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

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Horton hears a WOOhoo!

Horton handled his first show superbly. He took in the new surroundings with calm interest, and warmed up politely and obediently. The highly decorated judge's stand (including a headless horseman/scarecrow; oy!) gave him pause in our first test, but after a little more exposure to it he was much braver in the second test.

Our scores surprised both Horton's owner and me. I have never before, in 20 years of showing dressage, scored above 70%, and today, with a green horse at his first show, we got two scores above 70%! (The one on the left would have been 72.8% if Horton's rider hadn't made an error.) I saw a Training Level Test 1 with a score of 41.5% in the show office when I picked up our tests, so I don't think it was because of an overly generous judge, either.

I haven't watched the rides yet (Sylvia had them recorded) and I'm sure I'll see plenty to critique when I do, but still . . . WOOHOO!

Here's Horton with his proud owner just before we loaded him into my trailer to come home:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

As the sunlight started to break over the cloudbank to our east this morning, the fog mushroomed up from the valley and enveloped us. Horton was a little jumpy during chores, so I decided to turn him loose in the arena to work out the kinks before riding him.

That was a non-event. This was as much action as I got when I shooed him away. He didn't want to run, or buck, or do anything but be with me. (To be completely honest, I doubt it had as much to do with me as it did that fragrant apple in my pocket!) So I let him "join up," gave him a bite of apple, and took him back to the barn to tack him up.

We had a fine ride; some lovely moments and no nasty ones. The saturated air that is fog left us damp, soaked Horton's little forelock, and decorated his eyelashes with tiny beads of moisture (which I couldn't capture).

After untacking and grooming him, I decided to trim Horton's bridle path and ears, just in case we get into that show on Sunday. He stood like a gentleman, and was rewarded with the other half of his apple.

And whadduya know. Within an hour or so of returning to the house, I got a call from the show secretary saying someone had scratched two Intro rides! I'll have to leave before dawn, but . . . "A'showing we will go; a'showing we will go. Hi-ho, the Hortie-O, a'showing we will go."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

FULL of "potential"

We drove to Lincoln City to administer Lance's third and final shockwave treatment today. As soon as I walked up to his stall, I could sense attitude – not surprising in a four-year-old after four weeks of stall rest with only a few short walks. I thought I'd take him out to walk around while Rick set up his equipment, but he minced along on tip-toe or jigged. Hmm, that stud chain hanging on the outside of his stall was probably there for good reason. It was starting to rain anyway, so I lead him back inside, threaded the stud chain through his halter, and took him into the arena to continue our . . . walk. Well, I walked – and kept my eyes open for exploding horseflesh. After some warm-up hops and pops, Lance performed a capriole that would have made a Lipizzaner proud!

To his credit, Lance never once aimed a foot my way, keeping his energetic expressions well away from my person but within the range of his lead rope. We finished his walk while his "sleepy shot" was wearing off after treatment....

Late this afternoon I got Horton out for some exercise. I figured he might be a bit full of it as well, what with colder weather and being cooped up since Sunday, so I lunged him in side reins first. While he was obedient at walk and trot, his clamped tail indicated tension. When I asked for canter, that tension exploded into bucking worthy of the National Finals Rodeo!

I just sent him on and insisted he get back to work which he eventually did, and we finished up with some work under saddle at the walk.

I finally got an answer on this weekend's show; it was under-subscribed so they cancelled it. So nice of them to make me track down that information less than a week before I expected to ride down centerline! Anyway, there is another show being held this weekend; it is full and has no cancellations on Sunday so far, but I told the show's secretary that I am willing to ride Intro tests HC in any time slot. Guess I'll just keep preparing and waiting, like I have been!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How they break our hearts

A dear, distant friend lost a horse suddenly (likely an aneurysm) last week, and a dear, local friend is putting her horse down as soon as arrangements can be made this week. These four-legged friends of ours, they claim our hearts and souls, and then run away with them.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Beautiful sunrise

Our drier than predicted week meant more turn-out

It was warm enough that Horton got a shower after his schooling session!
Was able to ride every day but Wednesday and today this week, and those days were missed due to other commitments, not weather.  I'm feeling pretty good about our upcoming show on the 28th, but still don't know for sure if we got in. The lack of communication from the show's management is uber frustrating; I've left phone messages and sent emails but get no response. Nothing else to do but continue preparing and wait!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Midweek inspiration

Another "borrow" from Behind the Bit. I don't know that I've ever seen a nicer horse with nicer gaits in a better test at any level. Wow. Just.Wow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another successful school

Above is what the arena looked like this afternoon; tonight it is sand soup with maple leaf croutons. The leaves will have to be dealt with quickly; organic matter affects drainage.

