dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, April 29, 2016

Building Blocks

Carmen and I both had a bit of a breakthrough today- both mentally and physically.

I didn't ride her this week- the weather turned cold and we even had snow. It didn't stick around but there's been a cold north wind that is not fun.
gratuitous vacation picture of snow on mountains
I am still getting used to this 'every friday off' thing but of course riding is on the agenda. I brought Carmen to the ring and she was pretty attentive. But not completely. And she was a bit lazy. So I made sure that I had her attention and she awake before I got on. There's nothing like getting on a horse that is not tuned in and suddenly wakes up to teach you the error of being casual about that.

Under saddle I could feel a bit of tension and she was stiff. I was also holding with my hands- which is a reaction to her but so not helpful. So we worked on bending and suppling until I felt her begin to soften and relax. I then asked her for a trot and she threw her haunches in and got all huffy about it. I gave her a few tries to figure it out and then picked up the crop. I asked and when she balked I gave her a tap. She kicked out and then trotted off. It took all of two episodes before she realized that I said forward and I meant forward. After that it was a non-issue. It's hilarious how insulted she gets over the crop- I am tapping her no harder then I would tap someone on the shoulder. In some instances it barely touches her. It's the idea of it that gets her knickers in a knot. Fine mare, then go forward and I won't need it.

The first block was in place: Forward.

We did some transitions, some figure 8s and she was about 80% with me. I picked up a trot on the right rein (which is usually her good rein) and asked her to circle at C with a true bend. It was okay- a bit erratic. She started to get tense and I made a mistake- I asked her to canter. Now with Irish, when he gets tight, the canter really helps to reset him and get him to relax. But Carmen is a different kettle of fish and our canter felt like I was riding an 8 legged wildebeest. I brought her back to trot and then walk. She is now well and truly in a huff and I'm getting a bit flustered.

I halted.
I took a deep breath.
'okay' I said 'we're going to walk this circle and work on bending. Once we have that we will try a trot.'
She looked unconvinced.
Let's see how it goes. 

I asked her to walk. I  made sure that my outside rein was steady and supportive. I took a soft feel of the inside and pulsed with my ring finger but I wasn't worried about her head. As we walked I put on in my inside leg, pulsed with my inside hand and released the tension in my outside hip. In half a circle it was much better. By the time we did one round she was breathing in the rhythm and bending.
YES! I sad 'that's it. Good girl'. 
She flicked an ear, softened her neck and preened a bit. I kept praising her and staying on the circle.

(at this moment can I point out that all this was up in last years 'troll corner'. Let's take a minute to appreciate that she's not spinning and bolting).
I asked her to trot and she went forward and then immediately stiffened. I repeated the aids as I had done before and she softened in and bent around the circle. We alternated walking and trotting circles to help her get the idea. I figured out that I needed to make sure that I wasn't stiffening on her - she's so freaking sensitive that she doesn't know how to react to that. When I can soften and work my body parts independently she is so much better. After a bit I was able to alternate with half circles and then quarter circles.

I let her walk out and stretch out while we changed direction. The walk was good but then I asked her to trot. She threw a hissy fit because she thought that she was done. I stayed quiet and persistent. At this point I didn't have the crop anymore but wasn't too worried. She picked up a stiff , sewing machine trot. I asked her to soften and she hopped into canter and we careened around the circle like a drunk motorcycle. I brought her back to trot and then walk and we rebuilt. What was interesting for me was that I wasn't upset or frustrated. I knew what she needed. I just had to help her see it. We went back to walk, got the bend and then into trot. She wanted to rush but I kept my posting slow and steady. Soon I was praising her again and she was back to preening. We were able to transition up and down with a whisper of aids.

Next building blocks: relaxation, suppleness & rhythm

I decided to try a part of the test that we will be doing at the show.
E circle right 20 meters working trot- nailed it.
C Circle right 20M developing right lead canter first quarter of circle: nailed the transition with no fuss. Not a perfect canter circle (we bulged a bit in the corner) but not too bad.
C-M-B- working canter- a little wobble down the straight side but kept the lead and the softness
Between B&F- working trot. NAILED IT. Lovely transition from just my seat.
A down centre line: kept her attention and the turn was good and not abrupt.
X halt through walk, salute. right on X.

