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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Braid jobs

Here are some photos that show Russell braided for show. Maybe you can click to biggify to see his braids more clearly.

Boy, I miss that horse!

As I mentioned in the comments to my last post, I've pulled manes short, left them long, and cut them halfway. For me, a little longer is easier. I braid locks, put a rubber mane band at the bottom, then fold them up in half and half again, and wrap another band around the short, now fat braid. Relatively easy in, easy out, and easy to repair a braid if one gets messy. (I leave braids in if I am showing on Friday and Sunday; it's never caused any noticeable damage to my horses manes.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The boy with the bowl cut

You can call him Moe.

I know. It's hideous. But I had to do something before our first show at the end of April. I have never been happy with any French braid I've tried; I don't think the lattice braid flatters any horse, and Larry's mane is too thin and fine to pull. So out came the scissors for the bob job.

Cutting Larry's mane was not on my agenda today. We are in the midst of a very wet weather pattern, so when it stopped raining mid-morning, I sprinted for the barn to get in a ride. But I'd barely started brushing Larry when the rain began to fall again, so I focused on giving him a thorough grooming, followed by some tummy-tucking, back-lifting exercises from the ground. Since it was still raining, I turned to his mane.

Then, glory be, the rain stopped! I quickly tacked him up and we got in a good 25 minutes before the clouds opened up again.

Here he is in the second bridle Theresa gifted to me. With its brass buckles it looks very nice with the Aurigan KK bit, and the whole assembly looks dandy on Moe Larry.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Things to remember

I had my third lesson with Julie today, and it started out wonderfully. Julie noticed how nicely Larry went to work from the git-go. Issues came up in the canter work; he didn't want to bend on the circle, didn't want to round over his topline - and when he did round, he'd break to the trot. And one time, when I felt him start to fall out of the canter and tapped him with the whip, he threw in a hissy-fit buck! Julie is certain it is a strength issue, and will only get better as Larry gets stronger with correct work. He did give me some successful canter work before we ended with some lovely work at the trot, so overall it was a very satisfying lesson.