Fortunately the rain didn't start until around noon, so I was able to school Horton again this morning. Good news; he spooked at something when we were at the far right end of the arena, shying hard sideways, and then settled right back into his work. This reinforces my suspicion that Friday, when he jumped from my slipped foot, I inadvertently poked him with a spur. No point in adding that risk, so I've been riding without them since.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Minding his Ps and Qs

In the comments to my last post, Marie wondered if Horton would mind his Ps and Qs the next time I rode him after coming off. I am happy to announce that 1) the weatherman was wrong and today hasn't been a soaker, so that 2) I could ride this morning and 3) report that yes, indeed, Horton did mind his Ps and Qs!

Considering that the horses have gone from all-day-every-day turn-out to no turn-out at all since Friday*, I thought about turning Horton loose in the arena for awhile or at least lunging him a bit to shake out any silliness that might have built up. I had my lunge line, side reins and lunge whip ready to grab on my way out to the arena, but ended up leaving them there. Why? Well, Horton got worked pretty hard Friday followed by just one day off; I won't always have the luxury of time to do more than short schools between rain showers; and many shows do not allow lunging on the grounds. Our first show is two weeks from today; there's no time like the present to have high expectations. As advertising guru David Ogilvy said, "Don't bunt. Aim out of the ball park."

Horton may not have hit any home runs today, but he stayed in the game and played well. :-)

*We live on a hillside and with the addition of rain the footing gets slick fast. To avoid injury (as well as fungal problems of hide and hoof) and preserve forage roots, we keep our horses off our limited pasture during the rainy season.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Apparently I still bounce

Yesterday I saw this and put "ride Horton" first on today's to-do list:

Unfortunately, the forecast got one small detail wrong. Make that "AM Light Rain" on Friday. :-/

But by the time I finished morning chores, the light rain had slacked off to a barely noticeably mist, so I tacked up. (After 23 years here, I know I have to take advantage of any break in the weather in order to  ride during the rainy season!) I was well into warming up Horton when my right foot, aided by wet sand on the bottom of my boot, slipped forcefully off the stirrup pad. Horton spooked sideways, I reacted, he jumped again and threw in a buck (I think; it all happened so fast), and I came off. I'm not even sure how I landed as I cannot remember the impact and nothing hurts except the tendons in my right hand and wrist from hanging onto the rein too long. I was on my feet in a flash, growling and chasing Horton around the arena like an angry she-bear. After making a believer out of him (and a good cardio workout on my part), I got him galloping around me in a circle free-lunging. When I finally asked him to walk and then halt, he obeyed promptly and politely. He stood like a rock while I walked up to him, lead him to the arena fence, and remounted.

Wow, what a transformation! We went from Intro to First Level in one fell (heh) swoop! Horton was focused, forward, round and on the bit, executing sharp shoulder-ins, leg yields and canter departs (well, except for one – and a deep growl and volte from me got a quick "Yes, Ma'am!" from him). When we finished, he gave me excellent stretchy trot circles on a long rein followed by lots of good free walk on a long rein – which he needed. In spite of the 50 degree temp and increased precipitation (by now dripping steadily off my helmet), Horton's neck was lathered from his largely self-imposed workout. There might have even been a little lather "between his ears" in that little brain of his. I do believe this morning's incident may have been "one jump backwards, three jumps forward" in his training and behavior modification; hard to feel bad about that. :-)

Now, where was that camera crew? I want to see the instant replays during a post-game analysis!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Staying focused

The following was shared on one of the few horse blogs I follow, Behind the Bit.

While the information isn't new, it IS a helpful reminder. I'm a pretty focused person, but staying focused on the task at hand can be particularly challenging with an active (understatement), talkative (extreme understatement) 10-year-old boy around! I watched this before riding Horton this morning, had a really good schooling session as a result.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Visiting Camelot, or My Pretty Pony

I felt like a little girl about today, about this trip to visit my horse.

The weather lent a fairytale quality. As we headed westward towards the coast this morning, fog was rolling into the Willamette Valley and shrouding everything in grey. Rick grumbled about the change in the weather; I quietly enjoyed it. I like fog, and am so ready for some moisture in the air, on the ground, on my skin. But as we topped the Coast Range, the grey overhead started breaking up into sparkling sunshine and vibrant blue sky, the air crisp and clean.

