dancing horses

dancing horses

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Summer Wrap Up

This summer has been a bit unbelievable with all the events going on. Right now I am sitting in my living room on the couch listening to Tropical Storm Lee (formerly known as Hurricane Lee), blowing outside my window. So far we've been fortunate- trees are still standing and our power is on (unlike the over 136,000 without power). September storms are not unusual but they have definitely ramped up in intensity. After everything else that has happened this summer it seems a bit like adding insult to injury. 

it's funny because it's true (lol*sob)

The horses are tucked in safely. Carmen has some opinions on the quality of room service and Quaid is feeling a bit stir-crazy but they are fine.  I think if I wasn't retired I'd be a lot more frustrated in trying to find good weather for riding. 

Friday was warm and calm and I took full advantage by riding Carmen, working Quaid and meeting a friend for an ice cream treat. 

S'more ice cream. Soooo good

Quaid is doing really well with our training. The flies are driving him bonkers so not all our sessions are as productive as I'd like. The gnats are really bad with all the wet. But when I do work him he soaks it up like a sponge. Our steering is coming along. His 'whoa' is very good but standing for a longer than five seconds is a struggle. I am no worried, it's coming. 

Me: can you stand awkwardly for a photo? 
Quaid: you betcha

Both horses have decided to mess with my morning routine. Normally I feed them and go get my coffee. I then turn them out and clean the stalls. Lately they've not wanted to leave but instead hang out in the stalls. It's a real PITA because they get in my way. I've started shooing them out and closing the door behind them. They are not impressed. 

Carmen: We are outraged at this treatment!
Quaid: yes, we are OUTSIDE! 
Carmen: no, it's outraged
Quaid: Oh right- we are raged outside! 
Carmen: *sigh* no no no: OUTRAGED
Quaid: ohhhh. Carmen, what does 'outraged' mean? 
Carmen: that we are really really angry
Quaid: well I'm a little sad but I can't say I'm angry
Carmen: you don't have to be angry, you just have to convince the servant you are outraged
Quaid: why? 
Carmen: so she'll change her behaviour. It's called 'horse training'
Quaid: I thought horse training was us learning things. 
Carmen: no skippy, it's the horse training the human to be a better a servant. Now get your outraged face on . 
Quaid: how does this look? 
Me: adorable. 
Carmen: I hate working with amateurs
Me: I think that when you start cleaning your own stalls you can stay in as long as you like

In really happy news Quaid is now back to being barefoot. The last time the farrier came out a couple weeks ago his hoof was totally normal so we decided we could pull his shoes. I watched him pretty carefully and he's still 100% sound. I am so grateful that the hoof puncture nightmare is all behind us. 

if this doesn't warm your heart it's dead

Fall is coming and, to be honest, I'd like a couple frosts to kill off the bugs. That way we can enjoy working the horses without being tortured. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy


Buckle up folks, I'm going to recap the show from my perspective (since you've heard Carmen's already). In the days leading up to it Carmen was a bit spicy. And it wasn't just me, Julia rode her and she was pretty spicy then too. But, to be honest, it didn't really bother me too much- Carmen is often spicy. 

However, when she was being difficult about bathing her Friday morning and then in her stall leading to the trailer I was a little concerned. This concern was dissipated when we arrived and she totally relaxed at the venue. Quaid came along for the ride and he was pretty easy going about all of it. Except when I would take Carmen away. But that's all part of the learning. 

The nice thing about these shows is that you can book times to ride in the show ring on Friday afternoon. It's a great way to familiarise the horse with the ring. Of course Carmen has been there many times but it hasn't always been sunshine and roses.  I went through our groundwork exercises first and then hopped on and took her into the ring.  Jane was there to give some coaching which was wonderful. In fact she was available for all her students for the whole weekend. I am sure she was exhausted but we were all incredibly grateful. 

Anyway, Carmen was energised but tuned in and we were having a good ride. Then the show committee came in and explained that due to some issues, they had to water the ring while were in it. I figured it would be good for us so decided to stay. I was quite impressed with how she handled the person walking and spraying. We finished on a good note and I put her away happy. 

