dressage, Horse Care, Horses & Mud, Shedding

Mud Season at the Barn

Temps have soared into the high 40’s and low 50’s, which feels downright balmy after this winter’s frigid temps. We’re happy to say farewell to snow and ice, as it’s easier and safer to walk outside the barn and turn the horses out again. Alas, the ground is soaked with melted snow, which means mud is our new theme. Mud, I did not miss you.

If there’s mud, horses will find it. Elle takes advantage of our False Spring, carefully camouflaging herself to blend in with her paddock. I’m grateful not to own a grey.


As a result of our False Spring weather (Yes, I am bitter! Winter will be back just as soon as we adapt to warmer temps), the horses are beginning to shed. Think buckets of hair.
Combine long-haired horses with muddy turnout and what do you get? A filthy horse, nearly impossible to groom without a bath. Goodbye clean saddle pads. I miss you already.
I admit I was feeling sorry for myself as I turned Micah out after today’s awesome lesson. “The next time I see you, you’ll be a muddy mess,” I said.
But as I turned to go, a blotchy apparition caught my eye. Elle, a normally elegant grey mare, had done a thorough job of camouflaging herself. She looked combat ready.
“Things could be worse,” I thought to myself, grateful that Micah is a bay.
May your own Spring be true and may you and your horses stay happy and healthy through the change of season.

Related posts
Working Out with the Outside Rein
February 1, 2017
A Different Kind of Warmup
January 25, 2017
Pro’s & Con’s of Winter Riding
January 18, 2017
dressage, dressage lessons, Improving the Canter, Outside Rein

Dressage Necessities: Determination & Guidance

I’ve noticed that a lot of Determination is required to convince a 1,000 pound herbivore that Dressage is more fun than grazing in a pasture. Perhaps you’ve noticed the same.
Yet, Determination alone does not a Dressage rider make. If that were true we would not need trainers.

The Dressage Training Pyramid for Mere Mortals


What we need first and foremost is Guidance. Without Guidance, we are likely to practice making mistakes and creating bad habits with Determination. I am guilty of this and have successfully taught my horse numerous bad habits. I shudder to think of how thoroughly I could un-train my horse without a trainer.
Talent would be a lovely thing to add into the mix but that’s beyond my control. I am who I am and have to work with that, just as I have to work with my horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
Fortunately, my horse is a Very Nice Guy. He is, however, smart enough to realize when I am asleep at the wheel and is quite amenable to taking charge when offered the opportunity.
Most recently, we had a disagreement as to who owned the outside shoulder. I had been focusing on other issues (ok, nodding off) and let him get away with owning the outside shoulder about 100 too-many-times.
In last week’s lesson, things came to a head and a mighty battle ensued. Micah had the weight advantage and — with a great deal of Equine Determination said — “No, I own this shoulder and this rein.”
Thank goodness this was during a lesson and my trainer stepped in with Guidance. I could have flailed along on my own trying to match Micah’s Determination but without correcting the primary issue. (Me.)
Even with Guidance, I suffered mightily to correct the problem. It had gone on just a little too long. My Determination was a poor match to Micah’s superior strength.Fortunately my trainer channeled into me some of her inner fortitude along with Guidance. I prevailed just enough to get the correction drilled into my head and Micah’s.
I started my next ride knowing that if I did nothing else, I had to get this right.
Micah knew, as horses often do, that the game was up. Our improvement was measurable.
It’s been a good week. And if I do nothing else, I will employ my Outside Rein with diligence. Because now I have Determination, Guidance, and a distinct desire to avoid going backwards on this issue.
May your week be just as full of successful moments. Happy riding!

Related posts
A Different Kind of Warmup
January 25, 2017
Chocolate-Covered Canter Squares
October 18, 2016
And Then I Turned the Page: Second Level, Test 2
February 28, 2016
Century Ride, Chronicle of the Horse, dressage, The Dressage Foundation

Barbara Bagg’s Special Century Ride

Every Century Ride is special, given the amount of time and good fortune it takes both horse and rider to reach the combined magical age of 100, while still able to compete. Unfortunately, the stars don’t always align. In this case, victory was bittersweet … and hard earned.

Barbara Bagg and her mare, Irish April, carefully prepared for their Century Ride Competition. Barbara wanted to show how wonderfully off-the-track Thoroughbreds can perform, given the right training


I am really grateful to the people who brought this story to my attention. I gave it my best, to tell this tale honestly and with respect to those involved. They have my admiration and respect.
I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did. For the full story visit the Chronicle of the Horse’s website:
Barbara Bagg’s Special Century Ride

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cantering, dressage, Improving the Canter, Outside Rein

Working Out with the Outside Rein

Today I practiced horse lifting. Yes, me versus 1,000 pound Micah. Micah definitely had the advantage.
As always, it was my fault. I had been gradually letting the right, outside rein slip … obsessing instead on getting bend to the left. Micah was training me more effectively than I was training him.

