dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fire and Ice

Since my last post I have worked with Carmen three times. Friday she was a bit tight and spooky in the far corner (not Troll corner) but I was happy with how we worked through it. It was interesting- with one particularly big spook I lost both stirrups and came unbalanced in the saddle- but rather then be afraid, I was putting my feet back in the stirrups and getting my seat settled while steering her back to the fence all in one go. My thought wasn't 'oh my god',  instead it was 'oh FFS, knock it off'. 

Saturday was sunny but had a bitter icy wind. I opted to just lunge and I was glad I did because Carmen was lit. It was good to work her through her profound fear of blowing trees (that are only really scary in the ring, otherwise they are mildly alarming).

Sunday I went to the curling rink in the early afternoon. Our office is going in a fun bonspiel and two of the women have never curled in their lives. It was fun showign them what to do and coachign them through it. I had decided to take a break from curling this winter but I realize that I miss it so will go back next year.

After having fun on the ice I went home to meet up with Julia and Ashley. The original plan had been for the three of us to take turns riding the horses. Carmen was a bit grumpy in the cross ties but I wasn't too worried about it.

I mounted up and we walked off. As we approached the far side of the ring she began to jig. I asked her to slow up and walk and she exploded. Suddenly she just could not horse. Not even a little bit.

she felt like this- only with a saddle and rider on

She tried to take off on me and I pulled her into a one rein stop. It took a long time for her to stop circling and just 'whoa'. I won't go into the nitty gritty of everything but essentially she threw a major tantrum about being ridden and was trying run off and spook and generally just being pissy. I did consider if it could be the saddle (and I will get it sorted) but I don't think so. It felt more about wanting to do what she wanted to do and how dare I have another opinion on it.

Ashley watched us for a bit and then asked if I wanted her to get the lunge line. I said sure. But in the end I never used it.  I needed to work through this and having people there helped me to feel braver about it.

Essentially I kept my legs on (not clamped but always there giving directions). This prevented her from being able to leap sideways. I would  not let her bend her head out to gawk at nothing (but really scary nothings). I stuck to my plan of the work. Which really at this point was just walk a freaking straight line.  I asked Ashley to watch and let me know if I leaned forward (my old response to feeling insecure) but she never had to. I caught myself a few times starting to lean but then reset myself.

I was also periodically calling out things to Julia who was riding Irish. I like doing that because it stops me from buying into Carmen's game. She would be acting like she was going to fly sideways and I would just put on my inside leg and half-halt on the outside and carry on talking.

Irish gave a spook in Troll Corner which was just what Carmen needed- she exploded into a bolt towards the gate. I had no brakes but I did have steering and I was ready for this anyway. So I simply rode in a circle. Many many circles. I didn't even ask her to slow down with my reins- I kept my seat in the saddle and rode the circle. Ashley said 'that canter looks really good'. And it was nice and forward (the glass is half-full). When I finally felt that I had some brakes I kept riding the canter. Then I felt her want to break to trot and I pushed her for two more canter circles before bringing her back to trot and walk.

And after that the battle was pretty much over. Not that she didn't get tight or act all 'oooh I'm gonna blow' but we could actually work on things. Our leg yields were great. We did some shoulder in  -she's getting much more malleable when she throws her haunches in to get them back out. It's clear that she understands the work.

I also did way better and not lifting my hands depsite her being just like this

I wanted to practice some lengthens so I put her on the right circle and started asking for walk/trot transitions. Carmen was sure that I was going to ask for a canter and kept offering it. I let it go for a few strides and then brought her back. Given how hard it was for her to have a balanced canter not that long ago I was happy that she's becoming a cantering queen. Finally I just let her canter a few circles to get it out of her system. We then went back to trot and I asked her to shorten her stride and then move out. I could really feel her begin to stretch out over her topline with the ask. Which is perfect- that's what I want. I don't want her to fling her legs or speed up- I just need to her stretch out over her back and take slightly longer steps. The rest will come with time. I was happy with that and ended it there. I decided that it would not be fair to put anyone else on her (fair to either one of them to be honest).

kind of like this only not overbent
It's always hard to recap these rides and describe what is going on without sounding like a bully. I was very very clear in what my expectations were and I was not taking no for an answer. But I was only as hard as I needed to be to make my point and then immediately softened.  I was a bit concerned for my safety so I rode a bit conservatively. My rein was shorter then I really want but I could not let her have enough rope to hang both of us. I gave forward with my hands as much as I could.