A photo of the pretty sunrise Saturday
morning to break up the wall of text

Our rides were late in the afternoon and with my least favourite timing of an hour apart. I find that too long to keep riding and too close to give a real break. I figured I would play it by ear and maybe  take her back to the stall and take off her bridle to have a rest. 

I spent the morning hand grazing the horses, watching my friends ride and hanging out with the horses. It as a 'new to us' judge at the show and as the morning went on information began to circulate that she was tough. I heard that she had just returned from a judging a young riders competition in Europe. She was originally from Europe and now living in Ontario. While she was a tough scorer it seemed that, while she would give 3's (or lower) she also would give 8's. 

Carmen: untie me woman, I'll just be outside on the grass.

I've been timing our warm-ups and it takes about 45 minutes for her to feel soft and ready so my plan was to mount up about 45 minutes before my ride. Jane was there to help with the warm up and Carmen felt great. The ring got a little crowded so I headed outside to walk around for a few minutes before our ride. 
Our first test was 2-1 and it felt really good. Carmen was tight and I was riding her very carefully. But it was a lot better than when we rode this same test in the June show. Here's the video: 

Carmen got a little strong at the end and took over a bit. When I went out I decided that she felt like she had a lot in the tank so I decided to stay on. I walked for a bit, then added in some turn on the haunches, leg yields etc. Then before I knew it it was time for our second test (2-2):

I was happy with this test too. For both of them I knew we weren't perfect. There were definite bobbles but I was having fun riding Carmen. In the show ring. 

After I cooled her out and put her away I went to get my tests. I was slightly disappointed but not surprised to see that my scores were in the high 50's. I don't like to get below 60 but I was still not upset. We were last in both classes and I was still really happy with how we did. I never felt any of those emotions that I have felt showing Carmen before:  out of control,  worried, frustrated. Instead I felt like we both did our best and worked together. 

Carmen: whatever, I look great in any colour

I read the tests over carefully later that day. The summary remarks at the end were really interesting. Both said that Carmen was a lovely, willing horse that was being held by a strong grip on the reins. For example "a pretty horse, willing to work with you". My first thoughts were 'yeah well you don't know Carmen. I need to keep her under control'. 

All night those comments kept rolling around in my head. You see I rarely think of Carmen as 'willing' because, for so long, she was not willing at all.  We have a history of bolting, spinning and even running backwards. 

But what if that wasn't true anymore? The judge saw a tense horse at times but didn't see she as uncooperative. What if I built this story and now accept it as gospel. 

What would happen if I rode her as though she was willing? 

So I decided to try it. 

I spent Sunday morning taking care of the horses and thinking about my plan. 

Can you spot Quaid tied to the post
while I cleaned his stall?

I shared my plan with Jane and she was all for it. We spent the warm up getting me to soften the rein and push her to contact not take back. It was a definite pattern break for us and it was difficult. Of course there was no way I was going to master that in one afternoon. But it was a start. Carmen was a bit confused: 
Hey you're doing it wrong- I lean, you pull. That's how we roll. 

Except this time when I felt her being to lean I would put on my leg and soften. I think Jane was happy. I know I was. Soon it was time to go in. When we walked in the ring while waiting for the judge to ring the bell I could feel us wanting to fall back into old patterns. 
I took a deep breath 'no, I'm riding a willing horse, I don't need to micromanage. And if it goes to hell that is okay. 

Spoiler alert- it did not go to hell. It went the opposite of hell. Every time I rode by C I gave the reins. I am not saying I never took back, I'm just saying that I was actively trying to not have a tight hold.  I thought that I didn't have any videos of my rides on Sunday but it turns out that Katie, who was working the gate, recorded on her phone and sent them to me (I am so grateful Katie, thank you!): 

My second ride was also good. I don't know if you can tell but a couple times I actually laughed: 

At the end of the ride as I was walking by the judge I heard her say ' nice'. I was thrilled with everything. I know that the rides were better but I wasn't expecting necessarily a big change in scores. That typically doesn't happen by more than a few points. 

