dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas Presents!

This year I participated in the Printable Pony Blogger Gift Exchange. Yesterday I had a surprise in my mailbox.

Inside were three wrapped packages: one for me, one for Irish and Carmen and one for Guinness, d'Arcy and Ripley:

Inside were everyone's favourite things:

Treats for the ponies. They LOVE them. Like 'give me more or we will roll you' love them.

The balls were a huge hit with Guinness and Ripley. I picture d'Arcy in heaven in a ball pit. They were his favourite thing.

And socks for me. I love socks. I don't know if you can tell but on mine are pigs being lifted by balloons. These are now my favourite.

Thank you Lindsey L! You are a great secret Santa!

As for my person- have faith- the tracking number tells me it's still in transit. With the labour issues with Canada Post things are delayed. I should have sent it via courier!

Friday, December 28, 2018

That's a Wrap : 2018 Goal Review

Last year I set some goals for 2018 and I guess it's time to review how they went.

Shows: I planned to do four shows and I ended up doing five: 2 schooling shows and three Bronze. I actually did show at First Level and it was definitely the right choice for us. The first half of the season was way better then the second but I'm blaming that on ulcers. The results:

one of my favourite photos from the season

June 11/12: Bronze
First Level 1 scores: 62.96 (Sat), 63.52 (Sun)
First Level 2 scores: 63.59 (Sat), 64.53 (Sun)

Take aways: Ask and expect more from Carmen. We can recover from bobbles and it's not the end of the world.

July 9/10: Scotia Series Show (schooling show)
First Level 1 scores: 64.81 (Sat), 65.92(Sun)
First Level 2 scores: 67.03 (Sat),  72.34 (Sun)

Take Aways: again keep riding no matter what. Forget everything else. Also that a judge's comments can make me cry (in a good way): "Love your partnership"

July 28/29: Bronze Show
First Level 1 scores: 62.96 (Sat), 64.815 (Sun)
First Level 2 scores: 64.219 (Sat),  60.938 (Sun)

Take Aways: I can camp and show at the same time but I don't get much sleep. Always, always check your scores (the show committee listed me at 57 when I had a 64! And most importantly, it is possible to have a spook free show with Carmen. I actually scored a 9!

August 4/5: Scotia Series Show (schooling show)
I can't remember my scores and I didn't write them down. I'm also too lazy to go and get my sheets. However, Sunday was a disaster and I actually had to scratch my last test. I was so very frustrated. Now, in retrospect, I think she was starting with her ulcers and that made everything worse.

Take Aways: It's okay to scratch sometimes. Horses can make you cry. I suspect that the two shows back to back were too much stress and resulted in the ulcers. Not that I won't do that again, but I will take more precautions.

September 1/2: Bronze Show - first show trying Test 3
First Level 2 scores: 57.97 (Sat), 59.22 (Sun)
First Level 3 scores: 58,53 (Sat),  62.21 (Sun)

Take aways: sometimes judge's comments sound mean (even if not intended). Spurs are my friend. Sometimes you have to forget the judge and everything and just ride the horse. Also, it's clear to me now that Carmen was hurting and trying to tell me so.

Looking back there's a clear line between when Carmen was okay and when she was not. It would be easy to blame myself for not noticing. In my defence, it's not like these were new behaviours for Carmen. I just thought that they were resurfacing. Now I know better and can do better. I have adjusted her diet and have some plans to reduce her acid when we travel to help prevent the ulcers from coming again.

I'm glad that I showed as much as I did. I had a lot of fun (well mostly) with my friends.

Riding Goals:

  • I want to further improve my seat so that I can stay both relaxed and effective in the saddle: This is getting better. It still takes conscious effort but not as much as before. I suspect that I will always be working on this. 
  • I want to fix my tendency to want to 'coast' and expect her to carry me. Instead I want to be giving her direction so that she doesn't feel abandoned and then make bad decisions. This is much much better. I am thinking about what she needs and how to help her. 
  • Let go of the rein. Better but still really hard. I feel so much better when there's weight in my inside rein.
  • Increase awareness of my body and it's impact on how she's going. This is way better. I'm better at keeping her under me and myself over her. Again, I suspect that this goal will always be here- just hopefully getting more refined. 

