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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Checking in with Spring

. . . to a new season!
I'm still here, schooling and conditioning my pony, teaching and trail-riding with my student (and her mom), prepping and primping for our upcoming demo ride (this Friday!), and coping with challenging life circumstances better thanks to the mental and physical self-discipline of dressage.

Sometimes, we even have witnesses!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Gym equipment

Lance and I have been working in SPITE of the weather. No time to ride the two days after our lesson, and by the time I could claim some time in the saddle on Sunday we had to brave the dark with a "wintery mix" falling. I set up my four caveletti, but Lance struggled to maintain the trot on the smaller arc that created. Note to self; remove one next time we ride. We didn't ride long; the conditions were less than conducive.
Snowflakes on the saddle pad; glad for my synthetic saddle!

We woke up to 2" of snow Monday, but by Tuesday we were able to slosh around in the arena again.

I rearranged my poles into this "turkey foot." It gives me the three trot poles plus a high trot pole/low jump pole to mix things up a bit.

We schooled again on Wednesday, this time with company:
The sun is actually shining this morning, so I need to scurry through some cooking and cleaning so I can shoehorn in a ride. No time this afternoon; like every Friday I have to drive to Salem to pick up my son and take him to Newberg for a violin lesson.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Awesome sauce!

Lance and I had a lesson with Julie on Thursday. As soon as she saw him, she remarked that he had regained some weight; it was nice to have confirmation. I had already warmed up, so we went to work. Julie specifically brainstormed exercises that would maximize our benefits for the amount of energy expended, given that Lance is an energy-conserver at the best of times and oxygen-compromised at the worst of times. One of her suggestions was to capitalize on the energy he offers when I shorten my reins, and when he needs a break (often), use it to practice free walk on a long rein – no in-between.

I've been feeling confident that in spite of the set-backs, Lance's training has slowly progressed; our lesson confirmed that, too. His walk-canter-walk transitions have gotten more dependable, so we worked on refining them. Using the whole arena and doing simple changes from one lead to another, Julie had me ask for a bit of opposite leg yield before the downward transition to get him straighter.

Then we worked on making Lance's trot more adjustable by working over three trot poles laid out like bicycle spokes. Taking the inside track requires a shorter, more collected stride; taking the outside track requires more energy and reach. Lance hardly placed a hoof wrong, rating himself extremely well and requiring the outside ends of the poles to be spread farther apart to challenge his surprisingly large stride. Then she had me use the physical advantage the poles gave us for downward and upward transitions right after and right at the last pole.

Finally, we worked on adjusting Lance's canter stride on the circle without poles, using the open side of the circle to lengthen, then asking for collection when approaching the side of the arena. Julie said that she saw Lance truly "sit" for the first time during this exercise; exciting stuff!

Julie had me shorten my stirrups a hole because of my tendency to ride with my legs too far back and not keeping good contact with the stirrup pad. She really liked my hand position; I'm getting better at pushing them forward instead of pulling back.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A hard and happy day

I spent 9 1/2 hours at our chapter's League show today, and I'm beat! It was cold and damp, and I spent most of the time on my feet and freezing. It was tinged with sadness, too; our oldest member had recently suffered a fall and brain bleed (or brain bleed and fall), and I learned she passed away yesterday. Here is JoAnn just a year and a half ago, on her partner Tong. She will be missed very much.
But my student and her Paint mare did great at their very first dressage show (and the mare's first outing anywhere besides coming to my place for just four lessons!). They successfully completed Intro Tests A and C and Training Level Test 1, and the judge's comments confirmed what we have been working on. So we'll keep working and she wants to keep showing; next time maybe we will both enter.

It was SO tempting to go get my boy and show TODAY. There was just one rider doing Second Level tests and I think Lance and I could have delivered comparable if not superior performances. But there were no available ride times, so I just stayed the rest of the day to volunteer where needed and catch up with chapter member-friends that I have had little time to socialize with in the last few years. So besides being cold, it really was a good day.

Oh, and I got more information about an upcoming event. Just before the deadline I sent in an application to be a demo rider at the NW Horse Fair & Expo, and found out last week that it was accepted. Lance and I will be there on Friday, March 24, for Jec Ballou's "Cross-Training Exercises for the Dressage Horse." I learned today (our show's videographer is the demo rider coordinator) that we have to be there all day, and perhaps board Thursday night as well. Oh well, a friend is planning to come so we'll have fun hanging out and window-shopping when I'm not riding. I'm looking forward to the opportunity, and am hoping to take a lesson with Julie this week, too. Onward and forward with my handsome Lance!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Around the arena and down the lane

Sorry to leave you post-less for so long! I'm still horsing around, I just haven't had any extra time or mental energy to post about it.

I haven't been over to ride Larry at his fine facility again (see second sentence above). He gets excellent care and regular exercise, so I'm not worried about him.

Like I said on my Boulderneigh blog, Lance is feeling much better, which makes my heart sing. After getting his immune system calmed down with dexamethasone injections, we're maintaining him with twice-a-day oral prednisolone. Being able to breathe makes him much more biddable; imagine that!

We were enjoying some ballroom dancing in the arena last Thursday afternoon when the sky starting changing colors. We left the arena at a trot and headed up our lane to catch an unobstructed view of a glorious sunset.

Yesterday afternoon we caught a break in the rain again and ventured through the woods. We had gone out once before at dusk and ran into unusually wet conditions; I wanted to see what was going on with better light.

The woods are in sad shape. Besides much of the track turning into a shallow stream (it has been a very wet month), a lot of mature trees have fallen over. Ivy is overtaking many other trees, which will weaken and eventually topple as well.

Anyway and however.... When I tried to ride late this afternoon, Lance was incredibly sluggish, coughed quite a bit, and was breathing different than his back-to-normal respirations. Needless to say, I didn't torture him very long. I forgot to give him his meds last night; I suppose his heaves could be that barely controlled. :-/

Taken last week; today we got rained on.

Wait – who? Ha! This nice little Paint mare belongs to my new student. Today was the fourth Sunday in a row that her mom has hauled her in from their home an hour away for a lesson. She's entered in our ODS chapter's league show next Sunday; it will be both the student's and the horse's first dressage show. So I will be going to Bears Above the Ground – to coach and volunteer, just not to compete.