I gave her a big pat and let her cool out.

Best building blocks of all: happy horse, happy rider and self confidence.
I'm getting much more confident that I can handle her melt downs. And they are not full-blown hysterical fits any more. More like small little tempests. Which is good because she's getting fitter.

I'm getting excited for the clinic. Which is also good because it's next weekend!
picture from last year- I obviously need riding photos from this year! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

In Which Irish Proves He Still Has IT

Irish has started his annual hunger strike with earnest. When I am outside I can feel his gaze penetrating into my skull demanding to be let onto the grassy field. I've actually started to skulk in hopes that he won't see me. But damn, that horse is psychic. Lately when I look out the window he's staring fixedly at me. I'm sure that he knows I'm there even though he can't see me. 

no excuses servant, just open the gate
I remain strong despite the force of his will. It's amazing- if he had used 1/10th of that in the show ring we'd have kicked butt. He needs to be exercised so that he doesn't lose all of his muscle. He had yesterday off but I needed to work him today. Since I was going to ride two horses I had to pick which one was first. When I looked out in the field and saw Irish throwing tantrums over having to eat hay I decided that he could go first. He was easy to get - he came right up to me. Probably because he thought I was going to take him to grass.

Carmen wasn't too impressed to be left behind but didn't make too much of a fuss. I mounted outside of the barn and rode up to the ring. He was tense and a bit excited so I started him off with lots of bending and suppling exercises. He was very stiff in the trot so we cantered for a bit and he loosened right up. I was glad to be wearing spurs- not to get him going but to help him bend and straighten. It's not so easy for him but letting him work crooked is not going to help in the long run. When he was soft, supple and nicely forward I decided to practice Training Level Test 1. This is one of the tests I have planned for Carmen at our first show and I wanted to see how it rode. I figured it would be easy for him. Irish and I made it to 2nd level before his neuro issues became a problem.
Here's how the test went:
I picked up a trot and entered at A. As we headed down the centre line I felt Irish come alive.
Irish: We're doing a test aren't we? 
Me: yes but don't get excited 
Irish: We ARE. I just knew it! 

X- halt through walk
Irish: Where's the judge? What about my fans? I don't see them!

C- track Left. E - circle left 20 metres
Me:  contain yourself, it's a simple circle not the Indy 500 
Irish: what's that? Is it a REALLY BIG SHOW? 

A- circle left 20 metres picking up a canter in first quarter of circle
As we made our way towards A Irish started to bounce.
Irish: Canter, we're going to canter
Me: Wait for it
Irish: can-ter, can-ter, CANTER CANTER CANTER
 And he cantered, well before A. I brought him back and asked him to canter right after A.
He was nice and forward on the circle.
uh oh I thought.
Irish: I know what's coming next! 
A-F-B working canter
Me: no you don't. 
Irish:  YES I do! 
There's no lengthen in this test. 
Yes there is. Watch me fly! 
No. No. No. Just canter. No lengthen
Here we go- wheeeeeeeeeeee

Despite my half-halts and, quite frankly, death grip on the reins he went down the long side with every bit of lengthen in his 16 year old, out of shape, arthritic being. We flew with no signs of the aforementioned age, out of shapeness or arthritis. .

Between B and M working trot.
Irish: Bit abrupt that. Should have more warning- it's hard to go from lengthen canter to trot. What were the writers thinking? 
Me: They were thinking that it was WORKING CANTER. 
Irish: silly. 

C-E  walk. E-F free walk on the long rein.
As we walked by H Irish tried to cross the diagonal on the free rein
Irish: hellooo? You missed the turn. 
Me: Not until E. 
Irish:  Well that seems late. 

A- Working Trot
Irish:  and we're off! 

E- Circle right 20 metre

Irish: now for the wind up
Me: wind up? what wind up? there will be no winding. 

