dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, March 29, 2020


Ed and I have been self-isolating for approximately 12 days. I've been working from home and it has been really really busy. At first it was stressful- trying to support my staff and work in these new circumstances. Not to mention the general anxiety around Covid-19 floating out there and the reported infections growing daily.

I was happy to have friday roll around. I needed to get horse feed so Ed and I got in the truck and headed to the feed store. I was looking forward to getting out. When I got to the feed store they were on full precautions. We waited in the truck until it was our turn. I went in and stood behind a line and gave my order. We had to pay by plastic (which I would have anyway), the clerk put plastic over it, stepped back and I stepped forward to pay. I then headed out to the truck to wait for it to be delivered.  Frankly, it was surreal and brought home how much things had changed.

the horses don't know that the world has changed though
More and more restrictions are in place- no gathering of more than 5 people, parks are closed and police are issuing tickets. I can only imagine how people with young children in apartments are doing. I feel profoundly grateful to have my little property.

The weather this weekend was beautiful. It allowed for a lot of chores to be done. We cleaned out the winters accumulation of poop and hay.

I know it's muddy but it makes me happy to see the poop all gone

The barns are closed to boarders and lessons and so when I dragged the ring I did it with recognition of my good fortune. 

I can go for a walk and not worry about social distancing.

willow has started to join our walks
I'm excited to be back to regular schooling. Riding is different. I miss lessons. I try to keep Shanea's voice in my head when I ride and I hope I'm not going to make too big a hash of things. Carmen is doing well. Earlier this week when I was working with her she was quite agitated. I realized that she was picking up on my stress and reacting. Once I realized it and calmed down she became more steady.

never tire of this view
I hope that things calm down and that the world can return to normal. I want people to be safe and,  selfishly,  I want to be able to go to shows, clinics and fun things. But, as places to have to stay, this little place is not too bad.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dehydrated Horse Treats

Today I used my new Ninja Foodi to make horse treats. To be honest I had no idea if it would work but I figured that the worst that would happen is that I was out of a few items form the cupboard. It also satisfied my need to bake without me having the need to eat.

Note: I totally made up this recipe.  I didn't measure anything. At all. I did it all by feel.

3 medium carrots
1 large apple
handful of dried cranberries

1. Cut up the carrots and apples. I thought about peeling the apples but decided not to. I did cut the core out though.

2. Put in food processor. I put the carrots in first and then the apples and cranberries. pulse until they are the size of large crumbs.

3. Put into a bowl and add the rolled oats. I would guess it was about a 1 1/2 cup. 

4. add in molasses. Just enough to make it stick together. I would guess about 1/2 cup.  Mix it so that it sticks together. If it's too dry add more molasses, if too wet add more oats.

5. Form into balls and then squash into patties. I didn't work at making them pretty. I found that at first they were quite loose but as I worked them they became more 'clumpy'. Next time I'd let the mix 'sit' for a few minutes to let the oats absorb the liquid. Put the patties on the rack.

6. Put the rack in the foodi and set it to dehydrate for 8 hours. That was a total guess but I figured to do it similar to beef jerky because of it's thickness. That seemed to be right. It could tolerate a little longer too.

I was thrilled to see that it worked. They didn't fall apart and were crunchy. But what would the critics think?

I'm calling this a hit. I like that they will last a little longer and are just natural ingredients.

more please

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Gratitude in Uncertain Times (Bloghop)

Liz over at Omnia Paratus suggested this blog hop to keep us connected and to deal with the stress of these times:
And so, in an effort to introduce a bit of positivity and happiness amidst uncertain times, I thought I would share some of my gratitude items here in the hopes that our lovely little community of bloggers will echo back with some of their own. It's been awhile since a blog hop has gone around, but perhaps our little group can come up with a suite of them in the coming weeks to ease us through these unknown times?- Liz
She is so wise and her post really resonated with me. So here is my list of things I'm grateful for amidst the uncertainties of this pandemic: 

  • I am so grateful that my family is safe. My son is in the middle east and all leaves have been cancelled. But he is safe and well. Ed's mother is doing well although not happy with not being allowed to go to Costco. 
  • That my work has made arrangements for our employees to work from home. And, not only that, but are also checking in to make sure that they are okay and doing well. 
watching dinner preparations
  • Many barns are closing and it makes total sense. This makes me very grateful that my horses are in my backyard. I can continue to ride and to take care of them. I would be really struggling without horse time. 
  • That I have my own woods to walk in. There is no need to worry about social distance

  • That spring is setting in and the snow is gone allowing me to ride. If we had a repeat of 2015 I would be losing my mind. 
no thank you