Carmen Goals:
  • Go forward of the leg. Not fast- forward, reaching from behind. 
  • Keep her attention on me and not on all the things that are obviously waiting to kill her. 
  • Develop her trust in me in new situations so that we can have successful shows/clinics etc. 
  • NO MORE SPOOKING BETWEEN E AND C. This is huge for us. 
  • Develop her push from behind so that she can collect/lengthen
All of these are coming. At least they were before the wheels fell off. We'll get it back though. It's already much improved. I'm keeping the faith on this one. 

I'm happy with how many lessons I managed to get in with Shanea this year. I never said no unless I was going to be away. And it paid off. I learned that starting with lessons even before we were back in shape helped us to start off the right way. I loved the clinics I did: especially the trail clinic. Definitely doing more of that next year. 

I do love the trail stuff

Fun Stuff:
We definitely did a lot of fun things this year. From hacking out with Nancy, to having my friends bring their horses to my place. I didn't get to Karen's too much this year but hopefully that will change in the new year.

I keep asking Ed to make me a bull. I think he thinks I'm joking.....

So that was our year in review (at least in light of our goals). I'm glad that I managed to stick with my goals. I learned a lot this year- about Carmen, about myself and about how we work together. I don't know what she would have to say about the last year but likely it would be 'let's just eat and do fun stuff, 'k?  

The ulcers were a hard lesson but I'm thinking she has forgiven me. The other day I came home from work and she was staring at me. I went and got changed and she stared at me again, giving a soft nicker. I walked the dogs and when I got back she nickered loudly. So I went in to the paddock and she came up to me. Irish started to come over too and she pinned her ears. I stood between them and gave Irish a pat while she wuffled my hair (wuffling: when a horse snorts gently into your hair making it messy). For whatever reason, we are tied together and I don't know that I could sell her even if I wanted to. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lesson Recap (a bit late)

Sorry for the late recap everyone. I was super busy with Christmas stuff and didn't have time to write it.  I hope that you all had a great holiday doing what you love with the people you love.  Our Christmas was nice and quiet. The 'kids' came, although Amanda was quite ill with what turned out to be a kidney infection.

If you recall, on the day of the lesson there was a bitter north wind blowing so I had taken her up to do some ground work and it went great. When I brought Carmen in again and got her ready she was lovely and relaxed. We did some groundwork again and then I got on. I started off with asking her to bend and soften. I wasn't too worried about where we went as long as it was soft and she was seeking relaxation. It went really well.

Shanea arrived and I put in the ear piece (I love this systems for coaching, I can hear so much better and talk to Shanea about what I'm feeling). Just as we were starting a couple ATVs went down the road (not a big deal) and then into the field next door but now where we could see them (a big big deal).

Carmen immediately went into high alert and the hamster fell off the wheel. Shanea walked beside us and we tried to help her settle. But between the cold wind and the noise of the ATVs it was not working. I realized that I was not helping Carmen at all so I asked Shanea to get on. She hesitated and then went and got her stuff. While she was gone I put the halter and lunge line back on Carmen and did some ground work.

Shanea got on and it's not like Carmen magically transformed into a unicorn. But Shanea has the skill sets to support her through her existential angst. She started by droppign the inside rein and only using inside leg to outside rein. I know that that helps but I hate when Carmen blows through my inside leg and my lizard brain is convinced that it's the only thing standing between me and death.

Apparrently my and Carmen's lizard brains have a lot in common. They only differ on where certain death lies.

Shanea, however, is young, talented and unbreakable. So she shares none of that angst (it will likely come with age).

Here's a video clip of the early part of the ride. You can see she doesn't hold with the inside rein and how she pats Carmen for being so brave (by now the ATVs were gone).