C- circle 20 meters developing canter in first quarter of circle
Irish: compressing energy, getting ready.... 
Me: For pity's sake. There is NO lengthen in this test. 

C-M-B- working Canter.
Irish: wheeeeee. Look at me- I'm pegasus. 
 Me: fine. yes you are pegasus. The noblest of beasts. 
Irish: I know, right? 

A- down centre line
Irish: hey didn't do lengthen trot. Let's do it now. 

X- Halt salute
Irish  stopped on the dime. I was almost propelled up his neck.

He was thrilled with himself. We cooled out and then walked back to the barn. We passed Carmen and Irish strutted.
Did you see me? Now THAT'S how it's done. 
Carmen: see what? did you get any grass? 

And from his back he can't give me that gimlet eye he's been using! 
This guy can still make me laugh.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Clear Skies

Approximately one year ago I sat on Carmen for the first time since I had bought her (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2015/04/the-right-moment.html). Things went downhill pretty quickly after that. There were issues with saddle fit, the right bit and communication. With lots of help, lots of miles and literally hours spent on the ground and in the saddle we are at a point of consistency.  We both know what to expect from each other (good and bad). I also believe that her diet has played a role as well.

gratuitous vacation picture

I returned from vacation on Wednesday morning. Wednesday night I spent grooming her and thursday I lunged her. I rode for the first time on Friday. Cynthia came and rode Irish. He was feeling good after his abscess popped. I put on a boot to replace his lost shoe and he was good to go. Carmen was relaxed and calm from the start. During the ride she was wary of the far side and tended to bend away. I tried to fix it but ended up riding an 'S' shaped horse with her head held in, her shoulder popped in  and her haunches somewhere to the outside.  I realized that my nemesis, aka my inside hand,  had reared it's ugly head. It's my 'go to' when things start to go wrong. I had to work really hard on not using the inside hand and using my inside leg instead. Things got better after that.

What I also realized is that as long as I have contact on the outside rein she doesn't really spook. The problem is that when she's worried about something she ducks behind the rein and I have to be careful that I don't pull back.  She had some worries and spooks but not the big spin-and-bolt we had last year. Instead they were 'flinches' and then carry on. I have to make sure that when I feel her tense that I don't tense in response. Instead I have to relax more. This leads to some interesting internal conversations:
oh oh she's getting tense, better get ready- tighten those legs and grip those reins.
no, just breathe 
but we could die
it will be okay, just sit back not forward and relax those legs
screw you, I don't want to die
trust me. 
oh, look it worked. 
And repeat.
But it's getting easier.

Our canter transitions are much better- there was no bucking at all.

Today was a ride just by ourselves. And it was better than yesterday. We were able to work on bends and patterns. I'm having so much fun just being able to use the entire ring. I am able to use lots of patterns to keep her focussed and on the aids. As we got more in tune she became very forward. My first reaction was to try to slow her down but I realized that she wasn't rushing- she was using her hind end and I wasn't feeling fast- I was feeling power. Once I started to ride that it got really fun.

I know that there will be bad rides too but I am feeling quite optimistic about our spring and summer.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Achieving a Work-Equine Balance

When I first started in my career I worked 4 days a week. It was perfect when the kids were young. A few years later and I was working full time and then I moved into a management position which was, frankly, more than full time a lot of the time. But I love my job and believe in the work that we do.

A few months ago I was given the opportunity to work less hours. After some thinking and consulting with Ed I am now back to working 4 days a week.  When I tell my friends they comment on how this will help achieve a work - life balance. When I tell my horse friends their eyes light up and they comment on how this will free up my time to spend with the horses. Which is exactly what I thought as well.

My new schedule started at the same time as when I took my vacation so I don't know yet how it feels.  I was on vacation until Weds and went to work yesterday. I'm off today and it feels like I'm skipping school. But I'm sure I'll get over that. It will be easier to schedule lessons and horse activities on this schedule and I will be able to get chores done around the farm.

In two weeks Carmen and I are off to a 3 day clinic with Johanna. She helped us so much last year that I'm excited to work with her again.

