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 21, 2021

When a door closes, try a window

Ha!

Or open the closed door. That's how doors work.

Stella and I have been schooling at home in the cooler mornings or evenings. The weather has been hot and dry, so the arena is really dusty, preventing us doing anything more with the Pivo (watering the arena is not an option with our low-output well), but I believe we're making progress. She started objecting to the hackamore (I think the noseband was the issue) and chews on the soft Duo bit, so I switched her back to the double-jointed snaffle I originally bought for her. Her fussiness with this bit has gotten much better with better riding on my part; funny how that always works. 😏 I was being rather loosey-goosey trying to cater to a baby horse instead of riding her like a dressage horse, forgetting that dressage IS training which is what I'm doing with this green bean! So now I'm riding with inside leg to outside rein and she is starting to explore connection; I've added leg yields and shoulder-fore to our repertoire, too. Like I said; progress.

I talked to Rick's secretary about hauling over to use their round pen to start canter work, but it is temporarily home to a friend's wild BLM filly. I've been dreaming of hauling Stella to the beach and Perrydale Trails to ride this summer, but haven't had any luck finding some calm companions. Several of my friends no longer ride so my options are limited.

Yesterday started out cool and cloudy, perfect for a ride at Perrydale Trails. I had nothing else preventing me from going, so I started texting and emailing to see if anyone I knew could go. No luck. But in my communication with the facility owner, she offered to ride awhile with me today if I couldn't find anyone else; she wasn't available yesterday.

With that plan in place, I rode Stella at home as usual yesterday morning, and then moved on to work on trailer-loading. After all, our truck and trailer have been parked on the driveway since Rick put Oliver down, so we had easy access.

Stella is a slow loader; I've always been able to get her on eventually, but never know how long it will take. I think I just out-wait her and she finally gives in, because she doesn't act scared or clueless, and if I have a support person on the ground she loads right up. This is NOT how my horses load and would be a real problem in a must-load-NOW situation, so it was high time to fix that.

After trying once with the usual response (front feet in at most, then backing out), I pondered my options. I tried using the groundwork methods Lisa taught us; no go. Stella probably thought I'd given up when I led her back to the barn, but I selected a long whip with a short lash (propped against the open trailer door in the photo above) and we went back to the trailer. With the ability to walk in the trailer ahead of her and reach back and touch her on the butt, Stella's loading reluctance was quickly erased. We loaded and unloaded several times; by the end the presence of the whip was enough to convince her that I was no longer going to play the waiting game. Smart girl.

This morning we hauled over to Perrydale Trails and went on Stella's first trail ride! She wasn't as brave as she was in-hand last year, but was really very good. Rebecca takes photos of all her guests, but since she was riding with us (on her quiet, young Quarter Horse), she wasn't able to do that this time. So at the end of our ride I took a few photos of Stella near the trailer to prove we were there. πŸ˜‰
See the skeleton sitting in a chair by the tree?

Oh, and she loaded right up to go home without even needing to SEE the whip!

Update on Lance: he has been fine since that scary seizure, and his blood work shows he doesn't have Cushings. It did show that his metabolic syndrome wasn't as well controlled by his medication as one would hope, so we've increased it some. After their fence-jumping escape, he and Stella are back to turn-out in separate pastures, and Lance is getting some needed exercise running around and hollering when he loses sight of her.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Misadventures in horse-keeping

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to turn-out last week. I had opened Stella's paddock to the lower pasture and haltered Lance to lead him out to the middle pasture, but decided to give him some fly relief first. I sprayed repellent on a tissue in the tackroom, then started wiping his face where he stood in the aisleway. He lifted his head a bit – and then went into what I can only describe as a seizure. He kind of sat backwards and crashed to the floor, lurched up and forward onto his knees, tried to get up and crashed on his side, thrashed a bit, lurched up and forward again . . . and then stood there. I was terrified, both for him and for me, thinking he was going to die right there in front of me and also fully aware that getting pinned against the concrete floor or a wall by my 1200 lb. horse would be a Very. Bad. Thing. I carefully guided him outside, watching him like a hawk. He tried to snatch a bite of weeds like normal, so I turned him loose in the pasture. I kept an eye on him throughout the afternoon and never saw anything amiss; other than some scrapes on all four fetlocks and over one eye plus a bloody nose he seemed fine (and has been ever since). Of course I told Rick about it when he got home. He said he's seen one other metabolic horse do that, did some testing, and found out the horse had developed Cushings on top of metabolic syndrome. So he drew blood on Lance and has sent it in; we're waiting on results and I'm not riding him at all in the meantime.

