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

Monday, October 24, 2016

House calls and cutie-pies

Lance has been acting like his mouth is bothering him while eating, so after taking Brian to school this morning, Rick came back home to check him out. Lance has "horsey cold sores" (petechiae) again, poor guy. He also had some points, so Rick floated Lance's teeth, then gave both horses their rhino/flu and Potomac Horse Fever vaccinations. Then I led out my ram for Rick to examine; I had noticed during morning chores that Blake was squinting his left eye. No wonder; Rick pulled out a big, nasty grass seed head!

As he was putting his vet equipment back in the truck, Rick asked me if I wanted to ride along on a couple calls. I had things I needed to do, but in appreciation for his help I decided to be a sport. At one of the barns we visited, this flashy Hackney pony caught my eye:
I call him Puzzle, because his wild facial chrome reminded me of a puzzle piece. :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Photos for you, notes for me

Lance and I hauled over for a lesson with Julie today. It was a gray day but I had to try for some photos since Julie wanted to get on Lance to see how he feels; I don't often get the opportunity to watch him get put through his paces! I also took photos of Julie, her beautiful driveway and her talented Totilas filly (yes, her pasture buddy is a miniature horse, who is totally the boss!).
Blurry but I love the color, the motion, Lance's frame....
I'm not sure I've ever seen Lance so quiet after a ride; he was TIRED!


Require a better work ethic; don't let Lance take a break with every canter-walk transition.

Work on simple changes around the whole arena, not on a circle. If Lance gets "stuck," get in two-point, ask him to be a little rounder, lift his belly with spurs, and go forward for a bit.

Hold the counter-canter sometimes, asking Lance to counter-flex. I should be able to feel him flex more in his fetlocks.

Don't grip with my upper thigh; it can block Lance. Must use my correct seat bone while keeping thighs relaxed.

RHYTHM is main goal in trot. Ask for collection by closing hip joint some and moving legs back, then ease out to bigger trot by opening hip joints and using a long, relaxed leg.

Lateral work at the walk is good; save lateral work at the trot for times when Lance has extra energy.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

New duds

Just in time for fall!
Lance's replacement SmartPak Ultimate High-Neck Turnout Sheet arrived while Rick and I were in Canada last week. They've been out of stock since he tore up his first one; SmartPak sent me a different model to tide us over but he damaged that one, too. (Good thing I invested in the Ultimate, which has a "10-year Indestructible Guarantee"!) This one is a size smaller than the original, and it fits perfectly.

Since we don't turn our horses out in the rain and (slippery) mud, why does Lance wear a turnout? It keeps him cleaner, reducing grooming time, it protects his mane and tail head from rubbing, and I think he grows less winter hair, which makes it easier to cool him out.

After getting ready for our trip, being gone on our trip, and coming home to rain and work after our trip, Lance had quite a few days off and I was anxious to get back in the saddle. Yesterday I went down to take advantage of a break in the rain showers, but the dry spell only lasted long enough for our walk warm-up and a little trot work. Lance made it very clear that he didn't like the rain in his face, so we trotted back into the barn. While Lance ate some lunch, I tidied up his mane, shortening the thin section between his withers and the rubbed area, and shortening and thinning the bigger section between the rubbed area and his bridle path. By then, the rain had passed and we went back to school awhile longer. We finished with the above photo shoot, Lance looking spiffy with his new 'do and turn-out sheet.

We had a better weather window today and had a good schooling session. While I'm trying to remember and practice what we worked on in our last lesson, I find myself wishing I'd written better notes and wanting another lesson to confirm things in my mind and muscles. I was thinking of entering an ODS League show at the end of this month, but have changed my mind. First, I'd rather spend my time and money building on the progress we're making with Julie's help than show at a level at which we've already demonstrated competence. Second, I've just learned my MIL is having eye surgery a few days before the show, then coming here to recuperate for at least a day and night. That throws a wild card on the table; better to not plan anything else in close proximity.

But the week before that looks feasible; off to email Julie about scheduling!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Looking back and looking forward

And just plain looking!

Lance and I had another great lesson with Julie on September 21 — after Lance spooked himself in the arena mirrors. No, they aren't new, he's just never taken notice of them before. Fortunately I had my iPhone in my pocket, so I could take advantage of the photo opp. I might just have to have one of these made into a print and framed. :-)

Lance often offers some light steps when I first pick up the reins, anticipating trot or canter. So when Julie asked what I wanted to work on, I joked, “Maybe we should try passage!" She said she was thinking the same thing – and off we went! I like Julie's philosophy; she wants passage to be play rather than work for the horse, so we just encouraged some rhythmic steps when he offered energy and lightness and gave him lots of praise for his efforts. Julie thinks he'll be a quick study and I'm thrilled. It has been a long, long time (14 years!) since I had an FEI partner and I miss the fun of dancing with an equine partner at that level.

Once Lance lost interest in expending that much effort, Julie focused her attention on me. Her mission: to help me keep a consistent contact on the reins and to use my inside seat bone properly. It may sound mundane compared to passage, but what a big difference those two things made in Lance's way of going and our connection with one another.

This week I got an email reminder about a League show at the end of October. Thinking of trying out Second Level, I looked into it, but only Intro through First Level tests are offered. Still, I might sign up for the same two First Level tests we showed in February just to see what progress we've made in eight months. Hmmm; I wonder if Kate would be interested in going, too....

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rain dance*

Hurray; we got rain last weekend! Besides the obvious benefits of dust abatement and plant refreshment, it means that for now my arena footing is safe to school in again. Just in time, too; grape harvest has started (much earlier than usual) so all the vineyard noisemakers (propane cannon, deer and bird distress calls) are sounding off constantly. I can still go down through the woods, but am cautious about that, too, since bow hunting season is open and firearm season opens soon.

When I went down to saddle up Lance to school in the twilight Saturday night (night riding is another arena benefit), his whites were still shiny-bright from our beach ride:

Afterwards, they were clean no more.
I have a lesson scheduled with Julie this Wednesday. I think we've made progress on our homework; I look forward to getting Julie's opinion!

*A year ago I wrote a post with the same title. To everything there is a season. Amen.