dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, December 22, 2023

Reflections: Looking Back on 2023

 Yesterday was the winter solstice and that seems to be a good time to reflect on the past year. 

2023 was quite the year, full of ups and downs. I know that's fairly normal, it just seemed that this year there peaks were higher and the valleys lower.  The year started off easy enough with a fairly mild January. I was able to ride and the horses enjoyed the sunshine. 

In February the weather took a turn to record low temperatures. Ed was home recovering from heart surgery.  On the coldest day of the year I found Quaid with a screw embedded in his hoof.  This lead to a nightmare of multiple vet visits, two trips to the Veterinary Hospital and a real fear that I was going to lose him.  In the end he had to have a second surgery to debride the bone which had gotten infected. 


Once he was home, he was still not out of the woods. I had to protect the hoof, do regular bandage changes and make sure that not one drop of dirt got in the open hoof wound.  It was expensive and I had to work through some trauma with Quaid once it was all done.  At one point he kicked me and I thought I broke my elbow. It turned out to be heavily bruised but it was all a bit much.  I think I can now wrap a hoof with my eyes closed. I have a great stock of supplies now and if you need recommendations on how to turn out a horse in March and keep their hoof dry just ask. It was all worth it, though because Quaid is now 100% sound (and has been since his surgery). 

every time I see him canter in the field I get a happy thrill

It was hard on all of us and I honestly don't know how I would have gotten through it without Julia and Tanya who helped me pretty. much every day.  Because of them and Joanne I was able to go off on a trip of lifetime to Europe while they took care of things at home. Karen and Jim gave me a place to stay while Quaid was in hospital and Paula took two trips with me to island.  I learned that friends are basically family that you pick up as you go. 

I retired at the end of March and Ed and I celebrated by doing a River Cruise from Zurich to Paris. It was an incredible trip. 

 I loved Strasbourg

When we returned home I settled in to learn what it was like to be a retired person. I spent the first two weeks basically exhausted. I think it was a combination of jet lag and stress leaving my body.  I loved having the summer to ride when I wanted to and not because I was squeezing it in between all my other responsibilities. 
Carmen and I got fitter

Which was good because the weather was not cooperative. Our spring was the driest I've ever seen and our province dealt with some pretty devastating wildfires. It was scary. And then in June it started to rain and from there we had the wettest summer ever.  There were road washouts and flooding. We couldn't get our hay until August. 
Thank heavens for French drains- this water
was gone by the next day

Being retired meant that I could take advantage of the weather when I could. I also read so many books this year.  I have to say that I was never bored. 

Things got busy in May with an Obstacle Clinic and a 'ride your test' at the show grounds.  Both were very useful in our training. After the test riding clinic I felt a lot more confident about showing Carmen. Before then I was convinced it was going to be a disaster. 

This year Carmen and I debuted Second Level. My literal goal was to lay down reasonable tests keeping her on the aids and not melt down. We succeeded beyond my imaginings. This fall I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we actually earned a Silver Medal this year. 

More important than the ribbons or awards is that I learned to ride more effectively and confidently.  My show in September helped me to learn to let go of Carmen.  Jane helped me so much at the shows and then picking things up from there and helping us to move ahead. 

I had a lot of lessons this year and they really paid off. Carmen is carrying herself more and is straighter. 

We travelled to Krista's for a clinic too. It was great. 

Training of Quaid started slow this year, for obvious reasons. But as the year progressed we gained momentum. I've ridden him a few times and he continues to impress me with his mind and willingness. 

I had a very active summer and it showed in my fitness and body. It felt really good to get in shape and I didn't want to regress over the winter. So I joined the local rec centre in October. I have been going to classes regularly. It's hard but it's fun. I have been doing this thing called a 'Total Body Workout', which I originally thought was aerobics but instead was doing things. with weights, exercise balls and tension bands. It's sooo hard but when it gets really tough I picture the flinging of hay bales.  After my first class my thighs were in serious pain from all the squats. I was still sore the next day but decided to ride anyway. When I was done I dismounted and my legs said 'nope!' and I fell on my ass on the ground. Carmen didn't move a muscle, just gave me her Carmen look and, I swear, rolled her eyes.  
Carmen: god, stop giggling and get up. You are so embarrassing. 

 I've also been doing Pilates and AquaFit (which is really fun). 

showed up one day not realising class was cancelled. 
Worked out anyway. 

