dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, April 29, 2024

A Twofer

 On Sunday I not only had a lesson, I had two! 

My original plan was to alternate lessons with Quaid and Carmen. However, Quaid is only being ridden 20-30 minutes and we've had to cancel quite a few lessons. So when the call went out to sign up for lessons last Sunday I reached out and asked if I could have a lesson and a half. And Jane said yes! 

Cordelia: I have my brush, where's my pony? 

Now I had to work out how to limit the downtime between the two. I did a lot of thinking and decided on a plan (and you know I love a plan). That morning I put Quaid's saddle, pad, girth and both bridles in a wheelbarrow and took them up to the ring. I also hung a hay net and put a ring in a post. About 30 minutes before I brought them both in and groomed them. I put a saddle on Carmen and then led the both of them up to the ring (thank heavens I had worked on that).  I tied up Carmen then tacked up Quaid and began our groundwork. 

Carmen was funny. She thought about being worried, then annoyed then happy she wasn't working but insulted she wasn't first. 

I set up the PIVO too. Unfortunately, my phone battery died during Carmen's lesson. I'm thinking I'll dig out a portable charger and tie it to the tripod to keep the phone charged. 

When Jane arrived Quaid was ready for me to get on. I talked about what I'd been doing with him. I've ridden him about 11 times since I brought him home. I need guidance on what I should be asking from him and how to support him. Jane asked if she needed to hold him while I mounted. I said 'no, if he won't stand for me to get on then he's not ready to be ridden'.   Here's a video of how we do the mounting. I pull the block out the middle, mostly because I don't want to have the discussion about grazing on the edges. 

As you can see he stands very still while I get on. The slight backing up once I sit needs to be fixed but I'm trying to not make a big deal about it. Mostly because I don't want to ride off as soon as my butt hits the leather. Instead we stand there and I do a couple flexions. It's just to have him thinking that my ask will be something other than walking off. 

Jane's feedback basically was for me to ride my horse and stop trying to baby him around. Which is exactly what I needed to hear. I've been too caught up into being careful.  And, my god, my arms are so tight. I didn't even realise it until Jane pointed it out and I watched the video. I think it comes from me being careful- with him and myself. Even though he hasn't done anything when I've been on him, I am still not sure what he will do if/when he gets upset. Which makes me ride defensively. Throw in the general unsteadiness of a very green horse and it feels quite awkward at times. 

pats for the best boy

Despite all this, we weren't really half-bad. Quaid tried really hard and I tried really hard and we each gave each other grace. He's such a cool horse that way. The lesson was walk and trot with steering. So only interesting to a few people, I'm sure.  There was a definite draw to Carmen, which you can see here. But he responded to my outside leg. No one is surprised that I was relying mostly on my inside rein and Jane was clear that I needed to get off it. 

Carmen is watching us here. 

I also need to keep my legs draped on his side and not try to keep them off.  Poor Jane, she kept having to say 'stop riding him like a baby'.  And by that she didn't mean that he wasn't a baby but that he needs to have clear aids and I need to do them properly. She also worked on me getting him to do downward transitions with just my seat, no hands. 

looking down but not otherwise looking good

The time really flew during the lesson (for me anyway). He stayed pretty attentive through all of it. Here's a video of the end. 

look at his reach! 

After our lesson I untacked him and put him in the paddock. I then put Carmen's bridle on and started lesson # 2 (honestly, thank heavens I started working out last winter).  I shared that Carmen has been really good. I've been really happy with how quickly she connects with me.  Jane had us a do a lot of walking, adding in shoulder-in and leg yields. I am so guilty of letting Caren bend her neck and not her body.  We did a lot of giving the rein and taking it back at all three gaits.  In the past when I gave the rein too much Carmen would become really uncertain and would often spook/bolt. Now she's learning to soften and lengthen her neck. 

Carmen: finally it's my turn

We did shoulder in on the circle too and that is so hard. We had to do a 10 metre circle and then keep that bend coming onto the larger circle.  But the pay off is that I could feel her come up and soft and balanced. When Jane asked us to canter for the first time she just lifted off into a balanced and soft canter. It was lovely. I gave the rein forward on the canter circle and she just stayed really steady and didn't lose her rhythm at all.  We even did leg yields at the canter and Carmen did not get all emotional about it.  I love not having to spend 30 minutes getting her mentally in the game. Instead we can just go to work. 

Doing the lessons this way was a lot of work- the organization and riding two horses in very different places in their training.  But it was so worth it. 

Carmen: move over baby genius it's time for the expert

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The House Crocodile

 Last weekend was pretty epic. And it had very little to do with horses. 

As you may recall, Guinness was getting a new assistant: Cordelia, a 9 week old GSD puppy. She was just outside Montreal and we had always planned to go get her. But you can't just go to Montreal and back without enjoying it a few days. I also coincided with a PWHL (Professional Womens Hockey League) at the Bell centre between Montreal and Toronto. When my daughter suggested we go I realised that the timing was perfect. 

I am a country girl but I do love to visit big cities. Especially one like Montreal. It has such a great vibe and is built to walk around. We got a great hotel (with parking!) close to the Bell Centre and St. Catherine's street. I was wonderful to walk around and see everything. 

Love how the new and old are connected

The game was Saturday afternoon and the Bell Centre was pumping. It was sold out crowd (a world record for women's hockey attendance) made of 80%+ women. There were infants and women with walkers. Everyone was so excited. The game did not disappoint (although Montreal lost in OT- boo!). 

wearing our hockey shirts

you can't go to Montreal and not get a Montreal
Smoked Meat sandwich! 

both teams warming up

Sunday morning we drove about an hour to go and meet Cordelia and her family. I've known Dawn (the breeder) for a bit but have never met in person. Cordelia was as lovely as she appeared in the photos. When it was time to go Dawn was crying; she loves her puppies and gives them the best start. 

We're all happy, Cordelia is wondering what's going on

The plan was to drive a long time on Sunday, stay over in a hotel and a shorter time on Monday. Cordelia was a great traveller. She would complain a bit and then go to sleep. 

first selfie 

Guinness was a bit barky at first when we got home but now they are settled in together. Guinness has taken her under his wing and is, perhaps, a bit too lenient. I actually saw her push him away from his food. Which is something I stopped immediately. She doesn't get to be too rambunctious with him. 

We have a crate on the main floor and one upstairs in the bedroom for night time. We have our snuggle in the bed and then I put her in the crate. She protested a lot the first night but it's getting better and better. Last night she barely said a peep. Guinness was sleeping by her crate and he got up to move, she started to cry so he gave a sigh and came back and laid by the crate again. She went right to sleep. 

I mean, who could resist those eyes and bunny ears? 

It's been a long time since we had a puppy (7 to be exact) so we're all on a bit of a learning curve. Cordelia is enjoying the farm dog life. 
helping to clean stalls. I don't know
why it's taking me so long these days

this cushion fell off the couch and I
don't have the heart to put it back

Overall, she's a good dog with sharp needle teeth that latch on to things and don't let go. 

Right now she's glued to me- which is good. I use that to support the behaviours I want. I've enrolled us in puppy classes starting next week. Those should be fun. I'll have to remember this cute phase when she goes through her velociraptor phase. 

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.