dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, December 27, 2021

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

 Despite all that is happening right now we had a lovely Christmas. 

My two adult children came home. My son brought his dog, Ripley (she's made appearances on the blog) and my daughter brought her two kittens. If you do the math that makes 2 dogs, 3 cats (with our Willow) and 4 adults in one small farm house. You would expect it to be chaos but it really wasn't. We had a great time. 

oooh Christmas

The weather just before Christmas was cold rain followed by plummeting temperatures. The wind was fierce too. I basically resigned myself to not riding and to begin pining for my own indoor. But then the weather turned mild and the ring thawed and I was able to ride both Christmas eve and Christmas day. 

Christmas eve and Carmen was listening for Santa's bells

In between that I baked (cookies, chocolate cake, cinnamon buns, peanut butter balls) and cooked (full Christmas dinner) and made cocktails (I made a wine cocktail with San Pelligrino and orange juice it was delicious and then a mudslide with kailua and baileys).  We are all so full right now. 

My family was very good to me this year. My son got me the third book in a series that was autographed by the author. That was exciting. My daughter bought me an ice cream maker! First of all I love ice cream. If I ever turn down ice cream there is something wrong with me- take me to the hospital right away. When I was a child we visited some friends and they made ice cream with a churn and snow. I was shocked- I didn't know you could make ice cream and it seemed like magic to me. 

wizardry- turning cream and chocolate into ice cream

My first attempt was chocolate with salted caramel chips. Spoiler alert,  it was delicious- velvety and rich chocolatey. Now I'm scheming for all the things I can do with this.....

Speaking of possibilities - Ed bought me a Pivo! If you aren't familiar, a Pivo is a 'smart tripod'. You download an app and connect it to your phone. then when you ride it videos and follows you around.  I tried it out for my Boxing day ride (yes, I rode 3 days in a row!) 

 I used a gorilla pod on one of my jump standards in the middle of the ring. 
 note the best mare standing while I set this up

It did lose me once but otherwise worked as advertised. Here's a clip of some of my pre-ride warm up:

Our rides these days tend to be around 30-45 minutes. The ground is not perfect and I don't want to make Carmen sore. I like to use winter to keep it light and fun. I find that she's really listening to my half-halts. 

white horse on a dark background definitely helps

ears forward for the camera!

not her best side but still pretty good

I am excited to use this for lessons. I won't use it for every ride on my own but will use it periodically to help me stay on track. It's supposed to be able to be used for a remote lesson so I'm wondering if I can make that work. 

I have had Christmas' that were truly awful. So it was nice to have such a nice, low key one that was about the simple pleasures: family, food and ponies.  And lots of love. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Winter Solstice

    In the winter
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees
~Mary Oliver~

The shortest day of the year fell on December 21. Here it was a beautiful winter day. The kind of day that people who say 'I love winter' are talking about. We had a fresh fall of snow and it was light and fluffy. The sun was shining and the air was warm. As we get further into winter those days will become like hens teeth. 

There are days that, for me, feel more special if I get to sit on the back of a horse. Winter solstice is one of those days. It marks the transition from fall to winter. It also marks the beginning of more sunlight. 
I know that with winter coming riding is going to become scarce but the times I do ride are about having fun and enjoying my horse.  The snow provided the perfect footing in the ring and so I tacked Carmen up and off we headed to the ring. 

I'm not a fool and, mysticism aside, lunging first seemed like a good idea. And it was- there was a fair amount of snow falling off of trees that made life pretty exciting. Once I was on we simply puttered around the ring.  My only goal was to enjoy the beautiful day and soak up the sunshine. I drew lines where I needed to but otherwise we simply puttered around walking and trotting. I wanted to focus on my own clarity of intent and signals so that I wasn't making it muddled for her. 

After about 30 minutes I hopped off. It had been fun and I needed to get onto more mundane tasks. The weather since then has gone to back to horrible winter weather. The kind that make you long for life in warmer climes. The thing to hang onto is the knowledge that better days are coming. 

poor exhausted Carmen just can't horse anymore

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Slow Start and a Strong Finish: 2021 Recap

 It's a snow day and I felt that this was a good time to recap my year and see how I did on my goals for 2021. 

It's looks pretty in the snow

Except  I couldn't find a post about goals. 

Did I go a year without goals? That doesn't sound like me. But the world has been super weird so, maybe? 

And then I found a post about my goals. In March. But it wasn't really a clear listing of my goals. Which probably speaks volumes about where I was back in March. To quote myself: 

"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."

So I guess I can say that I achieved my goal. Yay me. 

All kidding aside, I think I did spend a lot of time working on Carmen's and my relationship and it really paid off. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I felt a little untethered this year and it was hard to figure out what to focus on or to make plans since they often needed to be changed. 

We played a lot with liberty this year. It has been eye opening to create a connection without relying on the line. I learned that if she's not connected with me when she's loose there is little point in getting on unless I want to spend a lot of time getting her attention. So I almost always give her a little time free. If she leaves we play with that and if she stays then we're good to go. Still on my most favourite videos. 

Showing did not happen at all this past year. And that made it hard to stay focussed on movement goals. Which might have been a good thing. But it doesn't matter if it was or it wasn't- it's just what happened. 

I bought a new saddle this year. Who can forget this little Spanish beauty

That saddle gave me a solid seat, which lead to me get lots of confidence and letting my seat improve. turns out that if you are not afraid of being launched you can really let your seat be soft and your legs hang. I have transitioned back into my 'regular' dressage saddle and had to lengthen the stirrups one hole. I still use that saddle though. If Carmen is up or we're on a trail ride I bring it out. I am so happy that I purchased it. 