Every now and then Carmen has to have this battle and then it's over. Looking back over the three days I could see it building. I honestly don't know if I would have kept riding if I was alone but I also am not going to let her intimidate me out of the saddle. She knows what I'm asking and this is her third year in our ring. We will get there. I am sure that I accidentally taught her that I would back off if she got really agitated. Then I woudln't back off but would end soon after she improved. Now I'm staying with her until I get it done. Part of me wishes she could understand that she can choose between 30 minutes of work or 30 minutes of shenanigans and then 30 minutes of work.

I am feeling pretty good about my stability in the saddle. I'm doing much better at being an active rider rather then one who freezes. I've decided that doing something is better then nothing. I would rather make a mistake and fix it then just be a lump. I used to be afraid of the mistake- not anymore.

I need a pink polka dot ribbon

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Customer Service

As you know I tend to not buy a lot of things for my horses.

(FYI saddle pads don't count - they are totally required. )

I do my very best to buy local as much as possible. I like to support the local economy and I really enjoy the relationship that grows by returning to the same place. But sometimes I simply cannot get what I'm looking for locally- either because it can't be ordered in or because the price is prohibitive.

Prices in the U.S. are usually much better. Much much better. So when Ed was visiting his brother who has a house in Arizona I ordered some things from Riding Warehouse.

One of those things was the Freedom Feeder slow feed hay net. I was very disappointed in it- within a few weeks it had some holes in it. I wouldn't describe my horses are hard on things and I also happen to think that if you make something for horses to eat from you should assume that it needs to be tough.  So I went on the website and left a negative review. After that I shrugged and looked into other options for a hay net.

Two days later I received an email from Riding Warehouse. They had read my review and wanted to make sure that I knew about their return policy. They accept returns for up to one year after purchase. I hadn't really thought about it- I accept that if I order from the U.S. returns are not worth it.

But I spent a lot on the haynes so I spoke to Ed and we figured it would be worth it to mail it back and then apply the credit to something to go to his brother's (who will be coming to visit in the spring).

So I emailed back and said I would return it. Immediately I received another email asking if I needed a return label.

Oh, really? I can have one? Yay.

So I emailed back and said sure. Also, I was in Canada. Was that a problem.

Turns out that it was- they do don't do labels for Canada.

But let me quote the rest of the email:
"Due to the custom fees that are associated with getting an international return back into the states, returning the net will not be necessary! 

You can expect for an email containing an electronic copy of the store credit issued for the hay net to be emailed to you in the next 1-2 business days. Please note, this credit does not expire and is eligible to be applied to any future orders that you may place with us.

Let us know if you have any further questions or concerns and we will be happy to accommodate your requests. 

Our team hopes that you have a wonderful week~

Maddie :)"

So, to recap: I wrote and review and received a store credit with no need to return my net. 

And the next day I received my credit voucher. Maddie is my new best friend. 

The older I get the more I value and appreciate good customer service. While I will still continue to buy local as much as possible. 

I am so very impressed with the level of service from this company. 

You're planning to shop more aren't you? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Living in a Marshmallow World

It's a marshmallow world in the winter
When the snow comes to cover the ground
It's time for play, it's a whipped cream day
I wait for it the whole year round

It's a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts
Take a walk with your favorite girl
It's a sugar date, what if spring is late
In winter it's a marshmallow world
~ Bing Crosby~

Wow, I have been able to work Carmen 3 times in 5 days! 

Sunday was a snowy day - but the nice light and fluffy stuff that is fun to play in. This morning dawned sunny and warm. It was a beautiful, perfect jewel of a winter day. The snow was fluffy, the sky was blue and the sun was warm. I took the blankets off the horses so that they could enjoy the sun. Every time I looked out the window they were basking. 

The dogs were enjoying the beautiful weather as well. 
when did Guinness get so much bigger than d'Arcy? 
Ashley came out to join me for a ride. Carmen had a ton of energy in the ring. She was very forward but I found keeping my seat bones on the saddle helped to regulate her pace.  I have been trying to be very aware of how I'm riding and it's hard to change habits. Especially when you're not in riding shape. 

I asked Ashley how she was doing and she said she felt stiff. I told her that I was feeling mushy.Between the two of us we made a perfect rider.  Honestly, every time I took my attention off my middle I collapsed it.  The good news is that with focus I wasn't too bad. 

We took our time warming up at the walk and then I asked her to trot. She was a bit stiff on the right. I realized that she was looking to be a bit upset by me asking her so I made sure that I was simply supportive and helping and not making it worse. I know it's partly her but it's also me- I am not a flexible on the right and I need to work on that. But hey, awareness is the first step, right? 

