dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Next Best Thing: Lesson Recap

Before you think that I am recklessly disregarding the measures imposed by my province to control the spread of the pandemic, just hang on.

My last riding lesson was way back in February and I have been really missing them. Also, poor Shanea, her income stopped suddenly and, while she wasn't complaining, I'm sure that hurt.

With the current Covid-19 measures it wasn't looking good for having one anytime soon. As you know I am nothing if not persistent. If I can't get what I want one way I will try another.

Which led me to figuring out how to do a virtual lesson with Shanea. I spend most of my work day on Zoom so why not do it for fun?

 It started with me sourcing a blue tooth ear phones. After a bit I settled on Bose Wireless earphones.

I was worried about losing one and so I liked the one with the 'idiot string'. I have a great talent for losing one glove, socks and other things. So it's extremely likely that I would lose one and these things are not cheap. I am pleased with my choice- they stay in my ears well and the sound quality is excellent.

I set up my phone by tying it's car holder to a post in my ring. We did a tech check friday to see where the signal dropped with my blue tooth ear phones. Based on that I set up pylons to indicate where we lost the audio signal and where she wouldn't be able to see me. I was superimpressed- the range of the earphones was about 40 metres.

This morning I went up early to warm up and the Shanea called me on FaceTime. We had a boggle at first and I had to dismount to figure it out. Carmen was not so thrilled when I got back on.
Carmen: I thought we were done. It felt like we ended in a good place
Me:  It was like 15 minutes
Carmen: Yes, see perfect amount of time. *sigh* fine
Carmen: no one appreciates what I put up with

I have to say that this was a great way to get a lesson. (I don't have media from the lesson so you will have to make do with old photos to break up the text wall.) Shanea was able to see what we were doing and work on improving us.

For whatever reason, Carmen was freaked out about the gate (of all things) and wanted to give it a wide berth. But other than that we had a really good lesson. I haven't fallen into too many bad habits.

Carmen was throwing her haunches in a fair amount and me pulling on the inside rein is not the solution (go figure). Shanea had me take up the outside rein and slide my inside leg back to put her haunches back out. We did a lot shoulder fore and that really helped with the straightness.

We worked on walk-canter-walk transitions. Despite me saying that she tends to barge through them she was actually pretty good. What else has improved is her reaching over her back and stretching. So go me.

Half-way through the ride the call disconnected and I had to stop by the phone to call her back. Carmen just let out a big sigh.
Carmen: I don't know what you're doing but whatever. 

We finished with a lovely trot of her over the back and a perfect trot-halt.
Virtual dressage

I was excited to be back at lessons and Shanea said that it worked well for her too. We're going to do another one next weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


The past few days my little province has been in the news. Some discontented white man went on a rampage, wreaking carnage and heartbreak over a 13 hour period before being killed by cops. While I don't know anyone personally, I am, like all of us, reeling from this horror. There are no words. Well, except for fuck.

Frankly, between this and Covid-19 I am so done with 2020. I can't even watch the news anymore (and I am usually a news junkie). It's been hard to be motivated.
On monday, Mother Nature graced us with a beautiful sunset

I am old enough to know that sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other. After work yesterday I decided that I needed to ride. I decided to see if I could set up my phone to take some media. And it worked.

Carmen was more energetic than our previous ride, looking for evil. I was pretty sure that she was feeding off my own negative energy. So the goal was to get her to bend and be soft. Not that it was easy. However, when I looked at the video after she didn't look as bad as she felt.

poor Carmen I had trip hazards everywhere

In this video you can see that she's wanting to throw her head and come to the inside. I do my best to not buy into the tension and get into an argument. Instead I stay calm and help her to relax. The smartest thing I ever did was attach a grab strap to the saddle. This helps me to be confident in relaxing the rein and not get dumped.

Carmen felt like a ball of energy so I decided to move her into trot to get her moving and relaxing. Whatever else she has taught me, I have learned to be tuned into her body language to figure out where her attention in and what she's thinking. I've noticed that, when she's worried about the outside, she tends to shift all her weight to the inside. It's not that she's actually tilting but more like she's carrying more weight on the inside. I work on getting her to shift her weight to be even. Does that make sense? have you ever experienced that? How did you fix it? I've been asking her to shift to the outside with my weight. It seems to work. 

I don't know if you can see it but she's got more of her weight
on her left then her right. 

Since we had so much energy it seemed like a good time to work on simple changes through walk.  I was pretty happy with them- although a couple she tried to to just barrel through them and not sit on her hind end. I was pretty happy with this one. 

