dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Faint Heart and All That

If you go in/ you're sure to win
Yours will be the charming maidie
Be your law/the ancient saw
Faint heart never won fair lady

Every journey has an end
when at the worst affairs will mend
dark the dawn when day is nigh
hustle your horse and don't say die! 
Gilbert & Sullivan  'Lolanthe'

Originally Royce was not planing to come out on Monday, but he called in the afternoon and said that his schedule opened up and did I want him to come. I of course said yes and we set a time. Fortunately it gave me time to eat dinner. When I headed out to the barn to get organized Royce was already there. He was speaking on his cell phone and playing with a construction tape measure. I saw that he was using it to sack her out. I looked at her wide eyed but calm face and said Now what's he doing to you?
I have no idea. My world has been turned upside down. 

The plan was for Royce to work with her and then we would switch saddles and I would ride. He did a bit, showing me what he was doing and then got on. Royce loves to talk but here's what I gathered from what he said: 
- be clear in your head what you want and clear in your signals. if she doesn't understand make it clearer and then drop it down to a light signal
- she's learning to try to figure out what you want. .She has a lot of pride and, while you have to 'win', you can't trample her pride. 
-stop holding her with the reins. Use the rein aids but give her room. I believe that she has been held in front and driven behind and she's didn't understand what they wanted (he looked angry when he said this). 
-you have to keep her attention 100%. This is critical. If you don't have her attention you have to get it. You can't let her come up with her own ideas. 

When I got into the saddle she was more worried. It made sense- we've been starting over but we still have history. Also, you will be surprised to learn that the weather was windy. Sigh. When I got on the first task was to stand for 5 minutes and not move. At first I thought he meant that he had to go and could only teach me for 5 minutes but then I realized what he was asking. It was funny, Carmen's ears were pointing forward but when I didn't ask anything they flicked back, and then back again. She took a step forward and I brought her back. After a few adjustments, she finally stood there with her ears on me, waiting for instruction. Yay. 

Initially Royce rode Carmen through me. But as I figured out what he was saying and what he meant I was able to begin to do it independently. We rested her in her spooky spots and worked her away from these spots. There were many changes of directions and working on keeping her straight and not letting her bulge out. I could feel how helpful this will be down the road as we start 'dressaging'. With a simple close of the outside rein and leg she would straighten right up- this will be wonderful when we start our lateral work. She's so much lighter off the leg and hand. After one rest she became cranky about going back to work. I was persistent and I could feel her balling up and then she spooked. But I realized that she wasn't afraid- she was getting out of work. So we went to work. And her bad mood didn't last long and didn't escalate. 

As Carmen and I gained confidence Royce began to do things that would be startling in the ring- clapping his hands and throwing rocks. We dealt with it by stopping and backing up. The idea is to replace this idea of running away with the idea of stopping. We then will replace it with her carrying on. 

Then it happened. That thing that all riders look for. I saw it and felt a lift in my heart- could it be? Is it possible?  

And then Royce got all excited 'DO YOU SEE THAT? Look- she has FLOPPY EARS!' 

I grinned. We dialled the work right down and I walked her around the ring with her ears flopping all relaxed and listening. They would go away and then come back. Finally. My mare was working with me and was happy about it!

We ended there. 
my happy eared horse
I see changes in Carmen- not just in work (that's still a long road) but in her demeanour. She's friendly and curious. The other day I had her ground tied in the barn when Ed started weedwacking outside the door. She tensed but didn't move a leg- instead she looked at me. As Ed came by the door she peeked at him.
he's a busy little guy isn't he? 
Another interesting thing is that Royce is 100% clear with the horses. He brooks no nonsense and they know it. Some might find his action harsh- but they need to viewed in context. BUT, interestingly enough I've been able to stop Carmen's supplement for ulcers and she is doing fine. That says it all to me- she needs the clarity. During my ride Royce got after me for saying 'good girl'. He believes that too much talking teaches the horse to tune out and so you only use words when you want them to mean something (like 'whoa' and 'easy'). That evening in the stall he was in there working with Carmen and when I peeked in he was rubbing her forehead and saying 'good girl'. He say me and grinned. I didn't say anything. 



  1. "She has a lot of pride and, while you have to 'win', you can't trample her pride." Love this!

  2. Love this! You guys are making great progress. And the floppy ears... Wonderful.

  3. Glad you are making so much progress! Mares - you can't force them.

    1. no but you can't give in either-it's a fine line. Kinda like teenage daughters. :)

  4. I need to try this whole resting in the scary places tactic. I'm glad training is going so well for you.

    1. It's not easy and I'm working on my confidence with that when alone.

  5. It is so fun to hear about her progress. She really seems to be trying hard to understand. What a sweetheart!

    1. she is- instead of being defensive she's trying to find the answer.

  6. Floppy ears are alwas the best <3

  7. YAY FOR FLOPPY EARS!!! Such happy progress :)

  8. Wow. He sounds like the Horse Whisperer. Some interesting thoughts here-lots of interesting thoughts. One of the best horse trainers I knew--a woman--was also a bit tough, I thought, and QUIET, but every horse that came to her became calmer and happier and willing. I always said being friends with her felt like being friends with a horse. The idea about "pride"--that is so true of some horses. Beautiful Girl is like that and I've wounded her pride on occasion which has put distance between us. Holding with the reins--a mistake I'm always corrected for, too--and keeping their attention at all times. Good reminders. The floppy ears--the softness--it does feel good when it finally comes. Your lessons seem priceless.

    1. He says that the horses taught him everything he knows.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I love the feedback.