We did have one mini-bolt up by troll corner. I could feel her getting stiff and when a clump of snow hit a post she suddenly went sideways very fast. I called 'heads up' to Ashley and steered her into a small circle, brought her back then carried on into the corner like nothing had happened. Not that she wasn't tense but there was no more issues. I think it's because I didn't freeze (yay me) but stayed active with her. I'm finding it easier to not shorten the reins but push her forward. I don't always succeed but it's getting better. 

Since she had so much energy I rode it forward. Fortunately, she's also a marshmallow so maintaining endless energy was not in the cards. Phew.  

The weather was so beautiful I actually built up a sweat. Carmen was a bit out of breath and happy to go back to our quiet ride. We did canter in both ways and I have to say that there is a huge improvement over where we were this time last year. She was so much easier to get straight and keep her there. When she tried to speed up I was able to use my seat to bring her back. We played a little with walk-canter-walk transitions

The forecast for this week is looking great too. This winter has been hard because the weather has been so dreary. So being able to enjoy the weather today was great. 

I may be biased but I think that my home looks very pretty in the snow

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Staying With Me

Finally the weather is allowing me to do some things with Carmen.

Thursday was warm(er) (9 degrees celsius) and so I hurried home from work because I wanted to ride. I decided to throw a flake of hay into the field to keep Irish happy while Carmen and I worked. As I brought the hay out both horses started running around like two fools. There was a lot of snorting, prancing and farting going on.

In the past I would have tried to stop them. This time I just ignored them and carried on with my chores. When they settled I went and put a halter on Carmen and brought her down to the barn. She was 10 feet tall but came behind me. As we entered the barn I could see that every fibre of her being was telling her to bolt and run. But she never took the slack out of the lead line or pulled back. A fact that I didn't appreciate until later when I was reflecting.

 As much as I wanted to ride I thought that it might be better to do ground work.  I am so glad that I did. Not because she was bad or hyper but because she was 100% with me the whole time. We alternated between lunging and work in hand and she was completely tuned in. I was very very happy with her and glad that I didn't worry about riding and made it about communication.

Friday I was off but it rained all day. I consoled myself with baking:

Ed: "what are you making now?"(exasperated tone)
Me: "molasses bread"
Me: "I'm bored. Plus I've been looking for a recipe to try. So this is really for science."
Ed: inaudible muttering + eye roll. 

And in keeping with current trends, the warm rainy day was followed by a drop in temps and everything freezing. But as sun was out and as the day went on I realized that my ring was thawing and I could ride. This time when I went out into the field everyone was calm and dozing in the sun. As I led Carmen back to the barn she followed along and then put on the brakes and refused to move. I looked back at her puzzled wondering if I would need to do some work on leading when she lifted her tail and had a poop. Her expression was priceless- excuse me for just a second. Then she followed along like a doll.

I did set her up to lunge first to be sure that we were still in sync. As you can see she was wild:
My marshmallow excited to be returning to work.
Or dozing in the sun.
You decide

It was pretty clear that other then using lunging to warm her up (not a bad thing) it was not required for any other reason so I hopped on. I was determined to keep focussed on active riding and not shortening the rein. 

And we didn't do half-bad. Not that anyone watching us would have been impressed at all. We are both clearly out of shape marshmallows and we needed extra time to figure stuff out. 

What I did love was that we were able to stay together with only one little spook that was over and done quickly. Otherwise we were able to keep the conversation going. When I asked for her first trot to the right she was tight and considering getting pissy. I know that it's a strength issue so I said 'it's okay, I know that you need time to build up strength, don't worry about it, we'll get there'.  And right after that she relaxed and let out a breath. 

What's cool about things is that I can see big gains in our relationship. I love that she wanted to run away but didn't. Many times when she sees me she gives a little nicker. It's very quiet and sometimes I can't hear it, just see her nostrils quiver. It's adorable and not always about food. 

Now we just need to get in shape.

hey I'm pretty sure that you still have candy canes in there

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gearing Up for Spring

Three years ago today I tried out Carmen for the first time. It was the first time I had sat on a horse since I lost Steele.

A bitter cold day in Virginia

I still can't tell you what made me choose this mare over the other, probably more sensible, choices. 

I have no regrets.  

The weather appears to be easing up and I am getting ready for spring. I am amusing myself in all sorts of ways. 

I'm trying to reconnect with friends and engage in some social activities (*gasp*). 

I also decided to stop colouring my hair. I used to colour it for fun and then it became to cover up the grey. I went to the hairdresser and we worked out a plan to let the grey come out without a stripe. So I have highlights:
my reverse mid-life crisis
I am excited to grow grey with Carmen. Plus I realized how much money I can spend on other things if I'm not colouring my hair (essentially a new saddle pad every 8 weeks but don't tell Ed). 