The wonderful thing about the 2-way system is that Shanea could describe to me what she was doing in the moment and I could see how it worked. At some point soon after the above video Carmen just let go of all her tension and got to work. It was beautiful to watch. 

You can see Carmen stretching to the bit and Shanea supporting her the whole way. I can see that my fussing is likely contributing to the whole problem and I filed that away to work on. Shanea says I'm getting much better. It's alway hilarious when you end up in an arguement with your coach because you believe you suck and she's telling you that you don't.

Carmen is a stunning horse when she flows.

I could see a whole shift in her from defensiveness to being forward and listening. It was lovely to see her gain confidence. I was happy that I had Shanea get on her to help her with that. I believe it was the right call.

Shanea was having fun too. I said ' I bet that feels different then the last time your rode her'. 

Oh yeah!  Shanea said. She feels like a totally different horse. 

We both felt really optimistic after that ride. It's helpful for me to see things going smoothly- it convinces me that it is, indeed, possible.

What I was curious about was whether I could get the same result without Shanea. Monday was Christmas eve which was a half-day holiday for me (as is Christmas day and Boxing day. Living in NS has its perks!). I came home and got Carmen ready. She was very relaxed and after confirming everything on the ground I got on. The ground was a bit hard so I didn't plan to do much. She walked off relaxed and forward and we went everywhere with zero issues. Zero.During that time I worked on keeping my hands soft, staying off the inside rein and following with my seat.  After about 10 minutes of walking I hopped off.

I was able to ride again on Boxing day. The day started at -12 but warmed up to -1 by lunch time so I decided to give it a go. The ground was okay and I didn't plan to do much more than walk and trot. I stayed away from one end which was harder. Although she was a little more 'up'. we were able to work through everything without getting in a big fight. Every time she stretched and released tension I rewarded her. When she tightened I stayed on the outside rein and ignored the inside. It was a good session and lasted about an hour.

The nice thing about focussing on relaxation is that I'm no longer worried about the perfect leg yield or whether we're practicing the 'moves'. Instead it's about her body being supple and her brain staying with me (keeping that hamster firmly on the wheel).

That look your mare gives you when she's been very
very good and is expecting to be rewarded. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Peace Mission

It's not a surprise that I've been working with Carmen and helping her find relaxation when she's feeling stressed/pressure. Watching the Tristan Tucker videos I realized that in the past, with my groundwork I was looking for obedience with the idea that relaxation would surely follow.

However, with Carmen that didn't happen. It's not that she couldn't relax. More like she didn't really understand how to seek it. Her reaction to stress/pressure was to seek relief by running away.

Working on this I've become so very aware of my own body language. I am a high energy person and tend to stand stiffly when working with horses. I suspect that that is a mix of my own natural tendency and my early learning of 'making the horse listen'.  I've been working very very hard on letting myself slouch when I'm trying to encourage her to relax.

Honestly, Carmen and I are so very very similar.
Carmen: seriously? That is news to you? That we are similar? 

It's not easy but it's working. I've been working on the three areas that Tristan advises to directly target: Getting the horse to seek relaxation in response to:
1. movement
2. Noise
3. Approach (this was fascinating to me. He says that horses don't really distinguish between a scary thing approaching them or them approaching a scary object. So you have to work on both).

Working on relaxation has changed the entire focus of my ground work. We start with the leading. She's to stay a prescribed distance from me no matter the speed or where we go. If she encroaches I send her back and as soon as she moves back I allow the relaxation to occur. Which means that I sometimes have to wait when she moves back until she releases.

I spend a lot of time standing, slouching and breathing.

I have also started helping her realize how stiff she makes the base of her neck. It locks and then everything is locked. I rub it until she lowers her head and loosens up. At first she was 'get off, that is bugging me!' Now she stretches out almost right away. I've started teaching her to stretch when I touch it with my crop. That way I can try it from her back.

I have attached a plastic bag to an old dressage whip and have introduced that into our work. Initially, Carmen was highly suspicious. I also use an old pill bottle as a shaker for my noisemaker.

