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horsewomen

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!

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The Elegance of Elbows

Despite what non-horsepeople say about the horse doing all the work, those in the know are all too aware that dressage is a total body workout. To persuade the horse to do anything other than graze, run off with you, or haul himself around on his forehand takes a lot of convincing. It also takes a super-human coordination of the rider’s legs and limbs in concert with the seat, core, and shoulders. It looks so easy when done by a professional.
As an adult amateur dressage rider, I am constantly trying to align errant body parts. To have them work up to a full concert would be fantastic. For now, I’d settle for something resembling a recognizable melody.
This past week my elbows stepped up as the body part of the month. I’m sharing this story because I’m impressed with how paying attention to the elbows has made a significant difference in my effectiveness.

Assuming you don't want to look at my elbows, here's a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.

Assuming you don’t want to look at my elbows, here’s a shot of Micah (right) with Harrison, the handsome new guy at the barn.


My trainer has long been nagging me to keep my elbows at my side (especially the right elbow, which colludes with my horse to give away the right rein), and while I’ve improved, I only really got it last week. (Note: I reserve the right to back-slide at a moment’s notice.)
We were working on haunches in, a counter-intuitive maneuver which messes with the mind and body of both beast and rider. We were flailing along, kind of getting it, when I glued my elbows to my sides and voila! haunches in happened.
I applied this technique to the trot and — amazing — it improved! As expected, gluing the elbows at the canter is more difficult so that’s going to be an ongoing effort. Gluing the elbows while remaining relaxed and fluid is another challenge, since it’s easier to turn into a chunk of concrete when becoming uber-focused on correcting a habit.
Try it and see if focusing on your elbows helps you. You may have noticed that all of the professional riders keep their elbows at their sides while the less skilled of us flail our arms about. Keep a mental picture of the rider you want to be in your mind as you try bringing your awareness to your elbows this week. Give it a go at the walk, then work your way up.
Happy riding!

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Dressage Diehards

It was a dark and stormy morning. Fine weather for ducks, but few other living beings. The wind was howling, it was a whopping 36 degrees, and rain was blowing sideways.
Looking out the window of my cozy home, I questioned my decision to go to the barn. Like most dressage diehards, I was operating on auto-pilot. I always go to the barn on Sunday morning. I pulled on wintery layers of riding clothes and was in the car before I had two many second thoughts. En route to the barn I had enough time to question my sanity.

Guest parking was eerily empty. Where is everyone??

Guest parking was eerily empty. Where is everyone??


While we expect cold and sometimes snowy winters in Central Oregon, spring is a changeable mystery. In fact, the season is known as Sprinter — a collision of spring and winter. Today winter doing a good job of maintaining her dominance over her softer, gentler cousin.
As rain splashed up from the road, splattering my windshield, I wondered who else would show up at the barn. Several of us had made plans to meet around 10, but on a day like this, who could blame a person for sleeping in, having a second cup of coffee, and deciding to do something normal? I decided that anyone who made it to the barn today would automatically be included in the prestigious Dressage Diehard Club.
The barn was eerily quiet when I arrived. No cars in the trainers’ spots and guest parking was empty. This could be a small club.
The car door about blew off when I opened it. Not a good sign. I made my way to the pasture to capture my horse, the wind pushing me sideways. My dog Skittles, normally a faithful companion, asked to be let into the barn. She wanted indoors, despite her super-stylish waterproof jacket.
My horse, Micah’d had enough of the wind and rain to be happy to see me (aka: my carrots). He marched up willingly and asked to be led inside. A favorable tailwind made it a quick walk.
Inside, Laura was taking care of her horse, who’s been having an allergic reaction. While she hadn’t come to ride, she was inducted into the Dressage Diehard Club just for having the guts to show up. It was good to have company.
A good mom, Laura showed up to take care of her horse, despite the weather.

A good mom, Laura showed up to take care of her horse, despite the weather.


