dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, February 17, 2020

Present Tense

Normally I spend winter fretting about not riding and feeling bored.  This year feels different. Not that I'm not anxiously waiting to get back to regular schooling. I totally am.
Not as cold as it looks, but still winter

But I'm also using this time to work on myself and my goal of controlling/choosing my emotions.

I've been diving into videos, reading and podcasts. I'm finding them all very helpful. In the past I think I would have dismissed it as being a bit wack-a-doodle. Not completely, but it made me uncomfortable. I cannot remember who said it (I think it was Stacy Westfal's podcast but can't swear to it) that you can view riding as 'transactional' or 'relational'. And that made a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, one of the things I've been really working on is being 'present'. It's not easy. My mind tends to wander, even in the saddle. I find myself thinking about what happened during the day or what might happen tomorrow.

I have been practising and failing a lot. But I've also been succeeding.

The other thing I've been working on is choosing to be positive with the horses (and others). That is working really well. I find myself truly enjoying the time I spend doing chores. The horses are really responding.

hard to take photos when she wants to be close.
But look at that adorable nose...
The trick is, of course, is whether this translates to work under saddle. In the past I would have worried about it. Now I'm curious. After a deep freeze that left the ring treacherous with ice we had some snow and then a warmer temps. This dissolved the ice under the snow and made the ring good for riding again.

Sunday was warmer and I brought Carmen up to the ring to do some ground work and possibly ride. I stayed with her mentally and she responded really well. It then started to rain but I still mounted. We rode exactly two circles, I dismounted and leaving the reins over her neck I said 'coming?'  and walked to the gate with her ambling behind me. 

Monday was a holiday for us and the weather was even warmer. So warm I pulled the blankets off the horses and let them soak up the sun. 

clearly Carmen is wintering well. But look at Irish- he's looking great. 
Julia came out to ride as well. I started with groundwork but I didn't need long to see that she was right with me. I settled into the saddle and she marched off a bit grumpily. I brought her to a halt and dropped the reins until she settled. My goal for the ride was to have her soft and bendy and for me to stay present in the moment.

While the ride was nothing for anyone to watch, I noticed a few things. First of all, every time my mind wandered she became tense. When I brought my mind back she immediately settled. Our spooks were mere flinches and there was only two. One was her almost halting in response to something she saw in the trees. After the stutter-step, Carmen walked forward to the tree and I dropped the rein. She looked at it warily while I breathed and then she released her breath and dropped her head to relax. 

As we continued to work Carmen began to settle in and enjoy herself. In fact, after a while, when I would soften the rein she would pick up a trot (not that I was holding). Not that she was heavy in the bridle or taking over. More like she was enjoying it and wanted to go. So I let her.

At the end of our ride we were standing at the far end just relaxing on a long rein. Carmen looked towards the woods and I could feel her question.  No,  I said we can't go in the woods, there's still too much ice. She sighed and then reached around and nudged my toe with her nose. Okay then, it must be time for carrots. Feel free to hop off. 

For me those were the big things. The other pieces: leg yields, transitions, circles were the chorus not the main bits. I hope that this doesn't sound too hippy-dippy. Because that is not me.  I was also working on making my seat and hand following,  keeping my balance even and my aids clear. But go ahead and consider me out in left field. I don't care. This feels good to me and Carmen is clearly responding. 
leaving the hay to come and say 'hi'. Also, no, she's not pregnant.....


  1. charlie can ALWAYS tell where my focus is when i'm riding. always. for various reasons lately i've had to be on the phone a lot - even sometimes in the middle of a ride - and always notice that it's harder to get charlie plugged back in again after i get off the phone. it's like he checks out when i do lol, go figure....

  2. I love The Olivia Towers Podcast and The Confident Rider Podcast! A good mix of equestrians and mindset coaching.

  3. I don't think it's too far out there. We expect our horses to give us their full attention while we're riding, so it's only fair to extend that same courtesy to them, right?

  4. I've found the same thing happens when I ride. If my mind wanders my horses can find many things to distract them. Carmen and Irish look great. I like the pregnant crack, Rosie looks the same. I've got to start working them again. It's kind of hard to get motivated when it's 3 degrees though.

    1. She's definitely wintering well. It's hard now that she's hitting double digits this year! But I actually think she's less fat then this time last year.

  5. This is a constant goal for me, too, and not easy for humans. Horses are experts at living peacefully in one side of their brain, while humans are darting back and forth, always self-preserving. Our horses know when we’re present. Good horsemen are good at that element. They are paying attention and observe a thousand little things the horses are saying. Working on that aspect of yourself is very wise, and I imagine Carmen will love it.

    1. I am finding it an interesting journey and it's reducing both our worries!


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