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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas wish come true

I managed to squeeze in a little saddle time today.

Merry Christmas from Lance and me to you and yours!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Another card in the Rolodex

Last Sunday, Stacey featured a training tip from Shannon Peters on her blog. The concept was not new to me, but it's been awhile since I've thought about keeping my elbows connected to my hips. I put it into practice during my next ride, and it worked marvelously to help Lance lift his back and connect with me – or rather me with him!

I think of these various training tips as cards in a mental Rolodex. The trick is to keep flipping through those cards and utilizing all the tips while riding so that you and your horse can be the best partners you can be, moving together in beautiful harmony.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Walk

The headless horseman:

The half-head horseman:

The headless horse:
The half-head horse with happy rider:

In celebration of the most important gait – the walk!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

When food bites you back

 Rick took time over lunch on Friday to check out Lance's mouth. Lance has been been gaping his mouth occasionally, acting like something inside is bothering him. Perhaps he had injured himself trying to unlatch his door? Or maybe he had a sticker/grass seed head stuck somewhere; I've been getting them in my chore gloves from the coarse local hay we got last summer. That became a greater concern after I learned of an acquaintance's horse that was put down last Saturday because of an abscess under its tongue.

Sure enough, when Rick got Lance sedated and trussed up so he could take a good look inside his mouth, Rick found a bunch of those sharp, nasty grass seed heads packed between Lance's tongue and gums. Lance's mucous membranes were irritated and raw, with some small ulcers forming. Rick cleaned them all out and gave Lance some steroid to calm the inflammation, then went ahead and floated Lance's teeth while he was prepped, taking care of some points that had developed.

Lance should be much more comfortable now; I'll need to teach him how to gargle to KEEP him that way!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fuzzily we roll along

All the canter photos Brian took were either blurry or taken from afar (and thus got highly pixelated when cropped and enlarged). Call me biased, but I still found things to like in these three:

After interruptions of work, weather, and running Mom's Taxi service, I am hoping to ride today. But my Mr. Mouthy has a mouth problem, and I'm waiting for my husband to check him out before I subject him to a bit and cavesson.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Trot photos

I don't know if it is luck or talent, but Brian did a much better job at capturing good leg placement at the trot than I usually manage!

I've always liked how well Lance steps under himself with his hind legs at the trot.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Earning his keep

Not Lance (even though he did pick up my whip for me) – my son!  ;-)

I asked Brian if he'd come down and take some photos while I rode today. He agreed somewhat reluctantly, and it took some encouragement to get him to take more than a handful. I told him even the best photographers have to take a lot of photos to get a few really good ones.

Well, he took my advice and did me proud. The one above is probably his best, but I kept a total of 18 for various reasons. I like these leg shots showing all three gaits,
and I love this touch of whimsy.  :-)

I'll be sharing more of Brian's work, spread out over several posts. It's so nice to have photos!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Schizo weather

Some years, weather is "typical," with average temperatures and rainfall. Other years, the weather wobbles all over the place . . . like THIS year.

Last week we had record high lows; now it's unseasonably cold. I couldn't ride Friday because of driving rain and wind; today I could only ride a short time, slowly and carefully, because the arena footing is frozen hard. Between the weather and a new part-time job, I may have to get creative (midnight rides like Paul Revere?) to fit in time with my mental-health mustang!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A happy Thanksgiving

Lance and I braved the wind, rain, and a fire exhaust-breathing dragon to get in a short Thanksgiving ride today.

Rick was busy sweeping up the leaves from the drive and lawn, so I asked him to sweep the arena, too (he doesn't like me to pound the leaves into the sand footing). Since rain was imminent, I didn't wait for him to finish; I saddled up and asked Lance to share space with the roaring, horse-eating monster. He only lost his nerve once; I was really proud of him. We all ended up wet, but I was thankful for my husband's hard work, a good ride on my fine steed – and my synthetic Wintec saddle!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Abuse – when do you speak up?

Anna Blake's horse blog gets my vote for MVB. Today's post is another prime example of why.


Yesterday Lance and I sloshed our way through a good schooling session in the wet sand. Today it's blowing and raining; neither of us would enjoy riding in this weather. The last of the leaves are coming down, too; we'll have to do another sweep of the arena when it dries out so we don't grind them into the sand. But I'll take this over feet of snow any day!