And because you may be wondering about Irish: he blew an abscess out his heel sometime in the night on Wednesday. He's feeling much better. But he's dropping weight like crazy right now because the grass is starting to grow and he's ignoring his hay. But there's not enough grass for him to maintain his weight.  It happens every spring and it drives me nuts. I've taken to scattering hay out in the paddock in hopes that he will graze on it. Once he's over on the grass he will bulk up again. In the meantime I hope no one calls horse protection on me! If Irish was a human he would be one of those naturally skinny people that drop weight easily. I gave him a stomach supplement this morning so that he doesn't get ulcery with his lack of forage intake. Carmen is being sensible and picking at the grass and eating the hay.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Welcome Home

It was a great vacation.  It was just what I needed after my winter- the right mix of fun and relaxation in warm weather. I do really like Arizona- there's so much to do and see it's hard to fit it all in. I will probably put in some photos of my trip over the next few months. Another thing that I really enjoyed was spending time with Ed's family. Since they live out west we don't see them much. It was nice to reminded of just how lovable they all are (not loveable like a teddy bear or kitten but as wonderful, intelligent human beings).

All that said, I was ready to come home. I was missing my arm and my family (4 and 2 legged). We arrived late last night and spent the night at Andrew and Cynthia's before heading home. We were up after a few hours sleep and on the road. When we pulled into the driveway Irish was staring at the car. I got out and he walked up to the fence to greet me. Carmen was there as well but not quite as interested- she was trying to find the green grass that's starting to come in.

We went into the house and unpacked. I then bundled up (it seemed cold after Arizona) and went outside. As soon as I walked out Irish came up to the fence again. This time Carmen came running too.

Here's Irish as the fence and Carmen coming up behind.
Note the position of the right hind leg- it's going to become important. 

I went out to the field and spend some time with them- rubbing them and catching up on all the news. I promised them both a good groom later on tonight and then headed up to the ring. The ground is beginning to firm up and I wanted to see how much work it needed. I decided to hitch up the drag and give it a good going over. It took about an hour- I went over it several times to loosen up the sand that had become compacted. 

I noted that Irish didn't seem quite right. Joanne had warned me the the hadn't eaten all his breakfast- but that's not unusual for him so I don't panic over such things. In the house I kept an eye on him and he still didn't seem himself. I couldn't figure out what was wrong so I put on his halter and brought him in. At first I thought he seemed colicky but he did have some reasonable gut sounds (yes I own a stethoscope. If you owned Irish so would you). His breathing seemed normal and his gums pink. But he was a bit trembly in the hind end and he looked a bit peaked. He was very restless in the cross ties-which is not typical. My brain started to clamour with warning bells when he went to go step back in the cross ties and had to hop. Irish has an unspecified neurological condition (most probably arthritis) and I'm always on the lookout to see if it worsens. He can take some anti-inflammatories but only short term (because of his tendency to colic). 

The voices in my head started up:
Could be a fractured pelvis
But he's walking okay
Or impaction
But I heard gut sounds
What about his gums?
They seemed normal.
'SEEMED' normal? What kind of owner does not know the exact shade of pink of her horse's gums? 
You're right. I'm not fit to have horses. 
This might be it. 
While we're at it, what kind of owner goes away and leaves her animals anyway? 
We don't even know what's going on yet. 

Ah, the voice of reason. 

I called and explained (somewhat incoherently) what was going on. The receptionist promised me a vet would call. In the meantime I noted that he was missing a shoe. I was sure I had seen it on him earlier. So I sent a text to my farrier:

Once I read Paul's texts I realized that abscess made the most sense. There was no heat or swelling so it was either high up (in his hip/SI/ pelvis) or low in his foot. Irish has been prone to abscesses. I picked up his hing foot and cleaned it out. I tapped it with the hoof pick in a few spots and one area he would jerk it away from me. I heaved a big sigh. I started to boil water and get out the hoof packing stuff.

