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 1, 2020

A 'recipe' worth keeping!

More 'firsts' to report, right after I show you the constellation of white hairs scattered across Stella's flank. I think they are fitting on a horse named after heavenly bodies! 
Andromeda's/Stella's 'stars'

Last week I got an email from Dressage Today with links to some Dressage Today Extra content, including one billed as "A Formula for Starting Youngsters." I clicked on the link and read the article titled "Recipe for a Riding Horse." I really liked what Bob Orton had to say, and mulled over implementing it with Stella. In the six months I've had her, we've made only a fraction of the progress Bob's program makes in three months, largely due to my 'feeling my way in the dark.' So I decided to implement Mr. Orton's recipe as best I can from where we are now forward, starting with his longeing schedule.

Since Stella already knows how to longe (although her willingness to canter on the longe has backslidden) and accepts saddle, bridle and bit, it was time to add longing reins. I hadn't heard of Vienna reins before, but their mechanics are clearly superior to the side reins I have so I immediately looked on eBay to find some. There were very few options and the price point for something I may only use for a little while was steep. I looked around our tack room to see if I could jury rig something but came up empty. So I fell back on side reins as better than nothing, and we got to work with something new added last Friday.
I used a halter in case things went sideways with side reins (she was fine)

I also used my regular saddle on her to see how it fit with her girth (👍🏻)
Stella worked up quite a sweat in our short session, which I attribute as much to brain-work as to the hot noonday sun. I decided to add a second new thing to her world – a water hose! Yes, Stella got her first shower – and handled it surprisingly well. 😁

We interrupt this training content for a necessary part of owning horses: HAY. Our local hay guy has been holding some first cutting orchardgrass for us, but needed it out of his barn in order to bring in alfalfa. So we got a load late Friday afternoon, another load Saturday night, and two more loads Sunday, almost filling our barn. (There's just enough room for a couple tons of second or third cutting orchardgrass for the Shetland sheep.) It's a good feeling to have a full barn! And while these small squares were wonderfully easy to handle after the 100+pound buggers Brian and I got late last fall, getting in hay always sets off my allergies, and I struggled through the rest of Sunday and all of Monday with a headache, itchy eyes, running nose, and general malaise. 
Another interruption of the topic at hand. That Oliver. He is absolutely besotted with Stella, and I don't mean in a herdbound way. He has always acted 'proud cut' around mares; Rick says it's because in some geldings the adrenal gland kicks up its production of testosterone. Well, his testosterone is RAGING. We do our best to keep him farther away from Stella than he was in the two photos below, and he is getting thin because of fretting over her.

Yesterday we got back to following the 'recipe.' The few-days break also helped me brainstorm a homegrown version of Vienna reins. I found a contraption in the tack room, the origins and purpose of which are lost to memory. But it works perfectly; there's an adjustable 'neck loop' of wide black webbing, and attached to that with a generous ring is an adjustable white elastic strap with a clip on the end to attach to the girth. Add the side reins clipped to the ring at the chest, run through the bit rings and back to the saddle, and voila – Vienna reins!

I attached the longe line to the inside bit ring like Mr. Orton does as well. When we were done, the sides of Stella's tongue were irritated which I felt bad about. Today I'm going to attach the longe line via my usual method, which is to run the longe line through the near bit ring, over the poll, and attach it to the far bit ring to equalize bit pressure; we'll see if that works better.

But other than the tongue irritation, I am very pleased with how things are going! Whether it's specifically from following this program or simply following a program, Stella seems more focused (because I am???) and is making rapid progress. The lack of a helper to transition to under-saddle work is still going to be a hindrance, but the foundation laid before that is going to be much more solid, and her physical development is going to be enhanced with the sliding side reins.


thecrazysheeplady said...

Looking good :-)

Retired Knitter said...

You kown, you might be moving along in her training now better because you had all that time with her before. She needed to build trust and comfort - become familiar with her new owner and surroundings. I know nothing about horses, but I imagine basically all animals 'of a certain disposition' need that time in advance of anything structured.

Jeanne said...

I'm sorry Stella had a sore mouth. I hope it's better now.

Glad you got that nice hay!

I hope you are doing well.

A :-) said...

She's looking great! So glad you've found a system you want to work with to move her along the path. Her "stars" look like the back of my hair ;-)

Michelle said...

Elaine, I'm sure that is part of it. She is definitely more comfortable with me and Brian because we've spent daily time with her; she is still very unsure of Rick, who she has seen much less.

Jeanne, her tongue seemed fine the next day, so it wasn't too serious. I hope you are doing well, too!

Thanks, A. (And yes, I have a liberal sprinkling of 'stars' as well. 😉)

sylkan said...

You will be riding her before long. Good work on the Vienna reins. Creativity is way cheaper than on line shopping. Is Stella comfortable with you belly down across her saddle so you can slide right off if she is alarmed? Or standing next to something where you are riding height above her (higher than mounting block height) When I started my 1st baby, he was never upset about me up there, but he had been with me since birth and was very trusting. Stella just gets prettier all the time. No wonder Oliver is in love, ha ha.

Michelle said...

Sylvia, Brian led me around on her Monday night. She is not worried about me mounting or unmounting from arena fence or mounting block; it unexpected movement of stuff along her sides that seems to freak her out. Fortunately, she is very responsive to the bit.

Anonymous said...

Your mare looks uncomfortable, also how sad that she had such discomfort that it visibly irritated her tongue, she must have had pain.

Have you heard of a Cavesson halter/headcollar? Designed for correct lungeing. The Cavesson works perfectly and is much more comfortable for the horse. Using the correct tack means a happier horse, one that can move freely.

Michelle said...

Anonymous, I agree about the tongue irritation, which is why I went back to putting a halter over the bridle and attaching the lunge line to the halter. She hasn't had any mouth problems since, and acts calm and comfortable now. I have seen cavesson halters, but have never owned one.