I hosed Carmen and cooled her off feeling hot and happy. I felt we had done some really good work. 

Paula came to the barn and said 'I think you'll be happy with your score'.  After I put the horses away I went to watch some rides and grab my test sheets. 

I was shocked. Not that my scores had improved but that they had got up 7 and 5% respectively! We placed 3rd and 2nd but I actually don't remember in what class. I've never had an improvement by that much unless the first test was spectacularly bad. The comments were nice too. This is my favourite: "This is a lovely horse, quite eager and in front of your legs. Work on your contact, softer hands, a steady yet supple, giving (sometimes forgiving) connection'. Noted. 


Carmen napped during the final ribbon and awards. It was adorable. 
Carmen: my work here is done. 

It's funny how patterns become expectations were find ourselves in a reinforcement loop. Even when I've been working on changing the pattern. Even when I thought I knew better.  I'm not beating myself up- I totally understand why. I'm just glad that the judge said what she did at the time I was able to hear it. It's not like others haven't been working on getting me there.  I think that things just coalesced at this point to help me understand it at a deeper level. 

Now I just need to stay on this path and see where we go. 

Monday, September 4, 2023

Carmen's Perspective: Show Recap

 Hello internet fans, Carmen here. I am jumping on to give you my side of the weekend before the servant comes on and gets all philosophical and wordy.  

Quaid: Can I tell it? I was there too! 

Carmen: shush! You were just along for the ride. 

It's important for a mare to take things 
into her own hooves. 

First of all I knew something was up because the moving stall has been parked by the barn. Then when I had a bath I was pretty sure and when she put me in a blanket for overnight the jig was up. It was hard to sleep that night in that stupid blanket and I cannot be held responsible for how dirty I managed to get underneath of it. After all she should invest in better clothes, don't you agree? 

I was not happy to be sprayed and then hosed with cold water first thing the next morning and I made sure that she knew it. I mean, really! 

Then she took me to the moving stall (she calls it a trailer but I've never seen it on a trail so....). I did not want to leave Quaid but I am a lady so I walked right on and then called loudly so he would know I hadn't forgotten him. The servant must have understood me because she brought him out. She'll try to tell you that that was her plan but we know different. She thinks she's all smart because Quaid walked right on but it was because I told him to. 

Carmen: make sure you don't 
eat all the hay

We all know that she has a habit of taking us place and doing different things and I hate surprises. When we arrived I knew that it was a show we were doing and completely relaxed. After making sure our accommodations were in tip top shape she put on my tack and took me to the ring. I know this now, we go in, I behave so she's happy and stops. But first I have to  be a little difficult so that she doesn't take me for granted. 

The ring was dusty and people came in to hose it off while we were working. I kept one eye on it to make sure I didn't get sprinkled (see hating surprises above) but figured if I was what she calls 'behaved' then we'd finish sooner. And we did. So that was good. 

Teresa: I never thought that shed be so calm
being ridden past a person spraying

Quaid: I didn't like when you went away. I get bored with no one to talk to. 

Carmen: just suck it up, at least you weren't bathed and forced to work. 

how can you leave this face?

Overnight she put a different blanket on me and it kept me clean. That made her happy and lord knows I just want her to be happy. She was late in the morning. Don't tell me that horses can't tell time because we totally can. Other horse's servants were there and gave us hay but not our grain, no matter how many times I tried to explain to them. Humans are so dumb. 

In the morning she took us out to graze on the grass. I got impatient with waiting for her to get Quaid ready so I went out of the barn and started snacking. But someone saw me and yelled 'loose horse!' 

No one likes a rat, Karen! (Teresa: literally her name was karen, not trying to malign anyone with that name.  Carmen: whatever). The servant came out and told her she was here and it was fine. But honestly I am fine on my own. I know what I'm doing. I don't why I even need that rope attached. 

Teresa: dropped the lines for a quick photo. Honest. 

