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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Out of the saddle and into the classroom

The local Christian homeschool cooperative that we are involved in starts Wednesday. I signed up to teach "Hippology" to two different groups, 15 3rd and 4th graders (combined class) and 16 5th and 6th graders (combined class). I plan to take Breezy (Brian's pony) and/or Russell as often as weather and time permits, because things like conformation, gaits, color and markings are ever so much more interesting to learn on a real, live horse. (The church where we hold the co-op has a large grassy area beside the back parting lot; I have permission to use that area for the "real horse" parts of class.) Since Russell is so good on the lunge line, I had planned to use him to show the kids walk, trot and canter, but I'm going to see how Breezy lunges and use her if possible. If she's not sharp to voice commands, I'll put Professional's Choice Sports Medicine Boots on Russell's front legs and use him.

I know I'll have some students with horse experience, and a lot with NO experience. I hope I can make it fun and interesting for all!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The sun has set on our show

Actually, this was sunrise. This morning. My camera washed out the colors; the sun was really blood-red. Maybe it was a sign.

Russell and I were headed out for our very first lesson of the year. First thing this morning was the only time my instructor and I could coordinate our schedules, so off we went.

When she arrived while we were warming up, Suzan asked me to continue circling at the rising trot so she could see how Russell was moving. She asked how he felt. I mentioned that he had been tenderfooted last weekend on his bare left front foot. She noted that it was the opposite front that seemed a bit off. I stopped him, and she asked about a little bump on that leg, high on the inside. I had noticed it, but since it was small and he didn't seem off, I hadn't given it much thought.

I need to insert here that my instructor, Suzan Davis Atkinson, has the most amazing eye on the planet. Not only can she see and relate what a rider needs to do to get the optimum performance from her horse, no matter the breed or ability, that woman can spot any discomfort or unsoundness in a horse, and usually where it originates from, better than anyone else I know. My husband, an equine vet with extensive training in advanced lameness work, has brought her in to consult on cases.

We worked a little longer in both directions so she could confirm that Russell was indeed slightly off on the right front, although she could also tell he was a bit tenderfooted in the left. Since I was fairly certain the little splint had just recently "sprouted," she told me to have Rick check it, and pressure wrap it to keep it from getting bigger. And definitely stay off him, and don't show.
Rick doesn't believe in the benefits of pressure wrapping but humored me after injecting the site with steroid to help calm it down. To keep the pressure where it needs to be, he had to wrap the entire lower leg; looks like Russell tried to sever it or something!

So last weekend on our horse-camping trip, when these shots were taken, is the last time Russell will be tacked up for awhile. As often as this has happened with this horse, you'd think I'd get used to it.


Friday, September 18, 2009

He just got sexier in my eyes....

Patrick Swayze, a passionate and valued member of the Arabian horse community died from pancreatic cancer complications at the age of 57.

Swayze was known to most as a dancer and actor in films such as “Dirty Dancing,” “Roadhouse” and “Ghost.” To the Arabian horse community he was an accomplished and giving horseman. An active participant at Arabian shows throughout the late '80s and early '90s, Swayze’s star power helped bring attention to the Arabian breed. Swayze’s true passion for the horse earned him utmost respect in the horse community.

Although Swayze’s bond with horses started as a child, he claimed he did not fully realize the potential relationship with a horse until later. “When you get a bond happening with a horse, it’s interesting. I was raised a cowboy and did some rodeo and stuff and thought I was a horseman. Found out I knew nothing. As I have gotten into these horses, [Arabians] I have realized how far you can go with them,” said Swayze in a 1994 video interview.

In 1991, the same year Swayze was named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, he bought the stallion Tammen from Tom McNair and during the next year the stallion was honored with several halter championships. “Over the years it’s happened—people gradually started seeing that I am serious about this and I care more about the horses than my little image. I am accepted now, so going grand champion there was like a big event for me,” said Swayze.

Swayze owned more than a dozen purebred Arabians and became an active breeder. Tammen, Swayze’s 1982 Champion stallion, sired 175 foals. A photograph of Swayze with Tammen was made into a poster and established as a youth fundraiser during the early '90s. The poster, now in limited supply, continues to help fund Arabian Horse Association Youth Programs.
— from the United States Equestrian Federation

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I should've ridden this morning...

...because now it's raining. The meteorologist said it would. Said it would be dry in the morning and raining by noon. It's not that I didn't listen. But I had two buckets of pears, a big bowl of tomatoes, and a small tree full of prunes that must be put up or thrown out. Don't you just hate it when responsibilities horn in on your riding time?

