dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, August 5, 2022

Four Rides and a Lesson

 The heat has definitely hit us and it's brutal. Not Texas brutal but as a Canadian, it's hard to deal with. With the humidity it's been up to 38 degrees (about 100 in Fahrenheit). The nice thing about being on vacation is that I can ride early before it gets too bad. 

The chickens are seeking all kinds of ways to cool off-
like sitting on wet cement blocks


I tacked up Carmen and we went up to the ring. I did a little in hand work but she seemed fine so I hopped on and hard a good ride. Nothing spectacular, but I appreciated that, after 10 days off, she was fine to hop on and be ridden. 


I hadn't been able to have a lesson for a while- my vacation, a lost shoe and weather all got in the way. But I booked a lesson for early Monday. Note: all the riding photos are from the lesson. It was still warm but not brutal. The main theme of the lesson was to get Carmen to stretch down and over her back.  

It's no secret that this is our worst manoeuvre. In fact, one of the main reasons I want to ride higher levels is to not have to do this.

 I know, I know, not the right attitude for training. 

The issues in the past is that Carmen will often take the longer rein and  reef it down and/or pop up her head and spook away.  This makes me very reluctant to let her stretch into a long rein unless everything is perfect. And I am rarely perfect. 

But Jane felt it was time and, to quote her 'you need to expect more of Carmen'

here we are not stretching, Note Jane's assistant 

Our walk rhythm was pretty steady and clear so it was time to ask her to reach for the bit. 

My understanding of the exercise was this (don't blame Jane if I'm wrong): 

- Ask Carmen to soften to the inside rein. 

-Give the rein (don't loop it, soften it) and see if she will follow it down. 

-As that improved, give both reins, but don't loop them. 

When she follows the rein, ask her for more. 

It wasn't a hard lesson in terms of physical work but mentally it was hard. 

If I had a quarter for every time I heard 'don't take back with the reins, push her to it' I'd be well on my way to a new fancy saddle pad. Poor Jane. She's very patient. 

A horrible moment in the walk but she's reaching for the bit. 

As we went along I could feel her starting to figure it out. Both of us were tentative about it and neither of us were too sure of each other. Watching the video after was eye opening. What felt like a huge stretch wasn't that big when I looked at it. I also was frustrated with my shoulders going to the right. Jane is always telling me to turn them to the inside. I would swear I was doing so but when I look at the video my right shoulder is actually back compared to my left. Which means I'm twisting contrary to the way we're travelling and NOT HELPFUL. 

Sigh. Riding is hard. 

But what I could also see in the video is that Carmen and I were both trying very hard to figure this out. After walking we tried it again at the trot. Which is, of course, exponentially harder. 

Not stretching but soft so I'l take it

It's very hard to ask her to soften without taking back. At least for me. I also often stopped asking once she dropped so she'd carry a bit and then go back up. 

At the end of the ride I could feel her really start to understand begin to ask me 'is this what you want?' 

Hey look, no pulling. 

Totally cherry picked photo from the video but I 
keep it to remind myself about what we can do

It was a great lesson and one I really enjoyed. I knew I had some good homework to take away. 


The morning was foggy and cool and it was quite windy. I got Carmen ready eager to work on the stretching again. it quickly became apparent that Carmen was feeling quite worried about the wind and weather. I did not feel safe giving her a long enough rein to get away. When I did she would spook to the inside. 

I could feel her ramping up. In the past I would have dismounted, lunged her and felt discouraged. This time I took a breath and told her that she could feel her feels but I was going to keep her to task and we were going to be fine. 

I would ask her to stretch a little with the softening of the inside rein. When Carmen gets tight she locks the base of her neck and it's hard to bend her and keep her straight. It usually goes: lock neck, drop weight to inside shoulder, deke away.  So I kept asking her to bend and bend her neck. I definitely asked for more bend in the neck then would be technically 'correct' but I needed her to let go. 

She was not happy. Then it started to sprinkle and then rain hard. I decided we weren't in a good spot so we kept going. 

It was not a great ride. But what was great was that at the end she was actually stretching to the bit and I could give her a longer rein to do so. I was happy with it but sent a message to Jane asking if I had done the right thing. Based on my explanation she agreed and also reminded me to not give her more then she was able to take. Carmen does not like me to drop the rein, she feels unsupported. 

We joke that Dottie is the real trainer. Here she's
definitely watching us pretty intently


The weather was warmer and still with a heat warning for later. Carmen was definitely feeling it. I hopped on and asked for the stretching again. This time we started where we ended the day before. That made me happy. 

We spent some time at the walk asking her to stretch and then we went to work on our trot and canter. After the stretching everything felt a lot easier. Although at first, Carmen was asking if we could back to the stretching work and forget this other stuff. 

After some good work we finished with the stretch walk again. This time I was able to give the rein with my hands past the braid and still have contact and not pull back. We even played with walking a figure eight on the long rein and it was pretty good (especially since I've started to focus on my shoulders). 

I was really happy with our ride. 


I gave Carmen Thursday off. Today when I got on we picked up right were we left off. She seems to have figured it out and decide that she likes it. It's clear to me how much core is required to keep the horse from falling on the forehand and speeding up. Especially at the trot. 

It's also clear that warming up like this makes the work later so much better. Carmen is looser and freer and there's much less discussion about forward or steering. or even this riding thing as she likes to call it.

I'm hoping that we can continue to make progress on this and that the 'We suck at stretching' belief goes away.  

I do love summer staycations. They are both relaxing and allow me to make a lot of progress with riding. 

The End. (don't hate me)


  1. Sounds like a great vacation! Love the stretching!

  2. Sounds like you're on the right track! Riding isn't easy, that's for sure. I laugh at people who think it is.

  3. your summer vacation sounds pretty glorious to me! charlie can be really great about stretching down early in a ride, but finds it harder to hold without running after we've been working for a little while. just one more thing to keep working on, forever and ever lol

    1. We’ll always be working, lol. I’m finding that it takes a lot of core strength for both of us to not just plop on the forehand

  4. You're doing great and Carmen is too! And I agree riding isn't easy. My mother could never understand why I took lessons all the time after Erik was 4 yrs. old. She told me "well the horses run on the track at 2 yrs. old and they're trained." It was a losing battle trying to get people to see it wasn't a waste of money on lessons.

    1. It really is. But we see the value so it’s all good.

  5. Sounds like a very productive week! Stretching is hard! Eros has definitely been taught to stretch to the bit, but he's the absolute best at faking everything so he totally cheats.


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