dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Come Back to Me

Bit by bit Carmen seems to be coming back to herself.  How do I know that she's feeling better? She's more friendly, less reactive and generally more chipper.

from last January

I have some deep guilt that I missed all the signals that she was in pain and instead thought that it was behaviour. I realize that by forcing her to keep going I was making her worse and violating her trust. And that really sucks.

I am not going to let that take me down a dark path though. I am going to file it away under lessons learned and put my energies to more useful things- like getting her to trust being ridden.

Friday I headed to Coveside again to go for a ride on the trails. The weather was cold and windy.  I thought about cancelling but I didn't want to. So I left it up to fate- if Nancy wanted to cancel that would be fine but it wouldn't be me. That morning in the guest room closet I found an Outback oilskin jacket that I thought was lost in our move 7 years ago. It's a great windbreak and for a bonus I found $20 in the pocket.

When I arrived the main barn was busy so I drove down to the pony barn and unloaded there. Nancy rode down and met us and I used a rock wall to get on. Carmen was quite up at first. Which made sense- the weather and the activity (not to mention not having been ridden since Tuesday) all contributed. The lovely thing about hacking out is that you can really focus on your seat and hands while the horse strides along following the path. We did a lot of hills and she really began to use her back and push from behind. The jacket worked like a charm and only the tips of my fingers and toes were cold at the end. After our ride she chilled in a stall for a while and then hopped on the trailer to go home.
I didn't take any photos on our ride but here's one from before. 
I think that these short hauls for a fun ride are great for both of us.

Saturday I couldn't ride because of other commitments and that night we had torrential rain. It did end though and by the afternoon the temperature was much warmer and my ring was good. In fact it was fine first thing in the morning but I wanted to give it some more time. I had a plan which was to do ground work and make sure that Carmen was relaxed and listening before I got on.

I paid special attention to the places she was tighter in . I am guilty of not waiting until she is good but settling for 'good enough'. So I made sure that she was tuned in and focussed. I then hopped on.

I won't go into the details of the ride because you would fall asleep. All I wanted her to do was to walk around the ring without being reactive. My goal was not to get reactive either. There were a few spots where she was tight and evasive. I stuck to my guns without getting tense or fighting while not allowing her to get away. The trick to to stop her and then let go. She could run/spin/bolt if she chose too but I was ready to stop her. I wasn't worried though. I had a plan if she did. There was one time she tried to spin and I was able to shut her down. It definitely didn't feel that her heart was in it. I didn't get the same sense of panic from her that I was getting before.

When I achieved my goal at the walk I hopped off. I was tempted to try to trot and do more but I need to rebuild her trust in me and pushing won't work with her. I am taking the slow and steady approach.

Wish us luck!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Blog Hop: Things I've learned from Other Bloggers

Thanks Sara for this great idea for a blog hop. Since I've started blogging I've found an on-line community that is, at various times, funny, touching, heart breaking and informative. Riding has been difficult because of the weather. I did manage to get in a hack at Coveside this morning but I have no media from it. Carmen was great, a little spooky with the weather but nothing that was a big deal. So having a topic to write about is great.

I have a number  of blogs that I follow and I know I'm going to leave one out and regret it terribly. But here are some highlights from various blogs:
no new media so here's one form the summer

1.  BelJoer writes amazing and funny reviews of books. This summer she has reviewed the Black Stallion Series. If it wasn't for her I would realize how truly bizarre these books were. When I was a child I remember being riveted by them and never caught on to the plot holes and craziness.

2. Austen has two horses. I was inspired reading about her progress with her older gelding (with the most awesome name of Guinness). Now I'm loving reading about her journey with her young TB, Bast. Who definitely gave her a run for her money when she started with him. Reading this I have learned how to approach Dressage with a sense of humour. her show recaps are hilarious. Sometimes I play them back in my head when showing.....

3. Megan is a dressage trainer and I love reading the details in her blog posts. She has helped me to step back and think about things. She also appeals to my inner nerd.

4. I've been following Emma for a long time now. I've learned so much about the support of eventing. I will likely never ever ride a cross-country but she makes me what to try. Reading about her work with gelding also demonstrates how much patience and humour is required in pursuing a sport.

5. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to move to Europe and continue your passion for horses you can find out by reading Lytha's blog. I enjoy reading about her life in Germany and her descriptions of the horses and people she meets are fascinating.