In the meantime the phone rang and it was Meaghan. I told her that I was much less panicked and what I thought was going on. We decided that I would treat it as an abscess and if it changed at all she would come out and take a look. I made up my poultice with boiling water, a hoof poultice and some towels. I put it in my Old Mac horse boot and put it on his foot. I had soaking feet and Irish is a real PITA about it. He will stand for the longest time and then tip the water out. I'm sure he does it for amusement. While his foot was soaking I mixed some feed, bute and stomach supplement to give him. He wasn't sure if he wanted to eat it (the supplement is new to him) so I held the tub and coaxed him to eat. Carmen looked on appalled at being left out of all this - especially the feeding.

hello??? is anyone noticing the starving horse over here? This is so not fair

Irish ate most of it and I put the rest to mix with his supper later. I let Carmen like the tub. 

After I let Irish back out and walked around looking for the missing shoe. I couldn't find it but he followed me around like a puppy. 

I know it sounds crazy but part of me thinks he timed this so that I would have to pamper him when I came home.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cow Pokes

Sorry for the radio silence the past week or so. Ed and I have been travelling. We were out in the mountains of BC for a wedding:
The wedding Venue at Emerald Lake Lodge
After some fun days visiting with family and celebrating young love we headed south to Arizona where we met up with our friends Cynthia and Andrew. We spent the first part in Sedona and visited the Grand Canyon. Let me go on record that you should go to Sedona. The views are breath taking and it's a hikers paradise. We then headed to the San Tan Valley (where we are now). 

Riding in the desert has always been on my list of things to do (won't call it a bucket list). Cynthia's husband suggested that he and Ed should go with us on one of our treks. I found a great place close to us (MD Ranch) and after speaking to the owner and looking at the horses, Cynthia and I booked the ride. 

Right up to the last minute Ed was thinking we were joking but Andrew insisted that it would be fun for all us. Which is pretty impressive for a guy that's allergic to horses. It might have been the allergy medication talking. But we were mounted up and headed off. I really liked the horses. Mine was a palomino mare and she was so smooth that I would have bought her and brought her home if I could have fit her in my luggage. Irish might not appreciate having 2 mares though...

such a great view

yes I know that we are not wearing helmets. 

You can see that after we are all smiles. I really enjoyed the walk in the park even though it was quite windy. I was speaking to our trail guide asking each other about hay and horse keeping in our two locales.

Today Cynthia and I are dropping the guys off at a golf course and headed to Saguaro Lake for another ride in the desert- 2 hours this time.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Annual Checkup

Yesterday I had the vet come to do the spring vaccinations, teeth floating and general check up. This time we had the daughter of the vet we usually get. M is just as wonderful as her father. She came with an assistant and both said that they had been admiring Carmen as they drive by our home.Of course I totally agreed with them.

Carmen was a bit wary of the 'strangers' but Irish takes his job as official greeter very seriously. We decided to do Carmen first. I described what had been going on with the Alfalfa and she agreed that it could be that. M asked if I had tried magnesium and I said I was considering it but wanted to think about it. She agreed that the evidence is anecdotal. Carmen was very well behaved for the examination but I could see she was on guard. M gave her a sedative to do her teeth and it was funny to see the transformation of high headed, haughty mare to droopy lip and stoned mare. As M did her teeth she was alert enough to keep grabbing the rasp. I had suspected that there might be a few sharp edges to her teeth given her reluctance to take the bit lately and sure enough she had some hooks in the back molars and had cut her cheek. M also asked if there were any soundness, lameness anything with her. Nope I said. And then knocked on the wooden stall door.

Irish watched up from his stall looking a little miffed that Carmen was getting all the attention. but now it was his time. He was happy for all the attention. We gave him some drugs too to do his teeth but much less than Carmen. That made things go faster.

Both horses had good body condition- Irish on the skinny side of good and Carmen on the not-skinny side. Irish always drops a bit of weight this time of year so I no longer worry. It will come back when the grass is in.

After I left them in the stalls to sleep off the drugs and then let them out to move around a bit. They basically looked at each other trying to figure out what happened and then went to top of the hill to sleep it off.

