dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Fun in the Sun

Yesterday Julia asked if it would be a good day to ride. I was in the city for the day but figured that it would be good for all of us. It made for a busy day- driving back, walking the dogs (playing with the cutest gray kitten ever), getting supper organized and then riding but it was totally worth it.

I did more inhand work with Carmen. She's continuing to get worked up about side passing over the pole. I am not sure why it makes the hamster fall of the wheel in her brain so I am foregoing riding it and just keeping it low key on the ground. That seems to work for her when I can stretch things like this out over time. And I am not in any sort of hurry for it anyway.

It was interesting trying to get her to not rush her walk with Irish in the ring so that was excellent practice to keep me focussed. I can feel how much it brings her back to me when I insist that she slow down. If she wants to catch up she can take bigger strides, not faster ones.

I am starting to love that center pole arrangement I made in the ring- it's just so versatile.

angles are a bit different in real life 
I can the full long diagonal and not hit a pole as long as I stay perfectly straight  on the line. For the short diagonals I trot over the poles. I can leg yield and then go through the center or go through the center and leg yield or try to miss it entirely. I can use it to school counter canter too which is fun.  I can trot thought, halt, turn on the forehand or haunches and trot back. It doesn't get in the way of schooling figures- it can just be incorporated.

Once going across the short diagonal at a trot Carmen leaped over and scurried off. Clearly I needed to add a half-halt in there so we repeated it and it was perfect. I can feel her lift her back and carry herself which is beneficial to building her topline.

Carmen, while not enthused to come out at first, grew to enjoy or work more and more. It's not like our work was perfect and we had a few bobbles but I could feel her really trying for me and that makes life so much easier and riding so much more fun. I am not against insisting on things but I really prefer it when things are not one battle after another.

Our cantering is really improving by leaps and bounds (ha ha- get it?) and she's doing much better mentally about cantering into and through corners. Or I'm sitting up better or whatever. I'll take it.
this is so much fun to ride

The weather was quite warm and the bugs were becoming bad. That may have helped in keeping her motivated to keep going. It certainly worked with me. Irish was also looking really good as well.

I decided to do a run through of First Level Test 1 so see if a)if I really did have it memorized and b) how it rode. There are some different diagonals in this test compared to the last time I rode it (years ago). I rode it all the way through like I would at a show. I have practiced pieces of it but haven't put it all togehter yet. It rode really well and Carmen tried her little heart out for me. We missed our first canter depart - she picked up the wrong lead. I think it was because she wasn't sure about the corner and I wasn't clear in my aids. I simply brought her back and corrected it and carried on like I would in a test.  She is clearly getting the idea of lengthens and it starting to anticipate. Which is both a positive and a negative. However, she is so much more adjustable in her striding. I was thrilled with our stretchy trot. She really stretched out over her back. I just need to keep the speed slower - it gets faster as we go on the circle.

After doing that I was happy to give her a pat and a break. I walked over and dropped the gate. She started to get a bit fussed about rushing it but I simply laughed at her and asked her to slow down and she did. Honestly- this mare feeds off people getting frustated but if you laugh at her she immediately relaxes. We headed out to do a quick hack in the woods. Carmen led for part and Irish for the other part. Even when we spooked a couple rabbits in the brush she simply startled in place and kept going. Carmen did want to get Irish to canter up the hill to 'home' but we all kept her in line.

Both horses required a hose off because of the humidity but no one was out of breath.

I love that the rides are becoming the escape rather than a chore.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Making Adjustments

Adding a kitten to the household has created a bit of a disruption in the status quo.

 Chester (our other cat) is doing surprisingly well with Willow- no hissing or growling, just keeping a watchful distance.

d'Arcy didn't even know she was in the house for about 24 hours. He's is showing a mild curiosity but not not fixated like he has been in the past.