6. Karen's blog has helped me learn so much about the sport of Working Equitation. It's been fascinating to read and she's really good about answering questions.

7. Dom is a trainer who is very good with difficult horses. I've learned a lot about training by reading her posts. She shares her struggles with being a professional which gives me a new view of the whole world of horses. Lately I've been getting insight into the world of training TB horses and it is an interesting read.

8. Olivia has two mustangs and a mule. I've enjoyed learning about mules and she often does posts describing how to do various projects.

riding is fun. Right Carmen?

There are so many other blogs that I enjoy and love reading (you can see them on my blog list). The span the range of horse activities: endurance, hunter/jumper, eventing, dressage, racing, trail rides and more. Their passion for their sport and love of their horses in all of them.

What a lovely world.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Scaredy Cat

So today I was able to take some time this afternoon from work and have a lesson. I was looking forward to it but in a 'I must handle this very carefully' sort of way. I looked for signs of her being uncomfortable in the barn and saw none. We headed up the ring to do some ground work before Shanea came. She was spooky

 I wanted it to go well because I really want to start the upward swing of our training. I'm pretty sure that Shanea felt the same way. I was doing some ground work when she arrived and we discussed some options for the lesson- her riding, her lunging me on Carmen, me riding. We opted to try the latter. We figured if things went to crap we could figure it out. I do love that Shanea works with the rider on a plan rather than just taking over.

We wanted it to be a positive experience for Carmen. The idea was to keep it simple and work from there.

If this was a book, Carmen would have been perfectly calm and happy and ready to tackle dressage with all the talent that she has in her little hoof.

But it's not a book.

And Carmen is Carmen- a sensitive, somewhat dramatic mare with some pretty strong ideas.

Fortunately, that is what I was expecting. What I wanted was that pain was not a player in this little drama so that the other could be dealt with.

Which is what I got.

I led Carmen up to the mounting block and she gave a start and became tense. I walked her away and we started again. I could tell as we walked off that she was worried about things and pinned her ears a bit. But I just keep the flow going and that disappeared pretty quickly.

Carmen was pretty tight in the corners that caused issues before. She tried all her tricks to avoid going there. Here I'm using the 'reverse' to work her through it rather then boot her through everything (although that happened too).

Here's the thing though:I wasn't even remotely afraid.
could her neck get any more retracted? But hey- I'm not clamping with my hands #smallwins

I don't know why I wasn't worried. But because I wasn't afraid I could stay relaxed and not get emotional. So when she began to throw herself around I could work her through it and praise her when she go it right.

I kept it simple and did my best to make sure that my cues were clear and as strong as needed to make a point. Shanea said that she was largely just a cheering committee because I handled it all well.

There were times when she was so relaxed and her back was up and then a switch would flick in certain areas and she was tight and tense. You can see it in the video - when she tightens there's a lot more bounce in my seat. It honestly feels like I'm riding Pepe Le Pew:

Here we're going through that spooky corner really well but farther up is apparently still up for discussion.

I probably should be annoyed that we are still working on this crap. But I am okay with it because... well I don't know why.

Maybe because this the Carmen I know and I know how to 'reason' with her on this.

Maybe because I'm happy that my horse isn't broken.

Maybe because I'm happy that my fear seems to be gone. Without fear I can be more proactive and work through things. Because I'm not tense I can stay soft in the saddle and go with her. I am not feeding into the negative spiral.

Whatever the reason, I'm so happy to be back in the saddle.

I was really happy with this- we finally cantered through without
balking or bolting. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Well Hello There

Carmen continues to improve in her mood and attitude every day. We've finished the Sulcrate on Saturday. I think she's missing the 'extra' meals that I used to give it to her but is handling it well.
I threw this tree into the field- Carmen came right up to it and is
now giving me the 'eye'. 

I have been super impressed by how easy she's been to give her the tube of Omeprazole. I put on her halter now and she starts to chew getting ready. I put it next to her mouth and after an initial moving away she opens her mouth and lets me squirt it all in and then she gulps it down. I don't even have to hold her anymore. I was worried that it would make her resent me but the opposite seems to be happening. On Saturday I came into the field with some flakes of hay and she came galloping and nickering to me. Clearly the hay helped but I've done that before and have not gotten that reaction.

