dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Work in Progress

Sometimes I love when I'm wrong.

Let me explain.

I wanted to fit in one more lesson with Shanea before the show. Based on her schedule and the weather report (seriously rain- you can stop now) we set it for Wednesday after work.  When I got home it was really gusty. The wind would calm and then blow really hard. In the barn Carmen was a bit tense. She actually scooted once (I think in response to the cat coming up the driveway). I put her back and was finishing my groom when the wind started blowing an empty water bucket right at her. She began to dance in place rolling her eyes at me
Help! It's attacking. DO SOMETHING.
I got the bucket and put it out of the wind. I was impressed that she didn't take off but stayed where I had ground tied her.

By now I was resigned to a lesson on a tense, spooky horse. After all that's how she is in this weather. And also, the grass is long enough to wave in the wind.

However, up in the ring she seemed to immediately relax.  As we worked it was clear that she was well in her comfort zone and while she was looking at the waving things she wasn't overly concerned. Could it be? I wondered. After warming up on the lunge I mounted and we walked off. I was able to pretty much walk her everywhere with no fuss. There were spots were there was some fuss but she is Carmen after all and I cannot take her for granted.

After we were walking for a bit Shanea arrived and we started our lesson. I explained what we had done in our lesson with Jane (and can I say how nice it is that Shanea completely supported my taking lessons from someone else).

Then Carmen and I proceeded to start one of our best schooling sessions ever. It was amazing- she stayed with me the whole time and there was no drama or disagreements. We had a few bobbles but she came right back to me as soon as I asked. The few spooks we had were small and easily handled. I've noticed that I don't react as strongly as I used to- in fact a few times I didn't 'react' other then to put her back on the aids and we carried on.

I'm going to share some highlights and some photos. The photos were not chosen becasue they were perfect. I'm guilty of trying to pick just the best ones to put in the blog. Not because I want you to think that I'm perfect (well maybe a little) but because it's a risk when you post photos that you will be picked apart and/or that someone will leap to wrong conclusions. But I worry that we start to think that horse training should always be perfect and easy That the rider and horse are always happy and keen.

That's not true. Horse training is hard and it often looks terrible. So here are my photos- some of which are good moments and some that are not. And I'm okay with that because that's the truth of where we are right now.

keepign the outside rein and giving the inside
The key for Carmen is to keep the outside rein at all costs.  I cannot be giving it away because it is our anchor and keep us on task. That means that when she bends to the outside I have to give and take the inside and not throw away the outside. Since I've been working on that Carmen has begun to trust it and  as soon as I steady teh outside rein she steadies. The give and take of the inside is a work in pogress and I have to be prepared to be as firm as I needed.



Giving the rein for her to stretch will sometimes result in her grabbing the bit and pulling and/or going behind the vertical.
The tricky part is to keep riding forward when she sucks back becasue she really shortens the bottom oher neck and tighten. The bending helps there too.




We introduced the idea of the free walk on a long rein. That is hard for Carmen because she needs the contact to feel safe. The first few times were not pretty as we approached the corners. Shanea talked me through how to use my legs to provide the contact through gentle pressure and not throw the reins away but keep my connection. I'm not sure how I did with that but as we kept working she began to understand the 'ask' and tried.

This is as good as we got and frankly I'm thrilled even though it probably wouldn't 'score' well in a test. The truth is that at our show our 'free walk on a long rein' is likely to be a 'free-ish walk on a long-er rein'  I love how she has an ear on me and is trying (also note that wind is blowing her tail sideways). 

We did a lot of work on staying straight. Our homework is paying off in this. It's not that we're peferctly straight all the time but we recover it muchc more easily - even at the canter. Working on the quarterlines has showed me how much support she needs to stay straight and we're cheating going on the wall. We may not pass a sobriety test at this point in time. 

what is this 'straight' thing?
We did some work on canter as well. It's coming along. At first it was a bit compressed and not very forward (especially going towards the far end). But it got better and better. 
really  not sure about where we're going but doing it anyway. 
Even though she was uncertain she listened and went anyway. And then I felt her change a gear and she started taking the canter to the bridle. I was so excited I let her do it but then she got over powered and lost control of it so we had to get it back. Oops. I need to help her find the forward and help her balance the power she has. A few times she threw her haunches in but listened to my seat and went straight without a lot of flailing or drama. 

My phone died at this point so there are no pictures but trust me- it was lovely. 

Being able to use the whole ring without the big battles has been so useful. Having Carmen tune into me for direction and trusting me is incredible. My attitude has improved as well and I'm less judgemental about her worries. When she's soft everything is so fluid and it's easier. I love how trainable she's becoming.

I'm pleased with the photos that show a good moment and I'm pleased with the ones that don't. Becasue we're working on it. 

41 comments:

  1. WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for showing your hard work.

    I love it when her ears are on you. And since I'm a novice at dressage, I ask myself why the outside rein is so crucial - can you tell me? I mean, I know how to ride inside leg to outside rein, but I don't understand it.