Guinness is experiencing the most disruption. His nose is a little out of joint over the attention I've been giving Willow. Jealousy + Curiosity + no conception of his size= chaos. However, he's a smart dog and is figuring out that barking or charging the kitten is not acceptable. The kitten is learning that if she hisses he slams on the brakes, whines and backs off. She's getting much less worried about him. Today they even touched noses. I am positive that in a few days they will be doing just fine.

Guinness: But, but I just want to sniff her. Why can't I sniff her? 
 Willow, of all of us,  is adjusting just fine. Everywhere I go I am followed by a large dog and a wee kitten. Also, typing of blog posts is much trickier.
I mean can you even? I don't think so.

Remember when I said I had a lesson scheduled for today? Well it was cancelled because another rider had to cancel (a lost shoe). Shanea needs a certain number to make it viable. Which I understand but I was still disappointed. I had to decide what to do - I didn't want to fall into drilling her so I made some coffee and thought about what to do. I really really want to hit the trails in my woods but I want a companion the first few times so I need someone on Irish.

I decided to set up some poles to play with:

The red line is a landscape tie, the middle is  a configuration of poles (the two parallel to B were 2 trot strides apart) and the '+' are two jump standards. 

It was a very windy day and the wind was cold. I guess summer is over. I started with Carmen on the ground.

Suspicious mare is suspicious
I wanted to play with side passing over the landscape tie- starting in hand. It's funny- Carmen side passes very well in hand but as soon as I took her to the tie she struggled. I kept it slow and simple with lots of rewards. She finally figured it out and I gave lots of praise. Other wise we went up and down the ring playing with our ground work.

I then mounted and we began to play. The wind picked up and the trees were blowing a lot. As I would expect Carmen became tense with all the action. At one point there was a little dust devil in the ring. Carmen was not impressed. I was so happy that I had set up the course because it gave us something to focus on. I played with all sorts of patterns at walk, trot and canter. One exercise that was fun was using the parallel poles to set up a counter canter.  The off-set poles were great for practicing diagonals.

We practiced side passing without and then with the tie. We actually managed to do it a few times too.

In the end we had some really nice work and it was all about making adjustments. I think if I hadn't had these obstacles it would have been a lot easier for Carmen to get fixated on the 'spooky things' but it's hard to do that with 'eek who put this pole here?'

I am hoping I can talk Ed into making me a bull and I need to find some barrels......

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sunshine and Kittens- Literally

The weather has been sunny all week- despite forecasts of rain. This weekend it was not only sunny but warm.

It's been fun riding Carmen since the clinic. We've been working on the slow and steady and it's paying off. Not that she hasn't been jazzed- she has but we work through it and get to a good place. I have a lesson with Shanea on Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it.

But in other exciting news there is a new addition to Oakfield Farm.

I had to accept that Martin was not going to come home. It took me a while because I loved that cat. He had so much personality. However, when the local shelter posted that they had kittens I could not resist. Ed and I went and picked out this cutie:

where am I?

We settled on the name Willow for her and it suits her. 
She's a snuggle bug

Guinness is adjusting to not being the 'baby' anymore. He's learning that he cannot bark at the new addition. I have to say that Willow is pretty feisty and, while cautious, she's not going to take any guff off anyone. 

I think that you can see that she has a bit of sass in her. 

I can write blog post?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Slow Dance: day 3 of the clinic

After playing on the course we fed the horses and then headed out to dinner. It was a lot of fun. In many ways this weekend was relaxing and social with horses thrown in for fun.

Sunday dawned cold and rainy. When I arrived at the barn I hitched up the trailer when there was a lull. I have to say that I'm getting way faster at that. Our ride was early but I had a chance to lunge Carmen in the indoor before other rides started. She seemed a lot calmer then the past few days.

When I got on it was clear that she was feeling much more mellow then before. Our walk was nice and slow from the beginning and when she did speed up it was easier to get her to slow down. I needed to work on making sure that my seat bones were weighted evenly. Johanna had us practice leg yields on the circle and I could feel how it helped if my seat was balanced.