They were turned out in their respective pastures again Friday afternoon when I happened to see an unusual amount of activity (I was still keeping a closer-than-usual eye on Lance). I stepped out on the deck to see what they were reacting to, and saw this:
"Is that a pterodactyl? I think it's a pterodactyl!"


On Sunday evening, we decided it was time to try turning Lance and Stella out together. We led them to the upper pasture, and after a momentary "yahoo," they settled down to eat. Lance showed no animosity towards Stella like he has in the arena; it seemed that without Oliver in the mix, everything was fine.


After an hour or so, I decided I'd better check on them. When I stepped outside, I could hear hooves on gravel. I hollered at Rick and ran down the driveway, grabbing the halters on my way. I could see that the horses weren't in the pasture but could no longer hear them on the gravel, so I headed SW, calling both their names, and Rick headed NW. As I neared a neighbor's, they confirmed they'd seen the horses, and directed me to the field next to them. After a short game of "catch me if you can," good boy Lance came to me, and we led him home with Stella following. Neither of them had a scratch and the fence is intact, so apparently they both jumped it! That's very uncharacteristic of Lance if not Stella, and a shame since that's the one pasture that still has some decent forage. Sigh; it's always something when you own horses!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Finally, a show report – and more

Sorry for the long delay in posting. Life keeps marching on and you gotta keep up, which doesn't always leave enough time to recap what is now in the rearview mirror. After awhile, you can't even see what you wanted to recap in the rearview mirror, it's so far away – so before we get to that point, I need to post!

The Oregon Morgan Classic was, over all, an excellent outing for Stella. She experienced SO many new things, and handled all of them without losing her mind or trying to vacate the premises. She did veer away from lots of scary things in the warm-up and show arenas – small doorways from inside to the outdoors, horses in 'pajamas,' unfurling carpets, the hammering of stall drape installations, show carts parked with shafts to the sky, people on an elevated platform (the judge's stand), and a very alarming horse that moved in strange ways making strange sounds (a saddlebred being lunged in full tail-set harness with noise-makers on his feet) who exploded into bucking when asked to canter. And even though they weren't pretty, we made it through our two walk-trot tests – in an arena set up in the center of the stabling barn, surrounded by people, horses, dogs and equipment moving into stabling and prepping for the show! 😬

Stella, still not a fan of the bit, fought it through most of the two tests, and I'm sure I was riding with much  more contact than I use at home in an effort to keep her with me in the midst of all the 'new' and 'scary.' You can see the show photographer's proofs of Intro A here and Intro B here; after viewing those you'll probably be as surprised as I was that we broke 60% in both tests. We even 'won' a nifty neck medallion and an engraved glass since we were the only entry in Intro A!

We could not have done it without Kate!



As I stated going into this show, I knew we weren't ready to be showing even walk/trot, but I'm still glad we did. I was SO PROUD of how brave Stella was, and having that experience "in the bank" is worth the price of admission. I think she is ready to go to Perrydale Trails again, this time under saddle, with the right companions; same with the beach. In the meantime, we keep schooling at home so that someday we will be ready for a dressage show. It sure would help to have some expert instruction, but the only one I know and trust is dealing with serious health problems that have her homebound.

Enter technology. Before the show, Anna Blake did a post on "Homeschooling Your Horsemanship." Towards the end she mentioned a "Pivo." Curious, I looked it up. Then I read reviews and watched some videos. I was so impressed that I ordered one the very next day! My thought was that this little gadget would allow me to be my own "eyes on the ground," and maybe I could even send videos to my favorite trainer and pay her for her feedback. My Pivo Pod Silver arrived the day after our show, and I tried it out a few days later, riding Stella in her Duo bit so I could compare [show] apples to [schooling-at-home] apples. I ended up with a 25-minute video that was too long to upload to YouTube, but the Pivo worked slick. Here is a short snippet saved from the long one; it shows some trotting and an entertaining little spook. πŸ˜†

Then another blogger I follow mentioned using it in what sounded like a real-time lesson. I left a comment asking about that and Jen responded that with the app Pivo Meet, that is indeed possible. (Jen even said I could test out a live session with her before trying it with an instructor, which was so nice of her!) In the meantime, I took another test video, this time with the Pivo on a post at the side of the arena and Stella in her hackamore. Pivo lost me when I rode by it on the post, so using the bucket in the middle of the arena like I did the first time will be the way to go.

