dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Back on Track

First of all, let me thank everyone for their encouraging words. I really benefited from your support. I also realized that I have come to expect spook-free (or minimal spook) rides and really, compared to before, this is pretty darn good.

I have ridden Carmen twice since Monday and have been sure to keep myself in the moment and focussed on helping Carmen to be confident and supported.

And she's been responding. I've been walking the line between not avoiding and not confronting.  It's been helpful to use the techniques that Rachael and Shanea taught me. I will try to describe them for you. Note that these are not 'new' thing- they are not totally new tools, just variations. So to carry this analogy through to the bitter end: before I had a flat head screwdriver, now I have a Philips head and a Robertson.

Dealing with the Spook: The basic theory is to make the spooking behaviour unpleasant and the area of the spook pleasant. It's the whole 'make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy' theory of Warwick Schiller.  

Let's say I'm riding on the right rein through a corner and Carmen suddenly spooks away from the grass. I don't fight her- I let her go to the right. While I do that I am annoying her with my legs (not kicking her hard but enough for it to be obnoxious) and steering her back to the left. Once she's facing back to whatever it was that startled her I take all pressure off and ride softly. 

This is deceptively simple. First of all, going back the opposite way is hard to remember to do in the moment. I am used to flowing with her in the same direction to steer her back. The other really hard thing is to relax when I'm facing the spooky thing. Because I know that she's likely to spook again and that her spooks can be strong.  But I'm getting better. And it does work. After a couple spooks in certain areas she just seems to shrug and give up.

Preventing the Spook: We all know that Carmen has a very busy brain and is always thinking. This theory is to give her something to think about and to do that does not involve doing her lama impression and gawking to the outside on high alert. Carmen's reliability on where she tenses work to my advantage here.  And will help at the show with her spooky corners. As we come to the corner and I feel her start to tense the base of her neck I ask her to bend to the inside by taking my arm back and putting on my inside leg. I don't yank and I don't give and take. I gently take until she gives and then give a little, take some outside rein and ride through the corner.

This gives her something to do instead of shy. The bending keeps her fluid and reduces the stiffness and she gets the confidence of having something to do rather then decide whether or not she's going to freak out.  It's easier to do in corners but I have used them on the long sides as well. The practice helps make it more automatic and I'm hopeful will make it easier to do in other locations.

Keep your head in the game : This is mine. Well probably not mine. I'm sure others use it as well but I figured it out by myself with Carmen. Essentially it means to not let go of what I am wanting to do because of where she's fussed about.

Let's say she doesn't want to go by the waving grass because, you know, trolls. If I start worrying whether she's going by the grass then both of us are focussed on the grass and neither of us is thinking about things like bend, forward, transition at E etc... As soon as I shift my attention back to the ring and the task at hand I can feel her shift with me. Then neither of us are thinking about the grass-well maybe Carmen a little bit but it's not as important as it was a minute ago when we were both worried about it.

I am celebrating the productive and drama free rides. My niece is back for a visit and we've even headed out on our small 'around the field' hack. Irish is enjoying the extra attention (he had a special visitor yesterday and that's a different post). Carmen is also getting in the action - she's teaching Caelen how to lunge.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Fragility of Confidence

I need to tell you guys about my ride on Sunday so that this post makes sense. I got Carmen ready like I always do. I started her off at the walk and she immediately wanted to head across the ring towards Troll Corner. I decided to let her do that and then we walked down to the far end of the ring. All of a sudden we were in full flight back up to the top of the ring. I could not get her stopped so I turned her in a  circle and kept her there until I could gain control of the canter and then we cantered some more. 

That was the start of what was an awful ride. It was like my rides from last year. I could not get her down to the far end of the ring without bolting. In the end I worked her butt up in the far end and then took her tack off and brought her back to the ring to do some ground  work. It took about 15 minutes to get her to listen to me. She even thought about running me over at one point. I got her back to being settled and calm and put her away.  

Now a sensible person would realize that bad rides were going to happen and that this was a glitch. But of course of this is me and my confidence was shaken by it and my inner demons were saying things like:
You thought you had worked through this but you were obviously wrong. Of course you don't know what you're doing. You have been putting too much pressure on her. You've been letting her get away with things and not asking enough.....blah blah blah. 

The truth is that I don't know what set her off. It could have been the final hurrah of her heat cycle, it could be she saw a deer in the neighbour's field or a rabbit in the brush. For whatever reason the hamster fell of the wheel and she was a basket case. That evening she was more like herself- calm and affectionate.

I was surprised by how shaken my confidence was. I wasn't afraid exactly, although there was one moment when I thought that we were going to wreck on some poles. I was more worried our gains were more shallow than I thought and couldn't withstand a 'real' test. Even given our successes this year.  

I was not sure about going to Rachael's the next day but I did it. I rode defensively there- I know I did but Rachael was helpful and in the end I was really glad I went. 