Earlier, watching another lesson I heard Johanna say to the rider - "The inside rein is the bending aid, the outside rein is the turning aid' Or something like that. It really resonated with me and I tried to use that in the lesson. I was happy that Johanna didn't have to tell me to get off the inside rein (small victories, ya know).

I was just happy that my horse seemed to be back. She had one spook at the open door but it really wasn't anything and we just moved on.

We did some shoulder in down the long sides of the ring and I could feel the inside hind really start to take the weight and push. It's such a cool feeling.

shoulder in
We practiced lengthening and shortening her stride just by using my seat. That took a little bit to figure out but then it seemed to make sense to both of us.  The trick was not have her speed up but to push more from behind.  That is really hard. Going faster seems easier but is not correct.

The last thing we worked on was leg yielding from the centre line to the wall but with slow steps. It was really hard but it paid off in getting her to really use her hind leg.

What's really interesting with Johanna's lessons is that they can seem really really simplified. And they are but then, everything falls into place and it's 'aha'. But the horse is not stressed (the rider might be if they are like me and are trying to control all their bits and be perfect) and ends feeling happy.

In fact there was a word invented at this clinic: 'Horsegasm: the excited outcry of rider who finally understands and when the horse does the thing'. 

After our ride I leisurely packed up our stuff and loaded Carmen to head home. I was really happy with how we worked through things and managed to have fun as well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Alls Well that Ends Well

After a successful session on Friday, I was really looking forward to Saturday. I didn't have to come to the barn early because Karen looked after feeding her. When I arrived I went to put her outside in a grass paddock to eat and relax until our ride time. I led her out the barn door when she gave a huge spook and splayed her feet. One landed right on my right foot and hurt like a sonofabitch. I yelled and got her off me. I led her back into the barn to do that again. This time she bolted and got away from me. 

You can imagine that a loose horse is a huge nightmare of mine but I kept calm and asked Carmen to 'whoa'. She was unsure and walked off about 10 feet dragging the leadline. I used my deep 'listen to me now' voice and said 'WHOA'. This time she stopped and waited for me to go get her. Honestly, ground work is so very very important. I realized that Carmen was spooking at a pallet of something  covered in white plastic. I guess that she hadn't noticed it on the way in the day before. I let her go and sniff it and we spent some more time on leading. In fact I did a lot of work on this all weekend- she was just so disctracted and forgetting I was there. Sigh. I guess being horny will do that to a girl. 

After I turned her out I took up Stacie's offer of an icepack and ibuprofen.  Fortunately nothing appeared to be bleeding or broken- just really sore and slightly swollen. 
An ice pack, advil and cookies. Must be a horse event. 
Johanna offered to ride Carmen that morning instead of the lesson. Now I could have ridden (my plan was if it got hard to say in a very whiny voice 'I can't my foot huuuurrrts'). However, I thought that was a great chance to have a trainer on my horse working on things so I jumped at the chance. 

I have media of the ride but I'm not posting because it's one thing for me to put myself on the internet, I'm not doing it to someone else. Trust me when I say that it was a great session for both of us. I got to see how Johanna helped Carmen work through her tightness and issues and Carmen benefited from having a training ride from a classical dressage trainer. It was interesting to watch Carmen's demeanour change from defensive and suspicious (stranger danger is real) to softness and understanding. 

After we ate a hearty lunch and did a tack shop run. Then when the lessons were over Karen tacked up Kalimo for Johanna and I tacked up Carmen to go and play in the Working Equitation course that Stacie had set up. I had lunged Carmen in part of the ring earlier and she didn't care about any of the things. It was the same when being ridden. 

Last year Carmen was a hot, spooky mess in the outdoor. This time she was happy as a clam. It was so much fun to play with the various obstacles. 
Playground  Working Equitatoin course all set up. 