As I was grooming, Nichole and her daughter, Lauren, arrived. Yay! Lisa and Jessie pulled up with a trailer at the same time. Things were looking up. Nichole took a group photo of us, to commemorate the inaugural meeting of the Dressage Diehard Club.
Dressage diehards (from left): Lauren & Skittles, Jessie, Lauren M., Lisa

Dressage diehards (from left): Lauren & Skittles, Jessie, Lauren M., Lisa


We had a grand ride, grateful for the indoor arena. The wind howled outside and rain pounded on the roof, but we were cozy dry.
Lisa K. arrived later and joined us, looking only slightly confused when I inducted her into the club.
Lisa K. and her beautiful horse, making their way into the Dressage Diehard Club.

Lisa K. and her beautiful horse, making their way into the Dressage Diehard Club.


In the end, we had a grand time and were glad we’d all made it. The horses all behaved as if things were normal, doing their dressage work as if it was a perfectly reasonable thing to do on a stormy day. Micah got an extra carrot for being a good sport but asked me not to take his picture, since being a Dressage Diehard is my idea — not his.

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The Outside of a Horse

Sir Winston Churchill is credited with having said, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” I’m sure Mr. Churchill meant to include women in that statement and I know for a fact that horses are good medicine for some of us.
Here’s proof. The flu has been running rampant here in Central Oregon — as it probably is in your town, as well. It’s a great time to be on a cancellation list for almost any kind of service: clients are falling like flies. If you’re healthy enough to drag yourself in for a last-minute haircut or dental cleaning, you’re in luck.
Out at the barn, poor Mari was really suffering earlier this week. She sounded stuffy, looked pale, and clearly lacked energy — but still made it to work every day to give lessons and ride. She was relieved when a few cancelled lessons helped to lighten her load.
Akela came down with the bug and even went to the Emergency Room. “I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” she said. It’s important to note that Akela said this while she was brushing her horse, RJ. She was still sick but rode, anyway.
I woke up with clogged sinuses and chills on Saturday and slept on and off through the day, with plans to ride Micah on Sunday. Some effective over-the-counter meds helped to make that ride possible, as well as today’s.

Better living through medication

Better living through medication


As I finished up my ride, I saw Hannah watching near the gate. She’d been so sick with the flu and fever, she’d been grounded for the weekend. She came out to the barn today just to see Micah. I offered to let Hannah cool Micah out, knowing that just being on the back of a horse can transform an average day into something special.
Hannah smiled and declined my offer, for fear of starting another coughing fit. She was happy to pet Micah and feed him carrots as I brushed him down.
As Hannah led Micah out to the pasture, for turnout, I had to laugh.There are those who make excuses to avoid coming to barn and those who simply can’t help being there. No wonder I love these people — we are all crazy together.

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Barn Women Get Weird

One of the things I most like about horsewomen is that they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. Or their mouths. It is perfectly acceptable for horsewomen to talk about semen, for example. Nonhorsewomen generally don’t discuss semen outside of a gynecologist’s office.

I threw a little happy hour get-together last week and invited several women from the barn. Seven women and 26 limes resulted in the consumption of 72 ounces of margaritas. The discussions ranged far and wide but the highlight of the evening came when Tina gave us a reenactment of her stallion’s day of semen collection.

IMG_0785

Using several bar-b-que skewers to represent rails, a cucumber slice to stand in for the ‘plain as day Quarterhorse mare’, and a bit of chicken satay to show the relative placement of the ‘phantom,’ Tina gave a lively recap of the day’s events. Let’s just say her young stallion had a little trouble getting things right. Thank goodness for the two burly guys on hand who got things corrected. It’s dangerous work.

My next-door-neighbor had stopped in to visit and was amazed and amused. She’d previously had no idea how this deed was done. Fortunately, as a nurse, she’s not squeamish. “Wow! I like these women,” she said.

It’s so refreshing to get beyond polite chit-chat, politics, and the weather. Thanks to horses, our lives are anything but dull.

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