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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lessons learned

Last Sunday Kate and I did indeed get lessons with Julie. It worked out really well; she kind of wove our lessons together, so we both got a lot of instruction interspersed with good rest breaks. I was hoping to take some photos, but it was so foggy that there was actually fog inside the covered arena. Fog=not enough light without flash; crazy spotting with flash. Oh well.

Here were my take-away points from my lesson:

  • Shorten my reins! (What's new?) There should be consistent contact without pulling back; always think "hands towards Lance's mouth."
  • In the leg yield along wall at the walk exercise, Lance's front legs were crossing over well, but not his hind legs. Turns out (no surprise) that it was my fault; I was keeping him too straight. His rib cage is supposed to yield to my driving leg; when I let it, his hind legs cross much better!
  • Then Julie asked us to do the same exercise at the trot, with less angle. =:-O  That was challenging for both of us; Lance eloquently expressed his opinion about how difficult it was. Don't attempt too much at once; let him go straight and forward after a few steps of good effort.   
  • We proceeded to working on a 20m circle at trot and canter. Julie noted that Lance's hindquarters tend to drift to the outside, so had me put my outside leg back to keep them in place. He took this to mean canter, but Julie said he can learn the subtleties. Keeping his hindquarters in place greatly improved both gaits.
  • Worked on good canter departs; don't accept so-so attempts by continuing at the canter!
  • At the end Julie had us trot over three ground poles – simply placed at first, then moved closer together. I had to collect Lance's trot but keep it energetic to negotiate those; the pay-off was SUSPENSION! Once we consistently got collected suspension, Julie had me ask for a stretch of bigger trot afterwards. I can tell this is going to be huge in developing Lance's trot.
Since Kate and I were still anticipating that I would be riding Dinah while Kate recovers from surgery, Julie addressed both of us while working with her. Dinah needs to learn to trot in a slightly slower, cadenced rhythm; it's easy to be let her motor around and enjoy her naturally expressive trot, but that won't give her the tools to carry herself past Training Level. She is still quite unbalanced at the canter, so needs lots of patience and time, on the lunge and under saddle, to figure that out. Julie rode her awhile and was surprised at how strong she was in the bridle – although Dinah is smart and responded quickly to Julie's direction. Dinah and Lance are very different horses in temperament, conformation, and gaits, but lots of lateral work will benefit both.

The first chance I got to work on our take-away points was yesterday morning; we had a really good schooling session. I dug out three odd pieces of PVC pipe to use as trot poles, and they worked just fine. My boy can actually "boing"! At the end, Lance had nice, foamy lips and a sweaty chest, telling me that my "energy-conservor" was working hard but without tension. That's what I want – short, effective schooling sessions!


Monday, January 19, 2015

One out of two ain't bad was wonderful!

Kate and I talked about Sunday all last week. Our lofty goal was to haul somewhere to ride again, and then swap horses – or at the least swap horses if the wet forecast held true. Why swap? Kate has asked me to take Dinah in for training while she is dealing with surgery and recovery. Knowing that our three stalls are occupied and Lance is the only horse getting any regular use here, she suggested that Breezy and Dinah swap places. That sounded logical to me . . . but not to my DH. Breezy might need more treatment, he said; he needs to keep an eye on her. Well, how about swapping out Ollie, says I; no one rides him, either. Rick balked at that, too. I don't get it, but I have to let it go as he doesn't respond well to pressure.

Back to the forecast. It rained – a lot – all day Saturday, and Sunday was supposed to be more of the same and started out that way. Before noon, there was a break in the clouds; maybe I'd at least get a ride in at home, splashing through the puddles in our arena. I decided to re-check the forecast. To my surprise, Lincoln City (our closest coastal destination) didn't look too bad! With my DH's blessing (bless him!) I texted Kate, loaded Lance and tack, and headed out.

After minimal fuss, Dinah loaded up (she's a smart girl). It was pouring at Kate's; it rained off and on as we drove westward. But lo and behold, it wasn't raining at the beach!




We had an absolutely lovely time with each other and our good ponies. As we untacked, it started to sprinkle. Let it rain; we got our beach ride!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Those temperamental models

Gotta be the cutest, most kissable lips in horsedom!
You know how they can be – suavely working the camera one minute, then pitching a temper tantrum and demanding better working conditions the next. Ha!

Last Sunday, Kate had a present for Lance. (She spoils us!) Yesterday morning I finally unpackaged Lance's new feed ball, filled it with TACO, and gave it to him. At first he was mildly curious, then he smelled food and tried to get his very agile lips into the loading hole.
Hopefully it will help keep my busy boy entertained!

