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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Between the weather (dry, whether cooler or hotter) and all the visitors coming and going this month, my riding has been limited to quick forays around our hill – through the woods, down the lanes, beside the vineyards. We school along the way, of course – lateral work, canter departs, rider position. I see shows come and go and know, without too much of a twinge – that now is not our time for competition. Will that time come again? I don't know; for now I am happy for any time in the saddle, for the training along the way, for improvement in our communication and partnership. Other blessings come as well.

During a recent ride we both heard a rustle in the underbrush up a bank on our left. What I could see looked like a deer struggling, and I worried one was caught in a fence or something. I dismounted and watched, finally realizing it was a doe with not one, not two, but THREE good-sized fawns all trying to nurse at once! I captured what I could (but couldn't get all three fawns in one shot):

On my next ride the views were just outstanding. The last of the evening rays gilded the valley,
then moved to the clouds above
before blowing a final rosy kiss to the east.
What gifts are mine!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Defending horses

When Alanna recently asked her followers for bonnet recommendations, I realized I had totally forgotten about the bonnet I purchased last year for Lance! Since 'tis the season for those nasty wee beasties that feast on blood in the horses' ears, I went looking for it. Fortunately, I had stored it in the most logical spot, the cupboard in the tackroom.

Although he doesn't look thrilled about it in these photos, Lance is much quieter on the trail with it on. Even when I wipe the horses' ears with fly spray, they shake their heads nervously when they hear a winged insect flying near. Thanks for the reminder, Alanna!

While I think I remember which company I ordered this from, and like the bonnet, I'm not going to promote the company here.     I've decided to put my money where my mouth is.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Shades of princes past

On Monday my dear friend and her daughter, back in the area for the summer, came out for a visit. I had promised Hannah she could ride again (she's ridden Breezy in the past), so Lance helped me make good on that promise.

Hannah was a quick study, and after some instruction she was piloting Lance around pretty proficiently, although I walked along with them. Then I had her mother walk with them so I could snap some pictures.

I was so proud of my big red goober; he was nicely responsive to the guidance of a young and inexperienced rider. As I said when I posted a photo of them on Instagram, "Sir Lancelot took good care of Princess Hannah." I have been blessed over the years with a string of noble knights who take good care of visiting royalty. ;-)

No lesson for me and my dance partner today; Julie is out of town. Maybe next week!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Overcoming ennui

After riding so much at Cowboy Campmeeting, I seemed to lose my motivation. It started out reasonably enough. On Monday we were busy unpacking and putting away, and the horses got a well-earned break. Tuesday I worked a full day. Wednesday came and I intended to ride; really, I did. But truth be told, riding down the gravel lane and through the woods didn't excite me. After the miles of trail riding, I felt like dancing with Lance, but the arena footing was too dry for that. The day ended without saddle time.

While I was at work Thursday, it started to rain a little. Oh, good; the arena was getting watered! There was no time to ride that evening, so I looked forward to riding today between the forecast showers . . . which never materialized. The bit of precipitation on Wednesday left the footing little better than before and I still didn't feel like riding through the woods.

This evening I finally kicked myself in the rump and went down to the barn (I'd left the horses in because of the forecast rain). We worked in the arena carefully, and of course I felt much better for spending time with my good boy.

I would love to be able to set some goals and make some plans to show, but that's not in the cards for the foreseeable future. Still, I want to dance with my horse; there is nothing else like those moments when you move as one with lightness and grace in all three gaits. But hark – the rain is coming down again! Our arena should be well watered for rides on Sunday and Monday; I think I'll email Julie to see if we can take a lesson with her this Wednesday!

Mr. Busy Lips needs a job. ;-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Happy campers

We are back from our annual Cowboy Campmeeting trip, which was chockful of adventures.

They started on the way there. We were cruising east on I-84 when a pick-up drew up alongside us. I looked over; he motioned back. As Rick started looking for a good place to pull over, another vehicle's driver came up and motioned to us. Eeek! Fortunately an exit ramp appeared where we could safely pull over. The problem? A totally shredded rear trailer tire. My adrenaline spiked as I thought of what could have happened had the tire on the front axle failed; praise be to God that it didn't. With two horses, three full water tanks, several bales of hay, tack, generator, and various other gear for our trip, that trailer was LOADED. Whew; so thankful!
I posted the above photo on Instagram, and a friend asked how Rick jacked up a fully loaded trailer to change the tire. We have this (sorry, couldn't get a good photo of ours in use), and it has been a life-saver. EVERY owner of a dual-axle trailer should own one; it's worth every penny!

