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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sure; NOW the dust settles!

Yesterday I gave the "visiting neighbor girl" her last lesson before school starts and she moves to the Portland area. She has made such progress in a short time! Yesterday she worked off the lunge line, successfully piloting Breezy through all three gaits.

Then I rode Lance, without my dressage whip, for the last time before our classes Wednesday. We were at the State Fair for a concert Sunday, so I stopped by the Horse Show office to "get the lay of the land." The lady there was knowledgeable and helpful on all points, from when I can check in and which stall she would assign me for ease of working out of my trailer's tack room, to the most appropriate apparel and tack to use for the three classes we've entered. I was going to show Lance as a "hunter in-hand," but she pointed out that it is a Halter class – emphasis on halter. So I borrowed a show halter and lead from Rick's office manager – but don't have to borrow a cowboy hat from my son, I was thankful to learn. Anyway, I also learned that no whips of any kind are allowed in the English Pleasure class, and I'll have to check with the judge (through the show steward) about my spurs. Let's hope the atmosphere of the show provides a bit of extra energy to my laid-back boy!
Blinded by the light, even with a dirty horse!

ANYway, yesterday afternoon, after another very dusty ride, we got a little rain.
I think I'll be using up my remaining horse shampoo tonight!

Then we got a little more; in fact, I went to sleep last night to the pleasant sound of raindrops outside my window. Too bad no one will have time to use my little sand arena while the dust is dampened!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Awesome place; awesome pony!

And I have PHOTOS (lots of them)!

Wednesday I hauled Lance to Perrydale Trails for 2 1/2 hours of exposure to all kinds of trail obstacles, both natural and man-made. Proprietor Rebecca Herron greeted me graciously and showed me where I could warm up while she got her horse ready. Now warm-up is usually not a pressing need with laid-back Lance, but a new building was being erected right next to the warm-up area and that had Lance doing his best llama impression!

We decided to leave that area and head out for a guided tour of the various courses, after which she left us to proceed at our own pace. But first she took some photos of us navigating the "Gully," the least developed of all the courses and one she doesn't have photos of in use. It doesn't look like much here, and presented no trouble at all to Lance; he had negotiated much more on his first horse-camping trip.

LOVE those listening 'airplane' ears!
There are three other, much larger courses besides the Gully, and we covered everything. I won't list every obstacle because it would take a small book, but will touch on the high and low points.

The "Woods," where we started our solo journey, had the most schooling opportunities. Some that I thought might be scary, like walking between sheets on a clothesline and yellow caution tape strung between two trees, or a plastic feedback on a clothesline that you pulled along behind you with an attached rope, didn't generate more than mild curiosity on Lance's part. Others, like the shallow water crossing and a step-up onto a big, filled tractor tire, were met with great reluctance and took lots of coaxing and patience. A couple obstacles, like the narrow teeter-totter bridge and the tarp-covered mattress, were interesting new challenges that took some time to master but were conquered conclusively. I was so proud of my boy!

The "Pond" area had its own set of questions to ask, including a campsite complete with tent and camping 'scarecrows,' a TALL bridge, a hunting 'dummy' (surprisingly scary!), and a balance beam.
There are lots of obstacles in those little trees as well
Balance beam, low bridge, scary deer at bottom (click to biggify)
Lance was cautious, but approached to touch noses. (He said it didn't smell 'right')

I was most surprised by how well he managed the balance beam after a couple tries. Marched right down the middle of it from beginning to end! (That's two RR ties wide, two RR ties long.)
To get back to the area around the house where we started, we walked through a tunnel. Near the house, there are many more obstacles to school, including these "ticklers" to walk through, and an elk hide hanging from a tree.
"I see dead people." Legitimately scary, but he got over it.

I couldn't have been more pleased with how my young horse handled it all. The only real "hole" in his skill set is guided backing, and I knew that going in. Fortunately, that is something we can work on here at home – and already have. Last night I worked on backing him around two plastic bins in a figure-8, and he improved in just one session. We will continue to work on that and side-passing, two arena trail class standards, between now and his show on Wednesday. That, and standing still for his halter class!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wild thing... make my heart sing!

Mine's the one acting like a wild mustang. ;-)

That wild thing – who's really not – and I are going to have a (hopefully) fun adventure on Wednesday. I've been "stuck" at home with Lance, waiting for Rick to help me off-load the camper before hauling anywhere. Yesterday it was made clear that the camper will not be off-loaded before our Labor Day camping trip. The refrigerator is dead and needs its cooling unit replaced, which is more easily done when it's mounted. Since I'm going to have to haul Lance to the State Fair mustang show with the camper on the truck, I might as well face my aversion to the situation and haul him other places, too. So last night I tracked down the facility with the trail obstacles online (WOW, what a place!) and sent a request about riding there on Wednesday. This morning I got a response that said to be ready to ride at noon. Now I just need my own television crew to follow me around so I can show you what the place is like and how Lance does – but I think they are all busy at Equinox Farm. ;-)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Boots and Breezy

The Renegade hoofboots arrived Friday, and I could hardly wait to try them out. I unpacked them, admired them, and when I finally had some time for myself (evening), I ran down to the barn to . . . find they are too small.  :-(

I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with a very nice person at Renegade before ordering the size that I did; we both thought the next size up (2WW) would be TOO big. I can send them back for a refund or exchange for the next size up; I just hate spending the extra money for shipping back and forth and back! Oh well; if they won't work (I cannot get the heel captivator – an ingenious device – up over Lance's heel bulbs), they won't work, and the sooner I send these back, the sooner I can get the replacements – hopefully before our next horse-camping trip.

