dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, September 22, 2017

Changing Patterns

If you've been reading along you will see that I have had a lot of 'wins' with Carmen this season.

We have had a successful show season and each clinic I went to added a bit more into our training.
definitely doing more of these clinics next year
Having regular lessons with Shanea has been invaluable. I do believe that to progress you need to have a consistent trainer so that things build slowly. 

If I had to think about who has changed more this year - Carmen or me, I don't think that I could choose. I have had to be more conscious about it for sure. 

It's hard to change patterns though and it takes serious mental effort on my part to not fall back into tensing and grabby hands when I feel that she's a bit spooky. I have been determined to not break my left wrist and put the rein against her neck when I feel that she wants to fall in. At times you will even hear me say that to myself over and over. Putting the rein against her neck was a temporary solution for when she would bolt to the inside. Now it just encourages her to drop her shoulder and not carry through the corner. 

Interestingly enough our bigger issues continue to be our ring. Which makes sense given that's where we had really set patterns of behaviour. I am finding it easier and easier to not tighten and grab when she tightens. When I do I catch myself and relax my seat. I inevitably find that she relaxes when I do that. 

see- no trolls here

Changing my mindset about troll corner has been a real turning point. I don't think I would have seen the pattern if I hadn't taken her off property and encountered the same issues in the same corner. Knowing that has helped me to ride more boldly and clearly into it and expect that she will carry on. 

Not that she does always. Last night we were cantering up on the right lead into the corner and then we were going to the right and sideways (canter half-passes are not going to be an issue). I didn't tense or get upset but I don't let her choose the way we go so I pulled her around to the left to go back. Somewhere in there she did a flying change (good girl)  and we cantered back to the left. My mindset/tension never changed. It was just a blip- oh where were we? 

Our rides are not exciting or anything to truly write about. We're working on our first/second level stuff and the only thing that's a bit of struggle is the trot lengthens. Last night I felt she sit back on her hind end and lengthen a bit in the trot. It was't a big one but she received lots of praise for it. 

Our rides are short and easy these days. I try to get a few things established and then end. We go into the woods on a regular basis. Even when she's more excitable (like last night with the breeze and cooler weather) she is still trying to listen and figure out what I'm asking. Rarely do I get the sense that she's completely tuned me out. She may be distracted but will come back with a leg aid or my voice. 

Changing patterns is hard. But it is possible. We're living proof. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Out And About

The lesson with Shanea was not the only fun thing I scheduled. Saturday I had made some special plans to meet up with my friend Nancy. Let me back up.

A few months ago when I was struggling with Carmen, Nancy had sent me an email suggesting that we get together and ride the trails are the place where she boards. Her horse, a big beautiful warmblood named 'Bo' was a great companion horse because he was just always so calm. I contacted the owner of   Coveside Stables to see if it was okay with her that I haul in. I used to ride a horse there a long time ago and she remembered me. She couldn't have been more kind about letting me come.

I really wanted to take her up on but with one thing and another it didn't happen. Last week I sent her an email to see if she was free Saturday and she was! The owner was also okay with me coming and so it was all scheduled.

In the morning I loaded Carmen on the trailer. Actually she loaded herself and I had to hold her back - as soon as she saw the trailer she was all 'let's go!'  and did not take kindly to my telling her that she needed to wait for me. The ride was short and I pulled into the gates.

the view leaving the property
Coveside is probably the most beautiful facilities I have ever seen. It overlooks the Chester Basin so the views are incredible. There are rolling hills, many rings for dressage and jumping. They have a large barn and attached arena plus extra barns and buildings for storage. Every year they put up temporary stalls for their shows. And best of all they have built miles of trails. All impeccably groomed and only for horses. I didn't take a lot of photos but check out their website and you will see what I mean.

I pulled up to the barn and unloaded Carmen. She walked behind me into the barn on the rubber pavers and into a large, beautiful stall and looked around as though to say 'finally'.  I turned around to get my stuff but it was already out- Nancy and one of the workers had unloaded my saddle, bridle etc for me. I then parked the trailer in the parking lot and came back to the barn. 
barn and arena
Nancy introduced me to the guy who helped and then to Rose- 'all grown up'. I knew Rose when she was young it was great to see what a lovely young woman she had grown into even though I can't believe all that time had passed. 

After a brief chat we tacked up the horses, went into the indoor, mounted and walked out of the indoor (red door in the middle of the photo above). I didn't walk her around or lunge her. I just got on and off we went. 

And we hit the trails. Bo and Nancy were perfect companions. They ambled along in front of us at a nice steady walk. Carmen was amazing. She was obviously looking around and a bit excited but normal horse excited. Not stiff or spooky at all. 
those ears- one was on me at all times
I let her have a bit a rein and we just walked. I loved the woods trails- they were so varied in the type of tress. Some had a lot of ferns others were mossy and still more with strewn with pine needles. I told Nancy that I expected to see a hobbit at any moment.  My inner 12 year old was over the moon and kept giggling. There were numerous wooded bridges and I wasn't worried. The first one she was a bit spooky once she realized that there was something underneath. By the third one she was all 'meh' a bridge.  At one point we came close to a public trail and Nancy called 'hello' to a couple walking above us (most likely to warn the horses). I called hello as well and Carmen didn't even blink. 
Nancy took this with her phone. I wore my vest to be safe

We went up and down hills which was a great way to work her hind end. There were some rocks along the path that Carmen looked askance at but, again, it was just normal horse ('are these okay? I will go by but will keep my eye on them in case they turn to be rock trolls' ) behaviour. 

We then came into a huge field and the hay had been cut so it was free to use. Part of me wanted to go for a gleeful gallop but I restrained myself. Next time I told myself, this is all about making it low key and easy. Nancy and I chatted the whole way. We both agree that riding out is the most fun part of riding. Her little West Highland Terrier kept us company- occasionally going off to hunt squirrels. Carmen was completely not bothered by this little white terrier popping up in various locations. I loved watching her run around being all terrier like. She was definitely less white when we were done. 

and then with my phone. Pretty sure this was my expression the whole ride.
Carmen "could you calm down please, it's embarrassing'
We ended up coming out near the front gates and by the dressage court. We headed back into the woods and came up to the barn. I think we were gone between 60-90 minutes. I put her back in the stall. Nancy hosed Bo off and turned him out while I went to get the trailer. Carmen was not too impressed when I came back My friend! Where's my friend? But settled as soon as there were people around.  The ride home was uneventful. I hosed her off at home and turned her out to catch up on all the grass that she missed. 

it's not fancy but it's my slice of heaven

 As I was cleaning out the trailer Ed came up and said "How was it?"
"OH MY GOD I HAD SO MUCH FUN" I may have been squealing. I was definitely grinning.

