dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Steele meets the Rellies

A few weeks ago we had a vist from down under. My Uncle Kevin and Aunt Janet came for a visit.They chose 'spring' because they thought that the weather would be nice. It rained and barely hit 12 every day. However, they were cheerful about the whole thing.
huddled together for warmth
They were a big hit with the critters
how come d'Arcy gets special treatment? 
My Uncle used to be a mounted policeman in England and my horses instinctively liked him.

"how come he talks funny?"

Monday, June 24, 2013

What about me?

Sunday morning dawned sunny and warm. Ed and I had plans to go sailing that afternoon so I put on my riding clothes early and headed to the barn. As luck would have it Steele and Irish were inside hiding from the heat. Steele perked up when he saw me

oh hi. We're just napping. But I'm not really tired so what do you want to do?

I gave him a carrot and a scritch on his nose. I then went and grabbed Irish and brought him in.

Steele: what about me?

Irish: Yeah, what about him? 

Me: No two days in a row is enough for a youngster. Besides Irish I you need the exercise.

Irish: I thought I was retired.

Me: Semi- retired. 

Irish: Same difference

Me: Nope. It means that you still need to maintain a certain level of fitness and suppleness with exercise. Besides, it's not hard. 

Irish: True. 

I continued to groom Irish.
I felt a puff of wind on the back of my neck.
 I ignored it.
Then I felt a nuzzle on my ear. It tickled.
I shrugged my shoulder.
Then a light nibble on my hair.
Steele I said.
He put his head on my shoulder. I swear he batted his eyes.

Steele: you really should take me out you know.
Irish: yes you really should take him.
Me: I will take you out for a groom after I ride. 
Steele: yay.
Irish: sigh

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Steele tries a saddle on for size

Work with Steele has been going well.  I have a new surcingle on order and have returned the one I borrowed. I decided that while I wait for it to be delivered I would see how he reacted to being lunged with a saddle on.

I tried on Irish's saddle and, to my glee, it seems to fit him well. I will definitely get it fitted before I sit on it but there seemed to be nice clearance at the wither, no hindrance on the shoulder and no pinching anywhere. He's had the saddle on before and didn't seem to care but I've never lunged him in one.

Yesterday I put it on, removed the stirrups and brought him up to ring. Irish did a comical double take as we walked by. I'm not sure if he was surprised that we wer using his saddle. In the ring I let out the line and asked Stelle to walk off. I for the reaction.

And waited.

And waited.

There was none. He didn't seem to mind at all. Our session was completely uneventful. I was just considering stopping when a big truck stopped at the end of the driveway. It was the new cart we had ordered. My dogs were loose and I worried that Belle would run down and nip. So faster then I thought I could, I whipped off the saddle and lunge line and tied up Belle. I called down to the man that I couldn't leave. I didn't want to leave Steele unattended. No problem, he simply dropped off the cart and left. I turned around and Steele was nosing the saddle with great curiousity.

"hmm, so what is this contraption she put on me anyway"

When his teeth came out I grabbed it and moved it out of reach.

When the truck left I let him into the field and then went to gather up my equipment. He followed me down to the barn.
Steele: I wore your saddle today. It was no big deal. I don't know why you go on about it.
Irish: Just wait kid, It's gets more complicated. 

Today I put it on again. Just like yesterday he didn't care at all that it was there. We finished with some inhand work - I introduced the concept of leg yield as I walked beside him. He caught one very very quickly. Again, after the work was done he hung around the barn with me while I cleaned up.

I think that I'm not the only one enjoying our sessions.

Here are some photos I took with my iphone. Sorry they are so close.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Useful Dog Trick

Irish has been losing a lot of front shoes this spring. The combination of wet, soggy ground and his being on his forehand (due to his issues) he's been pulling them off. My farrier has been quite cooperative about coming back to put them back on. After his last visit this week I decided that Irish will be wearing bell boots outside from now on. Yesterday when I came home from work I saw that he had them off. One was in the small paddock but I couldn't find the other.

I was walking the field looking for it when my Border Collie, d'Arcy, ran up to a spot on the ground and sniffed it. It was Irish's boot. This got me thinking about how useful it would be if he could be trained to find the boots. So I decided to do some training. I've no idea if it will work but it's keeping me and the dogs amused.

Belle was fairly cooperative but she thought that the game was to find the boot and then run off with it. When she found out that wasn't the idea, she lost interest.

Anyway, here's a video after about 10 minutes:

Such a smart dog!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Madame Secretary

A little over 12 years ago when I was getting into dressage I started looking into some show options. There were a few that were available the first year I looked and then the dressage group folded. After that there were none. And there was no longer any group promoting the sport in my province. There were lots of people who loved dressage and some great coaches but I couldn't find any shows. Now I've always enjoyed showing. For me it was a fun way to get together with other horse lovers. When I didn't own a horse and was at a lesson barn having a whole day immersed in horses was pure heaven. The ribbons were secondary. I also enjoyed showing as a way to check in on how my horse and I were doing. 

