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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Working myself out of a job

Yesterday the trainer who looked at Larry brought her clients to try him out (we met at the covered arena where Larry and I took lessons in March). Larry was a rock star. I rode him first, then the trainer rode him, and finally the buyer rode him for quite a long time, while I basically gave her a dressage lesson (she's an experienced rider, but new to dressage). This morning the trainer emailed me that they will be making an offer. I am feeling a strange mix of emotions – pride in the improvement I've made in Larry in just three and a half short months; sadness over having to part with this fun and beautiful boy; hope that the offer goes through so he lands in a permanent, loving home; curiosity in what the future holds for me. I do hope it holds another horse, for I love the dance – no matter how painful the parting with each partner.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We interrupt this ride for . . .

If you look closely, you can see standing water in the tracks of the 20-meter circle Larry and I were riding when this started....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day to day

I think Larry would come all the way into the tack room if I invited him.

 Play time after work today.

Larry got two weather-enforced rest days after Sunday's show, but I was able to ride today when the forecast showers didn't materialize. It was a lovely ride, too; with no upcoming shows planned we worked on more advanced exercises and Larry did very well. Hopefully the weather will hold so I can school him tomorrow, too. We're planning to go horse-camping this holiday weekend (without Larry*), so he may get Friday through Monday off as well.

*We're going to a campsite without permanent pole corrals, and I'm not willing to risk high-lining someone else's horse or containing him in a single strand of battery-powered hot wire in a wilderness area.

I got an email this evening from the trainer who looked at Larry last Sunday, and she wants to bring her client down to meet Larry and try him out. Mixed feelings here; I don't want to lose my ride but it sounds like a wonderful place for Larry to land. I really like Larry and would love to own him myself, but since that's not financially possible, I want an excellent home for him.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My easy-in, easy-out braiding method

After Larry's and my first show three weeks ago, Shula asked me to post a tutorial on the way I braid. So as I braided Larry for today's show (a report on the show at bottom), I took step-by-step photos to show the process I've come up with. It really is quick and easy both to do and undo, perfect for one-day shows.

First I assemble my tools:
That's a cheap plastic hair clip, a broken comb, and a bag of inexpensive elastic braid binders resting on the lid of the grooming box I store them in, which doubles as a solid stool to stand on. Then I put as many binders as comfortably possible on my left little finger so they are handy.

Today Larry's mane was still wet from his bath; otherwise I use Quic Braid spray to dampen the mane without making it slick (it actually adds a nice amount of grip).

Starting next to the bridle path, eyeball a reasonable section of mane, using your comb to make a straight part and the clip to keep the rest of the mane out of your way. The width of your section will depend on the thickness of your horse's mane; you don't want real thick braids or the finishing step is harder and the results less pleasing.

Make two quick parts in the section so you have three relatively equal strands to braid, and –

braid! At the end, secure with a binder. Tip: if you always start with the same strand, your braids will look and lay the same.

Repeat down the neck, trying to keep your sections equal in width, until the mane is all braided.

I like to finish my braids in the order I started, but you can do them in whatever order you want. All you do is fold a braid in half –

and then in half again –

followed by quickly securing your fat little beauty with another binder. Note: this step may take a little practice to get results you are happy with. If you don't like the way a braid looks, it's easy to pop off that last binder (see below) and try again. You'll soon get the hang of folding, holding and securing consistently.


For a long, silky forelock like Larry's, my preferred method is to braid off to one side and tuck it under the browband and cheekpiece of the bridle to secure it.

To me, at least half the beauty of this method is the ease of removal. Just reach under and grab the end of the braid closest to the crest –
and the second binder you applied just pops off. (I save and reuse them.) Pull the binder off the end –
and you're ready to run your fingers through the strands and set the mane free!

So, how did that beautifully coiffed boy and I do at our second show together? Well, Larry and I had a long, tiring day – too tiring for Larry, I think. This morning the Arab trainer shopping for horses for her clients came to see Larry. The meteorologist got the weather wrong, and it was raining. Still, I saddled and lunged him for the lady, leaving my saddle cover on to try and keep my saddle drier. When the cover billowed, Larry acted like a predator was on his back, tucking his tail and kicking up at it with his outside hind leg. He wasn't too crazy about getting rain in his face, either. But I got on and put him through his paces, followed by the trainer doing the same. She seemed to like him; we will see what happens.

Larry got a short break before I bathed him and braided his mane, and another short break while I took a shower. Then we took off for the show venue nearly an hour and a half away. We had plenty of time to get ready once we arrived, so he got a long, slow warm-up before our first test, which didn't go as well as I expected. He had a hitch in his get-along, popping up and switching leads in the back. It got worse during his second warm-up, and he had some major resistance and threw in a couple of bucks in the second test. There were still some lovely moments (I had the rides recorded on DVD and watched them when I got home), but overall I was disappointed. I have a strong suspicion that all the strange hitches and misbehavior were from fatigue, because he wasn't 'off' at any time and he didn't show any tenderness when I groomed him at the end. He did get far more time under saddle (with nearly six hours in the trailer on top of it) than I've ever put him through in the three months I've had him; what could I expect? Poor guy!