Today’s workout: me vs. Micah. Micah had the advantage


Things reached a head today, with Micah deciding he owned the outside rein and outside shoulder. He was blowing me off, ignoring my leg, and drifting to the outside. Not so bad at the walk and trot but a disaster at the canter.
Back to the Outside Rein and its importance! At the walk, we worked to regain my authority with both reins. We used the square exercise to move Micah’s shoulder over in response to my leg. We also used turn on the haunches to move the same shoulder over. Cover your ears, gentle reader, but it took some whacking with both leg and crop. (No horses were harmed during this exercise — I assure you I was working much harder than Micah was.)
We then progressed to making squares at the trot and canter. The trot improved quickly but the canter remained the sticking point.
Natalie put two poles across the arena and I used them to keep my steering accurate while trying to make canter squares (see Chocolate Covered Canter Squares, an earlier posting, for specifics of this exercise).
We made big improvement, mainly as the message to: USE THE OUTSIDE REIN made its way to my brain. My right arm may fall off.
Thankfully I have a day to recover before attempting this feat again. Wish me luck.

Related posts
Counter (Canter) Intuitive
November 6, 2016
Chocolate-Covered Canter Squares
October 18, 2016
Determined, yet Relaxed
September 28, 2016
dressage, dressage lessons, natalie perry dressage, warmup strategy

A Different Kind of Warmup

This year’s record snow has made turn-out a sad state of affairs for the horses. When the snow was light and fluffy it wasn’t a big deal. Then it got deep. Only the most youthful horses frolicked in it. The older gentlemen preferred standing by the gate, sending telepathic messages to the barn in hopes of hay coming their way.

Frozen whiskers tell the tale of freezing temperatures, which make barn life a lot more work.


Now we’ve entered the thawing and freezing stage, which means treacherous, icy spots make moving about dangerous. As a result, our horses are doing a lot of standing around.
Micah, who is normally pretty easy to warmup at the trot, is feeling stiff and resistant as a result of this lack of activity. What was once easy began to feel like a fight. I’ve tried to get more loosening up at the walk but wasn’t happy with the results. Something needed to change.
In yesterday’s lesson I asked Natalie to help us adjust our warmup routine. As Micah’s canter work has improved I’ve had a gut feeling that he’s more comfortable in the canter these days, than in the trot. Natalie agreed.
“Let’s do just a little trot, then go straight to the canter,” she said. “But you have to make sure he’s listening and adjustable. That’s your responsibility.”
Bingo! After getting over the initial shock of moving to the canter so quickly, Micah settled in and was cantering nicely in a matter of minutes. When we then returned to the trot it was much more forward and fluid (although it’s taking a lot of leg and adjustments through the trot to keep Micah from slacking off).
I was really happy with our change of approach. The lesson proceeded nicely with Micah putting in good work. Thank goodness for my trainer and her input.
If your warmup routine isn’t working, ask for help. Warmup sets the tone for everything else.

Related posts
Mud Season at the Barn
February 15, 2017
Working Out with the Outside Rein
February 1, 2017
Pro’s & Con’s of Winter Riding
January 18, 2017
dressage, dressage judges, horsewomen, winter riding

Pro’s & Con’s of Winter Riding

In the interest of promoting a positive attitude, I’m going to skip over the con’s of winter riding. Chances are, if you live outside of Florida or California, you already know about freezing water troughs, frozen arena footing, and horses slipping on ice. Let’s focus on the pro’s. Are there any?

The boys hang out near the gate, where the snow has been trampled into submission.

The boys hang out near the gate, where the snow has been trampled into submission.


Mari and I had this discussion today as she was cooling out her horse and I was warming Micah up for a lesson. As our breath came out in puffs of steam, I raised the subject. Here’s what we came up with. It’s a short list. A very short list, indeed.

Pro’s of Winter Riding
1. Water hoses slide easily over the snow, so they’re easier to move.
2. You don’t need to fill water troughs as frequently, since horses drink less in the cold.
3. Snow isn’t as messy as mud.
4. No flies!
5. Pasture horses tend to stay close to the gate begging for hay … no long hikes through the field to fetch them.
6. Blanketed horses stay tidier than their summer counterparts.
7. Lazy horses are more forward in cold weather.

I told you it was a short list — and one that’s hard to get enthused about as our fingers and toes go numb. If you have any ideas to contribute, please send them my way. Trying to stay positive as we have record snow here in Central Oregon.

For reasons none of us truly understand, the boys like hanging out in the dry lots during this year's heavy snows. Check out the great mix of breeds!

For reasons none of us truly understand, the boys like hanging out in the dry lots during this year’s heavy snows. Check out the great mix of breeds!

Related posts
Mud Season at the Barn
February 15, 2017
Working Out with the Outside Rein
February 1, 2017
A Different Kind of Warmup
January 25, 2017