I was not the only one missing having a group of people to enjoy Dressage with so a small group of us got togehter and formed a club. After some thinking we called it R.I.D.E.R.S. (Riders Interested in Dressage and English Riding Society). Over the years we have fun get togethers (lunch, trail rides etc) but our main focus has been to put on a series of entry level dressage shows to get people out and in the ring. That first year we did a lot of fund raising and managed to get the money to buy a bunch of cones and chain link to make a ring. Over the years I have stayed pretty much involved. I've always showed and have been very involved in planning and running the shows. In the first few years I did the show scheduling while others ran the office as I wanted to be in the show. 

This year I don't have a horse to show- Irish cannot do it and Steele is 2 1/2. Others in our group who had run the office for many years wanted to show so I volunteered to Show Secretary and Manager. "It'll be fine" I thought. 

The week before the show there were times I regretted that offer. I was going to work in the morning, coming home, feeding the critters and then working on the show- mostly with the scheduling. But also calling people back, calming some down, reassuring others, answering questions etc. The show was Saturday and Sunday. Friday I packed up after work and headed to the grounds. To be honest I was unsure of what I had agreed to. I was going to be away from my horses for 3 days, I wasn't showing and it was my responsiblity to make sure that things ran well. I was more nervous over this then I've ever been entering at A (working trot, X halt. salute). 

Do you know what? Ihad a great weekend. Yes I worked hard but our group is made up of a bunch of very dedicated, very nice women who are all interested in making the show a success. The riders were easy to work with and seemed to have fun. There was lots of laughter in the show office. And the food. My god, the food. Sharon made these brownies. I call them 'crack brownies' because once you have them you are addicted. 

Some highlights :
A rider was in her very first dressage show. After she came up and told me that she had been worried that she wouldn't 'fit in' but all the other competitors had been so welcoming and supportive that she couldn't wait to come back. 

Seeing a little girl in her first show ever win her first ribbon ever and how excited she was and how proud her parents were

Watching as one young competitor entered the ring right after her friend had finished her test. They walked side by side smiling and laughing and wishing each other luck. 

A competitor won a reserve award in her division and as I made the announcement she stood there stunned. I had to say 'yes, I said you'. "no" she said "are you sure you have that right?" 

Seeing all the competitors laughing and calling to old friends in the show. 

The volunteers. All the people that stepped up to help make the show a success and gave up hours of their free time. 

Seeing the beautiful horses - that is always a plus. 

I finally got home at 8 sunday night. I was exhausted. AS I got out of the car I spoke to Martin the cat and Steele called to me from the barn. That night I laid my head on each of their sides and just breathed in 'horse'. I had missed them but do you know what? 

I'm looking forward to the next show. I really am. 

from our last year of showing and just after Martin came home

oh and check out our website: http://www.dressageridersns.ca/

Friday, June 7, 2013

Boss Mare

That's my role.

No, I didn't say Bossy Mare. That's something else entirely and does not describe me at all.

So there.

I have to keep my herd of two geldings in line. Not that they are bad but I can see the benefits of being in charge. When I go into the field they often come to greet me - Steele comes first being young and innocent. I'm pretty sure that Irish double checks that I'm not wearing breeches first. Sometimes they get in a wee spat over who I belong to. That's when I affirm that I belong to no one but, in fact, they belong to me. This keeps me from getting hurt.

The other day I brought Steele in to do some work with him. I kept Irish from following and closed him in the field. I hooked Steele up on the cross ties and groomed him. He kept looking for Irish but was good. Then I stepped outside quickly to get something. I've done this before for brief periods with no problem but then Steele realized that he was all alone. He began to worry. I came back in quickly and carried on with getting him ready. I put on his boots, cavesson, pad, surcingle and bridle. I hooked on the lead line and we started up to the field. He kept trying to graze as we walked along. Every time he dropped his head I flicked the lead line at his haunches but otherwise kept walking and acting like all was normal. I could see him trying to figure out what was happening everytime he tried to eat but he quickly figured out it wasn't going to work. This did not impress him at all.

When we got to the ring I closed the gate and unhooked the lead to get the lunge line. Normally he stays with me but this time he trotted off. Between being left alone and not allowed to graze he was a bit agitated. No worries, I decided to do a little free work first. The idea is to use my body language to control the horses gait, direction and location with the lunge whip as an extention. Horses quickly figure out who's in charge and start going with the program. Whether you believe it's a 'join up', behavioural modification or a spiritual connection doesn't matter. The reality is that it does work.