She's figuring stuff out and learning that I'm looking for her to relax. Initially, if she's too tight I would reward the first hint of her relaxing. Essentially, I drop all pressure and let her rest. Sometimes I had to rub her neck and help her breathe out. I am gradually asking for more work in a relaxed state.

When I lunge, I'm looking for her to stretch out long and have a supple back. I can see her starting to seek that state which is awesome. Yesterday, I had her cantering and she was getting really excited. I waited to see if it was due to excess energy that needed to be expended. But she got tighter and tighter and began to snort/blow (you know that snort when they are really really worried about something?).  I stopped the lunging and we returned to the leading and bending exercises until she relaxed. Then, when we returned to the lunging she was much more supple.

Here's a video of her (hard to do by myself) of me working on her approaching a flappy bag without me being right beside her. My idea is that as I move her more away from me and ask her to deal that we can transfer this to under saddle.

You can see that she's curious. I can also see that she has some confidence in her ability to deal with it and is not feeling that she has to run away.

Today I have a lesson booked this afternoon. It is a windy day which is always a hallmark of greater nervousness on the part of Carmen. This morning I took her up to the ring to do some groundwork without it being tied to a lesson. At first she was a bit looky but it didn't take her long to settle into the work. I am seeing her confidence grow as she understands what I'm asking of her. I was very aware of the subtle signs of tension even though she was being obedient (tight muzzle, clamped jaw).  When I see that I try to dial back my body language to help her follow me.

We shall see if this work helps for later.  As I type this I haven't had the lesson yet.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Walking the Line

This is not new, but I often feel that the line between 'being confrontational' and 'being a pushover' really tricky. Mostly it seems that it goes like this:

green line is the goal, black line is what I do
Carmen is a sensitive mare with a strong will and a total lack of trust that things will be okay.

Okay, so that sounds dire. It really isn't.

We're making progress and I find myself having to figure this whole relaxation thing out. If I just wanted her to do what she was told it would, in some ways, be less of struggle.
tight back, locked neck, stiff strides. 

That winter has settled in and riding is sporadic at best is not helping.

I am determined that we will tackle this whole relax and be supple thing.  It is a process goal.

Today I had a lesson that really tested my resolve. Earlier in the day we could hear ATVs and a chain saw. I believe a family was cutting a Christmas tree. Although they were long gone when I took Carmen up to the ring she was convinced it was a death trap. I was able to get her relaxed and when I mounted she was calm. But she was also pretty clear about where she was going to go in the ring.
nope, not gonna 

Shanea was talking me through keeping my leg on and getting her over but she was a brick wall. Which of course made me try harder and that led to my leg going back. I was getting frustrated because Shanea kept telling me to keep my leg there so she would bend around it and Carmen was telling me to fuck off.

I was working really hard at not grabbing her face, not letting her run, getting her to bend and staying in the saddle and it simply was not working. I finally had to stop and say to Shanea "Look, I know what you're saying and I'm trying. But no matter what my leg does she refuses to listen so telling me to keep it straight is not working". I know that she was trying to help but it felt like I was drowning and someone was standing on the side of the pool saying 'just move your arms, kick your legs and float'. 

In case you think I'm exaggerating:

I didn't feel in danger. But running into the 'nope' was driving me nutty and I really had to fight my desire to just boot her and haul on the inside rein. I did pick up my crop to tap her on the shoulder she was driving against me. Fortunately I had Shanea to help stick with it.

Slowly, millimetre by millimetre we were able to get in tune. It was hard. And took constant focus. I had to be there and ride her like she was being perfect.

But we did get there. I was able to access her back and get her reaching for the bit.

Those are screen shots which are, clearly, cherry picked. I have a ton of video, but I won't bore you with a long clip. Here's a short one of where we ended up:

I think if I had been riding alone I think I would have given up and either dismounted or fell into arguing. I was happy that Shanea was there to help me stick it out.

