dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, November 29, 2021

Sunshine and Ponies

 There was a break in the weather last weekend and we actually saw the sun, omg. 

OMG, is that the SUN??!

It was very exciting. I'm just not used to day after day of gray skies and rain and it was beginning take a toll on my mental health. 

I had some work I wanted to do to the ring. Nothing major, just regular maintenance. It felt good to be outside working. I also took Carmen up to the ring to let her move around and to connect with each other. It was a windy day and she was clearly feeling it. But I could tell that she was enjoying moving out.  I took off her halter and did some liberty work with her. She left me a couple times but came right back. It felt more like she was playing than running away. When I offered the halter at the gate so we could go back to the barn she didn't want to so we went and played some more.  After I gave her a really deep groom which she quite enjoyed. 

She's beautiful and she knows it

The next day also dawned clear and cold. But there was rain the forecast for later so I brought Carmen in as soon as the ring had a chance to thaw. This time I tacked her up. I was very careful with her ear and even took off the browband. She didn't react to having the bridle go over her ear at all. 

It seems that the browband was what 
was keeping her ears forward. She 
wouldn't even do it for a cookie

I wasn't sure if I was going to ride, it was all dependent on how the ground work went. She was much calmer than the day before and she felt good so I hopped on to do a 30 minute ride. It had been a few weeks since I rode so things felt a bit rusty. I had tacked her up in the spanish saddle in case she did anything silly. 

As a ride it was nothing to be excited about but I was excited to have ridden. The work I had done before her little break was all still there. Although I had to remind her a few times that we half-halt. A few times she threatened to blow but I just half-halted and carried on and she gave that idea up. 

It felt good to sit in the saddle. This time of year is hard on me anyway and with her surgery part of me was playing out every worse case scenario. To have this go smoothly and that I could ride about 9 days post surgery felt like a win. 

my happy place

Now it's raining again and I am so over it. It's the time of year where riding becomes hit and miss but that's okay. We shall see. I did send a message to Jane to see if we can get the weather and stars to align for another lesson.....

totally looks like Carmen, right? 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Alive and Well (and also now LIVE)

 Carmen's surgery coincided with some really crappy weather. It's literally been dreary and raining for the past week. We did have torrential rain but we were not hit as badly as other areas where road washed out. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as BC. 

Some updates:

In exciting news my book is now live on Amazon: Riding Through It. Those who ordered an andvanced copy will get those as soon as I get them and can send/deliver them. 

I can't describe how it feels to see my name on an actual printed book.  It's also not too late to win a copy: 

1. Share the link to the book on your social media (blog, IG, FB) and insert the link. 

2. share with me how horses have helped you in the comments (if you don't have a horse, share a story about another animal). 

I've extended the draw to Dec 2. 

Carmen is doing really really well since her surgery. She hasn't been scratching it (yet) and it's healing up beautifully. Once her ears are not tender I will be able to bridle her. 

I made a huge withdrawal from the trust bank with the surgery and I will with the stitches removal. So I've been spending my time putting some more deposits in. I spend time grooming and scratching her. Also randomly going out in the field and giving her treats. 

Guinness is his normal, serious, head of security. I think he's embracing the farm dog vibe a bit too much though. What do you think? 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Hold Onto Me: Surgery Recap

 Carmen wanted me to make sure that you all heard about how amazingly awesome and brave she was. I need to also give a warning that there are some photos in here that some may find disturbing. I don't have anything really graphic or gross but I realize that that is my perspective. (back story on today's post is here)

I am so relieved that this has been done. You know how when you are equally dreading and looking forward to something how time seems to crawl and fly at the same time? That was the case for November. I had hoped to get some rides in last week but the weather was too gross. 

One of my big worries has been Carmen scratching and ripping out her stitches so I asked Ed to enclose her stall. She is not a fan. 

Why am I imprisoned? I demand a lawyer

I know it can't stop all scratching but it will help. This morning I brought both horses in a bit early because it was pouring rain (like honestly, could it stop raining? Please?). Irish was not sure why he had to be stuck inside. 

Irish: Am I getting surgery? No? Then let me out!

Carmen was highly suspicious when the vet rolled up but was so well behaved. She got her first cocktail and, while it was working, the vet shaved her ear. She tried to put cotton batting in her ear to lessen the sound but Carmen was not having it. So we rolled with it. Carmen needed a twitch too but she calmed down when I put my hand on her forehead. She got a second cocktail when the vet started to freeze her ear. 

Feeling the effects of her cocktails

When the vet started her work I was standing on Carmen's left with one hand on her halter and one on her ear, holding it in place. As time passed Carmen became more and more heavy in my arm. The vet offered to use the head stand but every time I tried to take my hand away Carmen would object. 

