Thursday, November 14, 2013


I feel so ashamed.
You know it's a bad night when you leave the barn in tears, seriously considering selling or giving away your horse and never riding again.

Monday night I rode (see last post) and I feel like I completely messed up my horse. None of what happened was his fault. It was entirely me. I was angry. Hungry. Frustrated. Completely forgot the entire point of riding. Hormonal. (And how fair is it to be three years past my last period and still dealing with PMS type symptoms?) I was mean. I was unfair. I took out everything I was feeling on my horse. I acted like an out-of-control adolescent idiot. And I knew it while it was happening, but couldn't find the stop button. My only positive on the night was hanging with Ashke in his stall afterward, doing carrot stretches and hand feeding him carrots.

I called my mom on the drive home and cried.

I sobbed in J's arms for a good five minutes when I got home.

I have tears in my eyes right now thinking about it.

Ashke still loves me though. He whinnied four times between when I said his name walking in the door of the barn and getting to his stall. He met me at the door and stuck his head in the halter. He sounded "sound" when we walked to the grooming stall and was nuzzling me for love and carrots.

I don't deserve any of that. It just shows you how big his heart is. And how forgiving.

I brought a bag of cut up carrots for a reward during our lesson tonight. For him. My reward needs to be liquid and much stronger than that. I wanted to reset our canter interaction and feeding him is the best way I know how to do so. Cassandra was supportive, if confused, by this, but worked it into our lesson. I loves her.

She was calm and gave us great direction, even though her personal horse, Pico, was colicking at the time. (That's why you can see her lunging a horse during our lesson in some of the pics.)
This is Ashke at the canter toward the end of the lesson. (Pics are also out of order.) Cassandra was able to help him figure out what I wanted and he actually put up with my unbalanced, ungraceful nonsense.

I really struggle to get all of the things I'm supposed to do happening in the correct order at the right time.

Cassandra at the canter. Ashke really tried. Really hard.

Cassandra makes him look so much better. Even if it is blurry.

At the trot. Or maybe the canter. Or a transition. So hard to tell.

Getting tired. And not wanting to give to the inside at the poll.

Pretty grainy pics.

Working on warming up.

My feeble attempt at posting. I have finally gained enough core strength to try, at least.

My hands get too high when I ask him to canter. Might this be part of the issue?



Things you don't know: Cassandra uses the term "Soften" to mean, tighten the rein on the inside and ask him to give at the poll and jaw and bend to the inside. "Soften" to me means ease up on the pressure. I was doing the opposite of what Cassandra wants. 

We had a conversation (you can watch the video) and agreed to discuss terms. I am a newbie in the woods and need to be treated as such.

He tried so hard. And gave big, body heaving sighs when he knew he was doing it correctly.

Cassandra pointed out that he is going to be super sensitive to my emotions.
Next time I need to do something different.
(Actually, I knew that then, but couldn't stop myself. Rage will do that.)

Ashke was tired, but still licking and mouthing and foamy at the end of the ride.

Cassandra says she can tell I am working on riding him the way she is showing me, because of the muscle change in his body. 

This picture brings tears to my eyes. Look at how happy he is.

Cassandra was focused on us, even while lunging Pico. Thankfully, Pico is better today.

At the end of the lesson we gobbled up the rest of the carrots, while doing stretches.

And bows.

And just hanging out.


To the more difficult side.
The boy was tired and not really interested in doing any more.


J was videoing. I love it when she comes out to my lessons.

Much better lesson this time. No tears and no frustration.

Discussing the finer points of dressage language and method.
I'm not being firm enough in my contact.
I am releasing pressure instead of increasing pressure to the inside, which causes him to bend to the outside.
My idea of increasing pressure to the inside is not firm enough. It is not a twitch of a finger, but rather a flex with the hand. Maybe we can progress to a twitch as some point, but not yet.

