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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dealing with long locks

This morning while waiting for my son to finish up his share of the chores, I tried out a way of plaiting Lance's long mane. It looks nice enough, but I can't see a way around it getting farther away from his crest as I work down his neck. Furthermore, when he raised his head (I was braiding while he was eating), the braid got all wonky.

If I braid his mane while his head is up to avoid this, it'll pull when he puts his head down for the free walk and look wonky afterwards. Back to the drawing board....

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Having rides videographed is a great tool when you work by yourself the vast majority of the time. (I should find my old tripod and bribe my son to do this every once in awhile!) Between the videos of our rides and the score sheets from the show, I have some solid directives to work on in my schooling sessions with Lance, and it feels like we are already making progress. Better contact, better energy. With the show over, we're doing more canter work, and the improvements are carrying over into that gait as well. Before late last October (with Horton), I'd never shown a horse at Intro Level, and I don't intend to stay there long now. In fact, maybe just one more show....

Last night I was looking at local schooling/League show options on the Oregon Dressage Society website. There's a League show in Salem on March 10, and then nothing nearby until early May. Why not see how much progress we can make in two weeks?

I'm sending in my entry tomorrow.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A very special gift

Yesterday after our early morning classes I hauled Lance home. That's when I discovered that only a snippet of our second test got recorded with my camera. The person who recorded my second test does not have high-speed internet, and said it would be awhile before she could get it uploaded to YouTube.

Yesterday afternoon I went back to the fairgrounds to volunteer, as this show is my dressage chapter's big annual fundraiser. While working in the announcer's booth, my friend Sylvia (Horton's owner) came up to me with a sly smile and handed me a DVD. She thought I should have my big red goober's first tests for posterity, and paid to have them recorded for me by the show videographer. I was so touched over her thoughtfulness and generosity that I almost cried!

So here, thanks to Sylvia, is Lance's dressage debut. I'm pretty proud of my mouthy baby mustang, especially considering his short history under saddle. (It's ME in which I see the most room for improvement! I've been riding without eyes on the ground for too long....)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Someone guessed!

Our cover is blown; an acquaintance at the show correctly guessed that Lance is a mustang! :-)   She had the advantage of having boarded her mare at a facility that hosts the area's Mustang Teen Challenge, though; there were around 35 young mustangs there at the time and she said she recognized Lance's "look."

Speaking of looking, I was sure glad I was able to get to the show grounds early enough to ride Lance around the show ring before classes started. He was a spooky little looky-loo at first, just as you'd expect an inexperienced young horse to be. But he relaxed in a very reasonable amount of time so we could go to work, checking his "go and whoa" responses, etc. He was being such a good boy . . . until our first test. Oh, he wasn't naughty, I just lost my gas peddle – completely! By the end of our trot work it felt like he was barely jogging; I was relieved when he didn't break to the walk before it was time to ask for a downward transition. Before our second test, you can be sure I tested his "go" again thoroughly! (In his defense, his saddle time at the show was far longer than anything we've done up to today, low-intensity though it was.) The refresher paid off; he had better energy in the second test until near the end, and even then didn't peter out as dramatically as he had in the first test.

So how did the judge think we looked? (Have you picked up on the hints? ;-)

My green-as-grass goober did me proud, placing second in both his classes with scores of 67.5% and 69.375%! Not only that, but he tied for first place in the first class, losing the tiebreaker (collective marks) by one point because of less "steady contact" – to a 14-year-old horse!

I asked the person in the announcer's booth to shoot video, but all she managed to get was one halt and salute at X. :-/
I have to say, though, that I'm pretty happy with the swingy tail I see here!

Someone else filmed our second test, so if I can get her to upload it to YouTube for me, I'll include it in another post.

The added bonus? It's clear and SUNNY today! What a blessing for someone who shows out her trailer!

Friday, February 22, 2013

As ready as we're going to be

I was able to ride Wednesday morning before our homeschool co-op; again Lance was spot on with the 'new world riding order' and responded near perfectly to light aids under saddle (on the lunge line I still have to regularly reinforce the rule that he must stay in the gait I ask for until I ask for something different).

Yesterday was committed to other stuff until late afternoon, when it started to rain – with much more in the forecast. I started to fret. I will be gone all day tomorrow; if I was washed out of riding today, Sir Lancelot would have three days off before his show debut early Sunday morning. Not a good set-up.

