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

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!