I think this was the last work of the night. I may have to bring my dressage whip for these moments, which will hopefully get less as we progress. We had been riding for an hour and Ashke didn't want to continue. He wasn't sweaty, just that it was hard and he didn't want to try any more.


  1. Don't beat yourself up too much about it. We all do it (well I have anyway) and lucky for us horses live in the moment and forgive quickly (most do). Hang in there. You will figure the canter out in time. It might just take a while for him to build strength before doing a correct canter transition is easy for him. It takes time for us to build the strength to ask for it correctly as well. Don't give up! We're rooting for you!

    1. Yeah, it's not the transition, it's his being able to carry himself well. And I am a fruit loop, or so he says.

  2. Gah, I've had several moments with Q like what you explained in the beginning. I'm being SO awful and just can't find a way to stop. I go home and I cry about it. It doesn't leave my mind. I stew on it. And when I see her again our first ride back from me feeling like an ass is always AMAZING because I have ZERO expectations. I wipe the slate clean. I congratulate her for every tiny good thing she does. And she excels. And I realize that if I could communicate with her like this every.single.ride. we would go SO FAR. But I'm only human, and thus I forget.

    Its hard for us to learn new things and learn to convey them to our horses. This post made me think about so many of Bob the Equestrian's posts in that you're learning new things and the horse is, too. Communicating them is difficult. Bob seems to discuss that all the time. Learning is so good, and its so scary. You and Ashke are doing so so so amazingly though! Keep your head up. The transformation so far is already so noticeable! And after all...Rome wasn't built in a day. =)

  3. He looks so good in those pictures! Don't be too hard in yourself. This is any hard sport and sometimes our horses don't do us any favors... But sometimes they do! It's a journey. You guys will continue to improve.

  4. I think we've all had moments like this. Thankfully horses are the most forgiving creatures I know! And it sounds like you have a great instructor who will help y'all continue to grow and improve:)

  5. I'm catching up on commenting! I read your posts as soon as they pop up on my blog roll, but just had not had much time to sit down and comment.

    Ashke and you look FANTASTIC! I don't have a lot of experiences working with Arabians myself, but a lot of people at my current barn have them and love them, including our resident Natural Horsemanship trainer. I've been told that that stiff canter like Ashke's right now is apparently a common occurrence in the breed; it takes work and conditioning to get them to do pretty, relaxed, rolling canters. (This is one of the reasons why I think Lily has some Arabian in there somewhere-she has that same canter.) So hang in there - you will eventually get the canter you want.

    And regarding those moments of anger and frustration and learning at the same time as your horse: what Liz said. My thoughts exactly on the matter. It is very hard when you're learning AND your horse is learning. It's so hard to get them to do something when we don't already know the way to get there, and when we don't know how something should feel when done correctly. I felt that way a lot when starting out with dressage. (It still happens, just less frequently.) You get frustrated and confused with one another. I've been there many times, with different horses. Keep doing what you're doing. You've both come so far in such a short time! It will get better. I promise.

    1. So glad to hear that it is a conformation/Arab thing. I was beginning to think I was going mad. I seem to remember my Appy mare's canter as being something I could ride for several hours. Ashke's canter feels like I'm in a freaking washing machine, being buffeted from side to side. I am out of breath and sweating like a call girl on Quarter Night at the end of a couple of circuits of the arena. Maybe it's NOT all me. However, I can do more to be in sync with him, because you know my job is to RIDE him. So, tonight will be an Ashke led night. I will ask for the canter, but we are going to do it on a loose rein and work on going forward without being afraid of getting our mouth jerked on. (Bad rider.) We will practice other stuff.

      Oh, and sometime in the near future I am going to do a post on Working Eq that you might be interested in. They have virtual competitions that I am going to participate in next year. By then, we might be ready. Might.

    2. "I am out of breath and sweating like a call girl on Quarter Night" AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    3. I laughed at the same sentence as Liz! I will be looking forward to the Working Eq post!