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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inspiration for the coming year(s)

Recently I learned about Fynn (click on his name to read a Chronicle of the Horse article on him) on one of the horse blogs I follow. Fynn's accomplishments are impressive in and of themselves; the backstory makes them the stuff of fairy tales! Here are some year-old videos of Fynn on YouTube:

I think he looks remarkably like Lance; they are even the same height. (Interestingly, several people have said they think Lance looks like a draft cross, which Fynn is; personally, I don't see it in Lance.) I would be thrilled to dance at that level one day with Lance; one can't dream much higher than competing successfully at Grand Prix!

Or can one? I've always said I want to keep riding until I die; that's an even more important goal to me than competing at Grand Prix. So I was thrilled to read that Carey Evans was honored at the 2013 Oregon Dressage Society Awards Banquet. In 2006, 84-year-old Carey was the first woman from the Northwest to qualify for the Dressage Foundation's prestigious "Century Club," winning her class on her homebred 16-year-old Hanoverian/TB mare. Now 91 years old, Carey still rides. Here, here!


Lance and I had a great schooling session today. We repeated the exercises Julie had us do yesterday, and must have done them correctly because we both worked up a sweat and got good results. Then we walked down the lane to get the mail and cool out. I don't know if we'll be able to go to the beach to ride tomorrow, but we WILL ride. :-)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pre-New Year's lesson

I had a lesson with Julie today. Lance and I both tired quickly, which tells me I've been taking it too easy in our schooling sessions at home. Still, Julie remarked on our progress, and challenged me to step up my expectations a notch in order to help Lance improve even more. I was not aware that I was allowing Lance to be so crooked, especially in canter and canter departs. When I get his shoulders lined up with his hindquarters, his gaits improve and his frame opens dramatically, demonstrating why straightness is so important.

I was going to wear these,
a Christmas present from my sweet husband (I helped him shop eBay for a really good deal), but it was too damp and chilly to forego my fleecy winter breeches.

I took these photos yesterday after Rick graded our arena; it's been foggy like this for a week! Oh well, the sand isn't frozen hard or sloppy wet and I have warm riding clothes, so Lance and I can keep working on our dance routines. ;-)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Post-Christmas pea soup

No, not to eat; we're talking the thickest fog I've ever seen! I went out to ride this afternoon, and Brian decided to ride, too. He took Breezy down the road to get the mail, and Lance and Oliver were beside themselves with her departure. I decided to tie up the reins and turn Lance loose rather than deal with it under saddle.

I think I made a wise choice, don't you? ;-)

Once Lance told me he was ready, we had a very nice ride. Not quite as fantastic as our Christmas Eve ride; his canter departs that day were the most willing and easy he's ever given me. Guess it was my Christmas present from Lance. What a boy; I am so blessed!

Monday, December 23, 2013


Yesterday my dressage mustang got to be a cow pony! It was my husband's idea after I suggested we go for a family ride; he likes to play with cows on horseback even though he no longer has his cutting horse. I'm all for giving horses new experiences and schooling in new settings (all my horses have been exposed to working cattle thanks to my husband's interest), so off we hauled to a friend's little indoor arena.

This was only the second time Lance has seen cattle, and the first time for him to be in close quarters with one. Approaching them was okay; having one advance on him was another story entirely! He never lost his head completely, though, and in the end he learned that he could make the steer move, a great first lesson for a young horse. Then we cooled our horses out on a lovely little trail ride through the woods on our friend's property.

This makes the second family horseback outing in as many months; if Rick agrees to go to the beach again on New Year's Day, that will make it three for three. I say; why not make it a monthly habit!?!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Naughty and nice; checking my list

I've gotten in three good schooling sessions since going to the beach, and am really pleased with my big red goober (lately labeled Lancy-Pants Fancy-Pants). Yesterday he did attempt to cop an attitude while I was getting him ready, which was v-e-r-y ill-advised of him considering the morning I had had with my son. (Sometimes Lance makes ugly faces – or worse – when I start grooming him; I suspect he learned he could intimidate his breeder with such behavior.) I roared, loud enough for neighbors to hear, "Don't EVEN go there with me; I don't tolerate that kind of attitude from Brian and I will NOT tolerate it from you!!!" Lance straightened right up; if only my son could be corrected as easily....