Wednesday I had a lesson with Shanea. I spent time with Carmen in the barn getting her ready and then was on her walking around a good 20 minutes before our scheduled lesson. I brought up my lunge line just in case. She was a bit spooky at the far end but I tried Rachael's technique (I will do a post about that soon) and it worked well. 

When Shanea came I gave her an update. I need to be honest with her if she's going to help us improve. I also have trust that she won't leap to all sorts of judgements about what happened (I can do that to myself, thankyouverymuch). Instead she listened carefully and then we went to work. 

And it was an amazing lesson. Carmen was with me the whole time, listening and trying. Shanea walked me through how to set up Carmen to listen and not wait until she stiffens or gets spooky. Essentially it was to ask her to bend to the inside and once she softens give and ride her forward. That really helped a lot to prevent her from getting off the aids. It was nice because at no point was I 'pulling' but I was gently insistent that she bend and soften around my inside leg and then use the outside rein to get her through. 

As an adult amateur I don't have the advantage of riding multiple horses or the educational background to have the confidence of my plan. Horses are thinking, living creatures and much more sensitive to the world around them then humans. It's easy to read a blog or forum post and know what that person should have done. But in the moment it's hard and mistakes will get made. And sometimes I am doing the right thing but it feels like it could be wrong because the reaction is not what I expected. Then the question of whether to stick it through because it will work or try something else. I think that this is why so many amateurs end up doing so many different techniques and confusing their horses.

This is why when I hired Royce I stuck to his program. He didn't need me dismantling what he had accomplished in between our sessions.

This is why I am so happy to have Shanea come regularly to help us and keep us on track. I realize that my self-confidence with Carmen is not as deep as I would like. I also know that I have a tendency to believe that progress should be linear even though I have lots of empirical evidence that this is not the case.

 Even more importantly, at the end of my lesson I felt my confidence returning. Which is a sign of great coaching- it wasn't about stroking my ego and lying to me. It wasn't about lecturing me on how I should be doing this or that. Instead Shanea helped me to put elements together and talked me through it. In our lesson we practiced elements of T3 and we did very well. Shanea declared us ready for our next show on August 5-6. We're going to do T2 and 3.

I love riding this mare and I am not giving up.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Saddle Fitters with Benefits

I've been wanting to get my saddle checked for a little bit. Carmen has been fine but I could feel my position shifting and becoming more difficult to keep in line. I know that something about the way that Carmen and I work together results in the stuffing getting compressed on the right side.

I finally made arrangements to take Carmen to Rachael's for a fitting. Rachael is not just a Master Saddler,  great horse trainer and teacher, she's also become my friend.

I got the trailer ready in the morning while the horse's watched me suspiciously.

Yup she's loading up the trailer.
I know it's me she's taking, where can I hide? 
Carmen loaded easily and we hit the road. This would be my first time trailering for about 2 hours each way for a day trip. The ride was uneventful (my favourite kind). We put Carmen in a stall that had 2 small pigs next door. I thought they were adorable but Carmen was less enthused. Rachael brought in her mare, Carpichosa to keep Carmen company. The saddle check took very little time- it was indeed flattened on one side and the fix was easy.
where have your brought me? I am suspicious. 

Then we got the horses ready and headed to the ring. Rachael has set up a Working Equitation course, complete with bull. Carmen was a bit spooked by it at first as I walked her by it but she was quite brave and came up to touch it.

It looks weird and smells like wood. I shall bite it. (fortunately I got her off before she damaged it)
Under saddle she was initially uncertain but in the end walked right up and tried to eat the ball.
Carmen: I think you've lost your mind.
Me: But think how easy dressage will feel now
Rachael was so good in helping Carmen and I deal with everything. She walked me through a despooking technique that was very helpful. I knew the theory but had trouble with the relaxation part. With her help we managed to be successful in playing. Carmen did bolt once- Caprichosa had just galloped over the bridge and the noise startled her just as a person pushing a wheel barrow came up behind her. That was just a bit too much for her. But we settled back down again and all was fine. We walked the bridge and even trotted the 'livestock pen'. I tried the gate and she nailed it the first time: pick up the rope, back through the two standards and put the rope back without letting go. I was impressed with us on that one. 

After, we traded horses. Carprichosa had a Dom Vaquero saddle with a sheepskin seat. All I can say is that I want one in the worse way. 
dear Santa, I have been very good this year....
I was thrilled when Rachael complemented me on how responsive Carmen was. "You have done a great job with her"  she said. If you knew Rachael you would know that she never gives idle compliments.  Then Rachael dismounted and helped me with her horse to ride the Spanish Walk, Passage and Piaffe. It was my first time every riding those gaits. It was amazing to feel the power and compression of the passage and piaffe. The Spanish Walk made me giggle. Frankly, by then I was giggling like a school girl.

