dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017- Year in Review

I guess it's that time of year again. And since it's bitterly cold outside today seems like a good day to take a look back on the year that was. I have to say that is was a good year for Carmen and I. When I wrote my goals for this year back in January I thought that I might have been a bit optimistic.

However, writing them out helped me to stay motivated and keep going even when we had a few set backs.

Carmen: 'what are we looking at?'
Here are some basic statistics for 2017:
  • 145 blog posts (feel free to check my math). 
  • 4 clinics :
    • Dressage /centred riding with Johanna Batista
    • Dressage with Jane Fraser
    • Trail with Nikki and Mike Porter
    • Dressage with Jacqueline Brooks
  • 4 Shows with scores ranging from 3 to 8: 
    • 3 schooling shows at Five Fires
    • 1 Bronze/Gold at Windsor Exhibition
  • Multiple lessons- Too many to count (or I am too lazy to check, you decide). 
  • 3 off-property trail rides and many on-property
  • Rides- again I could count them as I track them on my calendar but let's go with 'lots'. I spent a lot of time in the saddle
  • 1 horse camp with my niece coming to stay
  • A few fun weekends with Karen
I am finding a hard time picking the 'best' thing that we did.  
It was a fun year. 

Getting the ribbons and awards was fun but more for what they represented. 

I still laugh when I see this photo- it totally summed up our first show experience (PC Joanne Kane)

We really worked hard on getting ourselves together and building the partnership.

pretty much where we were in January
pretty much where we are now
 This was a year of setting up challenges. Each time Carmen and I rose to meet them. Sometimes with ease and grace and other times with much flailing and struggling. I seem to have overcome my anxiety about trailering and have became comfortable doing it all myself.

I learned a lot this year:

  • Carmen is much better off-property than on. 
  • I still really enjoy showing. 
  • Carmen LOVES the trail and is far more relaxed then in the ring
  • I can sit in the saddle and ride things out (even a heart pounding bolt). 
  • Carmen and I can work together as a team and she will look to me for guidance (and by god I better have it). 
  • That Carmen has a habit of spooking in the same spot in every ring (between E and C)
  • I have the most amazing friends who go above and beyond to help us reach our goals. 

I loved doing the trail/ Working Equitation obstacles and want to do more this year. It is just so much fun:
Carmen: um, are you sure?

Carmen: I can do this and look pretty at the same time

Ed helped me carve out some trails on our property and it has been a lot of fun planning and riding on them. One has been blocked by the storm we just had and so will need some work in the spring:
no riding through that. 
Overall 2017 has been a stellar year for us. I am so happy that I persevered with Carmen and found a way to reach her. I have learned that we are very alike (both good and bad). She has made me a better rider and, in some ways, a better person. I am more patient (I said 'more patient' not 'patient' so stop laughing) and more aware of how my internal state affects those around me. 

Here's to 2018. 
Me: are you ready?
Carmen: oh yeah, I'm ready

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Gifts

Hello everyone- I hope that y'all had a wonderful holiday. We've had a wonderful Christmas despite the weather demons.

Christmas eve was a beautiful and warm sunny day so I decided to ride. Since I had only ridden once in 2 weeks it seemed prudent to lunge first. Carmen was a bit looky but pretty good. That carried over to the riding. She was very very good. I also stayed focussed on making sure that I was giving constant directions and not sitting in the back seat and letting her drive.

I always find it hard to know how much to school when she's not in regular work. I don't want to make her sore and it seems unfair to push her too hard- especially when I can't be sure to ride the next day to help clarify. I decided that I was just going to work on soft and steady contact, smooth transitions and bend.

I could feel a real change in the contact since I did her teeth- she was back to being soft in the contact and no more gaping or pulling. While she was definitely a bit looky she was not that tight ball of dynamite that I had been riding. I am filing that away as useful information- Carmen is far more explosive when she's uncomfortable. I ended our session after 50 minutes. In the barn she was quite happy to have me groom and make a fuss over her. It was a lovely Christmas gift.

That night we had lobster and a whole bunch of snacks.

Picked up the lobster at the wharf

Christmas day was a whole different story in terms of weather. We had freezing rain, followed by rain and then the winds started. Up to 130 km/hr. It was inevitable that we would lose power and we did around 3:45. Fortunately the turkey was done. Ed hooked up the generator but it doesn't run the stove.  I ended up cooking the potatoes and gravy in the microwave.  We were able to have some light with an extension cable and had dinner by the light of the tree and some candles.

