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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What a month-plus!

On many fronts not much has happened since I last posted here. My new student hasn't been back yet due to other commitments and bad weather. I haven't done much more with Stella due to bad weather and now stall rest – mine, not hers. And with that, I'll segue into what has happened....

Because of all the rain we were getting, I started ponying Stella off Lance again. That kept both of them exercised a little and kept me from getting soaked. On January 19, I put the body wrap on Stella, saddled up Lance, grabbed the flag, and headed to the arena. Stella was feeling a little frisky from not getting much turn-out (when there are puddles, she DIGS; NOT good for the footing)

which made Lance cranky. She frisked, he reacted at her, I corrected him while inadvertently swishing the flag (which he isn't used to; oops), and off he launched towards the arena fence. Deciding that I'd rather bail before we reached the metal panels rather than possibly getting thrown into them, I let go of Stella's lead rope – but not Lance's reins. My split-second reasoning was to prevent Lance from chasing Stella down and trying to kill her, like he did last time he got loose in the arena with her. Judging by the amount of jumping around he continued to do after I hit the ground, that was precisely his desire. Unfortunately, one of his big feet came down on the back of my right thigh as I lay on my side. Yeah, that HURT; he weighs in at 1200+ lbs. But thankful that he didn't step on my femur or knee or torso, I got up, led him to the other end of the arena where Stella was standing (and stood, even though the back loop of the body wrap had slid up under her tail like a crupper; woot!), got back on, and finished our walk.

That night I showed my leg to Rick, who was concerned enough that he ultrasounded it. Even though the lump appeared to be filled with serous fluid, not a clot, he thought it best to have my doctor check it out, so the next day I did. The doctor agreed with Rick, and recommended R.I.C.E. So for the next two weeks, I iced it, wore some compression capris I got to wear under my white show breeches, and applied arnica cream and DMSO. Elevating my thigh above my heart wasn't really feasible, and rest, well....

Laying down, the lump isn't as obvious.

The bruising improved but the lump remained. Rick decided to ultrasound it again, called his BIL who is an orthopedic trauma surgeon, and learned I had actually sustained a type of closed degloving injury called a Morel-Lavallée Lesion. Then the search was on to find the best way to deal with it. In the end, that led us to an appointment with a local plastic surgeon last Tuesday, who looked at it and decided to drain it on the spot and tightly wrap it. (One of the characteristics of ML Lesions is a loss of feeling, so he just stuck an 18-gauge needle in it and I didn't feel a thing!) He instructed me to leave the wrap on for the next two weeks and stay off of it as much as possible; I go back for a check-up tomorrow.

In between appointments #1 and #2, we had a doozy of an ice storm. My poor husband was already doing all the barn chores, and then we lost power for three and a half days while everything was (ultimately) covered by 1.5" of treacherous ice, making everything more labor-intensive. But at least those were days I didn't feel bad (as I have all the others) about not being able to work/play with my horses!

Someone is feeling as cooped up as I am!

So all of us have some ground to regain, and I hope we can get back to it sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Earning his keep

Lance and I have another student! (I say 'another' because Stella always stands at her paddock railing watching whenever I ride Lance in the arena; I think horses can learn by watching others being worked.) Recently a friend, now in Hawaii, asked if I'd be open to giving lessons to a friend of hers. After talking to this friend-of-a-friend I believed Lance and I could help, so we scheduled her first lesson for yesterday.

Yesterday was a washout, weather-wise. We were planning to proceed with the lesson regardless, in the barn if necessary, but lo and behold, it stopped raining while M was here! Other than Lance being extraordinarily sluggish, the lesson went well, and M is coming again next week.

Meanwhile, I've incorporated something new with Stella, thanks to a different friend's suggestion. She has this book,

and suggested I try the 'body wrap' on Stella, texting me photos of the pertinent pages. Below is a photo of her wearing it for the first tine and walking, looking deceptively calm. Trust me; she was anything BUT! I do think, now that I've worked her in it three times, that it is helping her reactivity, which has only gotten worse during this season of limited turn-out. (After this introduction, she has been wearing it under her tail.)

Decades I learned just a little about Linda Tellington-Jones and TTouch, so I looked into the book and ended up ordering my own copy. Once I did that a Kindle version was made available, which I've been reading on my laptop. So much of what she says resonates; the philosophy is so similar to what I've heard from Anna Blake and the exercises remind me of Jec Ballou's. I look forward to furthering my education and my horses' training!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Starting off right

My only tradition for New Year's Day – really, my only firm holiday tradition, period – is starting the new year on the back of a horse. Preferably not just sitting on a horse but going for a ride on my horse, but there have been years that all I could do was sit on my horse in the barn due to weather, or ride someone else's horse. Still, that's better than those few times in the last 40+ years when circumstances preventing me from being astride at all.

Today's weather forecast indicated a dry window in the morning, followed by a sustained soggy spell – as in days of rain. How fortuitous! I saddled up the reliably rideable one first. While Lance and I warmed up in the arena, I shot a little video to share on Instagram/FB,
then we walked down the lane and back.

Next I turned Stella out to stretch her legs, followed by some in-hand work. Since I am ever working on her reactivity, I did half-circles and circles with her while holding the flag, touching her with the flag, and then adding in a new and alarming piece. slipping the flag up under her tail. Down clamped the tail and forward scooted the mare – at first. But slowly and cautiously she accepted this invasion to the point that she kept walking, for which she was praised and rewarded. Then I climbed the arena fence to do half-circles, pet her, and sit on her. It would have been nice to actually ride her around the arena a bit, but she was quite lively when doing the half-circles so that would have been asking for a confidence-ruining wreck.
 So I had a ride and a sit. Carry on, 2021; I've started you out right!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Happy first Andromeda-versary!

