dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Good Enough

 


I am a few posts behind and I had intended to post about my weekend. And then I saw a shared post on FB that won't leave my head and I realized that I need to have to get it out of my head and onto the internet (because that will make everything better, right?). 

Danny Hill of Tamarack farms is at it again. I unfollowed Danny after his racist bullshit last year. A recent post was shared about women and riding. I won't share it all (you can find it if you like) but in a nutshell:

  • the top women riders are impressive athletes who work out (duh)
  • most women he knows don't' work out 
  • if women want to be better riders they need to be stronger. 
  • men don't need to be stronger they need to be softer
And my first thought was 'can we fucking stop telling women that they are not good enough'. First of all any rider in the top of their field work out in other ways than horses. That's their job. Charlotte DuJardin has an amazing fitness schedule: she rides 9-11 horses per day, works with a personal trainer 3-4 times per week, does cardio twice a week, has massages, acupuncture etc. Good for her. It's what I would expect for any elite athlete. It is what they are supposed to do and their schedule reflects that. 

I am not saying that being physically fit in other disciplines will not make you a better rider. I've been experiencing great gains with my foray into yoga. 

But you know what? I have time to fit that in. Not everyday. Sometimes it's a struggle to do it 3 times a week. I also work and have other responsibilities.  When I was younger and had children at home my time was extremely tight. I had time to either ride or do another type of exercise. Guess what? I chose riding every time. I still choose that. 

 It is well documented that women, in addition to working at a paid job, carry more of the load at home as well. 
workin' it


We don't need some old guy mansplaining why we will never be good enough because we're just not trying. 


Let me tell you that you are GOOD ENOUGH: 

If you are a young women working long hours and can fit in riding horses 
If you have a family and find time to sit in a saddle and enjoy yourself
If you are retired and are loving having time to groom and ride your horses
If you are a student struggling to work part time, study and still engage with horses
If you work out 6 times a week and are a badass weight lifter (looking at you Nicole)

Because at the end of the day what the Dannys of the world think is of zero consequence. What matter is whether you are happy and your horse is happy.  

AA women make up a huge component of the horse world. We bring the money and the love of the sport. We are the grassroots and it is time for people to begin to respect that. 

Anyone who can't respect that can piss off. 

who said you aren't good enough? 
I'll teach them to not pick on my servant! 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Spring Tune Up

 Spring has arrived early this year and it's time for the usual spring activities. 

the grass is a little greener every day

I already did the usual saddle fit visit (including the purchase of an additional saddle). The next thing was the annual vet visit.  The visit includes the annual vaccines, teeth floating and general check up. I like my vet- she always wants to know how they've been and listens carefully.  Carmen has been (as usual) remarkably sound this year. I knew she needed her teeth done and I told the vet that I would bet that her left needed more work than her right. It turned out I was right. 

drugged and getting much needed work

Irish needed some work too. He needs much less tranquilizer than Carmen. After she was done the vet had her assistant stay with him in case he fell. Every time I looked in his eyes were closed and he was snuggled with the vet tech. Then the vet needed her help so I went in to take over. As soon as she left his eyes were wide and he went looking for her. Turns out he was just enjoying the snuggle and wasn't drugged any more at all. 

Since the vet visit I also started Carmen back on her probiotic. I had stopped it to see if it made a difference. Funnily enough the spooking/bolting has disappeared since then. I'm also making sure to not tighten and tense when she does so that's likely helping too. 

Carmen: I don't know what you're talking about, I'm an angel

With spring the horses are starting to shed. 

Everything I own is covered with horse hair. 
Just like Guinness


I've been riding more and also just enjoying being outside. Julia and I even had our first hack of the year. It was short and wet but it was great to be out of the ring. 

totally not caring she's standing in a stream





Monday, March 29, 2021

Leather and Lace

 So, I, um, did a thing a couple weeks ago. 

I don't know if anyone remembers but a few years ago I started searching for a western saddle for Carmen. That was when having a 'holy jesus' handle seemed prudent. I tried a few second hand saddles but her andalusian build didn't seem to work with any of them and I gave up. (I know I could have spent a lot of money to get one that fitted but I decided to drop it). 

Then I went to Rachael's and had a chance to ride in her Dom Vaquero saddle. I began to idly look for one but, not surprisingly, there weren't a lot (or any) around for sale. Buying online was a risk I didn't want to take. I decided to leave it up to the universe. Or I gave up. 

