dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, December 30, 2019

Retrospective: A Decade in Horses

This blog hop comes courtesy of Might As Well Event. The idea is to use on picture for every year of 2010-2019 to show your journey with horses. I've enjoyed reading everyone else's posts on this so I decided to give it a go. Even though it's really hard to A) settle on one photo and B) find photos/remember stuff from 10 years ago!

FYI, I might just break the rule of '1 photo'

It felt like a big year to me. My son graduated high school and we bought the property that we now live in. At that point we hadn't moved- we spent the year renovating.

Meanwhile, I had Irish  and he was 10 at the time. We were showing but not a lot. He was a really solid horse by this point. I could hack him out and take him places. He might have been tense but he always tried to be a good boy.

Irish not sure what the fuss about with the ribbons. 


We sold our house and moved into our farm and began building the barn. It was a the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to bring Irish home.


Steele came to live with us. I started the blog to chronicle the adventures of raising a charming, intelligent and mischievous yearling. 

still one of my favourite photos
It was also the year I took Irish to his final show followed by a clinic with the judge who made me cry. She was highly critical of Irish's way of going and was really nasty about how she indicated that it was my fault that he had a lateral canter (despite me saying that he'd never had it before) and flatly refused to help me. I am still quite pissed about this to be honest. However, later that year Irish was diagnosed with neurological issues.


I was spending my days taking care of the horses and working out the routines. Irish was getting ridden lightly and Steele was learning about being a grown up.

Steele not sure that this is in his job description but willing to try 


This year was an epic one with the horses. 

Steele was fitted with a saddle and then backed. 

both of us so intent on the learning
 I spent the summer riding him and then took him to a show to hang out and then did the clinic with the judge. The judge was amazing, Steele was awesome and things were coming together.

Then in December my world crashed with the horrible, traumatic and fucking should-never-have-happened death of Steele.


In the beginning I was still reeling from the death of Steele. To be honest, it has taken years to come to terms with it. At this point I was having trouble sleeping, everything seemed pretty gray and I was a complete mess.

I knew I needed to do something to help myself and Irish. Which led to a road trip with Karen and the purchase of Carmen. It was an epic winter and we had so much snow that it was a nightmare. Carmen came home to me in March and we still had like 4 feet of snow on the ground.

Carmen wondering what the hell is going on

It was a bit of a difficult year for Carmen and I. She was quite reactive to a lot of things and I was struggling to understand her and how to deal.

Irish had developed headshaking but I found he responded really well to Magnesium.

I came very very close to selling Carmen. She was being really spooky and bolting all over the place. It was like there was no horse to talk to and it was frightening.  I ended up hiring a trainer to come and help me with her and that made a huge difference. While there might be some things I would do differently now, at the time he literally saved both of us and I would be profoundly grateful for that. He helped me to see a lot of holes that were in her training and we began to fill them.

I started taking clinics with Johanna and she was a godsend as well. I did a Centered Riding clinic which blew my mind and really started me thinking differently about my aids.

at the clnic with Johanna

You can ask me why I didn't sell her that year and move on and I honestly couldn't tell you. There were enough times that things were good that I could see how thing could be. I am also pretty stubborn so that probably played a role. To be honest, I think that whatever was broken in Carmen spoke to what was broken in me.

This was the 'do all the things' year for Carmen and I. We did a few clinics, did a trail obstacle clinic that was amazing and has impacted my work with Carmen consistently since then. We went to four shows and we had scores that ranged from 4-8.

But it began to feel that our partnership was coming together and I was really happy with our progress.


This was a mixed year for us. We started off with a great year at clinics and shows. In the fall the wheels began to come off again and I was in despair. I actually had to scratch a test while I was riding it because she became un-rideable. Again I thought about selling her. Then I decided to try ucler treatment and it was like a veil lifted. Carmen became transformed. Not that she was/is spook free but the mindless melt downs were diminished.