Yes, I've been AWOL here on my horse blog. Putting together a post has been a struggle, not for lack of activity or photos. Maybe for lack of progress; we've finally regained the ground Stella and I lost after the 'long-lining incident' but haven't really moved forward from there. And now the weather is slowing us down; turn-out is limited to the arena and always supervised if there are puddles (which is most of the time) because of Stella's propensity for pawing at water. Less turn-out means more energy and reactivity, which makes our work together resemble Groundhog Day more than The Incredible Journey. I brought her home the Sunday after Christmas last year and here we are a year later, still in pre-Kindergarten. Sometimes I am tempted to despair that I will ever make a riding partner of my little Morgan mare!

Meanwhile, I was able to start hand-walking Lance back in October, slowly progressing to under-saddle walks and eventually a bit more. But he's had a couple alarming flare-ups of heaves this month that have necessitated rounds of additional drugs, and his breathing is still not back to normal.

Then on Monday our taps dried up. It's one thing to not have running water in a residence; it's a whole 'nuther beast to lose water when you have livestock. After a $200-fix-that-was-not-a-fix yesterday, we learned today that we are going to need everything BUT a new well; the pump, wiring and pipes are all shot. Hoping that will all get replaced tomorrow ($$$$), but because of both the failure and the fixes I'm not sure the water will be safe for man or beast for another day.

All this to say that my one-year anniversary with Umpqua Andromeda didn't get any fanfare. And yet, as "Facebook memories" have popped up in my feed this week, I realize how much Stella has changed. My scruffy cygnet has morphed into a beautiful black swan!



I see a blacker, sleeker, fitter, more filled-out mare whose neck has gone from upside-down to rightside-round. I see a horse who trusts me, comes to me, and tries for me. I guess she really has 'come a long way, baby'!
Oh, and there has been one visible bit of progress; I've blanketed her for the first time!
I didn't leave it on her, but did lead her around. As reactive as she is to things that touch her, she handled it pretty well. She also handles gunfire surprisingly well. On Christmas Day Rick and Brian shot some clay pigeons while she was turned out, and after a couple big spooks, she mostly stood her ground.

Finally, I got a little holiday surprise. The guy who accompanied our group to Perrydale Trails to take photos created some beautiful images. They make special 'keepsakes' of some of the best memories of 2020!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

You knew it couldn't be all sunshine and roses, right?

As I mentioned, it took a looong time for Stella to decide to get in the trailer for our outing to Perrydale Trails last Tuesday. I said "for some reason;" I have a pretty good idea what at least part of the reason was. A couple days before I had decided to long-line her for I think the third time since our lesson with Suzan. The first two times we practiced it Stella did great even though I don't have a round pen, but the third time she was more reactive. I thought we were working through it when she started panicking and took off, yanking the long lines out of my hands. Of course the lines 'chased' her, which panicked her more. She ended up jumping the 4' arena panel into the strip between the arena and barn, where I was able to catch her and 'rescue' her from the lines. (I shudder to think of how bad things could have gotten if she had jumped into the pasture and run through the fir trees which she often does....) When I tried to load her Tuesday morning there was nothing behind her at all, but she definitely acted nervous at first. And once she loaded and we set out exploring Perrydale Trails, she was so wonderfully calm and thoughtful that I was over-the-moon happy with my girl. But I suspected that long-lining again would be a challenge, to say the least – a challenge best left to a professional at it. Since Wednesday's forecast showed rain more likely from late morning on, I texted Suzan about a lesson. She was agreeable, so Wednesday morning I loaded up Stella (Rick was there and stood by, so she got right on) and off we went for a lesson.

I shared what had happened so Suzan backed up a step, putting the outside line over Stella's back instead of around her haunches. She did let her trot, however, which seemed a step forward after the first lesson when everything was done at the walk.

But in spite of that lovely, animated trot, it was apparent to all that Stella was still quite fearful of the long lines. So Suzan took off the surcingle and just worked on desensitizing her to the long lines.

You can see from Stella's lifted back leg in that last photo that she is still quite worried about that outside line. I feel bad that a confidence-destroying wreck happened on my watch, but there is no point in wallowing in regret; we must move on and rebuild trust.

Yesterday I ground-drove her for the first time since the wreck. Had to do a lot with the outside line over her back, just like Suzan did with the long lines, but slowly and carefully graduated to walking behind her. I doubt I'll try long-lining her without a round pen again or at least for the foreseeable future; we'll stick to what we can safely do with what we have.

Stella isn't getting all-day turn-out now that we're getting some rain; I don't want her to slip and injure herself running around in the pasture. Instead I let her burn off steam in the arena; it's been awhile since I've gotten to see her frolic like this!

I'm finally back in the saddle again with my big red goober. After getting treated for his injured ligaments, I started hand-walking him. Had to use a stud chain, because even a lazy boy gets cooped up and full of himself after too much stall rest! After a couple weeks of that, Rick said we could continue our walks under saddle. It is so nice to see this view and have a conversation in "dressage" again; I didn't realize how much I've missed it while working with Stella. Someday she'll learn to speak "dressage," too; I'm looking forward to that!