dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sacking Out

We arrived home Monday morning around 2:30 a.m. It was good to be home. Despite our exhaustion we got up at 7:00 to get back into our schedule. Also, the horses needed to be fed. Clearly they are not impressed with my 'sleeping in' but were pretty good.

Honestly, I felt like I was drunk and hung over at the same time (I'm guessing at that because clearly I led an angelic teenage/young adult life and there was no FB to prove me wrong....). Ed asked me if I planned to ride and my initial response was 'no'. But as the morning wore on I felt a bit better. I sent Julia a text figuring that peer pressure would help me get in the groove. And it worked. She came out to ride.

At the same time Ed decided to aerate and lime the back fields. I figured that this was great to help me work on my goal of keeping Carmen tuned in. And it went very well. Every time she lost focus I was able to get her back. The work was light and simple as I was unable to do anything complicated (like walk and chew gum).

what is he doing? 
Guinness stayed tied to our side all day. We couldn't move without him going on alert.

I managed to get another ride in on Tuesday but by then I was starting to feel ill. I don't really remember what we worked on but I remember feeling happy. The flu I picked up knocked me on my butt for days.  I'm just starting to feel better but have zero energy. I decided that I couldn't take it anymore and I was going to ride.

I tacked up Carmen but brought my lunging equipment up to the ring just in case I couldn't handle it. Ed had also decided that it was a good time to pound in the fence posts that came loose over winter and tighten the fence. I know I could have asked him to stop but I decided not to. I figured that this was a good time to see if I could keep her trust despite what's going on.

Ed was working on the fence on the other side of the ring - it is below the grade of the arena so Ed popping up like a gopher whacking in fence posts was a legitimate thing to spook at. And she did but nothing big. I asked her to bend and listen to my aids. She began to relax and tune in. After 20 minutes of walking I stopped and hopped off. I was tired and couldn't really do more. We sauntered down to watch Ed do a bit more work and Carmen just grazed quietly.

I need to get back into a regular work schedule. This off and on riding is not doing anything to advance our training. But the weather is better and it looks good to get back at it.

Parliament building in Budapest

Friday, April 27, 2018

I'm Back

I am back from what turned out be a fabulous vacation. If you ever have a chance go on a river cruise do it. I loved everything from beginning to end.  I have hundreds of photos to go through which will keep me busy for months.

It was my first time in Europe.  I was so impressed by how clean it was. I didn't see piles of trash in the streets or along the highway. Here there's all this effort to ban coffee cups and plastic to reduce littering. Nope- we just need to stop freaking littering.

I fell in love with Budapest. A beautiful city with a great vibe to it
The other thing that struck me was the wine. It was so good. And the beer. And the food. It was all amazing. I ate and drank like there was no tomorrow. #noregrets.
don't get me started on the ice cream

Ed and I danced every night. If you knew Ed you would know that falls into the category of 'minor miracle'. We were part of a larger group and quickly became known as 'the Nova Scotians'. We brought the fun.

I loved touring the small and large cities. I loved sitting on the deck of the boat watching vineyards, farms, churches and castles go by. The weather was stunning- sunshine and 23-26 everyday. I loved meeting new people and getting to know them. I had fun conversations with a couple from New York who had family connections to NS and Newfoundland. We had spirited political discussions (they were conservatives and I'm a liberal). But they were the kind of conversations that seem to be impossible these days: polite and respectful. There was one guy on the boat who made racist and mysoginistic comments but we just avoided him.
I got lost in the details of houses. I want this plaque. 

So many highlights. Be prepared to be spammed with photos for a while. When it was time to come home we were ready. Shortly after I got home I managed to squeeze in two rides. Given that we both had two weeks off (Shanea was unable to ride with weather and other things) they were not bad. Then I came down with the flu. After so many cities, airports, planes and busses it is not surprising. I've been trying to catch up on the blogs and see what you've been up to.

The vacation exceeded our expectations and it was just what we needed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Vacations Are Not Easy

Taking vacations when you have horses and other animals at home is not easy.
Guinness: whaddya mean? Just throw the stick. Easy. 

And we're the lucky ones- Joanne is willing to housesit whenever we need her. But I feel that I need to leave pages of instructions.

I always struggle with giving enough information without, you know, sounding crazy. Guinness, Chester and Carmen are pretty straightforward. But d'Arcy and Irish require special care and it sounds so complicated when I write it out.

There's making sure that there's enough feed, hay and shavings. We always get a few round bales in the spring to augment our bales. Ed and I picked that up on Sunday before the snow storm.

In addition to getting things ready at the farm I have to figure out what to pack. You see Ed and I going on a European River cruise. Whenever I say that I feel that I sound very rich. Which is hilarious. The truth is that we got a deal and also saved like mad to take this trip.

I am so very very excited. While I cannot wait to see the beautiful cities and scenery I am really excited that the weather is going to be actual double digits. The weather has been so very cold here it's depressing.

