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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy!

(Did anyone else love that show?)

Rick checked out Lance today, ultrasounding the area of the suspensory tear in his right front and performing flexion tests on his right front and both hind legs. Everything checked out fine, and we are cleared for regular work – commensurate with Lance's level of fitness, of course. I confess to some excited hopping around, and I might have hugged and kissed my vet. ;-)

Tomorrow I will mail in our show entry, and we will continue to work on the basics of walk-trot, trot-walk, and walk-halt transitions, as well as going truly forward. Since Lance is greener than Horton was and less fit than Larry started out, this show will be a lot more about giving Lance some exposure to a show environment and very little of seeing how well we can do. There will also be the fun of having people try to figure out what breed he is. ;-)

And Lance is all about having fun; I've fished his Jolly Ball out of the stock tank and from the other side of his paddock fence numerous times.

Official stall plate notwithstanding, he really is just a great big red lovable goober!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


As I've mentioned before, I'm still on the Swedish Warmblood Yahoo list. I'm SO glad, because otherwise I may not have seen THIS.

LOVE the music, too; reminds me somewhat of Mannheim Steamroller.

A post of a more personal and mundane nature later. ;-)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Magic trick pony

It must be the pixie dust!

Okay, so Lance just can't stand still. :-)

The temps have warmed and the footing has thawed so we're once again able to do more than just walk. I even turned Lance loose for a little frolic yesterday when a friend came by to meet him. That was probably not the smartest choice, but he didn't rip-snort too much . . . I hope. Rick has mentioned wanting to do a follow-up ultrasound; I'm hoping he'll do it Sunday. If everything still looks good, I'm going to enter our dressage GMO's League show in February. I have a free class entry for winning a high-point award on Horton; I figure Lance and I can handle a walk-trot class without too much embarrassment. :-)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Entertainment, warmth and pride

This is what greeted me at the barn this morning – and it's not the first time. My mouthy mustang apparently wants to play "pick up sticks." We are going to have to keep the broom and manure forks somewhere else. But never fear; besides the milk jug hanging from the rafter in his stall, I bought Lance a Jolly Ball!

It was on sale, so I added it to the cart when I ordered Lance's stall plate from Dover Saddlery. Those SSG winter gloves and Kerrits Powerstretch full-seat breeches were on sale and might have found their way into my cart, too. The stall plate is still en route, but the rest arrived today. And you know what? My hands stayed warm for the first time during this cold snap! And while I'm not usually a fan of full-seat breeches, these are very comfortable, warm, and even have a cell-phone pocket on the thigh. Score!

Lance didn't get out yesterday and was self-combusting in his stall this frosty morning, so I was expecting airs above the ground this afternoon when I finally got a chance to exercise him. But other than the usual difficulty of keeping the rein out of his mouth while leading him around, he was a gentleman on the ground and under saddle. This in spite of the scary rams being out in their lot and my son "prowling" around in the foggy woods wielding a hatchet (what can I say; he's 11)! I praised Lance to high heaven for being so brave and steady, and have been smiling ever since. :-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Therapeutic riding

Even though it was a damp and dreary, frigid and foggy day and I feel like I'm fighting off some sort of bug, I dutifully ventured out to work with Lance this afternoon. He was much calmer than yesterday (except for his ever-busy mouth) and I enjoyed our ride. I even got to see some of it, because Brian was willing to shoot some video with my camera; yay!

What I learned is that Lance looks much better than he feels, although it's still obvious he is green. Usually I have the opposite reaction when I see videos of myself riding – it felt better than it looks.

Another plus is that Lance always has "lipstick" at the end of our rides, a good indication of a relaxed jaw.

I'm so glad Lance demands regular exercise; after riding I felt better than I had all day!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Actually, that would be a "tackroom horse"

Lance would probably walk right into our tackroom if I asked him to; his foot was on the threshold when I took this photo. Not that I would; there's not enough room! His lack of fear makes it easy to stow my helmet, saddle and whip at the end of our rides, though.

By today the arena footing had finally thawed enough to do more than walk. I don't know if it was the increased traction, changing weather patterns or just youthful exuberance that made Lance practice his high-flying airs above the ground on the end of the reins as I hand-walked him prior to mounting. Too bad I haven't gotten his acrobatics on video; they are quite impressive! When I finally did get on he minded his manners, but I didn't push my luck beyond some trot work.

So. I've had a vague but niggling concern about Lance's right hind for awhile now. There isn't much to go on; the main thing I can point to is that he rests it more often than the left hind. He has also stumbled in the back end a few times under saddle, and while I haven't caught which foot misstepped, I'm suspicious. There's no heat, no swelling, no limping. I know my worry threshold is very low with this horse, given the results of his pre-purchase exam and my history with Russell. But still, there's something...I think. Tonight after untacking him, I ran my hands down both hind legs, comparing. Just beneath his right hock on the outside of the cannon bone I felt a little difference – and he reacted quickly when I made contact. I called my vet (Rick has meetings tonight and isn't home yet) and told him I need some diagnostic work done; I'm sure he's just thrilled. I hope he can do it soon – like tomorrow. Lance needs to get out regularly for his mental health, but if there's something wrong I sure don't want to exacerbate it!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Lest you think he's perfect...

