dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Positive Spin

It's funny how things can turn around.

If you've been following my blog for a while you know that I had been looking for someone to get regular lessons from here at home. To be honest I had given up because everyone was too far away- it wasn't worth it for them to come just for me.

Then my friend Cindy (not to be confused with Cynthia) got herself a new horse. Her older mare was retired (the four of us used to play together) and she had said that she was 'retired' as well. Ha! True horsewomen don't really retire until they are too crippled to ride. I saw that Cindy was posting photos of her riding her new mare (a lovely Canadian cross) in a lesson. She told me that this person was very good and that she travelled to Bridgewater regularly.

 I let that information percolate for a while, but on Thursday I messaged Cindy to get some more information. A little research and I realized that this person, although young (to me) had done quite a bit of training and had a reputation of being good with young horses. I thought I would send an inquiry. I messaged her on FB (because that's how you connect these days!) to see what was possible. Next thing I knew I had a lesson booked for the next day at 2:00. I was impressed- she certainly didn't let the grass grow under her feet!

I had already made plans to ride with Cynthia but my ring is big enough that she could ride while I had my lesson. In the morning I drove to Greenhawk (about an hour away) to exchange my helmet. Troxel has an exchange policy for when the helmet is in an accident. I paid $25 and had a brand new helmet (the exchange cost depends on the age of the helmet). After making the exchange (and picking up a few other things of course) I picked up Cynthia and brought her with me.

The weather was being very weird- rain, sun, cloud, wind all came and went like trains in a station. I dragged the ring and then got Carmen ready. I wanted to lunge her first. Carmen was grumpy in the barn and didn't appear to be too thrilled about getting tacked up. To be honest I was nervous- starting with a new person can be nerve wracking. Cynthia noted amusingly that I was heading out 20 minutes before my lesson but I couldn't help myself.

In the ring Carmen was being very very good. I could see the work that I had done yesterday paying off. Even when a stroller went by on the road- we watched it go without any drama. Doing the ground work not only works to settle Carmen, it works to settle me too. You need to be focussed and clear and that helps empty the mind of anything but what you are doing.

Shanea arrived right on time (a real plus in my book. My god I'm sounding old!). We talked about Carmen and our history together (we had also done that in our earlier communications). Carmen ignored us and Shanea noted that and then started to 'play' with Carmen. This got her intrigued and she gave her a sniff and then looked at me.

I put on the ear piece (I do like having a FM system when riding) and mounted. Shanea noted how nice it was that Carmen stood so quiet while I got organized. And we started out lesson.

***usual disclaimer that I am telling you my interpretation of what Shanea was telling me so any errors are likely mine****

We started off at the walk and as I began the warm up Shanea started giving suggestions. I won't go over the whole lesson in detail, but, you guys, it was wonderful. I really liked Shanea's style- she was calm and low key and put everything in a positive light. When I made a mistake she corrected it gently and explained to me what the issue was. There were so many similarities to Karen, Roz, Johanna and Sue that everything she said fit right in. Once I realized that I could relax into the lesson. There was no 'just make her do it' or 'don't let her get away with that'.

Here are some highlights:
Keep my reins in line with her mouth- if her head goes up - go up with it so I'm not fulling down and then ask her to come with me.

The 10 metre circle is my friend. In places where's she tight and tense ask her to bend like we're on a 10 metre circle to get her focussed back on me. this gives her something to do rather then telling her to NOT do something:
we're going through troll corner and I'm asking her to bend around
my leg. See how she's listening even though tight? 
She's building her topline so she will carry herself and then lose it. That's baby horse stuff and normal. Don't worry about it but do ask her to come back.

coming back to me after lifting her head but note the tongue- I found that funny

Shanea picked up on my rogue left hand right away. When I don't have a connection with the rein I start to do all sorts of weird things with it- rotate the wrist, cross the neck etc. As soon as I get the connection it's okay. But I need to feel the connection with my elbows not my hands. Johanna says shoulders but it's all the same idea. She also picked up that it's easier for Carmen to the right then to the left. 

Carmen will give and follow the bit nicely and then she gets a bit strong and tries to take over. The trick is to get the stretch but not let her take over- a gentle bump with the calves and a half-halt with the seat sorts that out.  

The outside rein is my friend- it will help to get Carmen to free up her shoulders. 
here she's coming against the rein trying to bulge away from the
spooky spot but I love how her leg is reaching forward. I can also see
how much more I need to build up her hind end

Carmen gave one spook - up in troll corner she spun and went away. I sat up and said 'ooh' (I was caught off guard and the ooh was involuntary). She slammed to a halt and we carried on. However, as we progressed Carmen's ear were swivelling back and forth and she was totally tuned into me (and me to her). Shanea said 'She's got her satellites going. We now need floppy ears'.  I could feel Carmen's mood shift from grumpy to happy. 