As I held her head I had the strongest sense of deja vu. I then remembered that, back in September, I had some dreams of Carmen where she was over a deep ditch and I was hanging onto her telling her that I had her and wasn't letting go. Feel free to think I'm a loon but this is not the first time I have had dreams like this about my animals. 

So I stood there holding her while my arms were aching but it felt right to me. Normally I struggle with boredom having nothing to occupy my brain. But I felt very content to stand there and be with her. 

Partway through I could feel her eye starting to move. 
You know in those movies when the dragon opens it's eye and you know that chaos is going to happen? I said to the vet who went and got another dose for Carmen.  Any other horse would be on the ground with the amount of drugs she can handle. I joke that she's a typical spaniard and can hold her liquor. 

Finally it was out. 

It's a fair size
The stitching went quickly. Carmen has two layers: one under the skin and then her skin. 

I expected more blood but there wasn't much

She got a shot of penicillin and banamine and we were done. I think it was 90 minutes from start to finish. 

All done- what a neat job

Some good news: the vet, on examination, determined that the lump on her muzzle was just a cyst and could be left alone. Other good news: all of this is being covered by my insurance (except for a deductible). So that's a major relief. 

After Carmen stayed in her stall, letting the last of the happy juice leave her system. She was pretty groggy but within 45 minutes was back to normal. I had a fly mask to use to protect her ear but the vet wasn't a fan. She told me to go and buy a large absorbine one. The local feed store went rummaging in their storage and came out with one. I got it for half-price but when I put it on it was clear that Carmen hated it. So I took it off and put on the other one and she was fine. I'll see how it goes but if it works I'll leave it as it is. I'll figure out what to do with the WB size fly mask.

I am so relieved that it went well, that Carmen was cooperative and that it's all over (except for the aftercare). This is why it's so important to teach our horses to accept things they don't like in a way that builds trust. I don't mean making them tolerate but to work with them over time so that they understand that it will be okay.  

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Change is Hard

 Heads up: this post is going to get a wee bit nerdy (#sorrynotsorry). 

As you know I've been gushing about my lessons lately. Even Ed has noticed (I'm not sure why I ask you always say the same thing: wonderful!). But they are also really hard and I feel like I'm undoing and then learning a lot of new things. 

And it's hard. I've had two lessons in the past two weeks and the focus has been on me, essentially, not giving up until I get a response. I've realized that Carmen and I are in this cycle. I ask, she ignores, I ask more, she ignores more and then I cave. She doesn't always ignore and I don't always give up but when I get no response I do. 

Anyone who understands learning knows what I've taught Carmen: resistance is not futile. 

Carmen's perspective

And of course that all needs to change for us to progress. 

I recently learned this model in my work and I really like it as a way to look at change:

I like it and it seems to describe what is happening for us right now. 

When she gets super tight my reaction is to take my legs off. Jane wants my legs on. And my elbows at my side - not gripping the reins in a hard contact but not letting her pull herself apart either.  It feels like I'm being really really hard. But it doesn't look as awful in the videos and Carmen is responding. 

The ADKAR model from Prosci

In our second lesson, as I was warming up, Carmen decided that down by A was certain death. I could feel her obsessing over it and I knew that that would colour our whole ride- she would have a good chunk of her attention down at A and not on what we were doing. So I decided to head down there and work on it before Jane came.  Normally that works quite well for us. I softly show her that it's all fine and she settles. Not that day though. I could feel her working up to a bolt. So I'm riding as best as I can and Jane arrives and sees what's happening. 

So we spent the entire lesson working on that circle by A. The goal was to get Carmen to respond to half halts by bringing her hind end under and not sprawled out (at least I think that was the goal) and to reach to contact so she could follow the rein and soften her neck. 'MORE LEG'  I heard over and over until I was sure that they were going to fall off. 

It wasn't a miracle change but by the end of the lesson Carmen was responding to half-halts from my seat at walk/trot/canter and happily going around the circle at A. It wasn't a miracle change but by the end of the lesson Carmen was responding to half-halts from my seat at walk/trot/canter and happily going around the circle at A. 

Carmen: yes I can walk softly but not sure 
I want to bring my legs underneath of me

so much better 

The next day Julia came with her sister, who rode Irish while Julia did some video and called out advice. It was a bit of a disaster. Carmen was back to fretting about A and even bolted on me. I got off and lunged her and then got back on. WE ended in a better place but not as good as the day before. 

Carmen: lalalala I can't hear you

Carmen: eeeek, Me: argh

I shared a clip with Jane and she pointed out that, right before Carmen spooked, I didn't half-halt. I reviewed the video clips that Julia took and compared to my lesson. I realized that, while I was asking Carmen to slow down and come under, I didn't insist and she was totally able to blow me off. 

So the next day I told Carmen you and I are going to have a conversation today. And as soon as we started I asked her to half-halt. And insisted. 

And you know what?  Carmen was soft and listening and underneath of me for the entire ride in every spot of the ring. (no media but you have to believe me). 