We brought the horses back into the barn and Rachael brought out Elegida for us to go for a hack. Ellie was Steele's dam. She is the grand daughter of Gaucho III and Carmen is his daughter. I was amazed how similar that they look.
Hey, she's pretty cute! 

hello my new best friend.

It was funny- they took to one another right away. As we walked in the woods Carmen wanted to put her head on Elli's rump. Elli is a very calm horse and exudes the self-confidence that she passed on to her off-spring.

After we had a lunch and a chat and then Carmen and I headed home. Carmen was actually not so sure she wanted to leave but got on on the second try. After her supper she had a nap- I'm sure that the day was tiring for her. I could have used a nap as well. It was an epic, fun day.

It's supposed to rain tomorrow and I am so happy about that. The pastures can use the rain but I think that Carmen and I could use the rest!

Sunday, July 23, 2017


This week has not been all about fun times.

I love living in Nova Scotia- this is never far away
Staying home on my vacation also gives us lots of time to get some projects done.

So yes, I guess it's still fun times. I enjoy the projects. Especially when I don't have to decide whether to do the project or ride. I am able to get both done.

In the winter Ed and walked through our woods and marked some trails. This week Ed started cutting them. We only have 10 acres of woods so the plan is to have trails that loop around on each other. It's not as much fun as going off on an adventure but it's a good way to train and cool out. I went in yesterday with the clippers and cut a lot of branches and small saplings that would be in my face or prevent us from going through.

it's more open then it looks
I haven't really been in the woods since I lost Steele. It felt good to be back in there- like I was reclaiming something that was lost. I took the dogs with me and Guinness was great- he didn't wander far at all and when I called he came right back. After I was done I cleaned my tack while the dogs napped. 
how a puppy looks after helping in the woods. You can't
see d'Arcy- he's on the other side
The farrier came out and he showed me these new shoes that a company wanted him to promote: 
I put a teaser on Instagram but didn't go for it. They are 'illegal' for dressage competitions (I believe) but they did appeal to my inner 12 year old.....

I also got into the ring and weedwacked the weedes that were starting to encroach. Carmen was enjoying snacking as we went around. We would halt and she would reach out and nibble some grass. To be honest it was amusing but still needed to be sorted. 
signs you need to beat back the weeds
Interestingly enough the corner that Carmen was giving me trouble on I found blackberry vines with big thorns on them. I wondered if they were grabbing her legs as we went by. Now that they are cleared out she has no issues with that corner. 

So it's been a good week so far and I have another week to go. By the time I return to work I will be tanned and fit. 

And probably tired. 

I will leave you with one last video. Turn on the sound though to get the context. 


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Dealing with the Heat

I may have picked the right week for vacation- the mornings have been foggy and cool. By noon the fog burns off and it's sunny and hot. When I managed to time my rides right it was easy. Even though it was foggy it was still quite warm and humid so we both ended up sweaty.

I've been trying to make the rides focussed and easy so that the rides weren't really hot and unpleasant. That of course has been dependent on Carmen but she's continuing to be really good. This week she has also come into heat. Last year being in heat meant that Carmen would be cranky and balky. This year I find her sluggish and she needs a long slow warm up. I find that if I let her do her slow trot and then build on it we have far more productive rides (by productive I mean not a big battle). I could get her more forward sooner by being forceful but I'm not sure that's either fair or required. If I can there by being patient and letting warm up slowly we end up in a much better place. I have even taken her for short hacks by herself.
"Foggy mornings are best for eating"
Carmen now understands about making full use of the ring. Not that she doesn't sometimes doubt my decisions but we are able to keep our discussions to a minimum. Yesterday was really hot so Cynthia and I decided to go to some local wineries and a tack shop. It was a great way to spend a day out of the heat.

Today was also hot and I hoped to get my ride in before the fog burned off. Unfortunately the sun came out just as we were headed up to the ring. Funny story: as we walked up to the ring I was surprised by a small garter snake slithering under my foot. I gave a jump and a squeak. I  am not afraid of snakes but I wasn't expecting it. Carmen never even flinched but she gave me a look that spoke volumes:
Carmen: And you say that I'm spooky. 
Me: Well it surprised me. 
Carmen: uh huh. Sure. I get it. Spooks happen. It's no one's fault. 
Me:  Are you being sarcastic? 
Carmen: Who me? Never. 

It was really hot and Carmen was stiff so I kept the ride slow and did a lot of walking and bending. We did some trot work and a wee bit of canter. I walked her over to drop the gate. She's now knows to stop until I grab the board and then she walks forward to slide it open. I walked her down to the barn and hopped off. I hosed her off and then let her cool off in the shade of the maple tree.

A lot of people have commented on how much more relaxed and happy she seems. I have to agree with them and I feel a sense of pride in it as well. She's far more affectionate- after our ride she put her head against my chest closed her eyes with a droopy lip. She has made me a more patient and a more focussed person. I think I have helped her become a more confident and willing horse.