Besides schooling, I've been doing other things necessary to be ready for the 2014 show season. My Oregon Dressage Society membership has been renewed, I've upgraded my USDF membership to Participating for the first time in several years, Lance now has his USDF Lifetime Horse Registration, and his USDF All-Breed Awards Declaration Form is on file. Whew; I'm letting my checkbook recover awhile before I re-up my long-lapsed USEF membership! Plus, I don't want to spend all my money on paperwork; I want to take some lessons. But lessons will probably have to wait until after the holidays.

Speaking of holidays, I'm trying to talk Rick into another family ride on the beach on New Year's Day. As I've mentioned before, I do everything within my power to start each new year on horseback; horseback on the beach with my family would be AWESOME!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Old friends, new partners

YES! We made it to the beach yesterday, Kate and me and our young equine partners! We went to Bob Straub State Park (a first for both of us), which had a huge parking lot, restroom, and a scenic trail to the beach through forest and dune.
It was a foggy, gray day, but the temperature was comfortable, the wind was calm, and we had the beach mostly to ourselves – in other words, it was just about perfect. As were our horses! Kate has only had her filly for two weeks, but Dinah wa a good as gold. She handled all the new things she encountered with aplomb, only acting a bit nervous about a big sign, and a jogger who came up from behind us. And what a nice walk and trot she has! Kate has definitely found herself a treasure in this Welsh Cob x Trakehner.

I was proud of my boy, too. Lance was less worried about the surf this time, although we still didn't make it into the water. (A little wave did lap at his heels, which alarmed him but he survived. ;-) Logs were no biggy; foam was defeated; wet sand was accepted; and all three gaits were practiced.

Haystack Rock is barely visible on the right side through the fog
Bonus: Kate got some photos of us!

It's a good thing we didn't attempt our trip last Sunday. After our ride we stopped for soup and pastries at The Grateful Bread (great name AND food!), and the lady there said last Sunday it was 12 degrees with snow on the ground – on the Oregon Coast!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Weather watch

We're still frozen here, although it's supposed to thaw some time this week. Interestingly enough, Lance has calmed down, and no longer seems in danger of self-combusting. I'm spending the time I would be riding doing extra chores, stoking the woodstove, making airport runs, and prepping for Christmas. (I should be using some of it to work out off the holiday goodies I've been eating!) I'll be back in the saddle just as soon as I can . . . say, on Sunday? On the beach? My friend and I are hoping!

Yesterday morning I noticed that Breezy was quite lame in her right hind. I did a little palpating, cleaned out her foot, and gave her a couple grams of Bute. Last night she looked normal so I held off on the meds; this morning she was lame again so she's on a gram twice a day. Her vet returns home tomorrow night, so hopefully he can check her out shortly thereafter.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Guess who!

Do you recognize this nose?
Hint: It's not Lance
Last night when I went to a church ladies' Christmas party, I slipped out to the frigid barn for a tryst with an old flame.
Hey, Muscle Man! How have you been?

The party was held where Russell lives now. I haven't seen my old dancing partner since he left nearly two years ago – shortly after making contact with his now-owner at the same place and occasion as last night. Last year I avoided visiting Russell for fear it would be too painful, not having my own horse to fill his stall. Now that I have Lance, I could do it. How thankful I am that Russell has this perfect retirement home at which to live out his days, enjoying turn-out on pasture every day, and the (very) occasional short trail ride! I gave him a couple apple slices and a good rub before bidding him good-bye.

There was no beach ride for me or this guy today, and believe me, he needed it!*

I could have gotten down our hill okay, but wasn't sure what Highway 18 over the coast range would be like. Since the temperatures weren't supposed to be significantly warmer at the beach, Kate and I decided to postpone our date for more comfortable weather  – maybe next Sunday.

*In the comments on my last post, a couple of you suggested I just turn Lance out on pasture to deal with his pent-up energy. Sorry; that's way too risky for my blood – or should I say my heart. Orthopedic trauma surgeons don't let their kids on trampolines because they see the kinds of injuries that can occur. As the wife of a equine veterinarian specializing in lameness, I've seen what horses can do to themselves in turn-out – especially on hard, frozen, slick, sloped ground. On top of that, I spent three or four years dealing with Russell's round-robin lamenesses from assorted suspensory injuries in all four legs, and then watched him run by a tree, catching his hip with a glancing blow that fractured his left tuber coxae. Turn out old Breezy? I'm sure she'd be fine. Turn out young, fit, frustrated Lance? With my luck he'd break a leg.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Watching with baited – and frosty – breath

