dancing horses

dancing horses

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


  1. Sounds like such a wonderful ride! Mares expect a lot of their humans (I'm finding!) :)

  2. I suspect the wind is so threatening to horses because it deafens us, it sort of blinds us because everything is moving so we don't know where to look, (in my case is blinds me by blowing my hair in my face) and I suppose it affects the sense of smell, as well. My dogs can't concentrate on getting down to business when there is a mild or moderate wind, because they smell everything. I wonder if big winds just mix up all the smells or blast them right past us.

  3. It sounds like Saturday may have had some carryover from Thursday's wind work, at the beginning. I always try to put myself in their shoes on windy days--the smells, sounds, that they are probably picking up on. It's wonderful that you go out and work with her anyway and teach her that it's going to be okay, no matter what the weather is like. Very wise.

    1. Yes that makes sense about the why. I hope with time she will learn to accept wind

  4. I used to ride when I was young up to middle age, both English and Western, but reading this I see the difference when you really understand how to communicate with your horse and whatever it was that I was doing. I had lots of fun with it though, but it is fascinating to read about all the details, the small adjustments, the understanding of your horse and she of you. You look lovely by the way. Both of you.

    1. Thank you. Communication has been a real work in progress. I don't know that I'll ever feel competent.

  5. You two are making good progress in training each other. :) Gotta love those mares.


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