  • For comfort food and baking.    I know it sounds ridiculous but the cooking is relaxing. Yesterday I made some brown bread.  I have been playing with my new Ninja Foodi and I am so impressed with it-  the air fries are amazing. I'm going to try to make dehydrated horse treats with it next. 
lightly toasted with homemade jam. The perfect comfort food
  • Being at home with Ed and for us enjoying each others company. Although I won't lie- the fact that he has his garage and I have my barn helps (secret to a happy marriage- have you own building).  this is an actual conversation we had yesterday morning: 
Ed- you took my knifeMe- no it’s mine. Ed- I put it right there Me- I used my knife, put there for minute and took it back Ed- I put that one in the sink. That’s my knifeMe- so you took mine and now I have no regrets for taking yours.  Ed*SIGH*Me- I agree! 
  • Books- even you can't travel anywhere books are wonderful way to escape without leaving the couch. 
  • For those keeping the grocery stores, pharmacies and vet clinics open. 
  • and lastly I am grateful to all those working to take care of the sick: not just the nurses and doctors but  also all those behind the scenes: managers, cleaning staff, lab techs, ward clerks, paramedics. Everyone is working to make sure that those who need the help are getting what they need. It seems a small thing for me to keep my distance and stay home. 
I am sure that there is more that I'm grateful for but this list captures the main things. 

What are you grateful for? 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coping Mechanisms

Like all of you Covid-19 is affecting our daily life. I have started working from home this week.

Working from home has it's attractions. The commute for one. But I'm working harder than I have in a long time. I am connecting with my people and colleagues. I have vacation that I need to use before the end of March but I strongly suspect I will lose it. My plan had been to take some afternoons off to ride. I had planned to have a lesson on Tuesday afternoon. But with the move towards our staff working from home there was no way I could take off. So I had to cancel it.

There is a general worry and stress from this pandemic. The news does not help but it is also necessary. So I try to ration it.

The dogs are happy I'm home and it does allow for me to take walks with them at lunch time.

Ripley loves to take the biggest sticks on our walk

Yesterday Guinness was not himself in the morning. As the day went on he became worse and mid-afternoon, when he didn't want to go for a walk I called the vet. They said to bring him right away so we did. This meant I had to cancel a lesson I had booked for 4:30. 

poor Guinness still wanting to supervise despite feeling so lousy
 The vet took some x-rays. He had a lot of gas in his stomach and intestine but not enough for it to be bloat. No temperature, heart normal. It was possible that he was having some early bloat or he ate something that disagreed with him. The vet gave him some barium mixed with food, some drugs to calm his stomach and we took him home. If he wasn't better in the morning we would bring him back, do another x-ray to see if the barium showed any blockage. About an hour after getting home he threw up a bunch of barium so I don't know how much was left in his system. He slept with us all night so we could watch him. This morning he was much better and now he's completely normal.

spiky green ball helps him feel better
We had a slow feed bowl for Guinness but he broke it. And then bit and broke the next one. So recently we had switched him to a regular bowl. Ed has ordered a metal slow feed bowl from Amazon and in the meantime he's being fed in small amounts. I was so relieved this morning- I was really worried. 

Today is technically my day off but there was work to do so I did a few hours. But I also really needed to do something to de-stress. This morning I baked some cookies. I find baking to be relaxing. 

ginger molasses cookies
Later in the afternoon Julia came over and we tacked up the horses (don't worry, we maintained our social distancing and made use of the hand sanitizer). I really really needed to sit in a saddle and do something physical. 

The ride was awesome. Carmen was pretty relaxed despite my cat hunting in the next field. We were albeit work on our shoulder-in/haunches-in and counter canter. For being so early back to work she felt pretty good. Of course I have no media so you just have to believe me. At the end I was walking her out on a long rein. When we walked down by the brush she gave a sudden start. I just sat there and spoke to her and she gave a breath and then carried on. 

In my happy place
After I hosed off her legs while she stood ground tied. Which made me realize how far we've come. it's the first time I've hosed her this year. 

The world seems to be going to hell these days and it seems that no relief is in sight. But everything is temporary. As long as I have my family (4 and 2-legged) and get to spend some time in the saddle I will be okay. 

I found this advice from Skint Dressage Daddy. It looks like great advice to me. 

How are you coping with all this?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Ides of March

The fault dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ 
but in ourselves~ Shakespeare (Julius Caesar). 

It has been a mild March so far and I've been trying to make the most of it. Carmen's mood has been a bit mercurial, although largely good. We've had days when her tail was on fire and one ride where she was so quiet that I couldn't get her to move forward. Both are challenging but I confess to being completely unsure when she was so quiet. I didn't want to get after her because that seemed to punish her for going too far in the direction I wanted. 

