dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


I guess that title needs to come with a spoiler alert. But honestly, it was a great show. First let me thank Cindy (for the photos) and Tanya/ Nicole/ Faye for the various videos. You guys are awesome.

For whatever reason, I didn't have the nervousness or sick feeling before the show this time. I felt really mellow and positive about all of it. The rides leading up to the show were a bit fraught but the one the day before was awesome. I guess this time I decided to let the one good ride set the tone rather than the bad ones.

Like I said, it was stinking hot by the time my rides were up so I opted for a 40 minute warm-up. Carmen was awesome in the warm up and had a ton of energy.

Shanea and I in the warm up ring. Her mare is stunning
To be honest, I should have given us more time because I wasn't quite ready when it was our turn. I'm still figuring out the best approach for her. But it didn't matter because it was time for us to go. When we walked in and by where the judge and scribe were sitting she gave a massive shy/spin when she saw people were there. I put my leg on and circled her back and by.

Carmen, pretty sure she's about to be eaten by trolls
 We went back and she gave a sigh and relaxed.
Okay, not gonna eat me but they should have carrots. 

 Then the bell rang and in we went.
god, I need to get a handle on this whole leaning forward thing! 

OMG, are we actually square?!

I don't have  video of this test but it felt pretty good. On our first lengthen I asked for a bit too much and she broke to canter. Totally my fault and we just regrouped and carried on. About half-way through I could feel Carmen go 'OH! now I know what we're doing!'  and she settled into the work beautifully. Our scores were a mix of 6, 6.5 and 7's for a final score of 65.429 with a comment of 'lovely horse! Further develop suppleness over topline'.  We placed 4th over all (there were more than  4 in the class I just don't remember how many!).

one of my favourite photos from the test. I love the hind leg
reach and the lightness of her front end. 

There was a bit of chaos on Saturday because the judge got so far ahead that the times were all moved up by a 30 minutes (if you wanted).  I asked if I could again in about 10 minutes and the judge agreed. I quickly hosed her legs and hopped back on. A little more warm up and she was ready and in we went. 

Other then her deciding that a leg yield from the rail to the centre line was a ridiculous ask and she'd never heard of such a thing, the test felt really really good. 

Here's a video of the whole thing: 

Well there's a lot to improve in this there is a lot that I love. And honestly, it's the most consistent we've ever been. We actually got 7's on our free walk and lengthen trots! 

it got better as we went
I rode this test really focussing on keeping her straight and on the aids.

Our scores were mostly 6.5-7 with one 5.5 on our first leg yield.  Our final score was 66.528 and a second place (but in full disclosure there were only two of us in the class) and a comment to work on leg yields. Sigh. We work on them all the time.

On Sunday I spent a lot of time in the morning hand walking her and trying to keep her cool and rested. That turned out to be a mistake because Carmen was a fire breathing dragon in the warm up! She  had decided that certain things were totally frightening and she was going to run away. In the past this would have really intimidated me. Not anymore. I sat up, took a hold and booted her forward. If she had energy to burn then by god, let's go. I found moments of softness and really rewarded those but I was taking no bullshit. Once again the warm up felt far too short. 

Ready or not here we come!

Then there was the debacle with the number (yesterday's post) but we regrouped. It felt like this test took a lot of active riding. I had a caller which was great because it allowed me to keep all my focus on Carmen where she needed it. 

canter depart? yes ma'am

settling down a bit

yay, she's actually stretching. 
Here is the test in all it's gory details:

A lot to take away from it. One is that Carmen's would really like to negotiate this whole 'acceptance of the bit' thing. But I was not letting her get all inverted and then take off on me. Also it felt a lot more like a wrestling match than it looked, which is good information. We got a 5.5 on our first halt (as soon as I let go of the contact she decided to move around) but otherwise we were a mix of 6.5-7s and few sixes for a final score of 65.714 and comment Very nice horse. Some nice moments. More suppleness over back. Lengthens need improvement.  Which could pretty much describe every ride we have.  We place 6th out of 9 or 10 riders. The spread on this test for the placings (it may have been true of the others too, I didn't really look) was about 3 percentage points. After this test I went back to the warm up ring and we schooled our halts. This is not a new idea, that halts are still and that she waits so I felt that I should let her know that it is also true here. 

