dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Farm Chronicles

 Things have been busy here on the farm. 

Everyone appears to be shedding. The air is full of dog hair, horse hair and chicken feathers.  I honestly never knew how much a shepherd could shed. Our rug upstairs looks like a stuffed animal exploded.  

Ed has been busy taking down the old shed in getting ready for the new, bigger one. When I saw this going down I had to run out and take a video. The guys were disappointed that it didn't fall apart. I was shocked to see that it had a floor. I thought it was dirt. But that shed had been there for decades so was pretty sturdy. 

Riding is going really well. Every one seems to consolidate things a little more. Even those that don't start all that good. 

The chickens are moulting so egg laying is pretty scant and they are a bit grumpy. I found them today hovering under Irish's stall leaping on his feed. 

Seems only fair, because it seems that Carmen has developed a taste for chicken feed. There have been a couple times when I have found Carmen out in the barn when I come in to do night feed. I always figured that I left her door unlatched. I'm pretty careful at night but a couple mornings ago I came in to find her loose in the barn. She looked at me and then went over to the container I have the chicken feed in (I have it in the barn until we rebuild the shed). Using her nose she flipped it up and grabbed a little. I was worried but I saw that she had just a little. I put her in and fed her breakfast. I then made sure that I put the feed in a different, inaccessible place. 

Last night Ed and I were going out to dinner which makes it later when I do the night feed. So I gave them extra hay, checked her latch 3 times and then left. When I came home later I could hear hoofbeats in the barn. 

oh oh.  

Yup, she was loose in the barn. Clearly someone has figured out to open her stall. 

Carmen: You were LATE. And I was STARVING. Sometimes a girl has to help herself. 

The chicken feed was secure but there was a mess in the hay. It looked like she sampled each bale and emptied the wheelbarrow of hay. It wasn't a huge mess so I decided that cleaning was a tomorrow problem. 

I fed the horses and then used some rope to tie her stall closed until I could fix it the next day. 

This should work

It's nice that everyone is working to keep me busy and entertained. 

Monday, April 18, 2022

It's Not Where You Start

 My weekend away got me all inspired to ride more. I had some really good rides last week (in between the rain). Every good ride feels like a nice little check in my confidence column.  With the weather looking to be good for Saturday so I made plans for a morning lesson. Unfortunately I was unable to ride Wednesday and Thursday (god, will it ever stop raining?). Normally I would be worried about that but I wan't really. Julia's sister, Dominique came to watch and then to ride Irish after. 

Carmen was a bit tight getting ready but we worked through it with our groundwork. When I mounted I looked over and saw Irish sleeping in the paddock but his hind end was dangerously close to the fence. I always sit for a about 30-60 seconds before walking off. I just turned away with a plan to ask Dominique to shoo him away from the fence when he must have hit it. I say that because there was a big kerfuffle in the paddock behind us and Carmen spooked. 

screen grab from my pivo video

got her back and we turned around. Irish was looking around wildly, 
Irish: something bit me on my butt!'
Carmen: oh my god do you see it? 
Irish: no, it must be hiding around here! 

So of course Carmen was convinced that there was a monster lurking up by C. Normally I would have dismounted done more ground work and while having the sinking feeling that my lesson was going to be a disaster.  But I knew I had tools and so I decided to keep riding and work her through it. And she did okay. 

When Jane came we talked about our past rides and how today started. Jane had us just walking around and getting her to slow down. When Carmen gets tight she will walk with fast, short, choppy strides. I was to slow down the front end and ask the hind end to step under more. This has been hard for Carmen and I. She wants to go faster and I feel like that is better so we both think we're right. Turns out we're wrong. 

But the three of us worked together and things began to get better. 

The biggest issue with this is that when Carmen gets worried like this I get overly reliant on the inside hand. It's a very hard habit to break. Mostly because I'm not in control of it- the part of my brain that is responsible for self-preservation takes over and it does not really want to listen to other arguments. I tell you this so you don't feel the need to write to me about how I need to cut off my left hand- trust me I know. 
evidence of rogue left hand

We moved into trot and it was, predictably, not great. 
but pretty horse, right? 

Again, we were fast and choppy. Putting my leg on without capturing the front just leads to fastness, not throughness. Jane had us do this really cool exercise- shoulder in, straighten and then lengthen stride. It required some carefulness with my aids. Of course when I straightened and asked for lengthen I ended up pushing her on the forehand and faster. 