I also did a little shopping for Lance myself. I've long had a yen for a quarter sheet, but since we don't often get the kind of frigid weather they're designed for, I haven't been willing to spend the $$. Recently I found a clearance quarter sheet in a size small for a steal of a deal and decided to take a chance that it would fit.
Ta-da; it does! It is really nice, too, fleecy and warm and very well-made. I don't know if Lance will care one way or the other, but I know I'll appreciate it; my thighs are the one region that gets chilled when it's cold.
Now the "modeling backstory." Even though I rode Tuesday, Lance was quite frisky yesterday when I led him out to the arena to ride. I put the quarter sheet on him, stepped back to take a picture – and off he rocketed! The quarter sheep came off with the first big buck (thankfully; didn't need him to get tangled in it or tear it up), but the antics continued for quite some time.
Mr. Hot Stuff

He finally consented to trot up to me to be caught and go to work; he was a much more cooperative model after our schooling session. ;-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Plans A, B, and on-the-fly C

Since there's no time like the present to make good on "resolutions" (goals, really), Kate and I made a date to ride at the beach today. Actually, we were going to make it a three-some (six-some?) with Kate's daughter and Breezy. But when we checked on the weather forecast yesterday, it didn't look promising. It wasn't supposed to start raining inland until later, though, and after talking to someone at our Christian trail-riding club meeting last night, we decided to head to McIver State Park instead.

So this morning I loaded up Lance and Breezy and drove to Kate's to add Dinah to the trailer-load and Kate and her daughter to the truck-load. Only Dinah decided she didn't want to join the party and refused to load. Of course, trailer-loading is NOT optional, and after working with her for over an hour, she came to see that – but not without protest. Thankfully, the kick she delivered to my right knee only bruised it.  :-/

Once underway, Kate proceeded to pull up directions on her iPhone, only to see that McIver Park was closed. Ack! I pulled over so we could regroup. I decided to call another friend who does a lot of trail-riding to see if she had any ideas, and she mentioned that Willamette Mission State Park – where Kate and I had wanted to ride on New Year's Day – was open again, as was the ferry which provides the most direct access. So I braved the ferry with truck and trailer for the first time (not a problem, since the water is still relatively high), and we got a nice ride in after all.

The light was lousy so most of my photos were, too – until we got back to the rig at the end of our ride. Some guys had arrived to play Frisbee golf, and since it was misting a little by then, they had several BIG umbrellas.

I'm just glad we didn't meet them on the trail!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

And so it goes

My "fuzzy" in the fog

Lance is back to eating normally again, and the weather has warmed up. I did break down and buy him a bag of Purina Strategy Healthy Edge when it was $5 off at the feed store; Lance has never relished oats, and refused them completely while fighting the virus. I want him to ingest his Horse Guard, daily wormer, and MSM; they don't do him any good sitting in his feeder!

Life with new job is settling into a more predictable rhythm. I can usually count on riding Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; if other opportunities present themselves, I grab them with gratitude. I'm hoping that one of these days I can schedule a Wednesday lesson with Julie, but haven't checked with her yet. Kate and I also want to head to the beach sometime soon – Sunday, if possible. She is facing breast cancer surgery, and probably won't be up to riding for awhile after that. Gotta get our rides in while we can!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Come health or high water...

...my favorite New Year's tradition lives on!

Keep your black-eyed peas; I want to bring in every new year on the back of a horse. I wasn't sure I'd actually get to ride Lance this New Year's since my arena is frozen solid, but I figured I could at least keep him occupied with some alfalfa and lay on his back. Then yesterday my friend Kate emailed me and said she'd be by this morning with her truck and trailer to pick us up. Whoop! We had a lovely ride together last New Year's Day; I couldn't wait for a repeat.

This morning when I went to the barn for chores, I found Lance's stall covered with his supper hay. Breezy and Ollie had finished theirs, so I knew it wasn't a bad bale. I gave Lance some of the ewes' fine, green orchard grass hay; he nibbled at it without relish. I finished chores and decided to give him a good grooming, which he hadn't had all week. While I was working on his right side, I heard a giant rumble. With grooming done, Lance went and stood in his doorway,
and I went to fetch my vet for an exam. Rick diagnosed spasmodic colic and gave him some short-acting tranquilizer and Banamine, then checked his mouth to make sure Lance hadn't accumulated more pokey seed heads (he hadn't).

By the time Kate arrived, Lance was alert, so we loaded up and headed to Willamette Mission State Park. We had to take the long way, as the Wheatland Ferry was closed due to high water – and then found that the horse area of the park was closed for the same reason! We pondered our options, and drove to the east ferry landing, where there is a parking area. The signs didn't forbid horses or trailers, so we parked, saddled up, and toodled around for a couple hours, enjoying the sunshine and river views, friendship and fine horseflesh.

We headed back to my place, well pleased with our outing, when Kate's truck started acting weird. First her moonroof opened of its own accord, and didn't respond at first when Kate pushed the switch to close it. Next there was a strange vibration, which stopped when Kate slowed down – and some yellow fluid dripped from her ceiling DVD player. Then her dashboard lights came on, the tachometer and speedometer dials zeroed out, and an alarm started beeping. Fortunately, the engine sounded fine, so we prayed our way to my house, left the truck running while I unloaded Lance and tack, and I waited impatiently to hear that Kate made it safely to her house. She did, although she arrived with one trailer tire shredded from who knows what, and once turned off, her truck would not revive. Yikes!

Tonight at chore-time, Lance was acting puny again. Brian saw him working his mouth, so Rick checked again – and found some irritated spots on Lance's mucous membranes. No grass seeds, though, so we're not sure of the cause. Lance got another dose of Banamine, and we'll be keeping an eye on him.

I'm hoping that starting the year with so much drama means we're getting it out of the way early and can enjoy smooth sailing the rest of the year!