Bridges are not a problem for us. We even trotted over it once. 
Trip-trap over the bridge. No trolls in sight. 
I haven't had a chance to play with the clover pattern around barrels so I have no idea if I did it right. What a great way to practice bending aids and changes of bend. 
Carmen: are we barrel racers now? 
The bull, which you would expect to be spooky was no big deal. She marched rigt up and knocked the ball out of the ring (Stacie had tied it so it wouldn't fall on the ground or blow away). I wanted to get a photo and the second time she was all 'I did this already. Pick something else'. But after a bit she decided to humour me and go with it.
We laugh in the face of danger.
Well, I giggle like a 12 year old and Carmen  tolerates my hijinks. 
The gate was interesting. Picking up the rope and going through was no issue. When I asked her to back up she hit the standard and became convinced I was being stupid. We finally figured it out but it will take more practice.
Carmen: are you sure you know what you're doing? 
There were two blue barrels to do a figure 8 around. At first we walked, then trotted them then finally cantered them. I struggled with keeping the barrel in the center when we cantered but honestly I didn't care- I was so thrilled at our soft and easy going canter.
look at us cantering outside with no fence and no worries.
I also think our match game was on point.... 
I tried the side pass over the pole a few times but it was clear that she was confused so I left it and decided to work at it at home in hand for a bit.  At one point she saw Kalimo a bit ahead and was all 'ooh let's go talk to the cute boy'.  I told her that there would be no dating on this trip, thankyouverymuch.

I am convinced that she loves this stuff. I know I do- but she was no longer cranky or balky. I need to do more of this with her. I can get a bit fixated on one thing but clearly that does not work for her. I also need to put the fun back into riding for me too.

Look at that cheesy grin. My inner 12 year old was very happy.
Note that Carmen has one ear on the handsome stallion in the right corner

Sunday, May 20, 2018

On the Road Again

After my last post I've been thinking about things and also not going to worse case scenario in my head. It's her first heat of the season so it's no surprise that it's bad. She definitely is uncomfortable physically and I get that. I need to figure out how to help her deal. I think lunging her would help her to stretch out and warm up without me on her back.

In the meantime Carmen and I had a clinic this weekend. Johanna was back and I've worked with her every year since I got Carmen. Each time I get a mini-breakthrough. We left around 9:30 on friday. Ed watched me lead Carmen out and then her just head into the trailer. I think that I could point her at it from the barn and she would get on. Ed laughed and said 'what does she need you for?' 'Closing the doors' I said and we were off.

I pulled into Stacie's around 11:30 and no one was there. I sent some texts and found out my stall. However, I put Carmen into the large round pen to chill while I unloaded things and got her stall ready. She was perfectly calm and chill about the whole thing. Remember last year when I worried that she fretted when turned out? That seems to be gone:

totally chill mare
Last year of 'doing all the things' seems to be paying off. Karen and her lovely stallion Kalimo arrived about 15 minutes later. As soon as Carmen saw him she went into full flirt mode. Honestly, young love is tiring. 

For this clinic I had actually scheduled to do three lessons. Last year I would come the day before and get Carmen 'settled'. But this year I decided that it's time for us to up our game. We can now go places and do things right away. 

I free lunged Carmen in the ring first and she was quite settled about everything. When it was my turn I spoke with Johanna about my goals. In my head I had three:

1. figure out what I'm doing that's interfering with the right bend and get a plan to fix it. Centred Riding is great for sorting out those details. 

2. Work on getting Carmen to keep her attention on me even when she's convinced it should be elsewhere. 

3. See if Johanna had any ideas about dealing with the extra spice that comes with her heats. 

Johanna asked me to show me what happens with our bend at walk, trot and canter. Carmen's walk started off tight and fast. As per usual in a clinic situation I totally forgot how to ride and began to fuss too much with my aids. Also, as per usual, Carmen took exception to these aids (can't imagine why). 