Now I need to download the app, set up a time, and test it with Jen. (But first I have to get through this week when I am working my usual part-time job and covering for Rick's vacationing secretary all my other days.)

Stella has been giving me some interesting behaviors lately; still trying to figure out what's behind them. I will try to do another post about those soon. In the meantime, our 'herd' is down to two, Lance and Stella.

Yesterday Rick finally put Oliver out of his misery. I haven't been turning the boys out recently because Ollie was hobbling so bad. Good-night, Smart Chocolate.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Que sera, sera

Whatever will be (at the show tomorrow), will be!

Preparation for Stella's and my first show together was disrupted last week when my uncle died and I made whirlwind arrangements to fly to Juneau, Alaska to join family for his graveside service (lots of photos from the trip here). I was able to ride Tuesday morning before I left and Friday when I returned, so took the zen approach that a couple days off would be good for the girl's mind and body.

Actually, I rode twice on Friday (keep in mind that all my rides are short and Stella never breaks a sweat)! The test-ride WintecLite from SmartPak arrived a day early so was here and waiting when I got home. Eager to see if it was a winner, I saddled up with it Friday morning and went for a ride. It didn't feel particularly comfortable, and the seat was too big; I had to keep hitching myself forward. When I got off, I measured it and my own two Wintecs – it was at least a half-inch longer, even though it was labeled as a 17.5"; very strange. So I decided to ride again that afternoon in Lance's saddle. I wanted to test my first impression that she objected to it, and see if I felt secure enough in it for a potentially 'dynamic' ride.

The verdict? Stella exhibited none of the little behaviors I had interpreted as objections, and when she startled at something scary in the woods I didn't feel the least bit insecure. I decided, barring any experiences to the contrary before the show, that I'd use it instead of the ancient navy saddle, and return the test-ride. I have shortened my stirrup leathers one hole, which feels just a titch short, but better that than too long, as I tend to pull up my left leg and either lose my left stirrup or get my foot too far forward in it.

To keep the focus on the saddles and Stella's reactions to them, I rode with the hackamore Friday. On Sunday, I switched to the DUO bit, since we have to show in a bit. Too bad, that; she is MUCH happier in the hackamore. So I spent Sunday's, Monday's, and today's rides trying to finesse things to reduce the amount of fussiness and distraction the bit is causing, focusing on using my body, breath, voice (will have to be careful with that in the show ring) and legs to do most of the communicating. We may not get very high marks for "acceptance of the bit" and "elastic contact", but I feel like I'm riding more effectively than I ever have.
Wet Stella; I managed to get in a ride during the one dry spell Sunday!

Stella was actually quite spooky during today's ride. The wind was blowing the trees around, and something (someone? Lance?) banged loudly in the barn. But the biggest reactions were one quick, short scoot and one giant squat; she has not once freaked out under saddle as she occasionally did during ground work. Lisa has commented that Stella likes having me on her back; maybe she does. 😊

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with her mane tomorrow. Part of it depends on when we arrive and how much time I have to prepare; I'd rather use the time we have to ease her concerns and help her relax rather than 'fix her hair.' I'm not a fan of many long-mane treatments except a really tidy running braid along the crest, but those seem to pull when a horse stretches its neck, irritating the horse and loosening the braid. I've had an idea for rolling her mane under and back along her crest and securing it somehow, so did a 'quick and dirty' experiment with that today. It started out looking okay, but had mostly disintegrated by the end of our ride.

offside just for fun
I think it could work, but the morning of our first show is probably not the time to perfect it. So I've reviewed some online tutorials and will do a running braid at the showgrounds if I have time before our first class.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to give the girl her first shampoo and finish loading the trailer.

