dressage, Horse Care, Micah, senior horses

A Season of Change

Only those of us who are truly fortunate are able to retire before the work becomes too hard for mind or body. We all know it doesn’t always work out this way. So I feel tremendously lucky that my (lease) horse, Micah is one of the fortunate ones.
Our horses depend on thoughtful owners with the mindset and means to maintain them when they start showing signs that age is taking its toll. Horses with the best of luck take on easier jobs or spend their days on pasture, moseying about like old men in coffee shops. They savor the sunshine and unhurried pace of life. Micah will have this luxury.

Treats are a prerequisite before any ride! Photo by Hannah Rugg


I’ve had the pleasure of leasing Micah for the past five years. He has a kind and generous nature, although he doesn’t give anything away for free — you have to earn it. He can put up a fuss (like any horse who is smarter than his rider) but is generally easy-going and willing to go along with this crazy thing we call Dressage. So, when Micah began showing real resistance to our Second Level work, I was concerned. Micah can be lazy but he’s not a fighter.
Micah’s approaching his 24th birthday and, while he’s in great shape and receives regular chiropractic care, I suspect he has some of the cranky aches and pains that come with aging. I certainly have a few.
So, while I dreaded opening a door that, once opened, could not be closed, I felt it was my responsibility to to let Micah’s owner know what I felt Micah was saying. If he was my horse, I’d back him down to an easier level of work. Sad as I might be to lose Micah, I would rather retire him than break him.
Although it means parting ways with a horse I love, when his owner said “we are of like minds” my heart felt good. Carol had been worried about Micah and the thought lingered that perhaps the work was too much for him. This weekend Micah will ease into retirement with the best of care.
While I am sad for myself, I am happy for Micah — he has been a significant part of my life. He nickers when he hears me coming, knowing I always have treats in hand, and never runs from me in the pasture, even though I’m coming to ask him to work. Even when he protests about the work, he doesn’t try to hurt me. (If I was a horse, I’d do far worse!)
I have loved Micah as if he was my own, as we’ve struggled together trying to further our skills, forgiving each other along the way for our quirks and foibles. There have been countless times when Micah has outsmarted me and I’ve had to laugh — good for you, buddy! It has been an honor and a pleasure to ride such a horse.
Just as wonderful has been my relationship with Micah’s owner, Carol. Through the years, ours has been less of a financial arrangement and more of a partnership — a sharing in the care and well-being of a wonderful horse.
It is with great sadness that I let Micah go. But I fully believe we are doing what is right for him.
As for my future, the thought of horselessness is daunting. A horse is more than a means to exercise: it’s a relationship. (As I tell my non horse friends, imagine giving up your dog!) Yet I have been horseless before and another horse always comes along, with new lessons to teach. My trainer and my friends are keeping their eyes open for me and I trust something will work out.
As I come to terms with this change of season, I celebrate all Micah has given me. He has truly been a gift of good fortune. It is fitting to see him rewarded in his senior years with the best of care. We should all be so fortunate.

Related posts
Vest Causes Climate Change
September 18, 2018
Lessons from Camp
August 26, 2018
Anything Can Happen at a Horse Show
June 24, 2018
dressage, dressage training, equestrian, Equitech

Vest Causes Climate Change

aka: My Magic Vest

My magical vest is so good, I don’t even need to wear it to feel cooler.

To deal with the heat, several of my barnmates purchased cooling vests this summer. These are nifty vests you soak in water, wring out, and they retain just enough moisture to keep you cooler in the heat.
Clever friends, they purchased their vests while temps were tipping 100 degrees. They got lots of good use out of them. Me, I waited until the week before Adult Amateur Riding camp to order mine. Of course there were delays and my vest arrived the week after camp.
The good news is that my vest is Magical! While my friends brag that their vests reduce their body temperature by 10 degrees below the outside temperature, my vest dropped the outside temperature by 30 degrees — we went from daytime highs of 100 degrees to temps in the 70’s. My vest has brought about the end of Summer! I am not joking — Fall is in the air.
This vest is so good, I don’t even have to wear it to feel cooler. I keep the vest in my closet, tags still attached, and savor its magical powers. I actually wore a jacket to the barn this morning. It was wonderful.
I may try soaking the vest in water, to see if that helps to squelch the forest fires that are plaguing the Northwest. It’s worth a try!