Again, I am blown away by how brave a horse that can be terrified by a goldfinch can be! We did another trail obstacle clinic in the summer and she was a rock star. I joined the TRT training website and it helped a ton with our groundwork and learning to deal with scary things.

more of this horse please

and less of this one

To be honest, I spent a large part of this year waiting for the wheels to come off. While there were periodic issues things have been on a pretty steady trajectory (this will be a whole post/recap).

not for sale
In the past 10 years I have grown as a rider, caretaker and human being. I have come to terms with my dreams falling to ashes and starting over.

I wonder what the next 10 years will bring?

Friday, December 27, 2019

A Very Horsie Christmas

I hope that everyone had a very enjoyable Christmas. I wasn't sure how I felt about mine going into it but it turned out to be a very good holiday.

Last year, my daughter was ill and ended up in the hospital for 2 weeks with acute kidney failure. It was quite scary. This year my son is on deployment to the middle east. But we've been able to connect with him pretty often so that has been good. He called early Christmas morning and we all had a lovely chat.
Ripley crawled up on the couch to listen to her owner

We had a lot of rain and then a sudden drop in temperatures which meant that the ring was hard with icy patches. When I can't ride I turned to baking.

cinnamon buns

homemade ice cream sandwich with a scoop of french vanilla,  whipped cream,
hot fudge & strawberry sauce and grated chocolate sprinkled on top
While baking is fun it's probably not the best coping mechanism......

Ed and I had bought a new mattress so we had agreed on 'no gifts'. 

And of course we immediately violated that. 

He surprised me with a new arial shot of our farm. 
looking at the barn. See the horses watching these guys with the drone?

most of our property from the top. 
this is the one he framed
I love seeing these photos. They show all the work we've done over the years. 

My daughter bought me a lovely riding shirt and then completely blew me away by giving me this set:
I mean, can you even?
It's going to look lovely on Miss Carmen. I think we can safely assume that the person who used to heap scorn on people who dressed their horses in bright colours on their horse is now dead. 

The young woman that Irish is teaching to ride really surprised me with these beautiful signs: 

ignore the barn aisle that needs sweeping,
 there's no point until the stall doors are closed. 
We had a lovely dinner with just the three of us. Later I went out to the barn to do the night feed/clean. I was trying to decide if I should take Carmen out and give her a groom. I normally leave the stall doors open and Carmen usually hangs out at the door but doesn't leave. That night I heard her hooves on the barn aisle. 
Get back I said. Normally she would just back up and sigh. This time she actually walked out. I expected her to head to the hay pile across the aisle but she turned and walked down the barn. I wasn't too worried that she was going to leave so I slowly walked out of the stall saying what are you doing missy?

You may think I'm making up what happened next but I swear I am not. Carmen walked to where I groom her, turned around and stood in exactly that spot looking at me expectantly. She was asking me to groom her! I took off her blanket and gave her good deep groom which she appeared to savour. I then cleaned her stall, restocked her hay and water while she watched me. I put on her blanket and said there you go and she went back to her stall. 

This horse guys, she continually surprises me.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Blogger Gift Exchange

I participated in Printable Pony's Blogger Gift Exchange this year. I was actually on the ball and sent mine off early.

I knew that mine would come sooner or later. On Dec 23 I came home and Ed was looking at me with a funny expression.

I was expecting a package from Amazon today so I opened this without thinking. But it's for you. 

he had put it all back together

I wasn't upset and since it was so close to Christmas I decided to wait and open it on the 25th. 

It did not disappoint! Cozy pyjamas and socks and treats for the horses. I love flannel pjs- they feel so nice on cold winter nights! The socks will be perfect for this summer's riding too. 

The cookies are a huge hit with both horses. The dogs were quite interested as well. 

And, best of all, I found a new blog to follow! Our mares sound similar. 

