dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

On Consistency

 I've always been one of those people who like to ride consistently. I get frustrated and out of sorts when the universe does not cooperate with my plans. This spring has been particularly challenging- between weather and lessons being cancelled I could literally see my training time trickle away.  It's probably all part of my over-thinking, planning and control issues. But, like Emma so clearly pointed out, it's also a a path to anxiety.  This quote from her post really resonated with me:

  "If every step relied on the steps before, and every ride was critical for accomplishing some future plan, suddenly you're kinda in this inescapable pressure trap, right?" 

And there are a lot of perspectives to take on the word 'consistency'. The way that I tend to approach it is to focus on frequency. I feel that I must ride X times per week for progress to be made. And that's not necessarily wrong- horses do like a routine.  but with the way things are going I haven't been able to get into a groove.  I can ride is rain or cold or wind but when these start to be combined I am much less motivated. And when you have a horse like Carmen who's not predisposed to love being ridden and Quaid who's learning how he feels about it I tend to be a little more careful.  

nothing to do with the post (other than there's a post in it)
but here's Quaid helping Ed with fence maintenance

I can't control the weather, but there is another type of consistency which I can control. And that is how I work with my horses and my expectations. I've been trying very hard to keep our sessions very consistent. With Carmen this means that I am consistent in my expectations of forward and being responsive. I can understand that riding 4 days in a row and then not for another 4 has definite impact on fitness so I am careful to give her breaks and not exhaust her. But I still expect her to be forward and to use her hind end. It is very common that our first trots are incredibly sucky. She's behind the leg and pins her ears. I can work her out of it but one day I was feeling like all I was doing was pony kicking a reluctant shetland around the ring. So picked up my whip. And she was magically forward. I hadn't even touched her. So. Yeah.  

With Quaid I found myself falling into a pit of not wanting to screw up so not doing anything. Which is fundamentally wrong and self-destructive.  Being so afraid of fucking up that I do nothing is not new. Once I realised it I could take steps to counteract it. My approach is to work with Quaid following a pattern:  groom, go to the ring, work in hand, tack up and, once he's fully tuned in get on. I am also okay with not riding if he seems to be not ready. But so far, that hasn't happen. 

both horses get to graze after work. Here
Carmen has totally forgotten she had her turn

My expectations that he pay attention and tune in I keep to the forefront.  And it's paying off so well. There are days when he's fully engaged from the get go. One day I was able to mount after 10 minutes of groundwork. Other days take a little longer. And one day I had to dismount and start again. On that day we were having a discussion over who got to choose where we went. He was getting upset with the steering and ramping up. so I got off and worked on steering from the ground. He pitched a small fit and then just got it and settled in. Which is pretty much how he operates-aaah I am not happy. Oh. never mind, it's all good. 

I've been pleasantly surprised by how much of an impact my consistency in how I work vs when actually has on our progress, even though I describe it as glacial. Like I said, Quaid is still at the point where what happens can influence how he'll feel about work in the future. This makes me careful to keep things clear and pushing boundaries a bit but working to not overwhelm him.  After our work I take his bridle off and he chooses to follow me even though he's completely free. That tells me a lot about the work we've been doing. 

following me away from the gate

The weather is improving so I've been able to work more frequently as well. Tomorrow we leave to go spend a few days in Montreal and pick up Ms. Cordelia. 

So regal and already judging me

I suspect I'm going to need a lot of consistency with her too. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Day in the Life of a Farm Dog

 Me: Hey Guinness, I have some special news! 

G: yes? Is it a new ball? I could really use a new ball. 

Me: No, it's not a ball (G: awww), you are getting a new assistant! Isn't that wonderful?!

G: it would be nice to have some help around here, I have a lot of work on my plate (**see if you can spy the special object**):

I have to keep a close ey on the horses to make sure they stay in the paddock

Then there's helping you with the hay. 

I have to patrol the perimeter multiple times a day.

It is important to keep the barn clean. 

And the stalls need to be mucked out. 

Guarding the parked tractor so no one steals it (Mom leaves the key in it, can you believe it?!).

Manure management is a big job. 

It might be my favourite job. 

 I really take my work seriously. 

Me: I am glad that I'm finally getting you some help! Her name is Cordelia and she's coming home next week. A puppy is a lot of work. 