We worked on the quarter line keeping Carmen perfectly straight and I had a chance to feel how many small adjustments that requires. 

We did some leg yields. Shanea didn't want a big cross over for those- instead she wanted to focus on staying straight in her body and gradually moving over so that she was actually 'filling' the outside rein and moving properly. Otherwise she leads too much with her shoulders or her haunches. It took a bit for me to figure it all out and then translate to Carmen but once we got it, I could feel it right away. The cross over will come but it has to come from straightness- otherwise she will overbend and be crooked which will make everything else much harder. 
heading towards the scary wheelbarrow monster thing
(it also had a broom on it) 

We then tried it at a trot. First we just trotted working on forward and softness. Often if I trot late in the ride she's a bit resistant and she was but it didn't last long. 
I love this photo- one ear forward, one back, reaching under with her hind leg,
I'm sitting up (I could be back a bit), following with my hands and smiling. 

In the spooky areas I was to do ask for a 10 metre circle bend and channel the energy positively (if that sounds familiar, it should I've been told that by Karen and by Sue but it's harder to do then it sounds).  
yay, look at the leg yield
Carmen and I did some of the best leg yields we've ever done- no tension or resistance. We did them to the left and then to the right. I think Shanea said that I would get more benefits from the left in terms of straightness but I may have that wrong, will have to check. When we switched to the right Carmen was thinking we really ought to be done but she did go back to work without too much drama which made me happy. After two nice leg yields we stopped and finished up with practicing the stretchy walk on a circle. 

There were so many reasons why this lesson shouldn't have gone well:
- the weather changed multiple times - wind and cloud, then sun, then more wind, then sun. it was bizarre
-tension in me riding with a new person
- just the past few days and how spooky she's been. 
But it didn't. We both ended up in our happy place. 

Having Irish helped at the beginning but we both forgot he was there after a while. Cynthia said that Irish was waiting for some attention and was a bit miffed that he didn't get any. 
HELLO?! can't anyone see my awesome trot back here?! 
Shanea was very positive about Carmen, me and our partnership. She kept using words like teamwork. She was also very keen on praise and letting Carmen know she was good. She noted that when I left Carmen in the barn to go get the money that Carmen was looking for me even though she and Cynthia were there. 

These are the kind of rides I want to have so I'm looking forward to more lessons. 


  1. That sounds wonderful! It can be so tough to find an instructor who you can trust and whose philosophy aligns with your own. I'll bet you are looking forward to your next lesson. :-)

  2. I think we are on the same page with our lessons. Shanea has so much insight and positive reinforcement for both me and Briosa. I absolutely love our lessons and am super happy with the progress we have made this past summer. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing it gradually and building upon each lesson. I have always been too far away to have the consistency a coach. I am so pleased with the knowledge that Shanea brings to each lesson, as well as her positive outlook and that she is willing to come to me. Teresa, I'm sure that you will find her a Godsend as I have. :) Esther & Briosa

    1. You were one of the reasons that I was thinking of her too- I saw the positive results in your mare.

  3. Teresa, I see that we are both similar in our lessons. I have been so thrilled to have Shanea come and share her knowledge, positive reinforcement and patience with me and Briosa. We have been building upon each lesson and have come such a long way together. We are both enjoying the journey. I have always been too far away to have the consistency of a coach. I feel that Shanea has been a Godsend and I'm sure you will too.

  4. I'm so happy you had a good lesson. Look at your smile! Good coaches are worth their weight in gold.

    1. When things go well I can't help but smile when I ride that horse.

  5. Finding a good instructor is a blessing!! It sounds like you really click!

    1. So far so good. I'm hoping that this really works out.

  6. I haven't been checking Blogger much so I missed your Equine Assisted Random Gravity Check. Ouch! I'm glad you were wearing a helmet and I'm glad you're mostly okay. I never completely recovered from one of those and mine was 'just' a shoulder (not treated) and arm (mildly treated...what a joke) injury.

    It sucks you have to replace your helmet, but as you know, they're easier to replace than a scrambled brain. ;)

    1. Thanks Brenda. And that's why I wear a helmet.

  7. That sounds like a really great lesson and a good find for a trainer. I'm sure you and Carmen are going to have a lot of fun getting to know her.

  8. Wonderful! I'm so excited for you :) I hope someday I can find someone similar to come to me so we can start making some progress like you and Carmen! Your photos are WONDERFUL!

  9. Sounds like a great lesson. It's great when you find a good instructor.

  10. It sounds like a very good lesson. Finding an instructor that you mesh well with is hard. Sounds like you were successful!

  11. She sure has a swinging shoulder! Wowza!!


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