Most rides, though are inbetween the tail-on-fire ride and the let's-nap-now-m'kay ride.  Which puts us light years ahead of where we started last March.

Work has been a bit crazy this month too which impacts on riding time. When Shanea offered a lesson to me last thursday I decided to take her up on it, even though it was tight getting back from a meetings in the city and organized for the lesson.
Carmen, probably

Carmen will not be rushed so I decided to take my time anyway in getting ready.  In hindsight I should have taken more time with her because I didn't get to do the long slow walk warm up that works for us.

All that said, she wasn't really bad at all. Just a few moments of spooking at shit and then shaking it off.

nope nope nope
But on a good note, there was no bolting. Just a few scoots, tension and counter flexing. What is becoming clear to me is that off-balance Carmen is far more likely to lose her shit and become reactive. So when she sees something of concern and gets tight and reactive. When I get her straight she calms down markedly. Although it's sometimes a battle to get her straight, I need to persevere.

well okay then

Shanea was having me build in half-halts to get Carmen off of hanging on the bit. I don't know if I'm describing it right but Carmen can get bargey and she puts her weight on the bit and then uses that leverage to run away on. Pulling on the reins is my instinct, but surprisingly not helpful. 

We started with walk-trot-walk transitions and then just half-transitions and right back to trot. I could feel Carmen really starting to understand about moving her weight back. Here's a short video so you can see how much of a work in progress we are:

The lesson ended on a good note though and I was quite pleased with her. Shanea was complimentary of both of us, although I could feel my habit of creeping forward coming back. 

I'm straight, she's light and stepping under. Perhaps there is hope for us

Friday Julia came and we able to go on a hack in the woods. Carmen was more in the groove but still worried about the grass by the ring.  I wasn't too worried.

Saturday was ridiculously windy so I spent it doing chores. Like cleaning out the thawing poop and hay in the paddock. Ugh. I hate this job but I will be happy when it's done.

We also bought one of these multi-cookers. We are excited - hopefully I don't blow up the house

Today was a lot better and I was excited to ride again. Carmen was so good, despite us being all alone. I was super impressed with her and my ability to be supportive for her without getting frustrated. 

Now the world is shutting down with the Covid-19 virus. It's finally hit here and the whole province is shutting down. I don't know what's going to happen in terms of work but whatever we need to do as a population to protect the vulnerable we will do. I am impressed with how we are dealing with the issue- within days test sites were set up along with a screening process so that only those who need to get tested are. As the situation develops things are updated. Right now schools, daycares and nursing homes are shut down. I hope things are going well in your area. 

Carmen: not sure that you have enough social distance between us....

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Next Good Step

You may recall that I had discovered Podcasts and was really enjoying them as a learning opportunity while I was unable to regularly school.  PiccoloPony put me onto Jane Pike and I've really enjoyed these. Jane recently had a free 21 Day 'Brave Bucket Challenge' which I signed up for. It consisted of 21 short videos on a special topic. I liked them- they were short, snappy and got me thinking.

One thing that really resonated me was the concept of the 'next good step' (disclaimer: I am not teaching you Jane's concepts. I am telling you how I applied what I learned to my riding with Carmen). The idea is to focus on the next good step and not worry about all the things.

the look I get when I take forever to get to the point.
Or when I'm dancing while doing barn chores. 
I realized that I'm getting overly dependent on having a riding buddy when I ride Carmen. It's easier- she's more relaxed with Irish in the ring and I feel like things go better. Which is all fine but I can't always have a buddy in the ring and I need to figure this out. Julia was unable to come today and I found myself creating all sorts of reasons to not ride. We had a vicious windstorm the day before and  it was  still  windy and cold.

I stayed inside and baked something new: coconut cream tarts
 I am okay with not riding if I don't feel like it but it felt more like chickening out then taking a break.  I recognize that this worry is probably my lizard brain remembering all the disastrous rides we've had in the past. But still. 

So I put on my riding pants (or big girl pants if you will) and decided to tackle this thing one step at a time. My goal was to go one step at a time and see how things were. Before I would be all worried about all the things we should be working on which made me put too much pressure on both of us. 

I headed out to the barn and Carmen nickered to me. She was likely hungry but still it warmed my little heart. She came in quietly and stood easily while I groomed her and tacked up.  

We headed up to the ring and we started with our leading exercise. I expected her to be tense and tight but she was not. We had moments of tension followed by her looking to relax. I We went through our groundwork and I kept checking for tension, holes in her attention and explosiveness.  But there was none. 