G: I better rest up so I am ready

Me: Good idea. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024


 Man March is a difficult month. After some early lovely weather a switch was flipped and we've had rain and wind and cold. One day we had all the weather: wind, snow, rain, sleet and sun.  It rotated every 10 minutes. I don't why I'm surprised, it's like that every year. But I am always optimistic that the weather will be warm and sunny. 

brought them in early out of torrential rain, 
but they were convinced it was supper time and
I was being unnecessarily cruel

All this means that there is no way to be consistent in schooling, instead I take advantage of the rare breaks in the weather. 

My rides on Carmen are going well. Way back in February I tried to get a lesson at Stephanie's but that couldn't happen for various (usually weather) reasons. I had a lesson booked last week but it was cancelled. I had one booked this Saturday but with the forecast I was not optimistic. However, the stars aligned and I was able to have it.  I was so sure that it was going to rain and prevent the lesson that I did not set up the Pivo. So you'll have to believe me when I tell you it was awesome. 

Compared to this time last year, we are so much further ahead. Definitely having her at an indoor was a big help. Jane commented that she could see how my improved fitness had improved my riding. Which is what I was also feeling, so it was great to have validation. 

breaking up the wall of text with a 
photo of the prettiest Pussy Willow

Once we got her hind leg activated Carmen was amazing.  I'm excited to see where we go this year. 

I've been doing ground work with Quaid and he's bene doing well.  I did a whole spa day where I took out the braids that Nikki had put in.  His mane is out of control. 
see what I mean

My preferred plan would be to work with him and ride when I have someone with me but honestly that is going to make things positively glacial. So Saturday morning I decided to take him up to the ring and see how far we could get. I did a quick running braid in that mane. He was a bit distracted at first and then was asking me a lot of questions about who got to decide the pace. I realised that this was an important question that I'd better have the answer to otherwise it would bite me in the ass in the saddle.  I worked on being really clear and consistent. This worked out well so then I tacked him up and worked him with the tack on. Finally I decided to get on. I sent Ed a quick text (he was in the house) 'I'm getting on Quaid. If you don't hear from me in 20 minutes come check on me'. 

Spoiler alert, he did not need to come check on me. But I didn't do much either. I got on, walked him a few times in both directions and hopped off.  Call me chicken, but I'll call that a win.  I would rather take baby steps and build on our confidence then try too much. The trick is to do a little more each time.  At least that's the plan. 

In other news, his ulcer meds are done and he's eating everything in sight.  His coat is shedding but underneath there's a little shine that comes out when I groom. He's back to his friendly, sociable self. When I go out to call him in the field he comes right over and is happy to go to work.  He's also happy to go back to his paddock too. 

post roll celebration

Thursday, March 14, 2024


 In my last post I shared about how Quaid's system was in an uproar and how I was trying to get him back on track. 

I am happy to report that we are well on our way with that. While he was away I decided to put him on ulcer meds (in consultation with my vet of course). Because he was a distance away she phoned in the perscription to the vet near him so he could get started sooner. That vet used liquid omeprazole drawn up in to a syringe. He definitely improved but even on return he still wasn't eating enough to make me happy. I had ordered only 2 weeks of the drug and I'm really happy about that. Because when he got home I got the remaining weeks from my vet. They use a paste compound with Aloe Vera added. Within 2 days of transitioning to that compound his appetite perked right up. 

Now I know it's not a perfect experiment because of all the variables involved: being home, adding vitamin e and flaxseed. But regardless he has gone from picking at his food disinterestedly to devouring his food and being quite excited at meal times. It does my heart good. 

speaking of hearts, he has the most
adorable heart-shaped snip on his nose

Julia has been able to come out the last two days which is exciting. Because Quaid just had 4 weeks of training I really don't want to ride him when I'm alone.  I know I will at some point but it's important to me that we start off slow and build our confidence in each other. 

Yesterday was a 'nice' day by March standards- it was sunny-ish (well okay it wasn't raining) but there was a sharp, cold wind blowing. We both were of the thought that we might end up just grooming (god so much mud) and lunging. But we prepared so that we could do more.  

Carmen was a bit excited but settled in and Julia mounted and had a nice ride. I was working with Quaid and he had a fair bit of energy that felt more due to youth and feeling good, rather than spookiness. We did a lot of groundwork and I was happy to see that after some forward canter there wasn't a hive to be seen.  I decided to put on his saddle and bridle to at least work in that. He stood quietly while I tacked him up in the ring, even with his pad blowing off.  Lunging him in tack he seemed good and Julia was done riding so I asked her to help. 

I mounted him and rode him with her being in the middle 'lunging' him. I simply walked him both ways for a few minutes and called it a day. I was quite happy with that. 