Christmas dinner by candlelight
We had a ton of fun playing board games and spending time together. The barn chores are always more challenging by lamplight. I have a battery lantern that I use. It makes me feel like I'm in 'Little House on the Prairie'. 

This morning we rigged up some heavy duty extension cords to run the electric fence but first we needed to repair the fence. We still don't have power but are doing fine. It has been a wonderful Christmas with the kids (2 and 4 legged). Ed gave me a Fitbit Charge 2 which I'm really happy with. My kids appear to know their mother quite well:

From my son. I think that the will be my horse show sweater to protect my show clothes. 

My daughter saw me admiring this and sneakily bought it. 

All of these are lovely gifts but the best one is to slow down and spend time with the people and creatures I love. And eating. I will definitely be putting that Fitbit to use!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Tag

I was nominated by Ahamoments to participate in Christmas Tag.

Here are the rules for this award:
  • Thank the person that nominated you with a link to their blog √
  • Add the picture in your blog √
  • Copy these rules into your post √
  • Add a link to this original post √ Original Christmas Tag
  • Answer the 10 questions (you can add extra Christmas – related questions if you want) √
  • Tag at least 3 other bloggers with links to their blogs √
  • Have fun! √√√
I am not always good at doing these but I thought this might be fun. 

1. What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

I love spending time with my family. Every year we have the Annual Arab Family Wii Sports Tournament. I am not very good at a lot of the games but it's fun. A lot of times I get to ride on Christmas day. It may not happen this year but that's okay. I love the morning in the barn just with the animals and enjoying the peace. 

2. What's your favourite Christmas Memory? 

I can't pick any. There are a lot of special small memories that I treasure:
  •  My mom always used to buy me a tin of Quality Street Chocolates. I miss that small gift more than anything. 
  • One year we had a storm that knocked the power out so I cooked the turkey on the BBQ until it came back on. 
  • Not my memory but a family story that one year a massive storm stopped all travel and my grandfather went to the local bus station and invited everyone who was stuck there to the house for Christmas dinner. I admire that more than anything- he was the most generous person I knew
  • Ed and making ornaments for our own first Christmas tree. We had no money so this was all we could do. I still have many of them and they go on the tree. 
  • The first Christmas I had Irish at home in my very own barn. 
3. Are there special traditions your family has for Christmas?

 Other than eating and Wii tournament, not really. Of course there's always me sending Ed back to the grocery store for one more item- that's becoming a thing. 

4. What's your Christmas wish? 

No idea really. An indoor? Peace on earth? To have everything be ready at the same time for dinner? 

5. What's your favourite Christmas dish? 
Um, everything. I make Cinnamon buns for the morning (oh wait, maybe that's a tradition?). 

6. What's your favourite Christmas Decoration? 
I have so many special ornaments it's hard to choose. I have old ones that were my in-laws, ones for my children's first Christmas etc. I always try to pick up an ornament when I travel so I can remember. Essentially decorating the tree is a trip down memory lane. I just ordered these and they arrived:
Made by a friend out of clay it's Guinness and d'Arcy. I love them. Next year I will order ones of the horses. 

7. What's your favourite Christmas Song? 
Hard to choose. I have always loved 'Oh come all ye faithful' and 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas' but it's probably Snoopy's Christmas song'

8. Where do you usually celebrate Christmas? 
At home. It's hard to leave with the horses so I try to stay home. Every now and then I think it would be fun to go to my sisters to see the chaos or to go south. Anyone want to spend christmas in a farm house with just a few animals to look after? 

9. What does Christmas Spirit mean to you? 
Loaded question, but for me it's less about the religious aspect and more about the kindness. I hate hearing people complain about how much work it is- do less. Honestly, if it's not fun don't bother. No one wants to spend Christmas with a martyr. 

10.  Who would you want to spend Christmas with? 
My family. And the ones I've lost. 

I'm going to follow the rules and nominate three bloggers but only do it if you want. Do not feel obligated!

Merry Christmas everyone. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Domestic Goddessing

The weather has turned cold and bitter. Which I guess is fair since it's winter. But any riding has come to an abrupt halt.

not ready to stop 
There's nothing I can do about it and I'm pretty sure that Santa is not going to bring me an indoor for Christmas no matter how good I've been.