It took until this weekend for me to finally start to feel like myself. Friday was bitterly cold and every time I went out I bundled up. Saturday was cold and rainy so I just puttered around the house and didn't worry about working Carmen. Sunday though was a beautiful fall day.
love my morning walks in my woods
I decided that I should do something with Carmen. The temptation is to ride but Ed was away for the weekend and it didn't seem that riding for the first time since last Sunday when I was all alone would be the smart thing to do. So I decided to do some ground work with her. 

And you guys- she was a totally different horse. There was no sign of this nervous, flinching wreck from two weeks ago.  

trying out her new rope halter.
C'mon Carmen put your ears forward and open your eyes
Carmen: no
I picked up a rope halter from the local store and decided to use that. I think I tied it correctly (I had my phone out checking online while I tied it up):
does this look right?
Also, Carmen put your ears up

Carmen was definitely more alert in the far corner but she settled really quickly. It was clear that not only was she tuned in but she was pretty relaxed about the whole thing. I could get her to canter and then have her stand and relax. 
Me: Carmen, I'm taking your photo. Could you put your ears up?
Carmen: why? I'm relaxed. what more do you want?
Me: sigh

One of the things I've learned about ground work this year is that it's not so much what you ask for - it's about the handler being really clear with what she wants and the horse trying to find the answer. I like playing with my body language and seeing how she responds. We walked around the ring with her following. I decided to see if I could push her away and draw her back by just rotating my shoulders. It worked like a dream. As I walked and turned my shoulders towards her she yielded into the centre and when I turned my shoulder back and headed toward the rail she followed. At no time did I have to tug on the lead.  We ended there. 

Irish has had his nose a bit out of joint. He's used to being the one that needs the extra care but I've been giving that to Carmen. He's getting quite grumpy. Today I took him out to clean off his back legs and then put on the protective spray/powder. It was clear that he felt much better after. Poor baby. 

I am feeling so much more optimistic than I was earlier this month. I have a lesson booked for Tuesday (fingers crossed for good weather). I plan to keep it positive and light but it will be good to have eyes on the ground. 

I don't expect her to lose all her sass. After all she wouldn't be Carmen then. But I like the path we seem to be on. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Spoonful of Sugar

Full Confession- I have loved Mary Poppins since I was a child. Loved the books (although I haven't read them in decades) and adored the movie. A couple years ago we went to a local theatre putting in on and it was fabulous. 

I was pretty much laid out after the ride on Sunday (the really flu kicked my butt and I was unable to return to work until Weds). Sunday night Ed asked me why I went.
Weren't you having trouble with her? 
Yes I said but things have been better since I started treating her for ulcers. I explained what I had been seeing and when I thought it all started. He listened carefully and nodded. I said that I was going to call the vet to discuss perscription meds.
It's not like you can stop showing her or going to clinics. 
No. Well (I stopped, thinking that he was asking me), I could but....
No,I mean that of course you're not going to stop going to shows and clinics. 

Isn't he awesome? On Monday I called my vet and outlined what my concerns were. He listened, asked some questions and then agreed that it sounded very plausible that Carmen had ulcers. I had two alternatives 1) take her to the next province to the vet college (a long haul) for a scope or 2)treat and see if it made a difference.

I opted for door #2. Partly to save money, partly to avoid the stress of a long haul (I've never done one before) and mostly to save Carmen the stres of the procedure. My vet was fine with that. Can I just say that I love that my vet returns calls and is willing to consult over the phone with no fee?

Two hours later I had a call that my perscription was ready and Ed went to pick it up.
this represents a lot of saddle pads.....
Ed told me the cost and then shrugged and said 'well it's not like it was optional. She needs it. And I am fortunate, because our vet's stock a 'generic' omeprazole in place of Ulcer Guard. Still it is not cheap. The bottle of Sucralfate is almost $200. The tubes are 4 weeks of treatment (combination of Omeprazole and Aloe Vera).

The plan is: 5 days of Sucralfate (2 doses a day not with meals) and one tube of ucler treatment at least 2 hours from the sucralfate. 

I looked at this and had reservations. You see when I first had Carmen deworming her was an adventure. She was very resistant. I now had her that she tolerated it but I looked at this and thought oh dear. I can see where 5 days of three tubes a day was likely not going to go over well. 