Related posts
A Season of Change
November 28, 2018
Lessons from Camp
August 26, 2018
Anything Can Happen at a Horse Show
June 24, 2018
Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Heather Oleson, Stephen Birchall

Lessons from Camp

Dear Diary,
I am home from Adult Amateur Riding camp and have finally caught up on sleep and laundry! This was my third year of attending camp and the event is a highlight for me — a chance to hang out with good friends and my horse for four uninterrupted days. The instruction was superb , with lessons from trainers Heather Oleson and Stephen Birchall.
The format is intense. I normally ride three days a week, so jumping into six lessons in four days was a push for me, physically and mentally. The heat was also a factor, when temps hovered in the upper 80’s – testing the limits of my declining heat tolerance. I guzzled water and told myself I was in an endurance event, pacing myself between rides and even getting in a quick afternoon nap.
My first three lessons were with Stephen, who has a very positive and encouraging teaching style. He helped me with my leg position, using a lot of two-point, and it was exciting to make progress with what’s been a long-standing issue for me. Stephen gave Micah and I some great exercises to do at home and the results have been terrific. I’d train again with him any day. Stephen was so good, I really didn’t want to train with Heather. I’d heard that Heather was making students work really hard and I got a bit intimidated.
Fortunately, I was able to spend time with Heather at dinner (she and I being the two ravenous people who filled their plates first) and during the course of the evening I got a feel for her dry sense of humor. She’s very funny in her own way.
In our first lesson together, Heather immediately pointed out a habit I didn’t know I had. When she asked me to push my horse’s haunches out, I automatically looked back at them. “Don’t do that!” she yelled … again and again and again.
It soon became a running joke and I simply had to sass back. I’d jump at the chance to train me again, if she’d let me.
Since we’re a bit isolated here in Central Oregon (being separated from the Willamette Valley by the Cascade Range), Adult Amateur Camp is a terrific opportunity for us to train with high-caliber instructors and experience their insights.
This year especially, I came away feeling I had learned a lot and had some new tools for dealing with old issues. And, I dare not look at my horse’s haunches.

A special thank you to everyone from Central Oregon Chapter who helped to organize this event, in particular Lisa Koch. Thanks, also, to Shevlin Stables for hosting the event at their beautiful facility.

Related posts
Notes from Dressage Camp
August 26, 2016
Central Oregon Dressage, dressage, dressage competition, dressage training, natalie perry dressage

Anything Can Happen at a Horse Show

Pfifer rose to the occasion, ignoring blustery weather, making her mother oh so proud. Photo by Kaitlyn Young Photography


They say anything can happen at a horse show — and it usually does.
At the Central Oregon Dressage Classics a dramatic shift in the weather inspired the horses to bring their most spirited selves to the party.
After weeks of summer-like weather with temps in the 70’s, June-uary, June’s evil cousin arrived to gleefully drop morning temperatures into the 40’s. A bitter wind blew in squalls of rain and tossed in a bit of hail just for fun. When the horses reacted with extra impulsion, the riders rose to the occasion with Serious Positive Attitude.
Volunteering as a groom that weekend, I found my favorite spot beside the warm-up ring. Here, I witnessed a lot of Rider Brain Freeze, a symptom I, myself, have experienced.. The trainers encouragingly called out simple instructions such as “Ride a circle” and the rider would boldly continue on their merry way down the long side of the ring, certain they were following instructions to a ‘T’. We’ve all been there: show nerves can turn the simplest of tasks into major challenges. I was impressed with the good humor the trainers showed, as their riders struggled to shorten their reins, change direction, and — most importantly — breathe. Learning to ride is one thing; learning to show is another skill, altogether.
The highlight of the show, for me, was helping my friend Claudia as her groom. I’ve seen a lot of progress in her riding and her horse responded accordingly despite the challenging weather.
On Saturday afternoon we walked over to the show’s West Ring for Claudia’s second ride of the day. The wind whipped dark clouds over the Cascade Range, where the peaks (when you could see them) sported new coats of snow. The horses felt the excitement of spring and summer fighting for dominance.
As Claudia waited for her turn in the show ring, the horse in the arena in front of us acted up, ungraciously unloading his young rider in the footing. Fortunately, the rider wasn’t badly hurt but it’s always troubling to see a rider fall. She was able to stand but not support her weight well enough to walk. Show management responded immediately and the on-site EMT was on his way.
A recently retired nurse anesthetist, Claudia called me over.
“Lauren, hold my horse,” she said. “I’ll go help that girl.”
I was about to obey, but then said, “Wait. This is your day and your time to ride. Help for that rider is on the way.”
I knew exactly how hard Claudia had worked to get to that moment.
Claudia considered my words and then nodded her head and said, “Thank you.”
The young rider was given a lift by the EMT and, happily, was able to return to ride the following day.
So, when Claudia went in and rode her test with complete focus, I was more than proud. Her generous nature and desire to help another could have stolen that moment from her. Her qualifying score and the judge’s comments rewarded her hard work … topped off by a beautiful ribbon.
As I said, anything can happen at a horse show. I’m so glad I got to be there.