So I feel that we're on a good track. This change is hard and it would easy to give up because it doesn't always feel like it's working when I'm on my own. Clearly, it's because my ability is not fully there without support. Which is fine. I am gaining awareness and knowledge (I pretty much always have desire lol). Jane is helping me get the skills and is reinforcing me. I'm also getting reinforcement from it working. 

I don't know when I can lesson again. Carmen's surgery is this week and I don't know how long before I bridle her again. I do plan to play with liberty and ground work. And then we're getting into winter weather so riding might be hit or miss, depending on whether the ground is frozen. 

not a bad way to end

Are you working through any change right now with your riding? How's it going? 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

From Blogger to, um, Author?

 It seems crazy but I've been blogging for 9 years! I started this blog as a sort-of diary to capture the training of my yearling. It then became a place to write some funny and not-so-funny stories about life on a small farm. 

Over the years I have learned to really enjoy the process of sitting down and putting my thoughts in order. It's felt like a place that I need to be true and honest, not present a curated version of my perfect life with horses. 

Writing this blog led to a gig writing for a local horse magazine and, more recently, a couple article for Horse Annual (at least I think so, I haven't actually seen it).  

A few months ago I saw a post by Nikki Porter (she's one of the trainers who does the trail clinics I love so much) on Instagram asking for interest in doing a collaborative book project. I was intrigued and asked for more information. I then filled out an expression of interest along with a writing sample.  I was surprised and also sorry to get a message that I was in if I wanted to be. 

Sorry,  because that meant that I needed to write what I promised and that, my friends, is a scary prospect. I spoke about it with Ed and a close friend who encouraged me to take a leap.   I took a breath and dove in. 

Participating in this process has enriched me more than I thought. Much like horses enrich our lives far beyond what we expect.  I met sixteen other women who all had a story to tell. I believe that we all cried at one point or another during our zoom meetings. Each one of us made ourselves vulnerable in this process.  I know you are all familiar with my story but these others ones are incredible and definitely worth reading. 

Steele- who started it all

I am pretty proud of this book- it is open and raw and honest. Every single woman is sharing a piece of her soul in sharing her story. 

My story will not surprise you- it's about my life with horses and how first Steele and then Carmen led me to find peace with myself and joy in the pain of loss. Writing it was cathartic and helped me to see beyond the tragedy to how I am stronger and a better horsewoman (and human) than before. 

It is a self-published book and you will be able to find it here: Nikki Porter Coaching and on Amazon (soon). 

Right now it's available to Pre-order (limited copies).  Just send me an email or message me via FB/IG and I will put on you the list. The special pre-order price is $18 + $6 shipping (I'll deliver local books). 

Because writing this blog and taking the leap to write a piece of book would not be possible without you guys , I am also going to do a giveaway of one free copy of the book. 

Here's how you can win: 

1. share the link to the book on your social media (blog, IG, FB, etc) and insert the link in the comments

2. share with me how horses have helped you. If you don't have horses in your life than feel free to share a life lesson you've learned from an animal (human animals count). 

I'll do a random draw on November 28th. 

Here we go!

Carmen: who wouldn't want to read about me?

Thursday, November 4, 2021


 It's no secret that I have an obsession healthy and totally normal appreciation of saddle pads. 

I have tried quite few and learned what I like and what is 'meh'. One issue that I have with Carmen is that often the saddle pad will slip behind the saddle at the withers. That's because she has a flat, Andalusian wither with a broad Andalusian barrel. The Lemieux saddle pads work well with that- especially the one with a roll in front. I've been following Hufglocken on FB for a while and wondered if their pads were as good as advertised. But I didn't really need another one. 

Then they had a sale: 25% off and free delivery world wide. 

I worked through the whole 'design your saddle pad' and actually managed to choose options. I then hit 'buy' and the deed was done. 

That was back in July. I waited for it to be delivered. 

And waited. 

You see, once you pay they then make it and then ship it. With a name 'Hufglocken' I thought it would be made in Europe. Nope, it was Australia.

A few weeks ago I had notice that it was ready to be shipped. It probably took at least 2 weeks. But Friday it arrived. 


TaDah! It looks like a smoking jacket!

I was quite happy with the quality. Burgundy velvet, with black and white piping and front sheepskin. 
Today I tried it on Ms. Carmen. I love how it fit on her and she looks snazzy. 

Carmen: at least it's not a torture device this time

In our ride today I noted that the saddle pad stayed in place. I may or may not have found myself stroking the sheepskin often (it's sooooo soft). 

And Carmen was a dream. For the ride she didn't argue with me once. It was a great ride and she was lovely. 

Clearly it's not just a pretty pad, it's a MAGICAL PAD that turned Carmen into a  lovely unicorn. (I mean it couldn't be that I rode well, right?).