Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning something new

Had my first dressage lesson today on a really big (about 16.2) horse named Paul. At the moment we're just getting familiar with each other -- me with the horse, the horse with me, the trainer with my level of competence, me with her teaching style -- but I think I actually did pretty well. I've had lessons a couple times in the past and I was able to self-correct some of what were weaknesses in my past, and some of my old issues seem to no longer be part of my repertoire.

My hands remembered how to hold the reins correctly, I remembered to keep my head up and look through turns, which has become my habit with my own horses. I did a fairly creditable posting trot and only had to ask once which shoulder I was supposed to post to because I can never remember (it's the outside shoulder, I rise when it moves forward). I corrected quickly the couple times when the horse broke gait (came down to a walk) for a stride, throwing off my rhythm.

The horse is nice and responsive and well-trained, a little on the lazy side at the walk but trotted out without my having to ask repeatedly. He's 22 and an appendix quarter horse who clearly has a lot more thoroughbred blood in him than my 23 year old appendix quarter horse mare (Dottie).

So in between lessons I need to work on posting trot to build strength in my thigh muscles, and doing a lot of big circles, striving for smooth arcs.

It was very cold today and threatening rain and the trainer called me at 11:30 to see if I planned to cancel and I told her I was about to call her to see if the arena condition was such that we would have to cancel, but I had otherwise planned to bundle up and not let cold keep me from the lesson. I told her later I was a mounted posse member who needed to be able to ride in any weather so was not about to cancel unless there was a compelling reason to cancel, such as a muddy arena or pouring rain.

I'm just not going to be a wuss about it.

But as it turned out, I removed my vest and my glove liners and left off the winter helmet cover (that has a wraparound to cover the ears) because the sun came out through the clouds just at the time of my lesson and it was actually very pleasant! It felt good to be in the sun after two days of gloom, rain, and even some snow.

I used my own saddle on Paul but due to his size I had to use their girth -- mine was WAY too short!

So I have embarked on my new "career" as a dressage rider and am looking forward to getting in shape, getting to where I can move all of my body parts independently, and work more as a team with my horse, which really is what the art of dressage is about -- the partnership between rider and horse. The dancing moves come as a result of that, but the partnership has to be there first.

But I really am looking forward to riding the passage that I saw Dottie do last week. It may take years of training -- or maybe only months -- I have no idea. It will depend on how much effort I put into it and how my body holds up. Tonight my back is out a little bit. I'm being reminded that I should have done this thirty years ago. But I'm doing it now, and I hope I can stay with it long enough to achieve that unity with the horse that I hope to achieve.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dottie's new career??

Wow.... I recently decided to start dressage lessons and I start those lessons next Wednesday. I will be riding one of their horses, because I didn't feel either Dawn nor Dash would be very good at it, not enough impulsion, neither is collecting yet -- things needed for a dressage horse.

Well today George, my natural hoofcare practitioner, came to trim horse feet. I had given old Dottie a dose of bute (pain killer) because it's painful for her to stand on three feet for very long. She's been doing so well since she got that HA shot I thought maybe it might help her stand without pain if I worked her a little before she had to stand for George. So I put her on a line and took her into the arena to limber her up.

I was longeing her, which means I stand still and hold the rope and she goes circles around me. She walked and trotted and I even had her canter and she was doing great, very animated and feeling good, snorting and blowing, and really enjoying herself, and then all of a sudden . . . she was doing this lovely passage, and I can't describe it, see the link below, but my arthritic old mare was doing this beautiful, bouncy, animated haute ecole movement -- and then she stunned me further by doing a piaffe for a few beats.


23 years old, retired, arthritic mare dancing for me at the end of a rope -- and not a camera around.

She may have just become my dressage horse.

Two days, two rides, two horses

Two beautiful sunny days, two rides, two beautiful horses.

Saturday I joined another posse member, Cindy, in her neck of the woods in Tonto Basin. I took Dawn and we rode out in the desert where she showed me the ruins of Fort Reno, a remnant from the days of the Apache wars here in Arizona. If it weren't for the sign you'd never know it was anything but a bunch of rocks, but those rocks are still piles in walls, nearly buried in desert sands, and she was able to point out the infirmary area, a stores area, and other buildings. She's somewhat of a history buff and told me about fires that had destroyed the adobe walls, leaving nothing but the stone foundations.

Also in the area are various Indian ruins and some graves. One of the graves had been opened at some point, an Indian grave, and we talked about how neither of us would ever desecrate an Indian grave. Who knows if it's true, but in the movies, desecrating Indian burial grounds brings mucho bad karma -- or loss of scalp if caught!

We had a lovely ride, most on trails or old roads, some pushing through catclaw and mesquite. The area had burned about five years ago. While there was lots of green on the ground where the grasses had recovered, it looks like the only shrubbery to survive the fire was the nasty catclaw. I still have a hole in one finger from where a claw got me through my gloves.

The next day was a mock search with the posse. Dawn had rolled in pee and manure and was a filthy pig so I took the much-cleaner Dash on that ride. We were using our GPS radios to track a teenage boy who rode his quad out in the brush, parked it, then hiked away from it before transmitting his location. We had to use our GPS radios to home in on his location and find him.

We were split into two groups riding from different directions, and it was my group who found him. Some of the ride was somewhat reminiscent of the ride up Gibson Peak in September (see one of my first posts on this blog under the October tab) -- very rocky and steep, took much skill on the part of the horses to navigate it safely, although not as steep, nor as long a trek as Gibson. Dash did great.

Rod, who was also on Gibson Peak with me that day, was also in my search group, and as we came off the mountain, I commented to him, "After Gibson Peak, this is a piece of cake." He agreed.

Anyway, two vigorous rides in two days. With tax season upon me, that won't happen very often for the next few months so I was glad to get in those two rides.

And that's the latest from the Ranch. I've got tax returns to do!