dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Triptych: A Tale of Three Lessons

 I realized that I am behind in my lesson posts. I'm sure you are all fine with that but I like to recap them for my own learning. If you recall I asked Shanea to push me out of my comfort zone and she has taken that to heart. 

Lesson 1: Straight and Supple

This happened before we went away to PEI. Carmen was feeling really on and not spooky even from when we started. It was a great because we could dive into the nitty gritty without all the working through her emotions first. 

Shanea started by asking me to shorten and lengthen her walk- using my seat and my energy. I could use my hands to take a bit but had to give it back. I heard a lot of the phrase- have her on your elbows not your hands. It was so cool to feel how I could do this simply by how much I 'allowed' with my seat. Also cool was that, as we worked, this exercise really helped Carmen to soften and relax her back. She really began to swing. 

I love how she's reaching here

The lesson focussed on keeping Carmen straight- she has a tendency to throw her shoulder to the wall and her haunches in. Some of it is her tension and strength and the rest is all me. I spent so much time trying to keep her on the rail that she thinks she has to throw her shoulder to it. And now I'm used to that so it feels straight. Shanea is asking me to feel her straightness and where her hind legs are. It's been interesting to do that. Karen talked about that as well. Keeping her straight on her right lead is a real struggle. That has been our 'difficult' lead for a while. We have been tackling it a bit at a time. In this lesson we got it a few times and then we stopped. 

uphill anyone? 

Lesson #2: New Place, New Work, New Mindset

My rides after that lesson were quite, um, spicy. I stayed on task and just worked through it. I've been working on my mindset of viewing Carmen's extra energy as a positive thing that needs direction. I decided that this weekend I really wanted to do two lessons in a row. I thought it would help me build on what we did. 

However, to make that work I needed to bring Carmen to a nearby arena on Friday. Krista (same person who did the clinic with me) was really welcoming about Carmen and I coming. My lesson was the first one so I could lunge before. Friday was cool, cloudy and breezy- perfect spooking weather.  To be honest I considered faking being sick to get out of going. But I didn't and trailered there.  Krista has a 'guest' paddock and Carmen was quite happy in there- as long as I stayed near anyway. 

Horse Heaven: grass paddock surrounded by apple trees

I brought Carmen into the arena a good 45 minutes before the lesson. It is a lovely canvas arena and it was making some flapping noises in the wind. Carmen was not a fan- which was logical. I spied a flag in the corner and I went and grabbed it. I've done lots of work with flags with Carmen as part of the TRT Method. However, Carmen took one look and ran backwards. 
Carmen: oh my god- it's attacking
Me: it's a flag. You've seen it before. 
Carmen: But this one is small and everyone knows that they are the deadly ones. 
Me: *sigh*
However, I do know how to help her with this and 5 minutes later she was bored. I then took the flag and flapped it over her head- it sounded a lot like the canvas. Working through that helped her to understand that she didn't have to worry about the arena. 
Carmen trusting me despite evidence to the contrary

When Shanea arrived we went to work - starting with the walk shorten-lengthen work. Then Shanea had me focus on keeping her in shoulder fore to keep her shoulder from throwing it into the wall. The exercise was a series of 10 metre circles down the long side with shoulder fore in between. This was very tricky and required all our focus. Which might have been the point. 

But I found that I could really feel when she was straight and crooked and, more importantly when I needed to aid to prevent it. 

I was super impressed with how we both handled things at this new location. I am finding that my seat is much more secure so I am able to sit through her spooks and re-direct her energy. In this lesson I could feel her using her hind end more and coming from behind rather dump on her forehand. Shanea laughs at me but when she's trotting from behind and is light in front I call that trot 'fluffy'. I have no other way to describe it. 

looking light and fluffy here

Carmen worked really hard for us. Even when the arena started to creak a bit as the wind picked up. Not that she didn't notice but there were no melt downs. We finished with some canter work but as soon as it was good we stopped and let her relax. 

I was really excited about how we were to not only work but to advance our work. Working in the smaller space of the indoor helped me a lot. 

I stayed and watched a bit of Krista's lesson but Carmen was only happy when I was nearby and I couldn't do both so we headed home. Frankly, it was good for us to go somewhere, work and go home. Carmen was quite happy to find herself back in the field in the afternoon. 

Lesson #3: Onwards and Upwards

I hadn't the heart to tell Carmen that we had another lesson today. Fortunately, it was at noon so we could have a quiet and relaxing morning.  When I was getting her ready she went back and forth from being sleepy to cranky. Very likely she might have felt a bit body sore from the work and I figured it might be an interesting ride. The weather was sunny, calm and warm enough to be comfortable but not hot. 

Spoiler alert- it turned out that it was an awesome ride. 

Carmen was definitely a bit spicy but not that bad. We worked on getting the walk supple and relaxed and then adding in trot work. I was doing a lot better at keeping her straight but not perfect. We did this fun exercise at the trot of: turn down quarter line, leg yield to wall, hitting at the centre letter (B or E) then riding a half 20m circle and then shoulder in down the side. It required me to be on the ball with the aids: 
  •  make sure that she didn't bulge her shoulder during the turn
  • that she waited for me to start the leg yield
  • and keep her shoulder off the wall

It was fun. Her trot got so fluffy that I could feel it all the way up to my diaphragm. 

From there Shanea had me practice our half-passes at trot. I bobbled the aids for that at first having my outside leg too far back but after stopping and discussing it I understood at least the principle first. I could feel it really starting to gel and Shanea was sounding quite excited about it. It was nice to feel the push from her hind leg. 

And all of this work happened while she was off and on worried about the outside of the ring.

The butterflies were particularly fierce. 

not too bad for a start

At this point I was thrilled and could have happily stopped. Shanea asked if I felt up to trying some canter half pass. Remembering that I had to be pushed I agreed.  Shanea had me pick up a canter, do a 10 m circle and then come down the centre line. The goal was to ask for a few strides of half-pass, come back to trot and praise.  The first few attempts were not great but not horrible. Carmen did do a big spook at the end of one but we regrouped and carried on. The breaking it down into small chunks helped Carmen and I figure it out without getting flustered. We got a few good ones on both leads and then stopped. 

I was thrilled with the work we've been doing. I swear that Carmen's hind end is taller because of the muscle she's building.   I was glad I had two in a row like that- I think it helped us to move ahead. 

fluffiness personified


  1. You guys look great! Big difference in your postures!

  2. Oh man, those fluffy trot moments! They feel so amazing!
    You two have come along so much over the last couple of years. It's so nice to see that you both have the confidence to work through things. Even if it's not the prettiest of moments, you keep trying!

    1. I always do keep trying. I might be a little too much....


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