Lance didn't get out yesterday, thanks to our going to church, having company for lunch, and the frozen state of affairs outside. After cleaning his stall last night I turned to leave – and heard a sound behind me. I turned just in time to see Lance coming at me. Whether he was being playful or aggressive I can't say, but it mattered not. My reaction was instantaneous; I roared and lunged back at him with the plastic manure fork, sending him scrambling for his paddock. After I finished mucking, I went back into his stall and asked him to come to me on my terms, which he did. Point taken; I will keep my guard up.
Frosty hoofprints
Frozen cobweb
Fuzzy rascal

Today, regardless of the frozen footing, we went for a walk. I expected him to be obedient and polite – and carried a dressage whip to reinforce my expectations. That's the upside of having a out-of-condition, pushy young horse; you can accomplish a lot with just hand-walking when you don't have a safe place to ride!*

*Not that I wouldn't enjoy using that lovely arena in which Sylvia is riding Horton....

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Things that go baa in the day

Had a good ride on Lance today, in spite of – or perhaps due to! – a couple of major spooks. He still doesn't know what to think of my sheep, and apparently the rams (in the lot closest to the arena) did something really scary today – several times. The first two times he spun and bolted to the opposite end of the arena; the third time he just flinched hard. I think he actually humped up a bit at the end of the bolting, but he's so smooth (and lazy) that it was a non-issue. There's nothing like successfully riding out a new horse's reaction to fear to cement your confidence level. :-)

When I was done riding I decided to try for some good portraits with a nice green background, and lead him into the pasture. I didn't have much luck. He checked out the overturned stock tank, but really didn't see anything else that riveted his attention. At least I got a decent shot of his lovely mane (which I can't see myself pulling or trimming anytime soon!).

Then I lead him up to our gate to retrieve a box that had been delivered earlier. This gave him another chance to get a good look at the sheep, and I tried again:

This is about as wide-eyed as he gets. I think he's going to be pretty unflappable with time!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I've always said I want to ride until I die, and each time I get a horse I think about how long our relationship could last, if all goes well. With Lance, I plan to dance into my 70s/his 20s. (Typing that made me realize for the first time that 'dance' rhymes with 'Lance' – it's a sign!) I would love to earn admission to the Century Club with him someday!

Years ago I had a Swedish Warmblood mare, and I have remained a member of the SWB Yahoo group (What can I say? My favorite grandma was Swedish, so that heritage is very special to me.) Yesterday two inspirational messages were posted by members of the group. I figure if they inspire me, they might inspire you. :-)

First message: "I rode my more-than-likely last event last July at the ripe age of 78. Unfortunately (or it was sloppy), the right stirrup leather broke at the second-to-last cross-country fence. At my age I didn't want to jump without it. They let me do the stadium and that was okay with new leathers. But I wanted so much to finish on my homebred Victoria's Electra! I did have some short but scary stroke-like symptoms and they found subdural, rather large hemotomas. So my wife took me off showing and I must not fall off a horse. Bummer."

The response (from a woman): "You are such an inspiration! I love it that you are eventing while pushing 80. Goes to show what good Swedish stock is made of – both 2- and 4-leggeds! I count myself lucky to be your cheerleader although I do get it that you don't need to injure yourself if you can help it.

"I showed a bit in dressage last year (now 75) just so the owners of the horses I have been training could see what level they were doing. Normally my assistant shows for me and I am her coach and teacher. She does really well but is just starting to show at the upper levels. My point being that just because you reach some number with your age, it does not mean you have to roll over and stop living.

"So happy new year and cheers to all of you – young and old. Age is just a state of mind (with a few aches and pains to remind us that we are still in our physical bodies."


Monday, January 7, 2013

Baby steps, giant strides

When I awoke to rain this morning, I was a little bummed. Getting out nearly every day has helped Lance's behavior so much, I didn't want to get sidelined by the weather. But the drizzle quit this afternoon, so I headed out to exercise him, grabbing my mailbox key on the way out so we could ride down the gravel lane to get the mail.

It's hard to explain why I thought this was an okay thing to do. I mean, I've spent very little time with this horse, and he's young and green as grass. I've only ridden him a handful of times and only once outside of an arena; that was with a group and while he was in regular training. But I feel like I know and can trust Lance more than I ever did either Larry or Cohort. "His" song – our song – comes to mind. He is definitely a "heart horse"....