I guess we are good for one another.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Puppy

Hello everyone, Guinness here. I heard that some of you are asking how I'm doing (especially Farm Buddy who understands that a blog without a dog has no real point), so I thought that I would tell you.

Mom is on va-ca-shun right now. Which is great- she spends more time with me then at this thing she calls 'work'. I don't really know what 'work' is but she spends too much time there.

The birds wake me up at sunrise, but I'm a good dog so I don't make any noise. Soon I hear mom and d'Arcy coming downstairs. d'Arcy goes outside and then mom lets me out of my den. I don't know why d'Arcy doesn't wait for me- this means I have to go looking for him to say good morning. He barks at me to settle down but how can I do that? I just got up. Mom calls him 'grumpy' but he's not grumpy- he's d'Arcy. He does sound more grumpy when I realize that he and Dad are sleeping in. I go running up and pounce on them. Then both dad and d'Arcy are barking at me. Mom says that the lazy bones are upstairs. But I've looked and never found any bones. I think she's confused.

wait d'Arcy! I have said 'good morning yet!'
 Mom feeds the giant  beasts she calls 'horses' and I make sure that everything is okay inside and out. Then it's time for BREAKFAST! I love breakfast. Mom drinks her coffee and I nap a bit. Then we go for a walk around the pastures. She goes a lot slower when she brings her black click box but that gives me more time to try to catch the tiny butterflies. One day I will get them.

This morning Mom took the black click box into the pasture with the horse-beasts. I don't like it when she does that- they scare me and I think she's in danger. I know that I'm not allowed to go in the pasture so I stay outside and let her know by my look that I do not approve of this.

how can she get so close to these horse-beasts? 

Since I am a farm dog I help her with all the chores. I bring her distractions like balls and things 

playtime is important too you know

Mom sometimes puts me in my den for a 'nap'. She comes back smiling and smelling of the gray horse-beast. d'Arcy says she's 'riding'. I have seen her sit on the gray horse-beast. It was very freaky. 

But after, we go walking to the lake and I LOVE the lake. I swim and catch sticks. It's so much fun and I never want to leave. I try to keep mom there longer by staying in the lake and not coming out. She can't go in the lake. Maybe people can't swim? Also, what are 'leeches'?  

Mom is like me and loves to be outside. She sometimes naps and I have to guard her. After all it's a very important job. 

don't let my pose fool you- I am fully alert. Really. 
So that's what I've been up to. I am growing and learning about my responsibilities. 

I call this my noble dog pose. 
But I am still a puppy at heart. 

I miss Ripley. She needs to visit soon so we can play

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Dancing on Air

Shanea and I booked a lesson for early Sunday morning in order to beat the heat. I had a good feeling about the lesson as soon as I brought Carmen into the barn. She was calm and mellow and seemed in a great mood.

In the ring once I got on we started walking around warming up before Shanea arrived. I found her to be soft and forward. There were no issues in any part of the ring. We worked on bend and leg yields fro about 15 minutes and then Shanea arrived. We discussed the show results and what we've been working on. Then we got to work.

And you guys- I had the best ride on Carmen that I've ever had. She was soft, listening and responsive. With everything we asked she tried her best to figure it out.  We started at the walk working on shoulder fore. Finally I figured out how to keep her straight through the shoulder so that she was really carrying herself.
I love everything about this photo- she's soft and listening, her hind leg is stepping through.

We then added in haunches in. After a bit we were doing shoulder in to straight to haunches in. It was cool to have her soft and bending- even in troll corner. When we went to trot there were no issues at all like we often have with the first transition (although that has been getting better). She simply moved into trot promptly and energetically.  We repeated the same exercises at the trot too.

After some initial posting trot, Shanea had me work on my sitting trot. We started off just on the short sides. When Carmen's back is tight it's very hard to sit. But when it comes up it's so much easier. But not effortless because I have to hold myself without tensing. That takes a lot of core strength and I could definitely feel it as we worked. But as sore as I figured I was going to be I didn't want the ride to end because it felt so easy.

