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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Remember Larry and Moe?

Here's Curly!

That is the only photo I got of Larry at the show, and I haven't had a chance to watch our tests on DVD yet. I know it's not going to be pretty; Larry was sure there was a horse-eating tiger at the end of the arena where the judge was sitting and he wouldn't go near there in the first test and was very wary about it in the second test. But apparently when he wasn't shying and spinning we did okay, because we ended up with scores in the 60s – much to my surprise!

When he got home, Larry was rewarded with some time out on pasture. Can you see why the judge called him a "her" on our score sheet? (He is a pretty boy!)   :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No more feathers

Where did a Danish warmblood/Arabian get all that leg hair anyway?

It's funny how much more official Larry looks now, minus the goaty beard on his chinny-chin-chin (jawbone) and the drafty fringe on his legs.

Four more days 'til showtime!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Getting excited

My confidence in Larry's preparation for the upcoming show is building. We had really good schooling sessions yesterday and today; the better I ride, the better he goes. (Heh. Funny how that works!) I start off with riding through both tests at walk on a long rein, which gives him a good warm-up, then we work on connection, gaits and transitions.

Yesterday and today have been summer-like, with record high temps for the dates. Yesterday after I schooled him I thought I'd give the sweaty boy a bath, but he was so freaked out by the sight of the hose that I postponed it for today, when I knew I'd have more time. It didn't take long for him to settle down, and he got a good scrubbing with medicated shampoo. I also used the clippers to tidy up his chin; will do his hairy legs another day. He wasn't at all comfortable with the clippers near his bridle path or ears, so I just scissor-trimmed those areas. After I was done cleaning him up, I took a couple photos to share. It gives me great satisfaction to see him filling out and starting to shine!

Hopefully the sheet will keep him clean enough that all I'll need to bathe before the show will be his head and legs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


...about making it to the show, if not necessarily about doing well there.

I took it easy with Larry for a week, giving him Bute twice a day, lunging him carefully, and riding only at the walk. I consulted with my vet (my husband), Julie (the clinician who has worked with Larry and me), and Suzan (my all-time favorite instructor with the excellent "eye"), and the consensus was that feed and exercise has Larry feeling foxy, then he tweaked himself or got sore, causing his patella to lock. His patella hasn't locked again, and I am concertedly limiting his opportunities to practice his bucking skills while continuing to condition him carefully. Today was the second time since last Monday that I've asked him for more than a walk under saddle, and the first time I've really worked him, and he was fine. So I have started memorizing our tests and will school the various elements as best we can in my small arena.

Yesterday I didn't have time to tack Larry up so I turned him out in the arena to stretch his legs for a few minutes - and took a few photos. It's hard to see gradual changes when you are around the object changing on a daily basis, but yesterday it was obvious even to me that he has gained weight and muscle. His ribs no longer show at any angle; his neck looks fuller, and his back and hips don't look as bony. He's shedding prodigiously, too, and the rain rot seems to have gone away. Hurray!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More surprises

Yesterday morning while doing chores, I thought I caught a glimpse of Larry moving oddly in his back end several times. But when I'd stop and watch him or ask him to move intentionally, everything appeared normal.

Later I had a chance to ride so I went to his stall to tack him up. Again, I thought I caught glimpses of something, but it wasn't until I picked out his hind feet that the problem walked up and shook my hand - his left patella locked! Fortunately, Rick came home for lunch so I had him come down to evaluate Larry. Nothing showed up at first - even when Larry ripped the lead rope out of my (ungloved; ahem) hands and took off running and bucking around the arena - until Rick picked up Larry's right hind foot. We both saw him lock his left hind then, and it stayed locked when Rick tried to pick it up.

The experts in ISELP (The International Society of Equine Locomotor Pathology, of which Rick is a member) believe a locking patella is caused by either sore muscles and/or lack of condition, which can be exacerbated by conformation (straight stifles). The recommendations are slow and careful conditioning/strengthening of the hindquarters (which I feel I have been doing) and NSAIDS. We gave Larry a loading dose of Bute and I lunged him - during which he took off and bucked repeatedly like a first-string rodeo bronc to the point of lathering his neck and chest (but only when circling right).

All this is definitely a huge new wrinkle in things. I'm in wait-and-see mode about our show entry on April 29. Meanwhile, I'm headed out to saddle up Larry for a long walk in long and low frame....

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cracker Jack: There's a surprise inside!

In spite of the variable weather, I've been managing to work in regular rides on Larry, trying to implement the excellent instruction I got from Julie's lessons. Our first show is three weeks from Sunday, but at this point I'm not even thinking about the tests.

Anyway, I was schooling Larry yesterday in trot-canter-trot transitions, when all of a sudden, he threw his nose up, grabbed the bit and bolted down the long side of the arena, adding in a few bucks (not very good ones since he didn't put his head down) for good measure. I will admit that the one-rein stop is not instinctive for me, but self-preservation is, so I stuck with him until I brought him back under control. Then we proceeded to canter 10-15 meter circles for a few minutes before going back to work.

I have no idea what sparked Larry's behavior; he could have seen or heard something that startled him, or just felt feisty and wanted to try something. When you get a horse in poor condition like Larry was when we got him, sometimes you don't really know what you've got until they get some groceries and conditioning and start feeling better!