I do like how I've been feeling. I am in the best shape I've been in years and it's showing up in my riding too. Jane has commented on it. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Nicole.(although she's an inspiration).  No one is going to be bouncing a quarter off my butt but at least now it won't disappear.  

Now it's December and things have really slowed down. Winter is here and the ring is frozen. I know that there will be some thaws that I plan to take advantage of. I am looking forward to not worrying about how I'm going to get to work when there's a storm. Instead I can stay home and watch horse training videos. 

That was the highlights and lowlights of 2023.  It felt like a lot, mostly because it was. But it's ended with everyone healthy and happy. What more could you ask for? 

All ready for Christmas

Monday, December 18, 2023

The Pinch Hitter

 After a few days of snow and really cold temperatures, things started to warm up again and my ring thawed.  Which was great. I had a couple rides on Carmen and she was pretty good. I did a few lunging sessions with Quaid too. 

This is the latest that the horses have been able to  be grazing on the
 back field. There's still lots of good grass.

I was able to actually arrange a lesson for Sunday. While I don't like to drill before a lesson I do like to be prepared. Friday was cold and the ring was frozen but Saturday was lovely, although blustery. I was leading Carmen in through the small paddock into the stall to get her ready. The small paddock has been pretty muddy all year because of all the rain. Now it's frozen, rutted mud. Carmen was not paying attention to her feet and she tripped. It was scary because she couldn't get her balance on the frozen mud (despite her studs) and fell hard on her front legs. 

I brought her in and she had a few scrapes that looked superficial but she was quite shaken. And slightly off on her right fore. I checked her all over but, other than the cuts, I couldn't see any swelling.  I hosed her legs off, put some ointment on the cuts, gave her some Bute and turned her back out. It was interesting because, in the past, Carmen was quite defensive over injuries and required two handlers.  "that hurts, touch that bitch and I will end you."  But this time she was clearly shaken and was quite clingy, letting me fuss over her.  She did appreciate the extra feed with Bute. 

Carmen: extra feed? Makes it almost worth it. 

While I figured she had just stung herself I decided that I shouldn't take her in the lesson. But it was a good time to get Jane's perspective and help with Quaid. I was already planning to work him Saturday so that didn't change.  Keeping in mind that he'd only been lunged in the past few weeks a couple times he was perfect. 

He can look so grown up

And then so much like a baby

Our ground driving is really coming along. We actually manage to do a circle that doesn't look like it was made by a drunk duck. 

Jane was completely onboard with subbing in Quaid. In fact, it's really great to have two horses in work like this- it means that there is always one to work with.  

And you know what? It went great.  I did a little lunging warm up with him a few minutes before she came. He was a bit tighter and distractible than the day before. Which makes sense, A) he's still young and B) the weather was cooler and blustery than the day before. 

Warming up

When Jane came we hooked up the side reins. She made a couple adjustments and he did quite well. He's learning to trust the contact, especially at the trot. Canter is more difficult, which makes sense but he needs the opportunity to figure it out. 

He got a little frustrated with me pushing him forward and had a brief temper tantrum. 

Thee days it's as upset as he gets. I like to push him through and then give him a break to think about things. I have to be careful to not back off when he's upset because that will teach the wrong thing. 

Then it was time to mount up. 

Quaid: what's in the wheelbarrow? I hope it's food. 

note him standing ground tied while getting tacked up

Jane took the lunge line and I mounted. He was a little wiggly but stood stock still while I got on.  Jane was a great anchor for us. Talking me through using my leg aids and helping him to learn not only forward, but to not fall into the ring with his shoulder.  

Everyone is trying really hard here

He did spook once. I have it on video. Hang on to your hats while you watch it: 

Did you catch it? The moment of uncertainty and then 'phew, I'm okay'. 

I think it was about 25 minutes of riding, getting him to come off the inside leg when I felt him figure it out "ohhhh, you want THIS'.   I stopped him with my seat and turned to Jane and said 'I think that's a great spot to stop'.  
I was thinking the exact same thing!