Today was sunnier and no wind and both horses were quite mellow. I worked him on the ground and he was so connected. I put tack on and then, after a few minutes, mounted while Carmen and Julia worked in the ring. I walked him around working on steering and not falling into the middle. I halted him and we worked on some baby turn on the forehands. I just wanted to break down the idea that one leg means move away while two mean to go forward. It's been years since I've ridden such a green horse, it's hard because everything I do should mean something so I have to be careful. While we were working the neighbour started using a chainsaw and he didn't care at all. 

I love this view. 

When Julia and Carmen were done working they stood while Quaid and I practiced trotting around them on a circle. After about 20 minutes I stopped and dismounted. I was thrilled. And on checking him there were no hives. 

cookies for the best baby genius

Mike and Nikki have done such a great job with him. He understands about being ridden and, most importantly, he is curious not worried. There's a ton to do with him, of course but we will be able to pick away at it. 

Carmen: Hey, where are my cookies? 

Carmen: don't forget kid, you may be a 
genius but I'm still the magnificent one

I realised that he's outgrowing his bridle (at least the broadband part) so I have to figure that out. I think with the size of his head he can handle a thicker leather then his current one. 

hive free! (and handsome)

Sunday, March 10, 2024


 It's been a week since Carmen and Quaid have returned home.  You may recall that while he was at the trainers he was not really eating so we started him on some ulcer meds. His appetite was definitely better when he got home but still not stellar. 

He had definitely lost weight and it's hard to not worry. But I told myself that I needed to let being home and the medication do their job. Before he left he was a bottomless pit and was actually getting a little chunky.  I was happy that I had sent him a little heavy. 

not horrible

Compared to him in December

Every day he was doing a little better. Despite clearly not liking his medication he is so good about taking it. I don't even need to halter him. On Tuesday the vet came to do the annual examination and vaccines. The timing wasn't ideal but there's not a lot of wiggle room with appointments this time of year.  She noted that, while he was definitely thinner, he still had a nice cover on his ribs and so looked worse than he really was.  Both horses had their teeth done. 

Guinness helping the vet assistant

totally flying high here

The vet was telling me about a new vaccine that had everything in one rather than two needles. I had also shared with her about Quaid starting to break out in hives when he was worked. We talked about it and I am flummoxed because he didn't have that last year.   We decided to give Carmen the new vaccine but give Quaid what he had last year and didn't react. I let them out after the vet visit and that night everyone was fine. 

However, the next morning he was clearly unhappy and sore from the vaccine. So I gave him some banamine with his ulcer drugs and called the vet. She said to let him out and maybe give him more banamine that night.  He definitely perked up but I wasn't happy with his appetite until I brought him in. I decided to not give him another dose of banamine because of its impact on his stomach. And he didn't need it because the next morning he was much better.  FYI, Carmen had zero reaction.  

On Saturday the weather was lovely (for march) and I was able to ride Carmen and lunge Quaid. he was really good and then he spooked at something and cantered off. He wasn't trying to get away, he didn't even pull on the line but his tail was flagged and he was snorting. And then, within minutes he broke out in hives. 

Within 30 minutes of being put away they were 90% gone and totally gone by dinner time.  

I honestly think that he just dealt with a lot- the fire, training (even though it was so nice and gentle),  not getting his normal turn out, new place etc and his immune system is overwhelmed.  Ulcers can also have an impact. I have him on vitamin e but I'm going to get him some flaxseed and see if that helps boost his system. I will work him but not hard and let him settle into the routine.  

I realise that this recap make it sounds like Quaid is struggling. But he honestly seems pretty good and happy. The past few days he ate everything and is beginning to act hungry.  Since we didnt' have any of these issues last year I've decided that he will regroup and be fine. Right? 

Also, puppy preparations. 
So excited! 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

There and Back Again

 In my last post I shared that I had arranged for someone to transport Quaid home. This eased a lot of planning and contingency planning.  My plan was to go up on Thursday and get the update from Mike and Nikki and to ride Quaid. He was to be picked up at noon on Friday so I thought I might get another ride in that morning too.  Once Quaid was home I was going to hitch up my trailer and go get Carmen. 

