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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Solving a murder mystery

Heh. If I hadn't seen him sternal just moments before, Lance would have given me quite the start Friday afternoon....

But I do feel like Sherlock Holmes trying to parse out what is going on and how to help him.

So what have I been doing? I continue to ride, occasionally, gently and briefly. Twice in Sylvia's Schleese, below, and then back to the old Wintec when a closer look at the Schleese told me it was likely too tight at the front tree points.

I did quite a bit of research on Schleese saddles to learn what model Sylvia's is and whether or not the tree can be adjusted (it can). In the process, I talked to a Schleese representative and a saddle fitter, and found this video by Jochen Schleese on YouTube:

Wow; I see a lot of Lance in there! It would be easy to believe that improper saddle fit is the root of all his issues . . . but still I search. I have watched videos on equine massage and body work, and tried my uneducated hand at that. Tonight I finally tried my Magic Hands electric massager on him, to which he gave neither a clear hoof-up or hoof-down.

I have ordered a Wintec Dressage Pro, and hope to have it in hand along with the Schleese when I meet up with Suzan and her saddle fitter friend next week. Besides some expert saddle fitting help, I look forward to learning more about how to work Lance from the ground. Suzan recently posted the following on her FaceBook page; she gave me permission to share it here.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to convince the student to dismount and learn from the ground. Everyone would love to just ride; who wouldn't? Working in-hand as well as long-lining has become a lost art, but has so many incredible benefits. Long-lining demystifies what can so often be the issues while riding. In-hand work teaches the student how to ride with light contact whether the leg or the hand. You can feel instantly from the ground where the horse is balancing his weight. For many amateurs the feel or where the horse is placing his weight can be lost while mounted. Instructing from the ground, however, can teach the student to maneuver their horse in leg yield, shoulder etc., allowing the student to see visually what the horse is doing and feeling in each movement. Not only does this allow the horse to have a better understanding of what the owner is aiding them to do but many light bulbs, so to speak, go off for the owner as well. Just remember that the horse must be balanced in the movements, slow down and give the horse time to process.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More questions

Last weekend we camped at the base of Mt. Adams with friends and horses.
Our site

Our rig, with Mt. Adams in the distance
Lance tucked in and ready for the night
My handsome Lance – such a good camper!
After a couple weeks of staying off his back, it was good to be on my mustang again. We rode as a family on Saturday, Rick and I rode together on Sunday morning, and I took another short ride Sunday afternoon to try out a saddle.
Yep, a Western saddle – and it seemed to fit well and be comfortable for Lance! A friend of ours is a saddle maker, and this is his personal saddle. It's built on a full quarter horse flex tree, which speaks to just how broad Lance is. I'd really prefer a dressage saddle, but I am open to whatever is going to keep my boy sound and happy for the long haul.

Back to Rick's and my Sunday morning ride. We took a 3.5-mile loop with some hills, nothing too strenuous. Rick's little quarter horse, who gets ridden every six months or so, was stepping it off smartly, in spite of his smaller size, lack of condition, and far heavier load. Lance kept having to jog to keep up until I finally asked if we could take the lead. A few times when we were going uphill he just stopped, apparently needing a breather. I got off and led him up the steepest stretch, and he still needed a lot of encouraging to continue.

Once back in camp we untacked Lance, who barely broke a sweat, and Ollie, who was lathered, then took all three of our horses out to graze awhile in the meadow. It was warm and sunny, and the horses were relaxed and happy. After 30 minutes or so, we led them back to their high lines. For reasons he didn't explain – gut feeling? – Rick took his stethoscope out and checked Lance's heart rate. It was 70. He checked Breezy and Ollie; they were around 40, as would be expected. I asked Rick what Lance's elevated pulse could mean, but he didn't have any answers for me – or wasn't willing to share his thoughts. I'm trying not to fret, but.....

Today I met up with my friend Sylvia to borrow her Schleese saddle. Brought it home and tried it on my conundrum; it looked good so I schooled Lance for a bit with no red flags. But he sure acted pooped when I brushed him off . . . or was it just my over-active brain? Sigh.