After watching a bit Johanna stepped out into the ring to help us both calm the hell down. Our first task was to slow the walk. That turned out to be really hard. However, Johanna explained that she needed to slow in order to use her hind end. This is not new information for me- I know that Carmen can be fast and behind the leg. I struggle with how soon to ask her to slow down- I wonder if I can let her settle. However, I learned that I need to tell her from the beginning what I am expecting and be clear. Of course that makes total sense. 
no media of the ride so here's a photo of a cat I wanted to steal.
Her name was Buffy and I've always wanted a cat named Buffy!
Once I was able to get the walk slow I was then to use my seat bones to help her take longer steps behind. I could really feel how that worked. This is why I love these CR lessons- it's all about the fine details of the seat. 

We then went on to trot. At first Carmen's trot was terrible - not unusual for when she's in heat. I really think that it feels uncomfortable to her. Once again it was all about slowing her down. Essentially I needed to be clear in my intent, use my seat bones properly and not over think things (who me?).

Funnily enough, working this way I was able to actually sit her trot and not bounce all over the place.  I know that Iberian's are believed to be easy to sit but that's not completely true. Carmen has quite a bit of push in her stride that makes it difficult- especially if she's tight. 

In terms of the right bend it turns out that I keep my right side turned too far back on a circle so that my body is opposite to the turn I want. So that became a focus. Honestly it was hard to fix- I've been riding like that for so long that when I changed it felt all off-balance and wrong. 

I was really happy with our first lesson. I became aware of things and had a plan to address them. 

We were off to a good start. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Feeling the Heat

This is an up and down sort of post. Which is a bummer giving how well things have been going.

I gave Carmen two days off this week and then rode her Wednesday late afternoon. She seemed perfectly fine until about 5 minutes into the ride. She had started a bit tight and tense but that is not unusual. But over time she completely disintegrated. It started with a few spooks and that got bigger and bigger and would not settle.

I tried everything I knew but she was becoming dangerous- I was sure that she was either going to launch me or fall down rather than stop bolting. So I hopped off and trudged down to the barn. I was feeling very very frustrated. On the way down I had to get quite firm about her leading manners. Like 'get out of my personal space and you do not get to run me over' firm.

flashback to the show debacle last year

 I put on side reins and lunge line and we headed back up to the ring. I don't normally lunge her in side reins but I wanted something to stop her from flinging her head so high.  After a few times of trying to bolt and/or change direction her brain finally began to return to her head. I worked her through all the normal spooky spots just like I had in the past. Once she seemed rational I took off the lunging equipment and got back on. She still never settled but remembered her manners. We worked mostly at the walk, a little at the trot. I figured that physically she had already worked enough- I just wanted to make a point. I did not dismount until she was listening to me- not the voices in her head.

After the rides I had been having I was quite bummed. However, I did know that she had started into heat- I can always tell by the strong smell of her urine (it will make your eyes water). There was nothing new in the things that startled her but the degree of her reaction was over the top.

This morning I rode her again. I was a little wary and brought the lunging equipment with me. But I didn't need it. While she was obviously tight and The Carmen I had been riding was back. We were able to practice actual things like 'transitions' and 'leg yields' rather then 'steering' and 'brakes'.

I much prefer this ride

So I'm not sure what to think about this. Is it hormones? If it is what do I do? I've tried the supplements and they have never worked (at least not in any way I could tell). Is it behavioural? Was Mercury in retrograde? Was it one of those things? I don't care (much) if I have this ride every now and then but if it happens at a show I'm screwed.

Any suggestions?

Or wine?


Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunny Days

Who cares about the clouds when we're together? Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather
~ Dale Evans~

The weather this weekend has been fantastic- instead of cold and windy the sun was actually shining and the winds were quiet. I had arranged for a lesson this morning and it was calm and sunny. 

Spoiler alert: the lesson was one of the best we've ever had. 

Carmen met me at the gate and practically shoved her head into the halter. I groomed her and took her up to the ring. She was in a lovely and mellow mood. When Shanea came I explained how our rides have been going (well). 

The lesson was fantastic not because we were particularly brilliant but that we were actually able to spend the whole time working on things like leg yields, transitions, half-halts, etc. It was the nit-picky focussed lesson that I love (see meant for dressage). 

