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

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. 😉

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-Lavallée 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.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Earning his keep

Lance and I have another student! (I say 'another' because Stella always stands at her paddock railing watching whenever I ride Lance in the arena; I think horses can learn by watching others being worked.) Recently a friend, now in Hawaii, asked if I'd be open to giving lessons to a friend of hers. After talking to this friend-of-a-friend I believed Lance and I could help, so we scheduled her first lesson for yesterday.

Yesterday was a washout, weather-wise. We were planning to proceed with the lesson regardless, in the barn if necessary, but lo and behold, it stopped raining while M was here! Other than Lance being extraordinarily sluggish, the lesson went well, and M is coming again next week.

Meanwhile, I've incorporated something new with Stella, thanks to a different friend's suggestion. She has this book,

and suggested I try the 'body wrap' on Stella, texting me photos of the pertinent pages. Below is a photo of her wearing it for the first tine and walking, looking deceptively calm. Trust me; she was anything BUT! I do think, now that I've worked her in it three times, that it is helping her reactivity, which has only gotten worse during this season of limited turn-out. (After this introduction, she has been wearing it under her tail.)

Decades I learned just a little about Linda Tellington-Jones and TTouch, so I looked into the book and ended up ordering my own copy. Once I did that a Kindle version was made available, which I've been reading on my laptop. So much of what she says resonates; the philosophy is so similar to what I've heard from Anna Blake and the exercises remind me of Jec Ballou's. I look forward to furthering my education and my horses' training!

Friday, January 1, 2021

Starting off right

My only tradition for New Year's Day – really, my only firm holiday tradition, period – is starting the new year on the back of a horse. Preferably not just sitting on a horse but going for a ride on my horse, but there have been years that all I could do was sit on my horse in the barn due to weather, or ride someone else's horse. Still, that's better than those few times in the last 40+ years when circumstances preventing me from being astride at all.

Today's weather forecast indicated a dry window in the morning, followed by a sustained soggy spell – as in days of rain. How fortuitous! I saddled up the reliably rideable one first. While Lance and I warmed up in the arena, I shot a little video to share on Instagram/FB,
then we walked down the lane and back.

Next I turned Stella out to stretch her legs, followed by some in-hand work. Since I am ever working on her reactivity, I did half-circles and circles with her while holding the flag, touching her with the flag, and then adding in a new and alarming piece. slipping the flag up under her tail. Down clamped the tail and forward scooted the mare – at first. But slowly and cautiously she accepted this invasion to the point that she kept walking, for which she was praised and rewarded. Then I climbed the arena fence to do half-circles, pet her, and sit on her. It would have been nice to actually ride her around the arena a bit, but she was quite lively when doing the half-circles so that would have been asking for a confidence-ruining wreck.
 So I had a ride and a sit. Carry on, 2021; I've started you out right!