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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Another day, another date

Since Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday are generally my most flexible days, I headed up to visit Bentley again today. His paddock gate was the only one of the three open to the pasture, but he came in and stood at the stall door, watching me put down my helmet, gather up the grooming supplies, and  come in to see him. No hint of avoidance; I was pleased.

I groomed him and put the saddle on, but when I produced the bridle he wasn't thrilled to see it. So I led him around the arena with halter and lead rope for a bit; when I presented the bridle again he was fine with it. I mounted and rode at the walk for 30 minutes, asking him questions about bend, moving laterally off either leg, halting, stretching. Mostly I'm interested in being able to get and maintain a conversation through the reins; going faster than a walk before that becomes more reliable seems ill-advised, IMO.

Walking around the arena will soon get boring, though, and won't do much to improve his fitness. I took a photo today to document the fat deposits on either side of his tail so I can look back and hopefully see progress.

On Sunday when I have more time, I'm going to try lunging him, both to increase activity and to get some idea of this guy's gaits.

After we were done and Bentley was turned back out, I took some photos of him in the sunshine. He came my direction to get a drink, so I stepped through the gate and asked him to come to me one last time. He did!

In Lance "news," my mustang man got a good grooming this morning, and this evening Rick built and installed a new timer system for the hay steamer. Until now, I've had to set a timer on my iPhone when I started the steamer, then go down an hour later to unplug the steamer, then wait at least 20 minutes for the hay to cool so I could feed. Since there isn't enough time in the morning for that process, I have to do it twice in the afternoon/evening; once for their supper hay, and again for their next morning's breakfast hay. Not only is that a lot of running back and forth to the barn (hey, I feed my FitBit!), it also limits our afternoon/evening freedom.

With this new timer set-up, the steamer shuts itself off. Woot!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Out of left field

When last I posted here, I was quietly contemplating acquiring a weanling Morgan filly, and had talked to my friend about starting her Percheron mare. Rick was dragging his feet about Door #2 (he doesn't even know about Door #1; no point in poking the dragon when I have my own reservations) when he came home Friday and told me he may have found a horse for me to ride. What???

He had gone out to a former client's place on an emergency. After taking care of the patient, Rick got to chatting with the owner, the widower of Rick's former client. Her favorite horse has been mostly idle for the last three years, and the husband really wanted to see him used by someone. Rick suggested me. Neither one of us knew exactly what the husband had in mind, but figured it was worth checking out.

We set a date, and today I drove over to meet Bentley, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding. It felt like a cross between a blind date and stepping out on my (mustang) man. Poor Lance really wants to DO something, but right now he's still lame and on stall rest – and my riding muscles are idle. When you get sidelined at my age (closer to 60 than 50), it's much harder to get back in the game and there's a greater risk of injury, so staying in the saddle is essential to being able to stay in the saddle. Anyway....

Our introduction took awhile. When the owner went to catch Bentley, he said he'd rather stay out in the rain, thankyouverymuch. Bringing in his two retired companions and bribing with grain didn't work. The owner had told Rick that Bentley prefers women, so armed with a pocketful of treats, experience, and the combined wisdom of Anna Blake and Terry Golson, I headed out into the rain – away from Bentley. I smoothed the gravel with my toe; I talked to him. Pretty soon he came over to check me out and eat some cookies.

When I showed him the halter, he said "No, thanks," and walked away. I got more treats and meandered around the pasture until he came up to me again. When I moved away, he followed me, and eventually said he was okay with being haltered and led inside.

I wasn't sure we'd align our spines today, but after grooming him thoroughly and checking out the fit of his two saddles, I decided to tack him up, take him into the indoor arena, and see what happened. By that point the owner had had to leave, so it was just me (with a helmet and iPhone) and Bentley with the rain drumming on the arena roof; I didn't want to be foolish. After leading him around awhile I decided to ask him how he felt about me on the mounting block; there was some reticence but we worked through that and were able to continue our walk with me astride.