So I dismounted. I love how he stands like a rock: 

It was a great lesson with him.  I am so happy with this horse, I think he's going to be exactly what I want. My plans have not changed with him- I still am going to send him off for a month of training. I have the opportunity to do everything right with Quaid. Having a professional get him really going under saddle and then having Jane pick us up in lessons seems like a great recipe for success. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Quite Possibly the Last Lesson of the Year

 Late Fall into Winter is always difficult for lessons. You simply cannot count on the weather. This year has been pretty mild and I've managed to get more riding in than I would usually. Retirement also helps because I am not racing the dark after work. 

Unfortunately, lessons came to a screeching halt because of an outbreak of EHM at a barn. A few horses had to be put down and everyone closed their barns to stop the spread. This meant that it wasn't a good idea for Jane to travel to different barns to teach. 

I have no media from the lesson so here's  some other photos.
Carmen looking pretty during a groundwork session 

I completely understood but really missed having our lessons. I kept up the work but Carmen has been quite challenging the past few weeks. Now that the girth has freed up her shoulders she's been asking lots of questions. Usually around the concept of 'whyyyyyy must you torture me in this way?'.  

Part of this is because she's still fit but the consistency of being able to ride really dropped off, leaving a lot of energy. And, let's face it, Carmen is a horse that will always challenge. She requires riding that doesn't let her set the agenda but is also not dictatorial. She doesn't necessarily like to work but she hates to be left alone. Frankly, it's like living with a 14 year old human child: 'I hate you go away. You are ignoring me, you HATE me!' 

Unlike this guy who is pretty chilll

Finally last weekend the stars aligned and I was able to book a lesson on Sunday. The weather was warm and the ring was perfect, despite all the rain we had Saturday.  On Friday I did a groundwork session with both horses and Carmen really enjoyed it. I wanted to establish our communication and responses. 

she has the tarp lesson down pat

I lunged her before the lesson. It's difficult because with the inconsistent riding I don't want to make her sore but I have to deal with the energy. So I lunged getting her to work but not run wild.  I let Jane know that she's been challenging when she arrived and then mounted. As soon as I asked her to walk down towards the gate she began to refuse to go. Then threw her haunches in and spun away.  Jane had me turn her in some small circles to get her bent and soften her topliine. Then she began to run backwards and threaten to rear. FYI this is not pain*. This is old old old behaviour that used to intimidate the hell out of me and make me get off.  I know that Carmen can rear (she has) but she's never going to flip herself because she has such a strong sense of self-preservation. Even when bolting she's careful. Sigh. But it's still really intimidating and the lizard part of my brain will start screaming and want me to clutch everything tight. 

Jane talked me all the way through it. **
** disclaimer** I'm about the describe my memory and take aways from what she guided me to do. If you take issue with it, take it up with me and assume that I misunderstood

 Jane had me walk her on a 20 metre circle asking her to move her haunches out on the circle. Sort of like riding a shoulder in on the circle but not really because her shape was not exactly right.  I was to ride her forward, ask her to move her haunches to the outside of the circle and then lighten the rein. Not give it away but unclench my arm muscles and let the rein 'float'.   

This is not easy because I'm overriding my whole sense of self-preservation. Jane never altered her quiet tone but didn't let me stop. At one point I said I understand your words, but my lizard brain is telling me fuck no.'She laughed and said 'damn lizard brain' and kept moving me forward.  

This was a struggle to do this exercise when I, frankly, wanted to get off and sell her for $10. I did say that I didn't understand why we were doing this. Carmen concurred. Jane basically told me to keep going for now. 

And funnily enough, Carmen began to soften and reach forward. Then Jane asked me to trot. I gulped and did it. We repeated the same exercise: ask her to put her haunches out, soften my rein, go forward. Jane then explained the 'why' of this exercise: this allows you to soften her with the bending and with her haunches in this position she can't lock and run backwards or rear. So essentially this exercise moves her forward, giving her an outlet for her energy but in a productive way  and supports her to soften and does not allow her to spin, bolt or rear. 

Carmen: These lies you tell, I am an angel. 

It wasn't long before we were moving all around the ring without any of the bullshit. She was forward, soft and gave me some of her loveliest work. We even did some half-pass that, while not great, wasn't too shabby either. 

Just as I was thinking that she was getting tired and we should stop Jane said 'I think that's enough for her'

It was a productive and perfectly timed lesson. Which is good because the next day we had a snowstorm. So I am not sure how much ride time I'm going to get in. At least the horses enjoyed the snow. 