 After a walk warm up we picked up a trot. As always the first trot totally sucked but after we got her going her trot was lovely. I love riding her when she's like this- her back is up, she's soft in the bridle and just so adjustable.

We had a couple spooks (evil birds) but just dealt with it and moved on.  My left hand continues to go rogue on a regular basis but this time it wasn't so bad. At least I could tell when I was making her tilt her head and fix it.

Our trot lengthens are coming along- as long as I don't let her get super fast.
heading into troll corner

I need to stop leaning forward.....
I am sure that we will get the comment 'needs more' but I'm okay with where we are right now- she's figuring out to lengthen her frame and reach and that's all we need right now.

I had been practicing my leg yields and Shanea noted an improvement- especially in my turns down the quarter line. I'm doing much better with turning her off the outside aids and not pull her around by the inside.   We struggled a bit turning down by A because she had decided that she needed to keep her eyes on the birds. This required a bit of discussion but finally we got our crap together and did a half decent turn.

a bit over bent to the inside but not terrible

As we worked I could feel the leg yields becoming smoother and cleaner. When this horse is mentally with me,  riding her is easy. She is just so adjustable and smooth. Carmen got lots of walk breaks and praise and she lapped it all up.  Once we got our leg yield sorted it literally became point and shoot.

As Carmen became tired the head tilt on the right rein came back with a vengeance and I was really struggling to figure out how to fix it. I brought Carmen back to a halt and talked it over with Shanea. One thing I love with Shanea is that she's always willing to stop and regroup (or at least doesn't get annoyed with me when I need to do that). She told me that it was because Carmen was trying to lean on my hands rather than carry herself.  Her advice was to straighten the outside shoulder and not hold the inside rein. That really worked and we were able to carry on.

After a walk break it was time to work on canter. And it was some of the best canter work we've ever done. The transitions were easy- up and down. For the first time I was able to consistently do a half-halt in her canter without pissing her off or causing her to break (or both).  

I cantered her down the long side and through the corner (despite the evil birds). We turned onto the diagonal and transitioned to trot at X with zero issues. I even was able to get her to lengthen her stride without falling to the inside. We practiced the counter canter loop and it was so good that we ended there. 

thanks to Olivia to help me figure out how to make a gif! 

I was so thrilled with this ride/lesson that I couldn't stop gushing. In retrospect what made me happiest was how in tune Carmen and I were. It showed me how much potential we have together. I am feeling much more optimistic about my show plans. Even if we crash and burn at a show I know that we can do this. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Life is Good

This is going to be one of those optimistic and happy posts.

My rides on Carmen are getting better and better each time. I'm hoping that it's my perseverance and lack of fear. Each ride there has been a discussion but each time it's 'one and done' and we can move on.

For example, on Friday, after our walk warm up I asked her to trot. As we headed up to the mounting block she began to balk and spook at it. I asked her to go forward with increasing pressure until she went by. And that was it.  I wouldn't normally 'force' a horse at something that was spooky but we had been by that block numerous times already (not to mention that I used it to mount) so I couldn't accept that it was spooky when we were trotting.

I'm enjoying the work that we are playing with- the leg yields feel smoother and easier.

The transitions are coming. Today she was lovely warming up at the walk once I sorted out slowing her down.  I asked her to trot and she balked. After a few failed attempts (I just cant trot and you are mean)  I picked up the crop. All I did was ask for a trot like I had been and Missy just trotted off like it was no big deal. Hmm. I ended up carrying the crop for the ride and never ever used it.

working on the half-halt in our lesson last week

Earlier this week we were in the ring with Irish and Julia. Irish was being a bit difficult about the concept of bending- in fact he was doing his best to convince Julia that he had no idea what she was talking about- no one had ever asked him to do that. I had finished my work with Carmen so I sat on her and coached Julia through it with Irish. She really enjoyed the idea that we were bossing Irish around and not working ourselves. Even when I wanted to demo something on her she was all 'yes, let's show them how awesome we are'.  It was kind of adorable.