We worked on leg yields. To the right Carmen tends to lead with her shoulder and to the right she leads with her haunches. So I have to be aware of this and ride accordingly. But it's amazing the nuances you can feel when you aren't dealing with a stiff horse refusing to go into a corner. Shanea had us go into the corner, pick up a shoulder fore and then ask for a right lead canter at A. And she picked it right up and we went forward. We cantered around the ring and it was so much fun. Except that she began to go faster then she could handle.  I was to allow the canter but not let her fall out behind or onto the forehand. That was hard to do without clamping or arching my back.

so much to hate about my position here. But at least Carmen is doing her part by stepping under
I could really feel her power and Shanea had me sit up and use my seat to get her to keep coming from behind. It wasn't easy for either of us and she broke a few times just because it was so.dang.hard. But we were working together, figuring it out and nailing it.

artsy canter photo catching the moment of the half-halt. Look at those ears. 
We finished working on her stretchy walk. When I start to give the rein Carmen will 'snatch' it and then stick her head straight up. I was to ask her to stretch forward and when she 'snatched to put my legs on and ask her to move forward. That really worked and she started to figure out what I was really asking.

we even got more stretch then this but I love how she's reaching

We halted Carmen and basked in the pleasure that a good lesson can give. Many times I heard Shanea say 'good girl' and I don't know which one of us she meant but it felt like both of us. Carmen really wanted to stay close to Shanea and tried to follow her. It was kind of adorable.

Tonight, when I was doing the night feed Carmen was highly affectionate and wanted some snuggles. I feel like we starting to unwrap Carmen and letting her out from beneath her layers of anxiety and worry. I know that this is not it- we will still have days that are less than ideal. But for now I'm holding onto today and how good it was.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Recreational Pursuits

I started off my vacation by trying something new. Ed has always been an avid golfer. It's worked out well because Cynthia's husband, Andrew loves it too. We've had many nice days where the guys golfed and we rode, meeting up for dinner after.

A few weeks ago Andrew asked if we wanted to participate in a 'Nine and Dine'. This is where people play nine holes of golf and then have dinner at the clubhouse. It sounded like fun. At first the thought was that Cynthia and I would tag along in the golf cart and drink wine. However, you can imagine that I would allow an activity to go on around me without participating. I stated that I wanted to play too.

Cynthia and I rode in the morning. Carmen was a bit of a challenge. It was interesting because she was really testing my resolve that we actually would go into corners and bend and not speed up. But I stayed with it. I honestly thought that I was going to have a massive explosion but that never materialized. Even when Cynthia and Irish left to make a tack adjustment. We finished up with a hack and then came into the house for some strawberry shortcake.

We picked up the guys back in the city and headed to the golf course. I wanted to play but didn't want to hold up the others who were actual golfers. But I needn't have worried. Andrew turned out to be an excellent teacher.  There was lots of great instruction. I had no qualms about picking up my ball and walking it closer so that I didn't hold up the play. I made some half-decent shots and some laughable ones. There was a fluke where I actually out drove Ed. Cynthia drove the golf cart and was also the wine fairy. Afterwards the group had dinner and it was delicious. I do like to try new things. This was fun and I think I might even want to try it again.
I still think that it would be a nice place to ride. 
Ed and I spent the night came home this morning. Guinness and I went to the feed store. He was so good- staying with me, waiting when I stopped and greeting people politely. I put him in a sit-stay and he was so good. Even when someone came up he just looked at them "Sorry, I'd love to say hi but I have to sit right now' . I was so proud of him.

I had some plans to ride but in the end I decided I wanted to be lazy. Instead I gave Carmen a nice groom. She was quite affectionate and I told her that tomorrow we would play in the ring.

You won't be giving me up for golf are you? 

And one more thing: Karen has her own blog and you should check it out: The Reflective Rider


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Bold and the Beautiful

This is describing the relationship between Carmen and I right now.

She is the beautiful one. I know I'm biased but I still believe that it is true.

Me, if you get me in the right light and squint I could be considered cute. But hey, as Judge Judy says "beauty fades, dumb is forever". But I have a reputation of being brave. Not sure that it's deserved and that is not false modesty. I do believe that I can be brave but not always and am often struggling with inner demons that tell me I suck. What I am is stubborn.

Steele was easy to be bold on- he was naturally self-confident and it made it simpler. Carmen came with a lot of baggage and some anxiety of her own. While I don't believe I created her issues- I didn't help initially either. Mostly because I didn't understand. So when she would spook or bolt I inadvertently rewarded her by easing up on my demands. Royce pointed that out to me but it's been a work in progress.

Because it's easy to ease up on things even when you don't  know you're doing it. It can be as simple as not asking for the bend going through the spooky corner, letting go of the inside rein and generally letting her dictate how we go.

Lately I have learning how to be 'bold' in my riding. I don't mean running screaming at things a la Braveheart but to ride boldly. To sit up and ride with pride and head to whatever lies ahead. I did it at the last show coming down centre line and that nailed us some of our best scores. I can feel Carmen responding when I do that.

The show help clarify some things for me. Carmen can be spooky and then she stops listening. My goal is to get her listening even when she's not sure. It's easier now that I'm no longer worried that I might be seriously hurt.

