dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Is It Gone?

 I had plans to write a post about 2020. 

It was going to include how I did on my goals, what I learned. 

It was going to end on an optimistic note, with hope for the future. I was hoping to have some sort of uplifting conclusion. 


I'm not coming until spring

Today I looked out my window, and to my horror I saw a strange dog in my paddock chasing one of my chickens. I bolted outside with Guinness at my side. at the same time I was trying to call Ed to tell him to come help. 

When I got outside Ed had the dog in his grip and there were feathers everywhere. 

I saw one of my chickens laying on her back and in clear distress. I ran over and gently picked her up. She looked at me and died. Ed explained that he had seen the dog with a chicken in its mouth and he tackled it. The chicken ran into the barn. I put the dead chicken down and grabbed a lead for him. The dog was from next door. I found Amy cowering in the farthest corner of the barn. I gently picked her up and she was clearly in shock. I took her inside to the bathroom and contacted my 'chicken friend'. She advised putting her back in the pen since we couldn't find any injuries. 

Ed returned and we began to look for the other two. In the meantime the neighbour came over. He was so upset about our chickens and offered to replace them. I felt bad for him. This was a new dog for him (a bird dog) and they had an invisible fence. I suspect our chickens wandered over that way and the instincts kicked in. I tried to be kind but I needed to find my missing girls. I knew one was okay because I had seen her run behind the garage but I didn't know where the fourth one was. I walked into the woods calling her and looking. On my way back up the driveway I spied Jo scratching in the lawn. I picked her up and carried her to the coop. Ed found the fourth one (Beth) and she was missing a few feathers but otherwise okay.  Which meant that it was Meg that we lost. 

is my name Irish? that doesn't look like me

Once all the girls were in the coop we buried Meg and came into the house. Ed asked if I was okay and I burst into tears. I was sad about the chickens. I also know that seeing a dog chasing one of my beloved animals in the paddock had brought back some past horrors. 

I know that free-range chickens are at risk. It's not that I don't worry about predators. But they are so happy wandering. They always join me in the ring when I'm riding and follow us around outside. I was quite attached to my 'girls'. 

 I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the couch and doing nothing. 

Of course 2020 had to finish like that. 

This year has been hard for everyone. I cannot wait for it to be over. I know that 2021 is not going to be rainbows and kittens. But right now I am out of resilience and just making it through this year seems like enough.  

I know that tomorrow I will wake up and start over. Later on this afternoon my three chickens were yelling at me to let them out of the run. Even Amy (who is missing all her tail feathers). 

I think I need to take some lessons from the chickens. 

But for now I got nothing. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

A Quiet Christmas

 First of all I want to wish all you a Happy Holiday- whatever it is you celebrate: Channukah, Yule, Christmas or Kwanzaa. 

I was really happy with our tree this year 

This time of year can be busy - with shopping, holiday parties and just the general feeling of having to get everything done. With Covid-19 this year was very very different. I know that some people are having to be alone this year and I am so very sorry for that. Ed and I are very fortunate (and grateful) that we were able to have our children come for the holiday. Often when they come they are fitting in visiting us with connecting with friends. Of course this could not happen so we spent a lot of time together. And it was wonderful. We played games, talked, walked and generally just had a relaxing time. 

I made them decorate sugar cookies with me

I did so much baking - peanut butter balls, sugar cookies, cinnamon buns and a no bake chocolate cheesecake. #noregrets.

cinnamon buns are a tradition

I did squeeze in some horse time. I even managed a lesson in there. 
It was a good lesson

An exciting thing that happened was that I went to Karen's to meet her new horse. It's been so hard not saying anything about this (not my news) but now it's public so I can. Nobleza is a 2 year old Andalusian from BC. She travelled really well and is settling in. Young Andalusians are often awkward looking with all their parts not quite fitting together but when she moves she just floats. She is clearly built for dressage and I can't wait to see her develop. Her personality is sweet as well. 

checking out her new world

Julia came on Christmas eve for a ride. The day was windy but it was warm. Our plan was to have a fun ride, hacking out and generally toodling. the horses had different ideas. Both of them were channeling their inner Black Stallion. Carmen bolted a couple times and Irish joined in. However, no one fell off and we were able to work through it. The chickens were in one corner of the ring and they must have been armed with the way that the horses were reacting to them. I mean, it's not like they see the chickens all the time. 
Irish keeping an eye out for imminent threats

At the end of the ride I leaned forward to put a santa hat on Carmen. She was having none of it. 