He smiled and said "you have been saying that every time you come back. You are having a great summer with her and I am glad. You earned it".  This is why I love this man.

It may sound silly that I was so excited about trailering off property, riding out and then returning. I know lots of people do this all the time. But two years ago I considered it a good ride if there were fewer then three bolts in a ride. Last year we spent hours on training to get her rideable. I will be eternally grateful to Royce and how he helped us. This year I wasn't even sure I should show and look at how that turned out. I will be eternally grateful to Karen, Johanna and Shanea for getting us ready for that. Last year I would not have believed that I could have done something like today without a lot of lunging and 'managing' of Carmen. Yesterday I hopped on and said 'let's go, this will be fun'. And she believed me.

I am finally getting to do all the things I love on a horse that I love and for me that is truly special.

Thank you Nancy for taking me and Jackie for letting me enjoy your beautiful property.

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Zen Unicorn

Carmen's mellowness is continuing and while I am enjoying it I am also struggling to figure how to ride her.

I have skills to ride spooky Carmen, zoomy Carmen and even resistant Carmen.

But lazy, Zen Carmen is confounding me. Don't get me wrong - I have ridden lazy horses and I know how to ride them. However, I don't want to teach Carmen that her mellowness is wrong. Getting after her seems to be not quite the right thing. So instead I am trying to build her forward out of the mellowness. It sounds good but I am really just making it up as I go along.

So the lesson I had today was perfectly timed. When Shanea arrived we were just getting into the ring. I explained about how she's been lately- mellow, not-spooky and lazy. As we chatted Carmen stood there looking like she was having a nap.

We started off working on leg yields- first towards the rail and then adding in zig zag lines. It helped me to understand how to use the outside rein for straightness- I have a habit of over bending her and then trying to get her to go sideways. Part of that was to keep her from looking out and then spooking. But I don't need to do that now.

Shanea also set up some trot poles on one side and a single pole on the other.  What I like about Shanea is that she's all about being correct and she insisted that I set her up for the poles about three strides out and then let her go through but I wasn't allowed to be 'floppy'. All of this is true but as Carmen began to use her hind end and lift her back it was a lot of movement.

Did I mention it was hot? Carmen and I were sweating. But we weren't done.

Shanea had us pick up a canter and once that was established canter over the single pole. By this point Carmen was forward and energetic. She was also, not spooky excatly, but starting to look around. I just kept riding her forward and worked on keeping her up in the bridle. The nice thing was that she was taking the bit and moving into the bridle.  We then cantered down towards the pole. The first time over I was all look at us- we're JUMPING over the pole. This is so much fun! But what came out was more like 'squeeee'. Shanea laughed at us. We kept practicing coming up. Shanea said that it was cool because at first Carmen was a bit unsure and then her ears came up and she was having fun.

umm, there's a stick in our way


It was a fun lesson. I love working with Mellow Carmen. Part of me is thinking that adding some jumping into our routine would be fun. Not that we'll be doing anything big. At least not on purpose.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Who is this Horse?

Sorry- no recent media so I used this photo from my last lesson in August
Since I h our last show about how Carmen I've been taking a more laid back and relaxing approach to riding. I've been focussing on enjoying our time rather then accomplishing any specific goal. I think that Carmen has been enjoying the down time and she's responding.

Yesterday I came home from work and tacked her up. It had been a bit of a stressful day and there are no signs of it letting up until November. I had no agenda in mind- I just wanted to lose myself in the rhythm and enjoy being outside.

When I headed up to the ring I could hear a loud metallic clanking and banging but couldn't see where it came from. I texted Ed to ask if he could see it but he said he had no idea. After the first spook Carmen seemed okay so I mounted and we walked off. As soon as we started walking she began to blow- a sign of her relaxing herself. I have spent a ton of time getting her to blow and here she was seeking it right away.

Troll corner was a non-issue. She had one spook and I don't even know what it was. As she spun away I simply said 'Oh dear did something scare you?' We circled back and it was not problem. I am doing so much better with riding relaxed but not passively. Which seems to be exactly what she needs.

We did about 40 minutes of walk and trot. Carmen was not excited or hot. In fact she was positively sedate. At some point that may also be an issue but for now it was just what I needed.

I walked her over to the gate and she stopped while I reached down to pick up the board. She walked forward 3 steps as I directed and waited for me to drop it. I then backed her up and moved it some more. She waited each step for my direction and then we walked out.

Instead of heading to the barn I turned right and went around the fields and into the woods. This would be our second solo hack. I took my time and chatted to her the whole way. That was mostly to warn any wildlife that we were coming. She was definitely alert but not tense. We did a couple trails and then went around the bottom of the field and up the hill. The only thing she looked askance at was the garden. It's almost done and the dead plants were piled up.  But she still walked by it.

I dismounted and just then a huge dump truck piled high with garbage pulled out of the woods across the street.  Phew. It was quite the sight going down the road.

I am so impressed with this change in how she and I are working together. I think that last puzzle piece fell into place at the last show. You know- the show I was freaking out about. Competing has forced us out of our comfort zone and drilled down to specific issues. Each time I travelled off-site for a clinic or a competition I learned something new. I feel that I'm no longer trying to convince her to listen to me. Instead she's looking to me. Obviously she still have opinions- she is Carmen after all but we are feeling more like a partnership.

I am getting comfortable saying that Carmen is a horse who can have a big spook but she's not a spooky horse. I hope that makes sense to you but it does to me.

Who is this horse? She's mine.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Country Life

I stayed true to my word and backed off the training this week. Instead I focussed on catching my breath and enjoying life on the farm.

The siding was completed a few weeks ago and I am thrilled with how it turned out. I have wanted the siding done since we moved in and it's nice to see that task completed. I just need to pick a striking colour to paint the door.

I have been spending time with Guinness and working on our obedience. He's feeling much better and back to enjoying life.
being happy is what they do best
We are signed up for an 'Urban Dog' course. It's to help dogs be civilized in public settings. Since Guinness is becoming barky at strangers I'm thinking that is will useful but we may end up in remedial class.  

But in other ways he's becoming the companion dog I was looking for. I've been going into the woods and working on more trails and he's been keeping me company. 