Then Rachael decided to move to Portugal and put up one of her spanish saddles for sale. I messaged her to see if she thought it would fit and we arranged for her to come and try it. 


Carmen: What is going on here? 

It turned out that it fit and I decided to buy it instead of the new Mac Book I had been planning to buy.  It doesn't have wifi but isn't it pretty? 

It's a Marjoman Protrera Royal 

Rachael made me some matching leathers to go with it. I picked it up the day after my lesson and decided to try riding in it. Rachael had assured me that it would hold me nicely in place should there be any antics. I found that the stirrup leathers a bit too long so my foot was not firm in the stirrup. However, it felt pretty balanced.  Carmen was being a bit up but not too bad. Julia was riding with us which helped. Then, when we were down at the far side of the ring I spied Willow (my cat) down in the field. Carmen gave a look and then took off on me. I totally lost my stirrups but the saddle worked as advertised and I didn't feel like I was coming off at all. I got my balance back and we walked down to look at the cat. I wonder if that was what set her off the other day? (although I will say that I have seen Carmen chase Willow out of the field, so WTF horse?). 

My plan is to use it when she seems 'up', in the obstacle clinics and trail rides. I think it looks good on her. 

Carmen: I look good in everything

Of course, all my tack is black so I need a matching bridle and girth. I figure you guys could help me source some matching equipment (the colour is 'hazelnut' fyi). 




Friday, March 26, 2021

Not As Anticipated

 I guess the title is a spoiler alert but if it's not enough- the lesson did not go the way I had hoped.  The rides leading up to the lesson had been really good. So I was expecting the lesson to go well too. Not like 'we are ready for our grand prix' but along the lines of 'here's what you should be working on'. 

It started off fine enough and then Carmen began to be tight and tense in the far corner (by the woods). The same corner that she had been drawn to the ride before. But she wasn't being really tight, something along the lines of a 6/10 on the Carmen scale. Shanea was having me flex her to inside and outside to get her supple and listening. 


Anyway, we were riding down along the far corner and then she spooked. A big one but not so bad and then a switch flipped and she was bolting to the other side of the ring. I had nothing in terms of brakes or steering. 

Shanea was videoing and you can see the start of it (turn on the volume if you want a laugh). 

Carmen ran up to the other side of the ring and, for a minute, I thought she was going to run through the fence. But she did a bouncing stop and shot off in the other direction. I had a moment of 'oooh I stayed on'. I finally got her into a circle and then got her to a stop. I jumped off and we did some lunging.  I'm not going to lie- my heart had been in my throat and it took a bit for my heart rate to settle. But after some groundwork I got back on and we did some work on getting her soft and working, rather than tight and running. 

Tight and heavy

It was hard. She was so heavy in my hand that it felt like I had 20 pounds of pressure. I finally stopped and told Shanea that I needed to back up and do the things I would if I was riding on my own. It's a simple exercise:

At the halt I drop the rein and then pick them up. I'm looking for her to stay in her halt and to accept the bit. If she moves I simply put her back and keep at it. When that is settled I asked her to take the contact and step softly into walk. Rinse and repeat. then walk-trot etc. It does work really well.  And it worked here.  



We finished on a good note and I called it. We were both quite sweaty at the end. While I was disappointed to not have the lesson I wanted I did learn that I was able to handle the shenanigans and ride through it. And that I could get in a good place. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Spring Break

 This year I found myself with a surplus of vacation as we neared our fiscal year end. I was in a 'use it or lose it' situation so I booked off the last week of March. 

I hit the jackpot with the weather. We had a snowstorm on friday and then the sun came out  and the temperatures started to rise. The past few days have been gloriously sunny and warm. It feels wonderful. And I'm not alone in thinking so. The horses have been basking in the sun. 

I rarely see Carmen laying down outside. 
Right before I took this she was flat out

I've been outside doing some chores and walking Guinness. Which he's enjoying. 