I think I got everything critical done at work but today I left and turned off my phone. I will worry about it in 2 weeks.

It's like getting ready for a horse show. I had these thoughts to ride today but I realized that my brain was far too frazzled to make riding a good idea. So instead I walked the dogs, triple checked that I have my passport and wondering if drinking a bottle of wine by myself is a good idea.

I really hope that Shanea has a chance to ride Carmen a few times. 

See you in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

First Lesson of the Year: Tapping into the Energy

 Finally after lots of cancellations due to weather I was able to have a lesson with Shanea on Friday. I was worried at first because the day before the wind was brutally cold and fierce. Riding was impossible.

It was still windy on Friday and my ring was frozen but the sun was shining so I was optimistic that it would be okay at 1:00. I was able to drag the ring at 11:00. By the time my lesson started the wind was starting to abate a bit.

Carmen was more relaxed then our last ride. We started with walking and getting her to stretch over her topline and march. It was a bit of a yo-yo to start. Shanea has watched the Cindy clinic and was able to coach me through the bending and keeping her going. Shanea is big on using the nervous energy in a positive way.

I totally understand the principle of that- it makes sense: don't try to hold the horse but channel the energy. Execution though when you are riding 1100 pounds of tense energy is a different thing. (NB-all photos taken by Julia who came to watch the lesson).

tense, braced but ears are listening. I am not as
slumped as I look- I have so many puffy layers on.

The lesson was fantastic. My abs have another opinion on that - mostly ow. Shanea really focusses on engaging your core. I was too tight through my *ahem* pelvic region and had to relax a little more.
It really helped.

We played with lots of circles and changing of direction. Shanea commented that the timing of my aids for changing the bend has improved. Which made me think about it more which then screwed it up for a bit.

Sigh. Riding is hard.

Or perhaps, riding is easy but my overthinking makes it hard.

Still though- sigh.
I like the outline and reach. Her head is tilted because she REALLY
wants to look out of the ring. I clearly need to address this, still, baby steps
oh my god- are we actually straight across the diagonal?  

We played with lengthens and sitting trot (which is why my abs are so sore). 

I quite like this moment- forward, soft and listening. 
I could feel things starting to click in my body and with Carmen and I. I could feel her compressing and lengthening her stride. A few times it was so light and free I had to smile. I could also feel her uncertainty at this level of lightness. But this time, instead of spooking I could feel her attention shifting to me for guidance. 

After we practised our free walk and for us it was really really good.  I feel like we moved ahead in so many things. 

we can actually reach forward and down. (this was earlier in the lesson)

After I talked to Shanea and caught up on some things. Ed and I are going away for a couple weeks vacation and I arranged for Shanea to come and give a training ride or two. I think it will be great for Carmen to keep her going and I can feel less guilty for abandoning her. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Getting Into the Swing

I left the clinic inspired to get back to work. I do much better when I can have a schedule of riding (well anything really). I hate the start and stop that winter requires. So I was ready to use the clinic as a jumping off point for our schooling.

I gave Carmen two days to recover from the clinic. I had grand plans to do some light riding on Saturday but the weather was not cooperative and I had a lot of chores to do around the property.

Monday was a grand day though so I was happy to saddle up and see if we could actually do the thing on our own. As soon as I swung into the saddle I made sure that I was asking her to bend into the corners. It was very interesting because the ask (and sometimes insistence) that she actually bend rather then gawk around got her focussed on me so much faster then I would get in the past.  This led to a very productive schooling session and I was very happy with our work.
A pic from the lesson this week - Carmen is not a fan of those trees
blowing in the wind. 
On Tuesday Julia joined me to ride after work. It was a blustery day and Carmen was in a totally different mind set. This required lost of circles, some clear instructions as to my expectations and a few discussions. However, we rode the whole time with no spooking (just lots of micromanaging) and we ended in a positive place with her swinging through her back and ignoring the certain death that lurked outside the ring. I was worried that I was holding too tight and did my best to let go. I think the short rein is a crutch for both Carmen and I- she seems to prefer having contact then a loose rein. But that is something we need to work on and I made sure I actually practiced some free walk with her. This makes the neck rope invaluable- I can reach down and hold it while letting the rein out.

I love when I can take some learning from a clinic and apply it on my own. It makes me feel more confident that we can actually tackle this dressage thing.

how you look after your servent is insisting on riding
even though it's windy and it's the time you usually are  getting dinner. 


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Clinic Recap: There is Hope for Us After All

 Disclaimer: This recap is based on my memory and understanding of what Cindy Ishoy taught. It is very likely that I got some things wrong so any disagreements/judgements should be on me not Cindy.

Unfortunately there is no media for this ride. But trust me when I say that it was so much better than the day before.
in place of media here's Guinness -
he wouldn't leave my side when I got home.  I swear
that his body does match his head. 