After two nights of captivity she packed everything up and took us home.  She seemed pretty tired so I'm not sure what the point of it all was. I mean it's not like she can't ride here. 

Teresa: but what about the actual show stuff? 

Carmen: fine! I went in the ring, the person sitting at the table rang a bell, I went around and was magnificent. The servant got some satin and was happy. Her coach was happy. 
The end. 

Teresa: but that's not enough detail. 
Carmen: well you're going to have to fill in the details. I don't have time for that. 

I have some grazing to catch up on

Teresa: *sigh* okay, I'll fill everyone in tomorrow. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Black Magic

 Last week I had the opportunity to take both horses to a clinic with a local horsemanship coach, Danique Henderson. I was excited because I have followed her for a few years and really liked her work and philosophy.  When a friend was having her at her stable and invited me I leapt at it. 

this dog kills me- he lost his toy so 
he decided that I could throw hay instead

A really nice thing about this clinic is that it was a 15 minute trailer ride away.  Usually I'm looking at 90 minutes minimum so this felt like a treat. We were in the afternoon so I had time in the morning to do chores ride Carmen and get organised. It was also a good chance to practice loading and unloading all by myself in a low-stress situation.  

I put Carmen on first and then brought Quaid out. It took a little to have him load himself in the trailer. He dithered a bit but was not stressed. My back up was to lead him on and tie him and then put up the butt bar but I didn't need to. With a sigh and some encouragement he walked on. When we arrived I unloaded him and handed him to an unsuspecting young woman who was standing there.  I put them in their stalls and got them settled with water and hay.  Stephanie had stalls that had them separated which was great.  Quaid became obsessed with the pony next door. The pony was less enthused. Carmen's stall was at the end of the aisle and had an elevated floor. She looked huge. 

I was able to watch a couple sessions before it was my turn. I decided to bring Quaid first. 



I'm about to describe the clinic from what I remember and learned. Any errors are not a reflection on Danique- I probably have it wrong


When I brought Quaid in he was quite 'up' and definitely tense. Danique asked about him and I explained that he was 3 and I wanted to improve my groundwork skills with him. I said 'he's quite excited right now'

Danique "this is him wound up?'

Me: yes this is about as excited as he gets. 

D: wow. that's pretty good. 

It took, I dunno, about 3 minutes for her to figure us out. She then asked if she could take him. I answered of course. To summarise: she believed that he didn't really pay attention to me because I was his safe space. So he felt okay with tuning me out while looking at the others watching, sniffing the ground and looking around. All of which was totally fair. 

talking to Danique, see his focus is elsewhere? (PC Stephanie)

She took him and put a little pressure to get him to tune in and respond. She noted that he was definitely not afraid of pressure (the whip) which made him easy to work with. Even when she got after him a little harshly for totally blowing her off he would jump and look at her like 'what the heck lady?' 

Danique then showed me how to use my energy to help him understand when to respond and when to chill. She talked about how horses learn in rhythm so we need to make sure that we do happens in that way. It was a pretty simple exercise but difficult to keep it all together. As humans we don't always pay attention to our energy and how horses are so attuned to it.  The exercise was simply to walk, stop, back up and/or turn. She talked a lot about intention and how I need to match it to my energy. So if I want him to do something I need to tighten my stomach and bring up my energy. To halt I let my energy leak out my feet. To first teach him to back up I was to use my feet and then bring my arm around with the rope in front of his nose so he could see it. It didn't take long for him to tune in. I could tighten my core, pick up the rope and walk toward him and he'd back up. I could pick up the rope and keep my core soft and he'd stay so I could come up and pat him. I am thinking that if you were watching it would be hard to see the difference. 

Another side note: she really really liked Quaid. I told her his breeding and it turned out that a horseman she admires recommended she use the same stud.  She also asked what colour he was and I said 'bay'. But he has this gold sheen. I said he's still bay as far as I knew. But let's just go with he's pretty. But she right, he has these gold hairs so it's so easy for him to shine with a little bit of brushing. 