Friday, December 14, 2018


A few days ago Dom wrote a beautiful post sharing her heartbreak about having to leave her home. It struck a chord with me and I wanted to reach across the internet and give her a hug.

It took me a long time to find my home. I don't remember a lot about my early childhood but I do remember living with my Grandparents in the country for a while. I loved it. When my mom was able to get a job and an apartment she took us back to live with her in a small apartment on the outer part of  the city. I hated it. The noise, asphalt and buildings blocking the sun were an assault on the senses. People yelled if you went on their yard and there was only one park- a 3 acre patch of grass with a small hill that had a grave on it. I used to sneak away a few blocks to a forest that was a few streets over. I spent a lot of time there. Thinking back I realize how dangerous it was a for a  7 year old to be wondering the woods in the city. I was lucky.

I know it's weird, but I have loved trees my whole life. 

I have lived in a few places since that apartment and, while I have enjoyed all of them, I have not felt that it was home. But I didn't know that I didn't feel that until I found the place that we live now.  I knew it from the first time I looked at it. 

Why this little farmhouse? I don't know. It would be like me describing why I love Ed. I just know. 

I feel that I know every inch of this property. In all weathers. 

Sometimes I am sitting in an all day meeting and I find myself feeling frazzled and drained. When I get into the car to head home I am impatient and anxious. Sometimes I worry that I am getting agoraphobic. But when I turn onto my road I can feel my heart start to ease.  I change my clothes and Guinness and I hit the woods. 

Guinness and his BFF Ripley (my son's dog)

As I walk my trails, throwing a ball periodically for Guinness I feel the trappings of the day fall away.  

hearts ease

This place is my dream but it hasn't stopped me from feeling heartbreak. Far from it. Sometimes it seems harder here. Maybe because I have opened my heart more than I thought possible. 

Martin, Belle and d'tracy are gone but it seems like only yesterday that we were all having fun exploring our new home. I do not know where Martin is but Belle and d'Arcy are here. 

I love when the swallows return to the barn. I cried this year when the babies died during the heat wave. We have a grouse that lives in my woods. It makes me jump all the time when I'm walking because it flies off in such a noisy flap. Lately I haven't heard it and I worry that the coyotes have gotten it. 

It took me 47 years but I now have a place that owns me as much as I own it. How could I leave? Pieces of my heart are buried here. 

4 years today I said goodbye

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hold My Hand

When I'm not having lessons I try to continue to work on building Carmen's confidence in me. I'm not one to worry about riding alone,  but I will confess that  these days I do worry about not having  a person on the ground making sure that I don't fall into a death spiral.
Hello. We see that you are walking the dog. You wouldn't
happen to have any apples in your pockets would you?
(who could resist those faces?)

I'm not worrying about leg yields or the perfect 10 metre circle. All I want is to replicate the work we're doing from the ground. I want her to reach for the contact and seek to relax. I want her to look to hold my hand and that there are different answers to being worried and tense then running away.

Some rides I just walk. A couple rides ago, once I got on I simply worked on a stretchy 20 metre circle at the walk. When I got a few of those I hopped off.

I do insist on a couple things though:
#1. that she stay under me - she's not allowed to fling her front and back around so that she's off center below me (or that I'm off-center above). I use my legs, reins and even my knees on her shoulder to keep her there.

Which relates completely to
#2: she stay straight. So, if she starts to fall away from the scary corner I don't really argue that (yes I know but trust me, fighting to keep her in the corner is a fools game) but I do make sure that she's straight. This usually means that I insist that we do a half-decent leg yield rather than just flail around.

I also insist on a couple things on myself:
#1: stay calm- in my mind and my body. I try to be aware of when I tense and consciously relax my seat, arms, etc. I clearly have a lot of work to do in this regard but I am making progress.

#2: stay balanced on top of her. Me getting off-centre makes her worry more and gets her more reactive.

#3: (okay I lied, there's more than a couple) Try to figure out what she needs and how to give it to her. It might be my voice, or a quick correction, or turning before she's going to want to so that it's my idea. I need to be okay with making a mistake, shrug it off and try again.