Next week I am planning to meet up with Suzan to try a bunch of saddles, and will have her look at this one, too. Hopefully my vet will do some more looking as well. My mind needs some relief!

Friday, May 23, 2014

One more for the road

This morning a friend sent this photo, taken while horse-camping last August:
Yes, his eyes are closed. :-)
I hope we don't spend this weekend huddled under a tarp while our horses stand out in the rain. It's drizzling here now, but the forecast for the nearest town doesn't look too bad:

Some rain is good; it will keep our pastures green longer. We have three small pastures. I've been using the middle one for our ewes and lambs, but they can't keep up with it so the other day I brought the sheep in and turned the horses out there for a few hours. I took the photo below from our deck; I'm not sure Breezy would have been visible from ground level!

Yesterday I turned the horses into the lower pasture because Rick was moving manure to the garden through the upper pasture and the sheep were in the middle. The grass isn't as tall in the lower pasture because that is our summer sacrifice lot, but it's still green and tasty right now.

I stood there and admired shiny horses for awhile. Both Ollie and Lance have dapples and metallic copper glints in the right light.
I'm looking forward to getting on with my saddle search after we get back from this trip. I'm feeling very encouraged about finding the right one because of all the options available. Suzan has a saddle fitter lined up with a bunch of different saddles to try; a friend has a Schleese available for me to try; and a couple different online shops offer free saddle trials with free shipping. Now if both of the saddles that didn't fit would just sell....

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

From the ocean to the mountains

A photo from Mother's Day:

Come Memorial Day, I may have a photo of us with this beautiful backdrop:

This coming weekend we going horse-camping at the base of Mt. Adams. I am looking forward to some short trail/meadow rides on Lance; nothing too strenuous as I don't want to make him sore. Still just have the old Wintec saddle; decided not to pursue a different saddle from Mike as the shipping back and forth eats up a lot of cash and fitting a horse long-distance is practically impossible. A local saddle fitter has a bunch of saddles we can try on for size (with Suzan's input), and I'm also thinking of taking advantage of's free 21-day trial/free shipping both ways offer on all their Wintec saddles. I'm not a saddle snob; if I can find a Wintec that fits Lance and keeps him comfortable, I will be a happy horse-mom!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The long and winding road

Still no beach photos from my husband's phone; not holding my breath there. I rode Lance again the day after our beach ride, briefly putting him through his paces. He was okay, nothing bad, but kind of "meh." When I was putting him away, I ran my hands over his hips front to back, on either side of his spine. He had a BIG muscle knot on the left; it didn't seem particularly sore, but it wasn't there the week before. Rats.

I called my friend Laura and talked out my thoughts with her. My intuition usually has a pretty good handle on what to do, but then I like to run it by someone I trust for confirmation. The upshot is that I am staying completely off Lance's back for now. He's getting almost daily time on pasture to move around, and I'm lunging him with just a halter and lunge line (for now) when I can to keep him conditioned. When I get the wide-tree saddle from Mike Corcoran to try, I'll schedule another session with Suzan to check saddle fit, and then take a long-lining lesson from her.

For now I'll leave you with a happy pony rolling in the grass, then deciding to eat while he's down there (Breezy is going down for a roll behind him in that last photo). ;-)

Monday, May 12, 2014

I'm a lucky beggar

My wishes were horses,
and I got seals besides!

I posted the above photos and more of our family beach ride over at my Boulderneigh blog. I think Rick took some photos of Lance and me with his smart phone but I haven't seen them yet. I'll post them here if they exist!

Lance was a good boy, although still not a surfer dude in spite of his sandy-haired good looks and buff bod. ;-)  I did get him to follow the others horses through some still back water trapped by a rise in the sand – and I think he resented me for it! Seriously; for quite awhile afterwards he acted really PO'd at me. You'd think he, not his parents, came off the high desert range given his aversion to salt water....

We mostly walked, since my husband's and son's mounts have done little to nothing all winter and we went quite a distance. There was a little trotting and cantering, which my son thought was great fun. Rick had me trot in front of him so he could watch Lance's movement for soundness, and said Lance was absolutely even and steady. It felt flat, but then again it almost always has. It remains to be seen whether or not Lance ever develops some "loft."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

What's up, pussycat?