I am happy with the trails that we have. There are now four short paths that join up with each other at different points.
the path to piece
There has also been a young porcupine that has moved into the woods. I am fine with co-existing but Guinness not so much. The other night I had a text from Ed: 
"how can I get a porcupine out from under the deck?"
"How did it get there?"
"Guinness chased it"
"Leave it alone and it will leave when things quiet down."
An hour goes by and I get another text: "how do I get quills out of Guinness?". 
This time I phoned and talked Ed into how to remove a few from his chin. 

Today I was down at the manure pile and Guinness was quite excited about something under the shed that is down there. I call it the 'spider shed' because it's overrun with giant wolf spiders. "If you get grabbed by a giant spider you are on your own". I wasn't worried because I figured whatever it was would stay safe under the shed. I heard him get more excited and when I came over I saw he had quills stuck in his nose and muzzle. 

Sigh. I brought him up to the house and grabbed some needle nose pliers. Fortunately Amanda was home and I figured she could help. I used one of Ed's ties to make a muzzle but Amanda and I couldn't hold him. He weighs over 70 pounds and is strong. Just as Amanda and I were sitting on a heaving, panting dog Cynthia and Andrew walked in. Their faces went through numerous changes while they understood what they were seeing. Cynthia joined in and with three of us we could just hold him long enough for me to get the quills out. Poor Guinness he was howling - I think the ones in his nose hurt. 

I hope that this convinces him to leave the porcupine alone or else I will have to catch it and re-home it farther away. 

Remember I said that I might take two weeks off without riding? 

Yeah. Well I made it to today. Which, you have to admit, is pretty good for me. 

I do enjoy riding this mare

Cynthia came out to join me and we headed up to the ring. Carmen was very very good and I worked on us having a  relaxing ride. Suddenly I heard Cynthia calling my name. Irish had a bee in his bonnet and was having a bit of melt down. Carmen and I stood in the middle and I called instructions to her. However, when Irish refused to go forward and threatened to rear. He can't rear but I worried that he might try and fall over. I dismounted Carmen and handed her to Cynthia and then mounted Irish. Within 10 minutes he was much calmer and settled. Every fall he gets himself worked up and then settles. I dismounted and got back on Carmen to finish our ride. We decided to not go in the woods given Irish's mood. 

I'm just going to let that sink in for a minute.

The horse that I have spent countless hours of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention money) was the calm one. The 'been there/done that' 17 year old semi-retired horse was a snorting, spooking fool.  

Carmen is a puzzle for sure. Irish's antics didn't affect her in the least. I have noticed that in the warm up rings at the shows too. The only time got upset by another horse and rider was when a rider was using a whip rather harshly. That upset her. But otherwise she's not fussed by another horse being agitated. Birds however are an entirely different story. 

Life here might be quiet but it's never ever dull. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride

I was not only happy after our show weekend, I was also exhausted. I was grateful that I could simply park the trailer to unload the next day. It was nice to take my time and not have to be pressured for anything.

Cynthia came for a visit and we tacked up the horses. Carmen gave me a bit of a stink eye but I had a plan for our ride that did not really involve schooling at all. I told Cynthia to do what she wanted and let me know when she was done. I simply wanted to walk Carmen and stretch out our tired muscles. I started off with a nice walk and then added in circles and changes of bend.

In truth I was just enjoying the ride. It was nice to sit in the saddle with no agenda or plan. I was completely unconcerned about the corners. Meanwhile Irish was having a ball. I was pleased to see that he was sound in front and appeared to feel good.

We moseyed towards troll corner.
Carmen:  I think I'm going to be scared. 
Me:  no you aren't scared of it. 
Are you sure? 
I have this memory that I am worried. 
Not anymore. It's fine. 

Irish trots by: Guys! Guys! Look! Hey Guys! Look at me go! 

Carmen: Geldings are so silly! 
Me: I think he's having fun. 
Carmen:  It's embarrasing. Oh those bushes. Could be dangerous. 
Me: Nope. We are warriers and can deal with any monsters that come out. 
Carmen: Have you been watching Wonder Woman again? 
Me: Maybe...but it is an awesome movie. 

 I can totally see the resemblance

We carry on walking and stretching.

Irish and Cynthia canter on by. Wheeeee! 

When Irish and Cynthia were done Carmen and I dropped the gate. Carmen tried to rush out so we spent some time leaving and coming back and then standing in the gate. Once she decided to stand like a civilized beast (FINE!) we walked on.

We walked out on the trails taking our time and chatting. Sometimes Irish led and sometimes Carmen did. It was a great way to finish up the weekend.

My plan is to give Carmen a bit of break from the training. She and I have worked pretty hard since April. The weather is actually helping- it's too rainy to ride. I had thought about not riding for 2 weeks. We shall see how long I last with that plan. But I think this fall we will continue our lessons but also go and play as well.

Anyone want to play with me?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Slaying Demons- Day 2 Show Recap

BTVS- best show ever
After the first day of the show I was sitting in the tub at the Bed and Breakfast I was staying at and I began to think about Carmen's issue with the corner. At first glance it makes total sense- in the show ring that area lead to a 'tunnel' to the main entrance and it's lined with plexiglass that both reflected and was transparent. But when I lined it up with my ring at home and the ring at Five Fires it seemed to coincidental that the area between E and C was scary.

What if, I thought,  it's not fear. What if it's something else? 

I began to form a hypothesis. What if instead it was learned behaviour? Horses are good a making associations. That's what we use to train them. What if I accidentally taught Carmen that being tense and running away was the thing to do in the ring?

Not on purpose, obviously.

So that meant I needed to tackle it differently. A fearful horse is somewhat unpredictable and difficult to control. But learned behaviour requires a different approach. I decided that the next day my approach would not be 'don't be scared it's fine'  but would be more an expectation that all would be fine.

I hope I'm making sense, but it made sense to me so I decided to go with it.

I also tried an experiment of trying Omega Chill. I followed the instructions of giving it 30 minutes before tacking her up and leaving her alone to let it work. I'm not sure that it worked but she seemed calm when I tacked her up. I lead her out and mounted and she immediately tried to walk off. I asked her to stand still and she began to back up. She was clearly wound. I rode her forward into the warm up ring. I figured that she hadn't had her turn out since friday and was feeling a bit up. It didn't help that the weather was cool.