I put Carmen back in her stall to have a pee and cool off for a short time and then got back on. The warm up was much shorter but I kept her in front of the leg and supple. And this test felt really really good. I was happy with how it all went. 

It felt like we really were working together. 
here we go, last test! it's do or die!
Psst - I prefer to not die
we ride into corners now

Cantering in balance

yay, square halt at the end

We got far more 7s in this test and a 6 on our stretch trot circle. Our final score was 66.111 with the comment lovely horse- work well together. Continue to develop supplies and bend.  We place second out of two again, but since Shanea was first I'm not gonna lose sleep over that. 

At the end of the show I went in to thank the judge for her kindness and comments. She smiled and said 'which horse were you riding?
'the grey andalusian in first level (there was a grey andalusian mare in second level too, she was stunning). 
The judge then warmed my heart by saying 'ooh, yeah. She's a lovely horse. 
Thank you. I think so too.
No, she's really lovely! 

Of course she is but it's nice that others see it too. 

Why was this the best show ever? Because we were the most consistent and it felt that we were working together the whole time. And when we weren't I was able to get her back. In the past, after that big spook at the judges booth she would have been fixated on it and it would have been a struggle. This time I was able to show her it was fine and she accepted that.  The scores were better than we've been getting and placings didn't even matter (although I'd be lying if I didn't say that one day I'd love to win one of the awards). It was also a lot of fun with so many supportive people. There may have been drama, but I didn't see it. What I saw was a bunch of people having fun and enjoying their horses. None of us are going to the olympics so if it's not fun, what's the point? 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Show Shenanigans: The Further Adventures of Teresa and Carmen

If you recall, in the last chapter blog post I said that Carmen and I were headed to a show. Spoiler alert: I had the most fun I've had at a show in a long time. And I will get in to the details. But for this post I wanted to share some things that happened outside of the show ring. 

I headed out late morning on Friday and met up with Tanya so we could travel together. That way is something happened to one of us we would have another trailer and some support. It was uneventful, other than the fact some drivers make very stupid decisions and seem to have no fucking clue that their little mazda won't fare well in a collision with a truck and trailer. 

When we got there I decided to join Tanya in the outside shedrow stalls. It was a good decision- the weather was hot all weekend and these stalls had lots of air movement and shade. 

1. This will do:

Carmen approved of her new digs and made herself right at home. 

Proof of her angelic nature

erhm, maybe not
2. Calm and confident
She was very comfortable in the ring walking around and our ride that evening was really really good. No shenanigans, just focus and forward. 
In sync
The next morning I took her for a walk too see the ring and the flowers. She insisted on sniffing each and every one. 

@C halt and smell the flowers
3. Don't fence me in:
I had rigged up a stall guard to allow for more air circulation. I thought I was being clever and thoughtful. However, when I went to refill her water I walked back down the row and saw a pretty grey butt that was not where I left it. It took me a minute to realize that was Carmen and she was out. I put down the bucket and headed slowly towards her when I saw that Shanea had her. It seems that Carmen leaned on the guard and popped out the screw bolt. She just wandered down by the warm up ring and started grazing. It took people a minute realize she was loose.   I tightened the bolt but she did it again later and then again so I gave up. I am a much slower learner than Carmen, apparently. 

3. It's not OCD, it's planning:
When it was time to ride I went to put on my 'show' boots only to find that both zippers were broken. I was upset because this was only the second show I had worn them at. Fortunately I had packed my schooling boots so I had to clean them up and use them. Clearly overpacking is a good thing. 

I contacted the company and they are replacing the boots for me

4. Just take it
Our ride times were in the afternoon and it was so very very hot. I begged asked the show committee if we could excuse jackets. Fortunately the judge listened to pleas of a menopausal woman and excused jackets. In spite of that, after my first ride I was HOT. Like really hot. I was walking Carmen back to the barn when I saw Maria holding out a small glass of liquid and without thinking I grabbed it and downed it. It was delicious wine and she was handing it to Teri. Fortunately, a fight did not break out and Teri went to get another glass while Maria refilled my glass. Sorry-not-sorry. 