Why are we resting? We should be walking

And of course I'm riding. It feels good to start regular schooling. I've been trying to see where we are and to start to rebuild our fitness.  For one of my rides the chickens joined on one side of the ring with Guinness keeping a close watch on the other. I had to giggle and couldn't resist singing "dogs to the left of me, chickens to the right; here I am stuck in the middle with you" 
Carmen:  must you? 
Me: Aw, c'mon. It's funny. 
Carmen: *sigh*

I'm sure that Carmen is finding it very warm and it's making her a bit sluggish.Which is okay - it lets me play with getting the energy while keeping the tension out. It's interesting to play with this while making sure that I'm not blocking her with my body. Today felt like a bit of breakthrough- I asked for a lengthen and she opened up and flew down the side of the ring. It felt so cool.  

would rather be napping

Irish is loving this sun. Yesterday at supper Carmen trotted right in to eat. I looked and Irish was standing there, clearly not ready to come in. I walked up to him and stroked his face. 
Me: Hey, I know you're enjoying the sun. Come on in and eat and I promise it will be warm tomorrow too. 
Irish gave a sigh and walked into his stall. 

Tomorrow I've signed up for a lesson. I've tried three times in March and none have worked out (mostly due to weather). It will be nice to get some feedback on and some work.  As you can see Carmen has enjoyed grinding mud into her coat. I am trying to ignore it until it's warm enough for a bath. 

Carmen: I may be muddy but I am still glamourous 






Friday, March 19, 2021

Uncertainty

 If the word for 2020 was 'unprecedented' (tell me I'm not alone in hating this word now) then the word for 2021, at least for me, is uncertainty. 

The pandemic is still a thing and, while the vaccines are coming, the roll out is slow. We're all just waiting our turn. It's not clear how this will impact the dressage season. I suspect that we won't be having any EC shows. There might be some unrated ones in the fall but who knows? Not me that's for sure. 

will this every happen again? 

I realized that I'm not just feeling uncertain about the show season. 

Normally by now I'm writing up my goals for this year and booking things in my calendar. This year I'm not feeling it. 

Of course, March weather is notoriously unpredictable. We've had both the warmest and coldest weather this month. 

This ride started out sunny, then this happened and a
few minutes later it was a blizzard. Then it was sunny.  
Carmen thought I was being foolish

Reading this over, I realize this makes it sound like I'm depressed. But the truth is that I'm really not. I actually feel like I'm in a pretty good place.  What I'm not feeling is the pressure to achieve. At least not the way I used to. 

Last year I experimented quite a bit with Carmen and I think that it really helped us. In my riding I'm feeling pretty in control emotionally, physically and with my attention. That has been requiring me to focus on being in control not controlling. I am not sure I would have even know there was a difference when it came to riding. 

This is my favourite view

I've been playing with liberty too. Pretty much every ride I do groundwork and then take off her halter and work with her free. Once she left me to go where Irish was. I let her go and encouraged her to keep working and when I offered her to rest (after a couple circles) she quite happily came up to me. I do hope to connect with a clinician who does this and learn things. Because right now I am fully aware that I don't know what I don't know. 

I think that the goals I have this year is to explore our relationship and see where we go. And to see how that impacts on our dressage stuff. 

 I may show. I might do a couple clinics (I did sign up for another obstacle clinic). I will definitely go and visit Karen for a weekend. 

So I have goals, sort of? I guess. 

Carmen: just go with the flow. Especially
if the flow includes carrots




Monday, March 1, 2021

Of Lions and Lambs

 It's no secret that I dislike February. To me it's a bleak month- too far from Christmas and Spring. The world seems cold and lifeless. I tend to put my head down and just get through it. I was really looking forward to the end of the month and the beginning of March. 

I miss the green

This has been a relatively mild winter and the end of February began to warm up. We had some rain early last week and it melted the ice in my ring. By thursday it was good enough to ride in. Deep in spots but pretty good. The wind was really brisk but Julia and I decided that we were going to ride anyway. Our thoughts were that we could keep it short. 

In the barn, Irish decided to take advantage of the open door and made a break for the 'grass' outside. He did it as I was leading Carmen past his stall so she freaked out but didn't knock into me. While Julia went to get Irish she clearly wanted to go but stayed on a loose lead while prancing in place. Irish was brought back in (Irish: I regret nothing) but Carmen stayed pretty tight. I looked at her being 8 feet tall and decided that lunging might be the way to start. 