So then Jane told me to lengthen in 'slow motion' which really helped me to conceptualise it. Bit by bit we kept getting better and more and more in sync. Here's some video if you like. 

*Side note: I'm loving my Pivo for capturing every moment of my lesson. It's working really well and it's really helping me to see things. But going through it for clips and photos takes some time. 

I honestly would have been happy with ending it there but of course we did not. Jane had us come down to A and put us through our paces with canter. Jane wants the canter cue to be very subtle  and I'm tanking it. Carmen is confused by it and ends up going faster. But we work through it and we will get it. 

My dependence on my inside hand really reared it's ugly head here. I just couldn't let it go. Even when I thought I was, when I look at the video I see that I am not. Sigh. Why is riding so hard? Anyway, we were going up and down and then Jane said 'put both reins in your outside hand'.  And without even hesitating I did.  

And it was like a light went off. Without my inside hand I could focus on using my seat and leg to direct where we went. And Carmen instantly went 'THANK YOU'.  After a few circles and we came back to trot I was beaming. Then I could keep the hand but Jane said every time you think she's not listening to the inside rein soften it'. 

If you want to see a video here you go: 

We ended with some really positive canter work. It was the most relaxed and easy. I can see I'm not as tense or bouncy on her. So it's progress. 

I know I've said this before, but I really am enjoying my lessons. I am being pushed and pushed and sometimes I wonder if I even know how to ride at all. But I kept progressing.  I end up exhausted and wanting more at the same time.  

I love this photo and comparing it to the beginning of the lesson:

I could look a this photo all day

It's not where you start, it's where you finish that matters. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Team Building

 Last weekend Carmen and I went on a little getaway to visit Karen and Stacie. Karen and I were itching to have a horse weekend, we just had to wait for the weather to cooperate. This is becoming a tradition- I did the same thing last year.  

This was our weather the Monday/Tuesday before we left. 

Fortunately, after the crap weather on Monday things got better. Albeit muddier. 

Carmen was fully embracing her inner pig

There used to be a time that Carmen rarely was muddy. As she becomes more relaxed she's much more likely to roll. Everything is a trade off I guess. 

Funny story about Carmen being more relaxed:  I was loading the trailer and Guinness was bugging me to throw his toy. I finally did but my throw went wild I watched helplessly as it sailed towards Carmen's butt in the field. 
uh oh I thought. 
However, it landed right beside her with a thump. She gave a big jump and, instead of taking off like I expected, she looked at the toy beside her and then looked around questioningly. Guinness and I adopted our most innocent expressions. She shrugged and went back to eating. 
Guinness looked at me 'I'm not going to get that'. 
So I walked in and got the toy. I also may have told Carmen that it was Guinness' fault.....

When it was time to load Carmen she was a bit wound up about it (I follow the same routine so she knew what was coming). But she loaded easily and we were off. When we arrived she was very calm and walked into her stall all relaxed. 

Stacie has a little cat colony (all fixed) and I am so jealous. They are all so cute. 

waiting for me to hitch up the horses

I was going for a fun weekend but I also had a goal in mind. I am good at taking Carmen places and making sure she feels okay. This time I wanted to take her somewhere with the idea that I didn't have to coddle her but instead we could work. And for me I didn't want to spiral or just be a passenger. 

After I settled her in and got organized I took her out and rode. It was a good ride. She challenged me a bit with one corner after a little while but I just rode through it and it became a non-issue. I feel that we are slowly peeling away the spooking habit. 

On Saturday I had booked a lesson with Jane at the stable. I figured she would definitely make us work in case I wanted to let things slide. We booked it for the afternoon which meant we were able to have a leisurely morning. 

My lesson did not disappoint. Carmen was probably better than she was at home in terms of behaviour (but not by a lot). Jane noted that I was doing better with my inside hand. At times I was giving it away too much. Carmen was also much more forward than in our first lesson, although that still took some work. 

Of course I overthought a lot of things which interfered with being effective with the aids.  It was a simple ride but it felt really good and I was very  happy with Carmen. Even at the end when she was getting tired she was trying to do it rather than trying to get out of work. 