In the warm up ring Carmen spied a rope that was coiled up on the kick boards and began to spook and try to run away. I suppose I should have been frustrated but I actually welcomed this. It gave me a chance to work through this behaviour before I was in the ring.  I immediately began to use the approach that Rachael showed - when she ducked away I began to irritate her and bring her back to the spot the opposite way to the way she spooked. As soon as she faced the rope I took off all the pressure and rode her forward. I am sure that the others in the warm up thought I was crazy. But after a while she actually put her nose up to it and blew on it. Which raised a bunch of dust with her puff of air and she jumped back. I couldn't help myself- I broke out laughing. After that she was much better about it. I ignored her giving it the stink eye- as long as she carried forward I was fine.

Before I knew it, it was time for our test. I marched her right into the ring and up to where the judge was. She spooked (as I predicted) and I repeated what I had done in the warm up ring. I managed to get about 3 trials of that before the judge rang the bell and we were on. Our scores were from 4 to 7.5. The four was because of her being tense in the corners and there was a photographer standing at B. I felt bad for the girl because I could see that she was trying to be unobtrusive but hey, that's what shows are about. I simply rode my mare, corrected when she was off and spoke softly to her when she was good. I didn't care what the judge thought- I knew I needed to get her to listen to me in the ring. This time in our collectives Carmen got a 7 on gaits (yay) and 4 for submission (not yay) but I got a 7 for rider (so yay again). Final comments: "some fairly good moments today, however tension issues in test reduced final score today". Yup. I agree. But I still felt good about the schooling.

Here's a video of the test:

Final Score 59.808

Once again our tests were close together. I dismounted for about 10 minutes and then got back on. In the warm up I focussed on getting her bending and listening to my aids. I wanted her to be supple and I wanted the response to my inside leg on to be established so that it would be more successful when I needed it. Just before I went in I did a few canter transitions and we headed back. 

At X I saluted took breath and asked her to go. And do you know what? While there was tension and looking she did not try to scoot sideways. Well I lie, she thought about it but as soon as I put my leg on she responded. When we picked up our right lead canter and had to go from E to C I could feel her backing off and wanting to not go into that corner. I sat up and said 'oh we are going and it's all fine'. So we cantered through and I was so happy. We had so much momentum that we missed the trot transition at C but I didn't care. I had the result I wanted and it was worth losing that mark to get her to canter forward. We headed to E to do our stretchy circle and I was all 'here, have some rein to stretch into'  and Carmen was all 'oh good now I can have  good look around'. But I kept her trot steady and our circle round. I picked up the reins at E and we headed to A to turn up the centre line and do our final halt. I squared my shoulders, put a huge smile on my face and we trotted with purpose up to X and halted. I gave her a huge pat. 

Our scores ranged from 5 to 7 (no 4s yay!) and we got a 6.5 on submission! Final comments: 'fairly good start to test. Fundamentals are in place. Keep working on improving accuracy of test. '

We have fundamentals!

Final Score: 63.63
When I picked up my test I did a dance of joy. I have spent 2 years slowly getting rid of our demons. This show I felt like I had slain the master. I can always get through to Carmen but sometimes it's a battle. When she's really tense or worried she is incapable of listening and goes into self-preservation mode. This time I asked her to come with me and she actually did. It's not perfect but this was a huge step for us. The demons are getting chased into the light one by one and shrinking into small little pests. 

do we look happy? 
That I brought home 3 seconds and a third was the cherry on top. But I can honestly say that I felt like I had won the championship. 

Next year Carmen we can go for prizes.....

Monday, September 4, 2017

Connecting- Day 1 Show Recap

Where on earth do I begin? 

Fortified with the advice and support from my friends and readers I loaded up the trailer on Friday and headed off to the show. The grounds were Hants County Exhibition Grounds. Turns out there was a 'Foam Race' and other events that weekend. However, Carmen unloaded onto the parking lot and walked into the barn as calm as could be. Fortunately the show allowed riders to book times to ride in the dressage ring on friday. I paid for two 30 minute sessions because I wanted to make sure that I had time. Shanea was showing as well but she set aside time to give me a lesson in the ring. There were two other riders as well.

Like I said the show ring was inside in a old hockey arena. The entrance is through a large door that the zamboni would use. It's a freaky entrance with equipment there and hallways going off of it. I chose to walk her in and mount inside for the warm up. Carmen was definitely looking around and a bit tight but Shanea kept us calm and working. I was really happy with how we did in the ring.
the barn is the lower 'L' shaped building, the red roof is the warm up and the
big roof beside it is the show venue. 
The next morning I realized that I had forgotten the atmosphere of a rated show. The barn was humming with tension and excitement. I had to work really hard at creating a bubble around myself and Carmen so that I didn't get amped myself. At first it was hard and at one point I completely forgot my test and began to panic. Shanea over heard me and got me centred again. I set about 45 minutes for the warm up and that seemed to be perfect. The stewards were very helpful and one walked us into the ring.

We walked around while waiting for the bell and Carmen spooked at the judges table. I did a bit of walking back and forth and then the judge rang the bell. We trotted down the centre line and halted. I took a deep breath, let it out and then began our test (T-1). Carmen was very tense and was decking away in the far corner and by the judges booth. I did my best to keep her together and on task but she was fighting me. Our scores ranged from 5 to 7. I got a '5' on 'Riders correct us of the aids'. Ouch.  But the comment was about the accuracy of the test so fair enough. it's hard to pick up a trot at C when the horse is going sideways. The final comment was 'The potential does exist- focus on the harmony and acceptance of riders aids'. Totally legit. That's been my work all season- to get Carmen to accept my direction not just when she wants to. That has been our demon from the beginning.

My final score was 59.23 but I had no idea at the time. Our rides were very close together: 11:09 and 11:35 so I opted to stay on her between classes. Our second test was T-3 and our scores ranged from 4- 7. We really had no stretch and Carmen tried to run out between E and H. I was determined that she was not and we battled it out. At least this time I got a 6.0 on myself. Carmen got a 5 on submission. Final comments "keep working on creating a better connection- focus on harmony and straightness to improve'.  Final score was 58.4%.

I felt completely triumphant with those scores and how we did. Normally I would not be happy with a  below 60 score. But my fear was that Carmen would take one look at the ring and say 'nope' and have a total melt down. This did not happen. It was just our normal demons, not a really bad one. And I stayed on task and helped her to finish the test. I kept myself together- I did not forget my tests and I kept my cool in riding her. After someone who's riding I admire said 'you just look so calm even when she's being spooky and tries to run away. You are just 'nope we're doing this'. Wow. I guess I have grown as a rider. We coped with warm up rings, freaky show rings and the show environment. I never felt in danger of coming off or being hurt. I was able to work with Carmen and I never got upset with her- I kept my cool.

