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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Come a little bit closer....

In a surprise move, Lance is now ten miles away instead of 50! Happy New Year to me! I should be able to get over to walk him every day while finishing up with Horton. Shoot, I might even be able to properly welcome the new year on him!

Rick had suggested we run over to Lincoln City this weekend so I could see Lance and Brian could play with his friend. When I called Lance's breeder yesterday to see if she and her daughter would be at the barn, she told me she hadn't gotten Lance out at all last week. He had been so fresh in his stall that she didn't think she could handle him; she was going to recruit her trainer, who was there yesterday giving lessons, to help her. She said if we came today he would at least get walked two days in a row; she has taken a second job and would not be able to get him out again the rest of the week. That was no good; that was no good at all. But what to do? There's no room at the inn here until Horton leaves. Still, it made sense to pick up Lance while we were there today instead of driving out again next Sunday, so last night, Rick and I put our heads together. Rick thought to call a client of his with a small boarding stable in the area, and she said she could make room for him short-term. I'm a happy girl!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Drunk with sunshine

What glorious weather we are having – such a nice break from dodging raindrops!

I rode Horton this afternoon. He was sticky and snotty for quite a long time, but I finally managed to get him past it and ended with some very nice canter work. He might have been protesting the flash attachment (I added it back to the bridle at Julie's suggestion), even though it was very loose – or he could have just been having one of those days. Interestingly, he pooped under saddle today....

Rick and Brian started stripping stalls while I rode, so when I was done with Horton they turned Ollie and Breezy out. Horse "TV" for Horton!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Don't do what comes naturally!

It was another dry winter day in the Willamette Valley, so of course I rode this morning! It was great to review the things Julie had Sylvia and me work on in our lessons before they flew from my middle-aged mind.

Some of what I have been doing with Horton is spot-on, like circling immediately when he braces or gets bratty. But I also have to remember to go right back to being calm and encouraging after a correction, giving him the chance to take the bit forward and down softly, so he can lift his back and swing in the walk and trot, and flatten out in the canter (he tends to brace and "climb"). This means pushing my hands forward (Jane Savoie's "short reins, long arms") while keeping my body upright and core strong. That latter point was a particular challenge for Sylvia, who has more history with Horton – including an involuntary dismount herself, and witnessing that of others. Interesting, isn't it, that when we are most insecure, our self-preservation instinct draws us into the most vulnerable position – collapsing our mid-section and leaning forward – while gripping the reins with unyielding contact?

Both of us needed reminding to keep our hands on either side of Horton's withers. As Julie noted, he is a workout for the rider's left leg because he tends to fall left. And while it is natural to try to "help" with the left hand, crossing the withers with the left hand actually has the opposite effect. I was thinking of that while riding this morning. "Crossing the centerline with my left hand means I need more leg – but I'm using my left leg as much as possible. Crossing the centerline with my left hand has the opposite effect – so what would have the desired effect? An opening hand?" BINGO! Horton moved over to the right immediately!

Another aid for keeping Horton on the rider's chosen track is "the eye in your bellybutton." Imagine that you have an eyeball in your bellybutton. Point that eye in the direction you want to go and the horse will follow!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

YeeHaw, Horton!

Horton is not usually a big "cavorter." But when I turned him loose in the arena before our lesson with Julie today, he played quite a bit. I captured just a bit of it –

– before tacking him up and lunging him. He was definitely improved over last week, although he did try a bit of 'tude here and there. Nothing a verbal reprimand and a small circle couldn't fix, though.

Our pulling truck is in the shop, so Rick hauled Horton and me to Newberg with his vet truck. He unhitched the trailer and took care of a patient while I rode, then came back and picked me up. Horton and the trailer, however, are spending the night at Suzi's to ensure that Horton is there at the appointed time tomorrow morning for Sylvia's lesson. I'll drive over in my car early enough to tack Horton up and lunge him first. Then Rick will pick us up as soon as he can after the lesson ends and bring us home.