Not that I was a complete fool about it, mind you. I wore my helmet, had my cell phone zipped into my vest pocket, and dismounted to retrieve our mail from our locked mailbox. We encountered lots of scary things on the ride down – black plastic caught in the trees, a real estate sign, a big green trash bin blown over on its side – and he held it together pretty well. After I had the mail in hand he spooked at something, slipped in the mud and actually went down on one knee, reinforcing my earlier decision to lead him the quarter of a mile back home. Once there, I mounted again and rode him in the arena another 15 minutes or so, where he was a good boy.

An interesting tidbit: Lance tends to lean on my right leg a bit, and his mane lays to the left – both of which are opposite of Horton.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

'Cause baby look at you now

Here's that pretty baby now, maybe not all grown up yet (I think he has some more growing – and a whole lot more maturing! – to do), but well on his way. 

I convinced Rick to go riding with me this afternoon; amazing! (Also amazing was how good his squirrelly horse Ollie was.) I enjoyed their company; it was a nice change of pace for Lance, and there was someone in whose hands I could shove my camera. :-)

Rick told me it was okay to start doing more than just walk, so Lance got to do a little jogging and even some cantering today. He's offered to jog before, but I wasn't sure what I'd get when I asked for canter for the first time in over three months. He was amazingly biddable and picked up the correct lead every time. He didn't want to stay in canter, but that will come as he gets stronger.

He felt very slow and pokey at all three gaits, so I was surprised when I asked Rick to comment on Lance's "Western jog" and he said, "He has a lot of reach; that's no Western jog!" The walk I was getting when Rick was taking these photos felt equally slow, but there's no denying how well Lance was stepping under himself. I think I need some eyes on the ground to help me learn to read my new dance partner's way of going. His natural tempo is much slower than I'm used to!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Did you try to guess?

I gave you a hint yesterday. Here's another hint. :-)

Baby Lance, just five days old:

Lance, already a brat at 20 days old:
This one's my favorite!

Lance, 3+ months old:

Baby pictures . . . it's one of the advantages of getting a horse from his breeder!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Be it ever so humble...

Horton at home
I'm surprised Horton didn't stage a walk-out while at my house; his usual accommodations are MUCH nicer. Sylvia said he practically jumped into his blanket last night, poor boy; here I only blanketed if he was still damp and I didn't want him to chill while drying out. I know I could get spoiled by the nice, big, covered arena with excellent tanbark footing; it was lovely to school in!

As planned, I returned to school Horton at his home barn one more time today. Sylvia said he recognized the sound of my car! And even though he bucked impressively on the lunge line, Horton was very good under saddle both for me and for Sylvia. I trust this is a new beginning to a long and happy relationship between them!


Oh, baby! You'll never guess what was waiting in my inbox when I got home this evening. I'll show you tomorrow!

Home is where the horse is

Last night
This morning

Not great photos, but I just had to show you who's HOME!

Given the rock-hard footing of my frozen arena and no thaw in sight, Sylvia and I decided I might as well haul Horton back to her barn where he could actually stay active. I took my tack along so I could ride him "at the scene of his crimes," hopefully demonstrating the progress he's made. I have to admit that I wondered how he would act; would he remember that he unloaded people to get out of work there? Well, not only did Horton do me proud, Rick came along to watch how he's moving and reported that he looked more relaxed and fluid, with his tail centered, than he's ever seen him move before! Huzzah! I'm going back up this afternoon to ride him again, just to help keep the good times rolling.

Speaking of rolling, I figured since I had the trailer hitched, I might as well roll on down the road and pick up Lance last night. As we gathered up his feed, the barn owner regaled us with his antics. "He's SUCH a brat!" she said over and over, laughing with delight. (She said she loves his type of personality.)

When we got him home, he and Sam met quietly over the pole gate dividing their paddocks, and Lance discovered the battered gallon milk jug hanging in his stall. We put it there for my Morgan over a decade ago, and Brian had never seen a horse play with it – until last night. Yes, I have a big, playful puppy of a horse – and just like a BIG, playful puppy, he will have to learn some manners and self-control! Now to get his stall plate ordered. Call me trepidatious, but I didn't want to take that step until I actually saw that cute face hanging over the stall door!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day report

There's no photographic evidence, but I started my new year out right. :-) Went over to where Lance is stabled with some oats to mix in with his HorseGuard and daily wormer, gave him a good grooming (including working some tangles out of his mane with Cowboy Magic), hand-walked him for awhile, then saddled him up and walked him around some more. I marveled at how opposite he and Horton are; Lance is naughty (busy, mouthy, always moving) on the ground but calm and polite under saddle, while Horton is an absolute gentleman on the ground but can be less than cooperative under saddle.

I left Lance with a happy glow in my heart, and headed home to work Horton after his "snow day." Since it's been cold, I led him out to the arena to let off some steam if he needed to – and stopped. The sand was still frozen, hard as concrete and definitely not safe for turn-out, lunging or riding. Disappointed, I led him back to his stall. Rick and I both want to evaluate how he's moving after the last injections before taking him home to Sylvia; let's hope it warms up!