Lance and I still had a lovely ride in the moonlight. Last Sunday at a neighborhood picnic, I talked to a couple neighbors about where I could ride on our hill. I used to ride all over, but with more houses and fences built in the area I wasn't sure what was acceptable anymore. With permissions in hand, we were able to go quite a ways and mostly stay off the gravel; it felt like "the good old days." :-)

Poor old Breezy is wondering what she's done to deserve being put back to work on a regular basis. The visiting "neighbor" girl has been riding nearly every day, and the last couple of times I put her on the lunge line so we could work on making Breezy maintain trot and canter. Next week another girl is coming out (with her mother) to watch one of these sessions and decide if she wants to take lessons from me. That would be a paying student, which would put some money in the bank for things like lessons and shows. Yay for me; more work for the old gray mare!  :-/

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boot dilemma

The chipping was from not using boots on our last day of camping 
As I mentioned in my post about our camping trip, the Cavallo Simple Boots rubbed on Lance's hoof walls. I emailed the photos above to Cavallo to report the problem, and to their credit they gave me a return authorization number so I can return them to Valley Vet for full credit. Valley Vet said they would have taken them back for full credit as well, even though they are used and I've had them longer than the 30 days stated in their return policy. Kudos for good customer service from both companies!

The question is: Now what – and when? We have another horse-camping trip coming up over Labor Day weekend. I would like to stick with hoof boots for trail riding if I can find some I'm happy with, because they are less expensive in the long run and better for Lance's feet. But all the hoof boots I've looked at are supposed to be measured for right after trimming. Lance was trimmed July 23, and doesn't have another pedicure scheduled until September 17. I did measure his front feet this weekend anyway, and he is between sizes on the two kinds of boots I'm most drawn to. Do I dare risk ordering boots based on his current size? If I don't, Lance won't have front foot protection for our next camping trip.

In the running after much research: Renegade Hoof Boots and Easyboot Gloves. Both look to have the least chance of rubbing on hair or hoof, the best chance of staying on and wearing well (both have size options for round feet like Lance's), and are lightweight (important because weight affects footfall which affects soundness). A couple horses in our camping group sported Renegades, and the owner has been very happy with them. The Gloves are less expensive, and you can order a Fit Kit to ensure proper sizing before investing in the boots themselves, but their fit is less forgiving and would require near-constant hoof maintenance.

So today I ordered a pair of Renegades, which should be here in time to test before our Labor Day weekend trip. Decision made, I feel more settled now. Just crossing fingers and hooves that they will work well for Lance! Off to school my pony now....

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summertime, and the livin' is dusty

Friday evening sky

Busy weekend here, with my guys out of town on a short backpacking trip. Rode Lance briefly Friday evening; it took more time to clean him up than I spent on his back! He was so dusty I was suspicious that dirty little elves had dumped bags of fine, red flour all over him and then kept him from shaking. I transferred a good portion of it to me while grooming him, so as soon as I was done, I went to the house and took a shower. Rode him again this morning and he was worse, if possible; we got a brief shower yesterday afternoon so some of the dust (on him, not the ground) had turned to mud. Ugh. I would have bathed him if I thought he wouldn't stop, drop and roll at the first opportunity.

With the State Fair coming up in 2 1/2 weeks, I've been adding some new things to our schooling sessions. I'd still like to get over to the facility with the trail obstacles, but our camper is still on the pick-up waiting for an opening at the RV center to fix the refrigerator, and I'd rather not haul with the camper. (Won't be going to the beach tomorrow, either; the friend who was going to haul can't go.) So for now I'm working on making Lance more maneuverable, moving his hindquarters, moving his front end, side-passing, backing. I need to find an old tarp to see if he'll walk on it, and put down some poles for things like a keyhole.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Real trail practice

We had a great weekend horse-camping trip last weekend! Three families from our Christian trail-riding club stayed at Santiam Horse Camp outside of Gates, OR, enjoying its great trails and top-notch facilities (I call this "Cadillac camping").

Lance took to horse-camping like an old pro. When we got there Friday evening, a couple people were preparing to go on a ride, so as soon as we set up camp, I tacked up Lance and off we went with them. Lance was interested and willing, even leading our small group of three fearlessly much of the way, careful with his feet and not once calling for his buddies from home.

The next day five of us went for a ride together, including my son and husband on Lance's pasture buddies from home. Again Lance was stellar no matter where in the line-up he was; but with the longest legs in the group he worked best as leader. He did stop and stare at the first bridge he'd ever seen (the one the dogs are crossing, above), and although I think he would have crossed it on his own eventually, I let Brian lead on his been-there, done-that pony so we didn't hold everyone else up. (On our last ride Sunday morning, Lance and I did lead our group across it; what a boy!) He also crossed various wet spots, and waded into a small pool to get a drink.

Towards the end of our Sabbath ride we were climbing, climbing, climbing. Not only was the riding there the most hill work Lance has ever done, this was at the end of the longest ride we've ever done. He started breaking into a trot and when I checked him back to a walk, He Just. Stopped. After it happened the second time I got the hint that my youngster was tired, and led him the rest of the way back to camp. He had earned a break. :-)  (A note here on equipment: Lance wore his Cavallo Simple Boots both Friday and Saturday. At the end of the long Saturday ride, there was considerable rubbing on his hoof walls, so I didn't use the boots again. I've been very happy with them for shorter rides; was disappointed that they wore on the hoof walls so much on the longer ride.)

The only other trouble we had was standing still; as here at home, Lance needs something to do. On Sunday morning while we were waiting for everyone to mount up, he started fidgeting and sashaying about and managed to get hung up on the campsite marker post cutting his inner left thigh. It is a superficial wound, but still ugly and hurts me to see it. :-(

There is a facility not terribly far away set up with three levels of trail obstacles. I'm going to see about hauling Lance over there for some schooling. It would be a good training opportunity, and would also be good preparation for the trail class at the State Fair!