5. Friend's look after each other:

Tanya was awesome and looked after Carmen every morning, giving her hay and water while her lazy servant made her way to the show grounds. Nicole offered to wash my show clothes and I am so grateful. So was everyone downwind of me, I'm sure. 

I could see a business opportunity here....

6. You've got my number

On Sunday, I was a bit hotter, a little more tired and more easily frazzled. I came in to walk around the ring when I realized that I didn't have my number. I yelled to Cindy to run and get it while I cantered back out and hoped like hell I wasn't going to get eliminated. Cindy came back with it and said now which side should it go on  and I said hysterically  JUST STICK IT ON!

I trotted back in and when I went by the trailer that the judge was in I heard this amused voice say 'all ready? Do you have your number? 
Yes please I said sheepishly and I heard her giggle as I walked down the long side. 

If I only had a brain....

I had it all along, I swear.....
7. Talking to myself

I don't really realize it but I tend to keep up a running conversation with Carmen when I ride. Especially in the warm up ring. I guess it can be amusing sometimes. I saw Maria's husband, Isaac, standing at the fence and laughing at us every time I went by. I said something about providing some comedy relief and he said that he wanted to stick a mike on me and record me when I ride. I don't know if anyone is ready for that. Sometimes I have been known to *cough* swear. 

8.  Regretting life choices:
Carmen was in full dragon mode on Sunday in our warm up and for our first test (more on that later). I simply rode her forward and let her expend some energy. During the ribbon ceremony she could barely keep her eyes open. 


It was a great weekend, full of laughter and friendship and horses. I had a blast. I'm pretty sure that Carmen enjoyed it too, even though she is pointedly ignoring me out in her field today. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Free Time

As of the end of the work day today, I am on vacation. As is typical with me I have packed it full of horse plans.
Carmen is not sure what she thinks of 'vacation'

This weekend, Carmen and I are headed to CNHP for our second show of the season. We were there last year and I was really pleased with how it went. This time I have booked a hotel instead of camping. Last year I got almost no sleep and I really don't function well without sleep.
not this time

My goals for the show are as follows:

  • Keep Carmen straight and on the aids
  • don't wait three strides to respond to her tension
  • keep my seat engaged not tense
  • have fun
the wild roses are taking over the hill by my ring.
The smell is heavenly. 

We also have a clinic the next weekend with Karen on Centered Riding Principles. It should be a lot of fun and full of learning. I am excited. 

In between I shall hang out at home and get some chores done. Including walking the dog and doing all sorts of things that are not work. This includes working on a special project that I am not yet ready to divulge. 
this is my Pussy Willow enjoying the great outdoors

these two <3
I do love summer in Nova Scotia. It is so beautiful here this time of year. I am going to enjoy every minute of my vacation.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Summer High

There's something in the air
Go ahead let down your hair
Cause right now we got no cares
Find your summer
Find your summer high
Can you feel it in the breeze
Yeah it's taking over me
Light it up like TNT
Find your summer
Find your summer high

A couple weekends ago I had planned to go to Stacie and Karen's to ride and hang out. Those plans ended up being cancelled so we could get the hay.

I was very happy to find out that both Stacie and Karen were willing to let us invade this weekend. I ended up leaving early because there were heat warnings for both days. The trailer ride was uneventful. Carmen unloaded, looked around and shrugged. I turned her into the large round pen while I got her room ready.

clearly at home
I normally would want to let her chill for a couple hours but the heat was rising so I started getting her ready in about 30 minutes. This was so good for us, I need to stop trying to be so careful. Certainly when I go to Coveside to hack out I don't hang out for long.

We rode in the outside ring. Given that Carmen has been a bit, ahem, dramatic lately I was a little concerned given that there is no fence around the ring. But she was really good. We were not brilliant but we stayed in the ring and didn't melt so I counted that a win.

wide open fields to the river. What could go wrong? 