Carmen: no, just no. 
Me: awwwww :(

I hopped off and put it on which she tolerated. Based on her facial expression you would think that she's a sweet, gentle steed who is much put upon. 

Carmen: *sigh* why must you act like you're 12? 
Me: you look AWESOME!

Christmas day was nice and quiet. I scored some lovely horse items- new denim breeches and a grooming cart for the barn. 

It is from Ikea and I love it

I didn't ride Christmas day like I normally do. The weather was warm (double digits) but it was super windy and raining off and on. I was perfectly happy to spend that day in yoga pants cooking and eating. I did ride on boxing day and Carmen was awesome. Even with the chickens up in the corner of the ring. She could have cared less. 

I am on vacation until Jan 4 and I plan to spend the time relaxing. Riding when I want to and puttering around the property. 

Such a pretty view

While this was a quieter than normal Christmas it was one of my favourites. One thing 2020 has taught me is to appreciate the slower pace and spending time with people you love. 

What did you do over the holiday? did you get any great horsey items? 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Puppy Visit

 A few months ago my nephew sought some advice on getting  a dog. After much thinking he ended up purchasing a puppy from the same breeder that I got Guinness from.  And last weekend the whole family came for a visit. 

Now the big concern is about Guinness. He's not the kind of dog that loves strange dogs. And, to be honest, I am okay with that (I'm sure you understand my reasons). However, it is important to me that he behave when told. 

When they arrived I made sure to be close and let Guinness know that I expected him to not eat the baby. 
At first he was super excited by the visitors- especially since they came with a boy! He loves boys. 

I mean can you even stand it? 
I'm pretty sure you cannot

Maze was typical puppy- lots of licks, lots of wiggles and she was really excited to see Guinness. After a little bit of sniffing everything was fine. Guinness was at first more interested in having someone throw his toy. He really wanted my great nephew to throw it but it was slimy. 

Maze was quite excited and wanted join in. 

Whenever she was told 'no' Maze would do this incredibly cute face. 

I am so sad, you should let me do what I want

At one point when were were outside Maze spotted the chickens. At which point chaos erupted. Maze was all "whee this is fun!" and the chickens were all "aaaaugh"

The adults were all trying to catch the puppy while the horses watched in fascination. 
Carmen: what on earth is going on?
Irish: I don't know. I think they have a new dog. 
Carmen: it better not be staying

We were full chase when I spied Guinness tearing after Maze and the chicken. 
Uh oh I thought. I was worried that Guinness was joining in the chicken chasing fun. But instead he cut in between Maze and the fleeing chicken stopping her dead in her tracks. 
Guinness: We don't chase chickens. It's the law. 
Maze: but I was having so much fun. *sad face*

Back in the house Guinness tried to explain the rules to Maze. When she got carried away pouncing on him he'd give a little growl and she stop. 

Do I really need to follow all the rules? 

After so much excitement it was time for naps. Both Maze and Guinness slept but I could see Guinness stretch his nose out a delicately sniff her. He seemed to be quite smitten by the end of the visit. 

almost holding paws

Guinness was a little upset when they left. I don't know if it was the boy or Maze or both. 

In the meantime I'm trying to convince myself that we don't need a new puppy. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A Tale of Two Lessons

 You may be surprised to learn that I don't just torture Carmen with bad jokes, I also torture her with lessons!  

I am behind in my recaps because, well, like many, I am just tired. But this blog is to record my progress and I don't want to fall off the writing wagon. 

I have to to say that this year I have been my most consistent in taking lessons. Shanea has a good size of people so she's able to travel her regularly. This has not always been the case and she needs a certain number for it to be worth it. So, even though Carmen and I are her favourites, we haven't always been able to lesson (small joke for my other friends who take lessons. Besides who wouldn't love Ms. Dramatic Mare Crankypants?). With the pandemic heaven know we've not been going far which helps as well. 