I filled up the syringe they gave with the 50 ccs of Sucralfate, grabbed a halter and an apple and headed out to the field to give her her dose before dinner. It's not that Carmen was bad, she wasn't. But there was a lot of head tossing. That, coupled with the fact that the syringe was too big for me to use one handed and that the liquid was very thin, resulted in both of us being flecked with the medication but I was reasonably sure that at least some had gotten in. Fortunately it has a light vanilla flavour (yes I tasted it, not compltely voluntarily). 

Irish watched this fascinated. I could see him thinking hey, I'm the one who usually gets the special treatment. What's going on here?! 

 The tube of Omerpazole was much easier and she took it without fuss. But I realized that I needed a better method. The vet was clear that she couldn't have it with her feed. Also, there's no way that she's taking it on an empty stomach because she's out grazing all day and has a slow feed hay net at night. Really, other then posibly in the morning, she does not have an empty stomach. And that is not recommended for horses with ulcers anyway. 

Realizing that it tastes kind of sweet in the morning I tried putting in her dish to see if she would slurp it up. She stuck her nose in it and then looked at me with a milky mustache and a quizzical expression. So I dumped her fat and fibre pellets on top and she ate it all. 

That morning I did some more thinking. I realized that I had some hay nuggets that I've been giving them at night (in place of the beet pulp). I've been thinking of transitioning Carmen over to those exclusively but haven't made up my mind. They can be fed as a hay replacement or in addition to hay. They are balanced with vitamins and minerals so you don't have to worry. So that morning I soaked a few nuggets and in the afternoon (about an hour before dinner) I added in the liquid medication and stirred it. I took it out to Carmen and she gobbled it down (don't worry I fed Irish an apple while she ate. He's even more confused then ever now).  My thinking was that if it's okay for her to have it and eat hay, then it should be okay to have it with hay. Feel free to pile on and tell me I'm wrong but I think my logic is sound. And it's not interfering with her taking the Omeprazole treatment

We're on day 3 and I can see a real change in Carmen.  It could be a placebo effect but this is what I see:
  • she's not tearing into her food like before. She used to 'attack' her hay net and feed quite aggressively. You could hear the hay hoop rattle as she pulled on it. Now she nibbles without the franticness. Same with her morning and evening rations. 
  • She's not as uptight and tense. Far more relaxed. 
  • she comes up to me in the field and when I'm walking the dogs rather than ignore me. 
She's just softer overall. Now I don't think that she will become a Magical Zen Unicorn. 

you can find anything with google!

But seeing her look content and relaxed is lovely. Here's a shot that warmed my heart:

Let me tell you what the big deal is about this photo. Carmen is in a section of the field that she has refused to go into for the last 3 years. She's surrounded on 3 sides by brush and it's blowing. Can you see Irish looking into the next field? That's because there's a giant doe there also eating. Carmen looked at it, shrugged and went back to eating. The dogs are running in and out of the bushes as we walk and she gives zero fucks. She has ventured into this part of the field before but she also zooms away when we come walking by and I've never seen her that far in. 

I have not ridden her. Even if I wasn't sick I wanted to give things a chance to settle. When I do start back it will be light and easy and I will monitor. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Body and Soul

Before I get into the post let me share this:

This was shared on my wall by a friend on FB. It seems that my photo of Irish and d'Arcy is a meme. Which is pretty cool. 

Things have been interesting with Carmen. Every day I see a huge improvement in her attitude and demeanour. And I don't think it's the training (although that is helping).

I think it's the gut medication.

When I think back, the wheels started to come off in early August after we had been at two shows back to back. I think that she has acidosis or ulcers. The medication I have her on is more for symptoms, not for healing so I will call my vet on Monday. I think she will need a round of ulcer meds and then will need them in the summer. In terms of her management I don't know what else I could do in terms of that to help her.  Maybe I'll save that for another post.

I feel guilty about 'blaming' Carmen when I realize that she was trying to show that she was uncomfortable. But she's not always easy to read and guilt is a non-productive emotion so I will try to let it pass and focus on the lesson.

Anyway, I had made arrangements with Tanya and Nancy to go on a trail ride at Coveside. You may recall that I went there last year and had a blast. Now given that last week Carmen was basically unrideable this may seem like a bad idea. But Carmen is generally better on the trail and around other horses and I wanted to add in some fun. Because lately life has not been fun for or with her.