Last Thursday, Rick injected Horton's hip again, focusing that time on the S/I joints (the first injections focused more on the lumbar/sacral joints). To best evaluate any changes this might make in Horton's gaits and/or behavior, it was decided I should continue riding him for at least two weeks following the injection. The other benefit in waiting to take Horton to Sylvia's barn is that I will be able to ride him there the first time or two for Sylvia. If he went home tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to do that. So the plan now is to take Horton "home" on January 6, and possibly pick up Lance that day as well.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy to have made it there and back

I pulled out this morning in a driving rain mixed with wet flakes of snow after Rick rolled my truck down the hill to start it. The batteries (two; it's a diesel) were dead, so I knew that after my lesson with Julie I would be dependent on a jump start or Rick showing up with two new batteries. (It was the latter, so Merry Christmas to me, I guess!) Unfortunately, the truck needs some other work, so it may not be available next week for the next two lessons. Hopefully Rick will be free to haul us there with his big vet truck, which is supposed to be out of the shop by then. We're playing musical chairs with vehicles these days.

Anyway, Horton and I didn't blow away or melt, and I quickly forgot the weather once I was in the saddle and focused on making improvements under Julie's direction. Horton was a good boy in spite of limited schooling this week and the new environment today. We worked on keeping him soft and long through his neck and relaxed through his back, circling whenever he braced and lifted his head. Julie noted that he didn't want to load his left hind leg as much as his right, which fits with what Rick saw when he ultrasounded Horton's pelvis. We ended with some really good stretch work at the trot.

I'm looking forward building on today's work next week, and watching Sylvia have a good ride on Horton, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bah humbug!

Okay, now the weather is seriously messing with my plans. If the forecast for snow continuing through Wednesday and Thursday is correct, I won't be hauling Horton down the hill for our first lesson this week. :-/

My son thinks the snow is GREAT.

Horton think my son is SCARY.

I think the timing of all this STINKS!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wait-a-minute weather

The weather forecast this week is rather abysmal for outdoor riding, but there's always a chance for a break in the weather to coincide with a break in my schedule – and when they occur I know I have to act!

This morning while I did chores it was raining, but by the time I finished a pale winter sun was peeking through the clouds. I threw the lunging surcingle and bridle on Horton and hurried to the Land of Many Lakes, otherwise known as our puddle-filled little outdoor sand arena, to exercise the boy. Before long the clouds closed up and soon Horton was adorned (quite festively, I might add) with teeny little snowballs with a name that auto-spell-check won't let me type – which changed to cold raindrops. By the time I finished with our short lungeing session, we were both quite wet.

Today's notes:
1) No poop.
2) No evasive movement during back lift rump tucks.
3) No mysterious "goosing" incidents.

The clinician I've used for Russell and Larry is in town for the holidays, so I'm setting up three dates with her – two for Horton and me, one for Horton and his owner. After the last ride, I plan to haul Horton back to Sylvia's barn. Then I'll be off to Lincoln City to pick up my Lancelot!

May both Sylvia and I be blessed with long, happy, safe and sound relationships with our respective dancing partners. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Same song, second Sunday

Today it is RAW outside for NW Oregon – cold, wet, windy. Yesterday there were snowflakes among the raindrops! But it was a "must exercise Horton" day since he got Friday and Saturday off, so I lunged him in surcingle and sidereins.

I should have ridden him Friday; it was mostly dry that day and would have followed on the heels of a good ride on Thursday. But after reading something cryptic about Connecticut on someone's blog, I turned to the news, which left me stunned and stumbling through my indoor to-do list while watching updates on TV.

Anyway, back to today. I wondered if Horton might be a little stiff or sore, because I'm pretty sure he got cast in his stall Friday night. Rick heard banging in the barn in the wee hours and went down to check it out. He didn't find anything amiss then, but the next morning while picking stalls I noticed packed bedding right next to one of Horton's stall walls, vertical scrapes on the upper half of that wall – and boards loosened at the end. And normally neat Horton had wet bedding across the top of his back (although no scrapes or swellings). But he moved out fine and worked normally for me . . . to the left. When I asked for canter to the right, he acted once again like something goosed or bit him, tucking his tail and rump, kicking out with his right hind, and bucking as is to rid himself of something. Once he stumbled badly in the hind end doing this and I thought he was going to fall, but he caught himself. Eventually he worked out of whatever it is that bothered him, but I'd sure like to know what it is!

Back in his stall, I tickled his tummy and got a good back lift. But when I asked him to tuck his rump, he did it while stepping sideways to avoid more of the same. He also pooped once while I was getting him ready today. Filing it all away as part of the puzzle....