Up in the ring she started off quiet enough and then exploded. It was kind of adorable- she never put pressure on the line but she was pulling all the moves- gallop, sliding stop, rear and then some airs above the ground. She was clearly having fun. I am not a fan of flying horse sized kites, normally it doesn't seem to serve much purpose. But this time I let her have her fun moving forward. After a few rounds she settled down into work. 

Pretty pony but LOOK AT MY RING! 
In February!? What madness is this? 

I took off her halter and we did some liberty games before heading over to the mounting block. I was impressed that she stayed with me instead of following Irish even when he passed close. The wind was so high she was definitely on high alert. She had done a lot of trotting and cantering on the lunge so we stayed at the walk. She was pretty good- a bit tight and wary but trying hard so we called it a day. 

Friday it poured but saturday was sunny and warm. (well okay, I know that 5 degrees is not exactly warm, but it's all relative and the sun felt so nice). Carmen was much more mellow. Our lunging was short and when I got on she was pretty good. The issue was me trying to keep her attention amongst all the distractions. Irish was definitely feeling the spring like weather. Julia let him out to canter and he got excited so down the long side she let him out and he opened up into a hand gallop. I swear I heard him yell 'yahoo'. 
It so good to see this old guy feeling like a 3 year old

Carmen got a little irritated with me insisting on her attention and did do a mini bolt on me. I sat up and then put her andalusian butt to work. We cantered a 15 metre figure 8 with a change of lead through trot in the middle. After a few minutes of that she was feeling much better about listening. It felt like a good ride. It was nice to actually school. Usually in winter I am just riding for the sake of riding and not so much working on anything new. 

Sunday dawned gloriously sunny but the wind was fierce. That morning I spent in the barn cleaning up the old hay and putting away the boards I use under the hay to allow circulation. The chickens were fascinated by all this. They were very excited by the underside of the boards. 



 However, by lunch time it had died down quite a bit. Julia came out again and we were very excited to ride. Irish was also super excited and ran away from Julia three times out in the field. He would let her get him almost into the stall and then take off (we lead him with the lead over his neck). After the third time I went out and put a halter on him and we had a discussion about manners. Honestly, every spring he gets a bug up his butt and he acts like a toddler. Carmen was much more calm. 

I keep trying to get a photo of the chickens going under Carmen
and her non-reaction but my timing is off. She really doesn't care about them

To keep the same pattern I did some ground work, then some liberty work and then I hopped on. The ride was lovely. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was warm (well 10 degrees, remember I said it's all relative?). It just felt glorious to be outside and sitting on my pony. Who was also really enjoying herself. We played with some leg yields and transitions. We finished up working on some turn on the haunches. It was tempting to ride longer but I didn't want to make her sore so we stopped there. 

March 1 came in like a lion with torrential rain and wind (snow is some areas). But that's okay. March is a month of promise and I am looking forward to it. Let mud season begin. 

her mane is definitely lighter this year




Monday, February 15, 2021

Down the Rabbit Hole

( Warning: this post may get a little transendental)

A couple weeks ago I wrote about Carmen and I playing with liberty work. We had also done a little bit back in August. There was a marked difference between January and August. The difference, I think was me. In August I had a lot of idea and direction and probably put a bit of pressure on her (not that that is necessarily a bad thing). 

I've been wanting to try this again, tackling it the way I did in January- with zero agenda and more about being with Carmen then directing her. The weather took a marked turn towards bitter cold and I didn't even think about doing anything until it began to warm a bit this weekend. Not that we were as cold as out west. At -40 I think I would just become a whimpering blob on the floor.  Our temps were more like -15. Cold as hell but not the ninth circle of hell. 

The farm is pretty though and I'm wondering now, how many literary
references I can put in this post?

Monday is a holiday here in Nova Scotia and since I don't work fridays, it made it a four day weekend for me.  Friday was still pretty cold so I consoled myself with baking a cake. But Saturday was a lovely day. I wanted to exercise Carmen a bit as well since she's not terribly motivated to run around the field on her own. She was eager to go to the ring and seemed to enjoy stretching her legs. I then slipped the halter off and decided to play a bit. 

Guys, this is so cool. Carmen had complete and utter freedom but she stayed with me. Wherever I walked she did. I even played with small circles and large ones. I would turn to her haunches and she would yield her hindquarters. If I 'leg yielded' to the right she would go that way - which makes sense because I was going towards her. But she also followed to the left. 


