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

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....


Terry said...

Definitely progress! Yay!

thecrazysheeplady said...

She sure is pretty :-).

Jen said...

What a great update! Stella is really stunning.

Michelle said...

Thanks, Terry! I'm even contemplating some walk/trot dressage tests this summer. 😁

I think so, too, Sara. 😊

You're welcome, Jen; thanks for commenting and congratulations on your colt!

A :-) said...

It's so clear that you two are a pair. I see great things coming :-)