The other thing that I was enjoying was reconnecting with people at the show. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive. Nichole has the most stunning of warmblood mares. She has had her struggles like I have and this was her first year showing as well. We bonded at the schooling shows.  I went to dinner both nights with Tanya. We used to show together and now we're starting again with our 'new' horses. It was great to catch up with her and compare notes. She has the most lovely young quarter horse who has a brain to die for. Is it wrong that I threatened to  steal her?

In the barn Carmen was really enjoying herself watching the bustle. She kept trying to steal her neighbours hay. I had put her hay in a slow feed net because she was gobbling it like weddings guests at a buffet. This caused her no end of annoyance. That afternoon Shanea and I were looking at my video (that her mother kindly took) and her mom kept saying 'guys, uh guys'. I was paying no attention and then she handed me a ripped hay net. Carmen had pulled it and broke the string letting the hay all spill out. I looked at it in disbelief and then at a very smug mare eating her hay. I fixed the net with baling twine, much to her annoyance.
the venue is right by the highway but who cares when there's grass?

Another funny thing happened when Carmen was happily eating and I started to pat the horse next to her. She came right over and began to pin her ears and bare her teeth at the horse. When I stopped patting and stepped away she went back to eating. I guess I am not allowed to show affection to strange horses. When I sat in my chair by her stall she would periodically come over and nudge my hat.

That night as I reviewed the days events I had a sudden realization: the areas that Carmen spooked were exactly the same in all three rings: at home, at Five Fires and at this show. It seemed to be too much of a coincidence that there were spooky things in the exact same spot in all three rings.

And that realization changed everything and helped me make a plan for the next day.

PC: Cindy McCullough

Friday, September 1, 2017

Doing the Thing

 Success is defined by the goals you set. And the goal can be as simple as showing up. If it doesn't feel like you are in the right place at the time, then you are not. And there is zero shame in deciding once you are there that the goal of riding four tests is changing to a goal of a few handwalks around the arena during warm up periods. Don't bow to the pressure of external expectations or even your own expectations which you established months ago. Listen to Carmen, focus on what she needs. Listen to your heart not your head about what you need in the moment. A dressage test is a moment in time with no real meaning. A relationship is for the long haul, and if you keep your focus on what you need for the relationship to flourish you will be a champion every time. End of pep talk. ~ Karen who has inadvertently taken on the role as my life coach. Surprise Karen! 
First of all- THANK YOU everyone for the support and the much needed kick in the pants. I received some excellent advice both here and on FB. Putting it out there helped get it out of my head and into the light which also helped a lot.

After typing that I went and got Carmen ready for our ride. I just focussed on staying with her- trying to support without tension. FYI, that is really hard. Just in case you were wondering.  I realize that when she tenses she needs me to wrap my legs around her (not clamp them) and keep her under me. Relaxing to the point of no contact does not help and neither does tension.

I actually did a really good job of not buying into her drama and tension. I used it to visualize those same areas in the show ring and then rode her through. Tense going into the corner? I looked at A and focussed on getting her bent and through- NOT at the spooky nothing and saying 'oh yes you WILL go there'. The small spooks I ignored and carried on and that seemed to end it.

So I got ready feeling much more positive.

Then this morning I had a call from the vet about Guinness. You see he has been lame for the past little while. At first the vet thought it was a broken bone in his elbow (very complicated name for a teeny little bone) but the x-rays didn't show that. Then he thought that there was arthritis and possible elbow dysplasia. I was feeling so sick and worried about him. But the thing I love about my vet is that he doesn't try to be the expert on everything. So he sent the x-rays off to an orthopaedic radiologist who diagnosed Panosteitis- an inflammation in the bone that happens during growth (essentially 'growing pains'). It's benign and will be outgrown. I was so relieved. And suddenly excited for the show.

So we're off to do the thing.

Whatever that thing will be.

I will let you know.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Full Truth

This weekend Carmen and I are headed to our first 'big' show. It's an Equine Canada Gold/Bronze show.

The ring is inside a hockey arena so it's got seating that's above the ring, plus lots of openings and lined with plexiglass.

not spooky, right? RIGHT?

It's also coinciding with cooler weather and Carmen has become more feisty.

I'm okay with feisty and sassy. I'm trying to not worry about the spinning/bolting and her shutting me out.

It's one thing to go to a small schooling show that's so supportive. And this show is really not going to be that different - other than the venue.

Yet I am still freaking out.

My demons are speaking up and gaining ground:

  • you are going get hurt
  • Carmen is going to bolt on you
  • everyone will see how terrible a rider you are
  • you are over-facing her/yourself and going to look like a fool. 
But why? Why have I lost my confidence? My brain knows that if it doesn't go well it's not the end of the world. 

The rest of me is saying that my brain is stupid. 

I can't take this attitude into the saddle. Because that will make everything worse. 

So instead of getting ready/organize and/or riding I sit here and blog. 

Because maybe, just maybe, if I put it in print I can take a look and see if for what it is: self-doubt that, while it's not without merit, is not the full truth. 

Part of the truth is that Carmen can be spooky/bolty. She can decide that nope, she's not gonna to listen to me and threaten to escalate if I don't back down. 

The other part is that I have ridden through her antics before.  I have tools to use. 

The final piece of the truth is that Carmen can look to me for leadership and is doing so more and more. 

So it's not a total crap shoot as to how it will turn out. 

But before I ride my horse I have to corral my demons. 

Wish me, not luck, but strength of mind and belief in myself. In Carmen. In where we are now-  not where we've been. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Shadow Dancing

Thank you everyone for your concern. My bruise spent a few days becoming quite spectacular. It still hurts a bit but nothing else seems to be an issue so I'll take it.
a small part of the bruise
Riding a sensitive mare is lot like chasing shadows. As soon as you shine a light on thing it disappears.

We were away at a wedding over the weekend so Carmen had a couple days off. I think the rest was good for me and, probably, her.  Last night I didn't get to ride until around 7. Typically this would result in Carmen spooking at shadows and things. I've been working on not reacting unless her reaction is a big spook/bolt. Otherwise I carry on with what I'm doing.