After my lesson on saturday it began to snow. Julia came out and rode Irish. He was feeling pretty fresh but settled in to work after a bit of silliness (love that at his age he can still be silly)
the most perfect of orange ponies
We decided to ride together the next day. After Julia's ride I dragged the ring to get any ruts out of it. It was supposed to freeze so I figured we'd just be able to hack but I like to keep it dragged so that if there is snow it has a smooth surface to sit on. This allows for riding in the snow (which I love).

The next morning was freezing cold and I was shocked to see that my ring was actually pretty darn good for riding:
it was in fantastic shape
Carmen started off good with the ground work and when I mounted she was again looking for an argument. I just breathed and kept us walking. I used Irish to help us walk around the ring. It didn't take long before she was starting to get in the groove of things. We were able to work on bend and serpentines and changes of bend. I was Ms. Mellow and just didn't let anything get me flustered.

this picture makes me giggle. We're resting while Irish trots on by and
 look at those grumpy mare ears. 
I even dropped the reins and let her wander where she wanted. I tried to take a bit of video from her back (sorry for the poor quality). She actually wanted to head to the 'scary' part of the ring. I know it was because she wanted to follow Irish but I don't care- I had a completely loose rein and she was totally relaxed in her body. 

After we headed into the woods for a hack. It was beautiful and I only got snow down my neck once. Carmen led for a bit and when she became really worried we let Irish lead again. 

It was a a good ride and I still think that I'm on the right path. Carmen is becoming quite affectionate with me these days and that is not her normal behaviour. 
Love this view. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Discretion is the Better Part of Valour

The posts I want to write are sort of colliding with each other so I'm going to mix up the chronology a bit so I can make my posts semi-coherent.

Friday I had a lesson booked with Shanea and, miracle of miracles, the stars aligned that it wasn't cancelled (weather or lack of critical mass to make it worthwhile for her to come here).

The morning dawned sunny and frosty. Our whole farm was sparkly (seems to be a theme these days. Carmen was quite mellow and I spent some time grooming her and enjoying our time. I spent some time doing ground work as well. Our focus is on learning to relax when she's tense. That has been an interesting process and changed what I do with her. By the time Shanea arrived we were quite relaxed and ready to start.

There was a transformation when I mounted and we walked off. Carmen became tense and appeared to be looking for a fight. My theory is that she was anticipating that we would argue about things (like where we go) and that she was going to evade to the best of her ability.

My new approach is to avoid a fight while not also giving in and letting her call the shots. This is really hard.


First of all I rarely back down from a fight. With anyone.

Second of all what I'm asking doesn't seem that difficult. You know things like trotting, straight lines etc.

Third, neither of us win a fight. I might get her to go where I want but then she is so tight and tense and miserable that neither of us is happy.

I have had to push all my drive and goals to the side and work on us achieving harmony and relaxation. So when Carmen starts off appearing to spoiling for a fight (yes I know that she's really not, it's just history) everything I do needs to say 'hey, no need to argue. I'm not arguing'. 

We started off just walking forward with me keeping  my reins at a length for her to reach but to give me control if I needed it.

see- tight, braced neck, short back, stiff gaits
We walked with me keeping a following seat. When she tightened I would make a decision- do I encourage her forward or do I make a decision to turn before it becomes a battle? It all depended on the moment.

The first trot transition was terrible. She shook her head, threw her haunches around and I worked really hard to keep the ask the same rather than increasing the pressure. Finally she went forward and we were riding.

She clearly had some issues with the far side. Shanea had me pick up a circle. When Carmen wanted to bend to keep her eye on the side we decided to make it a gymnastic: circle at trot, as I cross the center line ask for the counter bend and ride it around, then ask for the right bend and carry on. As we did it I was able to make the counter bend strides fewer and fewer.

Go ahead and roll your eyes at me. I honest to god am not scared but I don't want 30 minutes of her arguing with me about bend and me hauling on the inside rein and spurring her guts out. The spooked a few times, I simply rolled my eyes and kept going.