On Friday I was scheduled for the third ride at 9:15. The first lesson was at 7:45 which meant that we had to get Cindy to the barn really early. Needless to say I was not as well rested as I was for the day before. However, I still had lots of time to have coffee and then get Carmen ready.

We stood in the 'on deck' area while the person before me was finishing up her lesson. Cindy told me that I could come in and walk around. I used that time to do some in hand work and get ourselves tuned to one another.

When I mounted Carmen was a bit tight and tense. She had decided that her 'spooky spot' was the round bale of hay down by A. Now, to be completely honest, I was not believing that she found this object really scary. For one thing we had been riding, walking and lunging by it for two days. Second she has one right outside her stall.  She sees it every day and walks by it every time I bring her out to groom. I truly believe that it's become part of our routine that she picks a spooky spot.

Frankly it's driving me a bit nutty. But I am determined that we will make progress on this this year. And I was happy that it was happening with Cindy there because I was looking for guidance.

Essentially that guidance was more bend and forward. What I realized was that Carmen does not want to bend away from what is spooking her and I'm not as determined with it as I should be. Bending her neck, sure, but I give up on bending her body.

So when Cindy had me insisting on bending her going past the round bale Carmen took exception and gave a little bronc in place. Cindy had me getting her forward and said that Carmen was being 'rude'. Which she was.

But don't think that the whole ride was about that- it really was just that one spot. Cindy had us moving forward, bending and changing directions. We were doing lots of trotting and cantering. I felt more balanced and with her then the day before. She felt more with me and supple.

It seemed that there were more people there and Cindy got after one person who ran up the stairs and startled Carmen. Again, I was okay with it as I need her to not expect that the universe will align for her all the time.

There wasn't anything new in terms of what we were working on- it was about forward, bend and transitions in the bend. That was very difficult for Carmen - especially to the right. Cindy spent a lot of time making sure that we were aligned and then asking for it. If we didn't get it right she never got upset, just had us go back to trot, establish the rhythm and bend and then ask again.

I thought that my right leg was going to fall off. Clearly Carmen was not respecting it. I was likely not as aligned in the saddle as I should be either. Finally it began to click for us and things began to flow. At one point I said 'ahhh' as I asked for a bend going into the corner and she actually did it and we went through the corner like we were supposed too. There was some laughing in the gallery but it didn't seem derisive- more like 'oh yeah, we know what you mean'.

We were able to change rein and do bending lines with more accuracy (Cindy is very very keen on accuracy. In that she reminded me of Johanna). Gradually the round bale became less and less important and we were doing more and more down in that area.

Aside:  Cindy was in love with Carmen's tail and said that she wanted that tail on all of her horses.
it is a lovely tail (photo by Cindy M on Thursday)

You know that feeling when you horse relaxes over the back and is tuned in to you? I love that feeling. It's like flying and floating all at the same time. The time between the aid and the response disappears until it seems simultaneous. I could feel a 'give' in Carmen. Not a learned helplessness give but more like she was willing to let me make decisions without endless debates/discussions.

I even got a few compliments on my riding from Cindy which was very very nice.

I have no idea how much time had passed but Cindy said 'I think we should leave that there'. Carmen and I both said 'thank god' and I'm not sure it was just our inside voices.

I clarified a few things with Cindy to make sure I understood so I could take it home with me and then walked her around on a long rein. And Carmen went everywhere in the ring on the long rein, even by the round bale. I could feel her look at it and then think never mind.

Aside: Usually when I ride I set my fitbit to 'workout'. That way I can track my time and heart rate. I totally forgot to do it so when I synced it with my app it showed that it thought I had been running for about an hour. I'm surprised that it didn't send me a text asking if I was okay.

After a few people came up to tell me that they saw a real difference between Thursday and Friday. One of those people was Jane, a person whose opinion I value and respect.

I left shortly after lunch to head home. As I was driving I was thinking about the clinic. While initially the timing seemed horrible given how little work we had done I think that it turned out to be perfect. Carmen and I were just getting into our spring discussion of whether she actually needed to work or not. I think that Cindy helped us short circuit that (that will be confirmed when I ride her at home tomorrow).  Even if we still have that discussion again I feel that I have more confidence on dealing with it. It's so easy to second guess yourself when you are riding alone and decide that you are doing it all wrong.

Carmen unloaded quietly and headed out to her field to relax. Irish was happy to see her but he wasn't as silly as he has been in the past so maybe he's getting used to us going away. I was so tired but I grabbed a beer out of the fridge and began to unpack the trailer. Guinness was big help by bringing me many sticks to throw. According to him I owed him a lot of throws to make up for leaving. The lovely thing about owning a trailer is that I can leave it outside of the barn and park it the next day.

Ed was out but sent me a text saying that he was brining home pizza for supper. As we ate pizza he listened to my describing the clinic like he was actually interested and didn't even yawn. Not once. See why I love that man?