dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, June 24, 2024

Catching Up

 It always seems like it's feast or famine with horse blogging. Not much is happening and then everything is happening. Which gives a lot to blog about but less time to actually, you know, write.  Rather than procrastinate (any more than I have already) I thought I'd do a summary of what we've been up to. 

First Hack

Right before we headed off to the show Julia and I took the two horses for a hack. Last year the woods were so soft and wet we couldn't hack at all. So this was Carmen's first in 2 years and Quaid's first under saddle. 

Carmen was really happy to head out of the ring and into the woods. Quaid was a little excited and needed a lot of half-halting to not run up Carmen's butt. He did not like that but he has to learn. 

There are a couple logs across the path that are easy to walk over. One is a bit bigger. I had Julia go first and then halt on the other side. I didn't want Quaid to get overexcited and do a big jump. He was uncertain so I just stayed calm and urged him to go forward backing off when I felt him incline forward. He went over after a little bit of dithering. We looped again and this time he jumped with his front feet and walked over with his hind. It was funny.  He liked the stopping to graze part. 

We've been able to hack a second time since then and he was much calmer and relaxed. Which is his style- each time he gets better.  Carmen was a perfect babysitter. 

Quaid: this is all very interesting

Post Show Lesson (Carmen):

I gave both of them a couple days off after the show. I did book a lesson with Jane for Sunday (June 16). Jane shared how she had been so proud of all her students at the show. We talked about how good Carmen was and the judge's comments. Overall the judge said that Carmen needs to carry more behind and improve her ability to collect and lengthen.  All of which is totally legit.  

We spent the lesson working of having Carmen flex and bend because that's what is going to help her with this.  It was a really good lesson and Carmen was right with me. Jane said something that made me pretty happy. I was along the lines of 'She's going so nice and calm because of your riding, not just because she's older'.  Not gonna lie, I had a little glow of pride with that.  

I can really feel Carmen understanding what's being asked and, when she's not sure, she's looking for the answer.  I still have a lot to work on. I keep seeing the videos of my shoulders super tight and raising them. I hate that I still do that but I'll keep working on it. 

Schooling Quaid:

I am really enjoying working with this guy. He tries so hard. Each ride is better than the one before.  We've been struggling with the right bend but I keep working at it. His straightness is really good. We even trotted down the quarter line without wobbling. He is building his understanding of the tasks. I do groundwork before every ride. What we do varies but the purpose remains the same: to have his attention and willingness. It honestly doesn't take long but I don't skip it,  I think it's critical.  We've added in cantering on both reins (just on the circle). 

Johanna Clinic (the readers digest edition)

If you've followed this blog for a while you know that I attend clinics with Johanna Beattie Batista. She is a classically trained Centered Riding instructor - from Spain but now lives in Portugal. I always enjoy these clinics. I love the pace and hanging out with the other riders. They are arranged by Karen who is a very close friend. Typically I travel about 2 hours away to do the clinics but there was a glitch and it was in danger of being cancelled. Fortunately, Stepehanie and I came forward and hosted it this time. That made is easier in terms of travel. And it was fun to host Johanna and Karen. The location was split between my place and Stephanie's. I rode both of my horses and there were 2 riders at Stephanie. There were another 2 riders who had lessons on Friday and Sunday as karen was transporting Johanna. I know this sounds confusing but it all made sense, trust me. 

My rides were first and both days I started with Quaid.  There were people there with lawn chairs watching and we had Johanna but he took all in stride. The ride was really good. Johanna helped me to be really consistent on asking for the flexion and having him understand bend (for a baby horse). As we worked he became more and more consistent in the contact. 

Johanna talked about making sure that I was a steady rider and to let him find me. Which is also want Jane tells me. So how can I argue? Day 2 was very similar (as you would expect) but we rode longer and did more trotting. Johanna had me work with him and she made comments as we went. There was a lot of positive things. 

His trot was the steadiest it's been. Like I said, every ride is better than the one before. 

look at this :) 

With Carmen I told her about working on Carmen carrying more from behind. I was fascinated that Johanna's approach was very similar to Jane's with different nuances. As we warmed up we did this exercise of shoulder in to haunches in to shoulder in, with a turn on the haunches and repeat. It was tricky to keep everything organised. I remember Johanna saying 'if you want quality gaits you need to ride with quality'. Like I always say, riding is hard. But fun. I could feel Carmen getting more under me. 

Funny story: we went to canter and Carmen was NOT feeling it. She didn't want to go forward. This is not new. I probably asked a bit strong and I think I surprised her with the transition. What she does when she doesn't want to canter forward is to pin her ears and suck back. She'll even give little bucks but those are NBD. I gave the rein forward to make sure I didn't pull and urged her to go forward. Johanna had me take her large encouraging her to open her stride. 

You can see in the video Carmen changing from feeling pissy to having fun. The next day she was a bit sore from the work and/or because she was coming into heat. So we kept the work lighter and ended at a good place.  We finished with walking half pass making sure that Carmen was bending. I have learned that when I think the bend is good it's still not enough. Johanna reminded me that it was an exercise, not necessarily what I want in competition, 

Saturday night we all got together and shared food (so.much.food) and talked horses and laughed. I think I was in bed by 9:15. 

patting her for cantering forward

When I look at my photos and videos of Carmen this year I can see how her top-line is really developing. 