The last two rides I've been carrying a small jump bat so that if she starts to use her shoulder against me I can quickly give her a tap to tell her to knock it off. Otherwise she bulges the shoulder in and that can lead to her leaving to the inside.  I had to give her a few taps on Monday and she pitched a bit of a fit about it.  Today it was a non-issue and didn't need to be used once- as soon as I asked her to bend to the inside she complied.

The trick is to not get tense when she does but not get left behind if she launches sideways. Today she gave a couple spooks but I completely ignored them and carried on. I did take note of the spots where she reacted and used those spots to rest.

What I had to tell myself is to not change my plans because of how she behaved. Part of her spooking is learned- she learned if she does that I will back off. So today she spooked in the corner. I ignored it and continued with my plan of a shoulder-in to straight to haunches in down the side. In the past I would try to get her soft and then ask again. Not this time. So it was a pretty horrible shoulder in but I  didn't care. The work does not change because she spooks. The larger plan may change but the moment to moment plan doesn't.

 I'm also working on keeping my legs on through it all  because I've been letting her get behind the leg. I'm good about getting after her when she's slow behind the leg but not when she's fast. I tell her that she can take bigger steps but not faster ones. This helps her to use her hind end rather than speeding along stiff and braced. All of this means that I have take responsibility for riding her correctly and not letting myself be floppy.

I've also been trying to keep her mind busy so that there's not time to get horribly distracted. I'm also not backing down on the ask to flex to the inside. She does not have to look outside for monsters and she's gotten good at barely flexing but really looking out. I'm not a fan of 'headset' but her looking out is not doing either one of us any favours so it's become a non-negotiable.

On Monday after my ride I dropped the gate to walk down to the barn. She was quite keen to leave so we did some circles and then in and out of the ring so that she doesn't get the idea that she can rush out. I then made her stand half in and half out of the ring until she settled and seemed to be willing to stand there as long as I wanted. Then we walked to the barn.

Today when I dropped the gate she was calm and quiet. This time I took her to the right to do a small hack. She was a bit tight going by the tall grass. I just took a deep breath and relaxed. She stayed tight but kept going. As we went into the woods and on the trail she relaxed more and more. Which tells me that she's not a true 'spooky' horse. Because with the leaves and shadows not to mention going by a shed, manure pile, wagon and through a gate are all potentially spooky things. But she didn't even blink. Even though we were all by ourselves.

I plan to ride her each day leading up to the show. Experience tells me that she does better with that then being rested.

And guess what I picked up on my way back from the wedding:
I have never won a trophy showing horses before. But to be honest, my biggest thrill is what it represents. Carmen and I exceeded all of my expectations. It represents not only the work I've done but also that I kept the faith that we can do this thing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Death of Me

love Terry Pratchett

I swear that my horses are going to be the death of me.

Irish has been NQR since the beginning of August. It would come and go and to be honest I just figured it was an abscess. Before I went off to the clinic he was really off so I figured it was ready to burst. But when I came back he was still three legged. I checked him all over and there was no heat or swelling except I found a solid lump on the bottom of his hoof.

Like what the hell horse? What is this lump? I googled it. And instantly regretted do that. I then called my farrier with the hope that he would explain how perfectly normal this was and entirely common. But he was unsure and told me to call the vet. I called and left a message- the vet I usually use was off but the other equine vet was working.  She called me back and was unsure as well. And explained that  she's pregnant and is not doing large animal calls. She advised me to bute him- but I can't because of the previcox.  She told me to cut out a piece of styrofoam and fit it to his foot with duct tape. Yes, because I have that lying around.

She also advised that maybe I should get x-rays. I had an immediate visceral reaction  of no. Before you judge me - hear me out. Irish is in a delicate balance right now. And he has terrible feet. If I x-ray and find some horrible thing (like navicular) I will have to make some decisions about quality of life. Let's be honest- there are only so many things that he can handle at once. So I am taking the 'no news is good news' approach.

  I took a photo of his foot and sent it to my farrier. I love my farrier because he came out yesterday. He was still not sure what it was but is thinking that Irish damaged it and the sole grew too much in that one spot. He trimmed and reset his shoes and did some pour in cushion stuff- sort of like rubber cement. He also told me (I was at work and he phoned. I would have come home but it was too late) and said that Irish was walking okay when he brought him in.

Really? Because this morning I had to force him to walk out of his stall. WTH horse? He then said that Irish was acting very spooky and jumpy which is not like him at all.

Unless he colicking.


I came home right away and I was not happy with how Irish was looking. He was definitely in a mild colic and very agitated. I brought him out and realized that I needed to cool him off. I began to hose him and as the water washed over him he became more and more relaxed. I then gave him some 'chill', sprayed him with fly spray and turned him out into the front paddock so I could watch him. He settled into grazing and seemed to be fine. He was also definitely more comfortable. I think I caught it before he got worse.

By supper time he seemed to be perfectly normal so I figured that it would be okay for Caelen to ride him at the walk. I am a fan of movement if a horse can handle it. I brought Carmen up to ride as well. Caelen's mom (my sister) has arrived with the rest of the clan (husband and 3 more children). My youngest niece is in love with Carmen and wanted to watch. I told her it was okay as long as she stayed still and didn't spook us. With 20-20 hindsight I should have told her to go and get her mom. It's been a long time since I had a seven year old. Anyway, Carmen and I were cantering up the long side and I didn't see Carleigh crouched down by a post. As we went by we scared her and she jumped up with a scream. Carmen leapt sideways and I was completely caught off guard and flew off landing on my right hip and scraping my right elbow. I thought at first I broke something but I was just really sore.
Poor Carleigh was very upset and kept apologizing. I held up my hand and said quietly 'it's okay. I need you to go back to the house now'. I then limped over to Carmen and went back to the mounting block to get back on. 

Needless to say we were both a bit tense. I realized I needed to get her focussed on me. I spent a bit of time working on our 'whoa' because obviously that was a bit rusty. Then we worked on flowing forward and keeping her 'under' me-even in her spooky corners. By the time I was finished we were both a bit sweaty but definitely connected. 

I am sporting a livid bruise on my hip and one stretching across my butt that is an incredible shade of red and purple. And it's sore- so is my neck.  But her spook was legit and I cannot blame her for it. I had been giving her some rein to get her to stretch into it and that gave her a door. It does tell me that I need to get her to stop running through my inside hand/leg - that is not a good thing for her to learn. I'm open to suggestions. 