This has made for some great consistent schooling and it's paying off in many ways. 

Both lessons were a week apart. In between Lesson 1 & 2 I didn't get much schooling done- the weather and work conspired against me. But that's okay, it's real life and I fret about this much less. 

square halt anyone?

Lesson # 1

The focus of this lesson was on going forward and adjusting her stride. I feel that Carmen is really starting to get it. We had some issues with various parts of the ring but I didn't feed into that cycle, which allowed us to deal with the moment and then carry on. So yay me. 

Carmen is very good at the collected work because of her breeding and conformation. She is absolutely able to lengthen but finds it harder. Honestly part of the problem is me- I tend to shut her down from our history of bolting. The other part is her- she'd prefer to dump her forehand on the bit and go like a snowplow. 

The goal has been for me to be very light in my hands but not give her all the freedom to run around where she wants. This is tricky but it's been a good learning experience. We cantered early in the lesson to get that going and then worked on some canter-walk-canter transitions. They were actually pretty good (for us). Looking back through old videos I can definitely see changes. 

Trot lengthens are really hard for us- she tends to speed up and/or dumps on the forehand. The goal was to have her lift up through the withers and go. Shanea had us trot-halt and then trot off into a big trot.

 At first it was a bit of shitshow. 

okay, looking at this I realize it doesn't look as bad 
as it looks but she was bulging away
and being stiff going towards a very scary rock

But then she began to gather herself and I could feel her lift up and through. We'd lose it after a few strides but then, it was like the penny dropped for both of us and whee. I loved this feeling- it was like riding a wave into shore. 

Here's a video of the last one: 

It felt like a major shift in our work and left me hungry for more. 

Lesson #2

Carmen was not feeling as good as the week before. I shared with Shanea that she had been feeling a bit 'off' all week. Not lame but quite herself. Of course with Carmen that can also be a mental thing. She was definitely more spooky this ride. I am loving that dealing with the spookiness is no longer the entire lesson. We work, she spooks, we deal, we move on. 

The focus on this lesson was getting her to be soft and bending. Like I said, Carmen can do the collected work really easy, except when she get tense and then it all goes to shit. She is easily distracted by what is outside of the ring and it can cause some difficulties. 

We worked on the Turn on Haunches. It's getting better but it's still not good. We start off okay and then she wants to dump on her forehand and snowplow through the aids. Add in her sometimes fixated on a trembling leaf outside the ring and it can become a hot mess. Literally. 

Shanea has been asking me to not drop her so much but support through the movement and correct it as much as I need in the moment. Take our canter work: when we transition down to walk I'm guilty of letting her go so she falls onto the forehand and rushes off. In my effort to provide a clear release of pressure I am teaching her the wrong thing. Now we're working on me asking, fixing, supporting and then providing the release. 

Riding is hard. 

But our upward is much better because I'm doing better at asking her to step under. The down is coming -with Shanea to talk me through it. Here's a video of our left canter - this is one that is much easier for her. 

Riding her properly into the transitions is requiring me to be really aware of my seat and to use it effectively. I feel that I'm getting better and sitting deep and following the movement. 

To the right is much harder for both of us. I'm left handed and I think she is too. I suspect I constribute to this as well but it often feels that she's throwing me to the outside in the canter and staying over top and keeping her straight is hard.  Here's some of the later work and I know it's a longer video than I usually post. Unless you are trying to find a cure to insomnia you can tune in to the first where Shanea gets after me for dumping her and then at the end when we get it. That is where we ended the lesson. 

As always, we are work in progress. I need to look back on previous work so I can see if we've progressed at all. I believe we have but I should check. 

I hope to take advantage of lessons for as long as I can with the weather. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Friday Funny


Me: Hey Carmen, why the long face?

Carmen: Really? Was that necessary? Wasn't riding me IN THE RAIN enough? 

Me: Cheer up at least it wasn't raining cats and dogs.....

Carmen: please don't

Me: because then you might have stepped in a poodle! *ba da bum*

Carmen:  .....*sigh*

Carmen: What's that chicken doing?