Karen rode with me and after a short ride we rode down the field and trotted back up the hill. After that I put her in the cool barn and let her relax in her stall for the afternoon. The barn in built into the hill so it stays nice and cool compared to outside. There's also a huge fan that blows down the aisle and feels great. I actually took my shirt off and stood in the breeze. 

Stacie has a new puppy- a Great Pyranese so I played with him while Karen did some chores. 

so fluffy, so adorable. I wanted to steal him

how can you resist? you cannot. 

Karen, Stacie and I went to the nearest town where we sat out on the deck of a pub and had a delicious lunch. Followed by a trip to a tack store and then by a stop at Dairy Queen for ice cream. 

We came back to the barn and while Karen and Stacie went to war on an invasion of bindweed I rode Lucera. I've ridden her before and really like her. Her owner is battling cancer and so she's been laid off for about 2 years. She is just starting to feel better and would like to ride her again so Karen is working on getting her back into shape. 

When I first got the tack out Carmen looked offended that I would even think of riding another horse. Then when I got Lucera out, tacked her up and went out to the ring Carmen went between looking like 'I don't care *sniff*' to how DARE YOU. 

we are not amused

Lucera has the cutest ears

After all this horsing around, Jim (Karen's husband) had made a feast for all of us. 

It was amazing. 

After a day of ponies, friends and food I collapsed into bed  and barely moved all night. 

The next morning I had a lesson with Karen that was fantastic. She does such a good job of helping me feel what I need to to get Carmen to carry herself correctly. We actually had a honest-to-god lengthen trot just from my seat. It felt so good I laughed out loud. 

Karen rode Carmen after, just to feel her out. Carmen thought she was done and pulled some of her stunts, including the stop, spin, try to bolt maneuver. Karen was having none of it and I watched a battle of wills play out which was fascinating. I have more respect for my seat after seeing how fast Carmen can move. In the end Carmen was soft as butter. Also completely sopping. I hosed her off in the wash bay and threw her outside to chill while I cleaned out her stall and then helped Karen with her ride. It's helpful to have eyes on the ground and it was fun to do. 

After that I loaded Carmen up and headed home. The temperature was 34 and I was a bit worried about her in the trailer. However, she walked off a bit warm but not hot or sweaty. I do love my Exiss.  

It was such a fun weekend and just what I needed to refill my cup and keep me excited with the work.  Thanks guys!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Get in on the Ground Floor (and an incentive)!

Have you ever wanted to sponsor a world class riding team but didn't know where to start?

The trick is to start small and build from there.

And because I am so kind and generous, I'm here to help you figure it out.

Starting with a professional rider and FEI horse can be daunting.

So, I invite you to start with sponsoring a total and complete amateur.

um, what on earth are you talking about?

Okay, let me explain.

My plan was originally to ride in just three shows this year. But then Five Fires announced that they are sponsoring a show to raise funds for Breast Cancer: Canter for Cure. In addition to the proceeds going to the Canadian Cancer Society, riders are asked to gather sponsors.

I thought about it and decided that I could do one day.

And then I decided to register to do Second Level.

Because what could go wrong with that?

Think about how fabulous it would be to sponsor Team Carmen and raise money for a good cause.

no, not to eat but for research! 

I know that world class teams do fancy things like canter pirouettes, tempi changes and half-pass but Carmen and I can also be fancy prancers.

There's the compressed-neck-spook-trip maneuver


And the classic I'm-outta-here

Plus there's the fact that she is part dragon. (I'm pretty sure that doesn't disqualify us. )

We can also look pretty:

My mother and father were both taken by cancer. Some of my dear friends have survived cancer and one is currently fighting a battle with it. This is a cause near and dear to my heart. I really want to raise a lot money I have decided to add a little incentive. If you donate comment below and I will do a random draw after Sept 13 (when donations close) and give the winner a prize. I don't know what it will be yet - it will likely depend on the country the winner is in.

