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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Good thing he's a gelding...

...because I don't think Lance's genes should be perpetrated – no matter how handsome and personable he is!
My son taking advantage of my laid-back mustang

My big, red goober has yet another diagnosis on his rap sheet now: metabolic disorder (the equine equivalent of type-2 diabetes). That's what the blood work indicates, so now I've added Thyroxinen L to his daily meds and supplements. Hopefully it'll help him shed some of the excess weight....

We finally got a break from the extreme heat we were experiencing, so Lance and I have resumed some activity. We rode around the hill on Monday evening, and Tuesday morning I lunged him. I wanted to see how he handled himself bitted up, even though I was worried what might happen if he tripped. Fortunately he only stumbled once with a back foot before I attached the side reins and not once after, even though I put him through all three paces.

While I will continue to ride and love my mental health crisis mustang, I find myself jonesing for a horse I can dance with again. Student #1 resumed lessons again yesterday with her gorgeous, sensible young OTTB after being out of town for awhile. The OTTBs I've known in my past life didn't interest me at all, but now I'm spending way too much time perusing "Retiring Racehorses – Pacific NW" on FaceBook, dreaming of meeting some this winter when there are meets at Portland Meadows. (I'm not driving up to Emerald Downs, no matter how tempted I am!)

That's the tall and the short of it for now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A couple firsts

Yesterday student #4 had her first lesson with me – on her mom's nice-looking TB mule! Eerily enough, the mule stumbled and nearly fell at the canter; so thankful the student stayed on and no one got hurt. We didn't canter after that, but had plenty to work on. The next lesson is in two weeks, and she may ride something different, possibly her own semi-retired mule. Although I've never "schooled a mule" before, it wasn't any different than a horse; I could definitely see myself on a nice-moving mule!

I enjoy working with people new to dressage, but I must admit it was wonderful teaching someone who isn't. Student #4 has shown to Second Level so is "dressage literate," making communication easy. And when she paid me at the end she tipped me $10 – the second first! We have another lesson scheduled in two weeks and she emailed me a nice thank-you later, so I think she was happy with the instruction. 😊

In Lance news, I lunged him on Sunday evening. Partly to exercise him, and partly to see how he moves. I didn't "bit him up" in case he tripped (which he only did once with a back foot), just used a halter and lunge line. He was excruciatingly lazy; don't know if it's because he's so fat or because he doesn't feel good. Rick watched him for quite awhile but hasn't said anything.
I'm headed out shortly to walk him around the neighborhood while it's still cool.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Addition and subtraction

Like my life as a whole, my horse life keeps trotting on, leaving me struggling to keep up. Since the last time I posted, Lance's feet were trimmed (no shoes), student #3 had a lesson on her own horse for the first time, student #4 scheduled her first lesson for a week from yesterday, I've seen signs indicating I'm losing even more of my riding range . . . and my options with Lance got dialed back to nearly zero. 😞 Yeah, it's been a week of "The good, the bad, and the UGLY."

Student #3 decided, after two lessons on Lance, that she was ready to try taking a lesson on her own horse on Monday. Buffy, her Haflinger mare, turned out to a sweet and willing partner, reminding me in some ways of Lance, but with more energy. Since student #3 doesn't have an English saddle, I suggested she use her bareback pad so we could really work on her position and core strength. That went well, and I look forward to working with them together. The timing of the switch-over couldn't have been better, either.....
Taking a loose-rein break.

The next day Lance and I took a ride through the woods. The track is getting overgrown – we were even turned back by blackberry brambles before reaching the clearing I like to ride to – but a bigger obstacle to our future access was advertised.
All along the track there were these pink ribbons declaring "Timber Harvest Boundary" – as if enough of the peace, quiet, and wildling habitat of our hill hadn't already been pillaged. 😔 This little wooded ravine is pretty much all the "wild" that's left on our side of the hill. But it's just money to some people.... With a heavy heart I took photos of the beauty before it's changed forever.

Back home I took Lance out on the ballroom floor (arena) to briefly review some dance moves. I was cantering him to the left one last time, being careful to maintain uphill balance to help avoid tripping. He's been doing that quite a bit lately, although not quite as much since getting his pedicure. But he did trip, and not only did he not catch himself, he came crashing down in a kind of delayed sequence while my mind raced through the possible outcomes. I was mostly hoping that no part of Lance's 1300+ pounds landed on me, and then hit the ground with a pretty good smack to the back of my helmeted head. I scrambled up but Lance didn't, laying sternal where he'd fallen for some worrisome moments. When he finally did get up he kept shaking his head. Taking stock of both of us I noticed that he'd skinned one front knee and the opposite front fetlock, had a scrape and a lump on his forehead, and his bridle was all dusty. (I didn't notice until the next day that the noseband was badly scuffed, making me think he did a hard face-plant into the sand or possibly even into the kick board of the arena.) My head felt okay, but my left clavicle and sternum were uncomfortable and grew increasingly so as I carefully put away my subdued mustang.