As we approached our destination, I spotted smoke coming from the forested hillside above the campground. It looked like a small wildfire was just getting started! We pulled in and asked around, but no one knew about it. Concerned, we kept our eye on the smoke through the trees, wondering if we should set up camp or wait to be evacuated. Finally, one of our leaders called the Forest Service, and learned they had started a prescribed burn. Considering how very dry and windy it was, and the fact that campfires were banned, we were all astounded. The pros had it under control, though; by the next day, the fire was out. Another "Whew"!

Many of our group highlines their horses; we prefer to set up a paddock with hot wire so they can move around and lay down. (Some people use long-enough rope that their horses can eat from the ground and lay down while highlined, but we've seen too many bad rope burns – including one on Russell – to take that risk.) We found a lovely spot amidst some trees so they had shade most of the day.

During our first night there, I was gradually dragged from a very deep sleep by strange noises. Noises that sounded like hoof steps, but without the usual whinnying that occurs when someone's horses get loose. Still, Rick and I jumped up and threw some clothes on. A quick flashlight check of our paddock confirmed it was our horses gone walkabout – or should I say runabout! After they dashed past us a couple times we were able to catch the turkeys and tie them to the horse trailer while we set up a highline at o'dark thirty.
From then on, Lance and Ollie spent nights on the highline and days (when we weren't riding) in the paddock. That means we slept better at night, and they could get caught up in the daytime!

On Thursday, Brian and I participated in the competitive trail ride our group sets up every year. I was happily surprised Brian wanted to do it, and a bit relieved that we wouldn't be leaving Lance's buddy in camp. (Even the most independent of horses can act terribly herdbound when in the wilderness; I think it's a security thing.) Brian wanted to start first, so Lance was a pill about his disappearing buddy while I worked on getting him through the first obstacle (and once out of sight, Brian couldn't get Ollie to continue on the trail). Once Lance and I caught up, we stayed within sight of each other for the rest of the ride so both horses were happy campers.
Enjoying the spring-fed water trough at the end of the ride
The protected source provided refreshment for humans, too
I don't have any photos of me and Lance, but I did "dress for success" – I wore the fancy fringed breeches Theresa gave me!
That night at the meeting, the winners were announced. There were only two riders in the youth division, and Brian won the equitation award!

The next morning I couldn't get either of my guys to go for a ride, so when an acquaintance rode by on her pretty gaited mule and invited me to join a group for a trail ride, I threw my saddle on Lance and took off. It ended being a much longer ride than I anticipated; we were gone for several hours. I should have known better; the three riders on Tennessee Walkers in front (who peeled off on a different route for the return), and the two women behind me on mules are all used to longer rides than I am usually able to indulge in. Still, it was a beautiful ride.
Lance was very tense and screamed for his buddy much of the ride, but thankfully didn't get too crazy – as evidenced by my being able to shoot a few photos. Another "whew."

When we got back to the water trough, there was Rick on Ollie. He said he'd given up on us and was going to ride by himself, but would rather have us join him. So Lance and I added another hour or so to the many miles we'd already covered . . . but we did get to see more beautiful country, and my horse could finally relax.
Whenever I'm with a group like this, I enjoy noting the different breeds present. Besides mules, Walkers, quarter horses, mustangs (Lance wasn't the only one), Arabians, and Appaloosas, there was a Norwegian Fjord (of whom I didn't get a photo),
an Icelandic horse (with a gray Tennessee Walker behind him),
a Halflinger,
and a Percheron (who had once been a carriage horse at Disneyland).
Variety is the spice of life!

The horses got Sabbath off; on Sunday we took a conversational ride with friends before breaking camp.

No personal adventures on the way home, thankfully, but we saw the sobering smoke of a wildfire just outside The Dalles, Oregon. I heard on Tuesday that it was under control with no structures but a pump house lost. Hallelujah!
That's "our" beautiful Mt. Hood behind the smoke screen