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

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Whether the weather...

I'm doing my best to give Lance his prescription of 30 minutes of exercise daily regardless of weather or circumstances.


Weather, the busy-ness of the holiday season, and a week of unexpected medical appointments for my husband have interfered at times, but never more than two days in a row.

After a period of really great schooling sessions implementing what I learned auditing those two clinics, Lance seems to have lost energy. I wonder if it has to do with air quality/allergens, even though his respiration rate hasn't increased; regardless, I give him grace. It makes entering my dressage chapter's ODS League show at the end of February less appealing, but makes Lance a more dependable road/trail partner. Life is all about trade-offs.

Last Sunday was my dressage chapter's annual Christmas party. The gift I brought home included a cool pair of "Horse Nebula" knee socks and this antique salt shaker:

If I don't post again before Christmas, have a merry one!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Getting out of the arena

Ever since the Lisa Wilcox clinic, Lance and I have stayed in the sandbox (I still need to do a post with all the take-away points we're using from that and the Anna Blake clinic.) The footing has been good and I'm trying to solidify new habits and muscle memory (in me) to help Lance shine. But yesterday I decided it was high time to cross-train, so we walked around the edge of the lot next to us, which gave us a unique perspective of our house,

and then rode back and forth through the vineyard, now nearly devoid of leaves.

Lance found it harder work than arena schooling, and actually got a bit sweaty for a change.

I didn't ride today because I was tired and it got really smoky again. Reasons and photos over on the farm blog; hoping to be back in the saddle again tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Ride the horse you want

Implementing what I watched Lisa Wilcox do with the fancy-shmancy warmbloods and their riders has been gratifying. While Lance will never 'boing' with the incredible suspension seen in the clinic videos, we have moments of ballroom magic when I correctly channel what I heard and watched into my riding. As we were circling in a lovely, swinging, springing trot I thought, "Ride the horse you want."

For quite a while now, I've been "riding the horse I have" as I had no other option (plus I love my big red goober and exercise is part of his prescription). But by riding more effectively, Lance becomes the dressage partner I want – who knows; showing might even be in our future again! Most importantly, his foamy mouth tells me he's relaxed and happy in the work:

Monday, November 5, 2018

The feasting season

No, I'm not talking about Thanksgiving. 🍴

After a week of wonderful rides following the Lisa Wilcox clinic, yesterday I had a chance to audit the second day of an Anna Blake clinic! I have followed her blog for years and got to meet her at the World Cup in Omaha a year and a half ago, so when I found out late last week that she was going to be in Oregon I scrambled to find out when, where, and how much. Unfortunately I already had too many commitments in place to do more than audit one day of two two-day clinics, but that alone gave me plenty to chew on and implement at home. Here are some photos from yesterday.

Anna worked with all kinds of horses and their people, some mounted and some not. This clinic was specifically on "Calming Signals" and groundwork (you'll have to read more about those on her blog), although I have to say I got more from her work with riders. Anna is brash and funny and extremely insightful, and except for being cold all day I enjoyed watching her very much.

Feeling so in sync with my dancing partner (more on that in another post) and getting to audit TWO clinics just a week apart is exhilarating. I feel like I'm getting part of myself back, if that makes any sense.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Riding the wave

Tonight I had the third good ride in a row since the Lisa Wilcox clinic. Each time Lance has moved well, felt balanced (no tripping), and ended with a foamy mouth:

So I'm feeling pumped about that, and also about the possibility of another educational/inspirational event in the near future! I just found out about it this morning and don't want to say too much because several things are up in the air, but auditing one day of another clinic looks good and actually participating in it with Lance could happen. I should know soon....

Monday, October 29, 2018


For the first time in a long time, I got to immerse myself in dressage this weekend. I happily hung out with horse friends and enjoyed watching some superb equines, even though it made me wistful for what once was. It seems a lifetime ago when I  advanced my skills with regular clinics and/or lessons, trained and competed with an equine partner, braided mane and wore tall boots, even won awards. Even harder is not knowing if those things will ever be a part of my life again. (I may forever stay one score away from my USDF Silver Medal....)