In our ring our 'spooky spots' continue to be there. To be honest I believe it's become a habit. The other day I was riding her and dealing with those spots. Then we trotted down the long side by the trees and as we neared B a small black creature (I think it was a mole, might have been a small cat) leapt up the hill from virtually under her feet.
ARRGHHHH  Carmen sprang sideways.
I went with her, just losing a stirrup. What the fuck was that?  I said loudly. I really hope my neighbours are too far away to hear me. Otherwise they will think that I'm really weird and crazy.
We turned in a circle and she was not sure at all about heading back towards whateveritwas. But we walked up and surveyed the hill wide eyed.

Me: I think it's gone. I wonder what it was. 
Carmen: It was a baby troll and you  know you can't get between those and their mothers. We should leave now. 
Me: It will be okay. 

And it was. Even though the first few times she was tense she settled back and it's not been an issue since.

The other day I was riding with Cynthia and we were having some great work. I dropped the gate and she and I played in the tall grass and over the bridge waiting for Irish and Cynthia. Then Carmen and I led the whole way out on our hack. At first she was uncertain but walked forward nicely enough. At the hill going back to the barn I asked her to trot and she did. Irish was meandering and then realized we were leaving him and picked up a canter behind us. Hearing him canter behind us did not set her off at all.

I am on vacation for two weeks and have tons of plans in regards to our riding and being bold. Even going to new and exciting places. I also need to get some up to date photos of the dogs and horses.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Post Show Analysis

I have in the past been accused of over-thinking.

I know, right? Who me?

But I do find it helpful to review these sorts of experiences to help me formulate plans. I think that's part of why I enjoy showing so much- they shine a light on my training and show where things need to filled in. They also show me where we're doing well. So rather then  just think  'yay, I went to a show and survived and even came home with some pretty ribbons', I like to learn from the experience. (For the record I did that to every exam and paper I did in university too).

1. Carmen travels very well. She loads, unloads and hangs out in her stall with minimal signs of stress. She enjoys looking around and seeing what's up. She made friends with the mare next to her but didn't lose her mind when the mare left (a beautiful Kiger Mustang that I would have happily stole). She was less impressed with her gelding neighbour (a lovely little QH who had quite the personality. At least I think he was a QH, maybe not). She drinks the water without fuss and her appetite is unchanged.

2. Warm up rings with horses going in different directions do not seem to bother her. At one point we were cantering to the right, when a horse cantered by us on the left coming from the opposite direction and another horse cantered by us on the inside going in the same direction. She tensed a bit (or maybe that was me) but that was all.

3. Carmen was able to walk from the warm up to the ring, wait outside and go in without too much hassle. Some hesitation for sure but nothing big. Coming out after our test and riding down to the warm up ring to cool off took a bit more discussion but I think that's because she was done and I coud get off thankyouverymuch.

4. Our warm time seems to be about 30 minutes.

5. The issues we had at the show were the same issues we had at home. Which makes me happy because there weren't yet more issues. The spookiness at the ramp was interesting because sunday morning she walked and stood by it completely unconcerned. At first I thought that I need to go back to the venue and ride there to get her used to it. But then I realized that with Carmen there will always be an issue. It's not the ramp. It's the spook. There will always be something to spook at so that my work is not to desensitize her to the ramp but to get her understanding that the spook is not the right answer. I need to figure out how to keep her on the aids and listening even when not sure. It's better but of course I want it gone. Yup, that's me.

6. When I ride 'boldly' she goes forward. I find that I get too fussed as to how she's going and we lose moementum and forwardness. But when I sat up tall and proud and rode down centre line she strutted too.

7. I still enjoy showing. Sometimes it's stressful and I get a little excited. I have to laugh at myself because no matter how many times I go to the washroom before I get on for my first warm up I always feel like I have to go again when I get on. I know it's nerves so have learned to ignore it.

8. I don't remember what I paid for these two products but they are totally worth it: Cowboy Magic Greenspot remover and Mane & Tail Quick braid. Both performed exactly as promised.

9. Taking the day off after a show weekend is a great idea. It gave me time to clean up without rushing and have some relaxation time before going back to work.

Based on Carmen's demeanour I think that she was fine with the experience as well. Not that she loved everythign but she didn't lose her mind. Even the spooks didn't feel like real fear to me but more like a test. We shall see but I have a plan now to moving forward.

Funny story- when I pulled in the drive way Irish lost his mind. He was running around the paddock calling, his whinnies getting increasingly higher pitched until he sounded like a excited mouse squeaking. Carmen backed off the trailer but a bit fast so I put her back on and she came out like a civilized equine. She walked sedately beside me to the barn but really wanted to stop and eat grass- after all she hadn't had any for 48 hours. I put her in her stall, put on her fly mask and let her out. The whole time Irish is trotting around a like a fool. Carmen comes out of her stall and doesn't even look at him-she's fixated on the grass. When it looked like he was going to cut her off from going to the field she took off. Poor Irish, playing second fiddle to food. I had to laugh.

do not stand between me and my grass

Monday, July 10, 2017

Day 2 Show Report: Doing the Work

No matter what kind of horse it is, or what we choose to pursue as our sport. It's hard. So much of it tho is just showing up. Putting in the work. Plugging ever forward with that incremental, almost imperceptible progress. Doing the thing. ~Emma at Fraidycat Eventing

 Sunday went better in some ways and not better in others. That morning I walked Carmen in the ring to stretch her legs. We stood by the ramp and scary corner while she stood calmly and tried to eat it (this is important later). I was worried that I had overdone the warm up on Saturday so I probably didn't warm up enough. It was hot and humid and I just wanted to get her bending and forward.  So I made a plan and made sure I stuck to it.