My takeaways were:

  • be clear in my intention 
  • keep working on making sure he attends to me
  • don't accept him ignoring or being distracted and doing things half-assed
Then it was Carmen's turn. I told her that what I wanted was to get some guidance on doing liberty with her. Danique had me lunge her a little and then take off the halter. After about a minute Carmen looked at me and left to go down to the audience and check it out. I laughed and came down. 

So then Danique told me what she saw in our relationship. She said that Carmen was a talented horse with a strong will. That she chooses whether to listen to me and she's pretty sure that I'm not the one in charge. I had to laugh that it was so obvious to her. Clearly she's a witch like Jane (I mean that in a positive way).  She showed me a light line with a loop on the end. She explained how you can make it into a halter and put it around the neck when you're introducing liberty. Eventually you just tuck it into your waistband and that keeps your hands free. 

The exercise we worked on was to lunge Carmen around in a circle, when her attention shifted from her she would ask for her to yield her hind leg and stop. If she did that but was still attending elsewhere she would up the pressure until she had full attention.  Then it was my turn. The idea was to keep her close and going around me. When she'd shift her attention out I was to bring it in by asking her to move her hind leg. Danique gave me lots of feedback and coaching on how I was holding my whip and line. Also that I was using too much body language and could tone it down a bit. Eventually I could have her go around, lose focus, ask her to bend in with her hind end and then send her back out in one move. Danique told me to think of it like a half-halt. 

I saw a lot of parallels in this work and in my lessons with Jane having her flex to the inside. I do love when things mesh like that. 

I watched another lesson (a riding one) and then cleaned the stalls and loaded the horses to leave. This time both loaded quietly and calmly with no persuasion needed. When I got home I took Quaid out and then Carmen. It all felt very doable all on my own. 

I gave them a day off and then played with them yesterday. Before I rode Carmen I went through the exercises again. When I did ride I found her attentive from the get go- I didn't have to argue about it. It's not like the ride was perfect but it was a productive ride and one that was very encouraging. My groundwork session with Quaid was also really good. None of him trying to graze as I led him to the ring and getting his attention back was pretty easy. 

I know that 'one fine day does not a summer make' (to butcher a proverb) but this felt right to me and I'm going to enjoy continuing to build on it. 

Monday, August 21, 2023


 If there's one thing I've enjoyed all my life it's learning. I truly do enjoy it and it has been a huge part of everything I do. And of course this applies to horses. Which is why I continue to seek to increase my understanding and skills. 

I've had a bit of an unplanned in being able to take lessons. No one reason- one week it was torrential rain and flooding, another time a horse was lame (not mine) and then Ed and I went on a short trip to Prince Edward Island to visit Karen and Jim. If you have a chance to go to PEI you should jump at it. It really is a lovely province. Karen and I fit in some time at the beach. The waves were up and in the water were a bunch of children and us laughing and being bowled over by the waves. It was glorious. 

I love this beach
Karen also told me that she was having a local coach come and give her a lesson on Sunday and did I want to have a lesson on one of her horses? That answer was easy- YES. She didn't care who I rode so I asked for Kalimo. He's advanced in his training and I thought it would be good to ride a 'school master'. I really wanted to learn about asking for flying changes. Yes, true confession- I have never trained or asked a horse for a change. In my hunter days the horses just did it (or not). I really wanted to get a sense of how to move my body. 

Kalimo did not disappoint and neither did Dawn. It was such a fun lesson. The first change was easy because we were riding a counter canter and then Dawn just asked me to change and I didn't have time to think about it. After that I got in my head (shocking I know) and kept overthinking. I would get my legs right but drop him and let him choose where to go rather than keep him straight. Or I would hesitate and be late in my timing. But we got there in the end and I loved every minute of it. 

Kalimo: you are most welcome SeƱora. 
Perhaps it is time for cookies? 

When I got home, Carmen was off and after finding nothing on her legs I figured it was an abscess. Turns out it was- 2 days later it popped out of her frog and she's been fine ever since. Carmen may have a lot of issues but she doesn't fool around with weeks of unsoundness- just 'pop' and we're done.  Which was good because I had a lesson booked for Sunday. To be honest, I was going to keep the lesson regardless, just swap in Quaid for a different sort of lesson (he deserves his own update so we'll save that). 

