feel better in that I felt less alone. The exercise Lib used was to get a good trot on the circle, bend, and then exaggerate the bend. As the horse began to reach for the bit offer the a little rein and see if the horse will follow it down. If they do, reward. If not don't get upset, just repeat the exercise.

Not every rider had great rides. A couple horses had a bit of a melt down in the ring. Lib did not get on their case- instead she did her best to help them and to figure out what was causing the difficulty. A lot of time she urged the rider to be patient because the horse was trying to figure it out. 

Every rider was given something to work on. Most of the times Lib was clear that there were no quick fixes (well except for being accurate). So she helped them to get things 'better' and then gave them some things to work on at home. 

What was also great was how supportive the auditors were. Even though we were 'judging' and giving scores, everyone was on the side of the rider. During the coaching part, when a rider was successful (like with a good flying change) we all would cheer and clap.  

I enjoyed the clinic so much and learned a ton. It was also lovely to not have to drive for 2 hours to audit a clinic. I took some of my learnings and put it to use in my ride Sunday afternoon. I shortened my reins and when Carmen sucked back put my leg on. It worked really well and I wasn't pulling any more. 

I am profoundly grateful to all the people who signed up to be the riders. They really helped us learn. I hope that they got something out of it too.