Oh, my friend Kate is going with me tomorrow. You know you have a good friend when she's willing to show up at your house at 4:30 a.m. to be your horse show support!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hold onto your hats helmets...

...it's going to be a wild ride just documenting the last week, not to mention what's coming!

So after I wrote my last post, I got to thinking (thinking; always thinking). There is no rule against showing in an ancient, battered saddle; people who see us before we go into the ring would surely raise their eyebrows but the judge will likely have her attention on other things while we're in the ring. Check one showing obstacle off the list to address before the entry deadline of June 1st(!).

A second obstacle was Stella's teeth. When I sent Suzan a photo of the damaged Nathe bit weeks ago, she stated that Stella is teething and to switch to a bitless bridle for most of her rides in order to avoid causing 'issues.' Rick did a quick manual check and confirmed she needed a dental – sometime ("the cobbler's children have no shoes"). I didn't want to ride her in a bit as I would need to in a show without that dental, so I finally asked him Monday if he could do it. Bless his heart, he did – even though it was HOT and he and I had moved over four tons of hay that day.

She has big wolf teeth, but he didn't want to give her the additional anesthesia needed to remove them. So he did the necessary floating and said we'd wait and see if the wolf teeth give her any trouble.

While the anesthesia was wearing off, I decided to take advantage of modern pharmacology and clip her bridle path and fetlocks for the very first time. Then I sprayed Show Sheen in her tail, trimmed the end and brushed it out. That felt like removing a couple obstacles. (Lance got some spa treatment, too.)
Tidy fetlocks!



But the big question/obstacle remained. Not "Are we ready?" I have no illusions about Stella being ready to show; she's not. She's still a hot, reactive mare that's greener-than-Intro Level-grass. No, my concern is that the whole experience could overface her rather than give her positive exposure, and I didn't want to risk that. So on my way to work Tuesday (June 1st), I called the person who knows her best second to me: Lisa.

Lisa had already expressed enthusiasm for my entering the show when we rode at the fairgrounds, and she reiterated how impressed she was with how well Stella did there. She thought I should go for it, with the caveat that I would know if she wasn't ready, and could scratch.

Ha; Lisa apparently doesn't know me as well as she knows Stella! I know people do that, but the thought of paying all the (non-refundable) fees, going through all the prep work, and getting up at o'dark thirty to get to the grounds in time to tack up, lead Stella around for a lengthy looky-loo, and warm up before entering the ring shortly after 8:00 a.m. only to decide "Nope; not a good idea!" was anathema. BUT. If my main purpose for entering this show is to give Stella more life experience, why not go? Even if I end up scratching our Intro tests, she would get new experiences in spades. Besides, it is fun to go hang out with other breed enthusiasts. At a regular dressage show she would be something of an oddity; at a Morgan show, she would be enthused over.

So I scrambled after work on Tuesday in order to get our entry form filled out and postmarked in time. We're going to the Oregon Morgan Classic two weeks from today!

But wait; there's more!

Since I would be slightly self-conscious showing up at OMC with the old navy Wintec, I have been investigating saddle options online. Having another grippy synthetic saddle has a lot of appeal when you're an 'old lady' riding a fresh filly, so I looked at newer used and brand new Wintec saddles. SmartPak has test ride saddles with free shipping both ways, and this morning I realized that if I ordered one today, I would have the saddle in time to try it before the show – and could show in it if Stella and I like it! So I ordered this.

Then I went to the barn to ride. I swapped out the damaged Nathe for the double-jointed snaffle; she has worn it while being ponied but I don't think I've ridden with it. Better see how she goes in it, right?

The only positive to this is that she got foamy – on one side.

Ugh. Stella was NOT happy. Lots of mouthing and gaping and tongue contortions; she was so busy fussing with the bit that she couldn't really listen to me. Remembering how well she went in the Nathe at the fairgrounds, I promptly ordered another when I got back to the house (actually, I ordered this, which Suzan says is identical).

So in for a penny, in for a pound whole pile of cash. πŸ˜† Now if I can just find someone willing to come along as a groom of sorts, since I will be showing out of my trailer....