I have been working in my rides to keep Carmen straight and aligned and it's paying off. Not that it's easy. To be fair I've changed the contract again and she's not so happy that she can't just move all her weight to the inside and keep her head tilted out to look around.  She has been especially spooky up by H and I found out why when I was trying to paint the fence. I started getting stung- there was a hornet nest somewhere in the brush. It took me forever to find it. Interestingly when I found out that there was a nest her spookiness level dropped measurably. I finally located the nest last week by going up during a rain storm and poking about the brush. It was low to the ground under a bush. I went back the next night and took care of it (I would have liked to have peacefully co-existed but they were getting more aggressive and territorial).  Guinness backed me up by sitting way back and watching (he also was stung during the fence painting incident).  

The lesson was the next day so I figured we'd have some issues because Carmen wouldn't know yet that it was gone. I was right but really it was such a good lesson. Jane had us work on getting and maintaining flexion in all three gaits. It turns out that both of us think that flexion falls into the 'nice to have' category but, as Jane pointed out, it was pretty essential for everything. 

Nice warm up trot, no softness in the poll and zero
flexion.  But, hey, she's straight! 

Carmen, it turns out will do all sorts of contortions to fake flexing while still being able to look outside the ring. It was much easier on the side closer to the barn and much harder on the side by the brush (and ex-hornet nest). So it wasn't physical so much as mental.  

Ideally we'd get the flexion by using the inside leg to outside hand and maybe a gentle squeeze with the inside hand. 

We were not ideal. But it was coming. As with most things we'd get it, lose it, get it, lose it. When we have it everything feels soft. But I had to be careful because sometimes I thought we had it but she was just bending her neck and/or tilting her head. Other times she would barge through trying to get me off her back (perhaps literally but I think it was more metaphorical). Some favourite Jane statements this lesson: 
'Get control and get back here' (when my 10 metre canter circle moved from K to A)
'get the outside rein or she's going to have her way with you' (when she got strong going by H)

This work really pays off though. We did some work on medium canter and rather then thinking 'oh god, I'm going to die' or 'I wonder if we can turn at the corner or will we careen through the fence and over the horizon?'  I was thinking 'wheeee'. 

And it helps with the walk pirouettes (or turn on the haunches): 

We also did shoulder in to haunches in. That was hard but when Jane said 'maintain the curve going from one to the other' it really helped. I'll play with that this week. 

When the lesson was over I was exhausted. So was Carmen. But she was sweaty in all the right spots. I don't know if I was sweaty in the right spots because basically everything was sweaty. But it felt good. 

I am sure that some of my friends (and definitely Ed) wonder when I'll stop taking lessons. I don't know that I ever will- it's so much fun to learn and push my boundaries. Even having a few weeks off I could feel myself letting things go in my rides. 

I guess I'll stop when I know it all. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Mid Summer Lull

 After a flurry of activity this spring (clinics, lessons, a show), things have been quiet. 

lush pastures with all the rain

This was deliberate based on finances. With the vet bill, saving for a new saddle and just trying to be fiscally responsible with my decreased income from retirement, I decided to not do too many things this summer. 

It is impossible to be bored though when you own a property with horses. It's been pretty much raining since early June. We had a torrential rainstorm about 2 weeks ago in which 3 months of rain fell in 12 hours. It was horrible and a few people died being swept away when rivers burst their banks. We actually fared well so I am grateful. 

my drainage worked so the barn didn't flood but it was close. 
Quaid is probably wondering how he's going to come out

driveway needed some work

this is a daybed that usually has water with the spring runoff

My ring was impacted quite a bit. I lost a lot of rubber and spent some time raking and putting it back (4 tractor bucket loads). 
what wasn't washed away was pounded to a hard finish

Quaid at liberty playing in the water. 