Irish feeling better and Carmen feeling calmer. 
This morning Caelen and I rode and Carmen was awesome. I spent time at first making sure that she was straight and connected and under me. I found her very stiff in the poll going to the right and that was the side I came off on so she might have had a pull muscle as I grabbed the rein. I worked on getting her to stretch and soften. Finally she relaxed and we were able to get some half-decent work in. Caelen and I then hit the trail in the woods. Carmen led the whole way through the two trails and seemed to really enjoy it. I find that on the trail, when we're leading she really tunes in to me and takes direction. Which is so much better then her making decisions. 

on of my favourite views in one of my favourite places

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Transferring Learning

I had some major 'aha' moments at the clinic. I was intrigued by how not-spooky Carmen was. I believe that she didn't have time to look around and become scared because there was so much going on right in front of her. I also learned that I need to give her some responsiblity for her own feet and expect that she join in the program.

I was interested to see how this was going to go with a lesson I had booked with Shanea on Tuesday. That day turned out be really really hot. I figured that should help reduce any spookiness.

It's amazing how much braver I am and how I don't take Carmen's spooks seriously. I mean how serioulsy can you spook at a waving frond of golden rod after you've ridden your horse over a teeter totter? From that you can take it that Carmen did pull some spooks and that I was unimpressed and just would bring her back to the task and carry on. I found it fascinating that spooking was worse as the lesson progressed and she became tired.

Like I said, it was HOT and Carmen started out stiff and behind the leg. We spent a long time at the walk getting her to go forward and stretch and flex. I worked really hard on not retracting my hands when she retracted her neck. Instead I was to put on leg ask her to step forward. It took a bit but it actually started to work.

From there we went into trot work. I managed to set her up so that our transitions were straight and there was no flinging of hindquarters. We did a lot of work on leg yields. Shanea really wanted me to let her open her shoulder and move over and I was stuck on the hind legs. We sort of got it but I think it's coming.

At least Shanea didn't fling her hands up and leave.

So that's a plus.

As Carmen tires she curls behind the bit- which makes sense given her conformation. Then she would fall on her forehand and lose to flow. I was to sit up and open my chest to help her come from behind. I was amazed at how well that worked and how I could actually feel her rock back. It's okay that she can sustain for long- it's a strength issue not an obedience issue. Shanea really wants me to feel what she needs to help her and then, you know, help her.

As the trot work progressed there were a couple big spooks- especially at troll corner. I was not flustered by them at all. I would just bring her back and try again. Lots of prasie and pats when she was behaved. She did do one mini-bolt (really mini) that I corrected and then back we went. I honestly bellieve that she has learned this as response because it has lead to less work in the past. So we will get there. My abs were burning by this point so I'm sure that she was feeling it too.

We did a little canter at the end. At first she wasn't so sure that canter was on the menu today.  We had a walk break and I picked up the reins and asked her to trot. She picked up this little jog. Shanea said 'oh did you pick up a western jog at your clinic too?' I stuck my tongue out at her (#mature).  I asked for canter and she ran through the aid. I brought her back and asked again. She pinned her ears and picked it up. (don't you know it's too hot for this foolishness?).

It was interesting, as we entered to troll corner she kept trying to duck away- just like at the show. I said to Shanea- this is what she was doing at Five Fires/ Essentially throwing her shoulder against my leg and rein and running through.  This was perfect becasue we now had a chance to tackle this in a non-show environment (where it's far too late). The trick was to sit up and bold and ride her through the corner using half-halts in the corner to keep her on the aids and prevent her being able to use her body to evade.  When she went through the first time I praised her highly amd gave her a pat but we kept cantering.

We then did the same to the left and I brought her back to me and then walked. Shanea said 'we still have 15 minutes left' and I may or may not have said something along the lines of 'I don't care'.

Which wasn't exactly true but we were done. So I said 'this would be a great time to work on the stretchy walk'. Which we did. Shanea showed me that if I let the reins out but kept the bend in my elbow I would still follow the bit and have her connected. And, miracle of miracles, she was much happier and listening to me. And we did the free walk in all the spots that were so very scary and impossible before. Except that they weren't.

I was happy with our ride. I hadn't expected Carmen to be transformed into some magical zen-unicorn. She will always be Carmen. But I am changing and not reacting and it's becoming a non-issue. Of course all that may change at the 'big' show we're going on the September long weekend. But Shanea will be there and I am gaining some really cool tools.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Clinic Recap: Leaving our Comfort Zone

Be willing to step outside your comfort zone once in a while; take the risks in life that seem worth taking. The ride might not be as predictable if you'd just planted your feet and stayed put, but it will be a heck of a lot more interesting. Edward Whitacre, Jr.
In my last post I let everyone know that Carmen and I were headed to an 'Ultimate Trail' clinic this weekend. My goal was to continue to work on my relationship with Carmen. Essentially I wanted to replace her 'NO' when exposed to new things with curiosity.

I was looking forward to the clinic but I also had some concerns:

  • I did not know the clinicians- but they came highly recommended so I figured it would be okay
  • This was a western clinic and I'm showing up with my dressage horse and tack would people think I was weird. Well no, not that, I am weird, but that I was a snob or didn't belong. I needn't have worried. Everyone was so welcoming and open I had a blast. 
  • Getting hurt. We were doing obstacles in a strange place. Carmen freaking out is not off the table and that had potential for me to be hurt. 
Let me just say that this clinic was an incredible experience for Carmen and I. It pushed out of, not just our comfort zone but out of our patterns too. If you have a change to take a clinic from Mike and Nikki Porter (Facebook group) do it. I loved their approach to teaching- it was systematic and measured. Each step built on the one before. It was all about giving the riders and the horses the support they needed to be successful and then upping the ante. 

In the morning we all meant (there were 15 of us) to talk about our goals, the horses, and the Porter's philosophy of training. It was a great group of people all looking to enhance their relationship with their horse. There were green riders and experienced horses, experienced riders and green horses and everything in between.  Then we were divided into groups based on our experience. Carmen and I were in the first group. We started doing ground work:

yes that is Carmen and I with a rope halter (loaned) and a
'carrot stick'. I never knew what it was and I ended up buying it despite the stupid name

It was fun to do this. We actually ended up waving flags and rubbing tarps on her and she was unfazed. Interestingly enough she was sticky about moving her shoulders and I realized that when I lose her under saddle it's through the shoulders too. So that's something to work on. Nikki and Mike went around to each person and coached them. Sometimes taking the horse to demonstrate something and then handing it back to the handler. It was pouring rain all day and Carmen began to react to the rain outside the ring. Mike came over and helped me to deal with that in a way that was stress free. I was so impressed with the philosophy- it was all about asking the question and giving the horse time ot figure it out. The pressure was to be as light as possible and build until you got what you wanted and then release immediately.

no my horse doesn't have bangs, it's just the angle.