If Larry doesn't sell and I have another chance to show him, I'm going to try a very short warm-up, mostly letting him walk and stretch on a loose rein, then gather up the reins and head into the show arena. Every horse is different; I'm still figuring out the right routine for Larry.

Friday, May 18, 2012


No, not about the show. I just got off the phone with a lady who is interested in Larry. She has been training and showing horses and clients on the Arabian and Half-Arabian circuit for years, and is looking for the right horse for several different clients. Larry sounds like he could be just what she is looking for. She's coming to see him here Sunday morning before traveling on to Salem to look at a couple more horses. Guess it's a good thing I haven't entered any more shows yet!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Making hay while the sun shines

We are on the tail end of an early summer-in-spring cycle, and farmers have been dropping hay all over the area. I'm hoping this means hay will be in plentiful supply this year, making it more reasonable. If so, I'd love to stuff our barn as full as possible while we can. Unfortunately there is still some old hay in the way; we ran out of horse hay and had to buy some more in early spring, there's some certified weed-free hay from last year we've saved for horse-camping trips where it is required, and there is still some third-cutting orchard grass for the sheep.

I've been able to take full advantage of the good weather in schooling Larry, too. We've made notable progress in the last week, especially in counter canter and transitions within gaits, which indicates he's getting stronger. He's also not testing me like he was; I'm thinking he's figured out that I've got his number, and none of his spooking, bucking behaviors work with me.

Or maybe it's because with all this warm weather, the horses are finally getting out on pasture for a few hours every day! Photo taken from my bedroom window.

Our next show is this coming Sunday, at a new-to-me venue. Unless the weather is "very inclement," the show will be held in an outdoor arena. Hopefully this will be less scary to Larry than the covered arena at our first show. Speaking of our first show, my new laptop is able to communicate with my husband's memory card, so below are some photos he took there.

 Blurry, but I like Larry's outline.

 Cropped, but I like my shoulder-hip-heel alignment.

Candid conversation shot during warm-up.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Unexpected company

Whee; I managed to school Larry three days in a row this week, starting with Sunday! (Spent yesterday in the hospital with my son; hope to get back on today.)

As I led Larry into the arena on Tuesday, I saw a small dark spot in the sand – then it moved. I walked closer (this is why my camera is almost always slung around my neck), and saw it was a mole.

It didn't act well. I got a manure fork from the barn and gently moved it into the grassy strip between arena and barn, where it promptly headed into the leaf litter – then it stopped. It was still there at the end of my ride, motionless in death.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Slim pickin's

Photo during one of our tests courtesy of a friend.

After showing last Sunday, I was only able to ride twice this week – Tuesday and Friday. The other days were either too wet or too crammed full of other commitments. But I have yet to go more than two days in a row without working Larry; not a bad track record (IMO) for the 12 weeks I've had him.

Both times I rode this week, Larry had some buck in him. Just a wee bit on Tuesday; much more yesterday. Riding him through these "yeehaws," and through the spooking at the show, is re-building my confidence exponentially. I say RE-building, because historically I've been a pretty fearless rider. But the combination of becoming a mom, having dependable Russell for so long, and getting older eroded a little of that. Either that, or I'm getting a little wiser with age. :-)

Last Sunday I finally obtained a basic timeline on Larry's recent history from his owner. The last time he was shown was in 2009. In 2010 he was ridden in some clinics; in 2011 he was used for some lessons. Based on my brief history with him, that last point surprised me. Larry isn't what I'd call an "easy ride," although I've ridden tougher. At any rate, learning what I did made me feel even better about our progress so far. Onward and forward!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A couple of photos from the show

Rick, Brian and several friends came to watch Larry and I show last Sunday, including Wanda. Wanda and I met through fiber (her husband makes the most wonderful Turkish spindles), and then we learned we also have many other things in common, including a love of horses. (She and I shared a special beach ride together last September.) I was tickled that she was able (and desired) to come; it was great to have her support and be able to catch up a bit between my two classes.

Wanda took some photos during our warm-up (thank-you, Wanda!). The designated warm-up arena was in another building cheek-to-jowl with the Oregon Ag Fest, a beehive of activity and noise from various farm animals, a crackling loudspeaker and lots of families with kids and strollers. Because of that, most competitors chose to warm up in an open area outside the two competition arenas, even though the footing wasn't ideal.

This photo shows the end result of my braiding job.
As requested, I will do a photo tutorial on how I braid sometime this month.

Several of my friends commented on how much they loved Larry's ears during our warm-up. They were telegraphing how relaxed and attentive he was. (Later, in the tests, they telegraphed how terrified he was of the end of the arena where the judge's stand was; ha!)

There may be more photos yet to come. Rick shot some during our tests, but we haven't been able to download them to my computer yet.