Carmen's attention was grabbed by something in the next field and I walked up to take a look. She followed behind me. We stood there and she raised her nostrils to sniff. I lifted my head too and sniffed. She looked at me, then totally relaxed. 

Willow hung out with us as well

We went up to the mounting block and she lined right up. I hopped down and left but she didn't follow. When I turned to her she was looking at me with a 'well, are you getting up or not?'. She stood there for the longest time so I went back and stood on the mounting block. I hung over her back and she nudged me with her nose- no, that's not right. stop fooling around. So I tried to get on. But my 50-something body, Carmen's height and the height of the mounting block make it impossible. I did really try and then fell. Carmen just looked at me and sighed. 

We played some more and then I went to the gate and offered the halter so we could head back to the barn. And Carmen said 'no'. Every time I offered the halter she turned away. I walked back to the middle of the ring and she followed. Clearly she wasn't ready to head back to the barn. We did a little more and she finally was ready to go back. 


Sunday I did more with her. I could have ridden but I was just curious to know if the day before had been a fluke. And at first it seemed like it was- she seemed more tense and less engaged. I then realized I was being tight and so I took a breath and began to relax. It was like flicking a switch. She became instantly tuned in. I set my phone up to take a little video. I am sorry for the poor quality but you can see her stay with me. 


I sat down to see what she would do. All she did was drop her nose and hang out with me (you can see Guinness too trying to join in the fun). 

Today was a stunning day weather wise. It was sunny and close to zero with no wind. It felt glorious. This time I tacked Carmen up and we went to the ring. I played with the liberty first and asked her to line up at the mounting block. This is what she did: 


She simply stood there. She didn't leave and she didn't get tense. She napped.  I did more walking around the ring and this time when I came back she lined right up. I didn't even pick up the reins when I mounted. The footing was a bit slick from the melting so we were just able to walk. I spent most of it on a long rein seeing if she would stretch into it. Carmen got a bit excited once by something down in the woods but settled right back. I don't think I rode for long but it was nice to just sit there. 

I never tire of this view

Honestly, I look at the things I'm dong with Carmen and I wonder 'who are you?'.  I feel like I took the red pill and am in a strange new world (at least that's a movie reference this time). I am exploring territories I never really knew existed. And it's so much fun.

 I literally have no knowledge of liberty work. None. All I'm doing is looking at Carmen and reading her body language. I am offering her some things to do but it is totally up to her to make a choice. Right now she's choosing to stay with me.  (Although, I wonder if she will be so connected once the grass comes in around the ring.) I'm taking a leap down the rabbit hole and I have no idea what's at the bottom. 

wish me luck



 





Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Best Winter Barn Coat

 Living in Canada means that winter is a solid 4 months with the shoulder seasons being pretty chilly as well. It has always been important to have gear that can keep me dry and warm when the temps really start to dip. I've had quite a few coats and vests over the years. My biggest peeve with warm winter coats is that they are very heavy and awkward for riding and doing barn chores. 

Last fall I was out shopping with some friends and we went into the Columbia Outlet store (sidenote-I love this store for its quality and prices).  I was looking through the racks of winter coats and found this little gem:

I bought black. Because, horses. 

It's a 3-in-1 jacket. The outer shell was waterproof and the inner one had the 'omni-heat thermal reflective lining'. And it was on sale.  I think I paid about $150 for it, which is awesome for a good winter coat. I've had this coat now for about 3 months and I LOVE IT. 

Here I am riding in the inner jacket

It is the warmest winter coat I've ever owned. Most of the time I only wear the inner jacket and I am sweating. The inner coat weighs as much as a light rain jacket. It is ridiculous how warm it is given how little it weighs. I bought a large size and it is quite roomy for riding. My arms do not get pinched and the length is perfect. Most of time when I ride in it I am only wearing a single layer underneath. 

Until recently  I have just used the outer shell as a rain coat. I didn't think it would be waterproof if you were out in a long time in a downpour but today we're having torrential rain and it has kept me dry. 

The few times I have worn both layers have been when it's below -10 (Celsius) and I usually end up having to unzip a bit because I get warm. 

So if you are looking for a coat that is good for riding and for barn chores I would recommend this one. 

it is chicken approved, what more do you want? 




Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Witch and the Dragon

 Once upon a time (back in the last century) there a witch was born who was different than the rest of her family. You see this witch didn't want to ride brooms. 

It's not that she didn't like brooms but this witch wanted to ride dragons. 


She dreamed of dragons, read about dragons and drew them endlessly in her school books.  Her family thought she would outgrow it but she never did. 

And when she was old enough she began to learn about dragons and how to ride them.  

Mostly. She fell a lot. And had her foot stepped on a few times. 

But she never gave up. 

After years of searching she found her dream dragon. He was smart and inquisitive and devilish. 


They were just beginning to soar the skies when he died, leaving the, now much older witch, shattered and broken hearted. 

The dream of dragons did not fade and soon the witch found herself on a journey with a fellow dragon lover to search for a new dream.  

And she found one- a dragon who seemed as lost as the witch. So she brought the new dragon home and tried to pick up the pieces of her broken dream. 

The new dragon though was different. She was mistrustful and proud and not sure she wanted a witch at all. The dragon had lived in many places and felt that she could only depend on herself for safety. 


This dragon was difficult and the witch realized she was out of her depth.  She wanted so badly to build a bridge to the dragon but it was hard. The witch studied and learned from others and worked really hard. Some days it seemed hopeless and others there were signs of hope. 


Many other dragon riders tried to help the witch. Some advised her to find a different dragon, one that would be easier. And they weren't wrong. The witch considered it many times but in the end she couldn't do it.  

Other dragon riders shared their expertise. Slowly the witch learned some things. She found what worked and what didn't. Things got better. Some days were worse than others but still the bad days were what used to be the good days. 

No witch stays the same; her experiences all shape and cause her to change. To become more of herself and not at the same time.  The witch knew she was changing but wasn't sure how.  But she didn't worry about it. Her rides and approaches were different. She no longer was driven to get the perfect shoulder in or transition. Instead she was looking to help the dragon understand. She began to be clearer in her thoughts and in her directions. 

She stopped doubting herself and became okay with making mistakes. Mostly. 

It was the dead of winter and rides were less frequent. The ground was brown and frozen. Then one day the snow fell. the next morning there was a carpet of snow creating a fluffy universe. 


The witch decided to take her dragon and play in the snow. The witch followed the same routine as always.  In the field she waited for the dragon to come to her and then offered the halter. The dragon put her head in and stayed even when her pasture mate tried to get her to run. In the barn she offered the bridle and the dragon put her head in. 

Up in the ring the dragon dutifully lunged around the witch and then allowed herself to be mounted. The witch rode a few times around the ring and then things seemed to crystallize in her mind. She hopped off and stripped the tack off the dragon. The dragon used her freedom to leave the witch. 


The witch had no plan, she just wanted to be with the dragon with zero agenda.  Instead of being frustrated or upset that the dragon was doing her own thing. Instead she just enjoyed her beauty and delighted in the playing in the snow. 


The dragon was intrigued. No one was chasing her or sending out orders. And so the dragon began to look at the witch and come closer.  When she stayed the witch gently stroked the mare and then turned and walked away. The dragon followed until they were matching steps.  


The witch was thrilled. They walked softly around the ring with no other goal than being together. The witch then stood on the mounting block and held out her arm. The dragon knew that this was the signal to line up to the mounting block. But she was free and didn't have to. The dragon thought for a minute and then, slowly and carefully, lined herself up so that she was beside the mounting block. The witch patted and rubbed her in all her itchy spots. 

Now, if this was a fairy tale of princesses and castles the witch would have mounted the mare bareback and bridleless and they would have ridden off to the sunset. But this is not a fairy tale. 

The witch could see that the dragon was uncertain and worried. So instead of mounting, she rubbed her some more and then hopped off the block and they walked to the gate where the dragon slipped her head into the halter and the witch and the dragon walked quietly backed to the barn. 





Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Chilling Out

 Clearly I am in contention for the title of 'most negligent blogger'. 

It's January and riding/training is slowing down. The weather has been relatively mild (for January) but my ring froze shortly after my New Years Day ride and just thawed this past weekend. I've been okay with the downtime- after all I've done a lot of schooling this  year. 