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Today's haul

Tummy and rump tickles still effective. Because I had limited time, I just got on and rode this morning. Horton was a little sticky trotting left, never getting consistently soft and forward, so I didn't ask for canter. Reinbacks are definitely straighter. And Horton gave me another piece of the puzzle. Actually he gave it to me yesterday as well, but confirmed it today.

Horton is a pooper. I think he has pooped every single time I have worked with him, sometimes two or three times – while I'm grooming or tacking him up, while I'm leading him out to the arena, while I'm working him on the lunge line or under saddle. Yesterday he didn't poop once while I was around. I thought maybe it was a fluke; maybe he had pooped just before I started grooming him. But he didn't poop again today, so this is definitely something the hunter-gatherer in me noted. I think it indicates that he's not stressing as much over – what? anticipated discomfort? At any rate, I think it's positive.

Off to Lincoln City to walk Lance!

Monday, December 10, 2012


That's what I am; always hunting for clues and gathering information on Horton, trying to figure out what makes him tick/tock/balk. Each bit of data adds to the picture, even if it isn't readily apparent how.

Today's pieces of Horton's puzzle:

1) I tried the "butt tickle" (see yesterday's comments) for the first time since his injections. He tucked his rump, lifted his back – and DIDN'T sashay side to side to avoid a repeat tickle! Tummy tickles were still effective, too.

2) He was very mellow – almost lazy – on the lunge line. He might have worn himself out good yesterday. Or . . . maybe he's sore from using his muscles differently now that he's not falling to the left. Or both.

3) Everything was normal when he was tracking left on the lunge line. But going right at the canter, he repeated a weird little behavior from yesterday. All of a sudden he would clamp his tail and tuck his rump – looking for all the world like someone just goosed him, and he was not at all happy about it! Yesterday he bucked sometimes when this happened; today he just looked on the verge of bucking. I checked his tail both yesterday and today to make sure nothing was caught in it; nada.

4) He continues to carry himself ever straighter on the circle under saddle, and shoulder-in on the circle and down the long side of the arena seemed easier for him than in the past.

5) I contemplated not cantering him to the right under saddle because of #3, but things progressed well and I ended up getting nice canter work both directions. He did pick up the counter canter the first time I asked for the right lead, though – and wasn't inclined to come back to the trot.

6) Oh, and he's backing straighter now, too!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On my feet, not my seat

Twas a horse-filled day, but my riding muscles went unused. I got plenty of exercise, though!

It started with Horton this morning. As usual, I started with lunging to make sure he was both obedient and forward. I don't know if it was the brisk, windy weather, the barn cat racing across the arena, Horton feeling his oats or not feeling his hip, but after a working nicely awhile he spooked, exploded, then raced around on the end of the lunge line.

That wasn't the end of it, either. He stayed on the muscle, occasionally clamping his tail, tucking his butt, then bucking again. I decided that keeping my feet on the ground was the sensible thing to do! At the very end, he did settle down for a cool-out walk.
One interesting development worth noting. After tacking up Horton today, on a whim I tickled his tummy to see what he'd do. Larry would arch his back like a cat when I did this, the most reaction I've ever gotten out of any horse. But Horton has never lifted his back in response to tummy tickles – until today. I checked again after I untacked him, and he responded modestly again. I can't help but wonder if this new responsiveness is a result of the injections....

Next, I headed toward the coast to exercise Lance. I took my saddle and bridle just in case, but when I found myself at his barn all alone, again I decided that staying grounded was the prudent choice. So I put on his leather halter – no stud chain – and spent 40 minutes hand-walking him while working on R.E.S.P.E.C.T. I made it clear that he had to stop when I stopped, walk when I walked, back up when I backed up, and keep his mouth off the lead rope – and me. He's a smart boy, and a quick study.

Finally, we went caroling with a group from our church this evening. One of Rick's clients brought a team of Shires and a wagon to carry most of the carolers and we wound our way through the neighborhood near our church. I left the straw bales for those who needed them and used my legs, voice and camera. It was very enjoyable!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

No fluke

Yesterday was not a fluke. I rode Horton again this morning, and not only did he stay off my inside leg tracking left, he did much less falling out tracking right than yesterday. I think his reinbacks are straighter, too. Hip-hip, hurray!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Free teleseminar!