On Friday night I was sneezing a lot but didn't think anything about it. Saturday morning though I woke up with a searing headache, sore throat and achy body.

Oh no.  

I made sure that I rested as much as possible on Saturday- other than taking care of the horses, dogs and doing laundry I rested. Ed was pretty sure I was going to cancel but I was determined to go. I hooked up the trailer Saturday evening and crossed all my fingers when I went to bed.

Sunday I did not feel good at all. But I could walk and decided that I was going anyway. Ed said nothing but clearly had opinions on this. But who knows when this opportunity was going to come again? So medicated, loaded my pockets with kleenex and put Carmen on the trailer.

I met up with Tanya and another young girl (Leah) at the stables. We parked and unloaded the horses. Carmen stood there looking around but didn't move her feet. We put the horses in stalls and then headed back down and got our tack.
can we talk about how adorable this donkey is?
Carmen was fascinated. Irish would have lost his mind. 

When I mounted Carmen in the arena she immediately tensed and felt defensive. I walked her in a few circles while the others mounted (the young'un got on from the ground).  We walked out and headed for the trails. Tanya's young mare was quite excited to be on this outing and pranced around looking adorable.
Suzi 'oh this is so fun, where are we going? What's that over there? Wheee'

As we walked out Carmen became more and more relaxed. Honestly you guys, she was incredible. We walked most of it on a loose rein. Not at the beginning- there were some granite rocks that she was highly suspicious of.

As we headed into the woods she let out a big sigh and her ears got floppy. I was able to let her walk out on a long rein.
honestly this property and trails are amazing

I occasionally had to take back the reins- she was striding out so well she wanted to pass the leader. And over bridges- just to make sure that I had her between leg and hand. But she walked over them with total aplomb. Which was great for Suzi because it helped her to just follow us over.
see my left hand on my leg? the other hand is on the buckle.
(I have my safety vest under the red vest making me look bulky)
PC Tanya
There was a lot of hills which was great for working her back and hind end. At one point we were below a public trail and a bike went by. Carmen looked at it Oh hey, a bike and then carried on. The things she did look at were cautionary and not near death experiences. Between being ill and the medication I was unable to be tense which likely helped a lot. 

I don't know how long we were gone. An hour maybe? When we got back to the barn all of us were very happy. The weather was cool but the colours were lovely. 
Suzi looking happy and wondering what her next
adventure is going to be. Carmen is in the stall next to her
eating all the hay she can stuff in while we get ready to leave

When I got home I realized that I was going to pay for this morning. I am now feeling even worse and my body seems rather pissed at me. 

But that's okay. 

My soul is happy. 


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Glimmer

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
~Martin Luther King Jr~ 
Thank you everyone for listening to me vomit up all my frustration and disappointment yesterday. I was bouyed up by all the support and positive advice I received. Thank you for not saying that I suck (that's what my internal voices are for).

I have been thinking about the groundwork and how to make it meaningful so that she learns to tune in rather than shut down. I like N's idea of doing patterns in hand and googled a few on my break at work today. I can see how it would add focus for me and her.

Today I was in the city all day which makes for a long day. In the morning as I walked the dogs Carmen came over to the fence to greet us as we walked by. Clearly she is not viewing me in a negative light. The same thing happened when I came home and walked the dogs again. I prepared the stalls and fed the horses (I'm making some changes to her feed too but that is probably a different post).

After we ate I decided to take her out to the ring to do some work. Since the dogs had been in all day I decided that they could come with me. It was getting dark and was quite windy. I figured that and the dogs might make things interesting.

My goals were simple:

  • respect my space
  • respond to my directions
  • focus on me 
I started with the leading up to the ring. I made sure she followed along and did not try to graze (confession: I've been letting that slide). At first I took her to the centre and asked her to walk a circle around me. She was ignoring me and looking into the next field so I firmly increased pressure and she trotted off.  After a few minutes of lunging and changing directions I asked her to walk beside me and the discussion about 'where' her spot was really short. We alternated between me sending her off to work on the edge of the lunge line, to leading, backing up, turns on the forehand and haunches. 