Here's a really good example of what we were doing (also really boring so if you have insomnia I've got you covered):

See how when we change direction she is unsure about the gate (well the halter and lunge line) and then really unsure about the opposite side. I am riding her with support. I wish my elbows were less stiff. It would really help a lot. It's a vestige of my defensive riding. But the third round she has more confidence in what I'm asking and realizes that she's fine.

We then started going down the far side. I like this clip because you can see that she's with me and on the aids, until she's not. I wish that Shanea had kept filming because what you will see is that I just roll my eyes (well you can't see that but it's in my body language) and ride forward. You can see how quick she can be. But I'm happy that she's not spinning and bolting. The jumps I can handle.

And it's worth it because she's starting to trust me again. The ears are on constant swizzle. Which is way better than locked ears.

Honestly, we're doing nothing spectacular and yet it all feels like new territory. I've gone from 'please behave' to 'by god you're going to behave' to 'it's all fine but hey run away if you feel you must'.
so much better- stretching through the base of her neck, relaxed
backand reaching for contact and her stride is free. 

And neither of us feel exhausted and drained at the end of our rides.

That has to be a good thing.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Crown Jewels

I had an amazing lesson to blog about but that will have to wait.

You see I had a number of factors coalesced into making me helpless in the face of temptation.

#1: Carmen broke her turquoise browband

#2: Riding has been near impossible with the weather.

Which leads to me spending more time on the internet. Which leads to:

#3. I stumbled across Canadian Custom Bling Browbands. She makes them herself and will do custom orders/colours.

Carmen, as a grey horse, can wear anything. She is my first mare. And I find myself being drawn to pretty things for her. I especially like her in purple.

I saw this on her FB page and was smitten:
I mean, can you even resist this? 

I sent a message to see how much it was. Turns out that it was $105 CAD delivered. That seemed reasonable. So I sent her a e-transfer and within 3 weeks this arrived.

I knew it was going to be pretty but the quality of it was even better than I anticipated. It came with extra jewels and care instructions. She will even repair it if you mail it back to her. 

Of course I wanted to try it out on her. I put it on her bridle and tried to take some photos in the barn. 

Me: C'mon, Carmen put your ears forward so I can take a photo. 
Carmen:  I don't want to. 
Me:  Fine. Let me get a close up. 

ignore grumpy mare ears
I decided to get Shanea to help. I figured she could take a photo when I was riding. 

At least now her ears are forward. I have to say that she looks great in her new tiara. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Clinic Adventures: So Much Learning (and food)

When I wasn't catching up with old friends, meeting new friends and eating a ton of food (really, so very much eating), I actually sat and watched Cindy Ishoy teach a bunch of riders. And I tried to absorb all the knowledge I could. Now I'm going to try to write it out to help me rember and have something to refer back to.

Standard Disclaimer: as always, these are my interpretations of what I saw and heard. If you think it's brilliant then Cindy gets the credit. If you think it's incredibly wrong then it's my fault- I probably misunderstood.
from back in August when the weather was hot

There were a variety of horse breeds and levels. Cindy gave every single one her undivided attention. It seems to me that Cindy does not care if you have a fancy horse or not or if you are the best rider in the universe. She cares if you are willing to work.

The lessons were 45 minutes and each minute was fully used. It's not that there were not breaks, there were. But they were short and then back at it. The work built over the course of the ride as the horse and rider warmed up. I am not sure, given where Carmen and I are right now, whether that would have been good for us or not.  Either way, we were not ready for the clinic and I was happy to audit.