It was fun, if tiring, weekend.  I was pleasantly surprised that I could ride two horses back to back for 2 days and not fade. At least not until I sat down. And I definitely had a nap after everyone left and Johanna and Karen were on the road. 

There's still a lot of summer ahead to keep working and I'm excited. 

Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Best of Times: Sunday Show Report

 Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny. I was still feeling good about Saturday and I was looking forward to another day at the show.  Both horses appeared to have had a good night. Quaid was a lot more quiet then he had been on Saturday but as the activity picked up he got excited again.  Whenever I went into his stall he'd totally relax so I tried to be systematic in moving away so he could learn to settle. It actually worked pretty good even though he'd answer any horse that called. This annoyed one competitor (whose horse was also calling) and she was a bit snappy with me. But what can you do? A lot of horses were calling and it's all part of the learning. I tried to be zen about it all.  Carmen was pretty chill though. 

from Friday's ride in the show ring

I was trying to decide if I should ride him in the warm up ring or not. I kept my eye on the warm up because I didn't want to interfere with anyone wanting to show. I realised that it would likely be empty at lunch time and I would simply do my one step at a time approach. With that in mind I tacked him up and started to lead him out of the barn. Jane asked if I wanted her to come and I told her that she had been working hard all morning and it was okay to sit and rest. Ilka asked if I wanted help and I asked if she could come and stand while I mounted. I led him around the ring and he seemed pretty good so I left the ring and lined him up to the mounting block. Ilka stayed closed but he didn't need to be held. We walked into the warm up ring and I tried to be relaxed and supportive.  After a couple walks around I looked at the door and saw all of my friends standing there making sure we were okay. It was very heart warming.   I don't know if I would want to show if I didn't have such a great circle.  At the far side of the ring the door was open and there was a guy there with a portable hot water washer. Quaid was quite worried about it. Jane began to coach us and even had us trotting around.  She told me to give the rein up by the spooky item so he didn't feel restrained. It worked a charm. I was over the moon about how well Quaid listened and tried his heart out. 

I was sooo happy

Soon it was time to warm up Carmen. She felt a little more tired and less keen to work. Which was totally fair. I got tight trying to get her forward and soft. Jane really helped us so that we didn't dissolve into a battle of wills.  She warned me that because yesterday was so good I wanted even more but I needed to still be fair. Soon it was our turn to go in and do our test. 
the best mare doing her best

I was really happy with our test. We had a flubbed lead but corrected it and carried on.  Our score was 61.29 and earned us a first place ribbon.   

Our ride times were exactly the same as the day before so I walked her around again. Carmen (and I) were tired and hot so I didn't ask a ton until right before. But I didn't let her just plop around either because then she'd think she was done and get cranky with me. (Carmen here, I do not get cranky I simply expect her to treat me like the magnificent creature I am).  

I took a deep breath and brought her in for her last class. I was really really happy with it. Still lots of room for improvement but still a solid effort from both of us. Carmen tried her heart out for me and I tried my heart out for her.  Our score was 61.15. 

In the end Carmen and I were reserve at Second Level. However, there were only two of us at this level. Normally there wouldn't be a champion/reserve but the committee decided to do it for everyone. I don't care that I came second out of 2. This was the first time I showed and didn't feel like an imposter. I was happy with how I rode and how mature and good Carmen was for all 3 days. There hadn't been one spook. 

the first saddle pad I've ever won

I felt like this was a huge triumph for us. I had so much fun at the show and didn't feel unsafe riding even once. That is a huge win for us. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

The Best of Times- Saturday Show Report

 Last weekend Carmen, Quaid and I headed to our first show of the season.  Julia also planned to join us.  She came early Friday and helped me finish the packing.  Remembering the last time when Carmen refused to load I started a little early. It wasn't necessary- Carmen looked at the trailer, gave a small sigh and walked right on and then so did Quaid. 

This was the first time I towed them with the new truck (I had done a test run with the empty trailer) and I was really impressed with how easily it handled. 

I love this set up

The drive was uneventful until we arrived. Just as we were starting to unload Julia got a call that her grandfather had passed away. A good friend of hers came and picked her up to take her home to go to her family. I felt so bad that I couldn't take her but it all worked out. 

I had requested that Carmen and Quaid not be beside each other and they were  two stalls apart.  Neither was happy with this but it's all part of helping them not get too attached when we travel. At home they are fine separated. However, I realised that I need to work on this more because there was a lot of calling. 

