dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pop Quiz

Change is rarely simple.

I would love to have a conversation with Carmen that went like this:

Me:  'listen, you need to stop reacting to the bushes and grasses and just focus on being an awesome dressage horse'

Carmen: 'but I have to protect us from the dangers that lurk outside the fence.'

Me: 'don't worry about those I can deal anything that happens. Plus you are a war horse after all'

Carmen: 'I never thought about it that way. Okay, let's focus on mastering the dressage pyramid and later we can go hacking'. 

If only.....

So instead I have a plan and I'm sticking to the plan. I know that the key is steady, consistent work. And we've been having success. Not huge, earth shattering progress but progress nonetheless.

My last two rides were a success and I was happy with them. Sunday I ended up not riding because of the humidity. Instead I puttered around and gave both horses a nice groom to get the sweat off. I was off on Monday and the weather had broken so that it was much less humid. The sky was clear and there was a fresh breeze.

I knew that my work would be test of how we were doing. There was quite a lot of movement in the brush and grass because of the breeze and Irish was not being ridden in the ring either. It was just me, Carmen and the wind.

I was attentive right from the beginning. In the cross ties she stood nice but was resistant to her feet being picked out. In the past I might ignore that but today I was sure that she understood that I was picking up her feet and it took as long as it too to clean them. When I went to do her right hind she swung her hind end away (can't have it). Rather than follow her, I went around and sent her back to where I wanted her to stand. I had to do this twice and then she picked up her foot as good as gold.

In the ring with our ground work I was extra careful- was she listening? How fast was her response rate? Where were her ears focussed? I had set up some trotting poles and we worked with them in hand for a bit. There were a few carrots in troll corner as well.

When I was satisfied that things were good I put on her bridle and took her up to the mounting block. I had decided that if she moved away while I mounted I was going to lunge her more and then try again. But she didn't move a muscle.

What I've learned is that I cannot get on Carmen and give her a long rein to walk around and relax. That makes her more worried. I have to take up a light contact and get her bending and listening and thinking about what I'm asking. So that's what I do. We walk patterns and figures and I insist on her listening to me. That means that sometimes it does not look pretty. Sometimes I'm asking for an inside bend and she's trying to look down the field and I won't let go so she's pulling on my hand and I'm trying to keep it steady.

As we worked the wind picked up. I kept her going. I only had to tap her a few times with the crop when she balked. She kicked at it and then kept going. What I found is that she's responding with forward to my leg cues and my taps immediately.

Was she tense? Yes for quite a bit of the ride. There were moments of relaxation though. And she listened to me. Occasionally she was distracted but I was able to get her back. We did the trotting poles a few times. The first time she was so worried about heading down to the far corner (which we weren't but she thought we were ) that the turn to the poles was a bit erratic. She did great over the poles but was worried about the straight ahead part after. I asked her to stay straight for 4-6 strides and then bend around and turn. 

As much I would love to say that we were perfect, that would be a lie. We weren't.


  • There were no spooks
  • there was no stopping
  • There was no backing up
this would be an example of our not so pretty moments:
I have the rein up so she doesn't spin to the inside, her ears say
that she's not focussed on me at all and her body is tight

She went forward when I asked, transitioned when I asked and was trying her heart out to listen to me despite the worry about everything else. 

I'm giving us a B+ on this quiz. 


  1. Progress is more important than perfection! No spooks/stopping/backing up sounds like an awesome win to me :)

  2. Her expression is totally "Dragons. There be dragons in the bushes."

    1. dragons, trolls, and don't forget evil butterflies...

  3. She's a smart mare, and she (mistakenly) thought she had your number. Sounds like you're convincing her to use her powers for good instead of evil now. Congrats! ;D

  4. Progress, at whatever pace, is a good thing. I think she gets an A for not spooking or backing or balking. The trolls don't come into our arena too much anymore, but when they do I have to do the same with Lucy -- no long rein, just immediate thinking work.

  5. Those bullet points make it sound like a near perfect ride by my standards. I know dressage is so much more, though.

    Thanks for leaving your condolences on my site. I get about 800 hits on my blog over any given week, and I'm really beginning to wonder who these readers are because they won't leave comments despite reading religiously. I don't care if they don't have anything to say about my blathering, but the condolences post was kind of like me passing a sympathy card around the Internet, and you were the only person with enough decency to sign it. I'm sure it meant a lot to those two ladies.


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