In the afternoon we tackled each obstacle in turn. In the 20 x 40 arena  there were a number of obstacles and seven horses. It was crowded but it all worked out fine. The obstacles included:

  • a curtain of dangling sparkling strings (think vegas)
  • a teeter totter
  • water box
  • A frame bridge
  • a narrow platform connected to a square platform then a 90 degree angle to a taller, narrow platform
  • a cow attached to a bar : the horse pushes the bar with their chest and move the cow around the circle
  • a fred flintsone car that the horse pushes
  • a large circle to use for ground tying

There was a lot of coaching and helping. To be honest Carmen did great. She was uncertain about a lot of them but gave them a try. The biggest issue was with her letting herself go off of them and/or trying to hurry them. The hurrying is legit- I too felt the pressure to get over them before something 'bad' happened. But the idea is that the obstacles are a place of rest and the horses should stop and relax.

(The photos I'm showing of the ground work are actually from Sunday but illustrate what we were doing in a halter and headline)

This water box had a floating piece of plywood in it so that when horses stepped on it, it sunk and water came up through the holes. We started with it empty, then with water and then with the plywood. You can see that Carmen is uncertain but trying it. Which was the word of the day.

 Here's the teeter. It started as a board on the ground and then add the bar underneath. Carmen was not a fan but honestly it was more about what was in front of her.  Which is what I figured out- she would become fixated on the far side- there was an open door (behind a gate) with grass and then a road that was above us.

Working on the platform. We started by walking straight ahead and then doing the turn. Initially Carmen kept walking/falling off- usually toward me. Mike figured out that it was because she letting her attention wander and not taking any responsibility for where her feet were. He took her from me and did maybe 30 seconds of ground work and then took her over and she walked perfectly. That was an eye-opener for me. What I realized that when Carmen is distracted she abdicates her own responsibility and then becomes annoyed because she gets in a mess. And I buy into the idea it's too hard rather then expecting her to take some ownership. So we spent a lot of time walking on, stopping, walking a step, stopping. If she jumped off she was worked a bit and then put back on. 

now this is a horse taking responsibility for her feet
The vegas curtain was just fine. She was intrigued by the flintstone car and the bull and seemed to really enjoy it.

Ground tying like a boss. Our work at home really paid off here

she kept trying to eat the car 

sure I can do this weird thing that you humans are asking of me. 

I was so excited by the end of the day and thrilled with how Carmen and I just handled everything. Not without bobbles but we didn't stand out as the 'problem team' we were just like everyone else- struggling in some things and doing well with others.

That night I met up with Paula (I was staying at her place) and Cindy Ishoy. Cindy was giving a clinic at Paula's barn. We went out to dinner that night and then went to bed early. Shortly after going to bed I began to feel ill. Then really ill. I spent the next few hours with my body completely rejecting the meal I ate. I was freaking out over getting ill at someone's place (have you ever tried to vomit discreetly? It's impossible) and about Sunday. How was I going to ride? How would I get Carmen home? Could I stay there an extra day? Who could I call to come and help us trailer home? The vomiting stopped around 1 a.m. and I fell into an exhausted sleep. The next morning the storm seemed to have passed but I felt like wreckage washed up on the beach. Pretty sure it was food poisoning. I had a piece of toast for breakfast and went to the barn. I decided to just take it as it came and leave if I needed to. 

I wasn't sure if I wanted to ride the obstacles even before I was ill but Mike gave me a pep talk and told me that they would be there to help. So I did it. Carmen and I were rushing the obstacles. She wanted to get them over with and I wanted to complete them before a disaster. Mike made us slow down and use them to rest. After letting herself fall off  the platform Carmen I repeated the exercise of before: is she fell/walked off I put pressure on her to work off the obstacle and then on the obstacle to rest. So the choice was hers- stay on and relax or fall off and work. She's a smart cookie and figured that out.  

Here we are doing our Vegas Show Girl Routine. We rode through and backed through it as well. 

Riding the connected platforms- Mike helping her know to step up on it- not jump off. 
 Resting on the taller platform. I am thrilled. Carmen is seeing if I have been drinking.

It's not enough to go over the bridge- you have to look pretty too. 

Doing the teeter like we're supposed to.

The water needs a little explanation. Carmen was VERY uncertain about walking in it with the board submerging. Nikki was helping me through it. The idea was to close the escape to the left and right and let her rest right before. I was getting tense which was not helping at all but I wasn't doing it on purpose. We were both worried about it so of course she wasn't going to go. This is so similar to what happens when she gets tight that I was happy that it happened - but only because of the ending. I ended up dismounting and leading her through. Then I got on and walked up to it. I started talking to Nikki and when she relaxed I asked her to go through and she did. See my smile. After we got through it everyone clapped and I may have done a fist pump and cheered.

It was huge for us- this box represents the trust that this mare has developed in me. Nikki said 'do you see what happened? You talked to me and took all the pressure off, then asked her to do it and it was no big deal'. And yes, I did know- I had done that on purpose. I needed to get my head out of the box (so to speak). 

After the box I did the other obstacles and she rocked them and I hopped off. I figured that was enough for that session. We had lunch (I ate very little) and then there was a 'show' in the afternoon. We had to do a pattern with all the horses outside. I volunteered to go first- I always volunteer to go first but I was also starting to be really tired and waiting in the hot sun did not appeal to me. Carmen was not happy about her new best friends leaving so we trotted a bit to get her head back on me and then did all the obstacles. All of them. She struggled with the ground tie and me leaving so far but otherwise we made it through. After I got off and joked that I had won so they could all go home now. Turns out I came second and won a prize! 

Thank god that Caelen was there - she helped me pack up and hit the road. Driving home I hit the wall. I had really pushed myself today - mentally and physically. I was done. I pulled in the driveway and unloaded Carmen. Caelen offered to clean the trailer (love this girl) and I went into the house and fell on the couch. And promptly fell asleep! 

I had so much learning from this clinic but that will have to be a different post because this one has gone on long enough! 

I will just finish with saying that my mare is amazing. 

*all photos in this post were taken by Judith Scrimger, photographer extraordinaire. The conditions for photos were terrible yet she pulled it off.