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Walking on concrete – and living on the edge

After the icy precipitation ended, it cleared off – and got colder. When ice was on things, it wasn't in the ground; now that the ice is (mostly) gone, the ground has frozen solid. I'm still riding Lance, but our work is short and very limited due to the concrete-like footing. In spite of that, I was still hoping to take a lesson today, but work interfered. Given our circumstances, I have to take whatever work I can get – and look for more. Thankful for the birthday gift that will allow me to take a lesson or two, because after that it will be a long, dry spell when it comes to any extra expenditures!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Walking on broken glass

(I SO want to design and ride a musical freestyle to that Annie Lennox song someday!)

Today the sun came out and the ice started thawing. Water dripping, leaves dropping, ice shattering, branches shuddering; with all that commotion along with two days off, you can believe Lance got turned out before our ride! Leading him to the arena was definitely like walking on broken glass (top photo), and he was understandably nervous. But he didn't want to buck and play much, coming back to me quickly and insistently, so I tacked him up and got on. Lance was so good under saddle, no more than flinching when ice clattered onto metal, or a branch was suddenly released from its weight. What a boy!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Scratch that

Yeah. Not interested in hauling down our hill today, even if the valley is just wet. Lesson rescheduled.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Beware the wild winds!

The Polar Vortex has extended its reach into the NW corner of Oregon. After a warmer than average fall, today's chilly temperatures and stiff wind have been a bit of a shock to the system. Playing it prudent, I turned Lance loose in the arena before our schooling session. After being a horse kite on the line to the arena, I had to laugh when his first order of business in the arena was a mouthful of maple leaves.
Ha; it looks like he's eating Brian's treehouse!

But then. Oh, then! The wind-witches came screaming through the trees and sent Lance scrambling.
Yikes; look at the torque on those front legs!

I enjoyed the show while holding my breath against injuries. Afterwards, we had a nice, short ride. Thank goodness for Polarfleece breeches!

I have a lesson scheduled with Julie on Thursday; I'm really looking forward to that.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mental health mustang

I'm back after a quick and stressful trip to see my dad. At first I thought the trip might have marked the end of our season of consistent rides, but after missing one day due to family commitments here at home, Lance and I were back to dancing together yesterday and today. While we're dancing, that's all my mind and body are focused on – not my duties, my concerns, the future, our finances. Just fine-tuning our connection to achieve those moments of perfect harmony.

Winston Churchill said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Every day is different

I turned Lance out at noon for a few minutes because I didn't have time to ride him today before leaving to visit my dad in the hospital 400 miles away. I did ride last night, so it wasn't like Lance was "cooped up," but you would never have known that from the way he carried on! He ran and bucked and raced and turned hard and did sliding stops, over and over again. Several times he galloped towards me – and not with an "I'm done and coming to join up with you" attitude, either. Ahem; I had to firmly disillusion him of the idea that he could engage me in horse-play! By the time he was finally willing to come when I called, he was blowing hard. So glad I took the time to give him some turn-out. I hope it holds him until at least Sunday!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The importance of being earnest

Definition of EARNEST

:  a serious and intent mental state
TBDancer commented on my last post about how hard it can be to stay focused while riding. Yes, it is, but you can't get far in dressage without it. In order to dance beautifully with my partner, Lance has to listen to me, to focus on my cues so we can move together with grace and power. But that only comes as I give my mind and body to the task as just as completely. Focus is challenging for both of us. Horses are prey animals, hard-wired to be watchful for any possible danger. I am a woman – wife and mother – hard-wired to juggle ten things at once while keeping dozens more in my mind to deal with later. And since I homeschool my son – who is a very social creature – I rarely get to ride without interruption. Lately, it's been even more challenging. My son has been taking fencing lessons this fall, and is doing some extra chores to help pay for his fencing equipment. One of the jobs I've given him is weeding the arena so my husband doesn't again resort to spraying it with toxic herbicide. (Sorry, I just don't think riding in the stuff can do Lance or me any good.) Brian doesn't work well alone, so he weeds when I ride . . . and every walk break I give Lance is a talk break for my son. You do what you gotta do. ;-)

Last week Lance didn't get out Wednesday or Thursday, so was full of pent-up energy on Friday. Rick had mentioned that Lance was probably healed up enough to get some turn-out, so I decided to let Lance loose in the arena before tacking him up. He tore off bucking to the other end, dropped and rolled, leaped up, ran around and bucked a couple more times, dropped and rolled again, then trotted right up to me. He was loose all of five minutes, but his expression clearly told me it was enough. Funny goober. We had a really good ride after that, too. I was thinking about the USDF directives of balancewilling, and quality, and felt like we had all three.

