dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


So I've been doing a lot of thinking and analyzing.

(okay, at least try to act surprised at that!)

I am not really any further ahead then I was before but my head is much calmer.

I really want to get in this space not the other one

I also spoke with Shanea and reviewed the ride. She didn't think that I made any mistakes and she felt that sending her forward was the only answer. We discussed safety and I said that I was going to work on ground work until Shanea came again (Ed is away so I am literally all alone). 

I was 99% convinced that Carmen's responses was not based on fear but decided to test it a bit. Carmen is really good with the ground work so I decided to introduce a distraction- I let the dogs be out while I worked with her. 
 I figured that this would accomplish 2 things: 
1. help me work her through being distracted
2. get the horse and the dogs used to being together and no one dying. (#1 goal of working with animals: avoid death). 

I expected the ground work to go well and it did. She gave zero cares about the dogs, even when they wandered into the ring. And, even more importantly, when they moved around in the tall grass. 

this is the most tense she got. Guinness is in the grass behind her. 

I decided to finish with getting her to stand and throwing the ball for Guinness. I used to do this with Irish when he was a three year old and it helped a lot. After startling a few times (but nothing big) she yawned and chewed and cocked a leg. 

I took her down to the end of the ring that has been causing all the issues and see if she would graze. Carmen will not graze if she's tense. She just stands there rigidly looking around. If she's less tense she will bite the grass and then raise her head quickly to look around. You can see the tension in the way she chews. But when I offered the grazing she sighed, dropped her head and went to work. 

Guinness wanted me to throw the ball and Ripley (my son's dog) was hunting mice in the grass. I called Ripley to see how Carmen would react (and to make sure that the dog didn't wander too far). You can see the explosion in the video below:

See it was so fast it was almost like she didn't react at all. 

I threw the ball for Guinness down in the grass that she was acting so terrified of the last few rides. Once again look closely because you might miss her reaction:

I feel vindicated on my hypothesis that her reactions are not being driven by fear. She lunged fine as well so I have ruled out discomfort (well largely but I don't see any glaring reason to get the vet out). 

Which leads me to believe it's more about evasion then anything. 

I know that I can get her to do almost anything from the ground but translating it to under saddle has not been so smooth. So Shanea and I are planning to try to combine the two to see if we can get Carmen over this hump. 

I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. Yep, she’s pigging our pretty good there. Good luck. 🍀👍

  2. Good idea to have the dogs out with her. I think you’re right about it not being fear but evasion. Good luck. I’m sure it will all come together.

  3. Amanda had me work random circles at the trot, changing direction and size of circle a lot. It gave me the excuse to keep Ashke in the middle of the ring and made him have to pay attention to me. It worked great as a focusing tool. Maybe it will help you too.

    1. This does work up to a point. Depends on how committed she is but yes, I do this a lot.

  4. I love this approach! Carmen, get over this hump quickly, please, so that you and your momma can have fun again!

  5. oh man, clever idea haha!! it's nice to get that validation and resolve (esp from the puppies haha!) that it isn't actually spooky!

    also i have no idea how well this idea translates to dressage or "troll corners," but in jumping: if a horse evades to the left (like running out) we are never supposed to circle in that same direction. always the opposite direction - and usually firmly and quickly and explicitly. as a means of showing the horse that we're shutting that door. so if the horse runs out to the left, we immediately turn them to the right (ideally directly back to the jump itself). i guess the thought is that circling in the same direction of the evasion communicates that it's an acceptable escape route? idk. in any case, it might be food for thought when Carmen's trying to spook away from or otherwise evade the scary spots. good luck!

    1. It is the same approach. However, that was when she threatened to rear.

  6. "#1 goal of working with animals: avoid death"
    I wish that wasn't as true as it is...

  7. I love that first picture. She's truly beautiful and you two look so great together. All the best with the work.


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