I also practiced our trot half-pass. It's got a long way to go but I was pretty happy with it. Her reach is nice and she clearly understands the ask. To be honest, in some ways it feels better than her leg yield. 

My goal is to not stagnate without lessons and it feels that I'm making progress. I think that this set up might work to set up a virtual lesson. We'll see. But it's nice to have something to look at and not just how it felt and/or my memory. 

Even more importantly, for about an hour I wasn't dealing with all the fall out from current events. For that time it was just me and Carmen working together.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Opposite Day

It's nice to be getting into consistent riding. Without regular coaching I hope that we're progressing, or at least not going backwards.  Carmen has been working really well. 

hey, do you have any carrots? 

Earlier in the week we had a glorious day of sun with temperatures in the high teens (Celcius). As I worked in my home office I could see the horses out basking in the sun. When my work day was over I quickly changed and headed out to enjoy the end of day sun. Carmen felt really mellow. Like really mellow. In the ring she could barely put one hoof in front of the other. 

I don't mind quiet but this was verging on the ridiculous. We were going around the ring and I was trying to create energy without getting into an argument. We were going down the long side in what can only be described as a western jog when she gave a spook and began to canter towards the gate. 

Me: YES, let's go
Carmen:  EEEK... wait, what? 
Me: let's canter away
Carmen:  I don't think that it was that scary
Me:  oh yes, it was terrible. All fangs and scales.
Carmen:  that trot was nice or we could stop
Me: sure, better safe than sorry I always say
Carmen: no you don't. You NEVER say that
Me: Sure I do. Remember? Anyway the answer is to go fast and save our lives!
Carmen:  I hate you right now

After that we had a pretty good ride. The next time we went by that spot she looked at it
Me: should we flee again?
Carmen:  nope, I'm good. 

That was the last day and really nice weather. The next day was sunny but blustery and cold. 

nothing like the wind up your tail 

I am trying to ride two days and take one off. I figured that I would tack her up and see how she was. I was expecting her to be riled up. But she was not. Not as a slow as the day before but still pretty quiet.  It was a good ride. Probably not anything special in terms of any skills but we had fun and we were working as a team. 

Saturday was quiet and cloudy. Carmen was definitely more forward and a bit spooky but nothing major and we had some great work. She was a bit tight and the work focussed on getting her to stretch over her back and use her core. I could feel her starting to let go and understand the stretching out felt good. 

That afternoon I made some cupcakes as the rain/snow came down. OMG, they were so good- rich and chocatey and, frankly, dangerous. I had some frozen Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream frosting and I used that instead. 

Add caption
I am enjoying the quiet pace, but perhaps not as much as Carmen. 

Carmen's life goals right here

Let me end with a PSA from Guinness: he wants to remind you all to wash your paws and keep your things clean. 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Cool, Calm and Collected

This was a very different Easter weekend than usual - I'm sure that's true for all of you.
the grass is starting to turn green! 

Blogland has become very quiet. And it makes sense- clinics and shows are cancelled. Many are unable to see their horses because barns have closed their doors. That makes sense- it's important that the people working at the barns are safe and able to care for the horses. What is more disturbing is that others are being harassed for continuing to ride. I get it- riding is a risk and do we want more stress on a health system that is already stressed? All that to say that I have made the decision to continue to ride. I am always making careful decisions whether Carmen feels safe and I trust my gut. I'm not trying to justify it- it's just the decision I have made and am comfortable with.
if this doesn't describe 2020 I don't know what does

 And I'm not gonna lie- I worry that others may think that I'm gloating over my good fortune. I know that I'm not and that will have to do. I can't worry about what others think-probably they aren't thinking about me at all.

Without the push of upcoming clinics, lessons and shows I have been going slow. I'm enjoying the lack of pressure- even though I know that the only one putting pressure on me was me. Sigh.

Every spring I start back with Carmen and wait for her to begin to lose her crap over stuff. And this year it's sort of the same. There's breeze, waving grasses and, god forbid, happy, horny, noisy birds flitting about everywhere. But it's also not the same-I have been working on our goal of increasing her confidence (and mine).   And it's working.

spring means shedding and I looked down to see all
 her hair  making little dandelion fluffs. 

Our ground work is aimed at starting her off calm and loose. I start that work from the moment I get her from the pasture. It's cute to see her get tight and as soon as I touch her neck she goes oh right, relax. Phew. Under saddle I ask her to bend and soften and I don't fall into the trap of her worry.