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Three in a row

Since my last post, I have made some tack adjustments for various reasons. After our trip to the fairgrounds I took a look at Stella's bit, and decided it was finished. There seems to be more damage, and I don't want to risk it hurting her. I've been riding her in the German hackamore at home anyway, so switched back to that. But she started shaking her head with irritation during our next ride. I suspected that Breezy's too-small browband was pinching her ear, so I switched the German hackamore over to a biothane bridle I picked up at a local farm store and that fixed the issue. As for the bit, Suzan thinks the double-jointed 'lozenge' snaffle I got for her will work fine for showing; she recommends the Nathe for long-lining but we haven't been doing that.

What won't work for showing is the ancient Wintec saddle I've been using on Stella. So I decided I'd better start riding her in the newer Wintec saddle I use on Lance; their measurements indicate they need the same size gullet, after all. But after two rides it was quite clear to me that she was not as happy or comfortable with the 'upgrade;' I switched back and she's been fine.

Actually, she's been more than fine. The last three rides I've had on her have been consistently excellent. She has walked without jigging, accepted my aids, and the circles of our figure eights have been round. It's like she's graduated from kindergarten! I don't want to mess with success to shoehorn her into show-appropriate tack, so I think that pretty much settles the question of next month's show. That's okay; there will be more shows later in the year, and we will be more ready. In the meantime, we'll enjoy other adventures! Today, our driveway; this summer, hopefully Perrydale Trails and the beach. (We haven't gone to the fairgrounds again because Lisa's truck broke down.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Steps towards decision-making

Compared to a lot of people, I came to showing horses relatively late. It was not part of my childhood or teens; I had barely dipped my toe into any kind of equine competition before I turned 30. But after I became a student of dressage, I figured out that showing could be an effective evaluation tool. So I would set goals for training and showing, then work to achieve them, rather than using competitions as a showcase for what my horse and I had already mastered. And that approach mostly worked for me, as I forged ahead through the levels year after year, earning a fair number of ribbons and USDF All-Breed awards along the way.

So once I got the idea of showing Stella next month at the Oregon Morgan Classic, I turned my attention to what would need to happen for that to be possible. I'm not interested in getting hurt, making Stella look bad by overfacing her, or embarrassing myself, so mucho progress would have to be make in the next four weeks. And I'd have to be confident enough in our progress by June 1 to enter.

Step 1: Much more exposure to life outside our arena. I started by riding Stella out of our arena and up and down the driveway, and texted Lisa about meeting up at the county fairgrounds. That meet-up happened this morning. I got there first, so tacked up Stella and led her around the grounds, the warm-up arena, and the big indoor arena.

By the time Lisa arrived with three horses and two friends, we were ready to mount up and give it a whirl. Fortunately, there wasn't much whirling! Stella was very nervous and tense about the new environment and the other horses' activities, but didn't lose her mind. Lisa snapped one photo and got a couple of short video clips, one of just Stella and the other showing two of the other three horses.
The buckskin in the foreground is Lance's half-sister; the bay loping around the perimeter is Lance's sire. The third horse was a young, green mustang prone to bolting; fortunately, he didn't do that today. The photo isn't great, but I do like my good leg position. I am very conscious of the need to have a secure seat on my little firecracker! (You might also notice that I'm riding her in a bit for a 'bit' more security.) Oh, and Stella was actually ridden enough to sweat a little!


Step 2? First I think there needs to be a whole lot more of Step 1. Lisa offered to meet us at the fairgrounds once a week leading up to the show, so we'll take her up on that. She's also going to the beach to ride tomorrow, but it doesn't sound like the right group for us to join. (Refer to above regarding lack of desire to get hurt or overface Stella.) In spite of Lisa's enthusiasm about my idea of showing Stella next month, today made me think it'll be too much, too soon. But I'll give us the two weeks until entries are due to decide.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Don't faint!

Two posts in two days! What has gotten into me? Well, Stella and I had a 'first' today, and I decided to just document it.

I wanted to get a 'state of the union' on Stella's canter under direction before thinking about adding a third gait to our under-saddle repertoire. She canters at liberty just fine, but turns into a whirling dervish on the lunge line. I don't think I've lunged her since beginning lessons with Lisa last August, so wondered if things had changed.