Me: oh that reminds me of a joke-

Carmen: seriously, I'm begging you

Me: no this one is funny! 

Carmen: you always say that and it's never funny. 

Me: What did the chicken say to the horse?

Carmen: honestly, I don't get enough credit for my forbearance

Me: *cluck* 

Carmen: sigh, are you done? 

Me: get it? 'cluck', like I say to get you going?

Carmen:  I get it. ha.ha.ha.ha. Are you done now? 

Me: what else did the chicken say to the horse? 

Carmen:  fine, what? 

Me: buck-buck

Carmen: see what I put up with? 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Cue Rocky Music

 Here we are at the end of November and the weather, with the exception of a couple cold days, has been warm for this time of year. Honestly, I've gone through less hay in November than I did in August when the grass was dead from drought.

 It has been wet though. 

Not that I'm complaining, my ring is in fantastic shape and I am able to ride. I've been trying as much as possible to ride early in the morning because it's basically dark by 5 now. As always, the rides range from awesome to WTF horse? with most being in the middle. 

No shows but Guinness helps me to feel judged. 

I can usually get to a good place in the ride and I'm definitely better at dealing with her spooks and preventing any bolts. I think my brain switching to let's go forward has been helpful. It also helps that I'm very rarely intimidated by any antics.  Carmen is a funny mare- when I'm getting her ready and starting out she's cranky as hell. At the end of the ride she's happy and affectionate. It reminds of me of a kid not wanting to go to school but then having a great day. 

yes, I bought a new saddle pad. In my defense
I didn't have an all navy pad. 

With the second wave crashing on us (we're up to over a hundred cases, gah!) things are shutting down again. I have been getting tighter and tighter so decided to try some yoga videos. I've been actually really enjoying them (Yoga by Adrienne if you are interested) and am already seeing some results. I've done yoga off and on but not for years. every time I come back to it I realize how much I like it. My plan is to stick with it since it's in my living room there really is no excuse. 

Guinness likes to join in

Whenever I can I start the ride (and often end) with a short hack around our property. This requires Julia to be with me but Carmen leads the majority of the time. As you may recall I've been leading Carmen tacked up after a ride to get her used to going out alone. Yesterday was a beautiful warm day and of course I planned to ride. Carmen had also enjoyed her warm morning by trying to get mud into every possible place on her body. 
The very rare pinto Andalusian
Seriously, never buy a gray horse

After a good groom we had a lovely ride in the ring. She was tuned in and listening and things were going great. I could have carried on schooling but after about 30 minutes I hopped off and decided to head into the woods. I sent Ed a text that I was taking Carmen into the woods and might ride her (subtext- come find me if she returns alone). 

We walked in and she was happy to mosey along with me. So I lined her up at a spot where I could get on (she was standing in the stream and I stood on the bank) and swung into the saddle. I did my best to ride the same as when Julia was with me. I was doing pretty good although when I checked my watch my heart rate was 102 which is a bit high for just walking. Carmen was really good- she knows the trail and so was fine going around. 

I had to stop and take a photo

We went around the loop twice and then rode to the edge of the woods where I hopped off and I walked her home. It seemed like a good way for us to build confidence. I'm glad I dismounted because she was a bit tight walking back to the ring. Irish hadn't seen us go (he was napping at the time) but clearly was pissed off to wake up and see we had snuck off. He was definitely wearing his WTF face when we got back. 

This was a big step for us and I swear I could hear Rocky music playing as we were riding. My biggest issue with riding her out alone was that if she freaked out I could be hurt on a tree (they are close) or she could be hurt on the rocky parts if she ran through. Having tools and a plan have really helped me. And her. 

Have you had any major or minor wins lately? 

Friday, November 20, 2020


 We are now in the second wave of COVID -19 here. Now to be clear that means that there are now 28 active cases in our province which I know will boggle the mind of some of my readers. However, we've been taking this virus seriously since it's beginning and restrictions are ramping up. 