I like how she's reaching for my contact and my arms are not tight

Our trot work is coming

Here are some brief videos of our work. While there is a lot to improve (when won't there be) I love how we're just working. Not trying to deal with behavior. 

I was so happy with our work. And so was Carmen. After she was quite happy to go outside and hang out in a paddock. 

I rode sunday morning but it was short and I really just focused on her stretching and relaxing. I was super happy with her all weekend. She stayed with me. I even played with some liberty work and she was right there. 

Coming home she loaded like a doll and travelled easily. 

All in all it was a wonderful weekend. Having my horses home is great but I don't get to ride and talk horses with others and I miss that. Jim made some wonderful meals and every night I went to bed tired and full. I love my conversations with Karen even though I often don't really remember them after. It's just the easy conversation of friends. I got to schmooze with Kalimo again and play with my fabulous god-horse Leza. 

this is so me

I know I say this every spring but she feels different this year.  I probably say it because it's true. Each year she gets a little better. This year she feels like a real partner. 

definitely want to make this an annual thing

Sunday, April 3, 2022

A Fool for April

Well it's April and signs of spring are starting to show. Every morning when I go out to feed the horses the birds are singing with abandon. That and having actual light outside warms my heart. 

Which is good because spring is a fickle creature in Canada. 

I have so many layers out that it's ridiculous. Same for the horses. I am going between them being naked, to a rain sheet or a light blanket. While I'm complaining, I am still feeling better. I am getting more opportunities to ride. 

Some of them even when I don't think it's going to happen. Julia and I made plans to ride one day but when she arrived it was pouring. So we brought the horses in and gave them a great grooming. Just as we were done the rain stopped so we quickly threw tack on and managed a 30 minute ride. 

Yesterday it wasn't raining but it was brutally windy. I wasn't sure we'd be able to ride (or, frankly, even if I wanted to). That morning I did a bunch of work up in the ring- levelling out some low spots and then dragging it a couple times. I have some sand on order and will work that in when it arrives. 

I love my ring. The sun looks nice but that wind was wild

In the end neither Julia nor I chickened out so we got ready. Irish and Carmen were not super impressed with this development. I lunged her first but she didn't seem to be too silly. When I get on I don't coddle her anymore. By that I mean that we walk around the ring and do our warm up. If she tightens and gets spooky I put my leg on and keep the outside rein. It's amazing how much that works to get her settled. Especially since I don't give up. With the birds flitting about the trees beside the ring Carmen can get a bit distracted.  

Anyway, we're trotting around warming up heading down the long side towards the mounting block (coming at us on the left side of the photo) when Carmen slammed on the brakes, deked left and leapt across the middle of the ring. As she launched I put my leg on and started laughing. We landed, I put my leg on and we trotted around in a circle while I giggled away. 
'oh Carmen, so many feelings'.  We circled a few times and then carried on with the ride. Before, this move would have unseated me and I would have been frightened about coming off.  That would make me react defensively and piss me off. Instead I'm working on embracing Carmen in all her moods. Having my seat improved with lessons also helps quite a bit. Anyway, after that we carried on with just a couple little glitches. 

Carmen: you're not fun anymore

Today was a sweet April day: cool in the morning but the sun was shining and the wind was light. Perfect for riding. I am wanting to get away from having to lunge at the start of every ride so today I didn't put on her halter once tacked up. Instead, we did a little ground work with the bridle on and I hopped on.  There were a few corners causing some concern but nothing major. I've been working on her understanding the turn on the forehand and then moving that into our work on a circle. I think we're getting it (I'll find out for sure in our next lesson).

 I'm finding my consistency of expectations and not reacting is making her happier in our work. Our discussions are shorter and she's enjoying time with me. We worked for a solid 35 minutes and then I asked her to go to the gate so I could open it. Clearly she had not forgotten that work. Then Julia and I and the ponies headed for our first hack of the year. 

my version of Sunday church

It was awesome. I started with a rather short rein but by the end we were on a long rein (except for when we headed home. I'm not stupid). Carmen likes to stop a few times and just relax. I let her because I think it's sweet. And because I also like to stop and just breathe in the woods so I get it. 

It was a beautiful day. Which is good because we're expecting snow tomorrow. I'm hoping that the snow won't stick around because I have some plans for Carmen and I next weekend.