I got in another good ride on Tuesday afternoon before our world froze up again. Then I started fretting. Lance is young and fit and needs an active outlet – something I can't safely give him right now. So he's been enlarging the "window" in his stall (mind you he has an attached paddock that is open on three sides):

Yesterday afternoon my MIL was here helping my son construct his birthday cake, so I decided to get Lance out for at least a careful walk. After a few laps around the arena, we went down the lane to get the mail. We did a wee bit of trotting on the road, including some trot/halt/trot transitions, along with lots of little leg yields and shoulder-fore at the walk. It really wasn't much of a ride and Lance was left with energy and attitude to burn, so I was pleased to see a foamy mouth when we got back to the barn:

Unfortunately, THIS greeted us this morning:

(Yes, it was dark; my DH and I were up early to get chores done before I had to take him to the airport.) Yesterday the friend with whom I've planned a beach ride on Sunday emailed me expressing anticipation. I've been eagerly looking forward to it, too, and have child care worked out and everything. But there's no way I'm attempting to navigate our slick hill towing a horse trailer, and I don't see things changing in the next 36 hours. At least not the weather or road conditions. My horse's P&V quotient? That's bound to ramp up a lot over the next few days!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rodeos, fiascos, and windows

With meeting my friend's new horse and all the other stuff that had to be done on Friday, I didn't get to ride that day or the next. I did turn everyone out in the arena Saturday afternoon to burn off some steam, and boy, did they! (I took some video, but deemed it "not that exciting." Sure was fun to watch them run and buck and roll and rear, though!)

Yesterday's gloomy gray clouds kept threatening rain, but didn't do more than spit occasionally. We were able to harvest a surprisingly dry Christmas tree from our neighbor's lot, then my MIL came out to help us decorate it and eat lunch. After she left, I realized the time and weather were cooperating to give me a window in which to ride. Whee! But before I could get out the door our Christmas tree crashed to the floor (see my other blog), and dealing with THAT huge mess ended all thoughts of riding (except for pining over lost opportunity).

Today was supposed to be a soaker, so when I woke up and saw some breaks in the clouds, I donned breeches for morning chores. Lance and I got sprinkled on just a little bit, but we managed to get in a good school. There have been other breaks in the weather since (between rain and hail showers) when it's been tempting to ride again, since it's supposed to get cold tonight and stay that way (read: "concrete" arena footing again) the rest of the week. Alas, I have other responsibilities, so one ride today will be all Lance gets!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Back to the future

Today my friend Kate took delivery on her new horse, a four-year-old Welsh Cob named Dinah. I think I was as excited as she was!

Kate and I became friends nearly 24 years ago, shortly after we moved to Oregon. We lived near each other, both had horses, and spent countless hours riding together – in her little arena, on roads and trails near our homes, on the beach, and at clinics and horse shows. Then she sold all her "big" horses and got "little" horses – miniatures. While we've remained friends, I've missed my riding buddy. Turns out she's missed riding, too!

Kate's birthday is coming up, so for her birthday I want to take her and our horses to the beach where Rick took us for my birthday. I've already arranged for a sitter for December 8; now we just need the weather to cooperate!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving thanks...

...for my big red goober! ;-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving week update

Yesterday our arena finally thawed out enough that Lance and I could really school, so we made tracks...
Today we made tracks outside the arena. I didn't have a lot of time but wanted to get Lance out on this beautiful day, so I decided to ride him down the lane to get the mail. The skyscape was striking, so I rode farther up the hill to get some unobstructed photos:

When we turned toward home, we were treated to a snowcapped Mt. Jefferson:

I am hoping to get in a couple more rides this week if I can fit them in among the holiday activities. According to the weather forecast, my arena will turn into concrete again next week; brrrr!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Working through frozen/frisky/frustrated

I rode Sunday, then couldn't fit a ride in again until yesterday (thanks, life). After three days off, Lance's energy had reached critical mass, and so had my need to ride. Problem was, our weather had gone from 'Pacific NW winter' (gray/wet) to 'Midwest winter' (sunny/windy/cold). Why is that a problem? Our sand arena freezes, and "rough concrete" is not a conducive surface for schooling or keeping one's horse safe and sound! But keeping a young, fit horse cooped up isn't good, either, so yesterday I tacked Lance up and put him on the lunge line (for the first time in many months) to limit his exuberance.