Which means my work has been ramping up. I've been doing a lot of OT and there has not been much time to squeeze riding in. I had a lesson last weekend, then rode Sunday and I didn't have a  chance to ride again until Friday. 

an old photo I used for the #drop_your_beautiful_horse_head_challenge
I love this photo of her

In the past I would have fretted at the lack of riding in terms of the loss of training time. Not anymore. Instead I was just really missing sitting in the saddle and just enjoying the ride. So friday I was determined to ride no matter what. Julia came out to join me and the weather was mild after a midweek deep freeze. 

Carmen was definitely feeling energetic. In the cross ties she was a bit cranky but, like Emma says, on a scale of 1-10 Carmen is typically at 11. I mounted in the ring and she pinned her ears and threatened to hump. In the past I would have shortened up the reins and considered getting off to lunge. I would definitely have made Irish go first. 

Now I just drop the reins and sit quietly. 

Carmen: I am going to blow. 

Me: okay

Carmen: I mean it. You are in big trouble. 

Me: do what you gotta do. 

Carmen:  you are no fun anymore. 

I just walked her on a loose rein in circles until Julia and Irish were ready. Then we headed out, Carmen leading. 

Poor Carmen- in our lesson I made
her canter through puddles

We're gaining a ton of confidence on the trail. This time we startled a grouse who startled us. But the spook was a small jump, a stop and then carry on. Another funny thing about the trail is that she knows it really well. When we get to the fork where we can loop again or head to the ring she hurries to redo the loop and hope I go along with it. Often I do. When I do insist we go to the ring she sighs but listens. 

Carmen: seriously, are we eventers now? 

In the ring her energy came out and so we went forward into trot and keeping her mind busy with lots of leg yields, changes of direction, transitions etc. There was the occasional argument- I've learned to stand my ground without emotion so that she figures out the line. The line is not fuzzy. If I ask for a bend and she stiffens against it I add pressure (and spur to be honest) until I get the bend then I soften everything. After a few of these, um, discussions, she gets easier and easier. 

working through

As far as schooling goes it was a good working session. But that wasn't the point. What I really enjoyed was being out, breathing in the fresh fall air and feeling the movement of a horse underneath of me. The stress of the world just drops away and it feels so good. 

I love this mare guys

After Julia helped me with some chores around the barn. One of my chickens kept me company following me around. I don't know where the other three were and I kept expecting her to leave. When I sat down on the trunk she hopped up beside me and we had a little chat. I honestly never expected to find these little creatures so charming. 

should we discuss dressage or
the benefits of more sunflower seeds?

I honestly don't know how people without animals deal with life stress. I find that this little farm and the residents keep me grounded. 

And happy. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Churning Away

 Carmen is always an interesting horse. She absolutely makes you be present or else. When we came back from our weekend away she was super mellow. I had a lesson booked for the Sunday and I was spending the whole time making her go forward.  But it was a great lesson and we worked on a lot of fundamentals. 

Me: Please go forward, pretty please
Carmen: you should relax more. 

We worked on transitions- keeping her straight and reaching for the bit going into them. Which means that I have to stop trying to hold her in place through them. And also to keep the hind leg active up and down and to not let her plow onto her forehand (riding is hard). 

We also did some half-pass. Our reach is improving. It works better when I don't over think (and micro manage).

Tuesday Julia came out and we went hacking followed by a ride in the ring. Carmen is doing well leading and was still quite mellow. I dropped the rein to take a photo and she decided she wanted to go exploring. Normally I would have gone along but it's hunting season so...no. 

Carmen: I want to go over there! 

Wednesday was Remembrance day so it's a day off. This year was different because we were all asked to not attend any ceremonies. The weather was also incredible- in the 20's. I rode Carmen in the afternoon and she had transformed from mellow-mare to tail-on-fire-mare. Shanea has been having us practice getting her to soften to the inside rein when she wants to pop up her head and hollow.  I realized I wasn't doing that and when I started she began to soften and then I could ride her into softness. We also did a lot of canter. Like a lot. I started riding a figure 8 with a simple change through walk in the middle. 

post ride she needed to be hosed off

Friday (today), Julia came out in the morning to ride. As we started to hack out Carmen was quite tense. Normally I would ask Julia to lead but I don't anymore. I side and ride her forward. This time I didn't give her a loose rein and I warned Julia that she might spin into her so she'd be prepared. But she didn't - I was able to ride her forward and have her soften.

