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

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

Stella is getting an extended break from riding and, unfortunately, practically any exercise at all right now. I planned a trip for February 11-17 to visit and help my parents in Texas, and it turned out that the help they ended up needing was not just cleaning out some junk. I wrote more about that on my farm blog (which I will continue to update); the upshot is that I don't know how long I'll be here. My husband finally turned out Stella (and eventually Lance) in the arena last Sunday for the first time, and said she was rather hard to handle given all her pent-up energy. Ya think?!? My hot tamale is used to near-daily turn-out and/or riding; I'm surprised she hasn't self-combusted by now! It will be interesting to see how she handles when I finally get home. Sometimes extended breaks do wonders for a horse's mind; when it comes to Stella, I wonder if it may do the opposite.

I am missing my home, my routine, my animals. I have gotten to love on a neighbor's dog once, and have seen horses once while walking around my parents' small rural neighborhood outside of Amarillo. Having animals around me has been essential to my mental health for my entire life, but right now my parents' needs trump my own.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Practice makes perfect better

Since our lesson with Suzan, I've been using a CorrecTOR with rear shims to balance my saddle as suggested, and we've been working on keeping the walk (and trot) regular and unhurried. Stella is fine with the CorrecTOR (a few horses aren't), and the saddle position does feel better to me.

Stella understands what my body/leg half-halts mean, and tries to comply (sometimes wonderfully), but other times she is just so full of "go" that it is nearly impossible to s-l-o-w  d-o-w-n to a measured, four-beat walk. So I pull out the toolbox (cavaletti, shoulder-in, leg-yield, halt and rein-back) to help her control herself and we always make a little progress. Sometimes we just work at the walk and trot, sometimes we canter, too – if she's settled enough. Unlike a lot of horses, getting to canter tends to ramp her up rather than lower her energy.
Looking a little tidier after getting her bridle path and jaw line scissor-trimmed.

Yesterday I rode her twice. It was a beautiful day. Since I'd turned the horses out at dusk the night before (and since there will be occasions when she can't have turn-out before a ride, so it's good experience), I just pulled her out of her quarters to school her in the morning (we did our walk warm-up, of course). Stella was working hard to listen to my half-halts, so after some good work at the walk and trot I led her back to her stall, still cool and dry. As the day progressed I got an itch to ride through the woods while the weather allowed, so I turned the horses out to run and play, then saddled up Stella a second time. No warm-up; we just headed up the driveway. She was eager but tense, not a good combo to navigate the slick conditions that lead down onto the neighbor's lot to access the gravel road and she resisted, so I hopped off and led her through their property and remounted using a boulder at the bottom of their drive. We walked up and down all three dead-end 'branches' of Matthews Creek Lane, checking out the 'progress' at the least developed end, but didn't go up the longest, steepest hill on another branch as it was getting dark. Riding in dark clothes with black tack on a black horse with nowhere to get off the gravel lane if a car came through just didn't seem like a good idea. I do have a hi-viz vest but didn't think to don it. 😏

Even though we just walked, Stella worked up a sweat from nerves and lots of hill work, so I put Breezy's cooler on her. Last night Rick cleaned stalls while I fed and watered everyone, so I forgot all about it. When I saw her in the paddock this morning, my 'dressed' horse took me by surprise. Then I had to take a photo; she just looks so elegant, like a movie star relaxing in her dressing gown. 😊