Well, no; no, they haven't. My girl is still a whirling dervish on the lunge line. But I know her much better now than the last time I lunged her, so I kept quietly working with her until she walked on command in both directions. By that time she was sweaty and winded, so I got on to walk her around and cool her out. I left the arena gate open, and after a bit I directed her out of the arena and up the driveway – our first solo foray out of the 'sandbox.' We walked up the driveway to our entry gate, then did the circle up by the house before walking back down to the arena. She was very up-headed and alert but that was it, so she gets an "A"!

Afterwards I hosed her off and let her out into the lower pasture to roll and graze. Then I led the boys to the upper pasture, where itchy Lance also rolled, leaving lots of hair in the grass. (Oliver has a very hard time laying down.)

I might need my head examined, but I'm actually contemplating showing Stella this summer. The Oregon Morgan Classic has dressage classes, including USDF Intro Tests A and B. Entries close on June 1, so I will keep working with Stella until then and decide at the last minute.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Black Swan and the Velveteen Rabbit

I know; it's been a month and a half! It's not for lack of blog fodder that I've been silent here; more that I'm doing a lot with my horses (Stella, mostly) to help keep me sane and centered but not finding time for some other things, like blogging. There has been lots of family drama and resulting stress, but when I am working horses (or in agility class with my pup) I can put that out of mind completely and focus on something else.

Not that life with horses is stress-free. It has been a rough spring for Lance. I mentioned his breathing problems in my last post, and that has continued to various degrees. His weight is good but his energy is low, and he's rubbing out his mane, tail, and hair on various parts of his itchy hide. The other day when I was riding my poor, mangy-looking mustang, The Velveteen Rabbit came to mind; Lance is as much loved, and threadbare, as that character. In complete contrast, Stella is my lovely black swan, even though I never can quite capture her elegance, IMO. I keep trying, though!

Then there's Oliver, the kinda crazy quarter horse Rick and Brian have shared since the loss of Rick's cutting horse and Brian's pony. His front legs are shot, and it has been plain to Brian and me for months that he is miserable. Rick finally came to the same conclusion after taking the time to examine him more closely, but is still procrastinating on putting him down. It is sad, but Ollie's had 20 more years of life than he would have had with his breeder, and 21 more years than it appeared he'd have when he almost died of sepsis as a foal.

Back to happier things. Awhile back I wrote on my farm blog, "I feel like I'm now reaping the results of the long, slow work of relationship-building with my beautiful Morgan mare Stella. I am now riding her regularly at walk and trot, which just thrills me, and there is much promise of greatness to come." That's right; we've added a gait to our under-saddle repertoire! After my last post, Lisa came out to assist us in taking the next step by ponying us at the walk and trot. Stella did pretty well (I've ponied her at the trot lots of times), but she was just squirrelly enough that I didn't feel comfortable proceeding at home alone. Lisa and I had talked about hauling our young horses to a facility with a round pen, where we could both work our skittish mounts in a more controlled environment, so on March 30 we did just that. And with one excellent session under her girth, it's been onward and forward at home!

First solo trot work; what a good girl!
As I was untacking her in mid-April, I noticed something on the mouthpiece of Stella's Nathe bit. On closer examination, it is clear she had caused significant damage:

Alarmed, especially since we hadn't had this bit all that long, I texted Suzan. She told me to switch to a bitless bridle immediately, because Stella was teething and working her in a bit while teething can cause all kinds of problems. Okay then. At some point Rick is going to do a dental on her, but in the meantime I cobbled together this so we could keep working:

I purchased the 'hackamore' part (noseband/chin strap/metal wheel) on eBay from Germany years ago for Lance, to use when he got little pinpoint sores in his mouth. I had it on the bridle I bought for my Swedish Warmblood mare La Prix, but that was way too big on Stella. So I took the headstall and reins off the cob bridle we got with Brian's pony Breezy. The browband is too tight and the reins are a bit short, so I should do some more cobbling and trade out La Prix's headband and reins for those parts of the cob bridle, but it's working for now.

