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

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The rest of November's rides

11/23: Showers on and off since last night left the arena a maze of puddles. Since I turned the horses out for a romp at dusk last night after working in town, I decided to tack up Stella and ride without turning her out first, and mostly ride outside the arena. We did our usual warm-up walk on the buckle in the sandbox, and then headed up the driveway. Deciding it was too slippery to turn left and go through the southern neighbor's lot, we turned right and headed up the gravel lane. Stella was hot to go and tense, so I leg-yielded her back and forth up the incline on our single-track lane to encourage walking instead of jigging. When we got to the top of the hill, our northern neighbor was pulling out in her car and another car was coming our way, so I hopped off and held Stella, then got back on.

From our end of the gravel lane to the other and back is little more than a mile, but Stella says that being on high alert and leg-yielding or doing shoulder-in at the same time takes a LOT of effort, even if we walked the whole way. 😆 Plus, the incline peaks between the two dead-ends, so there is some uphill and downhill action going and coming. By the time we turned around and headed back up the peak, Stella's head came down and her pace leveled out. After crossing the intersecting paved road, we were passed by two vehicles (winery traffic) with no precautionary dismounts or reaction on Stella's part. This is exactly what I hoped to be able to do during the rainy season, both to preserve our arena footing and to provide variety in conditioning and training; yay us!

11/24: Today we schooled in the arena. I worked on keeping her pace controlled, using my core at the walk and my posting speed (which is also using my core) at the trot. Doing shoulder-in at the walk on both reins also helps keep her pace controlled, while I analyze my legs and seat to see if I'm using them the same in both directions (I don't, naturally; it takes a lot of focus!).

11/25: After baking off my dinner rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, I had just enough time to turn the horses to play and get in a very short ride before we had to clean up and leave. Rick came down to the arena to see what I was doing, and all Stella wanted to do was hang out at the gate with him and get stroked! Found the treasure below in the arena; anyone know what bird lost this? 

11/28: In spite of Stella having two days off and being pretty tense, I decided we were going to 'go out,' this time turning left and going through the neighbor's lot and down the gravel lane. She had to stop to look and listen several times to make sure it was safe, but was then willing to keep going. It was dusk when we returned, with some reflected color in the SSE.

11/30: Last ride of the month; we schooled in the arena after the horses got turn-out time. Again I worked on slowing Stella's walk and trot with my core and not my hands as Suzan had us do in our last lesson, while also working hard to use my legs and hips the same whether tracking left or right. After making good progress (both of us), I asked for canter while continuing to concentrate on keeping my 'slow and steady' aids the same. It worked! Her canter was much more controlled than usual, even though she clearly wanted to rush at times. It feels so good to be figuring out what works with this girl, and being able to feel and correct where I tend to struggle as well!

Afterwards we walked up the driveway to see the fancy new Christmas lights my husband put on the entry gate. She noticed them, but wasn't freaked out, and didn't move when I activated the power arm to shut the gate.

We have made a lot of progress together in two years!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Notes on November rides

Well, I didn't really manage to keep good notes on my rides so far this month, but I have photos so that's something, right? Right??? Sigh.

It's been a tough month, with no relief in sight. I was actually planning a trip which had to be cancelled; the best part of the cancellation was not having to leave my mental health horse therapy. Anyway, below in blue is what I jotted down to prompt me to summarize my rides before the wheels fell off my good intentions completely.

Tuesday, Nov. 2: I love it when dry weather coincides with my 'home' days.

Wednesday, Nov. 3

Friday, Nov. 5: Stella was slightly stocked up in her hind legs this morning, so I turned her out for a bit in the arena, Yesterday's wind and rain had scattered leaves across the sand and I contemplated turning her out in the lower pasture instead, but decided the arena was safer even if she smashed leaves into the wet footing. She made good use of her time, running and bucking, then clearly signaled to me when she was done.

To my surprise, the day stayed dry and the sun even came out at times, so I got to ride. Because of the issues of Tuesday and Wednesday, I thought a walk through the woods would be a good change of pace. She was quiet during our walking warm-up, but as soon as we headed up the driveway, she amped up. So I turned her back down the driveway and we rode around, down, and back up the driveway a few times. She was quite nervous about going close to the house at first, but did get better, so we headed out the gate. Again she amped up, so I rode her up and down the gravel lane in front of our property to see if she'd settle down enough to be able to safely navigate off-gravel through the neighbor's property. She never really did, but worked up a little sweat anyway so I called it good. She flipped her head quite a bit in the beginning, but then that behavior mostly disappeared.

Nov. 9

Nov. 10

My notes from the 5th remind me that she flipped her head a LOT during the first two rides of the month. In fact, she was flipping her head so much on the 3rd that I thought she might stumble and fall!

I took the above photo on the 2nd, and the (unflattering) photo below on the 3rd, to try and show the foamy slobber she had flipped up on her face with all her gyrations. I thought she might have gotten her tongue over the bit, but no; I checked her wolf teeth but they haven't changed nor were her gums sore. Stella always generates a lot of foam during our rides; that's usually a sign of relaxation but I'm not sure that's accurate with her.

Here she is at the top of our driveway on the 5th:

On the 6th, in spite of the puddles and the leaves, I turned Stella out and captured some fun fall photos of my feisty filly.

I know I schooled her on the 10th, because I snapped this shot afterwards of her "good girl graze":

On the 16th we rode down to the main road to get the mail, then made a loop back past our driveway, through our southern neighbor's property, along the gravel lane to our eastern neighbor's driveway, and up to their house to pick up a package. Then I led her home through our lower pasture.

Since it was relatively warm the 19th, I decided to hose Stella off after our ride. Between turn-out, schooling, and her winter coat, she's been getting pretty sweaty – and sticky. After her shower I put Breezy's old cooler on her and left it on her overnight. Other than leading her around in it once before, this is the first time she's worn anything other than tack, and she did great!

On Saturday afternoon, Stella and I went for a ride through the woods. Ahead of us on that track in the photos below, there has been a lot of clearing. According to a neighbor on adjoining property, two new homes are scheduled to be built there. Rats.

Stella noticed the changes since our first ride in that area

Then we took another branch of the road through the woods, Stella's first time on that one and my first in awhile. A new house has been built on a lot I used to ride through to get to a vast Christmas tree acreage, which was then dozed for a vineyard, which has since been perimeter-fenced. Yes, we are getting hemmed in and fenced out. Anyway, at the new house there were people outside . . . and GOATS! With a guard alpaca!

After the alpaca rushed the gate to warn us, terrifying Stella, she got more curious

Once again she proved her ability to hold herself together in the face of scary new things; I was very proud of her.

And this was yesterday:
I am taking advantage of every opportunity to get Stella out in this season that's short on daylight and long on inclement weather!