dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Not Disastrous Lesson

I've been able to ride Carmen pretty consistently these days and that feels good. I have een seeing a boost in my self-confidence and that is definitely transferring to her. When Julia comes to ride with us we always start with a hack and often end with one. I've been getting Carmen to lead the whole way. Usually I see how she feels and will often have Irish start and we take over partway through. But I've decided that if I want to be able to hack out alone then we need to lead. By now she's pretty familiar with the trail. While there might be some hesitancy at the beginning I give her time to think while encouraging her to go forward. My reins are usually long although sometimes I will choke them up a bit for safety. 

 Carmen seems to be enjoying the lead and I find her striding out more and more, leaving Irish behind. Irish, interestingly enough, seems okay with being last. In the past he hated being behind and would rush. Now he's just ambling along enjoying life while Carmen is moving ahead. The other day we even trotted back to the barn with Carmen in the lead and she was very rideable. 
I stopped to take a photo and she turned
around to have a chat with Irish. I'm pretty
sure that he's telling her she's doing it wrong! 

In the ring I'm continuing to work on the clarity. Sometimes I find myself starting to baby her a bit but then I catch myself and we go to work. I've embrace the 'when in doubt go forward' mantra. If I ask for bend and she ignores me while motorcycling around the ring I will be insistent (thankyou spur). The response to my bending aids are getting more ingrained and, imagine that, we're getting less spooking. 

All of this is background for my lesson on Sunday. 

We had arranged it for Sunday afternoon. I had been able to ride Carmen Weds, Thurs and Saturday. She was full of energy but pretty good (except for saturday when I had to work her a bit harder to get the softness I wanted). Sunday was a cloudy day and by afternoon the wind was up quite a bit. To be honest, I expected the lesson to be a disaster. I figured she would be completely freaked out by everything blowing around and that it would be an hour of trying-to-get-half-decent-trot-on-a-circle-and-don't-die  sort of lesson. 

Frankly I was hoping it would rain so I could cancel. But it didn't rain so I took Carmen up to the ring a full thirty minutes before the scheduled lesson to do groundwork. While I was up there Shanea texted that she was running a bit late. 

FYI I was not wrong- Carmen was on full alert and ready to flee at every leaf flutter and bird call. I took a deep breath and knew that the work we did would have to focus on her realizing that the most important thing to pay attention to was me. So that is what we did. I had her do work on the lunge- sending her forward, interspersed with quieter exercises of paying attention to what I was asking of her (like going into an imaginary box or keeping two eyes on me when I asked). By the time Shanea came we were both a little tired - mentally and physically. I told Shanea that I was expecting this to be exciting and she did not disagree with me. Nonetheless I mounted and off we went. 

We started with a series of 10 metre circles up and down the ring. I like this exercise because it asks her to bend left then right. It helps to soften the body and get things flowing. Usually I do this on a pretty long rein but this time I had it a bit shorter. Shanea wanted me to be more insistent with my bending aids and to not accept her stiffening against my leg and pushing into me. This helped to get her really soft.

 From there we went to riding a 4 loop serpentine with a 10 metre circle at the rail.  I liked this exercise because it had us travelling the ring but not enough time for her to get too straight and stiff. We then did it in trot. At first it was not pretty. 
Not pretty

 Then it was pretty in spots then just ugly in spots. What was interesting was that as we worked  I could feel her looking for me rather than arguing. A few times something startled her and, rather than flee, I could feel her reach for contact and ask what we should do. My answer was always to carry on and she did. 
better- see how dreary a day it was? 

We worked on some shoulder in and then half-pass at the trot. This is coming along nicely, especially to the right. I struggle with helping her to be correct and not have the haunches lead. I think I need to study some videos to see what a really correct lower level half-pass looks like to help me; so if you know of any links feel free to send them my way. 
A lot to fix but look at that reach

And then, squeee, we introduced canter half pass. These were very baby ones but so much fun. Going to the left seemed easier than the right but she was also tired by then and got a little strong. Looking at the video I can see how big my smile was. I didn't even know I was smiling but I was having so much fun. 

really trying

It's not like these are stellar movements. What was making me smile was how hard she was trying to figure things out. And I was thrilled that my prediction did not come true. Carmen seemed to find calmness in the work and became less worried than everything else. 

she got a little excited going right and tried to launch into space


  1. great stuff and of course love taking the lead while hacking! maybe if you add some poles like a partial wagon wheel while lunging it will capture her attention? we do a lot of this in western training where 2/3 of the circle is clear and 1/3 has poles at every four feet from the center point. we then play with making the circle bigger (extended trot) and smaller (collected trot). it really engages their brain. the half passes were lovely!

    1. I have done that as well. It helps. I find with Carmen I have to keep mixing it up or she starts to tune out. Adding poles back in makes sense.

  2. aw that picture of carmen turned around to say hi to irish is so so cute <3 <3 love how hard she's trying in the lesson too! she's really come a very long way in those movements !! :D

    1. I thought it was cute too. I did laugh at her :)

  3. Teresa, the work you've put into this mare and yourself as a side effect through your journey with her is so beautiful to see.


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