My schooling boots finally gave way to I ordered these Tuffrider Belmont Dress Boots:

no, these are not on the kitchen table. Who would do
such a thing? You are clearly imagining things
They fit perfectly. My old ones are almost toast- the sole was separating and could not be repaired. I will still wear them at home until they fall apart. I have to say that I do love these boots that are not so hard as traditional dressage boots. 

I also took a big leap and booked a clinic at my place for early May. It's an Equine First Aid with Muscle Health and Stretching clinic. I wanted to go to one last year but the one in my area was cancelled and I couldn't drive to the other ones. So I decided that what made the most sense would be to host it. It should be a lot of fun and educational. 

I'm hoping that the upward trend in the weather continues. Maybe I'll even ride this week. 


Sunday, February 11, 2018


We're having the warmest February I remember. Which is good. But it keeps raining. So I still can't ride. The frost seems to be out of the ground so maybe that means things will firm up pretty soon and I will be riding soon.

In the meantime, let me tell you a story. I have been reading William Shatner's book "Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable". It's a fun read- one you can pick up and put down without losing anything. I was reading one story in it and he was talking about how horses are not naturally 'heroes'. That when scared a horse will run away and not try to defend the human.

I don't disagree with that but neither do I believe it to be completely true. Let me tell you a story about my first horse.

Woody was a small little bay QH. I bought him as a 2 year old. I had no business buying an unbroken horse (long story)  and I made a lot of mistakes with him. But he also worked out really well for me. Sometimes fortune favours the innocent. Woody was (still is) one of those horses that you could take anywhere and he was perfectly relaxed.
photographic evidence that I used to jump

He loved the trail and it was with him that I learned to love exploring.
You could put anyone on him and he would just take care of them.

Woody taking a friend for a ride
When Woody was about 4 I was pasture boarding him for the summer. He was turned out with another horse- an Egyptian Arab. I didn't know much about the Arab other then his owner had trouble with him under saddle and he was considered 'high strung'. I have a few theories about that now but back then I didn't know much and so just accepted that he was 'difficult'. 

One day I was riding late in the afternoon during feeding time so the barn owners asked me to feed both horses when I was done. After  my ride I cooled Woody out and led him back to his field carrying the buckets of feed. I put feed in Woody's bucket and then turned to go to the other horse's bucket. 

I heard a noise and looked up to see the Arab charging me. His ears were pinned, his head was snaking and his teeth were bared. I was too far from the fence to escape and I remember thinking 'oh shit'.  I tightened my hold on the bucket thinking I could throw it at him and hopefully make my escape.  

Suddenly Woody galloped up and came to a stop between me and the horse (honestly I can't remember his name!).  The Arab tried to circle around to get me and Woody just kept circling me and staying between us. I hurried to the feed bucket and dumped the food and backed away. The Arab dove into the food and forgot me. 

Woody walked with me to the gate and waited for me to latch the gate before returning to his feed. From that day on every time I brought Woody back to the pasture he escorted me to the gate. 

I know that this sounds made up but this story is 100% true.  I have no explanation for this other than Woody was trying to protect me. I honestly believe that I was in serious danger from that Arab and would have badly hurt. 

To be honest I am sorry that I sold him. At the time it seemed to be the right decision because he just didn't care for dressage. He's living a great life not far from me so I'm sure he's not pining for me. The people who bought him know that he will always have a stall if he needs it. 

What about you- have you ever had a horse that seemed to be protective of you or did something not considered 'normal' for horses? 

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Big Meanie

Hi Everyone, Guinness here.

Mom said that I could do a post and so I want to share with you how mean she can be sometimes.

You see I love sticks. Like, I REALLY love sticks.

mom's friend, Cynthia throwing a stick for me. 
It's silly but mom says that I go after sticks too hard sometimes so I might get hurt if I'm not careful.

I mean, really. I'm a dog. What does careful even mean?

careful is for sissies. 
But Dad went and bought this stick that is 'safe'. 

I love my new stick. 
Mom shrugged and said 'that won't last'.  And then she made it that I could only have it when we went on our walks. That made me really want the stick. I was a dog obsessed. 

Today I had my chance. I managed to work my big brown eyes and convince mom to let me have it when she went out to do 'barn chores'. Now I don't really understand the point of 'barn chores'. Mostly it seems to me to be all about moving horse poo from one place to another. But it gets me outside and it seems to make her happy. 

I was so happy to have my stick and I showed my love in the traditional way of chewing. 