We've been playing with moving her weight back onto her hindquarters and using her core. We've been doing a lot of poles.

A puzzle I set up
Carmen is enjoying these- or I am and it's transferring to her. So whatever. I really liked the above one- it asked her to stretch a bit going the through the square and I could feel her really lifting through it. I also made use of the going between the poles- can I canter across the short diagonal and make a simple change through walk inside of the poles. It really helped me to see that left to right was simple but right to left she required a lot more time to get back to walk.

We have been playing with Travers and Renvers (haunches in/haunches out) and she's doing well with those. Carmen is quite happy to look out of the ring, it's having to be carrying herself in balance that was mind blowing for her. I can feel my half-halts really working on bringing her balance back.

Anyway, I'm hoping to keep picking away at our second level stuff so that when things do resume we're ready. But what is most telling about our work is that, no matter where we start, she always end feeling relaxed and content. Honestly, she is the most mellow horse and you wouldn't recognize it. And it's not from exhaustion because she's barely sweaty.

No she's not exhausted, just mellow,
 also do you notice something? No flash. :)
I love that she has learned to trust that when she feels tight/anxious I give good advice on how to feel better. We have much fewer arguments. Not none, but fewer and less dramatic. Yay for less drama.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Steady On

It's been a while since I posted, which is not normal for me in the spring. Usually I'm getting back to riding and excited to figure things out.

This spring it's different.

Events I had signed up for are all ready being cancelled. I have only left the farm twice in the last two weeks. I am appreciating the irony of having gas prices at a point where towing is not a huge hit to the wallet and there's no where to go.
Ripley is happy to keep me company at home

The thing I'm missing most are the lessons. I am working away trying to not let drift happen but it's not the same. I've been thinking of trying some sort of virtual lesson but I need to have some wireless ear buds. Does anyone have a recommendation for ones that have a good range and I don't have to sell a kidney to buy? Keep in mind that I often lose one of a pair.....it's kind of my superpower (that and tangling things).

Life is definitely slower- except for work. That's been a bit hectic. I think people hear 'working from home' and picture us eating snacks and watching netflix. Let me tell you-  that is definitely not the case!

thanks Larry for this

But honestly, right now my problems are very 'first world'. I have a job, I am safe, my family is safe and our province is doing a pretty good job of keeping us safe and informed.

The weather is nice often enough that I can ride. That I need a saddle adjustment is not a pressing need. I am just aware and am careful. It's not causing Carmen distress but every spring I find that I need to get more flocking in the front.  I tell myself that making sure I am sitting back in the saddle is good for my core. 

Carmen is doing well. There are days where she's a bit more spooky but her spooks would have barely registered in the old days. Usually it's a quick correction and move on. I try to not get emotional about it and mostly I succeed. 

Yesterday I was asking her to stand so I could put my crop in the holder and she was very restless. I could have left it but thought that working on her standing was a good thing to start with. She was not so happy with me and was pawing. Mostly I ignore the pawing. This time she lifted her leg right up and it ended up hooking over the tape I use for the second 'rail' of my fence. Of course when she pulled back it was stuck and she leaned back heavily. There was little I could do and the tape broke like it was supposed to.
Carmen:  Oh my god, it's got me
Me: just wait--- *tape snaps*
Carmen: that was close. Told you it was dangerous. 
Me: you know you brought that on yourself, right? 
Carmen:  you tried to make me stand there, I'm blaming you. 
Me: ......

I dismounted, tied the tape back up and took her over to the mounting block. This time she stood while I put the whip away. In the past I would have expected this to colour the whole ride but it didn't. Not that our ride was perfect. But it was pretty good.

I joined a FB group that is all about poles. It's awesome- there are lots of exercises. It gives me ideas.

This is a fun one
The key is to deal in the moment and let it go. If I let myself get flustered we spiral into debates. the other key is to keep her in balance. When she worries she gets disconnected and off-balance. I focus not on the thing she's spooking at but getting her back in balance.  If you are in the field next door you will hear something along the lines of: if you bend you will feel better. No really, you're all off-kilter, Yes! That's it. Doesn't that feel good? I know, right? Fortunately, all that is next door is wildlife.

Not having events to go to does take some pressure off- we have time so, rather than focus on what I can't do, I'm going to keep doing what I can. It feels that she's understanding the turn on the haunches. I find her responding really well to my seat aids- it's becoming so easy to do SI/HI.

and the grass is turning green!