Oh, another interesting tidbit in the tack department. I've been riding Stella in an ancient Wintec saddle but eventually plan to switch to the newer Wintec saddle I use on Lance, with the appropriate gullet. To that end I bought a Wintec gullet gauge. Incredibly, my little black swan of a Morgan and my big red goober of a mustang both require an XL gullet! That seemed so unlikely that I had a friend come over and help me measure again; she got the same results. So strange, because there is no question that Lance is far broader than Stella, but hey, I don't have to buy a different gullet!

Stella is still a reactive girl, but when she spooks at something under saddle, she doesn't lose her mind. She may jump once, but then goes right back to what we were doing; what a blessing. So far we're staying in the arena, but on a warm day when she's really mellow (that's happened once, okay?), I plan to stretch her horizons. I've been sitting (carefully) the trot because she got anxious the first time I tried posting, but last night I tried again and she was fine with it. I'm really impressed with how she's responding to my leg, seat, and voice, too. I've been wanting video to document where we are now; on Mothers Day my son gave me the gift of some time to do that (this is pre-posting):
I think we've come a long way, baby. 😊

P.S. Ugh; you can clearly see the Lance-hoof-shaped scar tissue on the back of my right thigh in the video. Oh well, no 'body' is perfect....

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Spring things in the air

Ah yes, 'tis the season for pollen and horse hair. My eyes have been itchy and Lance has been struggling to breathe, poor guy; we've had to add dexamethasone to his meds to try and quiet down his heaves. Good thing I have another horse to ride!

That would be Stella, the shedding one, stepping up to keep my riding muscles in shape. We're still just walking around the arena, but the fact that I can saddle and bridle her and ride is pretty thrilling. Of course, we do that after she gets turned out to expend her youthful energy



and we check in with at least a little groundwork. Last night I rode her at dusk; it was our first warm spring evening and she was really good – even after Ollie snorted and she did a startle-squat!

Today was a different story. She pulled back hard a couple times when I was grooming her, and as I started to bridle her she exploded, bucking and plunging in her paddock. I have NO idea where that came from; she acted like a bronc that had just been girthed up for the first time. She almost came over me to get in her stall but thought better of it once she was up in my face; I was bracing to get trampled on again and was very thankful to avoid that since my thigh still isn't 100%. I was also afraid she was going to bust her beautiful bridle; I had the reins around her neck so when she jumped the bridle dangled off her side where she could have gotten a hind foot through the headstall (but didn't). After all that I decided that today might not be a riding day. It was blustery and cold with a lot going on on the hill noise-wise; a good time to just work on our partnership and try to land my kite. πŸ˜‰

Lo and behold, after awhile her brain came back and I was able to get on for another walk!


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Back in the saddle(s)!

Just looked at my last post to refresh my memory; goodness, a LOT has happened since February 17! The next day I went back for that check-up (after getting my second COVID shot; hurray!), and the doctor pronounced me cured! He was surprised that I followed his orders; he said most patients don't. But because I did, the swelling was gone and I was released from all restrictions. The area is still a bit tender if bumped and twinges on its own occasionally, but that should go away eventually, although he said it may take six months for the surface numbness to go away . . . if it does.

So of course I went right back to working my horses. But first Stella got some turn-out time to let off steam after being cooped up because of my stall rest and the ice:


Sometimes I feel like I should – and could – just get on and start riding her, and 30-40 years ago I'm sure I would have. But between those moves and energy, and my age and working at home alone without the benefit of a round pen, it seems unwise. So I continued with all kinds of groundwork and ponying her off Lance . . . and got an idea. Why not have someone pony me on Stella off Lance? I mentioned it to my husband, who responded that he wouldn't trust Lance, so I turned to Lisa again. She thought my idea was a good one and agreed to come out to help me, so two weeks ago she did just that – and more! After ponying us for a bit and seeing how relaxed Stella was, Lisa unclipped her extra lead and I continued to ride beside her and Lance using the rope halter and its lead tied around as a loop rein. She did great and I was so pleased!