I am on Jane Savoie's email list and enjoy the "Motivation by Moshi" nuggets of wisdom she sends out regularly. Last week she advertised a free teleseminar (via phone or web), so I signed up for it. I've been thinking about what I can do with Lance at the walk when I bring him home, and figured Ms. Savoie would have some helpful tips.

The teleseminar was yesterday at noon. I dialed in while driving back from working with Lance, and for the next hour and a half got a fantastic refresher course on training fundamentals! I took notes as best I could while driving and running errands, and hope to find time to listen to it again (and complete my notes!) while it is still available on the web (through Friday, here). Nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary, just good, solid fundamentals communicated clearly and logically – which is really all any of us need!

Encouraged and inspired, I utilized what I heard while riding Horton this morning. I'm sure my increased awareness of my own position helped, but there was more. First of all, there was only one brief moment of resistance when I picked up the reins. Then, after I had been warming up at the trot for awhile, I realized he wasn't falling in when tracking left – at all! That was a first, and my entire left side was thankful for the break.

The other day Rick mentioned that he'd talked to a colleague there at the conference who has done a lot of pelvic injections. That vet said to give it 10 days to two weeks before expecting to see improvement. I'm wondering if, at eight days out, we're starting to get some of that improvement!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My beautiful brat

Yes, I'm talking about YOU, Lancelot!
 I drove over to Lincoln City this morning to walk Lance. His breeder and I were shooting for four days of walking in a row with a mind to try turning him loose in the indoor arena at the end of it. But last night I fretted to Rick on the phone (he's in Anaheim attending the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention) about the risk of re-injury, and he agreed that it would be better to err on the side of caution. Still, I hadn't ruled out the possibility of letting him loose to roll at the end of his walk....

Being the mellow boy he usually is, I planned on doing most of Lance's walk under saddle. So I brushed him off and proceeded to tack him up. Talk about trying to "hit" a moving target! Buckling the flash attachment was particularly challenging. Lance is a very busy, mouthy kid, and he did NOT want me limiting his options!
If I can get him to stop eating the reins...
...he makes a beautiful subject!
Being a sensible person, I headed into the arena to hand-walk Lance for a bit before mounting. He proceeded to explode into airs above the ground nine different times, leaping, bucking, kicking out behind, rearing, and assorted combinations of all of the above. Part of it was pent-up energy, but I do believe he was throwing tantrums over being cinched and buckled from the git-go. I managed to hang onto the reins and stay out of harm's way, and eventually he settled down and just walked. Well, I shouldn't say he just walked; once the hissy-fits ended, the mouthiness increased. I finally got on in self-defense (and to preserve my reins) – and then could hardly get the lazy thing to move at all! But you can be sure all thoughts of turning him loose for awhile were long gone....

I'm going to try to make it out to walk him again next Sunday and Tuesday. Val will hopefully be able to walk him this Wednesday and Friday, but then she will be unavailable until the following Wednesday. I don't want Lance to self-combust in his stall – or hurt her next week.

Next up, my fantastic, free refresher on fundamentals!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pincushion update

After a temporary disruption in his training schedule due to Thanksgiving, followed by the injections, Horton is back to work. As directed by Rick, I lunged Horton lightly Wednesday, the day after he was injected. I didn't have a chance to do anything with him Thursday; Friday I lunged him again and then rode a bit. When tracking left, I could not get him off my inside leg and he was very resistant to going round and forward. I didn't get after him, since Rick said he could still be sore. But he also said that by today, any residual soreness should be gone and I could ride him with full expectations.

Fortunately, today dawned dry so that I could ride. I lunged Horton first to get him thinking forward, then mounted. Again, he balked at going left and getting off my inside leg on a 20m circle, so we did shoulder-in down the long sides of the arena instead. He did the lateral work equally well both directions, which told me his difficulty wasn't so much a physical issue as a mental one. So I worked through it with lots of encouragement and persistence until his trot quality to the left more closely mirrored the nice connection and energy he gave me tracking right. Once it did, he started thinking about offering canter, instead of bracing whenever he thought I might ask for canter. But he waited until I finally did ask, picked it up nicely, and maintained it until I asked for the trot again. I was very pleased with him!