*For those who wonder how I can say it's behaviour vs pain, it's a judgement based on experience and making sure this mare has all the care she needs. I've been all over her and can find no sensitive spots or lameness. In the past, behaviours that were related to pain (e.g., ulcers)  increased over the ride, not decreased. I believe that the fact that she becomes soft, engaged and happy in the ride means we are on the right path. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

That Was Easy

 Way back when I was having the clinic with Danique I remember her talking to me about Carmen. She told me that Carmen was a beautiful and smart horse. Which I agreed with, of course. She paused and then said 'she's not a horse for just anyone though'. And that is the total truth. 

A. horse like Carmen wears her emotions on her sleeve. There's never any doubt about how Carmen feels. Which is different than Quaid who tends to internalise more. 

So many feelings- happy to be done the ride, 
worry about the black clouds behind her, and 
annoyed that I'm bugging her for a photo

The problem with Carmen is that, while it's easy to know if she's unhappy, it's not always easy to figure out why. So when she was getting resentful of being asked to go forward I had a list of things to consider: 

  • ulcers- unlikely but not impossible
  • hocks- she's 13 this year and we're asking her to carry more behind so it would be a real possibility
  • poor riding- I could be squeezing with my thighs, poking her with a spur. Honestly my flaws are endless
  • checking that I'm sure I really want her to go forward
  • saddle fit 
After ruling out the first four I kept coming back to saddle fit.  But I couldn't find any sore spots on her back. I know that's not conclusive either but it felt like I was close but not quite right. What I became aware of was that the saddle was not staying put. When I put it on everything is good: 

But as the ride progressed the saddle would slip forward onto her withers.  The girth would end up right behind her shoulders and the saddle with it, no matter how I placed it or tightened it. I swapped it out for a girth that was a little more shaped. It was the brown one that I use with my Spanish saddle. This was better and I could feel an improvement but it was not perfect. 

This coincided with Jane coming to teach and I told her what I was thinking. She agreed that Carmen's shape (round barrel, low whither) was designed to pull a saddle forward. I told her I was thinking of trying an anatomic girth. As luck would have it she had a student selling one that was exactly the size I needed. 

I arranged to get it to try. It fit her fine so I sent the payment but wasn't able to ride for a couple days (November is hard for outside riding).  I could immediately see how it worked better than our girth. 

Before our ride

I was happy where it kept the saddle. I took a short video before mounting to see how she moved with it. 

See how her shoulder has more freedom.

When I mounted she felt like she was striding out more. When I first asked for trot I got the pissy mare reaction. It was funny because I could feel when she went 'oh, that's okay'.  I finished the ride and when I dismounted the saddle was still in the same spot. 

after the ride

I've ridden a few times in it (when weather allows) and she's getting better and better. Today when I asked for the first trot she just moved forward with happy ears. 

Best money I've spent. 

Monday, November 6, 2023


 Hey fans, Carmen here to urge you all to be more grateful to your noble steeds. 

(I'm loving the AI generator)

Not only do we carry you with beauty and grace. 

We also protect you from certain death. 

Here it's deer hunting season. While I appreciate that my servant has us in the front paddock, does she recognise the danger of being up in the ring? 

She does not. 

But fortunately I do. 

The other day I was on edge but decided to humour my servant. She had booked a lesson and she gets so disappointed if it doesn't happen. 

We were warming up and I realised that there was something in the woods below. 

Being a creature of finely honed instincts I knew we had to skedaddle out of there. But with grace and style. 

Carmen: Come with me if you want to live

Was she grateful? 

She was not.  She was amused. Did you hear her on the video? Asking me where we were going? Clearly the answer was to safety. 

But we all know the truth- I saved two lives that day. 

You're welcome. 

Monday, October 30, 2023


 This post has been circling around in my brain for a few months now and today is the day I'm going to try to put my thoughts down on, well not paper obviously,  pixels? would that be the correct term? 

Ahem, anyway.....

photo to break up the wall of text

There are a number of famous horse trainers that I follow on the various socials. One has a page on FB that is mostly for followers to ask questions. To be completely honest I read some of them and I cringe. The ones that make me shudder are ones that go like this: 

hey, I have this 4 year old mare that I've been building a relationship with. I hang out with her in the pasture and when she turns away or looks unhappy I back up and give her space. She's getting more and more communicative but now when I go in the pasture she pins her ears and charges at me. I wonder what I have missed in her communication and how can I repair the damage? 