 In the ring she started off quite tight and her focus was about 50 feet outside of the ring. I just keep asking for her attention. Carmen is really good at convincing me to back off the inside leg because she won't bend but speed up. Now I just keep up the pressure until bends. This is not really Carmen's fault - it's mine because I would back off the pressure and she thought that was the answer. So I can't get angry or frustrated, I just need to be consistent. When we had that established, I worked on her going into the bit- not laying on it or curling away. Once we were coming down by the back of the ring when her head shot up- which made her hit the bit and then get really pissed about that. But if I raise my hands she's gone. So I keep the hands where they are supposed to be and let her figure it out while I ask her to go forward. 
random photo: one of my chickens is laying freckled eggs. 
I think it's pretty and delicious. 

And then she was like butter. We worked on SI to HI and it was so smooth. Her ears were soft and listening and it was all so smooth. I then asked her to half-pass and she was just 'bam, let's go. It just flowed and we went from one side of the arena to the other. I stopped there and called it a day. 

Megan wrote this really great blog post on the importance of training. I loved it. Carmen will always be a bit, well, dramatic. She definitely trusts me but that doesn't make her easy.  The key is to put patterns and responses in along with the trust so that we can keep building.  I have learned that sometimes I just have to grit my teeth and do the thing. I have to trust that my ask is in her wheelhouse and help her figure it out. 

from the lesson but still buttery soft and forward

Saturday, November 7, 2020


 Like most humans these days I've been finding myself running on an increasingly low fuel tank. I value and love my job but lately it's been draining me quite a bit. I ended the week feeling quite stressed and drained. I must have sensed that I needed to refuel because last week I arranged to spend a day away with some of my dearest horse friends- Karen and Stacie. 

And it was just what the doctor ordered. I spent friday morning getting ready but refusing to rush. We arrived at the barn by mid afternoon. Carmen walked off the trailer and looked around "oh, I'm here again'. 

Approximately 3 minutes after getting off the trailer

I may or may not have plotted to kidnap this cat

This was not a clinic weekend. (Technically it wasn't even a weekend- my plan was to just stay over one night. ) It was just some *cough* mature *cough* women getting together to just have fun and enjoy our ponies. 

Friday evening Karen and I rode together. Carmen was experiencing many many many feelings. Often all at once. But where before that would make her unrideable, now it just makes her require more finesse and clarity. It wasn't necessarily a great ride but it was a good one and she was really trying. At the end Karen and I switched horses which was fun. I love riding Kalimo. This let me feel the turn on the haunches- something that Carmen and I are struggling with. Carmen decided to throw some things at karen and so had a longer workout than Kalimo. 

Kalimo: that mare doesn't know who she's dealing with

That night Jim cooked a feast for Karen and I. It was delicious. I might have been responsible for drinking 2/3 of a bottle of wine. You would be surprised to know that I slept really well that night. Saturday morning I didn't have to go to the barn because the women working there took care of Carmen. It felt very luxurious to sit there and eat french toast while Carmen was being taken care of. 

The weather the last few days has been stellar. Saturday was warm and sunny so I rode Carmen outside while Karen helped me from the ground. Carmen had fewer emotions and the ride was less energetic and more focussed. 

Carmen: I think we should be napping 
not working in this sunshine

Carmen went back out to enjoy some grass and Stacie rode her lovely black mare. Then Karen rode Kalimo while I helped from the ground. I took Kalimo back to his field and Carmen was nickering non-stop and he was looking intrigued. I guess that explains all the emotions. 
This is the look of a mare who doesn't 
really know what she wants but she's
pretty sure that Kalimo is the answer

After we all sat in the tack room and chatted about horses. Then we went for lunch at the most adorable general store/restaurant in nearby Maitland. It was delicious.

from their FB page

After lunch Carmen and I headed home. I am sitting here typing and feeling restored and refreshed. Sometimes you just need to unplug from the universe and play with ponies. No matter how old you are. 

