dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leap of Faith

When you focus on want, you become an endless cycle of want. To get, simply release and then gently invite. ~Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life (Bryant McGill is not a trainer and I have no idea if he's a rider. But his perspective on life is a good fit for riding)

If you read my last blog post you know that Carmen and I had a ride that was bit of a breakthrough. The timing was great because my friend Karen was coming with her stallion for the weekend. My friend Janet also came (she's the one who wrote the beautiful poem after Steele's death).

If you recall, Karen is also a Centred Riding Instructor. She wanted to come and play in my full size ring with Kalimo. I was looking forward to her help with us. She and Janet arrived around lunch time. Cynthia and her daughter also came. Over lunch  I brought her up to speed on Carmen and our challenges.

It was a blustery day and Carmen came into the barn a bit excited. I got her ready in the stall as I didn't want her in the cross ties next to a stallion. She was obviously nervous and a bit excited. However, she settled for me in the stall and did not do anything needing correction. During our groundwork she was excited again and definitely nervous about the far side of the ring. I spent time helping her to settle. When she seemed more settled I got her ready to get on. What I was pleased about is that now when she's uncertain about things, she looks to me rather than looking to get away.

Karen asked me what my goals for the ride were and I said it was to get her bending and soft in the bridle. What I like about Karen's approach to teaching is that she doesn't focus on just the horse or just the rider but on the whole picture. She started by getting me to loosen my whole body. I am holding a lot of tension in my legs, arms, hips, etc. Let me just say that trying to loosen up on a horse that is tense and is thinking about running away is no easy feat. However, as the ride continued we got better and better. It wasn't the same as yesterday but I wasn't expecting that. We spent most of the time in the middle circle although we got a bit off of it later in the ride. But more important was that she was reaching into the bridle and stretching over the back. I was following with my seat and relaxed in my body but not floppy. It felt good when we were done and I could tell that she felt pretty pleased with herself. Cynthia's daughter took tons of photos which I can use to bore you with in future posts.
love this photo- I'm smiling, Carmen is listening and while I could
improve a few things in my position, it's a pleasing moment. 

After Cynthia had a lesson and Karen rode Kalimo (different post). Then Karen, Janet and I went out for a hearty dinner and then pretty much fell asleep when we got home. I was sore which I was surprised about but it seems that I worked muscles in new ways which was a good thing.

This morning I went to get Carmen out of the field and I could tell already that she was in a totally different frame of mind. She seemed very mellow. She and Irish were grazing and as I walked out they kept on eating. When I got closer Irish started to come and for the first time ever Carmen lifted her head and then trotted over, cutting him off from getting to me first. I put on her halter and brought her in. Her manners were impeccable. Our ground work was very short as she was tuned in and listening. Not that she didn't give some parts a stink eye but she was listening very well.

I got on and we started working on a circle. Karen had me loosen up my hips and follow her movement. She had me focus on where the hind legs were and ignore the head. Not that I wasn't to fix the flexion but that as long as she was coming from behind the front would follow.

In other words, horses are rear wheel drives that we often treat as front wheel drives....

Roz tells me the same thing and with the two of them it's starting to come together for me. By shifting my focus to her hind end I stopped worrying about where she was looking. As I stopped worrying about her worrying, she stopped worrying.

We did a 10 metre circle at a walk and then went from the circle to a shoulder in for a few steps down the long side. Carmen has a wonderful talent for lateral work so this is easy for her physically. However, it demands her mental attention and that she finds harder. Yesterday we finished with that exercise. Today we started with it.

It was interesting to figure out exactly what my seat was doing and what her back was doing and to figure out how we could work together to produce the result. That was a different way to think of it but it seemed help me figure out what to.

We then took this lesson down the ring towards the spots that she has not let me take her in the saddle. Karen had me focus on the ride and not on what she might do. Some of our circles were pretty wonky and Carmen kept trying to go to where she was standing (clearly her comfort zone is with people on the ground). But Karen made sure that I didn't get flustered but just keep riding her in the exercise. I wasn't allowed to keep a short rein and when Carmen got tense she talked me through relaxing myself and NOT taking the rein. And guess what? She didn't run off. She started a few times, stopped a few times but no spins, no bolts.

 I rode Carmen in a shoulder in into Troll Corner and she went. Even though she clearly thought it was unsafe, she went because I asked her to. I was not forcing her in any way- if she wanted to run out she could have. But she didn't. As we rode I felt myself not only let go physically but emotionally. My eyes filled with tears. I couldn't help it and I couldn't figure out why. I blamed menopause. But really, I think it's because at that moment I felt her truly trust me and give me her heart. Ridiculous I know but there it is.

We then took the ride down to the other end of the ring. And again she was listening. Then Karen asked me to pick up a trot at "K" (in the far corner) and then do a 10 metre circle at "P" (12 metres away). Carmen picked up the trot nicely enough but had issue with the trotting of the circle. Even though we've done it before. She was so sticky that she actually piaffed (well, a sticky, 'piss off' piaffe). I just kept urging her forward and she kept looking for a fight. And Karen kept talking us through it "okay, just ride the circle. The sucky, wrong shape circle". I couldn't help it, I started to giggle. And then a laugh just came bubbling up from my toes, through my belly. I was struck by how humorous we looked- like I was riding a tantrumming toddler. I collapsed over her neck. And guess what? She relaxed. Since I was NOT going to fight her she stopped fighting.  And we trotted. And did  a sort-of shoulder in. But hey, at least she tried.

We then went onto the 20 metre circle and worked on the forward, reaching trot. I had to give with my seat and my hands, allowing her to stretch. I was to ask her to shorten and lengthen her stride with my seat. All of a sudden it clicked with my body and I sat on my seat bones as she lifted her back and trotted like a honest-to-god dressage horse. It was magical.

We finished, both exhausted and very very happy. Janet told me that I was grinning through most of the ride. Karen said that Carmen was preening. And she was.

I have no photos of that ride. But that's okay. I don't know if the supplement is starting to work on her- I wasn't expecting it to kick in for a couple weeks but she's definitely different.


  1. Your ride sounds great!! I love the idea of thinking of driving the horse more from behind - it's true, sometimes I forget that and I know other people do too as I hear so much about head placement. I think I'll also try focusing on the hind legs more next time I ride - thanks!

  2. You both look so great in the pictures, and what wonderful rides! Woohoo! And you conquered troll corner :) :) :)


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