The barn where Lance is living is on the near edge of Lincoln City. It is an enviable but underutilized facility sitting on a gorgeous piece of property, owned by a retired doctor and leased by Lance's previous owner.

 And there was my Sir Lancelot, hangin' out in his corner stall overlooking the outdoor arena.

What a beautiful boy – even with a piece of hay sticking out of his mouth!

Rick got right to work, giving Lance a bit of tranquilizer, setting up his equipment and treating the injured tendon. Then he pronounced my horse ready to commence walking 15 minutes a day, starting just as soon as the anesthesia wore off. Even said I could do it from his back if I was feeling brave!

First things first. While Lance "sobered up," I gave him a good grooming, including combing his mane over to the right, removing the tail-bag, brushing and trimming his tail. Then we went for a walk. I mostly hand-walked him and let him graze a bit,

but when he stood so nicely next to the parked horse trailer, I couldn't resist slipping my leg over and riding him around just a wee bit. :-)

You probably can't see how big my grin was!

We left him with hopefully enough HorseGuard and daily wormer (I wormed him with ivermectin first) to last the two weeks until his third and final treatment, grabbed a bite of lunch, and then took advantage of the perfect weather for a short walk down the beach. The only thing that could have made  the day better would have been a ride (on Lance, of course) down the beach!

(I'll post the beach photos on my other blog, since this one is photo-heavy as it is.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Horton's dead!

Okay, not really, but he sure looked it yesterday afternoon. ;-)

 What self-respecting horse doesn't shake himself off when he gets up? Not that it would have helped much; we are so dry right now that static electricity is at an all-time high.

Enough silliness; we have milestones to celebrate! Last week I put away the lungeline and whip; the mounting block, too. Horton has been so good for so long that there was no need to clutter up the arena with those training tools any longer. He stands quietly and lets me slip into the saddle from the arena fence, and I'd have to look back through my posts to remember the last time he needed remedial lunging. In fact, I've gotten so confident in his improvement that yesterday and today I rode with my spurs while schooling him. Nope, they weren't an issue. (But wearing them sure helped me remember to keep my heels down and away from him!)

"Horton, Horton, I've been thinking
What a fine boy you've become.
And you'll just keep getting better;
Soon you'll go home to your mom."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Forever and two weeks

Can it be that I decided to throw caution (and my heart) to the wind and make Lancelot mine just two short weeks ago today? It seems so much longer ago than that . . . and I guess in some ways (as I have shared) it was.

In two short days I get to see Lance again, when he gets his second shock wave treatment. We're all going along for the ride to Lincoln City – Rick to do the treatment, me to see my horse, Brian to play with his friend (Lance's breeder's daughter). Perhaps it is the anticipation of this event that has stolen some of my momentum with Horton. But starry-eyed over my long-distance romance or not, I need to stay focused on the task at hand, and ride while the sun shines. The days are getting dramatically shorter, and rain is at long last in our forecast by next weekend. It will become a bit more of a challenge to find time to school Horton when I have to fit it in between rain showers as well as homeschooling and such. But fit it in I will; we have a show to prepare for!

Horton got his front shoes reset last week. This time he got custom iron instead of keg shoes, and they really look good. I'm not riding off the property as much as I was with the beginning of both hunting season and scare-the-birds-away-from-the-wine-grapes season, but it is nice to have his front feet protected so that I can.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Already a star...

"I was a good boy, right? I get a cookie, right?" Yes, and yes!
This morning I had the best ride on Horton to date! As always, the better I ride, the better the horse moves.... Seeing my sloppy position on Lance in the photos the trainer took of us awoke me to the bad habits I've fallen into while riding green/rusty horses; since then I've been mentally coaching myself as I ride. I also read something somewhere that reminded me of how useful leg-yields can be. I have been implementing leg-yields in Horton's schooling sessions from the git-go, but only as a simple supplying exercise and not as a tool in improve his contact, self-carriage and canter departs. Today I added trot "snails" (spiraling in from 20m to 10m circles, then leg-yielding back out to 20m) to our work, and they did wonders – that, and riding 20m circles in a leg-yield frame of mind. When I asked for canter, Horton picked it up so sweetly that I almost whooped – and he stayed much softer and rounder in canter than ever before. Yep, he's a star....