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


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. 😉
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. 😆

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.