New Ride

As a plan it was solid.  And things began to fall into place with the dealer accepting our offer on a 2018 Toyota Tundra.  Ed arranged to pick it up Thursday. Of course, it being the end of February we had some weather- heavy rain followed by a drop in temperatures. There were so many warnings about driving and ice but in the end it was perfectly fine. Most of my journey was on bare pavement and even a few sunny skies. But the winds were high which meant my shipper had to cancel a transport to PEI (the bridge closes to high sided vehicles in high winds). He reached out to see if he could pick up Quaid on Thursday at 2. But I told him that that wouldn't work for me. If I went along with that there would be no way for me to ride. So we agreed to an early morning pick up on Friday. I figured that would be fair, because I know that he has to make a living too. 

When I arrived on Thursday afternoon the winds were high and you could really hear it in the arena. Quaid was quite naturally excited. There were also cows in the arena for some penning practice later. Quaid was adorable checking them out. 

Quaid: hello do they ride you too?'
Cattle: "no they ride you to chase us around'

Nikki watched us working through the ground work and gave me some excellent pointers about my body language. Then, when he was settled, we tacked him up and I got on.  Not gonna lie, it felt wonderful to swing a leg over him. I tried to be cool but inside I was squealing like a 12 year old. 

 He was really good for a total green bean. It was definitely a lot to process to remember how to ride a green horse.  But his gaits are very comfortable. You can see all the things around there that he just didn't care about. 

While I was riding another horse came in for a vet check. The vet also had a baby in a stroller. He did take this all in stride but we were both getting a little excited. So Mike asked if he could get on and I hopped off. I'm glad I did because he was able to demonstrate that the issue was that I was being too wishy washy and Quaid had a bit too much energy still. Mike worked him down and it was great to watch him be 100% clear on what he wanted and to see Quaid go 'oh okay'. 

I got back on and did a little more riding before calling it a day.  I spent a lovely night staying at Mike and Nikki's and meeting their wonderful daughter.  The next morning the weather was sunny but so freaking cold and windy. It was impossible to walk outside without saying 'fuuuuck'. It felt like your face was being peeled off. Quaid was not too happy in the morning. Nikki loaned me a blanket for the trailer because of the temperature and it was a stock style trailer. The shipper was right on time and we loaded Quaid on without issue. Once on he pawed a lot. But the journey was uneventful. The shipper told me that every time they stopped he was stomping his feet. But he unloaded quietly and as soon as he walked in the barn you could see him go 'oh I'm home. Great'.  The barn was empty but he seemed unfazed. 

I didn't want to leave him alone though so I was waiting for Ed to come home. I thought that while I was waiting I figured I would hook up the trailer and be ready to go get Carmen. The truck was really easy to line up with the back up camera on the huge screen. But when I went to plug in the electric the receptacle seemed a bit loose. I plugged in and check my lights. 
No lights. 
I unplugged and pushed it back in . 
No lights. 

I was NOT happy. I called the dealership:
Hello how can I help you. 
Hi, I am Teresa ____ and I bought a truck YESTERDAY and it is not working. I am NOT HAPPY AND I NEED TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE IN CHARGE NOW.  (I was not yelling but I was very emphatic). 
I went on hold and then someone came no the line (turned out to be the owner). 
I told him that I had bought a truck for the specific purpose of trailering. I was very clear on that. And I was trying to hook up my trailer and it was not working. He was to fix this and I was not driving back to the dealership (it was over an hour away). 
To give him credit he agreed with me on everything and asked to have a few minutes to work a solution. IN the meantime I still had Jane's truck and literally no choice so I brought it down to hook up.  

While I was doing this (and Ed helping), I got a call back and asked to take my truck to the Toyota dealer in town and they would cover the cost of repairs. 

I had the trailer hooked up and left to get Carmen. By now I'm a lot flustered. I hate being flustered. Anyway I get to the barn where Carmen is and realise that I don't have the keys to the trailer. 


I call Ed and ask him to bring them to me and to take the truck to the dealer. He arrives and gives me the keys. I unlock the trailer and go to get Carmen. 

Now I have owned Carmen since 2015. She has never refused to load for me. Ever. 

Except for this day. When she walked on the trailer and flew off backward with a wild eye. And she would not get back on. After about 10 minutes of her going sideways, pulling back and generally being a wild thing I was really starting to question my life choices. 

Like I could be on a beach right now sipping margaritas, instead of this shit. What is wrong with me. 

I called Stephanie but she was about 30 minutes away.  I took a deep breath do what you know I thought. And so I worked with Carmen like she had never seen a trailer before. We rested on or near the trailer and every attempt to flee resulted in work. I got her on, back her off and then got her to go on her own. I took her off again and then the next time I closed the butt bar.  