Quaid quite liked his neighbour Archie

I had booked time in the show ring for both of them. My plan with Quaid was to take it one step at a time.  For him the purpose of this weekend was to learn about being a show horse without actually showing. A dress rehearsal if you will. I tacked him up and took him in only planning to mount if he seemed okay. Which he was. Although definitely up he was really able to focus on me and so I mounted outside and had Julia help lead us into the ring. 

little horse in a big world

He was definitely tense and uncertain, but tried really hard. I tried a little trot but he was a bit too excited for either of us to feel safe so I settled for just walking.  Here's a quick video if you want to see: 

Then it was Carmen's turn! I tacked her up and brought her out. And she was fabulous.  We got straight to work and she didn't even look at anything. Which was (spoiler alert) how she was all weekend in both the show ring and warm up ring.  

On Saturday I wasn't riding until 2:30 which gave me lots of time to organise myself and the horses. Quaid really struggled on Saturday with all the horses coming and going and the excited atmosphere. He would call a lot and spin in his stall. My goal is for him to learn that this is all okay and how to settle. As soon as I would go in his stall he'd calm right down and start to relax. Of course it's not practical for me to spend the day there so I worked on increasing my distance and leaving at times. By Sunday he was a LOT better. Both horses would get upset when the other left but by Sunday they were pretty much over it. 

I took Quaid in the warm up ring to lunge at lunch time when there weren't any riders. He was excited but it was easy to get his attention on me and he relaxed over time. I was quite happy.  I left it at that. 

When it was time to warm up Carmen it was a bit warm but not too bad. And our warm up was incredible. She was with me right from the beginning. Jane helped us warm up and she kept saying how good she was. It felt fabulous and like we were truly partners. I kept saying I'm having the best time! And I was. The warm up alone was enough to make me happy. 

When it was time for us to go I I felt really ready. I walked in and heard the announcer say our name and number. I looked at her bridle and was horrified to realise I didn't have her number on her bridle.  I swore out loud. Krista (who was reading my test) ran to get it while I quickly left the ring trotting after her. She grabbed it, put it on and I trotted back to the ring hoping I wasn't going to be disqualified. As I trotted back in the judge rang the bell for us to start. Totally fair. But now we were a bit unsettled. We never got our groove completely back but you know what? It didn't matter, Carmen was still awesome. We have a *hem* history in that ring of being tight and spooky but she was not remotely stressed by anything, although slightly peeved that I trotted her to the barn and then back to the ring. Fortunately, Paula videoed my rides: 

I was thrilled with our test. Definitely a whole bunch to work on and our final score was 60.14. The judge is a strict marker but every comment was spot on and helpful. 

Our next test was less than 30 minutes so I stayed on and walked her around for a bit before doing a warm up before going in to do our next test: Second level test 2. Again it felt like we were a true partnership. 

I was really happy with this test and the score was 62.56.  

At the end I walked out of the ring smiling. I untacked her and hosed her off before putting her back in the stall. 

In the end I had two second place ribbons, which was the icing on the cake. 

That night a bunch of us got together for a potluck bbq on the show grounds. It was so much fun to sit around laughing and talking. We teased each other, complimented each other and generally were just enjoying being in each other's company.  I got a lot of ribbing about forgetting my bridle number.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day.  That night I slept like a log. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Ready, Maybe, But it's Fine


the fresh mowed fields look so pretty

All of a sudden it's June and this weekend we are heading to our first show.  Normally I'm freaking out about not being ready.   But this year I find myself feeling more relaxed about it all. 

not Quaid level relaxed, but still....

Which makes me start thinking about what I mean by 'ready'. I used to think it meant that I could go and score well.  

Now I think about it more about my horse being able to go, understand the job and be able (emotionally and physically) to do it. This makes me think about any horse activity (show, clinic, etc) differently. 

Carmen has been really good since I had to draw a line for her. This week Ed was mowing the fields and it was breezy which made her quite spicy. This made our ride a lot harder and by the end we were both sweaty. I jumped off by the end of the ring near where Ed was mowing. I always take her bridle off so she's free to go. She never does leave. 
Carmen: I don't like it down here. The leaves are blowing and the male servant is making noise in my paddock
Me:  You can go if you like. 
Carmen: but I know you have carrots in your pockets. 
Me:  yes I do but you have choices. 
Carmen:  damnit! 

(in the end she stayed and enjoyed the carrots). 

Remember when I was trying to decide if I should take Quaid in a work/trot test. After chatting with Jane I decided to not do that. He's just not quite ready to be judged (the judge might miss his genius). But I did reserve a warm up spot in the who ring. So my plan is to take him to the show and ride him (or not) in the arm up ring and show ring so he can have the full experience minus the satin. It gives me the ability to curate his experience to keep it positive. It's a good dry run for me to practice showing 2 horses. At my age, what am thinking?  However, I am in the best shape I've been in in years. 

He's looking so good these days

Carmen is definitely ready. She understands her job, I understand how to support her and be clear in my aids.  Is our medium trot/canter confirmed? Well no. How about our Shoulder in/haunches in? Those are pretty good. 

Will we be able to do this in the moment? Well that is the unknown piece. There is always potential that things will go off the rails (like with the pigeon of doom). I am not too worried. Can things go wrong? Sure. Things can go right too. I also get to hang out with a great bunch of people so it's more like a fun weekend away with ponies. 

Don't wish us luck but wish us a good experience.