It looks like I should be able to find a dry window during which to work him tomorrow before another soaker moves in Monday night and Tuesday. I look forward to building on today's good work.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Still gambling

We drove to Lincoln City yesterday to do Lance's follow-up exam. The good news: his ligament looks as good as new. The bad news: the bone (where the ligament was/is attached) is rougher, over a bigger area, than Rick hoped or expected, indicating that the tear was worse than he originally thought. That roughness is a point of weakness, where re-injury is most likely to occur. If I condition Lance carefully, he doesn't do anything stupid (his mellow nature is a plus here!), and God blesses, he could still be an athlete. Otherwise, he will be a trail horse. Of course, this is the gamble I took when I decided to go ahead and get him, but I was so hoping the follow-up exam would show a better scenario. :-(

Lance's breeder has been anticipating being able to turn him out (in the indoor arena) if the exam showed he was healed up, but we don't want him ripping around and re-injuring himself. She says he has never ripped around, but neither has he been cooped up this long. She is going to be able to walk him Sunday, Monday and Wednesday; and I am going out to walk him on Tuesday. Rick thinks turning him out after four straight days of hand-walking might be a safe bet. I'm hoping and praying it is. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nine inch nails needles

(Actually, the needles are 10 inches long. If photos of medical procedures bother you, proceed through the following pictorial at your own risk!)
Supplies at the ready
The inject sites are clipped and cleaned
Finding the right spot, needle at the ready
Easing it in
The diagonal line on the left is the needle, going in parallel to the bone
Time to do the other side
After the needle is positioned, he injects the steroid
Little wonder that Horton told the farrier this afternoon that his rump is sore to the touch. Tomorrow I'll lunge him lightly in the surcingle, and Thursday Rick says I can start riding him again (if we can find a dry window in which to work). It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in Horton's behavior!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Every dry day is a blessing

We returned home from our Thankgiving trip late last night under clear skies. I caught the weather forecast before going to bed and was relieved to hear that there were a couple more dry days in the forecast. I knew Horton would be in need of exercise; it's not good to 'get them fit, then let them sit.'

This morning when I did chores I found a note from the person who did our farm chores while we were gone. She wrote: "Horton was a good boy until today! He was bucking and kicking from his stall to his pen. He kicked the back wall and may have broken a board." Oh my! I decided some turn-out was in order, so after he'd had a half-hour to eat some of his breakfast, I took Horton to the arena to expend some of that pent-up energy. When I removed his halter, he just stood there looking at me until I shooed him away; then all he did was trot to the other end and look for something to eat. That's it.

I went back to my chores, keeping an eye out for more activity. Finally, he rolled.
When he got up from that he did explode – but after two big bucks, he went back to grubbing around for greens. It took some encouragement with the lunge whip to get him to actually exercise!

I didn't have time to ride until later today. Horton was good on the lunge line, but it took a lot of encouragement to get him to canter under saddle, especially to the left. He never got cranky or balky about it, so I gave him grace in case of discomfort.

Rick is planning to do the injections tomorrow morning. It will be interesting to see if they make a difference!
Horton hears a Who!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No news, bad news, good news; no BIG news

Yesterday's wild weather hit the coast with much higher winds (up to 90 mph) and several inches more rain than we got, and the power was still out at Lance's barn this morning. No power = no ultrasound, so we will have to wait until next week to see how his injured ligament has healed. Unfortunately, between the holidays and his breeder's work schedule, Lance probably won't get any hand-walking until then, either. :-/  I'd drive over there to keep him from going stir-crazy if I could (getting this kind of mileage
with my diesel VW Jetta makes the two-hour round trip economically feasible) but alas, we will be out of town Wednesday-Sunday. (Looking forward to that fuel economy for the 800-mile round trip as well!)

The good news is that we had an unexpected break between the previous storm and the next one mid-day today, so I was able to get Horton out for a little exercise for the first time since Friday. We did walk/trot/canter both directions, first on the lunge line and then under saddle, and there was no crankiness at all. Not that he didn't need occasional encouragement to stay straight, connected from back to front, and/or forward, but he responded to the encouragement appropriately.

