dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, January 29, 2017


This word seems to sum up my life right now.  With the weather I was able to have another lesson with Shanea. After getting her saddle adjusted I wanted to follow up with a lesson.

I brought her up early to get her warmed up. I was happy I did because she was a bit wired. To be fair there were ATVs in the woods and the sounds of young people having a good time. I don't mind it but she found it to be unnerving. All part of the learning I said to her but she seemed skeptical. Then a flock of crows started flying and calling (probably harassing the young people). We all know that Carmen hates crows.

But I just kept us working - by the time Shanea arrived were weren't so much 'warmed up' as we were 'nerved up'. But that was find, we went to work on the circle. In fact the whole lesson was on the 20 metre circle. It was all about the half-halt and rating her pace.  We started at the walk and the idea was to use half-halts to get her to be under me and on the aids.

you can see that her back is a bit tight but she's listening and trying
She was very tight and I was to keep my seat in the saddle (and not stop tightening). I realized that she was anticipating something scary on the far side and I was anticipating her anticipation. Once I understood that I gave my head a shake and set my brain into what I wanted, not what I was worried she was going to do. That was the magic we needed and her back began to loosen and swing with her stride.

We then started working on walk-halt-walk transitions. The goal was for me to signal (with the HH) that we were going to halt so it wasn't so abrupt. Then Carmen was to soften in the bridle and step into contact. This is hard for us for a number of reasons:

  • Both of us try too hard which makes things abrupt. 
  • Carmen is very very sensitive. As she loosened her back (yay) any wrong movement on my part would cause her to react (not yay). 
  • Carmen will anticipate locations if I ask her to halt more than once in the same place. Which lead to some sudden halts on the centre line later in the ride. 
  • Halts for Carmen are signals for her to raise her head and scan for danger. 
So the trick was to get her in a swinging walk, ask her to step a bit shorter, halt softly in contact and then step forward into the rein without me doing anything drastic with my hands. 

As a dressage nerd I found this fun. 
On a good note, square halts are pretty easy for Carmen -

You can see that her mouth is a bit open here- that's because when she halted and didn't shoot her head up she would try to pull down on the bit. It was a fine balance between give and not letting her take. 

Riding is hard. 

However, I loved how she began to softly stretch into the contact as she went from halt-walk. I loved how soft in the bridle she became and how we were working together. 

We then went on to trot and the goal was to get her reaching into contact and going forward. 

But not fast. 

And not curling behind contact or pulling (and me not pulling either). 

With the improved saddle she was really stretching forward and her shoulders were so nice and free. 

It helps me to see how much her saddle was restricting her. 

Shanea had me work on getting her to slow her trot and not let it rush- again using the half-halt. Often I was too hard and she would fall into walk or halt. But with time I began to figure out what she needed and I could feel her come back to me. 

We began to hit our groove and she began to try to anticipate what I wanted (or was going to want). I worked on anticipating what support she needed. 

Sometimes we got it right and sometimes wrong but neither of us got too upset with each other. 

She did have one 90 degree spook but came right back to me and continued on past that spot without too much fuss. 

We finished up with some canter work. Carmen was getting a bit tired (and me too) so we didn't do a lot of it. Funny thing about Carmen- when she starts to feel like the pressure is too much she gets reactive. As we were flailing at the canter she suddenly began to worry about the bridge. 

The bridge that is outside of the ring and that she had been grazing beside yesterday and working beside all lesson. 

I laughed at her and told her that she would be okay and we then carried on. 


OMG is that the bridge

We are still very much a work in progress. My plan is to give her February off and then get back at it in March. 

 I am anticipating a fun spring and summer ahead. 

And speaking of anticipation- I am heading out next week for a vacation in the sun. I am travelling to Cuba with some friends and I am looking forward to a week where my biggest decision is whether to go to the pool or the beach. I will be off-line and I can.not.wait. 


  1. It sounds like half halts are the key to a happy ride right now, which makes sense. You guys had some lovely moments. She *rocks* that square halt! Looks like she's moving well at the trot too :) Hooray new saddle!

    1. Yes- they are working like 'hello I'm still here' :D.

      I wish I could take credit for the square halts but it's very natural for her. I love that the saddle is working for us

  2. She is so very beautiful, even when worrying. While you make your sunny plans, we're making not so sunny plans. Juneau sometime in May to visit my youngest.

  3. Your lesson sounds very much like one I had a few years ago with Sandy. Same thing with the half-halts. Very cool! Enjoy Cuba; I imagine they will be on the banned list for us soon -- along with every other country where our president doesn't have business interests.

    1. It would be awful if the progress with Cuba-American relations was stopped. But I plan to spend a week avoiding all political talk.

  4. You guys are amazing and it's so great that you're able to get pictures of your lessons :)

  5. That halt though! You guys are making such incredible progress and it's so fun to watch. Hope you have a lovely vacation!

    1. Thank you. I'm really enjoying our progress and I think Carmen is too.

  6. Oooh Cuba!!! Great time of year to get down there too - have fun!! Sounds like a great lesson too. I love that feeling of getting to a place where both horse and rider and working hard and trying, and even with mistakes you can just keep on plugging away. Carmen sounds like she's doing so well!!

    1. She really is doing well and I love that we can work together

  7. She is beautiful and you two look very good together. Yay for a good fitting saddle and enjoy your no stress sunny vacation.

  8. Great work with Carmen! You two make do much progress every time you ride. And yes, riding is hard! Have a great vacation. Sounds like fun.

  9. I think you summed it all up with Riding is Hard. It sure is but you look good out there doing it.
    Enjoy Cuba, our neighbors just went down yesterday lol

  10. Carmen is a majestic horse--absolutely stunning. You look good on her!! I know a family who went to Cuba for the Christmas holiday. They smoked a lot of great cigars! They also commented on all the old cars and the friendliness of the people. Have fun!

  11. I have a feeling that after some time off, you will notice good things. I know that is how it always is for me! Enjoy Cuba!!

  12. I miss you. Hope you're having fun.

  13. I hope you're enjoying a wonderful vacation! :)

  14. Hope you're having a great sunny vacation!!! You look so nice together. Very nice pictures. Keep sharing:)

  15. lovely progress! I am excited to hear about how they do post vacay/crazy white winter!


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