I took off her rope halter, adjusted the stirrups and headed to the mounting block. Carmen lined herself up and I mounted. She stood, waiting for me. We've been doing this - I wait for her to relax and then I pick up the reins and off we go. I keep my rein contact light and we walk off. My goal is ensure my seat is relaxed and following. When she tightens I stay calm and only shorten the rein if she feels like she will take off. 

We did a short ride and she was fine. We went down the long side and a leaf suddenly blew into the ring attacked causing her to deke left, then right back to the rail and we carried on.  And that was the most exciting thing to happen. The rest of it was just a ride. 

looking for zombie leaves
Right after I took this photo she turned her head and nickered at me. My heart kind of melted.  We did one more circle and I called it a day. I like this approach- it really helps me to stay present because I'm working on the current step, not all the things we're not doing. And I can't help but notice that the one thing we're not doing is melting down.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Final Gift

My dear friend said goodbye to her mare today.

It was fucking hard.

You see, like all of us, she loved this mare with her whole heart and soul.

We all loved her. She had a way of gazing at you that made you believe that she saw you. Beyond the facade and into your soul. She saw the good and the bad and she liked you anyway. I think a lot of horses do this but she was so clear about it.

Her personality was curious, insightful, slightly stubborn and always humorous. She wasn't a fan of being ridden but was 110% safe for anyone to ride. That's rare. I was fortunate to ride her a couple times and I found her to be fun and humbling. If you were unbalanced at all she would stop and refuse to move. She did love doing tricks (like playing fetch, soccer) and hanging out with people.

She was beautiful and loving and a true character. She should have lived into her 30s.

Instead in her early teens she began to develop rapidly growing tumours all over her body. She seemed healthy and happy but who knows what was going on inside?

So, faced with the prospect of a horrible, painful death from a catastrophic colic my friend made the only decision possible.

She let her go.

Let her go quietly.

With dignity.

Free from pain.

My friend endured a week of torture. Of waiting. Of trying to be positive with her horses without bawling her eyes out. Her mare had a week of loving care.

I'm sure my friend felt like a wreck but I saw only caring, dignity and grace.

And love.

It's the most loving gift she could give. And it was hard. But she did it.

Because she loved her horse.

All horses should be so lucky.

God speed Flamante. Say hi to Steele for me.
(PC K.P.) 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Fat and Happy

I actually rode three times this week. Which is exciting.

Saturday Julia came out to ride in the morning. The ring was free of ice but a bit hard so we stuck to a walk work out. I've come to love rides with just walking. There is so much to practice: big circles, small circles, changes of bend, shoulder/haunches in, leg yields, half-pass, turn on the haunches, backing up. It allows me to slow everything down and focus on how it feels.

Before I know it, 45 minutes has gone and we're all feeling good.

from our lesson this week. Practicing square halts

Today the ring was perfect and so we could walk, trot and canter. The biggest thing I'm finding with Carmen is that she's being very steady. When I watched the videos from the lesson I could really hear how rhythmical she sounded. I'm doing way better at staying focussed and balanced over her and treating her bobbles as just a momentary loss of balance. I'm not fighting her but not giving up on what I want. Usually her right lead canter is a struggle in the spring because of a loss of strength.

Today I did a left canter and she was very balanced and steady. My seat was plugged in with no 'air time'.  We cantered all around the ring with zero hesitation or resistance. I brought her across the diagonal and picked up a trot. I brought her to a right circle to balance and strike off a canter but I could feel her ready to go so I just lightened the contact and then gave a light signal. She picked up a perfect rocking right lead canter without throwing in her haunches. We circled and she dropped to trot but that was just a strength/balance issue. I simply brought her back to balance and we picked up it up again. She broke a couple times but we just balanced and struck off. I was so happy- neither of us lost our cool over it.
breaking up the text wall with a photo of a cat who is up to
absolutely nothing and why would I suspect her of any ill intent. 

Before I knew it 45 minutes had passed. We worked a little more practicing our turn on the haunches. This is our latest area of difficulty. I save it to the end like I do with most new things. I do this because Carmen, instead of resisting, enjoys it because she begins to recognize that this is the end of the work. It worked for her with SI/HI and so I'm sticking with it.

It's good that I'm back to riding more, because February has been a month of eating. It was LobsterCrawl month here and me and my friends made the most of it. I've had lobster 3 times this month and that doesn't even touch what the rest of them have been doing. It's been fun.

creamed lobster on home made potato chips.
sounds weird but oh so good
On the weekend Ed and I visited Karen and Jim. Jim cooked an amazing Korean meal - honestly I felt that I needed to be rolled to bed. #noregrets. 

Carmen has also wintered really well. She's not as big as last year but still. However, we're both pretty happy. I much prefer a fat and happy Carmen then a thinner less happy/reactive Carmen.