We're schooling the figures for First level and all are within her wheel house as long as she is attending to me. Every time it goes to hell it's because she's tuned in to other things. I set up trot poles and the first few times through she was looking at the far end with her head up and back dropped. Needless to say it sucked. After trying different things I settled on trotting her through, halting, doing a turn on the forehand and trotting back. A couple times over and she realized that lifting her back and lowering her head made it much better.  I praised her and she seemed quite pleased that she had figured out the answer.

Canter in both directions was lovely- smooth and flowing. I decided to try the counter canter loop. The first time she did a flying change in the middle and then fell off balance and into a fast trot. No big deal- we just regrouped and picked up the canter and I made sure that I was supporting her and it was lovely. I gave her a pat and a walk break and then tried it on the right lead. Despite this being her 'bad' lead she totally rocked it. I was happy and called it a day.

trot to walk transition

I'm feeling very positive about our trajectory right now. We're not perfect by any stretch but we're so much better then we were. She's stronger and I'm getting better and sitting up. I get excited about riding and schooling rather then feeling like I have to gird my loins. 

Next week is clinic with Johanna and I'm very excited. I have some position things that I want to focus on and Johanna is great with that (she's a level 2 centred riding instructor). 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lesson Recap: Installing Adjustability

In the vein of filling the weekend with all things horse, I arranged a lesson for Sunday afternoon. In the morning I dragged the ring and then Paula rode. Her mare was excellent. While they rode I picked rocks out of the ring (it's been a bad year for those smaller rocks that can bruise feet).

Shanea was actually ahead of schedule so she texted me and I hurried to get ready. I was happy that Paula offered to take video (which is why this post is so late- I was struggling with getting clips of the ride). I have some clips from the ride and hope to make more for other posts.

I told Shanea that I wanted to figure out what level we were going to show at. The first show is June 9-10 and I wanted to get my entries in before it filled up. She thought that showing First should be doable. I had concerns that we were going to crash and burn in the ring. Shanea then pointed out that Carmen does better when her brain is busy which is an excellent point. I also shared that our rides have been a mix of 'great': forward, soft and listening and 'awful': spooky, bolty, stiff.

We started at a the walk and getting Carmen to be forward. The idea is to use her nervous energy in a positive way. I get that. I really do. Riding that is a different kettle of fish, especially when the energy wants to flow backwards. Carmen took exception to the chair that Paula had brought up and flew sideways a few times. Other spooky areas include the mounting block (you know, the one that has been there for three years and the one that I just stood on to mount her. Yes, I am being sarcastic), and  the small velociraptors birds flying in and out of the trees along the ring (because finches are not to be trusted, clearly).

Here we are heading into 'Troll Corner' and clearly Carmen is not keen about that idea. She kicks at my leg when I asked her to go forward and everything tightens. Riding her forward is the answer but she can also spin and bolt sideways so I have to talk my body into it. I know that I tense too but at least I'm not grabbing. Look at the difference in her body between tense and relaxed- it's quite marked.

As we worked she began to relax more and more. On our leg yields I was riding her haunches first going to the left. I couldn't even feel that so it was something that I had to work on to really feel it. I found that every time we came up by C she would tense her whole body through the turn and it made the leg yield more difficulty. I finally brought her to a halt and said 'Can we please get the brain back in the head and not in the field?' After that things got better.

 Honestly, it felt more like habit then fear. I am not accepting that there is anything in or around the ring that she should be afraid of (excepting Ed popping up with a sledge hammer or other unusual occurrence).

I'm making this lesson sound like it was a struggle. But really, only parts of it were. Most of it was quite nice. I'm really happy with how her canter is coming, especially to the right. It's feeling less like mad flailing and more balanced:

We practiced some lengthens. These are not great yet but Carmen is definitely getting the idea of stretching her topline. Being an Iberian horse she's not going to have the same lengthen as a warmblood. And I'm okay with that. But she has potential to do so much more - it's just a matter of practice.