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Not Disastrous Lesson

I've been able to ride Carmen pretty consistently these days and that feels good. I have een seeing a boost in my self-confidence and that is definitely transferring to her. When Julia comes to ride with us we always start with a hack and often end with one. I've been getting Carmen to lead the whole way. Usually I see how she feels and will often have Irish start and we take over partway through. But I've decided that if I want to be able to hack out alone then we need to lead. By now she's pretty familiar with the trail. While there might be some hesitancy at the beginning I give her time to think while encouraging her to go forward. My reins are usually long although sometimes I will choke them up a bit for safety. 

 Carmen seems to be enjoying the lead and I find her striding out more and more, leaving Irish behind. Irish, interestingly enough, seems okay with being last. In the past he hated being behind and would rush. Now he's just ambling along enjoying life while Carmen is moving ahead. The other day we even trotted back to the barn with Carmen in the lead and she was very rideable. 
I stopped to take a photo and she turned
around to have a chat with Irish. I'm pretty
sure that he's telling her she's doing it wrong! 

In the ring I'm continuing to work on the clarity. Sometimes I find myself starting to baby her a bit but then I catch myself and we go to work. I've embrace the 'when in doubt go forward' mantra. If I ask for bend and she ignores me while motorcycling around the ring I will be insistent (thankyou spur). The response to my bending aids are getting more ingrained and, imagine that, we're getting less spooking. 

All of this is background for my lesson on Sunday. 

We had arranged it for Sunday afternoon. I had been able to ride Carmen Weds, Thurs and Saturday. She was full of energy but pretty good (except for saturday when I had to work her a bit harder to get the softness I wanted). Sunday was a cloudy day and by afternoon the wind was up quite a bit. To be honest, I expected the lesson to be a disaster. I figured she would be completely freaked out by everything blowing around and that it would be an hour of trying-to-get-half-decent-trot-on-a-circle-and-don't-die  sort of lesson. 

Frankly I was hoping it would rain so I could cancel. But it didn't rain so I took Carmen up to the ring a full thirty minutes before the scheduled lesson to do groundwork. While I was up there Shanea texted that she was running a bit late. 

FYI I was not wrong- Carmen was on full alert and ready to flee at every leaf flutter and bird call. I took a deep breath and knew that the work we did would have to focus on her realizing that the most important thing to pay attention to was me. So that is what we did. I had her do work on the lunge- sending her forward, interspersed with quieter exercises of paying attention to what I was asking of her (like going into an imaginary box or keeping two eyes on me when I asked). By the time Shanea came we were both a little tired - mentally and physically. I told Shanea that I was expecting this to be exciting and she did not disagree with me. Nonetheless I mounted and off we went. 

We started with a series of 10 metre circles up and down the ring. I like this exercise because it asks her to bend left then right. It helps to soften the body and get things flowing. Usually I do this on a pretty long rein but this time I had it a bit shorter. Shanea wanted me to be more insistent with my bending aids and to not accept her stiffening against my leg and pushing into me. This helped to get her really soft.

 From there we went to riding a 4 loop serpentine with a 10 metre circle at the rail.  I liked this exercise because it had us travelling the ring but not enough time for her to get too straight and stiff. We then did it in trot. At first it was not pretty. 
Not pretty

 Then it was pretty in spots then just ugly in spots. What was interesting was that as we worked  I could feel her looking for me rather than arguing. A few times something startled her and, rather than flee, I could feel her reach for contact and ask what we should do. My answer was always to carry on and she did. 
better- see how dreary a day it was? 

We worked on some shoulder in and then half-pass at the trot. This is coming along nicely, especially to the right. I struggle with helping her to be correct and not have the haunches lead. I think I need to study some videos to see what a really correct lower level half-pass looks like to help me; so if you know of any links feel free to send them my way. 
A lot to fix but look at that reach

And then, squeee, we introduced canter half pass. These were very baby ones but so much fun. Going to the left seemed easier than the right but she was also tired by then and got a little strong. Looking at the video I can see how big my smile was. I didn't even know I was smiling but I was having so much fun. 

really trying

It's not like these are stellar movements. What was making me smile was how hard she was trying to figure things out. And I was thrilled that my prediction did not come true. Carmen seemed to find calmness in the work and became less worried than everything else. 

she got a little excited going right and tried to launch into space