Sunday Julia came out to ride and, just as we were heading up to the ring, the heavens opened and the rain came thundering down. We untacked them and were just putting the tack away when the rain stopped and the sun came out. Deciding we would regret it if we didn't, we took the two longsuffering equines  horses out and tacked them back up. During our ride it rained off and on but Julia and I ignored that. 

Carmen not so keen on working in the wet, wind and cold
and hoping that I appreciate her forbearance. 

When I do ride I am trying to keep is quiet and simple. I don't see the point on riding hard when I might not be able to ride for a few weeks after. I think it's hard on the horses. Especially a horse like Carmen. So my rides are more about enjoying the moment. 

I have an understanding of Carmen now to know that I can't let do all the dictating because she will decide that she gets to make all the decisions. 

And honestly, she doesn't always make good ones. 

So the rides are quiet and if she ramps up I deal and then we go back. I'm getting so much better at not spiraling into the negativity.  For example, yesterday I was riding with Julia and we were just warming up on some long rein 10 metre figure 8s. I like this exercise because it gets her bending and responding to the aids as well as using her body well. It's not always pretty but we work at it and then go on to the ring. Yesterday was quite windy (we had a massive rainstorm the day before) and she was a bit amped. I had the long rein asking her to circle and she was fixating on some waving grass and getting tight. I wasn't joining her in that and then Irish went by letting out a big fart as he passed. 

Carmen gave a big shy, almost unseating me and began to run towards the gate. I grabbed some mane and hauled myself back in the saddle while cackling loudly. I never touched the reins. Carmen came to a halt and gave me her grumpy ears while I continued to giggle hysterically. 

I don't care how old you are, a loud horse fart is funny. And a horse that spooks at said farts is even  funnier. 

the recent thaw made it possible to scrape 
out all the frozen poop that had accumulated. 
Farm life is so glamourous. 

Anywho, we carried on. When Carmen got tight I got soft. I've started doing yoga and I realized how tight everything in my body is. There is no way that Carmen did not feel that. Now that I'm getting looser, I'm also getting more control of my parts and it's easier to move them independently. 

Yesterday we were riding down the rail and she began to get tight and bulge toward the inside. I put on my inside leg while lightening my outside one. She immediately softened into the bend. I think in the past I was tightening both without realizing it. 

I've been working calmly and quietly and not so worried about we go as long as we go nicely and together. 

Guinness would like you to appreciate his 
balancing skills. He works hard to get his toy like this. 

I've been playing with focus in the saddle too. Rather than working on getting a good shoulder in I'm working on her attention. 

 On the ground I can get it pretty easily now: when she's distracted I just need to move to get her to focus back on me. If she doesn't respond I ask her to do something (usually yield her hindquarters), when I have her attention back I stop.

 Getting her attention under saddle has been much harder. She is able to stay riveted on whatever else has her attention and be annoyed with me for bugging her. I've been asking for her attention by picking up the rein (or asking for more bend if we're in motion). She doesn't get to ignore my ask- I simply up the pressure until I get a response and then drop it. The mistake I used to make was to not commit to it- if she really resisted I would drop the demand. I think that made it frustrating for her because I wasn't clear. 

I recognize that sometimes I missed early signs of her attention shifting requiring a bigger shift and it can feel pretty yucky amping up the pressure to get a response I want, especially if I missed/ignored the early signs. But not working it through it does not work with a horse like Carmen who is pretty dominant herself. So I accept that I made a mistake while I am doing a correction and making sure I'm not feeling a lot of negative emotions about it. It's along the lines of 'yes, I know I missed your worry about that particular goldfinch but now I'm asking you to bend this way and it will all be fine.' 

An exercise I have been doing is incorporating the focus work into my rest. It looks like this: 

1. Drop the reins and wait for her to relax. Carmen's attention shifts to something else 

2. softly pick up one rein

    - if her ear flicks back and she softens I will drop it again

    - if her neck tightens and she resists the contact while keeping her ears fixated on something else I increase the ask until she softens and bends (similar to the bit flexion exercises but I'm looking for attention, not her nose on my boot). Drop the rein and repeat/ 

Carmen is really picking up on this and it takes much less work to get her attention. I have to make sure that nothing in my body tightens.     

In the past I would get frustrated at the lack of riding and I do miss it. However, I am okay with taking it easy right now and working on our relationship at this point. It feels like this work will pay off when we can start back at regular training.  

at least the winter sunrises are beautiful