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

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!


emma said...

Sorry about your uncle and good luck at the show!! For the running braid, I used to do that for my Arabian mare - including just for our regular jumping lessons so I didn’t get tangled in her epic mane. I found that adding a couple strategically placed turns in the braid that didn’t integrate new sections of hair prevented the braid from pulling or loosening. In other words, the running braid is basically a French braid down the neck where with each turn in the braid you pull in new hair sections. But going a couple turns here and there (usually at points in the middle of the neck) as just a normal (ie not French) braid created more give and less tension across the crest. Then the braid would last me entire jumping lessons and cross country runs (even with me grabbing hold of it occasionally).

Jen said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle. Good luck this weekend! This is going to be so good for her.

Michelle said...

Thank you both for the condolences and good wishes! I kept Stella between me and the ground and Stella kept all four feet in the dressage court, so I declare it a WIN. I'll try to do a post soon!

A :-) said...

Super excited about the show - I've seen your instagram post and will look forward to a post here, as well.

Michelle said...

Sorry it's taking me so long, A; maybe later today. Too much catch-up to do!