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! 


  1. That's the best feeling, to know you can handle the meltdowns. They all have them. I'm looking forward to that day with Leah.

    1. it's a big jump in my confidence and necessary to move forward

  2. It's so important to remember how it once was to appreciate how far you've come.

  3. Sounds fantastic shes getting better and you can help her though it, that's always hard. Sometimes I get rather emotional when they don't do what they know already.

    1. It's hard to stay calm some days. That's when I stop and take a breath and re-orient.

  4. I like that she preens under your praise. Makes me smile. :) She sounds opinionated but that keeps life interesting right?

    1. That is for sure! My life is very interesting most days....


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