In June we headed out to Karen's for a weekend of fun and ponies. I mean, are there fun weekends that don't include ponies? (#kiddingnotkidding). I had a few breakthroughs with my seat and energy that weekend thanks to Karen. I also had a major breakthrough with Carmen getting into the wash stall. 

After a pretty quiet July, August was a very busy month with lots happening. 

Karen and Paula came for the weekend and Paula and I learned a lot. Horses have given me a lot of wonderful things, not the least of which is some very good friends. I have met some wonderful people that I would never have known (or unlikely to meet anyway). 

Guinness loves Paula

I I went to a  trail clinic  at a very busy lesson barn. The first one I booked was cancelled, but late summer a spot opened up in another I jumped on it. I am glad that I went. Carmen really enjoys them and is often the chillest horse of the group. Which is both hilarious and humbling. It was also incredibly hot and I almost melted. I also got to use my spanish saddle which worked really well with the obstacles. 
Carmen: what's next? I'm ready!

In late august I started taking lessons with Jane and things really took off after that. I felt like our learning curve just took off. I loved how Jane just 'got' Carmen and knew what we needed. A lot of the learning is going to find its way into my goals but honestly, it has been incredible how much I'm learning and how well it's working for us. 

This gave me far more confidence to take the Test Riding Clinic in September. It was a great experience, mostly because Jane was there to coach me through stuff. Attending this clinic made me excited over the idea of showing again. I rode in my Spanish saddle so I could be confident (have I said how much I love that saddle?). 

October was mostly lessons and having fun riding, by myself or with Julia. I took a lesson almost every week up until the last of November. Carmen had a Mast cell tumour removed off of her left ear and she was brilliant through the surgery and the recovery. You wouldn't even know that it happened. Unfortunately, the weather turned to crap and I haven't been able to have a lesson since my last one. 

In December our collaborative book was published. It was a leap of faith to participate in and I'm so glad that I did. I think that that often the best experiences involve taking a risk. 

I know that the year is not over yet but I'm not expecting any big news between now and December 31. It's amazing how much I did do this past year, given the state of the world. I'm trying hard to keep a positive outlook for 2022. How was your year?

I don't know about it being 'epic' but it 
definitely finished stronger than it started

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Still Standing

 This date is always hard for me. 

my all time favourite photo. d'Arcy and 
Steele are gone but Irish is still here

I guess anniversaries always are. While I wouldn't blame you for thinking it's been 7 years are you still honestly crying over it? the answer is yes, I sometimes still cry over the loss of my horse. 

For the record I still cry over the loss of my dogs and family members. Even friendships that I've lost. The older I get the more I allow myself to feel sadness for things that are, well, sad. 

Writing the book chapter this summer was hard. I had numerous tears and had to leave it for a bit and then come back to it. Editing it was really hard. I wanted to just leave it alone. It felt like I was picking a scab. But it also felt cathartic. Re-writing about it allowed me to deal with emotions that I simply was unable to handle at the time. It allowed me to see how much love there was and to appreciate that part of my journey. 

 Looking back on my history with Carmen also helped me to put it in perspective and I realized things that I hadn't before. I found these photos five years apart and I love the difference: 



 It seems fitting that the books arrived the day before the anniversary of Steele's death. It feels right. My story is now out there and there's no way to stop it. I know that it was on my blog but that still felt within my control. I could delete it whenever I wanted. And it's part of a larger work of women who found their way with horses despite everything. It's a good project to be part of. 

For those of you who ordered a book from me- those will be sent out this week. Shirley, at Ride a Good Horse, won the draw for a free copy and I will send it out this week too. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Winter is Coming

At least you can't see the mud under the snow

It's that time of year where I'm trying to squeeze rides in around work, early sunsets and rain. Still I have managed to get in three rides this week and a lunge session. 

racing the sunset and ignoring the cold wind

Friday was supposed to be rainy and windy so I figured I wouldn't be able to ride. But that morning it actually was nice out so I threw on my riding clothes and headed out to get Carmen. I was just about to tack her up when it started to rain hard. And sideways. With a shrug I decided to give her a good groom and then send her back outside. 

I went in to shower and then head to do errands. while I was out the sun came out, the wind died and it was lovely again. I hurried home and grabbed her again. At least this time I didn't need to groom. We were just heading out the door when it started to rain. 

Me: *looking at Carmen* are you doing this?

Carmen: oooh, look it's raining. That's too bad. I was so looking forward to our working together too. 

Me: *sigh* We're going up anyway. 

Carmen: But, but, it's RAINING. We can't work in the rain. Have you lost your mind? 

Me: It's okay. We can just lunge. That will be exercise. 

Carmen: Exercise for who, exactly? It seems to me that you just stand there while I run laps

Me: ...

Carmen: And your saddle. The rain will ruin it. 

Me: It will be fine. I can dry and condition it later

Carmen: I'm going to tell Rachael. She will not be pleased with you, ruining good leather like that. 

In the end we lunged, it was fine. No one melted. 

Saturday it was bitter cold in the morning and the ring was frozen solid. But the sun came out and the wind died and I was able to have a ride after all. There were a couple parts still a bit hard but we avoided them. This is what I love about my rubber/sand mix. 

3 hours earlier it was as hard as ice. Literally

As far as schooling goes, it's more exercise than any big leaps forward (except by Carmen of course). I'm trying to keep practicing what I learned in my lessons. I can feel how Carmen begins to look for an exit when the work gets a bit hard. For her, that means tension that leads to spooking. I put my legs on, take the outside rein and we work, with the ease coming from the trying not the evading. We're getting there.  I'd love to get at least one more lesson in before winter comes down hard. 

Carmen: I will never admit that I enjoy this too

In other news, Carmen's stitches came out and it looks amazing. I don't even think I'll be able to see a scar once the hair comes in. The vet was super impressed too. 

doesn't it look great?