When I led him back to his stall, he nickered quietly both times I came out the tack room after putting stuff away, so I think I made a decent first impression. ;-)

Right now Bentley's owner is just looking for someone to come over and ride on a regular basis. Since Bentley was his late wife's favorite horse, I don't know that the man is wanting to part with him. I told him I could try for three days a week, and he seemed happy with that. After three years off, Bentley is fat, out of condition and out of practice as a dancing partner; it will take months to turn that around. I could ride him more often if he were here since I wouldn't have an hour+ round trip; maybe moving him here will be an option in the future. All I know for now is that I will be more stepping out on more dates.

Friday, March 9, 2018

White flag, or war horse?

So, that mild intermittent lameness Lance was exhibiting? It blew up to a persistent hobble this Tuesday. We had gone for a mosey on Sunday. Monday both Lance and Ollie were acting frisky in their stalls/paddocks, so I decided a romp in the arena was in order. It was too late in the day for good light, so all I got was this,
but they ran and bucked and rolled and had a jolly good time.

Tuesday I went down to ride, and Lance was off again on that right front – more so than ever before. Wednesday morning Brian came up from doing chores and commented that Lance was lame; if the teenager notices, you know it must be obvious! So that night, Rick set about diagnosing the problem.

First he blocked the foot, then the fetlock, with no improvement. (Interesting that Lance had noticeable digital pulses in both front feet, although he wasn't tender to hoof testers.) So he got out the ultrasound machine 

and found a torn suspensory at the medial head. REALLY? How does a horse doing such low-stress exercise DO that? (And no, it didn't happen during turnout the day before.)

Rick treated the injury that night with shockwave (poor Lance was even more lame the next morning, which he says sometimes happens); now we wait two weeks to see how it looks then.

I feel that I'm being told – loudly and repeatedly with both Lance and Russell before him – to just GIVE UP, to wave the white flag and stop riding. But mama didn't raise a quitter (and even though my mom is afraid of horses, she knows how much I love them, how I live to train and ride, and supports me fully). So a thought that I've had for several months was brought forth, dusted off, and proposed. My dear friend Debbie has been saving her pennies to get Baby Girl, her Percheron mare, started by someone.
I wasn't sure I had the time to commit to a month or two of training so haven't offered, but now I have. Debbie is excited about the possibility, and would even be willing (nay, eager) to swap out Ollie*. That way her recently retired Thoroughbred mare would have company at her house, and we wouldn't have increased chores or boarding expenses at our house. This morning I talked to Rick about it; now the ball is in his court and I must be patient while he ponders.

*Okay; that's not quite accurate. I actually talked to Debbie about putting the little cutie pictured below at her house, not Oliver, but that's all I'm going to say about that for now!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Consolation ride

This weekend was my local dressage chapter's annual show. I've been a competitor in it, on various horses, for most of its existence, so it makes me melancholy to go volunteer without any hope or expectation of getting to compete again. It was nice to connect with some of my horse friends and acquaintances today.

It was drizzly most of the day, but slowed down and stopped late in the afternoon. As I headed out to give my boy some exercise, some blue sky appeared. We warmed up in the arena, and then went down the gravel lane a little ways. I didn't notice any lameness until I asked for a little lateral work at the trot, so we didn't go very far or do very much. But we got some fresh air, Lance got some exercise, and I took some pretty pictures....

Friday, February 16, 2018

Deja vu

Twice this week when I led Lance out of his stall, he was slightly (but noticeably) lame in the right front – preceded and followed by days when he looked completely sound. I asked Rick to check him out which he was able to do this morning, so of course this was one of Lance's sound days.  :-/

Unfortunately, intermittent lameness fits with suspensory injury, and Lance has had his share. When Rick did the pre-purchase exam in 2012 he found a small tear in Lance's right front suspensory, and Lance has had suspensory injuries in other legs since. But how could he have injured something lately? He hasn't done anything strenuous enough to hurt himself!

I'm not sure when Rick will do more diagnostics; all he had time for this morning was a basic lameness exam. Until I know more there will be no saddle time; I don't want to make anything worse. :-(