Thank you so much Alaina

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

T'is the Season

Christmas is fast approaching and, if you follow this blog, you know what that means:


I grabbed my antlers and cell phone and headed out to con/ bribe entice my beloved animals into cooperating for the camera.

Irish was, as always resigned.

Irish: is it that time again? Did you bring treats? I don't perform for free you know. 

Irish: What do you mean I'm too close? I have to get the cookies before Princess Greedy Guts take them all. 

Irish: This is the best you're going to get. 
Me: I'll take it! 

Carmen: I heard that there were cookies. 

Carmen: Back up? Why would I do that? The cookies are here. 

Carmen: Okay, I'll trust you but make it fast. Also, don't give any to the dog behind me. 

Guinness:  What? No. It's beneath my dignity as head of security. 

Guinness: Mom, this is so dumb. I'll be laughed out of the Farm Dogs Guild. 

Guinness:  I'm only doing it because I love you. But promise me it won't be on the internet. 

Ripley: I'm a guest. I'm pretty sure that makes me exempt. 

Ripley:  This is not my idea of fun. I can't even look at you right now. I'm telling Dad. 

Ripley: Well I guess I look pretty good. 

Willow:  this is new. I think it' brings out my eyes. 

Willow: Make it quick. My patience is fading fast. 

I know it's silly. But when I look back on the previous cards I smile at the fond memories of my beloved animals. Many of whom are not here anymore. At least not physically anyway.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Oakfield Farm. I hope you have the holiday you want.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Small Joys

Late fall to winter is a hard time for me. I have lost a lot of people and animals that I loved this time of year and it can start to feel a bit heavy. I have learned to let myself feel what I need to and to not push myself too hard. I have learned to try to find the little things that ease the soul.
baking cookies is relaxing

I know that I can't lock myself away and hide. I try to find a balance without pushing myself.

I made plans with friends to go to a sign painting class. I assumed that I would suck
how I see myself

But the instructor made it easy and it turned out pretty nice.

it looks great on the barn

Saturday, rather than stay home and brood, I made plans to meet up with friends at Bits N Bridles tack shop. It helped that they were having a sale. I bought myself this shirt and so far I love it.

But even better than the purchase is the time I spent chatting and catching up with everyone.

Riding has definitely been on the back burner. However, I'm making sure to spend time with them and not have it be just about the chores. After watching the Warwick Schiller video I was struck by how he discussed changing his attitude by changing behaviour. So I've been making sure that each day I speak to the horses. It's nonsensical stuff. Usually about the weather and my plans. What I say is unimportant. But while I talk I work on projecting my love for them. I know it sounds all like 'woo woo' but honestly, it seems to be working for all of us. I find them less about 'feed me now' in the morning and more interactive with me.
enjoying watching them eat while they enjoy the eating

Saturday was a massive rain storm followed by two days of non-stop wind. The horses were less than impressed and wanted to hide in the barn.

how Irish and Carmen visualize my job

Sunday wasn't raining though so I tacked her up. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to ride but figured that lunging in tack was good for us. Carmen was wired. The wind was fierce and it made sense that she would be up. The purpose of the session was to help her to relax. Every time I found my thoughts straying to the negative I would turn them around. When I would start thinking 'why can't you just'  I would stop myself and say 'what do you need right now'.  She was really really trying to be good but at times would be overwhelmed. I just kept working and she began to relax more and more.  I played a bit with her lining herself up at the mounting block. I've been working on increasing the distance for her to travel. 

She's understands this question really well and likes having the answer. I was pretty sure I could get on her then but I decided to end our session there. Carmen had tried really hard and I wanted to reward that, not add more.

Finally the winds died down this week. Julia wanted to ride late afternoon Wednesday and I hurried home from work to meet with her. The ground in the ring was a bit hard and we planned to have a walk session. Carmen was much more relaxed on our way up to the ring. We started by heading into the woods and walking the trails for a bit. I love that as a warm up because it really allows them to get moving without us fussing with them. I try to not pick at her in my warm up but I suspect that I do anyway. In the woods I can drop the rein and let her be.