But I might have gone too far though and she took it away from me and put it on her green machine. 

um, what just happened? 

I tried the big brown eyes. They usually make her melt. 

pleeease, I'll be good. I promise. Just look at my face.
(you can see my sick by the big wheel)

She just said 'leave it alone'

but but but that's my stick
I couldn't believe that she could be so mean. It's not like I was going to swallow those pieces. (well not many of them anyway). 

I tried to get Ripley's help. She's pretty good at stealing stuff, I figured she could get it for me. 
hmm, she put it up here?
yes! Quick get it for me
 But she said that it wasn't worth it.

It was worth it to me.
Ripley going back to hunting stupid squirrels. 

so close and yet so far
I had to give up. Mom was being really really unreasonable about it. 

Fortunately I live in the land of sticks. 

Which just goes to show that you can't keep a good dog down. 

Not for long anyway. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Comfort Food

Happy February everyone! I'm hearing all sorts of different predictions from Groundhog day. Here, our own 'Shubenacadie Sam' made a break for it and bit a reporter. Not sure what that means- maybe he was saying 'we're all doomed, I'm outta here suckers!' 

I hate being trapped inside. I always have. I can putter outside and not be bored but once I'm in the house puttering I'm completely bored. I needed to find a way to amuse myself that was different then scrolling through FB posts.

So I turned to cooking and baking.

It started with me making a stew and wanting some sort of bread to go with it. I decided to try making my own bread.

It was delicious. 
 From there banana bread and muffins seemed like a good choice.

Then oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips.

Then last weekend a couple girlfriends and I went to a Wine and Lobster event at a local winery. 

The joys of living on the coast
It was amazing. 

Each little course was accompanied by a different wine. The chef came out to describe the dish and then the wine owner described the wine and why they chose it. Each taste of wine was about 1.5 ounces. But they were pretty liberal with the wine and topped up freely. 

Part way through no one was listening to the chef or wine owner oner anymore. We were all having too much fun. I tried to listen but honestly I don't remember. 

This lobster taco was my favourite. I thought of 'L' while I was  devouring eating it. 

The local community college is putting on a series of dinners by their students. The food is amazing and beautifully presented.

Spring better come soon. Poor Shanea will be teaching two marshmallows.  How are you passing the winter? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Backward or Forward

Please stand by for a philosophical post.

I have thought long and hard about this post and even as I type I'm not sure that I will hit 'publish'. But I likely will because, well, I wrote it so fuck it here it is.

This is your last chance to look away.

You may recall (but probably not) that last june I wrote a post that hinted of something difficult coming my way and how the emotional toll of that was coming out in my riding. That 'thing' was going to court against the people who's dogs were responsible for the death of my horse. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do - to relive that day in public. I was a mess before and after I just curled up on the couch. BUT I also felt a burden lift. I had my say. I also learned that the dogs were gone and the cloud of worry that has followed me ever since about them coming back was dissipated. In the end I felt better and stronger for having gone through it.

The verdict was delayed and it just came this week. The wheels of justice are not slow, they are glacial.  The verdict was against us- the premise being that a dog owner is only responsible for the damage caused by a dog on his or her's own property- not on someone else's.

While Ed and I were not actually expecting any funds to come out of this we were...what's the word? shocked? disappointed? devastated? Whatever. It just seems fucking wrong to me.

BUT this post is not about that. It's about what I have decided to do with this.

Steele's death has haunted me for three years.
I am, though, at a point where I can look at his photos and smile. He was just so joyful and full of personality.

I can't let this horrible thing define me. I don't want to be known as the woman who's horse was killed. I want to known as a person who picks up pieces and keeps going.

So I have a choice:

I can dwell and stew on this which will change nothing but myself.


I can 'draw a line under it' as they say and look forward. The case is closed and I have spent enough emotional energy on it.

still my favourite photo

People suffer losses and set backs every day. Look around the world and you can be inspired by people picking up and dealing with whatever it thrown at them. Look at  Puerto Rico after the hurricane. Look at Haiti after the earthquake. Look at my friend's who have lost family members. 

I chose to move forward. 

It all sounds very noble and enlightened but the truth is that I have no idea what that will look like. I suspect it will be less a straight line and more of a bendy, twirly line. But it will be my line and my choice. I am inspired every day by reading other blogs and how you all deal with set backs and devastating losses and go right back at it. My family, horses, dogs and cats will all be a big part of that. 

I know that some of you may want to discuss the verdict. I am going to ask you to not discuss with me (although feel free to voice your feelings). This is part of me moving forward. If you feel strongly about it contact your MLA.