Okay, so it didn't limit his exuberance; it just contained its expression somewhat. I was amazed – and thankful – that he didn't slip and fall. Once he calmed down,

I got on and rode for a bit. Given the footing, I didn't feel comfortable asking for much more than walk, but we worked on leg yields, soft halts, and a few transitions where the footing had loosened up some. Lance got some exercise and I got some saddle time, so mission accomplished. I plan to go out and do the same again this afternoon.


On the matchmaking front, my horse-shopping friend has found her partner. It is not the wonderful little mustang mare I was hoping she'd fall in love with; she had already set her heart on a Welsh Cob, and found a nice, started four-year-old mare. So I passed on the mustang mare's information to another friend who is looking.... ;-)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Equine/equestrian equations

Alfalfa + atmosphere = "Arab"

It's been dry, but brisk and windy today. I got Lance out for a ride this afternoon, and as I was leading him to the arena I stopped to take some photos. He danced around at the end of the reins and continued into the arena on tippy-toes, so I decided to tie up his reins and turn him loose for a bit to work out the yeehaws. That didn't seem to help much; there were obviously horse-eating dragons in the neighborhood!
(It's amazing how much shorter his back looks when he's doing his Arab impression!)

Slow ≠ stupid

I decided we'd make faster progress under saddle, so I mounted. No, I wasn't wearing my helmet – that was me being slow. It didn't take me long to decide that if we were facing horse-eating dragons, I'd better be smart enough to don full armor!

While Lance never completely forgot about the dragons, he did give me some really nice work. I could have asked him for more, but decided to end on a good note and put him back in the safety of the barn with some hay to distract him.

Quality > quantity

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Shades of my childhood

I bought myself an early Christmas present:

I saw this ornament in a catalog and it looked so much like Lance (imho) that I just had to have it. The fact that it is a Breyer resin ornament brings warm childhood memories from the years I spent imagining myself on the backs of the many model horses I owned. I still have most of them, packed away in a box somewhere....

Yesterday I spent some time figuring out what memberships I need to renew in order to compete in recognized competitions with Lance next year. In the process, I was shocked to learn I now qualify to compete in the Vintage Cup category for All-Breed Awards. ACK!!! When did THAT happen?!?

In other news, I've been playing matchmaker for a friend. She was the primary reason I got into dressage over 20 years ago (okay, so that's how I ended up "vintage" /-: ), then she abandoned me for miniature horses for at least a decade. Now she wants a riding horse again, and I think I've found her the perfect horse – a mustang mare! Twenty years ago we both competed on Morgans; it would be fun to have "matching breeds" again. :-)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Our first beach ride; YAY!

I love to ride on the beach, and I've been antsy to take Lance ever since I got him. In fact, I planned to take him to the beach before bringing him home – since he was living at a stable on the coast! But that didn't work out, and neither have any of the trips I've tried to plan all this year.

This summer my son and I accompanied Rick to a vet call north of Pacific City. His client lives across the road from the best access to the best beach I've seen for riding. I've been campaigning to go back with our horses ever since, to no avail. Until yesterday.

We didn't have long to ride, so I didn't have time to work Lance through all his concerns about this strange new experience, but I was proud of how well he did. By the end he was walking calmly on shiny, wet sand, although still avoiding (but no longer scrambling madly away from) foamy wavelets advancing upon us. The stress of it all left him a sweaty boy, however!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Have we finally found 'forward'?

Although it was gray on Friday, the rain held off. Determined to have time to ride, I hustled through my responsibilities and headed to the barn. Lance was a sweetheart while I groomed and tacked him up (sometimes he's a pill), and his usual low-energy self as we warmed up and went to work. But wonder of wonders, I again had energy at my disposal at the canter! Every time I closed my legs, I got a delightful surge into medium canter, followed by the ability to bring him back to a more collected canter (instead of breaking into a trot) more often than not.

This is a delightful development, and I'm not totally sure from whence it comes. Along with physical development, good instruction, and (hopefully) effective riding, I wonder if higher octane fuel may be contributing. For the last week, I've been giving all the horses a little alfalfa along with their grass hay. We found some 2012 valley hay at the back of the stack, so the horses have been getting that instead of the 2013 second-cutting orchard grass. We also had 6-7 bales of 2012 alfalfa left, and I figured I might as well supplement the low-protein valley hay with a bit of that. Since Lance is in regular training, he gets more.

Then again, why would the alfalfa give him more energy in one isolated area? It's a mystery, so I'll just –

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kinda like Double Dutch

Today is one of those changeable weather days that illustrates the quip, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Sprinkles? Deluge? Sunshine? Wind? We have it all!