I began the work and he became annoyed that I wouldn't let him graze on the grass outside the fence. He took off at a gallop. All of a sudden Irish became agitated in the field and started running around. Now I had two horses being foolish. At first Steele seemed to think that this was fun - running and galloping while Irish ran in the field next to him. Irish did not think this was fun. He thought that there must be lions somewhere. It was something like this:
Steele: "whee, freedom! watch how fast I can go"
Irish "where is it? OMG!"
Steele: "Let's run this way! Follow me Irish!"
Irish "I can't get to you! It's the end I tell you, the end!"
Steele "I'm coming! Wait, what? There's this fence in the way!"
Steele: "Die?! I'm too young to die! What do we do? What do we do?"

Since I couldn't control Irish I focussed on Steele. Using my body and the whip I began to control where he was in the ring. Initially this got him more agitated.
Steele: "Stop it, I don't want to be here. I have to go there.
Me: "No you don't. You need to stay there"
Steele "ARGHHH"
Me "Calm down"
Steele "I'm upset can't you seethat? Irish is over there and I'm here and the world is not the friendly place I thought it was"
Me "there's no need to be upset but if you have to be do it here.And now here. Now let's go there"

I could see him begin to calm and I took greater charge. This is what boss maresdo- they control the herd and decide position, pace, etc. Since I was in charge there was no need to worry. Within a few minutes he stopped dead and looked at me. I stopped and stood still. Then I turned around. He came towards me and then ran past. I repeated the lesosn. He stopped much sooner. I stopped and turned around. He trotted up and glued himself to my shoulder. I did a slow and easy walk around the ring with Steele keeping close.

After a few minutes I put on the lunge and we went to work. He was so tuned in, it was fabulous.

Me and my boys

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bath Time on the Farm

Summer has finally arrived. Last weekend we had temperatures below 10 (celcius) and endless rain. Relentless rain. Depressing rain.

 However, this weekend the weather decided to take an upswing. Yesterday we had temperatures in the high 20's. This morning it was 25 degrees at 7 a.m. I decided that it was a good day to bathe the four legged critters on the farm.

Let me back up a bit. About a month ago there was a brief spate of warm weather. One day it occurred to me that it was the 1 year anniversary of Steele taking ownership of me. I decided to celebrate by bathing him. As you may recall he has a love of mud. http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2013/03/march-mud-madness.html . Everytime I gave him a pat I was enveloped in a cloud of dust. So I decided that he needed  a good cleaning. He was not impressed. I managed to get the deed done but it was dicey. After I saw him head out to the field and roll. We all know that he loves to roll but if I was to describe his attitude during this roll I would have to use the phrase 'grim determination'. when he got up and shook off the dust he gave me a look that spoke volumes. I swear he stuck out his tongue.

So today I was a bit more prepared. I gathered all the necessary items- bucket, shampoo, hose, scraper etc. Irish was first. He's used to being bathed and stands there trying to drink the water from the hose. On hot days he quite enjoys it. Steele watched in horror from the paddock. He then began to run up and down.
"run Irish run before she turns the hose on again!" Irish however was stoic and allowed me to finish without incident while he munched on the grass. I can even unclip the lead line while I do his tail.
I love how he gleams after a bath. This is why his show name was "Irish Gold"

Steele was next. He hung back as I led him out of the barn. "no! I don't want a bath! I'm perfectly clean from the rain last week" 

I know that Irish was not that keen on bathing when I first got him. I know to lead up to the hosing off gradually  and just be matter of fact about it all. After some dancing around and realizing that he couldn't escape he stopped and let me wet him thoroughly. It was then time for the scrubbing. At first he was unsure but then began to really enjoy it. I made sure to get his itchy places. Then it was time to rinse. Again some dancing around but I was firm. My expectations are that he will stand still and let me hose him off.

"fine! get it over with"

What's interesting is that as he sheds out, he's losing a lot of his gray hair and is darker then he was in the winter. Look:
I love how shiny horses are after a bath
his head looks big here because of how close he was to the lens. note the photo bomber
he and d'Arcy have a complicated relationship. If he thinks that d'Arcy is
too annoying he will chase him out of the paddock. 

Then it was the dogs turn. I did d'Arcy first. I love how dogs who adore getting wet in puddles and lakes hate being bathed. It's hilarious- if I snap a lead on d'Arcy and drop it he will stay still. If he's not on a lead then he will leave. Then Belle had her go. She's my rescue and was originally terrified of being bathed. Now she will stand stoically with a 'if you must do this then I will endure" expression with occassional poignant glances and a lick now and then.

But don't they look lovely:
Belle on the left and d'Arcy on the right

After all of this cleaning I looked less then beauteous but a long shower and I was presentable again!