Shaken emotionally every bit as much as physically, I called Rick. He had theorized from the number of suspensory injuries Lance has sustained that there might be underlying neck issues; the stumble and fall certainly supported that theory. I told him what happened and asked him to please (finally) check Lance's neck, which he did when he got home. Lance is so thick/fat that it was hard to see much with the ultrasound; there was some inflammation, though. (He also ultrasounded my left collarbone, which by now felt like I may have cracked it, but Rick didn't see anything.) Because Lance has gotten so fat, Rick felt that testing for Cushings Disease was warranted, and drew blood for that.

So here we are, reduced to walking around our little arena or increasingly developed hill. Going faster is just too risky; there's too much momentum to recover from if when Lance trips. (I'm so glad student #3 transitioned to her own horse before this happened, and that we didn't go to Cowboy Campeeting!) I'm sad; I'm worried. I really like the whole process of dressage and don't want to be sidelined forever, but I love my big red goober and he's definitely bonded to me. So for now, we will totter around as carefully as we can. We took a slow walk on the 4th,
Mt. Hood on the 4th of July
a doe and fawn in the distance

and then again last night to stalk the sunset:

I might start lunging him to help control the weight gain. Mr. Porky-Pie needs to work off all those apples, cherries, and choice weeds!
"Mmmm; green apples."

"What? The cherries are ripe!"

"I was bored with pasture grass."

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Moon over my hammy

Seriously, Lance is pig-fat! When Rick says that I feel defensive, but it's true. And Oliver is inexplicably LOSING weight this summer; our two horses are Jack Sprat and his wife, apparently. What to do, what to do? All they are getting is mature pasture during the day and a handful of alfalfa pellets to make the "medicine go down" (daily wormer, vitamin/mineral pellets, Lance's spirulena and flaxmeal for breathing issues) when they come in at night; I give Ollie a flake of hay to munch on but Lance fasts until morning. Part of the problem is that Lance utilizes every opportunity to EAT, while Ollie spending much of his time just standing.
Nap time is also snack time (back when he still got a little hay).

It's all in how you stand; Lance doesn't look too bad in this photo!

Horses are designed to constantly graze so we ALL know that more exercise is the key. I'm doing my best to help Lance with that, carefully utilizing our arena and riding where I can on our hill. Unfortunately, the big field close to our house is being developed into several building lots, so we'll lose that area soon. 😞 There's just less and less available space to ride up here, although last night we rode down through the woods and then back up along the edge of a vineyard. It was lovely.

I used to ride all over that land years ago when it was in Christmas trees. Vineyards are busier (and more valuable), and I don't know who owns it or if they would be okay with me riding around it. I need to investigate that.

If Lance was shod, I'd be willing to use the gravel roads more. He has big, hard feet, but develops grooves where his white lines are and collects small rocks there (and bigger ones along his frogs).
Our farrier comes tomorrow; I'm still waffling about have Lance shod at least on his front feet.

Oh, I may have a fourth student. After watching me give student #2 a lesson last Thursday, she said she liked my methods and asked if she could take lessons as well! We haven't set up a time and place yet, but it sounds promising.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

When one door closes....

An intense year of struggling to diagnose and treat Lance's Inflammatory Airway Disease effectively shelved any future hopes or plans I had for doing more with him than basic training and trail-riding ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!" to quote Jerry Seinfeld ;-). Earlier this year I toyed with getting a youngster as a future competitive dancing partner, but with my dad's death, preceded and followed by challenging family dynamics, I had to let that dream go as well.

Lance and I were moseying along in our new normal when he somehow sustained another suspensory injury, but Bentley came along just in time to keep me in the saddle and reignite a flicker of hope for more. By the time that little flame was thoroughly doused, Lance was able to be walked again and so we've pottered along. Lance is now back up to what we were able to do before the suspensory injury, and we have our first horse-camping trip of the year under our girth (pictures here).

Meanwhile, Lance has become a CHUNK! I marvel, because at the beginning of last year he was wasting away and I was doing everything I could reverse the weight loss. He shed out beautifully this year, too, after nearly going bald last spring. Between the minimal work and the maximum poundage his endurance is low, but his breathing has stabilized even though we've eliminated the antihistamines and even lowered the prednisolone dose just slightly (he still gets spirulena and flaxseed meal). Our challenges to better fitness are time and place. The sand arena has dried out to the combination of hard and shifty that I don't trust, and our ride-out-from-home range is getting ever more restricted with continued development. I've been putting Lance's Renegade boots on so we can use the gravel roads more, and am contemplating front shoes. I was looking forward to hauling to the beach and elsewhere with my best riding buddy, but she broke her ankle so is out of commission for at least another month. :-(

But wait; what's behind Door #2? Door #2??? I didn't even know there was a Door #2 until a month ago, when someone seeking a dressage instructor was referred to me by another professional. After her first lesson, the owner of the barn where student #1 sometimes boards also expressed interest in dressage lessons, and turned into student #2. Then student #2 referred student #3 to me, a 13-year-old who boards at her barn and really wants to learn dressage. Student #3 came out for her first lesson on Sunday – and Lance became a schoolmaster! I'm still trying to process this surprising turn of events even while feeling thankful and affirmed. Life is a wild ride!