It started out pretty wet, and I could feel the agitation rising. I try my best not to have more than two "off" days between rides in order to keep Lance (and me, too) sound in mind and body, and it looked like the weather was going to make it three "off" days. But then the sun came out . . . when I was in the middle of something, of course. I finally got my breeches on and headed to the barn, keeping my eye on the W/SW sky and hoping I hadn't wasted my window. Trying to get in rides during our wet season feels a lot like playing Double Dutch jump-rope; timing is everything and the weather is a tricky turner!

We were on the tail-end of our warm-up when it started to sprinkle a little. No matter; we aren't made of sugar. (I'm like that with walking and jogging, too. I won't start out when it's raining, but if I'm already underway, I figure I might as well keep on trucking.)

We started working on canter. Got some really nice trot-canter departs, and Lance's canter was much more forward than usual; it was awesome! Walk-canter departs were much rougher, but by then, the wind and rain were picking up and I think both of us were distracted by the conditions. We finally made a dash through the arena gate, around the corner and into the barn aisle, me still in the saddle to keep it as dry as possible:

The only dry spot on Lance's body was under the saddle pad; the only dry spot on me was where I had been in contact with the saddle. I'm not sure we actually worked long enough to qualify as a schooling session, but that's the way it goes!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Children and fools

Yesterday was gray, damp and chilly, but the rain held off. I was thankful for that, because we had a lesson with Julie, and it's no fun getting self and tack all wet before and after!

We made significant progress with Julie's help, both Lance and I. After warming up we worked on basics for awhile. My feet tend to hover in the stirrups, so Julie had me work on keeping my knees more relaxed so I could drop my leg down and back. I needed the usual reminders to keep my hands on their own sides of Lance's neck; I have a bad habit, particularly when we're tracking right, of bringing my right hand too near or even across the withers. It is an incorrect reaction to Lance's right-side stiffness, and counterproductive. Another "basics" habit I need to be reminded of is to always give my hands forward in the transitions.

Lance had some basics to take responsibility for as well. First and foremost for him is to be – and stay –forward. He is such an energy conserver! And I sometimes fall into the trap of "continuous encouragement." Julie reminded me that it really is kinder, as well as much more effective, to get after him with an "8 or 9" correction once and be done with it for awhile rather than nagging. Other times, particularly when I am asking him to transition from a free walk to a collected walk, he tries to trick me into taking my legs off by jigging. Instead, he needs to accept my legs, gather his energy in the walk, and be "available." Only then is he ready and able to transition correctly from walk to canter, something we worked on in our lesson. Lance did not like my asking him to work that hard and expressed his opinion by kicking out a few times, but then he got over it and really tried. Woohoo!

We also worked on baby canter/counter-canter serpentines. Lance and I were both struggling even though we do full figure-eights in each lead at home. Lance assumed we were going to cross the diagonal with the first turn out of the corner, and I was not dealing with his brace successfully until Julie instructed me to keep him in a slight haunches-in. Bingo; success!

A funny aside; after our first successful serpentine execution, the three observers in the corner – who had been there all along – cheered, and Lance spooked. We all burst out laughing over that. One of those observers took a photo of us with my camera:

He's the same friend who took the photo of Russell and me in the header, BTW.

I was going to give Lance the day off today, because he worked so hard and got sooo tired yesterday (his one-horse melodrama also made everyone laugh). But last night's forecast didn't predict many dry periods this week, so I decided to ride this morning while I could. Lance was a rock star!


So what of the children (Lance) and fools (me)? Well, yesterday evening my husband and son took the truck and horse trailer to pick up some furniture at my MIL's. It seemed to be taking them a long time to leave, so I stepped outside to see what was up. Turns out the slider in the truck was the one with the 2" ball, which my husband had used to pull the flatbed trailer for firewood. I didn't realize we had two step-down sliders, so when I looked at the slider in the truck before Brian hitched me up yesterday morning, I saw the step-down and assumed it was the one with the 2 5/8" ball. Rick was able to lift the horse trailer's hitch off the 2" ball without unlatching it; that it didn't come off when I hauled Lance to and from our lesson was blessed providence. So thankful!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Looking for winter... the looks of that winter coat!

Yesterday after our short schooling session, I clipped Lance's bridle path. Yeah, we're really high maintenance around here. ;-)

I miss my summer-slick boy, but he'll be back next year.