Today's ride wasn't feeling so hot. Lance's shoulder kept falling right, and I was getting a wee bit frustrated with him – before working through the problem and realizing it was my fault! It's hard for me to verbalize what I changed, but when I started riding him correctly, all of a sudden his shoulders stayed where they were supposed to. His canter departs immediately improved, too. I'm sure Lance was as relieved as I was. ;-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Visual images

When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics

Attain Remarkable Riding Rapport with Your HorseBeth Baumert
Within riding there exists a fundamental conflict of interest: The rider needs to have control—her confidence depends on her ability to control the balance of her own body as well as that of her very powerful horse. The horse, by nature, needs to feel free—free in both mind and body to express himself through physical movement.
In When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics, author Beth Baumert, writer and editor at the internationally recognized equestrian magazine Dressage Today, resolves the freedom-control enigma by taking a close look at the individual components that make up riding and dressage. Beth provides insight gleaned from years of working with the best riders, trainers, and judges in the dressage world, and details practical ways riders can learn to harness the balance, energies, and forces at play when they’re in the saddle.
Readers will discover how to use “positive tension” and what the author calls the four physical “Powerlines”—Vertical, Connecting, Spiraling, and Visual—to become balanced and effective in the saddle. Readers will then find ways to understand and manage the horse’s balance and coordination challenges, including the fact that he is inherently crooked and naturally inclined to do too much with his front end and not enough with his hind.
Ultimately, the rider learns to regulate and monitor the horse’s rhythm, energy, flexion, alignment, bend, the height and length of his neck, and, finally, his line of travel by properly aligning her spine with his. When the center of gravity of a balanced rider is directly over the center of gravity of a balanced horse, that place where two spines align becomes the hub for rider and horse harmony—a dynamic and remarkable riding rapport that yields beautiful performance.

Recently the above book advertisement landed in my inbox. I glanced through it, and went about my day. But that evening when I rode Lance, "align the spines" kept running through my head. So I consciously did my best to do just that – and what do you know? We had a really good ride!

It's another golden nugget to add to the treasure chest that contains various phrases or visual images that have contributed to my dressage education over the years. One of the earliest I can recall came from the first clinician I rode with and the first horse I danced with, over 20 years ago. To help me understand how to turn him properly, she told me to think of driving a bus around a corner. It's still a great visual and kinetic tool to keep the shoulders where they should be in relation to the hindquarters.

Lance feels good and I am really enjoying our short, frequent schooling sessions, 30 minutes or so at least four and often five times a week. I'm even considering entering a schooling show November 9, if I can get the management to respond to my questions. If it works out, it'll be my birthday present selfie.  ;-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Round two

I shared a brief update on Breezy over on my farm blog, but will repeat it here. This week Rick injected Breezy's tumors with a different drug. The topical chemotherapy he tried just inflamed her tissues; physical removal isn't an option.

We are watching for signs that the cancer is affecting Breezy's function or quality of life; so far it hasn't. But Rick is not very hopeful about the outcome of this.

I looked back through posts about Breezy the other day; we got her five years ago last July. I can't believe Brian has grown so much in five years(!); Breezy has helped grow his confidence just about as much in that time. She's a good one....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shaky videos and small victories

When I handed my camera to Laura to take some photos recently, the sneaky thing switched to video! Actually, I'm good with that regardless of the quality of my riding or the videography, since I rarely get to see Lance going under saddle, and even more rarely get to see myself riding him. So here are all six of the short videos Laura recorded on September 29 (the video titles are self-explanatory):

This afternoon when I schooled Lance, I actually had time to ride down our lane to get the mail, and deal with anything else that might come up. The good news is that nothing came up! After a walking warm-up in the arena, I rode him up the driveway, back and forth across the black plastic Rick put down to keep the driveway clean while spreading manure, out the gate and down to the mailbox. I did dismount to get the mail since a new house is under construction nearby and the mailbox area seems to be a bit of a bugaboo. (I think Lance has felt ambushed by a vehicle coming up the hill a time or two.) I remounted and we had an uneventful walk home, where we finished up with a little trot and canter in the arena. I was very pleased with my pony!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Slow and steady wins the race

Not that I'm interested in winning any races, just in having a sound Lance long-term. ;-)

Since my last post I've been getting in my short rides on Lance as often as possible. He was feeling full of himself, then flipped a switch and went to mellow. Laura stayed overnight after the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival and kindly manned (womanned?) my camera so I actually have some photos and video for a change! (But you'll have to wait on the videos; I haven't had time to upload them to YouTube yet.) Looks like we've both filled out some; it looks better on Lance. Ahem.