Things really improved as we progressed. I love this lengthen trot across the diagonal to shortened trot and then canter transition: 

Shanea had us do an exercise to help Carmen understand a half-halt. We did trot-walk-trot transitions. As we progressed the walk part was progressively shorter until it 1 stride then almost a stride. I could feel how this was helping her shift off her forehand and into her hind. And this was our trot at the end. 

I felt a lot better about sending my show entry after this lesson. I'm also feeling that I'm getting into the swing of things in terms of a training schedule. I've been able to ride a lot in the past 10 days and we're both getting fitter. Carmen is getting far more adjustable in her strides and in her mind. I'm feeling less floppy and grippy (although there are times when my left hand should be removed). 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Busy Bee

OMG, I am so far behind in my blogging. It's not that nothing is going on but that between work and horse things I have very little time.

Don't get me wrong- that's a good thing.

But I started this blog to keep track of horse training so I shall try to catch up.

You might recall that I was trying to host an Equine First Aid clinic at my place. Well, despite low numbers we were able to get enough to go ahead.

My friend Paula decided to come to it and bring her mare for the weekend. Her mare is a stunning dark bay Canadian Warmblood who's also sensitive. I am quite familiar with how a history of spooking can wear away at confidence and how important miles are to boost it.

My own rides have been up and down. One day Carmen would be soft and listening and others not so much. Thursday's ride was a battle from the beginning- she wanted to bolt and was refusing to go in the far side of thing, even going to far as to back up. I decided that we could definitely back up and had be back all the way up the ring. On Friday riding with Paula Carmen was great- soft and listening. So I chalked it up to being persistent. Georgia was also great - not at all spooky.

from Sunday but isn't she stunning? 

The next morning I was up early getting all the chores done and getting ready for the clinic. I put a chilli in the slow cooker, put together some biscuits and set up the room. Thank god Paula was here to help.

The wind was terrible all day. At one point we heard a crashing in the woods and the horses were startled by the noise. Sure enough a tree broke off and, of course, fell across the fence that Ed had just finished tightening.

Fortunately it did not break a post- just stretched the tape.
Also in the back field and not one they are in yet 
I enjoyed the clinic. Ed has asked me what I thought I would learn and I said I wasn't sure. Over the years you pick up things but you don't really know if there are holes. Turns out I knew quite a bit but practicing doing the bandaging and talking through scenarios. We practiced on bandaging and taking vitals on Carmen, Irish and Georgia.

Irish, of course, loved it. I looked over and he had a bandaged head and two legs and he looked very happy with all the attention.
Irish playing doctor. Or is it playing 'vet'?

Carmen was more suspicious. To be honest, I wasn't sure how she would be with all the excitement. She was pretty good for most of it but when she had enough that was it so I put her away. 

Carmen checking out supplies to make sure that they are up to standard
After everyone left Paula and I tidied up and then fed the horses. We headed out for dinner and when we returned the wind had died down so we decided to just do ground work in the ring. Both mares quite enjoyed grazing on the grass along the edges. We were in bed around 9:30. Also, turned out the Friday Guinness slept in the bed with Paula. I was surprised when she said that he was hogging the bed-since he's not allowed on the furniture. Saturday night I found him  laying on the bed like it was no big deal. Totally busted and not so happy when I made sure he was locked out of the room. 

Sunday morning Paula rode while I walked around the ring picking up rocks and keeping her company. Georgia was totally relaxed and is quite a sweet mare. I didn't ride because I had a lesson booked for the afternoon (that's a whole other post). The weather was warm and sunny and I took advantage of Paula by having her help me give Carmen a bath. Carmen got clean and we both got a bit soaked. Honestly, I can't really be trusted with a hose. 

After my lesson Paula left and I came into the house and had a nap. 

I don't know that I can keep up this pace but it's really fun to try.