My ring drains really well but the puddles stayed for about 5 days. Despite the heat wave that followed the storm.  But after lots of dragging and adding in sand my ring is back to normal. 

Much better. 

It's nice to have the time to work on things. 

The bigger issue is hay. With all the wet cutting hay has been impossible. We were told that we were getting some last week. I told them that we were really low but I was assured I'd get some. I called on Wednesday because I hadn't heard and was told that they had given all to someone else. It seems that this person showed up with lots of trailers and took it all. I was pissed because I didn't have any hay so they let me come and take some out of the barn. However, it looks like I'm getting the hay in the next few days so phew. I'm so happy that I have grass pastures. It has really saved me. I will be so relieved when my barn is full of hay. When I boarded I never gave it a thought.  Now every plan is made with the caveat that I might have to cancel to get hay. 

Ah well, enough whining. The horses are doing great. Carmen is looking fit and feeling fine. Quaid is continuing to be his sweet self- taking things in stride. Our ground driving is looking really good. It's been hot so a lot of my afternoons are spent sitting on the deck reading a book and sipping a beverage. It's a good way to enjoy the summer. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Momentous Non-Events

 How did it get to be July 15th already? 

Time sure does fly when you're having fun. I wanted to share a few developments that are happening around here. 

every morning is foggy. It does make for nice moody photos though

Last week my farrier came to do the horses. Carmen needed new shoes as we had worn out her older ones. I was excited to take off Quaid's shoe and pad to see how his hoof looked underneath. 

The answer was that it looked great! The hole is barely there and has grown out to his toe. That is pretty good for 3 months post surgery. 

March 10th a few days post surgery

July 11th 

The pad was ditched and he was just shod in new shoes. Since his sole has been covered since February I was glad that the ground was soft from all the rain. You can imagine how closely I watched him to make sure he wasn't sore. It's been 4 days and he's showing no signs of lameness or soreness.  I'm hoping to transition him to barefoot again this fall but for now I'm just glad that taking off the pad was a total non-event. 

Back in April when the horses had their spring appointments the vet thought that Quaid looked pretty immature and advised me to not back him. I totally agreed. He had taken a big growth spurt and had that weedy look of young horses (and teenagers). 

End of April

When he was on stall rest/reduced turnout I had kept his feed a bit restricted to keep the energy low. He did have free choice hay but still looked pretty ribby. With the restrictions lifted he was able to build up some muscle. I ended up doubling his feed too. Grass+Exercise+more food all worked to get him looking much better. 

End of June

I taped him last week and he has gained 150 pounds since March.  I tried my Spanish saddle on him and the fit was pretty good. I sent the photos off to the saddle fitter and she thought it looked good. It was a huge difference since end of April. 

Quaid has been doing really well with our training sessions. I have introduced side reins and he is doing well with them. Before I hook them on I have them fastened to the surcingle so that they flap around. He is getting used to having things flop at his side.  I have been bringing up the saddle too and putting it on near the end. I've put weight in the stirrups, hung over the side and even sat on him (with Julia holding him) and he is curious but not worried too much. 

Yesterday, Julia came and I rode while she worked with Quaid. She put the saddle on him and worked with him for a bit.  After a good school,  I hopped off Carmen and untacked her. She hung around the ring while we took Quaid over to the mounting block. I set my phone up on a post and here's what happened: 

 As you can see, being 'ridden' was a total non-event. He didn't mind it at all. At my second dismount you might be able to see how he adjusts his stance to keep him balance. I'm really happy that our first ride was not stressful for him. 

I am thrilled with how good he's being about all this. I am not planning to do much riding with him this summer but will continue to play with this so it just feels like part of what we do. 

getting a pony ride. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Control Issues

 I know that an update is far overdue. The truth is that it's been raining non-stop for days and it's starting to get to me. 

I've been doing my best to squeeze in rides in between the rain but it's not easy. That is, of course, a first world problem. 

even the hens are seeking higher ground
I am, however, getting worried about getting hay. I am getting near the end of my stack and we'll need a number of dry days before hay can be cut. But I guess I'll file that under 'things I have zero control over'. 