Saturday night was the Oregon Dressage Society awards banquet and silent auction. I picked up my friend Kate and we joined other members of our local chapter (which kindly paid for our weekend's activities) – and not a whole lot of others! The food was good, the awardees were inspiring (some of them amazingly so), the silent auction provided some great shopping (I got a long-sleeved ODS t-shirt, a fleece ODS vest, a fleece ODS headband, and an ODS magnet for my trailer), and the keynote speaker, Olympian Lisa Wilcox, made me eager to attend the next day's activities.

on the way to Kate's house
So early Sunday morning I picked up Kate again and we headed through beautiful countryside to Whip & Spur Farm, once the home and training facility of Rich Fellers, another Olympian (in Show Jumping). There we got to watch as Lisa taught eight different horse/rider combinations with a consistent message of keeping a correct position and posture while making a million and one transitions – within each gait, not between them. You could tell she was taught by a 29-year veteran of the Spanish Riding School, where students sometimes spend years without reins or stirrups, perfecting their own position in order to be able to properly influence their horse's way of going.
at Whip & Spur

I took photos of all eight horses, but video of only two, so I decided to only keep and share photos of the two I filmed. Both of these horses were poetry in motion, the chestnut a five-year-old filly (ridden by a young trainer Kate won two lessons with in the silent auction), and the other a 12-year-old gelding.

Events like this always inspire me to go home and dance with my own horse – so I did! By the time I got Lance saddled the sun had set, so we walked up the hill to capture this photo before going back to the arena to dance.
 Our schooling session felt good, and Lance ended with a foamy mouth, always a good sign.
Even if we never set foot again in a show arena, we can dance!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Checking in

Taken during a sunset ride in September
The squirrels are squirreling!
Hey-ho, it's autumn! The days are getting shorter; we've had a little rain but mostly glorious, perfect weather. The fall colors, the angle of the light, the cooler air all make me feel positively effervescent  at times – like yesterday afternoon. I got off work early and didn't have to drive to Salem to pick up my son (he's away on a junior/senior camping trip), so I called a friend to go for a trail ride. Unfortunately my truck battery was feeling puny, so Lance and I went for another ride around the hill, which is getting surprisingly better instead of worse. Even though grape harvest is in full swing, the vineyards aren't using as many noisemakers this year, and apparently none of the propane canons. Lance is handling the 'tweety birds' just fine. We also found our way through the logged area shown in my previous post, and ended up at a postcard-worthy vantage point.

Lance is coughing a bit more; I should probably start steaming the hay again now that the horses are mostly in their stalls/paddocks. They do get out to romp, though:

The coughing could be from the dust generated by the tractors working next door (where the boulders are two photos above) and/or the smoke, also from next door and neighbors. It is especially bad at night; I like to sleep with our window open but the smoke has been so strong it keeps me awake (so I close it and get too hot 😖).
Lance got a new High-Neck Ultimate Turnout Sheet after damaging yet another one; I think this is #3 – or maybe #4. SmartPak's 10-year replacement guarantee on the Ultimate has been the best deal on the planet for us. I also got another helmet during their annual helmet sale; it's the same model as my current one, just a different color.
We should be set for awhile!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Still dancing

With no "up-and-comer" in my foreseeable future, there's no excuse whatsoever for Lance not getting his recommended 30 minutes of forced exercise nearly every day. With no lessons, clinics, or shows in our foreseeable future, we can do whatever we want for that exercise. Some days I bit Lance up and lunge him,

some days we ride where we can on our hill,
Whelp, I guess we found the timber harvest area!