The horses stand outside at the hay feeder and eat all day. I am sure that they are muttering about the 1.5"holes in the net. Irish can eat with attitude! I've cut Carmen's feed and hay since she's not in work and she is not taking it well at all. Last night we had a chat about what is an appropriate way to express her emotions about this and what is not. I suspect we will have this conversation again.

Guinness is getting a lot of walks which he's enjoying quite a bit.
someone has figured out the warm place to lay while he waits for me to be finished

On the up side I am more ready for Christmas then I have been in years. All the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree.

who is this woman?

Last year a blogger posted a recipe for candy cane bark but I can't remember who (Hawk maybe?). Anyway, I've been playing with the recipe this year. 
dark chocolate, salted caramel with milk chocolate drizzled on top
I find myself googling 'things to do with candied ginger'. 

Part of it is my free time. The other part is that I am really looking forward to this Christmas. the last few ones have not been great- there's been a shadow thrown by death and illness the past few years. This year I feel in a good place and I want to make the most of it. Snow might be coming so I can snow shoe. 

Do you have times you can't ride because of the weather? What do you do instead? 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Holiday Hijinks

Me: Come on guys, it's time for our Christmas Photo Shoot!

Guinness: What's a photo shoot? Does it involve sticks? Because I have a great one! 

d'Arcy: Maybe if I don't make eye contact.....

Carmen: Oh- a camera! I am very photogenic. Let's go. 

Irish: Don't fall for it- it's a trap

Me: Martin? Chester? Where are you?


d'Arcy: I really think I'm too old for this. 

Guinness: This is boring. Where's my stick? 

 Me: You look adorable d'Arcy. Please do it for me. 

d'Arcy: Ok, but don't show any other border collies- I'll be a laughing stock. 



Guinness: *whine*

Me: Okay, try to look festive. 

Guinness: This is my festive face

Me: I guess I can live with that. 

Guinness:  Okay, back to the important stuff- STICKS

Me: Okay, that's the dogs, now for the horses.....

Irish: You put silly antlers on my head but you can't make me like it. 

Irish:  do I hear a cat snickering? 

Me: For a horse that requires so much maintenance from me you could do this ONE THING. 

Irish: Oh, sure, play the guilt card. How's this: 

Me: You look like a llama reindeer. 

Irish: But I'm smiling. What more do you want? 

Me: Try again. 

Me: This is perfect. *click*

Irish: Where's my carrot?

Carmen: It's my turn! Here's my sultry look

Me: ummm, well it's very , um, exotic but not really Christmassy. Try for less 'dramatic-spanish-mare' and more angelic. 

Carmen: Okay, here's what I call my 'Downton Abbey' look:

Me: I love it! 

Okay, now who am I missing...Oh right the cats! 

Me: Martin- there you are. Not sure why I'm surprised this is where you spend winter! 

Martin: You woke me for this? 

Me: So...how about we try for a look that is a bit less murderous? 

Martin: This is the best I can do, take it or leave it. 

Me: uh, I'll take it! 
Martin: Good call. Now go bug the fluffy squirt. zzzz

Chester: I'm no expert but I don't think that this is right. 

Me: Your neck is too small, let me try again. 

Chester: I kind of hate you right now. 

Me: You can't do that- it's almost Christmas- a time of love and forgiveness. 

Chester: I think I can work up just a bit of Christmas spirit but don't tell Martin. 

Me: That is an awesome pose. Thank you! 

Me: That's a wrap. I can't believe how exhausted I am. Now to just pull it all together. 

several hours later

Me: Okay everyone are you ready?


Irish: Well I guess it's okay. Why is that cat riding me?
Martin: This card would be nothing without me. 
Carmen: Shouldn't I be in the centre?
Guinness: Where's my stick? It needs more sticks.
Chester: I do look adorable.
d'Arcy: Border collies don't read your blog do they?

Me: c'mon guys- let's say it all together:


Or Whatever it is that you celebrate. May it be filled with love and laughter and light.  

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Wonderland

I didn't ride Carmen at all last week. Between weather, work, my medical tests and her teeth appointment it just wasn't happening. I had hoped to ride with Cynthia on Saturday but we had bitter cold and snow so we went Christmas shopping and had lunch out instead. After she left the weather markedly improved but I was home all alone and I thought that given the bolt last week I probably should have someone around. 