Our warm up was good. By then she had identified a few spots to be wary of and I focussed on riding her through them. On our second warm up she actually did a little bolt in one of the spots. As I steered her around a circle I said 'really? Aren't you tired? Why would you be so silly at this point in the show?  Since there was no tensing or me carrying on she quickly came back to me.

When I did my first trot down center line she halted at X and shot her head straight up. I knew then that we were in for a bit a discussion. For both tests she was nice and forward. Except for our first canter depart in our first test. I asked for the canter, she said no. I asked again, again the answer was 'no'. Since it's a schooling show, I schooled and gave her a smack with the crop. At which point she gave a big buck and leapt into canter. I burst out laughing- I mean what else could you do? After that there were no issues with the canter depart.
coming around to the ramp- see her head coming up and she's
falling behind the leg- photo by Joanne Kane

BUT the ramp was a big problem and she tried flatly refusing to go there. Again I schooled it. Our free rein work is a bit of a work in progress so it was not stellar but she stretched some so I was happy, I was able to build the stretch in the trot circle which was terrific.

Better but starting to come up a bit. PC: Joanne Kane

So out scores for both T1 and T2 were 63.something which netted us two Second place ribbons. But i was happy with them and felt that they reflected where we are at the moment. The judge was kind and gave us positive comments. She said that Carmen was a lovely horse with tons of potential and that I rode out her silliness well.

More importantly was how we did on our goals: 
1. keep Carmen on the aids. If she spooks I want to recover pretty quickly. Stretch goal is to have no spooks. Use shoulder fore to help with this.

I was pleased with how I rode out her spooks. We had three tests with potential spooks that I averted so that was good. I'm calling this a win. 
2. do not speak out loud in the show. I tend to talk to Carmen while I school so I need to make sure I don't lose points by doing that. Phrases that sometimes pop out of my mouth include (but are not limited to:

Laughing doesn't count (so there) :)  I may or may not have spoken quietly to Carmen at the far end but since the judge couldn't hear it didn't happen. 

3. Bend to the inside - even when tight. To do this I need to make sure that I don't clamp my outside thigh when she tenses (cue vicious cycle: she tenses, I clamp, she tenses more) but give her room to bend. 

This was a sort-of win. There was some resistance to this in her spooky spots and I really tried.  But I was pretty sure I didn't 'clamp', or if i did I let go. Calling this one a 'half-met' goal.

4. Help Carmen to stay straight and not throw her haunches in OR bend to the outside. Fix if that happens. 

This came up in our second test on saturday. It also came up on Sunday- always down the far side heading to 'A'.  Saturday I couldn't fix it but Sunday I did. It took a lot of mental effort and some clear riding (thank you Centred Riding because the 'ball' analogy really helped).  So it's a win in that I 'fixed it'. 

5. smooth transitions and keep the rhythm. 
Transitions were largely smooth and that was some of the comments I received as well. But when she tensed her rhythm went off. It's a work in progress. Carmen does have tons of potential. We just need to keep working. 

6. Have her relaxed enough to give me some semblance of stretch in the free walk and stretchy circle. 

Achieved. It wasn't 'test perfect' but she gave me as much stretch as she does at home. The problem is that as we approach the wall she tenses. This is again is a goal we are working on. 

7. Have fun. keep in mind that it's about a positive experience and getting miles on Carmen. 

Oh my god. I had so much fun. The group of ladies competing were all so supportive and helpful to one another. There were lots of smiles and fun. It was one of the most positive shows I have been to. It's a great venue to introduce horses to showing. 

This photo sums it all up perfectly. 

All the feelings. PC Joanne Kane

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Day 1 of the Show: Everything is Awesome

Everything is awesome, everything is cool when your part of a team 
Everything is awesome, when you're living out a dream 
Everything is better when we stick together 
Some have said you and I are gonna win forever?…
~Lego Movie ~

 Spoiler alert: everything  was, well, awesome. 

Last night I rode Carmen in the ring. She was worried about the same areas as last time but worked through it much faster. I found myself completely relaxed about the whole thing. Once she settled and was calm I dismounted Andrew put her away. I didn't want to drill her at all- the goal was to relax and we got it 

The next day I got on her about 30 minutes before my test time.  I think I could have done less. There were a few bobbles but it was a good warm up for us. Once we were going down the rail and she started to suck back. I put my leg on and she sucked back more. I gave her a smack with the whip and she gave a big buck and bounded forward. I was surprised how I just rode it and carried on. After that there were no issues. 

