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

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!