I need to be more zen like Ripley

Not that you can tell, but I didn't actually write this post to bitch about the weather. I wanted to share some learning that is really starting to take root. It's interesting how, when you're learning something, that you see that lesson everywhere. In my case I've seen it a lot in my lesson, blog posts and from other online learning. 

Back in May at the Obstacle Clinic, Mike and Nikki reviewed (as they always do) the idea of teaching a horse to control his own feet. The idea being that once a horse knows the task (like the balance beam), you shouldn't have to micro-manage them but give them freedom to make a mistake. Then correct the mistake and repeat. In this example, when Quaid walked off the balance beam half-way over on Sunday (a point at which he had been over it multiple times) I would back him up and then ask again. The backing up was a little uncomfortable (not a lot) and the going over properly was easy. 

doing a good job, even if this angle makes him look like a donkey

Carmen has been a bit spicy since right before our show. Not out of control but definitely opinionated. My riding is at the point where I can prevent her from doing her 90-degree-spin-and-bolt manoeuvre. Which is great. Except that I found myself doing this often is whatever spot of the day was 'certain death' (it moves around). 

screen grab from a lesson when a dog sneezed

What I realised was that every time we hit that spot I had to micromanage her through it. 

Every. Time. 

Clearly this was not the lesson I wanted her to learn. That she could go by a spot (like a sneezing dog) only if I had maximum control over her. So I decided to change things up. The first part of the ride I would micro-manage. That way she knew what I wanted and that I could get her through. 

And I knew she knew. And that she knew that I knew she knew. Y'know? 

Then when we went by I would keep my cues the same but everything soft. When she spun and bolted I simply allowed her to canter and we would canter a 15/20 metre circle until that felt like work. I would then bring her down to trot and go by that spot again, without making my cues any harder. My thoughts were that she needed to make a decision about how she was going to travel by and that there were consequences to choices. 

In my next lesson after I had this realisation (fyi all photos of me riding Carmen are from that lesson) Jane was really helping me to get Carmen off the inside leg and for me to let go of the inside rein. 

"you won't know she understands bending to the leg if you always use your hands"

Which is pretty much the same principle. 

In my rides after that lesson I realised how much Carmen pushes against my inside leg. When she does respond it's because she chooses to. I noticed that going through a corner it would not matter how much leg I had, she would not bend until we were through. Instead she would be looking out. Going down the side of the ring with the trees I could feel her entire weight shifted to the inside. That is not good from a bio-mechanic perspective. It will not help her to carry herself. 

I don't know if you can tell but all of her weight
is subtly shifted to the inside

If my leg cue is always at a 8/10 level there's not much more to go up without significant tension on my part. So I dug out my spurs. My incredibly mild and soft spurs.  The ones with the little ball that rolls along their sides. 

The first ride I asked with my leg and, when nothing happened, turned my spur into her side. Carmen reached around and tried to bite my foot. Which tells you everything you need to know about her thoughts on who is in charge. I laughed but did not give up. I did my very best to be very clear and simple: if she bent with the leg no spur. If she ignored leg, spur. It took maybe 2 rides and then I was able to stop wearing them. 

bending. Look Ma, no spurs

It's a bit of difficult thing to learn: ride every stride but don't micro-manage. I can feel Carmen getting more confident in her choices. If you are up by my ring you may even hear me say 'it's your choice, make it a good one'.  It's not easy to 'let go' when you ride a horse that can turn 90 degrees and be at mach 10 in a millisecond. It definitely unseats me. I have been doing some rides in my Spanish saddle to help. But the other day she did a spin and bolt and as I got my seat back in the saddle I gave her a big kick and put her into a canter. I didn't even stop to be scared. 

the result is that she's like butter. 

I think letting her make these choices is giving her more confidence too. She doesn't have to rely on me to control her feet- she's doing that. I am merely giving good advice. 

Anyway, that's where we are right now. 
What are you working on? 

If it doesn't stop raining soon I'm going to need different tack.