Then others weigh in about her lack of awareness of the horse's communication and that she needs to back up but not to worry, in 20 years she'll be able to stand within 5 feet of her horse. Okay, the last part is sarcasm on my part but you get the the idea. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in building a positive relationship with my horse. I've literally dedicated hours to it. But I don't know of any good relationship that exists without boundaries.  And I worry that in our drive to have positive relationships with our horses we ignore this concept. I worry that we believe that if we can just listen and meet all the needs of our horses there will be a wonderful symbiotic relationship that is pure magic. 

establishing boundaries with Quaid

Unfortunately, life does not work this way. I don't believe we need to be always yielding to our horses to have a partnership. In fact, I think that does the opposite- I think it makes us not important and, even more serious, I think it can lead to us getting seriously hurt. 

In the above scenario I think that the horse has learned to chase the person out. I worry that the behaviour will get more aggressive. Not that it matters what I think. I am not a trainer, I am just a woman who has horses. In case you were wondering, I do not respond with my thoughts on those types of posts. I don't think that it would be helpful and I am sure that my answer is not the one they are looking for. 

I do believe that it's important to listen to the horse we're with. And that there is enough history of us ignoring every communication from the horse and that has lead to harm too. In thinking back over the years of horses I have known (in riding schools, boarding barns and even my own) I am sure that the behaviours they exhibited were of pain and discomfort. 

Long time followers may recall my early years with Carmen. Back when it was a good ride if I had less than 3 out of control bolts per ride. Each time she would spook I would let her leave the area and have a break away from it. I interpreted her behaviour as fear and tried to mitigate it. Looking back I realise that it was actually telling me two things: one that she had ulcers (which I treated) and two that bolting was the only way she knew of to deal with pressure. And it worked, she'd bolt and the work would stop. While I didn't create this behaviour I reinforced it far too long.  It got to the point that the only place I could ride. her was the centre circle and that was becoming dangerous. Fortunately, I got help and things are in a far better place. 

screen grab from yesterday's lesson

I try to take what Carmen and Quaid are doing as information. I form a hypothesis and then figure out what the right answer is. Because the truth is that there is no one right answer. So much depends on context, history that it would be foolish to believe that the same answer is always the right one. I make this sound very deliberate, and while it is, a lot of it happens pretty organically.  Here's a brief clip from our lesson yesterday. I was trying to clarify some aids with Jane when Carmen saw something in the next field. She immediately froze. Old Carmen would have followed that with a bolt. I saw her notice, looked over and saw nothing (I figured it was my cat) and then redirected her thoughts back to where she was. Here's a brief clip: 

I would never have had her settle so fast if I hadn't spent time on reinforcing what was okay behaviour and what was not. Carmen will always have feelings (lots and lots of feelings) and I don't interfere with them. But there are lines that we both understand. For example, she hates having the bottom of her belly brushed. I know that and try to keep it brief. But sometimes she lays in poo over night and it's crusty. Leaving it is not an option and I have to scrub at it to get it. She hates that with the passion of a 100 demons. I don't correct her ear pinning or faces. I acknowledge it and keep going. But if she swings her head around to make contact (note Carmen has never bitten me. Not once) I correct that immediately. And then carry on. 

I don't know of anyone, human or otherwise, only gets to do and experience what they like. Teaching a horse about boundaries is not only good for the relationship it can save a life. How can we expect a farrier or vet to help our horses if they can't touch them because the horse is 'not ready'.  I've seen a lot of negative posts on social media about a vet  or farrier refusing to work with a feral horse that can't even have a halter put on. Like seriously? Recognising communication does not necessarily mean going along with it. It can mean that we have to figure out how to 'explain' it better or simply know that we need to get to the other side of this. 

I do not always get it right in my response. Sometimes I miss things I should have fixed. Especially with Quaid because he's so low key and typically sweet. I am okay with getting it wrong. Well,  not really but I do my best to learn from it. 

I want to share this video from the lesson too. We're working on getting soft contact and that requires letting go. There's no way I would have gotten this work from her even last year. Giving the rein gave her freedom to go sideways. But we keep working and setting boundaries and now look at this mare going softly and happily forward (mostly). 