After I came out to get the stalls ready and feed them supper. Normally they come down to harass hurry me along. This time they stayed at the top of the hill and watched me. I could see them.
Carmen: Do you think it's supper?
Irish: (squinting): Hard to tell. It could be a trap. 
Carmen: What do we do. 
Irish: We wait but keep an eye out. If it's a trap she'll come to get us. If it's supper she will call us. 
Carmen:ohhhh. Okay

When I was in the tack room filling their feed buckets they started to mosey down. When Carmen saw me pour her feed in she came trotting in and dived into her bucket.

It's good to have that done as spring is coming much earlier this year.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I have sometimes been told that I am not sentimental. And that may be true- I have not kept every drawing my children have done and when we were cleaning out my mother's place I kept a few things to remind me of her and gave the rest to charity (or threw away). I have a box of things that she put aside before she died and put my name on but haven't been ready to go through that yet. 

Anyway, I've always liked jewelry. I have a few funky pieces that I like to wear and when I travel I try to find some jewelry so that when I put it on it reminds me of where I've been. 

I've been intrigued by the horse hair jewelry. After Steele died I didn't even think to get some hair but I found some from a brush I had and I put it in a bag and set it aside. A few weeks ago I saw a post that a neighbour (Vanessa) was making jewelry from horse hair. I contacted her and and she dropped it off last night (let me know if you want to get in touch with her): 

It's a bracelet that is a mix of Irish, Carmen and Steele's hair.  It's simple which I like. 

Maybe I am a sentimental fool after all. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Riding High

Not that I would.

Ride high I mean.

Mind you, I might be using wine as a calming agent at our first show (in 2 months, OHMYGOD) but I would not be high.

where are you going with this? 

Okay, now that I've totally lost control of this post let me try to get back on track.

It poured all day saturday but Sunday dawned clear and sunny. It was a stunning morning- a light mist over grass the was starting to green and singing birds. It was a morning that promised good things.

I checked the weather and it was forecast to change so I quickly texted Cynthia to let her know that there was a riding window in the morning. Her husband answered that she was still asleep but woke her for me. She donned her riding clothes, grabbed some coffee and hit the road. While I waited for her to come I dug some rocks out of the ring and sent up some cavalettis for walking. My goal was to begin introducing some honest-to-goodness dressage stuff. I was no longer going to be happy with just that she steered, trotted and didn't spook (much). 

When Irish and Carmen were happy and relaxed getting ready. In the ring I showed Carmen the cavalettis and we walked through them in hand a few times. She was not worried. I didn't do much work on the lunge because she was tuned in from the beginning. I mounted and we went to work. Based on what I saw on the lunge I carried the crop from the beginning. When she hesitated walking towards a specific location I gave her  a leg cue and then if she ignored it the lightest of taps behind the leg. Soon we were moving forward and working at a nice steady walk and then trot. She gave a bit of a spook in troll corner but I ignored it and we carried on working. 

We walked over the poles on both reins. She struggled a bit with them - not sure how to carry me and time her pacing but I kept it low key. The idea was not perfection- the idea was to introduce the concept of carrying herself.  I was enjoying doing patterns with her: walk over the poles, pick up a trot, trot to short side, turn down the quarter line, leg yield left to the rail, trot about 20 strides, transition to walk, turn up the quarter line and walk over the poles. Repeat. It was busy enough to occupy her mind but not so busy that I became impatient with the aids. 

We did some trot-canter- trot transitions and those are improving all the time. If I ask too tightly or at the wrong time she will kick out to let me know so I try to be subtle. We then walked and practiced our stretchy walk. I was happy with how she stretched out and marched. She comes back to the shorter rein without fussing. I finished up with some 10 metre circles into shoulder in. when we were getting it to the left I asked her to trot. She was not impressed. 
Carmen: um. excuse me? We were done. 
Me: Not yet. 
Carmen: what part of WE'RE FINISHED are you not understanding? 
Me: The part that says 'finished'. There's just a bit more to do. 
Carmen: *sigh* fine. 
Me: Good girl. 

Our SI's were more shoulder fore but I accepted the try. I then switched direction. She had a much easier time to the left. After a few minutes I brought her back to walk and patted her. We walked up to the gate. I halted and reached over and dropped the rail to the ground. She didn't bat an eye. I picked it up and moved it forward a bit. She stood and chewed the bit. I walked her forward and hopped off. 

