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 30, 2020

Happy first Andromeda-versary!

Yes, I've been AWOL here on my horse blog. Putting together a post has been a struggle, not for lack of activity or photos. Maybe for lack of progress; we've finally regained the ground Stella and I lost after the 'long-lining incident' but haven't really moved forward from there. And now the weather is slowing us down; turn-out is limited to the arena and always supervised if there are puddles (which is most of the time) because of Stella's propensity for pawing at water. Less turn-out means more energy and reactivity, which makes our work together resemble Groundhog Day more than The Incredible Journey. I brought her home the Sunday after Christmas last year and here we are a year later, still in pre-Kindergarten. Sometimes I am tempted to despair that I will ever make a riding partner of my little Morgan mare!

Meanwhile, I was able to start hand-walking Lance back in October, slowly progressing to under-saddle walks and eventually a bit more. But he's had a couple alarming flare-ups of heaves this month that have necessitated rounds of additional drugs, and his breathing is still not back to normal.

Then on Monday our taps dried up. It's one thing to not have running water in a residence; it's a whole 'nuther beast to lose water when you have livestock. After a $200-fix-that-was-not-a-fix yesterday, we learned today that we are going to need everything BUT a new well; the pump, wiring and pipes are all shot. Hoping that will all get replaced tomorrow ($$$$), but because of both the failure and the fixes I'm not sure the water will be safe for man or beast for another day.

All this to say that my one-year anniversary with Umpqua Andromeda didn't get any fanfare. And yet, as "Facebook memories" have popped up in my feed this week, I realize how much Stella has changed. My scruffy cygnet has morphed into a beautiful black swan!



I see a blacker, sleeker, fitter, more filled-out mare whose neck has gone from upside-down to rightside-round. I see a horse who trusts me, comes to me, and tries for me. I guess she really has 'come a long way, baby'!
Oh, and there has been one visible bit of progress; I've blanketed her for the first time!
I didn't leave it on her, but did lead her around. As reactive as she is to things that touch her, she handled it pretty well. She also handles gunfire surprisingly well. On Christmas Day Rick and Brian shot some clay pigeons while she was turned out, and after a couple big spooks, she mostly stood her ground.

Finally, I got a little holiday surprise. The guy who accompanied our group to Perrydale Trails to take photos created some beautiful images. They make special 'keepsakes' of some of the best memories of 2020!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

You knew it couldn't be all sunshine and roses, right?

As I mentioned, it took a looong time for Stella to decide to get in the trailer for our outing to Perrydale Trails last Tuesday. I said "for some reason;" I have a pretty good idea what at least part of the reason was. A couple days before I had decided to long-line her for I think the third time since our lesson with Suzan. The first two times we practiced it Stella did great even though I don't have a round pen, but the third time she was more reactive. I thought we were working through it when she started panicking and took off, yanking the long lines out of my hands. Of course the lines 'chased' her, which panicked her more. She ended up jumping the 4' arena panel into the strip between the arena and barn, where I was able to catch her and 'rescue' her from the lines. (I shudder to think of how bad things could have gotten if she had jumped into the pasture and run through the fir trees which she often does....) When I tried to load her Tuesday morning there was nothing behind her at all, but she definitely acted nervous at first. And once she loaded and we set out exploring Perrydale Trails, she was so wonderfully calm and thoughtful that I was over-the-moon happy with my girl. But I suspected that long-lining again would be a challenge, to say the least – a challenge best left to a professional at it. Since Wednesday's forecast showed rain more likely from late morning on, I texted Suzan about a lesson. She was agreeable, so Wednesday morning I loaded up Stella (Rick was there and stood by, so she got right on) and off we went for a lesson.

I shared what had happened so Suzan backed up a step, putting the outside line over Stella's back instead of around her haunches. She did let her trot, however, which seemed a step forward after the first lesson when everything was done at the walk.

But in spite of that lovely, animated trot, it was apparent to all that Stella was still quite fearful of the long lines. So Suzan took off the surcingle and just worked on desensitizing her to the long lines.

You can see from Stella's lifted back leg in that last photo that she is still quite worried about that outside line. I feel bad that a confidence-destroying wreck happened on my watch, but there is no point in wallowing in regret; we must move on and rebuild trust.

Yesterday I ground-drove her for the first time since the wreck. Had to do a lot with the outside line over her back, just like Suzan did with the long lines, but slowly and carefully graduated to walking behind her. I doubt I'll try long-lining her without a round pen again or at least for the foreseeable future; we'll stick to what we can safely do with what we have.

Stella isn't getting all-day turn-out now that we're getting some rain; I don't want her to slip and injure herself running around in the pasture. Instead I let her burn off steam in the arena; it's been awhile since I've gotten to see her frolic like this!

I'm finally back in the saddle again with my big red goober. After getting treated for his injured ligaments, I started hand-walking him. Had to use a stud chain, because even a lazy boy gets cooped up and full of himself after too much stall rest! After a couple weeks of that, Rick said we could continue our walks under saddle. It is so nice to see this view and have a conversation in "dressage" again; I didn't realize how much I've missed it while working with Stella. Someday she'll learn to speak "dressage," too; I'm looking forward to that!

Friday, November 6, 2020

Blog fodder overload!

"Make hay while the sun shines," they say. Well, I've been busy getting in as much training time as I can while the sun shines – or at least while it's not consistently raining. And the rain held off enough that I was able to take Stella on BOTH outings I mentioned at the end of my last post; hurray! The trip to Perrydale Trails on Tuesday was absolute perfection . . . once I got Stella in the trailer. For some reason, she would only step in with her front feet, and then back out. Since training, not force or fear, is the goal, I just put time out of my mind and kept working with her quietly. When she finally decided to load, she walked right up to the front and turned around, ready to have me move the divider over and close the door. Once that was accomplished, I looked at the time. It was half an hour after the agreed-upon time; I would be a full hour late if I went. I called Lisa, prepared to miss out, but she said to come; they'd still be there.

It was glorious – the weather, the autumn colors and scenery, being with good people and horses, and Stella's handling of so many strange new things to encounter and challenges to face. The whole experience is a shimmering jewel of a memory; I think it will be for a long, long time! Lisa was there with Prince in-hand, and a friend of hers who is learning to ride was there on Dino. A second friend of Lisa's walked along and took photos, an unexpected BIG bonus. So I have a few photos I took, a few photos the owner of Perrydale Trails always takes when people visit, and a slew of photos from Wendell. So without further commentary, I'll 'unload' them on you. I hope you enjoy them!