When I woke up this morning, it was windy but not raining. I hustled out to do chores, hoping the break would hold long enough to do something with Lance. Chores done, only occasional raindrops falling, I led him to the arena; I figured with a day off and the wind gusting, he'd be feeling frisky. I had my camera at the ready to record some action; instead I captured my big goober doing what he does best – moving away from me only reluctantly, and returning every chance he gets:

I should have known. This horse "joins up" like nobody's business; I don't know if his breeder worked on that concept or if Lance is just a big puppy in horse's clothing (I suspect it's the latter). After riding on Wednesday I pulled off his tack so he could roll in the wet sand (he's laid in his pee spot and gotten stinky again), but all he wanted to do was grub for blades of grass or follow me if I moved. I walked all over the arena in big and small serpentines to test him; he stayed right behind me. So I walked out the arena gate and back to the barn, leading him without a hand or strap on him! Heaven help my heart....

Anyhoo, we had a productive little schooling session this morning before the rain let loose again, and I'm feeling prepared for and relaxed about our walk/trot classes Sunday morning. I just hope that rain doesn't turn to snow up here on our hill!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clean-cut kid

This morning I had the weather and time to work with Lance, and was eager to apply what I'd listened to yesterday. But first I got the clippers out to trim up his bridle path, chin, ears and fetlocks, and used scissors to shape his tail a bit. The boy cleans up pretty good! I think I am going to relax my standards, dress casually (sweater or vest instead of dressage coat), and not braid him for the show this weekend, as Sylvia suggested in the comments the other day.

After Lance's 'shave and a haircut,' I tacked him up and put him on the lunge line. I figured the first "go question" – Is my horse taking responsibility for maintaining the gait I put him in? – would be even easier to ask from the ground than from the saddle. It didn't take long at all for Lance to understand what I was expecting – not that he wanted to exert himself that much, mind you. :-)

Then I mounted, and worked on the second "go question." When I lightly apply a driving aid (leg, seat, voice or whip), does my horse respond enthusiastically and surge forward? Again, it didn't take long at all for Lance to understand my expectations and comply. (Obviously, the horse is plenty smart; it's the owner we should worry about – ha.) It was so nice to ride a more responsive horse with more energetic gaits! Now if only I can find more time and dry spells to ride this week, I really do think we'll be better prepared for the show on Sunday than we would have been if I hadn't listened to Jane Savoie's excellent presentation yesterday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Always learning – and relearning

No time to ride today as I was providing 'Mom's Taxi Service,' so I listened again to Jane Savoie's teleseminar while driving Brian to the coast. Uh, yeah; I needed that. I have not been making Lance take responsibility for maintaining whatever gait I put him in, nor making him respect my 'go' aids. There's probably a lot more I have not been doing, but that was as far as I got in the teleseminar. Sigh; I have no business taking Lance into the dressage show ring without these basics in place! I'll work on them this week if I get the chance; the weather forecast sounds wet. If I don't, oh well; a little humble pie never hurt anyone, and it's still experience.

Last Friday was unseasonably warm and sunny, so I took the opportunity to give Lance a quick shower after I rode him. Now he's wearing a sheet so he'll hopefully stay cleaner for our Sunday show. If I'm going to braid his mane somehow I'm going to have to get up at o'dark thirty; our first ride is at 8:07 a.m.!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My funny Valentine

Isn't this some kind of ballet pose?

Or did Lance just want to hide behind his (rather skimpy) tail?

I started Valentine's Day out right with a ride in the sunshine on my pretty red boy. My attire was surprisingly – and unintentionally – coordinated; dusky purple breeches and jacket, lighter lavender sweatshirt. Once upon a time when I was a schoolgirl artist, a teacher told me "red and purple do not go together." Of course, I had just combined those colors in one of my creations, and immediately felt bad. I've come a long way, baby; I don't let others' opinions affect me that much anymore. So here's to bucking trends and not letting anyone else (except God) define for you what is good and right!

Monday, February 11, 2013

An idle mind...

We took at trip over the weekend, so Lance got two days off (I try very hard to avoid breaks of longer than one day). Even so, he was surprisingly good for me this afternoon when I got him out – not saucier or mouthier than usual.

That's probably because he found something with which to keep himself occupied (besides the dangling milk jug and the Jolly Ball).
He started destroying the fiberglass sidelight in his stall.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Progress and speculation

I'm so proud of my big red goober! Lance was a good boy today, even though I wasn't able to get him out yesterday. I rode him at the walk and trot, then put him on the lunge line for some canter work, my routine for this week. He has settled very quickly into mostly calm, obedient work on the lunge, and his canter looks lovely. I think it is his best natural gait.

