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

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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Perfection

Last Thursday I posted the above photo on Instagram with the caption, "This is what a perfect day looks like." Yes, I finally got my beach ride!!!

I had planned to go to the beach with Kate on Wednesday and take a lesson from Julie on Thursday, but ended up having to work one more day after my co-worker came back from vacation sick with the flu.  Beach ride or lesson on my remaining free day? Sorry Julie; beach ride wins! After working two weeks straight, driving hither and thither to pick up Brian from school and from soccer games, and coming down with Brian's cold, my determination wavered a bit, but I "cowgirled up" and am SO glad I did.

I had to be home by 3:00 for my son's soccer game, so Lance and I headed out at 8:00 to pick up Kate and Dinah. We had an uneventful trip to our secret parking spot in Lincoln City, and unloaded in perfect weather. Since Kate hasn't been able to ride in weeks because of construction at their place, she wanted to lead Dinah down the path a bit to see how she reacted.

Obviously she was terrified of the distant crashing surf. ;-)  Time to saddle up and hit the sand!

The tide was coming in so there wasn't a nice expanse of firm sand to play on, but there were some lovely puddles to play in, perfect for ponies who still don't trust those waves. All four of us had great fun walking, trotting and cantering through them.

I didn't capture any of the high-stepping action, but we did shoot a bit of video of each other towards the end of our ride:




First we rode to the north end of the beach, then back south past our access trail to Chinook Winds Casino to see the flags they had erected for their "Celebration of Honor." It made a lovely backdrop for parting shots:

On the way back, Kate and I reminisced about 25 years of beach riding together. Years ago, it wasn't a beach ride unless you stopped for strawberry shortcake on the way home. The original place lost its location when Spirit Mountain Casino was built. The second location (which I thought was the best; you could get a brownie instead of a biscuit under the strawberries and cream – YUM) sadly went out of business. The third location to offer strawberry shortcake was a produce stand  on the edge of a small town which has also gone out of business; we never stopped there because they really didn't have sufficient parking for a truck and trailer (and Kate was taking a detour from saddle horses into miniature horse territory). Then Kate mentioned that she thought a new produce stand close to home offered strawberry shortcake – and they have PLENTY of parking. Sure enough, they do!


It was the perfect ending to a perfect beach ride. :-9

Monday, August 29, 2016

So much for summer!

My son started high school today – boy, does that sound strange! And with the start of school comes the unofficial stop of summer. Sigh; my summer whizzed by without a beach ride or a Perrydale Trails outing, and only one lesson with Julie. Just getting out on a short trail ride has been hard enough to squeeze in; I managed ONE ride last week. But as always, I'm thankful for each one.

Today's ride was wonderful. We went down through the woods, taking a path down to a little frog pond. It's been quite awhile since we've been there; the last time it was muddy and slick. This time the footing was solid, and a mown trail continued past the pond and connected to a path I haven't ridden in years because it had become overgrown, making a nice, little loop.

Cooler weather has arrived and we even have a decent chance of some rain on Wednesday. I'm looking forward to schooling in the arena along with our wooded excursions. It's not too late for more lessons from Julie, a beach ride, and maybe even a Perrydale Trails outing!

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.