I have a lesson journal, but decided to type my notes-to-self here. Mostly it is the act of writing/typing them out that helps stick them in my mind anyway. I'll include some explanatory notes in parentheses after some of my notes; feel free to ask about any of them or comment.

~~~~~~~~~~~ NOTES ~~~~~~~~~~~

Stay with his mouth (Larry wants to curl behind the vertical or play giraffe sometimes, and I need to keep contact with his mouth whatever he does. The curling is a tough problem to fix, but after three lessons I'm already seeing a lot of progress, thanks to Julie encouraging me to shorten my reins and take more contact. He won't be able to work correctly on a longer rein until he gets stronger.)

Ask for the stretch (Given all that I said in the prior paragraph, I still need to encourage Larry to open his neck and stretch out in front of the withers, while not letting him curl or dive.)

Transitions, transitions, transitions (Walk-trot, trot-walk, trot-canter, canter-trot, walk-halt - in all of them work to keep proper contact, thinking forward, round, and properly bent on the circle. A slight leg-yield to the outside is often beneficial. If the transition isn't satisfactory, bring him back and do it again. Good transitions can only happen from good gaits. Don't let the energy die in the downward transitions.)

Keep right leg ON and put weight in right stirrup (Going right is Larry's "problem direction," and as a result, I tend to use my lower calf a lot which draws my leg up. I need to use my upper calf more, and remember to keep weight in my right stirrup.)

When changing direction through a half-figure-eight at the trot, control his haunches with my inside and outside legs

Always post on diagonal trot lengthenings

Working on a trot circle, alternate posting with a few steps sitting

Tuck my seat a bit and "sit on my pockets" (a challenge with my "bubble-butt"!)

Stay on the second track when cantering down the long sides; circle if he falls apart


Remember my "perfect bit" post? Well, look what came back to me! My friend Debbie has also been taking lessons with Julie, and had Julie school her mare one day. Julie's description of Debbie's mare in this lovely, but thick, bit? "Wet cement." So today after Debbie and I had back-to-back lessons, Julie suggested we swap bits, thinking that Debbie's mare may be lighter with the thinner mouthpiece I got from Laura and Larry may prefer the thicker mouthpiece of Debbie's bit. We'll see (I'm crossing my fingers!).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giant strides

After working so hard yesterday, I wasn't sure how Larry would act during our lesson today. Would he be tired and cranky? Sore and sullen? No - he was even BETTER than yesterday - and even ended up with a foamy mouth for the first time!
(Photo was taken after "the itchiest horse in the world" rubbed his face all over his leg.)

I'm so glad I followed Julie's suggestion to ride with her two days back to back; it really solidified what I need to work on with Larry. I wasn't sure I'd make it today when I woke up to this,
but the roads were just wet. Hopefully, the weather will be better next week for our last ride!

Here is the video that Julie shot today:

Be kind; we've come a long way in just a month!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A good tired

Larry and I had our first lesson with Julie today, and she quickly had us both working our best to date. Julie is always so positive and encouraging, so I knew she'd say nice things about Larry, but I thought she was also quick to perceive what we need to work on. We go back for a second lesson tomorrow, and I'll see if she can get some video of us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reunited and it feels so GOOD!

Day by day this week I've gotten increasingly frustrated, wanting to continue Larry's reconditioning and refresher schooling but not getting any cooperation from weather and schedule. But today, in SPITE of some rain, I both lunged and rode him, and it was our best ride yet. I noticed a difference while tacking him up. He's always moved around when I start to fasten the girth, but today he stood quietly. Lunging went about the same, but under saddle he seemed more solid. I've found over the years that short breaks in training sometimes have that effect in a horse, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Tomorrow my son is planning to go to work with his dad, so I should be able to take advantage of a break in the weather if we get one. Then, starting next week is my two-week opportunity to get in some rides with a clinician who will be in the area. I'm so looking forward to some eyes on the ground to help us advance!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sidelined by sickness and snow

When last I posted, I was coming down with some sort of bug. At first I thought I just had a backache, but then realized that more joints and bones ached, and my lungs felt restricted. No big deal. I rarely get sick and never for very long. I was looking forward to Sunday, when Brian was going to be at a friend's all afternoon and evening and I would have plenty of quality time with Larry (and some with my husband!). But by the time Sunday morning rolled around, I wasn't even up to rolling out of bed. I was vaguely and miserably aware of the passage of hours, including some sunlit ones in the afternoon that would have been perfect for schooling, but was powerless to take advantage of them.

Throughout Sunday night the wind blew strongly, and was gale force by Monday morning. I felt considerably better and headed to the barn to do chores, turning Larry out while I did them. The idea of actually tacking him up came and went as fast as the branches flying off the big firs, and besides, it was starting to spit raindrops like nails and the power went out.

I thought Monday was to be the end of it but no; last night it began to snow. We woke up to four heavy, wet inches of the stuff, with flurries of more - sometimes mixed with rain or hail - through this morning and early afternoon. The arena is a sloppy mess, and probably pretty sucky like quicksand as well. I can only hope for better weather tomorrow!

Friday, March 9, 2012

All work and no play....

Larry is NOT a dull boy!

I turned Larry loose in the arena yesterday for the first time when a friend came over to meet him. I was hesitant to do it too soon after his arrival here, because his owner had cautioned me that he can jump ANYthing - that's why he was gelded early on. But it went well yesterday, so I turned him out to romp again today, when I took these photos. He gave himself a good workout - more than anything I've done with him, so I finished up with a short lunging session in side-reins to get him working round and over his topline before putting him away.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We get by with a lot of help from my friends!

After posting about looking for the perfect bit, two of my blogpals emailed with offers. Laura (who has also become a dear friend IRL) sent me an oval-link eggbutt snaffle that is too small for her new horse, and Theresa sent me TWO bridles that she isn't using!

I put Laura's bit on the silver-accented bridle and rode Larry in it after the show on Sunday, but it was too dark for photos by then. Fortunately, we had time for another ride this afternoon. Here is Larry, handsomely (and happily) attired thanks to our friends!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Variety is the spice of life

This weekend was our local dressage chapter's annual late-winter show (cleverly named "Bears Above the Ground"). I went in this afternoon and volunteered for a few hours as show arena gate person, which gave me the opportunity to snap some photos of the wide variety of equines competing.

From the big
to the small;
the expected breeds
(what happened to the photo of the Friesian I thought I downloaded?)

and the "alternative breeds."
There were even a couple of mules!
(This girl, who completed earlier, had to stand near the gate to watch her girlfriend go, or else.)

From top to bottom: Shire/Oldenburg cross; pony; warmblood; thoroughbred; Arabian; Morgan; and, of course, the mules.

After playing "ringside judge," I went home and had the best ride yet on Larry. Progress!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Peeved but prepared

Around noon I dashed out to take advantage of a break in the weather and get in a short ride before leaving on an errand, and the zipper of my left paddock boot failed. I wasted valuable minutes trying to fix it, and then trying to at least move it enough to free my foot. I love Ariat paddock boots, and the zippered ones are so fast and easy and never come untied in the middle of the ride, but doggone it, the zippers fail long before the rest of the boot wears out! For quite some time I've been wearing mismatched boots thanks to the blessing of the right zipper failing on my second (black) pair, and the left zipper failing on my third (grey) pair, but I knew they were on borrowed time. So awhile back I started looking for a deal on eBay, and scored a new-in-box pair (sans zippers) that have been waiting in the wings. At least they coordinate with my current mount.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back to work after a winter break!

Our winters in the Willamette Valley consist mostly of cool temps and lots of rain gently applied. But since last weekend real winter has been toying with us, snow and all! Still, I managed to get in good rides on Larry both Sunday and Monday (thank goodness for Polarfleece breeches). Tuesday morning I had a chilly but dry window of time, but felt too pressed by my to-do list to take the time for riding or lunging. Yesterday was just downright nasty, blowing snow all day which would have accumulated to an alarming amount had we been just a few degrees colder.

So when this morning dawned sunny, I was happily surprised, and made sure to get Larry out in spite of my to-do list.

I got an email from Larry's owner this morning saying she has an inquiry on him and will give my number to the interested party. We'll see it she is just a tire-kicker or a serious buyer. No, I don't want to lose my ride so soon, but we could still have a whole season before us, too.