Then we played pony express and went down the lane to get the mail. He crossed the pavement twice without taking issue, and stood better while I fiddled with our locking mailbox from his back. On the short walk home we practiced leg yields. The air was soft, the sun was shining and I couldn't help but smile. It was a perfect afternoon interlude!

Tuesday our farrier was out and all the horses got trims. I asked Troy if he thought Lance looked like a mustang, and he said, "No; he looks like a thoroughbred." Interesting; that's certainly not something I would guess if I didn't know Lance's breeding. Rick thinks he looks like a draft cross (?!?). What does Lance look like? I pondered that for awhile this week; he certainly doesn't look like any other horse I've seen. He doesn't have the defined muscle development of a quarter horse or thoroughbred, and I don't think that's just because of his lack of condition. His legs and feet are more substantial than a Morgan's or Arab's, although he does have a lovely arch to his neck and a pretty head. He is deep in the body from top to bottom, but doesn't appear broad side to side even though he has plenty of space between his front legs. As I mentally reviewed the various breeds, I realized there is just one I'm familiar with that bears some resemblance in type to Lance – the Andalusian. I think I would have seen it sooner but for Lance's color. Far-fetched? Well, his sire is a Kiger mustang, which means Lance has a significant amount of Spanish blood. So maybe not!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Today's commercial

Two dumplin' forks on sale: $9 each. New rubberized reins: 40% off. A break in the drizzle before dark so I could ride Lance: priceless.  :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Well, THAT was interesting!

Sunday afternoon I rode Lance in the arena while Brian and a friend did what boys do nearby in the woods. Lance was alert to their whereabouts but not spooking – until the boys got leaf rakes and started raking paths to the campsite they are creating. I can't blame Lance for reacting; it certainly looked like the boys were preparing a secret burial plot and it might have been for him! Lance spun and bolted, ending his short run with some crow-hopping. It was all relatively smooth; I stayed in the saddle and we immediately resumed our schooling session.

When it came time to canter we were tracking right, and Lance fell in dramatically when I asked for the transition from trot. I persisted and finally got canter – or rather, cranky crow-hopping. It didn't improve much; left-lead canter was better, but not great. I've been thinking about working him on the lunge line to improve his canter (balance and strength); this settled it – even if it was precipitated by the earlier spook.

So today, after walking and trotting under saddle, I got off to work Lance at the canter on the lunge line. I was told that the trainer who started him does a lot of lunging so I figured Lance would know the ropes, but left off the sidereins until I saw how he went. Well, he went like a horse who has issues with lunging – or at least lunge whips! His behavior was quite out of character at first, but I kept talking calmly and quietly to him, praising him when he cantered or trotted on the circle instead of bolting or bucking or kicking out at me. Finally, finally, he settled down, although it took quite awhile before he was willing to walk quietly on the end of the line. Lunging is definitely something we need to work on!

After this I rode him down the lane to get the mail. He was a good boy, and didn't bat an eyelash at the paved road this time.

Friday, February 1, 2013

How green was my valley

I just had to share another "lookout" photo (sorry Theresa; I hope this doesn't make you green with envy!). Yesterday I schooled a pent-up Lance for awhile in the arena, then headed down our gravel lane to get the mail. I thought about going to the other end of the gravel lane where Brian and I rode (and I snapped the last post's photo) earlier in the week, but by the time we conquered the paved road it was time to head home.

You see, we live on a dead-end gravel lane intersected by a paved road, and the mailboxes are next to the paved road. When my son and I rode Tuesday, the paved road was wet and Lance was just sure it was a waterway – even though it didn't act like water. He was leery, but the steadying influence of Brian's been-there, done-that pony got him across and back.

Yesterday the pavement was dry so I thought it would be a non-issue. Wrong. Lance crab-walked back and forth along the edge of the pavement for several minutes until I finally got him across. (I had to abort a couple of attempts because of passing cars.) But he didn't cross at the intersection, so we ended up in a muddy field that had been a cherry orchard until recently. There he acted alarmed at the MUD, staring at it with head lowered and ears forward while backing up! I was worried he was going to step in one of the root areas and hurt himself so I jumped off, then lead him back and forth over the pavement several times. Once I remounted, it was easier to get him to cross the road under saddle; we practiced that until he relaxed and stopped reacting.

The green field in the photo is volunteer oats on the other side of the paved road from the mailboxes. After I snapped that photo, Lance seemed to realize he was "all alone in the world" and whinnied loudly – the first time I've heard his voice. He got a little up on his toes, but we made it home without incident.

It's all training!