    Your free walk is an inspiration to me. Your horse is PRE, that is not easy for her. Mine neither. I hope to get it someday. No, Mag, eating grass while walking is not stretching down in a free walk.

    You don't have it easy with her; your reward will be all the greater. Your trainers are awesome.

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    1. The outside rein serves to balance and help the horse stay straight and channel the energy. If you use the inside rein and let the outside one get slack the horse will bend the neck and pop the shoulder and not use herself correctly.

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  2. what an awesome feeling and i love all the photos - she always has such an honest, open expression like you can almost see what she's thinking or where she's focusing.

    i tend to feel like most horses kinda have this "hump" that has to be gotten over in their early training. where they kinda don't see the point, don't really know why they should bother, and question the rider's decisions often. they're not forward thinking or self powered or even particularly engaged. but like, suddenly, once they can see what the point is and start actually *doing* things in the ride, it gets interesting and they can become more engaged, more interested. it's easier and easier to get them to focus bc they're prepared and ready to start working on actual "stuff" now. it's a cool feeling!

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    1. you summed it up so nicely. I love how you put it!

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  3. Working with horses is a lot of work. You're right there are good and bad moments but I don't think it would be as much fun if everything was good all the time. It makes it so much more rewarding when things go well after working to get wat we want. You and Carmen really have come do far in your journey together.

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    1. You are right- it feels so sweet now knowing how hard we worked on it.

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  4. You two have come a long way. The communication is getting very solid. I had to work with Leah for a while on loose rein for her to get comfortable with it, too. Out on the trail, I go back and forth between the two and I'm getting better at seeing the warning signs that she needs more "support" before she unravels.

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    1. Yes- before she needed so much and being 'free' freaked her out. Now she's decided to trust me it's becoming so much fun

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  5. I love that you have so many photos to show whats going on. I feel like I am always guessing cause I never see what I am doing. Training is hard and I'm with Grey Horse you need those bad times to remember how good it is now.
    Love that your trainer likes lessons from others that is rare but it can be so helpful

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    1. I love that Shanea takes photos as we go. It helps a lot.

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  6. She is such a lovely horse. I am glad that your partnership is growing and improving.

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    1. Thank you. I do love how she looks.

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  7. Looks great! Good job on the breakthroughs

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  8. You may already do this but I'm going to share because it was so helpful with Lucy -- who couldn't stretch at walk or trot to save her life. I started incorporating stretch trot circles into our work, as reward after every bit of canter that we did. I also give her lots of walk breaks - on a long rein with contact. In the beginning, she didn't really "get it" but now she stretches really well for me, whenever I ask. Since Carmen is comfortable in the arena now, it might work for her too.

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    1. yes- that's a great idea, I did it with Irish and now I can trust her enough that we can work on this.

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  9. My trainer constantly tells me, because Aria is a baby with limited wisdom, that free walks and going along on a loose rein is just something that takes time and practice. The horse has to learn to fill in the gaps and they can't do that unless you let them.

    For what it's worth Carmen has a much longer loose rein walk than Aria! I hope we get there some day!

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    1. I am sure that you will get there. And so will we!

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  10. Even your "bad" moments look pretty good to me.

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    1. Thank you! We've certainly had worse moments!

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  11. You guys are looking great! Thanks for sharing pictures of both the good and the bad, it's so hard and I struggle doing that but now I wish I had shared more of the really rough stuff because it would make the good more meaningful :)

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    1. I haven't shared all my bad stuff but I keep some photos to keep it real and see the changes.

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  12. She's looking lovely as always. We worked a lot keeping Noey going straight this past driving lesson, that and his wishing to cut corners had me learning quite a lot about the give and take of inside and outside rein. Haven't gotten it yet, hoping Noey will be teaching me. Carriage horses are ridden with contact, given a loose rein they think it's time to GO!

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    1. driving is such a new thing I think I would find it hard.

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  13. So happy for you! All your patience and hard work us being rewarded.

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  14. You two look great. I wish my good pictures looked like your bad ones :)

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    1. You are starting a whole new adventure- I envy you the whole distance riding thing.

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  15. That's interesting that she settled even after the tense moment grooming in the wind. Maybe she got the scaries out of the way? Or maybe your bond is growing?

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    1. In the past she would have built up more in the ring- I think she's learning that I can be trusted and that we will be fine.

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  16. I love the fact you show varied photos - I am guilty of cherry-picking photos as well, but it is fun to look back and see where we came from! You two look awesome - I especially love the last photo.

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  17. Also, this is gonna sound stalker-ish, but can you e-mail me? I'd love to discuss more about my trailer loading issues and hear your advice :)

    cathryn underscore kozak at Hotmail dot com.

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    1. not stalkerish as alll. I sent an email. :)

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  18. You guys look amazing! I struggle to with which photos I chose to post, so I totally know what you mean. Best of luck at the show, you two will do great :D

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  19. What a good mare! I adore your strengthening partnership with her.

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  20. I really love the way she's stepping under at the canter, especially in that one photo! Wow!

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