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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lessons learned

Last Sunday Kate and I did indeed get lessons with Julie. It worked out really well; she kind of wove our lessons together, so we both got a lot of instruction interspersed with good rest breaks. I was hoping to take some photos, but it was so foggy that there was actually fog inside the covered arena. Fog=not enough light without flash; crazy spotting with flash. Oh well.

Here were my take-away points from my lesson:

  • Shorten my reins! (What's new?) There should be consistent contact without pulling back; always think "hands towards Lance's mouth."
  • In the leg yield along wall at the walk exercise, Lance's front legs were crossing over well, but not his hind legs. Turns out (no surprise) that it was my fault; I was keeping him too straight. His rib cage is supposed to yield to my driving leg; when I let it, his hind legs cross much better!
  • Then Julie asked us to do the same exercise at the trot, with less angle. =:-O  That was challenging for both of us; Lance eloquently expressed his opinion about how difficult it was. Don't attempt too much at once; let him go straight and forward after a few steps of good effort.   
  • We proceeded to working on a 20m circle at trot and canter. Julie noted that Lance's hindquarters tend to drift to the outside, so had me put my outside leg back to keep them in place. He took this to mean canter, but Julie said he can learn the subtleties. Keeping his hindquarters in place greatly improved both gaits.
  • Worked on good canter departs; don't accept so-so attempts by continuing at the canter!
  • At the end Julie had us trot over three ground poles – simply placed at first, then moved closer together. I had to collect Lance's trot but keep it energetic to negotiate those; the pay-off was SUSPENSION! Once we consistently got collected suspension, Julie had me ask for a stretch of bigger trot afterwards. I can tell this is going to be huge in developing Lance's trot.
Since Kate and I were still anticipating that I would be riding Dinah while Kate recovers from surgery, Julie addressed both of us while working with her. Dinah needs to learn to trot in a slightly slower, cadenced rhythm; it's easy to be let her motor around and enjoy her naturally expressive trot, but that won't give her the tools to carry herself past Training Level. She is still quite unbalanced at the canter, so needs lots of patience and time, on the lunge and under saddle, to figure that out. Julie rode her awhile and was surprised at how strong she was in the bridle – although Dinah is smart and responded quickly to Julie's direction. Dinah and Lance are very different horses in temperament, conformation, and gaits, but lots of lateral work will benefit both.

The first chance I got to work on our take-away points was yesterday morning; we had a really good schooling session. I dug out three odd pieces of PVC pipe to use as trot poles, and they worked just fine. My boy can actually "boing"! At the end, Lance had nice, foamy lips and a sweaty chest, telling me that my "energy-conservor" was working hard but without tension. That's what I want – short, effective schooling sessions!

Monday, January 19, 2015

One out of two ain't bad was wonderful!

Kate and I talked about Sunday all last week. Our lofty goal was to haul somewhere to ride again, and then swap horses – or at the least swap horses if the wet forecast held true. Why swap? Kate has asked me to take Dinah in for training while she is dealing with surgery and recovery. Knowing that our three stalls are occupied and Lance is the only horse getting any regular use here, she suggested that Breezy and Dinah swap places. That sounded logical to me . . . but not to my DH. Breezy might need more treatment, he said; he needs to keep an eye on her. Well, how about swapping out Ollie, says I; no one rides him, either. Rick balked at that, too. I don't get it, but I have to let it go as he doesn't respond well to pressure.

Back to the forecast. It rained – a lot – all day Saturday, and Sunday was supposed to be more of the same and started out that way. Before noon, there was a break in the clouds; maybe I'd at least get a ride in at home, splashing through the puddles in our arena. I decided to re-check the forecast. To my surprise, Lincoln City (our closest coastal destination) didn't look too bad! With my DH's blessing (bless him!) I texted Kate, loaded Lance and tack, and headed out.

After minimal fuss, Dinah loaded up (she's a smart girl). It was pouring at Kate's; it rained off and on as we drove westward. But lo and behold, it wasn't raining at the beach!

We had an absolutely lovely time with each other and our good ponies. As we untacked, it started to sprinkle. Let it rain; we got our beach ride!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Those temperamental models

Gotta be the cutest, most kissable lips in horsedom!
You know how they can be – suavely working the camera one minute, then pitching a temper tantrum and demanding better working conditions the next. Ha!

Last Sunday, Kate had a present for Lance. (She spoils us!) Yesterday morning I finally unpackaged Lance's new feed ball, filled it with TACO, and gave it to him. At first he was mildly curious, then he smelled food and tried to get his very agile lips into the loading hole.
Hopefully it will help keep my busy boy entertained!

I also did a little shopping for Lance myself. I've long had a yen for a quarter sheet, but since we don't often get the kind of frigid weather they're designed for, I haven't been willing to spend the $$. Recently I found a clearance quarter sheet in a size small for a steal of a deal and decided to take a chance that it would fit.
Ta-da; it does! It is really nice, too, fleecy and warm and very well-made. I don't know if Lance will care one way or the other, but I know I'll appreciate it; my thighs are the one region that gets chilled when it's cold.
Now the "modeling backstory." Even though I rode Tuesday, Lance was quite frisky yesterday when I led him out to the arena to ride. I put the quarter sheet on him, stepped back to take a picture – and off he rocketed! The quarter sheep came off with the first big buck (thankfully; didn't need him to get tangled in it or tear it up), but the antics continued for quite some time.
Mr. Hot Stuff

He finally consented to trot up to me to be caught and go to work; he was a much more cooperative model after our schooling session. ;-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015