Before fast-forwarding to our next session with Lisa today, insert a little online shopping. At one of our long-lining lessons with Suzan last fall, she recommended a Nathe bit for Stella. I've looked on eBay off and on since then, trying to find a deal because they are expensive, and I hated to spend money on an unknown. Finally I texted Suzan; "How confident are you that a Nathe bit would be the best option for Stella?" Her response was "100% and if not I will sell it for you." Well! I hit the "Buy Now" button and it arrived on Monday!
Here it is, in place of the double-jointed snaffle I have been using for Stella. She wore it under her rope halter for ponying and groundwork yesterday,

with Lance's 'neck ring' rope as lightweight reins

and again today when Lisa came to help us again. I had already ponied Stella off Lance for ten minutes when she arrived, so we didn't do much more ponying before she turned us loose. After riding with her for awhile, she stopped and we rode circles around her and Lance, using the 'reins' along with the halter's lead rope to get her used to the bit in action. Stella was again very good, responding calmly to a squeeze of my legs to walk, gentle direct rein to turn, and a verbal cue plus body position to halt. Before long she grew more confident and started testing me a little, so we refocused with some turns and stopped on a good note. Stella's a smart mare; I'm going to have to keep things short, sweet, and interesting!

Here are some video snippets Lisa took of us, a couple of blurry screenshots from them – and a photo of our helpers. 😁 It really feels like we are making strides now after more than a year of baby steps. Lisa suggested tying Lance in the arena as a babysitter if I feel like trying to ride her alone. We'll see how that goes.


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

What a month-plus!

On many fronts not much has happened since I last posted here. My new student hasn't been back yet due to other commitments and bad weather. I haven't done much more with Stella due to bad weather and now stall rest – mine, not hers. And with that, I'll segue into what has happened....

Because of all the rain we were getting, I started ponying Stella off Lance again. That kept both of them exercised a little and kept me from getting soaked. On January 19, I put the body wrap on Stella, saddled up Lance, grabbed the flag, and headed to the arena. Stella was feeling a little frisky from not getting much turn-out (when there are puddles, she DIGS; NOT good for the footing)


which made Lance cranky. She frisked, he reacted at her, I corrected him while inadvertently swishing the flag (which he isn't used to; oops), and off he launched towards the arena fence. Deciding that I'd rather bail before we reached the metal panels rather than possibly getting thrown into them, I let go of Stella's lead rope – but not Lance's reins. My split-second reasoning was to prevent Lance from chasing Stella down and trying to kill her, like he did last time he got loose in the arena with her. Judging by the amount of jumping around he continued to do after I hit the ground, that was precisely his desire. Unfortunately, one of his big feet came down on the back of my right thigh as I lay on my side. Yeah, that HURT; he weighs in at 1200+ lbs. But thankful that he didn't step on my femur or knee or torso, I got up, led him to the other end of the arena where Stella was standing (and stood, even though the back loop of the body wrap had slid up under her tail like a crupper; woot!), got back on, and finished our walk.

That night I showed my leg to Rick, who was concerned enough that he ultrasounded it. Even though the lump appeared to be filled with serous fluid, not a clot, he thought it best to have my doctor check it out, so the next day I did. The doctor agreed with Rick, and recommended R.I.C.E. So for the next two weeks, I iced it, wore some compression capris I got to wear under my white show breeches, and applied arnica cream and DMSO. Elevating my thigh above my heart wasn't really feasible, and rest, well....



Laying down, the lump isn't as obvious.

The bruising improved but the lump remained. Rick decided to ultrasound it again, called his BIL who is an orthopedic trauma surgeon, and learned I had actually sustained a type of closed degloving injury called a Morel-LavallΓ©e Lesion. Then the search was on to find the best way to deal with it. In the end, that led us to an appointment with a local plastic surgeon last Tuesday, who looked at it and decided to drain it on the spot and tightly wrap it. (One of the characteristics of ML Lesions is a loss of feeling, so he just stuck an 18-gauge needle in it and I didn't feel a thing!) He instructed me to leave the wrap on for the next two weeks and stay off of it as much as possible; I go back for a check-up tomorrow.

In between appointments #1 and #2, we had a doozy of an ice storm. My poor husband was already doing all the barn chores, and then we lost power for three and a half days while everything was (ultimately) covered by 1.5" of treacherous ice, making everything more labor-intensive. But at least those were days I didn't feel bad (as I have all the others) about not being able to work/play with my horses!

Someone is feeling as cooped up as I am!

So all of us have some ground to regain, and I hope we can get back to it sooner rather than later.