The trail beyond is now a hazard,  so there goes more access.

and yes, we still "dance." Yesterday we schooled in the arena, and cantered more than we have since the canter crash. I'm exercising great caution, staying away from the arena rails and cavaletti, and I always wear my helmet (and have a new one on order). Still, there are no guarantees with horses, even 'able-bodied' ones; I realize that if I landed badly – or Lance did – in another crash-and-burn, the results could be serious – or deadly. But . . .

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sweet September

Fall weather arrived with September. We've had cooler weather, cleaner air, rain, and lovely skyscapes.

The trade-off? Shorter days! But since I'm no longer trying to avoid the heat and sun, I don't need to wait until the end of the day to ride, and our arena's sand footing is safely packed and dust-free so we can utilize it more.
Look, Ma; no dust!
We still go out and about, too. Yesterday after warming up in the arena, Lance and I headed down through our eastern neighbor's lot. A doe and fawn were hanging out on their lawn, so we skirted wide. The doe never got up, but we caught the fawn as we were coming,
and going.
We rode down the gravel road past changing trees,
and back up the hill through the vineyards, enjoying the fruit on the vines and the beautiful views. With the grapes getting ripe, I suppose noise-makers will soon keep us out of these areas for awhile. Those propane 'cannons,' injured deer distress calls, and screeching bird sounds can be unnerving to a horse!

Rick is taking a firm stance against my getting another horse, so what I have is all I can work with (except for occasional brief rides on students' horses). I'm disappointed, but Lance is doing well, has lost a bit of weight and isn't tripping nearly as much. I've even cantered him – very carefully for very short stretches well away from the sides of the arena in case he crashes again.  I am thankful for every ride, and I love my big red goober.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I can see more clearly now...

...the rain smoke is gone. Still hoping for a good, cleansing rain, but at least Lance can exercise again!

It's tough when conditions prohibit applying the best recommendation (30 minutes of forced exercise daily) for one condition (Equine Metabolic Syndrome) because of another condition (Inflammatory Airway Disease). Exercising Lance when the particulate matter in the air from wildfire smoke was off the charts would have been devastating to him, so my meaty mustang just hung out. Thankfully, his breathing didn't seem impacted by the air quality.

Now that the air quality is much improved, we are back to work. I planned to climb back on last Thursday, the first cooler day in ages, but the smoke was actually worse, if possible. On our way back from Salem (DS had wisdom teeth removed), this was the view west towards the hill on which we live; couldn't ride in that!

But Friday was much clearer, so Lance got the whole enchilada – a thorough grooming, a photo shoot to document his current condition, and a sunset ride about the hill.
rubbed-out mane; check

fat pads; check

lump on jaw; check

handsome anyway; check
"What did you say?"
"What do you mean, 'Handsome anyway'?"

About that lump on his jaw. I first noticed it at the end of the apple-eating day of the last post; when I mentioned it to Rick he joked that it must be apple poisoning (he thinks I'm a "horse hypochondriac"). When the hard, tender lump didn't improve, I finally got him to x-ray it. Rick couldn't see a fracture, so apparently Lance bruised it badly somehow. It's still tender but fortunately sits behind the bridle's cavesson; Rick said it may never go away. 😕

We rode again Sunday and Monday. After last night's ride, I timed his respirations for the first time in months – perfectly normal at 10 RPM. Unfortunately, he also stumbled dramatically at the beginning of our ride, so we just walked up and down hills to minimize momentum.

In other horsey news, during last week's lesson my youngest student got bucked off her Haflinger. The mare was protesting the canter depart (I think she's uncomfortable) not trying to unload her, but it really shook the student's confidence and I don't know yet if she'll be continuing lessons. With Brian back in school as of today, I'll have to figure out a different time to teach students 2 and 3 (if she continues) anyway; gotta pick up the boy from school every afternoon.

Tomorrow I'll be picking him up early so he can drive in the state fair's draft horse show again. On Sunday he won the youth driving class with a wagon and team of two; tomorrow he drives in the youth cart class. I'll post photos of both his classes when the dust settles.