dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, September 6, 2021

Slaying of Demons

 In my last post I was feeling unsure about the upcoming show clinic. Truth be told I had these little voices in my head: 

you are not ready

All you've done is toodle around this year

Carmen is not ready for this challenge. 

 Of course I am not the only rider with those voices and I'm quick to tell others that they are wrong.  On friday the clinic was almost cancelled because the clinician, Sue,  had an accident (not  horse related) and was in the hospital. She will be okay but it will take a while.  Paula called me looking for contact info of the organizers. I managed to track down the clinic secretary and let her know. We then brainstormed who could replace her on such short notice. Fortunately, Sue's sister, Jane (yes that Jane) was able to fill in. 

Clearly I could not back out now. Friday my ride was a bit wild. The weather had become cool after the remnants of hurricane Ida dropped a bunch of rain and wind. But it wasn't a terrible ride and things felt okay.

I took this as a positive sign

We headed ut early Saturday morning and the drive was pretty easy. I met Paula there and we unpacked everything. After the 4th or 5th trip I joked 'and in 24 hours we get to do this all again!' It was different doing an event with covid restrictions but there were only 9 people in the clinic so maintaining distance was not hard. There were two adorable little girls in the clinic. I loved watching them with their horses and how excited they were. 

The format of the clinic was: 

Saturday- rider and coach have 30 minutes in the show ring

Sunday- test of choice being judged and scored, then a critique and a short session with judge and then ride the test again. 

I had arranged for Jane to come and give me a lesson on Saturday to help prepare. I was honest and told her that my worry was that Carmen would get tense and I would fall into it as well and we'd do our 'spiral of doom' dance. I didn't care about the test so much as I wanted us to be connected and soft. We started in the warm up ring and then, when it was our time, went into the show ring. It was so helpful to have her there walking me through all the things we had worked on in our last lesson. We worked a lot in shoulder fore and shoulder in to keep her hind leg connected. I confess that I fizzle out on that when Carmen resists but Jane was having none of it so we had to work through it. She also was getting on me for letting Carmen shuffle along in a jog and not ask her to go to the bridle. But gently, not booting her. 

Jane: going slow like that is not going to keep you safer 

Me:  it feels like it will

Jane: ha! 

And I could definitely tell that going forward was the answer. And I knew that, but had forgotten. As well, Carmen is really good at going fast, which is also not the answer. Sigh. Riding is hard. 

Anyway, it was an excellent lesson and Jane said that she could see improvement since our last lesson. I felt a lot more ready.  It was weird having a such an easy day on saturday. Everything was done by 4:00 and I was done by 2:00. Paula and I had time to go to the local tack store (I needed to buy a bucket) and we stopped at the liquor store to pick up a beverage to have back at the barn.  We ended up getting supper early and then back to Paula's. By 9 we were both in bed, like senior citizens. 

Sunday was a lovely day and, by some miracle, Carmen managed to stay clean over night. I had a blanket on her but I was expecting to see manure ground into her neck. I could feel my show nerves coming up. With my breathing exercises and self-talk I managed to keep it at a low simmer. 

Our warm up was pretty good. My friend Tanya came and help me with some good advice (like breathe, soften your elbows). Carmen had some thoughts about a door that had been open but was not closed but we worked through it like normal. Then it was time to enter. We went through the chute and into the ring. I took a deep breath and we started.

Halt at X and Salute

 I had a reader but to be honest didn't listen to her at all. I had the test memorized and I was able to keep my brain on my riding. I tried to be diplomatic in my riding and not pick any fights. As a result we cut some corners and I never pushed the lengthens. Heres' a video if you want to watch it: 

When I watch this I am quite happy with not. Not necessarily from a 'you nailed first level' perspective but how we are working as a team. When I watch this, I see moments of tension -especially the stretchy circle. Because she was really distracted I opted to shorten the reins to keep her with me (the judges comment for that movement was 'smart riding'). In the past I would be concerned about being perfect. This time I managed to keep my focus on being with Carmen. Not that there's not a lot to improve. My marks were a range of 5.5 to 8; most were 6.5-7. I really liked leg yield to the left. I don't know if you can tell but about half-way in I started to smile because I was really enjoying our ride. 

Then it was time for the critique. Jane asked me how I felt about it. I told her that overall I was happy and there were some nice moments and some struggles. She agreed with me and then came down to give me coaching. It was all about using shoulder in, half-halts to balance her and get her into the corners and don't let her cut them. It was a blur but I could feel us getting more and more together as we progressed. Neither of us had time to worry about things. 

Jane: We have time for to ride it one more time. 

At first I thought about saying. nah, we're good and I'm happy'. Which was true but the other part of me was like  you can do this and Carmen will be fine

And she was. 

This felt a lot more cohesive to me. In the end my score was about the same but I loved how I was able to use half-halts effectively and ride her to the letters. 

Leg yield left

I felt that our canter work was a lot more balanced and soft. She could shift more on her hind end but it was a lot better than our first work. If you want a shorter video here's one of just our canter work. Look at her ears and how she's tuning in to me. 

I was so happy that I came to the clinic. I had a lot of demons associated with this ring and it felt like they were all slain. It feels like a validation of the work I've been doing on my relationship with Carmen and on my riding skills.  The voices were wrong, not because everything was going to be fine but because I worked to make it fine and had help. I am profoundly grateful for everyone who has helped and cheered me on. I am not the only one with demons and everyone who was there had goals they wanted to achieve. I believe that everyone had a wonderful time. 

Carmen loaded and we were headed home shortly after lunch. She was so calm and relaxed getting off and not her usual impatient self while I put on her fly boots and mask. As soon as she was out she rolled over and over knocking off all the shine that I worked so hard to put on. But she looked so happy I could only laugh. 

I think that this is the cutest photo I've ever taken of her


  1. Yay!!!! I'm so excited you were able to go out and confidently rock it!!

  2. I really enjoyed seeing you ride- you said you had that test memorized? Yay you- that's a lot to remember!
    You and Carmen look great together.

    1. Thank you! All those years of university have paid off lol.

  3. aww that rainbow -- definitely a good omen!! and way to go, what a cool clinic!! i definitely often feel like my second test "comes together" a bit better than the first, usually for no reason other than i got my nerves out of the way LOL! love that it really felt so much better too -- you guys look wonderful <3

    1. I wish we could do a practice test and then ride the ‘real’ one.

  4. Amazing! And love the last pic! Ps, Ive been practicing box breathing and its amazing! I dropped my blood pressure by 10 points!

    1. I find the box breathing very helpful. That last pic is my favourite

  5. You and Carmen looked terrific! Great rides. You were probably so proud of her, not one spook and she did what was asked. I'm glad you went and had such good rides. You've slayed your demons. Must have been that good luck rainbow. You found your pot of gold this weekend! Love that picture of Carmen on her back, it's priceless.

  6. So happy for you guys! You've been working hard, even if it feels like you've been toodling. All the small things equal the big stuff after all. Great job!

  7. It sounds like another win for you and Carmen! I’m glad you went and slayed the demons. We all have them, that’s for sure!

  8. Yay what a great ending and accomplishment!

  9. Congrats, lovely job! First level is going to be so much more complicated to remember! And so much trotting before you canter, which I think will be a good thing.
    I have to admit "that Jane" immediately made me think of Savoie, which made me confused
    I'm the same way about being relieved/happy if Cupid is going slow (even if he's actually just sucked back - at least it's not rushing!!!)

    1. It would have been lovely to have had a lesson from Jane Savoie! It was a huge loss to the equine community when she passed away.

      If you stay at first level for years like I do, it gets easier to remember. :)


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