Rick didn't get the needles and drugs assembled for Horton's hip injections until yesterday, so he'll wait until we get back to do it. The chance of a bad reaction or infection is minimal, but he wants to be around just in case. So bigger news with photos next week!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Lazy Lance and wild weather

Lance is not really this red; it's a low-light reaction of my camera

I bought Lance a new halter, and remembered to take it with me when I visited him today. It's a grooming halter; the whole 'undercarriage' behind the noseband can snap off for grooming access. It fit him perfectly straight out of the bag, and although I would have preferred brown, I think it looks good on him. The narrower leather also got his attention the few times he needed to be reminded to be a gentleman; no stud chain required. He was much calmer than the last time I visited, though; no airs above the ground this time. In fact, he was acting so sensible that I utilized the other tack I brought – saddle and bridle!
Photographic proof (such as it is)!
Lance's breeder thought I was brave to get on, but Lance was very mellow under saddle. His slightly lazy nature will be a blessing when I get him home and start slo-o-owly conditioning him enough to start dressage training. I can hardly wait!
:  :  :  :  :
It's been wet all day, but the weather has definitely intensified this evening. Wind is whipping the trees to and fro, and rain is splattering against the windows. Internet connection is spotty and I won't be surprised by power outages, either. I guess I should have hitched up the trailer and taken Horton with me this morning to work him in the indoor arena; I'm not sure I'm going to get any opportunities to work him outside until after we get back from our Thanksgiving trip. :-/

Friday, November 16, 2012

Horton's wonky haircut

Yesterday Sylvia came out to ride her horse again. I lunged him first – not to "take the edge off" which seems to be the reason most people lunge, but as the quickest and easiest way to get him thinking forward. Horton's no longer a "balky-butt," but we still have to work through "stickiness" – his reluctance to move freely forward – on a regular basis. When I finally get him moving forward he is lovely, but it can take awhile to get him there.

Getting his gears moving on the lunge line seemed to work; Sylvia had her best ride on him yet, at least here. As you can see, it was a beautiful day!

After his schooling session, Horton got a haircut. No, not a body clip or trace clip; more like a "hip clip."

When Sylvia was out Tuesday, Rick happened to come down to the barn and watched us ride Horton for awhile. He asked, "Does he always carry his tail to the left like that?" Sylvia answered, "Always. It gets better for awhile after he has bodywork done on him, but eventually he returns to carrying it to the left; never to the right." Rick pondered out loud whether or not Horton might have something going on in his pelvis; if he does, it could explain not only the tail carriage but perhaps the behavioral issues he's had. Sylvia gave Rick the go-ahead to investigate, so he did that yesterday morning after our ride.
Sleepy Horton held by Sylvia

Rick performing the external ultrasound exam

Shaving the area to be ultrasounded gives a better image; hence the haircut. (Rick also ultrasounded the pelvic area from the inside, but I didn't figure anyone really needed to see a photo of the vet with his arm up the rectum!)

The verdict? Horton's lumbosacral and sarcoiliac joints both look "wonky." Yeah, a real technical term, but since Rick has never seen joints that look quite like Horton's, it fits. No way to know the cause, since Horton's early history is veiled; could be the result of injury or even congenital. Rick is going to inject the joint areas with steroid to see if that makes a difference in his behavior and movement (he didn't have the incredibly long needles with him yesterday).

Once again all involved were reminded that horses always have a reason for their actions, be it pain or past experiences. They don't spend their time thinking about how to get out of work just because, and many horses put up with an amazing amount of discomfort and continue to try their best for us until we finally figure out there's a problem and do our best to make it better. It is also a good reminder that all the bodywork/chiropractic/essential oils or whathaveyou cannot fix damaged tissue. It might make our horses feel better for a bit, but the underlying problem needs proper diagnosis to be properly addressed, whether with rest, drugs, therapies like extracorporeal shock wave, a change in usage or all of these combined.

As for usage, Rick said it was fine to go ahead and ride Horton; he'll need a couple days off after the injection but that's it. So I rode this morning . . . obviously with a different mindset about the task at hand. I didn't lunge Horton first; I did spend a lot of time warming up at the walk on the buckle. Horton loves to go on the buckle, reaching his head down for a good stretch over the back. Makes me wonder if that stretch feels particularly good for his wonky joints. Anyway, I tried to fix any stickiness through a "back door approach," and eventually got lovely walk/trot/canter work both directions. I would love to be able to keep building on this, but next week is forecast to be very wet, starting this weekend, and we will be gone over Thanksgiving. I'll be looking for breaks in the weather whenever I can catch them!