There was an overall difference in our work this evening. She was softer. The corrections we able to be lower in intensity. There's a lot of possible reasons for this:
  • the stomach meds are working
  • the dogs added security. She definitely wasn't worried about them even when Guinness was trotting at her heels (we're working on what he's to do when I work the horses. He's like a young child 'mom, mom, MOM'). 
  • the work I did sunday
Clearly I have altered too many variables to identify one #no_scientific_method #throw_everything_at_the_problem. Probably some combination is working. I brought her down by the barn to do some ground work there too. At first she just wanted to graze and became annoyed by my asking her to turn her attention to me. But after a short discussion she stopped even trying to graze and kept her attention on me. Not in a 'oh my god why are you so mean' way but in a 'what do you want' way. 

Either way, this feels like the right path. We shall see. 

Irish looks so good in the fall foliage

Monday, October 8, 2018

This Post Has No Title

It's not that I couldn't think of a title but because all of them sound too freaking depressing:

  • Starting Over (used that one before I think)
  • Ground Zero
  • The Wheels are Off the Bus
All of them can be summed up with 'what the hell is wrong with my horse?'

I almost didn't write this post but I decided that my goal to be honest here should be honoured. I am not posting all my thoughts or everything that has happened but this is it in a nutshell. 

So from that you may gather that things are not going well. 

That is an understatement. 

I vaccinate between giving up and formulating a plan. 

The 'issue' is going around the ring. As you know, Shanea has been putting on some training rides and I've been following up. The rides are stressful for Carmen but they shouldn't be. All we are asking her to do is:
  • leg on means go
  • walk/trot/canter in all parts of the ring. 
  • do not bolt
Honestly, given where she is with her training those are well within her wheelhouse. 

While I am not convinced that it's ulcers I have started her on medication because I figure the anxiety she's showing is going to lead to them. 

Shanea and developed a plan where she would come Thursday evening and ride Carmen and the next morning I would ride in a lesson.  Thursday night was awful. It all started with geese flying over head honking.  Carmen would not give in. All she wanted to do was fight and Shanea is very good at not fighting. After 90 minutes she began to show some submission. At 2 hours I told Shanea it was time to get off. It seemed to me that we had gotten as much from Carmen as we were going to. 

Friday morning was cold and breezy. Carmen was a twitchy mess in the barn. After walking her around the ring we both acknowledged that riding would be foolish. I went and got my lunge line and took off her bridle. After some ground work she began to relax and seemed rideable. 

Shanea got on and again, Carmen was full of feeling and thoughts. Most of them involved the word 'no'. 

This is literally the best she became: 

On Saturday I took her up to the ring with just a halter and lunge line. I had no intention of riding until I was able to get her relaxed in the ring. It took a while but I got there. I then put on her tack and got one. The rideable part of the ring had been reduced to 1/4: essentially X to C and down the long side to B. The rest of the ring was nope. I rode her encouraging her to go to these places and I won't go into all the boring detail. Essentially I kept up pressure and then relaxed it when she gave. The was bolting, spinning, head shaking, etc and I rode through it all without feeling at all afraid. 

But honestly, it's depressing: 'yay, you can go to F without losing your mind, just being super stiff'. 

I think that there are many things playing into this dilemma:
1. I no longer am riding with Irish and so she's feeling less secure. 
2. fall weather
3. the grass (with the cooler weather it gets higher in sugars). 

Today I took her up to the ring in a saddle and halter. I hung the bridle on a hook but I really wasn't planning to ride. In reviewing the ground work I could see some holes in what I was doing. I am not sure how to phrase it all so bear with me:
  • Carmen is not truly giving me her full attention. I can get it but really, to her mind, I am not important, even when harassing her (her words) with the lunge whip. 
  • she will run through me rather than give way. 
  • I give up too soon. 
  • Carmen needs to learn how to manage her emotions without me having to force her. I can bully her into things and 'make' her do it but that won't pay off in the long run. But I also can't let her just make all the decisions about how much we do or where we go.  I know I'm not explaining it correctly but Warwick Schiller explains it that we can't truly control a horse until they learn to control themselves. 
  • no matter what happens though Carmen does not act aggressively towards me
  • Carmen is used to throwing her shoulders around and getting away and having that door shut is pissing her off. 
I was determined that I was going to give Carmen the room to make some decisions but try to set it up so that the release was in the relaxing. If she wanted to run away I let her run but controlled where. I would offer her rest and she could accept it or not. If not I let her go and directed her feet again. If she stood I left her alone. As you can see she has figured out how to stand but not to relax:

I don't have video of later because it's really hard to train and video. However, she clearly began to understand as we went on and, as her focus shifted to me she began to relax. I finished by asking her to walk just behind me, close to the rail. She was not allowed to lag behind, step behind me or pass me. It was amazing how this 'simple' exercise stretched her capacity. She tried first to come behind me and put me between her and the rail. I used my lunge whip to put pressure on her to come back to the rail. She would then try to push past me and circle around. Before I would let this happen but not this time. I used my whip in front of her face to stop it. I would not let her pass and if that meant that she was hit in the face because she walked into the whip so be it. She tried to bump me with her shoulder but regretted that life choice rather quickly. 

I know that this all sounds harsh but when I watch Irish with her, he does not let her pass him even when she really really wants to. And she completely accepts this, although not always happily. 

I am not riding her right now because there's no point. I will continue to do groundwork. I am also trying to figure out where to go next. 

I do know one thing- this cannot continue. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Working on the Base

This is Gaucho III- Carmen's sire. If you watch it you will see some similarities to Carmen. I can see the same reactivity and sensitive nature that she has. 

Watching Shanea work with Carmen has been eye opening. What has become clear is that her warm up is all about relaxation.  It's not that I didn't know that Carmen needed to be relaxed for our work to be good. It's that I actually didn't understand how to teach her to look for relaxation as the answer. 

Here's a good example: 
from back in August
Carmen is going forward but her neck is locked, she's camping the bit and her toppling is rigid. Not that we are in that state all the time. We are not. But it seemed to be out of my control whether she was relaxed or not. 

I would say that it depends on her mood. Some days she wanted to play and others she didn't. 

We can debate whether relaxation should be on the bottom or second step but to me they are so closely entwined that it's a moot discussion. I had this idea that relaxation would come as we worked. As she understood the job and got used to the ring. I kept waiting for her to get there on her own. 

But it appears that it is a difficult concept for Carmen. One technique is to 'work' her through it. And that does work but it's tiring and not pleasant for either of us. So we have dialled things back and are working on the second part of the pyramid- relaxation.

My goal in my work with Carmen in between Shanea is to not screw things up continue the work as best I can. And it starts in the barn. Saturday I was alone again and I was torn about working with Carmen. I decided that I could work her and decide if I was going to ride or not in the ring. 

As I was getting her ready I felt that old familiar knot in my stomach. And she was being restless- looking around, moving her feet and generally being annoying. I know that we were feeding off each others negative energy. 
definite negative energy

 I was putting her bridle on and it felt more like a wrestling match. 
no. I said. This is not the way to start. 
I took it off and stood there with her. She was completely free to go (if she chose). I stood there and just breathed until she brought her head to me. Then I put on the bridle and it was so much better. We headed to the ring and I walked her around on the line just breathing and feeling the ground. 

Carmen was startled by something (butterfly, bird, ghost troll..... who knows?) and leaped sideways. I stopped and looked at her and she was standing completely still and braced. I stood still and breathed. After what seemed like a long time she gave a sigh and looked at me. I then walked on.  I lunged her and she was fine. I decided to get on and see how things would go. 

It's not like I was perfect. But I did the whole ride at a walk asking her to find relaxation. My only ask the whole ride was for her to step forward into contact in a relaxed way. when her head came up I would put on my leg and pulse the inside rein. If she fell in our out I straightened her out. It took a while but I finally had her walking relaxed in every area of the ring. I then halted and got off. It felt like a good ride. 
the smaller hunter ring. I love this place
On Sunday I spent the morning with Tanya watching a hunter/jumper show at Coveside. It was lovely weather and some really lovely horses and ponies. It was fun to catch up with some old friends too. In the afternoon I tacked Carmen up and she was much more relaxed. In the ring I repeated the same things but this time introduced trot. Relaxation came and went. When it came I tried to be quiet and ride it forward. When it wasn't relaxed I asked her to bend and give without getting tight or upset. When I had her stretching into contact and swinging back in every corner of the ring and then I dismounted. 

It seems so simple but is more nuanced then I ever appreciated. 

Poor Johanna. I think that this is what she's been trying to get me to understand for a long long time. Sorry Johanna, sometimes I'm a really slow learner. 

see- she can be relaxed