To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Notes to self, in no particular order

The inside hand is the turn signal; the outside hand is the steering wheel. After the inside hand has done its job, it should be STILL.

The base of the (horse's) neck needs to be stable. The bend should be through the body, not the neck.

The (horse's) nose needs to stay in line with the center of his chest at almost all times; otherwise he's overbent laterally.

Chin back.

Don't cross hands!

Spiraling in effectively requires turning the shoulders, lots of outside rein. Then you get "sit" and "lift."

To school turn on the haunches, leg yield and then straighten briefly first.

Don't accept little shuffle steps in trot-walk transitions; make them clean but forward. Fine line there!

In walk-canter transitions, don't get pulled forward; keep my position. For left lead, ask for slight haunches-in, since that's what he wants to do anyway, but it has to be MY idea and he can't throw his shoulder out. Anticipation is fine, but keep him forward.

Do canter-walk transitions in the same spot, using anticipation to assist with needed collection. Tracking right, a strong inside leg in the half-halt works well. Tracking left, MUST be straight; takes LOTS of outside rein (elbow to hip; use triceps) to keep shoulder from bulging out and tapping whip to keep inside hind under. Trying moving him off the right leg just as when tracking right. Get to walk as quickly as possible so he understands what is expected.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A princely packer and good student

I didn't ride at all last week. My folks were here and I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could. But I was back in the saddle the day they flew out (Monday). My friend and her daughter were coming out for one last visit and ride on Tuesday, and I wanted to make sure Lance would mind his Ps and Qs. He had been getting increasingly frisky with us during chores; the big red goober really does need a job.

I needn't have worried; Lance was good for me on Monday and even better for Hannah and me on Tuesday. Not only did Hannah ride him by herself again, this time in full tack, Hannah and I rode double on him for the first time in his life. When it was clear he wasn't going to object, we jogged around the arena for quite awhile.

Today, for the first time in I don't know how long, I got a lesson from Julie. Of course, it ended up being the hottest time of the hottest day of the week, but a breeze made it bearable. I didn't know how much horse I'd have, but Lance surprised me and did very well. Our main task was to get – and keep – Lance straight.

"Straightness" sounds basic, and it is, but as you can see, only collection is above it on the pyramid of training – and collection can only happen if your horse is straight. 

I have not been riding Lance as straight as I thought I was. With Julie's eyes on the ground to guide me, we made great progress in correcting that. And what a difference it made, especially when tracking to the left (his hollow side)!

I can't wait for fall, when rain will water the arena and we can school there. My goal is to show Lance at Second Level at our chapter's ODS League show next February; after today's lesson, that seems perfectly feasible.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Between the weather (dry, whether cooler or hotter) and all the visitors coming and going this month, my riding has been limited to quick forays around our hill – through the woods, down the lanes, beside the vineyards. We school along the way, of course – lateral work, canter departs, rider position. I see shows come and go and know, without too much of a twinge – that now is not our time for competition. Will that time come again? I don't know; for now I am happy for any time in the saddle, for the training along the way, for improvement in our communication and partnership. Other blessings come as well.

During a recent ride we both heard a rustle in the underbrush up a bank on our left. What I could see looked like a deer struggling, and I worried one was caught in a fence or something. I dismounted and watched, finally realizing it was a doe with not one, not two, but THREE good-sized fawns all trying to nurse at once! I captured what I could (but couldn't get all three fawns in one shot):

On my next ride the views were just outstanding. The last of the evening rays gilded the valley,
then moved to the clouds above
before blowing a final rosy kiss to the east.
What gifts are mine!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Defending horses

When Alanna recently asked her followers for bonnet recommendations, I realized I had totally forgotten about the bonnet I purchased last year for Lance! Since 'tis the season for those nasty wee beasties that feast on blood in the horses' ears, I went looking for it. Fortunately, I had stored it in the most logical spot, the cupboard in the tackroom.

Although he doesn't look thrilled about it in these photos, Lance is much quieter on the trail with it on. Even when I wipe the horses' ears with fly spray, they shake their heads nervously when they hear a winged insect flying near. Thanks for the reminder, Alanna!

While I think I remember which company I ordered this from, and like the bonnet, I'm not going to promote the company here.     I've decided to put my money where my mouth is.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Shades of princes past

On Monday my dear friend and her daughter, back in the area for the summer, came out for a visit. I had promised Hannah she could ride again (she's ridden Breezy in the past), so Lance helped me make good on that promise.

Hannah was a quick study, and after some instruction she was piloting Lance around pretty proficiently, although I walked along with them. Then I had her mother walk with them so I could snap some pictures.

I was so proud of my big red goober; he was nicely responsive to the guidance of a young and inexperienced rider. As I said when I posted a photo of them on Instagram, "Sir Lancelot took good care of Princess Hannah." I have been blessed over the years with a string of noble knights who take good care of visiting royalty. ;-)

No lesson for me and my dance partner today; Julie is out of town. Maybe next week!