Each ride I watched had the same principles of targeting straightness, forward, rhtyhm etc (i.e., the dressage pyramid). How these were targeted depended on the horse and rider. So one rider might be working on straightness through a serpentine while another through tempi changes. Cindy is so full of little wisdomes that struck a chord with me that I started writing them down. I think that they apply to pretty much any level:

  • don't micro-manage. Nothing pretty comes out of it. In other words, don't try to control every single part of the horse, let them figure it out.
  • Give and let him figure out his balance.  This was said to riders doing legnthens, half passes etc. I interpreted this to mean that we shouldn't use the reins (or heaven forbid the curb, she said a few times to get off of it) to hold them in a frame. The frame comes from self-carriage, which comes from balance. 
  • Don't worry about mistakes. Every GP rider and horse team has made thousands of mistakes. This probably relates to the micro managing above. 
  • There's a gymnastic correction for every mistake. I really liked this idea. Cindy would use shapes and patterns to fix if the horse was losing their balance or contact. Rather than pull or be sharp. Use the exercise to help the horse understand. 
  • It's not strength, it's timing: I think I heard this the first time with a rider working on changes. But it also came up with other maneuvers. It helped me to think that when an aid is not successful is it resistance? confusion? my timing? I suspect that it's often the last one. 
  • Bend - if I heard that once I heard it 1000 times. Along with Outside rein. 
  • Soften inside rein. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Circle going to crap? Pull on the inside rein, it will fix everything! It was also helpful to me to see how letting go made things so much better. 
  • Use shoulder not arm to take back. Using the arm creates too much tension.  It has no give and horses pull against it. Using the shoulder is softer and more fluid. While I don't claim to understand the mechanics of it, I could see the difference. 
  • Don't give away contact when you ask for forward.  This I know and understand. Yet still it's hard to avoid. The idea is to soften but not throw the contact away. 

me, not throwing the contact away.
Evidence that sometimes I can get it right 

Other things I noticed:
  • Cindy made great use of bending exercises: circles, trot loops, serpentines. Many of the horses would try to not engage their hind end and the riders were to keep it together so that the horses pushed from behind. 
  • If the rider struggled in the half-pass she would have them half-pass a few strides then leg yield and then back again. Or vice versa. I don't know why she chose which sequence but it worked- I could see it. 
  • If the horse was escaping through the outside shoulder Cindy had riders move their hands to the 'inside' (Not really inside, they didn't cross the withers). It worked to keep them straight. 
  • A lot of transitions were to be ridden through bend. Which was really really hard. Again it was nice to see that it wasn't just me. 
  • If the half-pass is going wonky, slow the shoulder don't try to speed up the haunches. That upsets the balance. 

There was more. Also lots of food. Sue makes the best baked beans I have ever had. Between the learning and the eating (and thievery) it was money well spent. If you have a chance to audit or ride in one, do  it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Clinic Adventures: That Time I Tried to Steal a Trailer

This weekend I was off auditing a Cindy Ishoy clinic. I was really looking forward to it. Not only was I going to hang out with my horse friends and learn a lot but I was getting a weekend away. I really needed a break after the last 3 weeks of endless rain and crazy work.

Shanea had signed up to bring her mare and I was excited to see them go. I didn't arrive until noon on Saturday (I wanted to ride first). When I got there I found out that Shanea was having trouble getting here. The trailer that she had lined up had been damaged in a recent wind storm. People were trying to figure out a solution but it sounded confusing.

So I called Shanea and she said that she had found a trailer but needed a truck. Paula and I spoke and she got a truck (Susan volunteered her dually). Next was to get a ball. Paula got that and we jumped into the trailer on our rescue mission.

When we got to the farm where the trailer was we saw two trailers but no one was there. I called Shanea and she thought that it was the white one. I looked at both and the gray one had a lock on it.
So Paula and I decided to risk taking the white one.

Paula was nervous to back up so I backed the truck up while waved her hand to direct me. Paula is small and the truck was tall so all I saw was her arm. Clearly she trusts me.

Alas, when we got everything aligned it turned out that the ball was too large.

So that's how I ended up NOT stealing a trailer.

Fortunately though Shanea still got her lesson. Cindy agreed to travel to Julia's arena (who kindly offered it up for Shanea).

The moral of the story? How about:

  • I'm clearly not meant for a life of crime?
  • There is no way to stop really determined horse women?