(I have done a lot of thinking about this. I think that I was not in a good place when I was trying to load her because I was flustered by the truck debacle. But I also think (and a sniff test confirmed later) that the trailer still smelled of smoke and I think it caused her to panic. )

Once on she was was fine and unloaded like the trained horse she was. I walked her into the barn to be greeted quietly by Quaid. They sniffed noses and then she gave a little squeal and I put her in her stall. Once she was in I headed into the house to rest. 

This is why I drink, is an alternate title for this blog post. 

The next day I was careful about turning them out because they had been apart for a month and I didn't want any fireworks. So I put a halter on Carmen to make sure she didn't get aggressive. But it was a non-event. Quaid didn't even canter around. He was a totally different horse than the one I saw that morning. This was the horse I knew- happy, quiet, friendly. 

I love having them home again

My ring is thawing but too soft right now to work them. Which is, I think, fine,  It gives us time to settle back into the routine. 

Oh and the truck- the recptacle being loose caused the relay to blow. It is being replaced this week. Af first they tried to say it must have been my trailer. Until Ed pointed out that the trailer was hooked up to another truck and worked just fine. *eyeroll* Yes I am a girl but I know what I'm doing.  I am not happy that this was not caught but I am happy that they owned up to it and weren't dicks about it. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


 It is human nature to assume that we can impose order and structure on our lives. We make plans, we examine failures and think that we can prevent chaos. 

But chaos is inevitable. No matter how hard we try our lives will, at times feel like they are spinning out of control. 

Honestly, if that does not describe life with horses I don't know what does. February has been a month of things creating disorder.  Between the truck debacle, snow storms and unexpected truck shopping has made us feel like we're in a constant game of catch up.  

The snow storm demolished boards in my riding ring

Quaid has been doing great with his training. Except that he's not eating as much as we'd like. Nikki has tried everything so last week I decided to put him on ulcer meds to see if the stress of everything has resulted in his gut being upset. 

Look at this superstar

Tomorrow I go to see him. He's coming home on Friday. With the truck uncertainty and for my own peace of mind I decided to hire someone to pick him up and bring him home. Once I get him home I'll take my trailer and go get Carmen.  And because Ed and I have been working hard on truck shopping, with my new (to us) truck.  

You know who's not in a state of disorder? This girl. 
it was a stormy day so we played
the 'find the ball and get to rest'  game

She's been having a grand time at her spot. It's been really nice to go and spend quality time with her. Julia watched us the other day and commented on how quiet and relaxed she's been. 

Carmen: I don't believe in disorder
 unless I am the source. 

I think that the lesson I'm taking is that we can't expect to be able to completely control everything around us. Instead we have to recognise that no matter how prepared we are things will fall apart at times. The trick is to take a deep breath and figure out what to do next. 

I am looking forward to things getting back to 'normal' for a least a little while. Because in other news, one of these little potatoes is going to be the new deputy of security on the farm: 
German Shepherd puppies from the breeder who owns
Guinness' father. 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Chugging Along

 Here we are in Mid-February and there's a lot more action on the horse front. There's also a lot more snow. 

My driveway in under there somewhere

But you can feel the warmth in the sun and the days are growing longer. 

It might be cold but there's always baking

Carmen continues to amaze me with how well she has settled into her current life. She's definitely happy.

Sharing Marshall's hay even though hers is a few feet away

We've settled into a routine: I clean her stall and then tack her up to ride. She's been really good. Except for one day when the snow slid off the roof. That really scared her and she took off on me. But I got her back in a a few minutes and we had a good ride. She loves the mirrors. I see her watching herself as we go by and it's adorable. 

Mirror Mirror on the wall

I'm curious to see what she'll be like when we return home. But now I know that there's a mellow Carmen in there....

I've been getting regular updates on Quaid. He's doing really well. Nikki told me that he's the most prepared horse she's had in for training. Which makes me feel proud. 

Quaid's new BFF

Mr. Smarty Pants

I swear he looked like he grew when I saw him today.  The wind was howling and he was quite worried about the noise in the arena. But after some work on the ground he settled. It was neat to see that as soon as the tack when on he was all business. Tacking up Carmen can cause her to feel more stress but Quaid really seemed to settle with it on. Like he knew what was expected and was happy to work. When he was being ridden it was like he didn't hear the wind at all. 

His canter is getting a lot more balanced. 

I am so glad that I sent him there. I love how they work with him and how he's always challenged but not overwhelmed. It will be fun to bring him home and see where we can go from here.