Related posts
Lessons from Camp
August 26, 2018
dressage, dressage training, horses, natalie perry dressage

The Equestrian’s Guide to Staying Married

That’s me. The woman in the trench coat and dark glasses trying not to be noticed.
I’m not proud of what I’m doing, but I’m trying to stay married.
Perhaps you’ll judge me. Or perhaps you’ve been there.

I know there are services that can provide what I need but it’s really not in my budget.
Sure, I could throw my barn laundry into the washer at home, but that’s where the ‘staying married’ part comes in. My husband cringes (and worse) at the sight of a saddle pad anywhere near our not-even-new washer/dryer.
I comb my dirty saddle pads with my dog’s slicker brush, taking out as much hair as possible. I spray them with Oxy Clean (who may want to sponsor me) and sometimes even hose them off before throwing them in the wash. But you know how bad saddle pads can get.
That’s why I’m sneaking into the laundromat, saddle pads hidden in a Kirkland Draw-String Trashbag (they may want to sponsor me, as well) , planning to wash them in one of the large, commercial washers.
I bring my own Kirkland laundry soap, Brawny paper towels, and some 409 All-Purpose Spray (sponsor, anyone?) to wipe out the washer after the deed is done. I do have a conscience. I think of the new mom washing her newborn’s clothes and hope she’ll choose a different washer.
In an ideal world, I’d have a commercial washer of my own, right next to my Grand Prix horse’s stall, just off my full-size indoor competition arena. In fact, my handsome stable boy would be loading it for me!
Please linger on that fantasy and look the other way as I commit a mild misuse of commercial equipment in the name of staying married.Thank you!

Related posts
A Season of Change
November 28, 2018
Vest Causes Climate Change
September 18, 2018
Lessons from Camp
August 26, 2018
dressage, dressage competition, dressage training, equestrian, horses, natalie perry dressage

All the Pretty Horses


For reasons I’ll never understand, I was born with a fascination for horses.
I was the kid hanging her head out of the car window, admiring horses in pasture, dreaming of owning one. I remember the sense of longing and my pure adoration for them. I read horse stories, drew pictures, collected Breyer models, and convinced my mother to get me riding lessons as often as she could tolerate.
Where did this come from? I doubt we’ll ever know.
Some people speculate that those of us who are ‘horse crazy’ have a primal sense of connection to these animals, due to our ancestors’ early dependence on them. If this theory is correct, we have an innate understanding of how important horses have been to our species.
Bullshit? Or not? Who cares — it’s fun to ponder.
As I’ve started prepping for this year’s show season, I’ve noticed how much more critical I’ve become of horses and their way of going. Call it education if you will, but I’ve lost that innocent admiration for each and every horse.
As I watch YouTube videos of riders competing, as a way to learn my tests, I find myself ‘judging’ each horse’s gaits, conformation, and temperament.
Still, I find myself fall in love from afar quite frequently, thinking, “I’d love to own that one.” (I have a strong preference for those honest, forgiving, yet forward horses who look more like lovers than fighters.)
I also spot the ones I’d prefer not to own. “That one’s gorgeous but looks like a fire-breathing dragon!” (Death by dressage still doesn’t appeal to me.)
As I look at my history with horses, I admit that I still don’t understand it but I’m grateful to have them in my life. I struggle, I learn, and I love. My life is so much the richer for it.

Related posts
A Season of Change
November 28, 2018
Vest Causes Climate Change
September 18, 2018
Lessons from Camp
August 26, 2018