: : : : : : : : :

I have been thwarted in my plans to drive over and walk Lance this week, so I was so relieved to get a phone call from his breeder yesterday. She's been very faithful in getting him out nearly every day this week, and he is behaving himself much better now. I'm hoping to get over there on Sunday, and then Rick is scheduled to ultrasound his injured ligament on Tuesday to see how it's healed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A good day for all concerned

Horton's owner came out for another ride today. Horton was in a mellow mood, Sylvia was in a more confident mood, and their walk/trot ride went much better than the last one. Then I got on and asked for canter and got all the departs without altercations. Hooray for Horton!

Behold, Horton and his lady:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Horton had to heed

He hesitated. He hemmed and hawed. I had to get hard-nosed.

He got hot post-haste, and had to hang out for awhile to cool off afterwards.

We'll see how well he heeds next time....

Besides a rather challenging ride on Horton yesterday, I also handled a hot young horse-kite.

Lance has been cooped up for more than six weeks now, and isn't getting hand-walked as often as would be ideal because of his previous owner's work schedule. Yesterday I drove to Lincoln City to deliver more Horse Guard and get him out of his stall.

Lance looked so sweet, hanging out with his little buddy. But once I lead him out of his stall, he was all sass – the stud chain our saving grace. For the first 15-20 minutes, he jigged and bucked and reared, explosive with pent-up energy. Thankfully, he minded his manners and never directed any of that energy towards me, but I am worried that his more timid former owner may stop hand-walking him altogether because of it. How I wish he were close enough for me to walk him every day....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I've been working on Horton's transitions, getting them smoother, rounder, less-fuss-more-forward. Lots of inside leg to outside rein always improves things, and he's making good progress . . . because I expect him to. After all, he's not a kindergartener any more; he's been to a show and scored over 70% in both his tests!

Another kind of transition that needs to happen is from me riding Horton to his owner riding Horton. She cooled him out at the show, the first time in quite awhile she'd been on him. Now it's time for her to start riding him again. She came out yesterday to do just that.

Even though I warmed him up and he was being a good boy, Sylvia was obviously apprehensive at the beginning. After all, Horton had thrown her hard – as he did her trainer and a tall, lanky young-but-experienced hunter/jumper Mexican cowboy. Then he went to the cowboy's hunter/jumper barn to learn to do this
Horton says, "That's my daddy!"
and was doing it quite well. But he missed his first scheduled shows due to a stone bruise, and he's a little on the short side according to most h/j riders, and Larry sold . . . and the rest is history on this blog. Now we're making new history, that of a successful partnership between Sylvia and her handsome young Horton. It's going to take some time for her to feel confident on him, so she plans to come out a couple times a week if the weather and our schedules permit. Based on the progress she made with him yesterday, I feel good about their future together. Maybe next time I'll get pictures!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seasonal adaptations

It has been a grey, wet week since Monday's unexpected break. There have been some short dry spells here and there, but never when I could sprint to the barn and get Horton out for some exercise.

Since I don't like to let a horse sit for more than two days at a time unless I'm out of town, yesterday was a "must exercise" day. The dry spells came and went while I worked hard at other obligations until I got down to the wire on time (I had an evening meeting) and daylight. So I put on a waterproof jacket, fitted Horton with lunging surcingle and side reins, and worked him in the drizzle at the far end of the arena. Rick had cleared it of leaves earlier in the day so I had at least a 20m circle in which to work. It got quite windy Wednesday night and a lot of leaves came down, but there are many more to fall before we can do our annual arena "deleafing." Keeping the organic matter to a minimum keeps drainage at a maximum – a necessity for our long, wet winters.

This morning was forecast to be dry, so "riding Horton" was right after "chores" on today's to-do list. But chores took a bit more time than usual. When I opened the barn door, the aisleway was a MESS. My husband apparently neglected to latch Horton's stall door when he did chores last night, and Horton had helped himself to the hay. (By design, that is ALL that is accessible; our grain is kept in barrels on an upper level.) Horton must have eaten his fill, because even though his stall door was wide open, he was standing in his paddock. Oh well, at least he had a nice, full tummy! He was a very good boy during our ride (just like he was yesterday on the lunge line), maintaining consistent contact and taking his canter departs quite nicely from aids alone, no vocal cues.

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."