dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, November 28, 2022

Weekend Warrior


It is no secret that I hate the time change. If I had the power we'd stay on the 'summer hours' clock but, alas, I don't have that kind of power. Riding and other horse related activities has to fit in with work, weather and daylight.  This means that I'm not getting a lot of time in the saddle. 

Quaid's first time in his mainsheet. I was pleasantly
surprised that he didn't chew it to bits

This would, in the past, cause me a lot of aggravation. This year, I'm a little more philosophical about it, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have *almost* silenced that voice in my head that chastises me about not riding and training. It's not completely silent and I do sometimes let it creep in. 

The other is that I have given notice that I will be retiring the end of March. So knowing that I won't have this issue next year helps a lot. 

my vision for April (perhaps don't tell Carmen 'kay?)

The temperatures have been fairly mild so I am trying to get some time in the saddle, even if it's brief. But I am still largely limited to the weekend. If the weather cooperates. Last Saturday was horrible- cold and gusty but Sunday was lovely. I managed to get both horses worked and a crapload of farm chores done. That night I slept like the dead. 
Carmen is embracing her inner mud Queen
Or she's trying to see if she can discourage me from getting ideas

I took Quaid for a 'hack' in the woods. He was totally chill
even with Carmen yelling in the field

We'll see if I can hang on to my zen outlook. It is typically the time of year when I dream of winning the lottery so I can build a small indoor. Of course my failure to even buy a ticket is the fatal flaw in that plan (well one of the flaws). 

This warm weather results in more sweat

How do you manage the winter? Does the time change affect you? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

If I Only Had the Brain

 There have been a few lessons that I have not blogged about but, rather than play catch up, I'm going to use my last lesson as an update on where we are. 

Back in mid-october, Jane began to work on us unlocking Carmen's neck. To be honest, the only thing that has been harder was getting Carmen to not spook and bolt 5-10 times a ride. In fairness to Carmen she has been able to do this for the past 7 years with me so one could argue that changing the rules was unfair. 

Carmen: yeah! I'd like to make that argument. It is totally unfair. 

It has been so difficult that I was beginning to think that she had a physical issue. Then one day I had Julia here and we practiced ponying Quaid. I know that Quaid had done it before but I am pretty sure that Carmen had not. We started with Julia walking Quaid beside us on a circle then I took the lead. It went well: 

But what I noticed was that Carmen was flexing to the inside when Julia was beside us and even though I had both reins in one hand and wasn't even asking. So it clearly had more to do with where her brain/attention was than anything else. 

To misquote Robert Frost: "The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the saddle". 

Armed with this new insight I've been working on getting the flexion, forward, rhythm and relaxation. And to be honest it's coming.  Sometimes in bits and pieces but it's coming. 

It's kind of fascinating - when Carmen is still and unbending her ears are straight up. When I get her to soften and bend, her ears immediately begin to flop. It's actually really good feedback. 

lots of nice things here but the ears are up and 
there is tension in the neck. 

compare to this where the ears and everything are relaxed

Our lesson started as always- with me giving Jane an update on how I think things are going. Then we begin to put the pieces together. Jane immediately honed in on my hand holding the whip. I tend to carry the whip down but it needs to be across my thigh if my hands are in the correct position. Then I couldn't drop it so that I could keep focused on having my hands correct.  It seems that my hands like to cheat a lot. 

As we get Carmen flexed to the inside she's able to come into alignment. When she's focused out of the ring, her head is tilted out, her shoulder is falling in and her haunches are trailing. Add in the stiffening of the base of her neck and she is free to do whatever she chooses in terms of spooking, etc. 

Carmen did spook a couple times. Each time we just regrouped and went back. There was one moment where Jane was standing close to the rail and Carmen spooked in and I thought she was going to run over Jane. '

WATCH OUT! I yelled. Jane took a step away and we regrouped. 

do you need a break  Jane asked, like she hadn't almost been trampled. 

no, I said,  I can't let her have a break after that. 

Near miss

So we went back to work. my tendency to ride Carmen below threshold reared it's head and Jane kept telling me to 'ride her forward' and to stop pulling on the reins. Finally I decided 'fuck it, let's go die' and began to ride her forward. Spoiler alert- we did not die. 

Also, second spoiler- the work got a lot better. Jane keeps telling me that if you can activate the hind leg the brain will follow. And I believe her on an intellectual level. It's just my body and the lizard part of my brain disagrees.  Jane used the phrase "ask for more but sit slower'. I figured that she meant for me to get larger steps behind not faster.  Jane also got after me for pulling back. 'it's subtle but it's impacting her stretching out her neck'. I had to rewind the video a couple times to see it and then I was all 'sonofabitch'. So that's something to keep awareness of. I know that when Carmen shortens her neck my instinct is to pull back when I need to ride her forward into contact. 