Aaaanyway, after some refreshing showers accompanied by a dip in temperatures, it has warmed up and dried out again. That means I'm being very careful about what I do in the arena. (There hasn't been any riding "out and about" because I haven't had the time available to deal with any shenanigans that might come up.) Rain returns this weekend, which will improve the footing but make squeezing in rides a bit more difficult. Such is life!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


When I got home this evening from working at Rick's clinic, Lance was banging loudly on his stall door. I didn't have time to ride yesterday, and my busy boy was going stir-crazy. So I let the dogs out, changed clothes, and went down to remedy the situation. The showers of the last two days had watered the arena footing perfectly, and I was looking forward to riding without worrying.

Lance was mouthier than usual while I tacked him up, and fresher than usual under saddle. The added energy was nice – except when it erupted into a bit of bucking at the canter. ;-)

As we finished up, the sky matched my mood. There's nothing like a nice ride on a good horse to make the whole world look rosy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Yesterday I had to scramble to get everything done before leaving for my son's violin and fencing lessons. First I homeschooled Brian while prepping seven quarts of pear sauce. Once they were simmering in the canner, I ran down to the barn to groom and saddle Lance, then ran back up to the house to remove the jars from the canner, then lead Lance back to the arena for a 20-minute ride, then ran back to the house for a quick shower. Still, I had to snap this photo of my handsome boy holding my handsome boy:

Not only are they both young, male, and handsome, they are both mischievous rascals. Brian might be more athletic; he's certainly been sounder. Lance is easier to train, though.  ;-)

My Wintec saddle with extra-wide gullet and Shoulder Relief girth are still working well for Lance. After the repeated injuries and time off, I'm more thankful than ever not to have big bucks tied up in tack.

We had some rain today, with more expected tomorrow. That should firm the arena footing up nicely, so we can do a bit more work. Lance has been getting his near-daily constitutional, but I've done little more than walk in the dry sand. I have asked for a bit of trot here and a canter depart there, just enough to be gratified by what Lance remembers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Unchained Melody

(Ray Stevens seemed more appropriate than a tear-jerker.)  (-: 

"Oh, my Lance, my goober
You make me laugh so much.
Another recovery;
As time goes by so slowly.
Time can only do so much;
Are you now sound?"

Last night Rick took a look at Lance's most recently injured ligaments. They are not as good as new, but they are as good as they are going to get, so we are cleared for take-off . . . or at least taxiing down the runway. We can start doing a little trot and canter work; Rick recommended working on the straightaway as much as possible, and cantering to the right and trotting to the left when turns are necessary. I think Lance will be happy; he's been offering trot for awhile now.

After ultrasounding Lance, Rick took a look at Breezy in the adjoining stall. (The topical chemo had no discernible effect; Rick is investigating the next option.) With the chain off his door latch, Houdini Lance got busy – and I documented the master at work:
Open Sesame!
It really is amazing what he can do with that mouth!

Thankfully, the quick-link and chain still has him stymied.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Walking my mule

Lance is looking rather mulish these days. In addition to his annually itchy mane,
this summer he's been scratching his dock nearly naked, too.
I've prayed it with Itch-B-Gone, fly spray, and even took a fecal sample to the clinic in case some parasite has developed resistance to his daily dewormer. No worms, but no relief. It's not raw, just ugly; good thing we aren't showing this year!

I continue trying to get Lance out for his daily constitutional. My friend Laura offered some suggestions for dealing with his naughtiness that I've put into practice, and I do believe they're helping. On Sunday we started in the arena, then headed down the lane. I dismounted while Lance was still being good and led him farther down the lane. On the other side of the paved road, he started getting squirrelly. A motorcycle cruised by; he launched into airs above the ground. Every time he acted up, I got after him, and led him farther away from home. We ended up walking a lot longer than our prescribed 30 minutes – and my shoulders reminded me just what had brought on my tendonitis. I gave my ouchy shoulders a day off, then rode again today the same way. I rode him a bit farther before dismounting; when he got naughty it wasn't as energetic; and he seemed to figure out that acting up delayed his return to barn and buddies.