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

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


This evening I got Lance ready for a twilight ride. He walked out of his stall off or stiff, I wasn't sure which, so I led him to the arena (where we do our walking warm-up), cleaned out his feet, and got on. After a couple steps I jumped off; he was clearly lame on the left front. I called my 'built-in veterinarian' for the second night in a row (last night my Shetland ram had a goopy, painful eye), and Rick came down to check Lance out. After watching Lance walk in small figure-8s, doing a flexion test, blocking the nerves to the fetlock and foot, then blocking the nerves to the upper suspensory area, Rick narrowed it down to the upper suspensory. Neither of us could remember which legs Lance has injured before, so when we came to the house I checked my blog. Six years ago he tore his suspensory and his inferior check ligaments in his left front, the third of his four legs to sustain soft tissue injuries. 😖😖😖

My poor big red goober. He has had more problems than any one horse should have to bear. I am thankful to have an understudy in the wings, but I need Lance to keep my riding muscles limber to be ready for Stella. 😩

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Movie night

It took awhile, but I finally got the five(!) video clips I took during Stella's first lesson with Lisa and the two video clips from her second lesson yesterday uploaded to YouTube. (There are no video clips from my Tuesday 'lesson' at Lisa's, working with two of her mustangs, because we were both busy.) If you want the CliffsNotes version, just watch the first and the last videos. I think even the uninitiated among you will recognize that Stella and I have made more progress in one week than we had in the 7+ months prior. She ground-drives now!

Here is Lisa checking in with Stella yesterday, after a week of us doing our homework every day.

First lesson, part one

First lesson, part two

First lesson, part three

First lesson, part four

First lesson, part five

Second lesson highlight

Second lesson finale

I would love to know what you see and think!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Hitting the reset button

I have been plugging along with Stella, feeling my way, making adjustments, evaluating her responses, building our relationship. She is also building new relationships. Recently Brian was out of town for work so Rick cleaned stalls, spending more time with her in the process. Since Brian is leaving soon for college (less than a month!), I've told Rick that I will be needing his help as a ground person; it would help if he's not a stranger. Our new neighbors on the lot to our north have also been building a relationship; Rebecca comes over to the fence and gives Stella carrots and attention.

 This is a good thing should we have a repeat what happened last month. Do you see what is wrong with this picture?
That's Stella on the wrong side of the fence. The neighbors called me at work one morning; Stella was on their property. What?!? Before leaving for work I had turned her out in the upper pasture for the first time and put the boys in the lower pasture. Lance had taken to standing at one of the apple trees all day eating green fruit and leaves, risking founder and colic, so I was trying a new arrangement. Knowing she wasn't likely to let the neighbors anywhere near her (this was pre-carrot times), I hurriedly finished what I was doing and dashed home. Would she be cut up? Would the fence be torn up? Nope; the fence was intact and I couldn't find a mark on my mare so apparently she jumped it. So she's back in the lower pasture and the boys have been staying in. 🙄

In spite of all the ground work, lunging, and schmoozing,

our progress still seems infinitesimal. Yes, I'm talking about YOU, you reactive creature, you!

Our future as dancing partners seems nearly as distant as ever. Maybe if I was still young and fearless, or had a round pen, I'd just get ON her and deal with whatever comes, but I'm not and I don't. And even if I was and I did, my accumulated knowledge says overfacing her like that would not end well; horses can't learn when they are in a state of panic. (That is probably true of all creatures....)

So I continue to ride Lance to keep my riding muscles in shape and ponder what to do with my silly, stunning black swan.

a vineyard we used to ride around has been fenced off 😞
One evening Rick actually rode WITH me!

post-shower; my patent leather pony
Yesterday I decided to ACT on a recurring idea; I messaged Lisa Sink for help. She and her husband were trainers in the BLM's TIP (Trainer Incentive Program; currently inactive); they own Lance's sire, a Kiger mustang they adopted intact (allowed for Kigers) at age four, and have/had many other mustangs. In other words, Lisa knows feral horses. If anyone could help me move forward with this mare, I thought it might be her.

Lisa messaged me right back: Call me. I did, and gave her a quick summary. She said, "I know exactly what you need to do next." I didn't even ask what that was; I just asked "When?" This morning worked for both of us!

Lisa brought her own 'tools' – a rope halter with integrated lead rope and a flag on a stick. She said follows Buck Brannaman's groundwork methods, and proceeded to slowly and patiently work with Stella. She encouraged me to video what she was doing so I could refer back to it, because I am to repeat the work daily until she comes again next Wednesday (yay!), and I am to go to her place to work with her trained horse so I know what I'm working toward.

I won't go into great detail on what Lisa did for an hour, but will include a few photos and screenshots from videos, plus bullet-point things below as a reminder to myself (and will try to upload the videos soon). But basically we went back to almost square one, working with her as Lisa would a wild mustang, gaining Stella's trust, getting her 'unstuck' so she can easily and calmly move her feet and body around, giving her a chance to think and respond. Having never worked with a horse as 'untouched' as Stella was, I started training her as I would have a handled youngster, leaving behind a big gap that I don't think we would ever have been able to safely hurdle. Yep, I should have made that call to Lisa MONTHS ago, but I'm so glad that I finally did it now, so we can fill in that gap and move forward together.

• Backing (also standing, walking forward)
• Bending at the poll
• Moving the back end
• Head down
• Half-circles
• Accepting the flag
• Moving the front end
• Back a circle
• Rope around the butt and turn
• Handling her tail

Now if only we could hit the reset button on 2020!