I have been riding regularly; a good thing since my entry for the October 11 league show has been mailed. Third Level Tests 1 and 2, here we come again. I want to be prepared, but I don't want to get so focused on doing well that I drill things and make Russell sore (don't ask me how I know this can happen).

This coming weekend is our last horse-camping trip of the year. Our Christian trail-riding club is trying out a new campground; let's hope the trails aren't too rocky! All our horses are barefoot; Russell because of white line disease and the others because it is just not worth the cost of shoes for the one weekend of riding they'd get.

Russell before the rain started today. After he eats his breakfast, he gets turned out in the arena, since his pasture is out of circulation for the year. (Rick took the fence down and spread manure on it and the empty upper pasture on Sunday.)

Some of those pears turning into pear butter

Maybe I'll be rewarded for my domestic diligence by a dry evening and time to ride....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The call of the show ring

I recently got an email about some changes to an upcoming League show (less expensive than USEF/USDF approved). The date has been changed to October 11 from the following Saturday, and the location has been moved to the Oregon State Fairgrounds from farther away. Furthermore, unlike a lot of League shows that only go to First or Second Level, this one has a class for Second Level and above. All of this adds up to a tempting outing to shoot for!

I don't know that I need to enter as a schooling motivation since I've been doing pretty well since starting this blog, but it would get Russell out where he can be seen by prospective buyers. I don't know that I've mentioned it here yet, but I do have Russell for sale.

Russell is not built ideally for dressage, having a long back and a rump that is higher than his withers. One of the goals of dressage is to develop a horse's "carrying power," gradually getting them to shift their natural forehand-heavy balance backwards and learn to carry more of their weight on their hindquarters, which frees up their shoulders and allows them to move more expressively. With his long back and "downhill" balance, Russell has to work much harder than some to cantilever his front end up. We have worked our way up to Third Level and keep stalling out there, when Russell shows signs of being less than comfortable in his work. He does have some arthritis in his neck (confirmed by x-rays and ultrasound-guided steriod injections), so it's not like he doesn't have reasons. After a successful outing at Third Level this spring, his neck started bothering him again. Since I love the training process and taking a young horse from knowing nothing all the way up the levels, dropping back to Second Level and coasting along indefinitely was not an option for me. I decided to try and find my dance partner a new home where he could be a low-level, level-headed schoolmaster for someone who would appreciate him, and then get a new prospect. That hasn't happened yet, obviously, and I couldn't just let him morph into an out-of-shape marshmellow. So I spurred myself to get back in the saddle for both our sakes. Of course, now that we're going out dancing regularly again I am enjoying our rides immensely, and it would be very hard to let him go. Plus, I'm not sure I have the time it takes to start a young horse right. I guess I'll keep riding, pray about it and leave it in the Lord's hands!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yielding to temptation with good results

Since our ride on Sunday, Russell has had only his shadow to dance with; I had too much to do to ride until today. I was a little worried I wasn't going to be able to ride at all for awhile, because I noticed that an old splint on Russell's inside left front was enlarged:But after x-raying and ultrasounding it on Monday, Rick pronounced he only had a bruised splint bone and was good to go.

After I lead my tenderfoot down the rocky access to the arena (he was trimmed on Wednesday) and mounted, we started our warm-up. That blue plastic drum has been in the arena for weeks, ever since Brian decided he wanted to jump his pony over something (not that Breezy cooperated). The thought of trying to get Russell to jump it had flitted in and out of my head rather quickly. I was told he jumps willingly, but have never confirmed it for myself, and after all, that barrel isn't as wide as my dressage whip is long! But today, for some reason, I decided to try it - dressage saddle, long stirrup leathers and all! I approached it at the trot with both legs firmly guiding Russell to the center of the barrel, and although he tried to veer sideways, he did indeed jump it! Whee! We cantered around the arena and jumped it two more times, and then I reversed direction and approached at the trot again. This time he successfully sidestepped it, and it took a few more evasions to convince him that over was the only acceptable option. But we ended with two more good jumps - and a very energetic, forward horse! I had to work to balance and soften him in that energy, but we had a very good school and I was tickled pink. Not bad for a couple of middle-aged dressage partners!

Does anyone else admire their horse's behind? I'm not sure there's a part of a nice horse I don't find attractive, but I think Russell has a particularly nice "rearview."