My boundaries have shifted over the years. and I know that mine are different than other horse people. That is fine. We're all on this journey and there is no one path. But there have to be boundaries. Do you agree? What are your non-negotiables? I'm okay if you think I'm wrong and we should always do what the horse is feeling. I'm probably not going to change but I'm open to flexing a little. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Warm October

 October has been unseasonably warm this year. Which has been lovely in some ways (if you ignore the whole climate change risk).  

there have been some fabulous skies

I normally love riding in October. This year the flies have still been bad which limits the overall enjoyment. Riding in the morning helps because they are less active. We had our first frost this week so that should help. 

I haven't had grass like this in October since I don't know when. It's definitely helping keeping hay intake down.  I think I've only had one lesson this month so far. Between scheduling conflicts and weather it's been tricky. It seems like it rains every weekend. 

Carmen and I continue to work on moving forward into contact and me not micromanaging. It's definitely coming.  

Carmen: eek my feet will get wet

There's nothing earth shattering but things are feeling better each lesson and I see improvement between rides. 

Quaid is settling well into work. Our ground driving is coming along really well. I think I've sorted out his bit fussiness. I couldn't figure out what was causing the fussiness.  It's a really mild bit and I didn't want to fall into the rabbit hole of bit searches (almost as frustrating as saddle searches).  I was working with him one day and I figured it out. You see I was putting on his halter and the bridle over top (without a nose band). I think that the halter was pushing on the bit and making him fuss. I've been putting on the bridle and halter over top and the fussiness seems to have ended. 

Quaid: pretty sure it's my turn

I have him booked to go for a month of training in February. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for trailering him there. And it gives me time to figure out what to do about Carmen being alone. 

The nice thing about riding in the fall is that the pressure to advance eases up. I know that that pressure is self-induced but it's nice to have it ease up.  I got this screen shot from my last lesson and I just love it. 

it looks like Carmen, Dottie and Guinness are having
a whole separate conversation

I know that snow will be coming and probably sooner than I'd like. But it's nice to enjoy a mild fall and I plan to make the most of it. Do you have plans for this fall? 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Tales from the Coop

 I realise that I have been doing a lot of 'serious' posts lately. 

But we all know that life with animals is often absurd. 

Especially if you have chickens. 

if you look close you can see Willow keeping an eye 
on the hens on the driveway. She's a little afraid of them. 

I was so excited to add the hens to our farm and I have zero regrets. But they do add unexpected drama. This story is about Diana. She's a beautiful barnyard mix hen. Her eggs are delicious.  But she is what I would categorise at 'high maintenance. 

You see Diana becomes broody quite often.  When they first started to lay I put some fake eggs in the coop to encourage them lay in the brood boxes. Diana took all the fake eggs and stayed on them for a week until I took them from her.  In the summer she disappeared and we thought she had been taken by a fox or eagle. But then one day there she was. She had a nest somewhere but we couldn't find it and she would always disappear when we weren't looking. I finally stalked her one day (like literally- I hid behind bushes every time she turned around to look at me) and found her spot. I came back at night and gathered her up and put her in the coop. Fortunately I could do that before something found her and ate her. 

Beauty and attitude

She then moved herself to my hay pile. That was not such a big deal, I would find the eggs and take them to the house. The day I left to go to the Jane clinic I startled her and she flapped around the round bales. When we were having supper Ed texted that he couldn't find Diana. I told him to check the hay and he said her did. I had a funny feeling so when I came home I went out to the barn telling Ed I would text him if I needed help. He thought I was crazy (to be fair, he's not wrong). 

I shut the barn doors (so if she was there and I startled her she couldn't escape) and  went over the hay with my cell phone flashlight. After a few passes I found her- down on the barn floor in a small space between a round bale and the wall. And of course this was at the very back.  She couldn't get out of that space on her own so I texted Ed and he came out. 

We had two options: get the tractor and move 4/5 bales until we could get her or have Ed hold my legs while I tried to hang down and nab her.  

Guess which one we decided to try? 

Ed held my legs and I slipped down between the round bale and the wall. There was not a lot of room. 

Me: a little more. I've almost got her. 

At this point I am mostly head first in the hay but I was able to reach and scoop her into my hand. 

At this point Diana started screaming blue murder: 


Me: Okay pull me up. 

I felt Ed start to pull and then stop. uh oh. I was too far down and could not help him and he couldn't get a purchase to haul me up. 

I want you to picture this: Ed is holding the legs of a woman who is mostly headfirst in the hay holding a shrieking chicken. 