 A few of my friends are also riding in the competition so you can choose to donate in their name instead. You will still be eligible for the draw.

Here's the process:
1.  Donations can be sent via etransfer to canterforthecure2019@gmail.com
2. Put my name (Teresa A-A) in the message so that they can credit me for the donation (or whomever you choose).
3. If you want a charity receipt put your email in the message as well.
4. Leave a comment below letting me know that you did

We can beat cancer.

Friday, July 12, 2019


SUBMISSIONThe horse’s willing cooperation and harmony with the rider, demonstrating an attentive and confident attitude. Willingness to perform the required exercise as well as operate with correct basics ~ USDF

This week was quite the week. Not only was it super busy with meetings and things, we were able to get the last of our hay in (with no issues on the field). So that's a relief.

I had a lesson planned for Tuesday but that ended up being the day we had to get the hay so I had to reschedule. Shanea has become very busy, which is a good thing but it also makes things a bit tricky in terms of scheduling. She was able to fit me in on Thursday at 7:00. I don't often ride in the evenings. I prefer to ride in the mornings or when I get home from work.  But needs must and all that.

The grass is still pretty lush
I was excited to have a lesson because it's been a while. Carmen, however, wasn't feeling it. I am pretty sure that she was reacting to past experiences. As well the deer are often active and I suspect that they were in the next field.

I spent some time doing groundwork and then got on. Carmen was clearly worried about troll corner and tried to do her spinny-bolt thing. I put her in a trot on the circle and worked out from there.
Just then Shanea came and we chatted about how things were going. Up until last night I would have said 'really good'.

The truth is that Carmen is a sensitive and reactive mare. And while I have done a lot to calm it I never expect that to fully disspear. What I do expect, though is that we can work through it. If I can't work through it then I will go to the ulcer notion but I don't think that's it. I think it's the time and her own insecurity.
***back to the post***

Anyway, Shanea had us break it down to a simple exercise of walking, half- circle, leg yield. That helped settle things quite a bit. I like this exercise- it was enough to occupy her brain but not so much that she was overwhelmed.

While the far side remained a bit of an issue the whole ride we were able to work through it. Her trot transitions were actually really nice. What Shanea noted is that right before she spooks Carmen sprawls out behind and slows her hind end. Then she throws her front around making it hard to keep her underneath of me.
like this

When we trotted by the brush something startled her and she 'bolted'. I put that in quotes because she really just picked up a canter and tried to throw her shoulders around. I sat up and let her canter while trying to get her to bend. We cantered that circle multiple times. Shanea was telling me to let go of the inside rein. Which I understood but had trouble doing because I didn't want her to fly sideways. I was wanting her to bend. But when I did give she settled into the outside rein.

After a while the 'fleeing' became a bit tiring for her but I kept her going and we got her to go down the long side.

the prettiest bolt ever

I hope I'm not sounding too down on this ride, because I am not. What made me happy was that we were able to work though this. After all this cantering Carmen was much more relaxed. I could feel her begin to relax and feel less uptight. 

To help us go down the far side Shanea set up a little grid of raised trot poles. It was literally just two poles but it was enough to keep her occupied. When she tried to put her attention to the outside she would trip herself. 

about to trip (and could her neck get any shorter?)
Slowly everything began to come together and I was able to relax with her.

figuring it out

We were able to work on lengthen trot. I was pleased to see that the work we had been doing was paying off.  Carmen was a little energizer bunny and I was starting to fail. I suggested that we might be done but Shanea wasn't having it. So I tightened my sore abs and went back to work. We were even able to work on our free walk. 

Not our best work but that I could drop the reins and let her stretch without worrying that she was going to take off. 

Even better, I was able to work on the same things today without a lesson. We had some similar issues but worked through it much more quickly. 

The big issue is the concept of 'submission'. Now I don't like that word because it sounds like the individual has no right to an opinion. That said, Carmen does need to listen to me and not make her own decisions about when she will or will not pay attention. I recognize that it's a negotiation and that I don't want to shut down her spirit. I just want her to let me direct it and to learn that things actually feel better my way.