I'm still riding Lance, lightly and not every day, trying to keep him in some condition and assess what is going on.

Rick watched Lance walk and remarked that Lance's cat-like front foot placement that concerned Suzan is the way he has walked the entire time Rick has known him. My wonderful farrier, whom I called right after my lesson/session with Suzan, came over the following Monday night and trimmed up Lance's front feet. There really wasn't much to trim, except to pare out some of his thick sole and trim his frogs. Lance had signs of bruising at the base of his right frog, but neither it nor any parts of either hoof was sensitive to the hoof testers – and Troy really torqued on them.

Suzan took my Black Country saddle with her last week in case it works for any of her clients. This week I shipped my Marvel saddle back to its maker, Mike Corcoran, who thinks he can sell it for me. He has a used Marvel in a wide tree that might work for Lance; if so, we can do a full or partial trade. In the meantime, I'm using the old Wintec with a Cashel lift back pad to keep the narrow part of that saddle up off Lance's back.

Because of weather and a houseguest Lance has been cooped up a few days, so this afternoon I turned him out in the arena to play. I had to shush him to get him to move around, though; the "green stuff" was just too tempting.

Tomorrow I think I'm getting my wish for Mother's Day – a family ride on the beach. Cross your fingers for me and look for photos on Monday!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Notes from Friday

In quick, get-it-down form, here are Suzan's comments:

From the ground:
Mike Corcoran Marvel saddle, M tree: way too small
Black Country Eloquence saddle, M/W tree: too tight in the front
Wintec: fits well in the front; narrow in the back

Lance palpated ouchy on either side of the base of his withers, at the back of the saddle (particularly on the left, there was a very tight structure there; on the left there was a calcification), and around his S/I (especially on right; he nearly dropped when she probed that). His hindquarter muscles were very tight; so were the muscles at the top of the neck (the head-release muscles).

Under saddle:
Felt like he was ouch in his front feet, particularly right front, particularly heel. She pointed out that that heel is collapsed a bit, and his toe is long. Lance toes out a bit anyway; need to have the farrier out more often to keep it in line.

The left hind also felt uncomfortable to her. Lance did not want to use his hindquarters, but when she asked for a better effort at the walk he lifted his back, used his hindquarters, and his walk and contact improved greatly. As soon as she asked for trot he flattened out, however. At the canter, he gave her some decent work when she asked for a bigger canter with more back/hindquarter engagement, but when she asked for the trot after that he throttled back quickly rather than benefitting from the correct work. That points to the front feet.

Sore front feet could cause the back/hindquarter soreness as he would brace back there to take some of the pressure off his feet. Back/hindquarter soreness would put more pressure on his lower leg structures, which could have caused the right rear suspensory injury.

Friday, May 2, 2014

For now...

. . . I give you my favorite of the photos I took today (actually, just a small part of one of the photos)  when I met up with Suzan for a lesson/consultation.
As I had hoped, Suzan was able to give me a LOT of feedback on the fit of all three saddles as well as on Lance's areas of discomfort (unfortunately, the number three figures into that as well). I need to write down what she told me ASAP so I don't forget it all; I'll record it here for my sake – and yours, if you're interested.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I give up!

The horses got their first authorized pasture turn-out today . . . after Lance let himself out . . . and then let Breezy out after he was put back in. And that was after I'd installed new latches on their doors!

In full disclosure, the grass has gotten mature enough that we were going to start turning them out anyway. The sheep spent most of the day out; then late in the afternoon I put them in and turned the horses out. The sheep haven't been able to keep up with the early, lush growth.

I'm hoping to have a lesson/evaluation with Suzan tomorrow, but haven't gotten confirmation yet. At least it is supposed to be cooler tomorrow; today got downright hot!

Speaking of summer weather, today I received a couple photos taken at one of our campouts last summer. I'm no equestrian fashion plate, but I think my mount sure is a looker! ;-)