I took the dogs for a walk and I realized that the snow was powdery and perfect footing for riding. I sent a text to Ashley inviting her to come on Sunday to play. She was game and brought along Julia. The sun was shining and it was a lovely winter day except that it -5 celcius, with the wind the windchill was much colder. I thought that we might be crazy but it was still too good a chance to pass up. I put on some layers and we got the horses ready. 

Both of them were full of piss and vinegar energy and enthusiasm. Carmen was definitely tight but I put my whole attention on keeping her attention on me. 

AS we were riding Shanea came by to visit (not teach but I'm hoping that she can soon). She gave some good advice for us which was essentially inside bend and ride forward. I was struggling to not ride defensively given last week but I wasn't horrible. 

At some point at this will be a passage, right now it's really just prancing. 
 But she didn't bolt. Or even give a big spook. I could feel a real difference with the contact since getting her teeth done. I do think that this added to the issues I was having because today felt more like our normal excitement.
 I love riding in the first snow- the tracks are so fresh and the horses really pick up their feet.
Today was not about schooling anything- it was just about playing in the snow and enjoying the time.

Look at Irish having a ball. I need to do a post on some positive things about him that have been happening.

Shanea drew a heart in the snow at one point. 
 Despite the cold I was toasty and warm.

The footing under the snow was nice and solid. I didn't mean in my last post to indicate in anyway that my missing Steele meant that Carmen was not my heart horse. In many ways we really suit each other.
she has helped me reconstruct my heart. 
After riding we went for a little hack in the woods. The horses were up but really well behaved. After  Ash, Julia and I warmed our hands and bodies with some hot chocolate. 

It was a cold but magical day and just what Carmen and I  needed. I hope it was good for Ashley and Irish too. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rambling Thoughts

Sorry guys this is a rambling post, feel free to disregard. 

In light of my recent struggles with Carmen and some observations at dinner time I began to wonder if her teeth were bothering her. At 7 years she is at an age where her teeth change a lot. I called and left a message for my vet to book an appointment. It's always tricky with sensitive horses to know when it's 'just' behaviour and when it might have  a physical cause. 

I cannot believe that it's been 3 years

With the lesson's learned from last year I realized that would need to have a plan around today. So when I was given today as a date for a medical test I decided to accept it. My father passed away from colon cancer so every so many years I have to go through a colonoscopy. I don't mind the test as much as the prep (I HATE to be hungry). Then my vet returned my call and said he could come on Thursday around lunch time. By then I figured that the universe was arranging my day and I should go with it.

On Wednesday in the morning I dropped Guinness off at the vet's for her neutering and then Ed and I went and picked out our Christmas tree.  It was pouring rain the whole day and we wanted the tree to dry before we put it up.

sad, drugged puppy showing me how his ears don't fit in the fiendish contraption
Ed rearranged his whole week so he could be close by me yesterday and today. He never did anything overt or obvious but he was there. 

The test this morning went fine but after I had a reaction- I suddenly found myself feeling really nauseous and dizzy. The nurse came right over. My blood pressure dropped and they couldn't find a second number no matter how often they took it- it just showed as a '??'. My heart rate was 38. My normal blood pressure and heart rate is low but that was a bit much. After an I.V. I began to feel a lot better. I texted Ed to come and pick me up and to bring food. He asked what I wanted and I couldn't really think of anything so I asked for a cinnamon bun and fries-  I might not have been totally recovered by then. 

When the vet came I described some of the things I had noticed. I felt a bit like an idiot because it really was just a hunch.  But when he looked in he found points and a really nasty one on the very back molar. He said that it would be painful. So I'm wondering if that has been playing a role in her reactivity. We shall see. After he left I had a nap and then began to decorate the tree. 

Ed commented that I was doing very well today. And he is right. I felt far more in control of myself then last year. Obviously time helps one to heal. Another factor is a dream I had a few days ago. I often have lucid dreams and this one was particularly strong.

I was walking in the woods and met with Steele. I hopped onto him and rode him for a while through the woods. I do not know how long. After a a bit I dismounted and gave him a hug. He walked off into the forest and I woke up, feeling sad and comforted all at the same time. 

I find myself in a place where I can remember and feel both sad and happy at the same time. Maybe I'm growing up. Maybe.