The weather was drizzly and warm I started with a rain coat but thought I was going to die - it felt like a steambath. 

We walked up to the ring and waited our turn. I took a deep breath and went in. For our first I focussed on keeping her on the aids and calm. And it really worked.  She listened to everything I asked. There was resistance at the ramp and she was stiff cantering to the right but overall I was thrilled with how smooth it felt.  The judge thought that we should have been a bit more forward - which was true. But my belief is that forward has to come out of a place of relaxation otherwise it turns to rushing. 

For the next test I had relaxation so I asked for more forward and she did the best she could. She was tired and that led to her haunches drifting in. I did my best to fix and she did her best as well. Again the test felt smooth. I was so happy with her.  

Our scores were 62.15 and 63.45 which seemed well in line with everyone else and 10 points higher then our first day at our last show. We place 2nd out of a group both times. When I went to get our second ribbon Carmen just wanted to stand there. You go get it- I just want to nap.  

The best part was the judge's comments that Carmen was calm and willing.  After all the time I put in with her these were the sweetest words. 
So proud of  this mare

Friday, July 7, 2017

Show #2 Goals

I am getting ready this morning to leave for the show. Thank heavens I sat down after my last show and made a checklist- it's made things so much easier. As I pack up Carmen has been busy scratching her perfectly coiffed tale agains the stall door and rolling in grass grinding in grass stains on her nicely washed body. Sigh.

I had a nice ride on her yesterday. It was quite windy and she was obviously a bit wound by that. BUT she was also trying really hard to listen and there were no big spooks or bolts or refusals to go forward. In the past I would have used that ride to drill thinking i was preparing for the show. Now I just worked on smooth transitions and bending.

I finished by tacking her for a short hack around the field. I know that I was taking a risk but I believed that I had a good understanding of what sets her off. And since she has no bad experiences riding out of the ring I figured we would be okay. And we were. A few tiny spooks in place at noises in the bushes but otherwise it was fine.

I am really looking forward to this show- I had so much fun last time. We're showing Training 1 & 2 again. But I need goals to keep me focussed and not let my inner ribbon demon come out. So here they are:

1. keep Carmen on the aids. If she spooks I want to recover pretty quickly. Stretch goal is to have no spooks. Use shoulder fore to help with this.

2. do not speak out loud in the show. I tend to talk to Carmen while I school so I need to make sure I don't lose points by doing that. Phrases that sometimes pop out of my mouth include (but are not limited to:

  • whee
  • where are we going? (when she spooks and scoots)
  • I thought we could bend to the inside, but hey, you do you. 
  • no one is going to die if we go in the corner
  • see, no one died.
3. Bend to the inside - even when tight. To do this I need to make sure that I don't clamp my outside thigh when she tenses (cue vicious cycle: she tenses, I clamp, she tenses more) but give her room to bend. 

4. Help Carmen to stay straight and not throw her haunches in OR bend to the outside. Fix if that happens. 

5. smooth transitions and keep the rhythm. 

6. Have her relaxed enough to give me some semblance of stretch in the free walk and stretchy circle. 

7. Have fun. keep in mind that it's about a positive experience and getting miles on Carmen. 

Here we go. Wish us luck. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Some Updates

Thank you everyone for your kind words about Martin. He's on the mend. I can tell by how he's demanding to go out. Our discussions go like this:

Martin: I want to go out. 
Me: No, you're not well enough
Martin:  I am so. Let me out, NOW-owowow
Me: You can't even jump on the couch yet. I'm not letting you out 
Martin:  I hate you. You're ruining my life. I shall tromp over to the bed in a huff. 
Me: Martin, it's time for you medication tuna. 
Martin:  I love you. 

Carmen continues to school well. Cynthia's daughter rode her the other day and did very well dealing with her shanigans. I know because the next time I rode her she was soft and responsive. She brought a friend who rode Irish as well.

poor Carmen, so exhausted by this evil young woman
ohh, hack? Let's go! 

Irish: stop crowding, I'm not going any faster

Guinness has learned the joys of swimming. We walk to the lake and he swims for a bit and then we walk home.
carrrying his stick to the lake
after the swim. Apparrently wet sticks taste even better
He loves to be with me whereever I go. Except for the car. He's still not a fan of that although it's getting better. He gets a bit carsick but hasn't thrown up in a while so I think he's outgrowing it. 

This week we got the last of our hay for the year. It's a hard job but I love the smell of fresh hay in the barn and there is satisfaction knowing I'm prepared for the winter. 

Tomorrow Carmen and I head off to show #2. I am very excited about it. I am not sure how she feels but I think she'll have fun too.