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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I need to work on her modeling skills....

A couple weeks ago I got a promotional email from The Dressage Connection. Their ergonomic bridle designs caught my eye so I went to their website to look further. Not that I needed another bridle; I have an overabundance of models that fit Lance, who will never clinic or compete again, and one very pretty model for my as-yet-unrideable Black Beauty that I got at a local farm store back in January:
It isn't of the highest quality but is more than serviceable, and the price couldn't be beat. I wish it didn't have the flash attachment but I love that sparkly browband on Stella. The cavesson is a bit too big, but I'm pretty sure that could be fixed with another hole punched. (Unfortunately, our old leather punch doesn't have a small-enough 'puncher.')

Even on sale, most of the bridles were out of my price range for something I didn't need. But there was one model whose design and price caught my eye. It had a broad, padded monocrown, a comfort noseband (without the extra chin strap that I thought would be overkill on Stella's fine head), and decorative white stitching that added a touch of elegance. I decided to order it, figuring I would keep the bridle I like best and return or sell the other – but the website wouldn't let me complete the sale. So I called, only to learn that the cob size was out of stock. Boo. I left my name and number on the off chance that they got a return, and figured it wasn't meant to be. But a week later I got a call that a cob size had been returned! I handed over my credit card info, the bridle arrived on Monday, and I had to check it out right away:

(Stella doesn't understand the concept of standing back from me and striking a pretty pose; she wants to follow me and looks alarmed when I ask her to stay back). Size-wise, it fits her much better than the economy model, I think the design and padding will make it more comfortable for her, and the quality is definitely better, too. Now the question is, should I keep BOTH bridles? I've had broken bridles before, when it is nice to have a back-up. Which one do YOU like better? (I should add the flash attachment to the first one and take another photo so you can compare apples to apples....)

Yesterday was filled with taking my pup to physical therapy and sheep shearing, so I hadn't worked either horse. I could hear Stella self-combusting in her paddock, so I turned her out in the arena to play. Then I moved her to the pasture and turned the boys out in the arena to play.

They look huge and ponderous compared to Stella! I'm not sure I would have turned Lance out if I'd known the dust would be so bad, but the exercise did them good. We have been so dry this typically wet month; today it's raining, so YAY! Eventually they all settled down and I got a couple scenic shots:

Please do give me your opinion on the bridles; thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Movie night

I finally got all the videos of Stella on my iPhone uploaded to YouTube so I can share them. From oldest to newest, here they are.

And to close, here is a photo I took yesterday. Stella has mostly shed out, gained weight, and most importantly, gained trust. I know we will become dancing partners, but I could also be happy just looking at her all day; she really is a beautiful creature!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Progress in inches, not miles

Month three with Stella Bella Stella zoomed by, and here we are well into month four. Even as my life has changed little in that time, the world has turned upside down in many ways, which creates an undercurrent of stress. I am thankful to be able to continue to work with my horses, as they are an excellent diversion even if there isn't much visible progress.

There has been a wee bit of pasture time, something that has to be extremely limited in this season of rapid growth that can cause horses to founder – especially a metabolic syndrome horse like Lance.

I continue to ride Lance as often as possible to keep both of us in some semblance of riding shape and to help manage his metabolic condition. The arena footing was* getting trashed by Miss Stella's antics + weather conditions, so we were going down the gravel lane and back a lot, dodging (and sometimes absorbing) raindrops, and enjoying vistas, occasional sunsets, and even the 'supermoon' together. Now it's getting dry enough to cut through the neighbor's lot to ride on the gravel lane through the woods, too. Last Sunday I took that route specifically to look for my favorite wildflowers. I found ONE clump of wild iris, one of its several buds unfurling.

So what of my black beauty? There has been near-daily turn-out or lunging, with and without stirrups (yesterday I tried it with just stirrup leathers). Stella is still incredibly touchy about things moving along her sides, but her trust in me has noticeably improved outside of that. Catching her is never an issue anymore and she chooses to engage with me now. She has gained a little weight and lost a LOT of winter hair.

I have encouraged Brian to interact with Stella, because I want to use him as a training assistant. He turned her out for me a couple weeks ago and I got some cute photos of them together:

*You can see how pitted the arena was in the photos above. Stella not only makes good use of her turn-out time to run and buck, she also liked to paw in the puddles, making them deeper. Thankfully Brian helped me drag the arena and now the footing is MUCH better. But other than that and cleaning stalls (his twice-daily responsibility), I haven't been able get Brian to help me, so I forged on alone.

Before I even brought her home, I was hoping to use Lance to pony Stella for exercise and exposure. But the way Lance acted when he got loose in the arena with her that one time gave me huge pause. Would it be safe to try and manage both her and him from the saddle? Could I even manage to mount Lance while holding Stella's lead rope? There was only one thing to do: try.

Well as you can see, I not only managed to mount, but we successfully navigated our driveway, making several trips up, down and around. Lance was as good as gold, even when Stella got in 'his' space. I've since ponied her a couple times in the arena, where I feel more comfortable stretching her comfort zone a little. She startles when I  move my legs on Lance's sides or swing the end of her lead rope around, but I'm hoping that because Lance doesn't react and nothing bad happens to her, she'll settle. I'd like to take her off property, too, but only if one of our Western saddles, with a horn to dally to, fits Lance.

It's a long, slow process, but I truly believe that going about training Stella this way is best, and have had encouraging confirmation along the way. I shared the above video screenshot on Instagram/Facebook yesterday and a friend commented, "She is a frisky one. Will you actually be able to ride her?" The answer, I believe, is an unequivocal "Yes." Can I say when? No. Inch by inch; we'll get there.

These were taken yesterday. I have videos, but don't have them uploaded to YouTube yet. For now I'm headed out to pony Stella again!