dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hindsight: Looking Back on 2019

Carmen: what are we looking back at? Can we look for less snow? 

So, yeah, I am late with this. 

But that's okay. Winter is here and so I have more time (theoretically anyway). Last year I decided to focus on Process goals rather than specifics. After targeting these for a year I have to say that I am a fan. Basing goals on principles rather than specific outcomes allowed me the flexibility to target things as they arose without feeling like I was failing. 

I find that reviewing past goals helps me to develop smart goals for the upcoming year. So here's the recap along with some highs and lows of 2019. 

1. Build a foundation of relaxation with Carmen & Myself:   

We made a lot of progress in this. Joining the TRT website has help immeasurably with this. I took these tools with me to shows and clinics and I find that she's more curious at new locations now rather than highly suspicious. 
I also take advantage of toys where we go

 Carmen has learned to look for answers- at least from the ground. When she's tense and I draw her attention to her rigid neck she now drops and relaxes right away. 

Under saddle is still a work in progress. But I have come to realize that this is up to me to control myself, not Carmen.  I find that if she gets tense and starts to unravel simply stopping and dropping the reins allows her to take a breath and regroup. At some point I may be doing this at a clinic and I hope I can explain the why to the clinician. But it works so I will do it as needed. 

Highlights for me occurred when I took her places and people commented on how calm she was (those who hadn't met her before) and those who remarked the change. Sometimes it can feel that progress is minimal. 
actually trying to stretch at the walk at a show. 

2. Create a work flow that makes sense to both of us and is fun. 

I really feel that we have made gains in this as well. This year I have done obstacles, a lot of trail riding and even some jumping. I am working hard on not drilling but to let us have success and then let it go. Carmen is good at letting me know when I'm pushing too hard. 
we jump now. sort of. 

group trail ride


3. Manage her diet and gut health-  I started the year with a plan and adjusted as we progressed. I now have a protocol that seems to really work for her. I have not seen any sign of ulcers, upset tummy in a few months (*runs off to knock on wood). What I find is that Carmen has really slowed down her eating. Before it used to seem frantic but now, even in the morning, she's relaxed. 

4. Improve the independence of seat, leg and hand. In addition to working on this when riding and in lessons I also directly targeted this with a Balance Clinic with Karen and two clinics with Johanna. Each time I had a mini breakthroughs in understanding that made a noticeable change in my riding.
Compare now(ish):  
October 2019
 To when I first started riding Carmen:

5. Keep learning: In 2019 I did two 3-day clinics with Johanna, one 3 day clinic with Karen, a 2 day clinic on Trail Obstacles with Nikki and Mike. I am grateful for the wonderful coaches I have found that encourage and help me to gain skills without getting frustrated with me. 

 In addition I audited a judging clinic and too too many lessons to count. It felt like a lot. And I would have even like to do more.  I continue to watch the videos on the TRT website and follow Warwick Schiller on YouTube. 

I will never be done learning. 

6. Spend more time with other horse people. I definitely was more concious of this for the year. I reached out and tried to connect with people at shows and clinics. I really enjoyed the camaraderie. I am fortunate to know so many supportive people- we are all different but joined by our love horses. 

such a fun gang to show with

7. Go to shows and stretch myself.  I planned to do three shows and ended up doing four. All felt like I was stretching myself and Carmen. We had some good rides (here too) and some bad ones

8. Teach Carmen to self-manage: rather than it all falling to me about how she feels and reacts, I want to give her the tools to manage herself. You can think of this as increasing her confidence. This means that it's okay if she makes a mistake and for me to help her find the answer rather than give it to her. It's interesting, she is really really trying now to figure things out. She still gets overwhelmed at times but it's so much less than before. 

Carmen: who me? 

Me: yes you
At the end of this year I find that I am not as wary or nervous riding her when she's up. Thanks to the Centered Riding coaching I'm able to keep my seat in the saddle and not tense so much that I pop out. It still happens at times but I can fix it much faster.

This year has had it's highs and lows. The lowest was not about Carmen- it had to do with the barn flooding. Which is probably a good thing. I spent the entire year waiting for the wheels to come off and they never did. Although we had a few flats (way to really push the analogy).  I think that's for a few reasons:
  • managing Carmen's gut health
  • doing a lot of very consistent ground work
  • improving my riding skills
There were so many highlights: being with friends, showing, learning, trail riding. Riding second level. 

The highlight of the year? 

It has to be this: 

I've always wanted to ride to music. I've always wanted to do a Pas de Deux. Being able to do this with Karen and Kalimo made it truly epic. 

no matter what Carmen thinks

Wearing the costume was the icing on the cake. 

PC Amanda Stright

Carmen was a star about the whole thing. I swear she enjoyed the costume and roses in her mane. Finally, here was a show worth caring about. I could not stop laughing throughout. 

2019 was great year for Carmen and I. It wasn't until I started to look back on it that I realize how much fun I truly had. It's so easy to get stuck focusing on what is not great that I lose sight of the gains we made. 

Here's to 2020! 


  1. What a wonderful and beautiful 2019 you had. So much accomplishment among so many different, diverse activities. It's no wonder Carmen is so much calmer! She had an incredible year with you leading the way. <3

  2. you had a really wonderful 2020!!

    "Under saddle is still a work in progress. But I have come to realize that this is up to me to control myself, not Carmen."

    This is where I'm at right now with Spicy. I still create a much worse issue when he gets stressed. He doesnt have a 'drop the reins and regroup' cue that works for him yet, but I'm working on that soon!!!

    Thanks for sharing, as always <3

    1. I wouldn’t have done the drop the reins thing a while ago. We worked towards it. Also, sometimes when I drop the reins I do hold my grab strap, just in case.

  3. Here's to 2020! You and Carmen have a lot of fun in store for you I'm sure.

  4. So much progress this last year!

  5. You two really made huge gains this year! And you got to have fun while doing it (most days at least)!

  6. Yes, you definitely had an amazing year!! You took full advantage of the fine and opportunities. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you. We did take advantage of some great opportunities.

  7. What an eventful year! I'm a fan of the process goals as well. I'm hoping that they will become a fad and everyone will try them out.


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