I was thrilled with our work. She and worked as a team without a battle or fuss. 

We might actually make a dressage team after all. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Fine Balance

Riding Carmen is bit like walking a knife edge- I have to find the balance between keeping her calm but challenging her to trust my guidance. I find myself going too far one way and then the other and, sometimes, I get it just right.

I was able to ride again on Thursday and I'm not sure that was a good idea. It was a very windy day - the trees were almost bent over.  Carmen does not like the wind. She doesn't trust seeing everything moving around. However, Cynthia had come and I thought that it would be good for her to learn that she can be worked in less than ideal conditions and the world doesn't end. She was very tense. i could get moments of relaxation but they were fleeting. I finished on a good note.

Friday I was not feeling well at all so I didn't do anything with her.

Saturday I felt better and thought that I should ride. When I went out the barn Carmen was in the small paddock but when she saw me she quietly walked away out the bigger paddock with Irish. I got things ready and went out to the paddock. Irish came right up and Carmen followed. I was able to get her halter on with no fuss and she followed me quietly enough.

It was clear in the barn that she was a bit tense and worried. I worked on staying quiet and calm as I groomed and tacked her up. When I went to put her bridle on she flung her head up - with an Andalusian that is pretty high. It took 3 tries and I got it on. But I wasn't happy so I took it off to do it again. This time she threw up head and back away. I felt myself get frustrated so I took a deep breath and put the bit up to her mouth. This time, instead of trying to get her to open her mouth with my finger I simply head the bit against her lips and decided that I would wait for as long as it took. In a few seconds she opened her mouth and took it as nice as you please.  It was raining but not hard so I decided to carry on.

Up in the ring I was very careful with the ground work. I tried to be the calm center but expect that she work around me and stay focussed. If I am too strong and firm she feels trapped between what makes her nervous out of the ring and me in the middle. If I'm too coddling she just wants to hang close to me and not go out on the line. I was able to find the balance and get her working through her back and listening to me.

I was just standing her by the gate while I took  off the lunge line and got her ready to work when Irish started running around like a fool in his paddock. He ran the fence line, charged it, raised his head and generally carried on.
Great I thought. I decided that I would some work in hand with Carmen to make sure that she was tuned into me. But she really didn't seem too worried by Irish- mildly curious would be how I would describe it.
Me: Does he do this often?
Carmen: You have no idea. He's quite dramatic at times. 
I did some work getting her to yield to the bit and some turns on the forehand. We made it down to the mounting block and she seemed, well, fine. So I got on.

As we walked off she was a bit tense so I worked on breathing deep and keeping my seat in the saddle. She started to meet me half way and we carried on down the ring working on bend and leg yielding. I asked her to trot and she stepped off smartly. She hesitated a bit on the die of the ring. I went and picked up the crop. I asked her again and when she hesitated I gave the lightest of taps behind my leg and she came more forward. I didn't need it after that.

I realized that as we were working I was chasing the contact- it would come and she would fuss and I would lose it and try to get it back. I realized that that was not the way to do it. I instead steadied my hand and let her find me. It didn't take long for her to do just that and things improved immeasurably.

We finished with some walk-halt transitions. She raises her head in those and I was trying to figure out what I was doing to cause this. After a a few I noticed that I was tensing my thighs as I asked for the halt. Aha! So I worked on asking and making sure my thighs were relaxed and not tight. After a few transitions she stopped square and in the bridle. I was very happy with our work and hopped off.

In the barn she was whole new horse- relaxed and happy. I slipped the bridle off her ears and she opened her mouth to drop the bit.

Out in the paddock as I cleaned up she and Irish hung out by the water cooler  hay net.
Carmen: what was up with all the running around?
Irish: I was trying to get you out of work. I thought she might give up the idea of riding. 
Carmen: well it didn't work.
Irish: *sigh* no. It rarely does. 
Carmen: don't tell her but it really wasn't so bad.

from last year. Still smiling