I love this screenshot so much

Carmen is quite happy to lean on my hands and pull me around. So Jane was asking me to ask, soften, and even give it fully to see if Carmen would carry herself. Then to slowly take it back and repeat. At first Carmen would dive but she began to soften and carry herself more which was great. I am sure that if my timing was better it would advance faster but, well, there you have it. 

our shoulder in is getting better. ignore the rogue
left hand (and leg)

A couple weeks ago I was watching Jane teach and she said something that blew my mind: half-pass is a traverse (haunches in) on the diagonal line. when there was a break I asked about that and it led to me fake riding one in the ring. I then played with it with Carmen a couple times and it seemed so much easier than 'half-pass' where i think I have to shove her sideways.  It's  a bit of a mental game but one that makes sense to me. Jane had us play with that a little and it was a ton of fun. Carmen likes this work too.  here's a brief clip of our work. I do love how she looks when she's warmed up and on the muscle. 

The canter was a 'mistake' but a good one in that she offered it as a way to go forward and it was a nice transition. 
Puddles continue to be easy

All in all it was a really good lesson. I felt like I rode to my full capabilities and we're making progress. 

Carmen: Is it time for cookies? I think it's time for cookies

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Baby Genius Update

 First of all, thank you everyone for your kindness about our loss of Irish. We are all doing well. It helps that his passing was quiet and kind. I spent Saturday re-organizing Irish's stall to move Quaid into it. That seems to have helped them adjust as well. We spent Saturday together just being in each other's company. It was helpful, I believe, for all of us. 

we have had a couple frosty mornings but the
weather has been beautiful. 

But this post is to update on Quaid (side note- I have some lessons with Carmen to write about as well but we'll save that). 

About me? Hello my internet friends
(PC B Schuler)

Quaid is doing well. In many ways he's the typical 2 year old gelding- he's growing so his body parts don't always align and he's always hungry. As well, he wants to put his mouth on everything. He's not a biter but I suspect that at some point I will be the victim of teeth (even by accident). I am not getting super aggressive about it- I know he's just trying to engage. When he starts to nibble on me I rub his muzzle and move him away. When it feels more intrusive I send him off. 

I've started re-watching Stacy Westfall's 'Jac' series. 
Raven is fascinated by horse training. 

I've introduced Quaid to a bit. I started with a happy mouth mullen mouth but after a few trials I dont' think he liked it (anyone want to buy a 5" mullen mouth?). So I switched to my stubben golden wing and he seems to like it a lot better. Teaching him to accept a bridle has been incredibly easy. The biggest thing is getting it onto his head without him eating it. 

Quaid: ooh, this is interesting let me chew it

Me:  wait, no, stop, here let me get that out. 

Quaid: but it's fun to chew!

Me: here chew on this *slips bit into mouth*

Quaid: *gnaw, spit, gnaw, gapes mouth* , I can't spit this out, 

I started with brief sessions with the bit in the barn, then while we were working and now it's part of our getting ready routine. 

my half-bridle + halter,
maybe not attractivebut it works well

I do love his brain (have I said that before? It feels like I've said that before). I find doing something, getting a little success and leaving it, pays off big time. 

We've been practicing lining up at the mounting block. The first time I brought it out into the ring he looked at it and got ready to climb it. Fair enough, last time I presented him with a wooden obstacle that was the plan. 

The thursday before we put Irish down we had all three horses in the ring. Caelen rode Irish, Julia rode Carmen and I played with Quaid while telling them things from the ground. Quaid was happy to folllow me and hang out and then go to work. I lined him up at the mounting block and leaned over him moving my hands and waving about and then jumping off the block. He was fine. I've been leaning some weight on him and so did this time too. He was fine. The third time we went back I put my entire weight on him - hanging over his back like a sack of potatoes. He looked at me, got a little unbalanced so walked forward a few steps. I slid off and he stopped and looked at me 'well that was weird'. He wasn't spooked or upset. So I guess, technically, I rode my horse for the first time.  

I want to start ground driving him this year and have ordered a bitless bridle so that I'm not putting any harshness on his mouth. My plan is to have the bit there and, as he understands, start using rein and bit pressure. 

Other things he does well: cross tie, single tie (ground tie is coming, it's better in the ring then in the barn), pick up all four feet for me and the farrier, move away when I'm feeding, lead, and lunge. He understands how to canter on the lunge. He will willingly walk through puddles but is less certain about trotting or cantering through them. 

Here's an example: he stepped on his lead and couldn't move. After trying he looked to me to sort it out. 

why are you taking photos when I'm trapped.?

He's also doing well being taken away from Carmen or having her leave him. I plan to make that even better by having them separated without being able to see each other. I suspect that Carmen will struggle more with that. 

He's really just all that I'd like in a 2 year old- curious, willing and basically a sponge. He'd be easy to push and I'm trying to make sure that I don't do that and create holes. Just because he does something correctly the first time doesn't mean that he understands it. In fact I assume that he doesn't and it's simply luck (like hitting a bullseye with a dart the first time you play).  I like it better when he tests a bit so that I can show him what I'm looking for. 

H'e just so much fun. 

he looks like such a baby here