I was picturing myself slipping further down and having to be rescued. I mean can you even picture the 911 call? Hello, what is your emergency? 

My wife is stuck in the hay being savaged by a chicken and I can't get her out. 

Fortunately, I felt him suddenly stand up, hook my feet over his shoulders and back up hauling us up while I kept a firm grip on a squawking Diana. When we popped out we all sat there panting and staring at each other. 

help Diana squawked quietly. 

I handed Diana to Ed while I hopped down out of the hay. She quieted immediately. My saviour.  When I was on the ground he handed her back to me (we weren't taking a chance that she would flap off and land back where she started). Diana immediately began to shriek again. 

Oh shut it I muttered. And, with a baleful glance, she did. 

I put her in the coop and she gave me one last glare before leaping onto her perch. 

you're welcome I said as I shut the door. 

The horses were wildly entertained. 

Guinness and Willow think that hens
aren't worth the drama. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Big Steps for the Baby Genius

Last weekend I loaded up the horses to take to another clinic.  This time it was with Johanna Batista, the trainer who comes from Spain (although in this case it was Portugal because she has moved). I have taken many clinics with Johanna over the years and have gotten a lot out of them. Covid stopped them for the past three years and I honestly thought that might be it. But Karen and Stacie arranged for her to come this year. 

I had originally thought that Carmen and I would be riding in it but after thinking a bit I had a different idea. I decided that this would be a great opportunity for Quaid. I have done a lot of work with him but there's only so far I could get when I am usually all by myself. I know that Johanna has a lot of experience starting young horses and there would be people there to assist. I thought it would be a great chance to move things forward and also to identify holes in our training. 

Looking so grown up right? :D 

There were three sessions starting on Friday. We did a lot of ground work. And, to my eternal embarrassment, I totally allowed him to invade my space and flip me off. Like I know better but totally froze in the moment. The first part was pretty much a repeat of the work I did with Danique a few weeks ago. Sigh. My problem is that he's basically sweet so I let things slide. I made a resolution to do better. 

We worked on flexions and lining up at the mounting block. Like you would expect with a three year old he was easily distracted in this new place but did not do anything horrible. Lining up and standing at the mounting block took a few trials but we go there. 

Karen led him while Johanna gave us feedback. He was really good about all of it. 

It was  great first day. 

Our lesson was the next morning. This time Quaid was feeling a lot more sassy. I think it was because of me setting the boundaries and him asking me a lot of questions about them. 

Quaid: you're not the boss of me.... are you? 

In the end we decided that it was not a good day to ride. Instead we focussed on the groundwork and getting him tuned in. I would have liked to have ridden but not too bummed out. I totally get you deal with the horse you have on the day. 

Guess who's nose was out of joint about this clinic being all about Quaid? 

Yup, Carmen. She was not approving of this development. You can see her expression in the back. 

Carmen: what is this new outrage?
Quaid: it's all about meeee

I made sure on Saturday I rode her at lunch time and she seemed to be appeased. Especially when I turned them out in the afternoon. 

Sunday we were early as well. I could tell when I brought him out to groom that he was back to his normal sweet self. 

We spent some time on ground work and then getting him to line up at the mounting block. It was interesting, he would line up but as soon as I flexed him he'd step away. I'd ask him to come back and he got quite rude about it, pushing into me on the block. The first time I thought it was a mistake. By the third time I realised he was pushing me around so I kneed him in the belly. After that he settled significantly. 

I mounted and Karen led us around again while I focussed on using my seat to follow him. As soon as my seat would follow his ear would come back to me. Even though there were birds making weird noises on the roof. Then I played with using my seat to steer and ask him to whoa. 

Here's a video of near the end:

It was a great note to end with. I learned a lot from this clinic:

1. I need to be clear on boundaries and expectations. 
2. We still need to work on him learning how to deal with getting excited and being able to come back down. 
3.  Quaid is still incredibly smart. 
4. I may need a different bit. He was quite chompy with it. I need to determine if that was just an expression of nerves or if we need something else. 
5. I need to work more on him lining up and standing at the mounting block. 

My biggest takeaway is that I will be sending him off in the new year for professional training. He's very smart and sensitive. Because I am alone it limits how much I can do. So it's worth it to pay a trainer to get him going. I did that with Steele and I believe it's money well spent. 

Quaid: was I good? I think I was good.