Back in the ring we walked in 2/3 of the ring (there were ice patches in the other part). I worked on her being soft and supple and me keeping my seat soft and following.

And she was fantastic. When she seemed to be worried about any part of the ring I would project my feeling of how wonderful she was and, hand to god, she would relax and carry on. I lightened my rein and she began to really reach for the bit. We worked on SI and HI and some half-pass, all at the walk.  I even worked on the turn on the haunches and she really stayed loose and turned without hollowing and coming above the bit.

floppy ears (ignore the dirt stain on her neck)
It felt good to be in the saddle.

Life is full of ups and downs. It can seem that age is about losing people, animals and things you love. And maybe it is. I do enjoy the 'big' exciting things but it is the small joys that create a feeling of contentment.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Not Much Going On

God, I just realized that it's been more than a week since I have blogged. Of course the title says most of it.

But of course that's not really true. That is just one perception. My son has left for his deployment and we have Ripley living with us. She's been with us off and on her whole life so it's not a huge adjustment.

Guinness doesn't understand why she'd rather roll in the
snow then play with the ball. 

Carmen's abscess is slowly getting better. I lunged her Friday and she seemed to be better with a possible a small amount of soreness. Or my imagination. Like 0.5/5 on the lameness scale. But it was a really good ground work session. I've been spending a lot of effort on working on my own inner calm and creating a safe bubble. She started off a bit tense and wanting to run but settled down nicely.

It snowed overnight and there was nice soft fluffy snow. I tacked her up and took her to the ring.  I usually have Guinness out with me when I ride so I decided to have them both out. That turned out to be a mistake because Ripley kept running in and out of the trees and brush and I could see that Carmen was getting overwhelmed. When Ripley came running out with a 10 foot long branch she kinda lost it. Which was fair. At the same time H showed up. H is the young woman learning to ride on Irish and I had totally forgot that we had set up a time for to come. I asked her to give me a few minutes to finish lunging Carmen while she went and got Irish prepared.

I then had an idea. I took Carmen back to the barn and threw her in the stall while I put the dogs in the house. I helped H get ready and then we all went back to the ring. I figured that Carmen could hang out with us and chill while I worked with H.
Carmen: what is this? 

At first she was a bit unsure but quickly settled into just hangout out looking really relaxed. it took about 15 minutes of me doing nothing with her for that to have an effect. I then took her over to the mounting block, hopped on and then had her stand in the middle of the ring while I gave instructions to H. At first she was tense but with me not asking much of anything she began to chill again. every now and then I would ask her to do something so I could show H. We even followed behind Irish and H so I could check her balance.

H is learning to trot and I introduced the concept of posting. She was struggling because as she lost balance Irish would stop. Which is good from a safety perspective but not so much for learning. I had her come behind us and I had Carmen pick up a really slow trot. That way she could have some time to figure it out. At first Irish was a bit frustrated by the slow trot and tried to pass us. Which was funny. Carmen, however, was getting into it.

This is weird but okay
I was quite happy with her and our ride.

The next morning was a lot colder but I was able to drag the ring.

love the difference that rubber makes

I started with lunging Carmen. At first she was fine but then began to be lame on her right fore. I put her away quite disappointed. But the ground was harder and it must have felt uncomfortable. She seems fine now but I have been unable to ride between work and weather. 

I console myself with baking
Yesterday was a very hectic day at work. I came home late and Ed had started to feed the horses. I took over and when I was done I stood between their stalls just standing and breathing. Both came over and hung out with me for a bit. There's something about stopping and just quietly breathing with horses that helped to settle me and calmed the noise in my head. 

It seems that there is always something to cause work and stress and it can begin to seem that the only answer is to do more and more and more.

 I think my big lesson this year is that sometimes the answer is to do less and less. Or, you know,  not much.