dancing horses

dancing horses

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


 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