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horses

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!

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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
Anything Can Happen at a Horse Show
June 24, 2018
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May 30, 2018
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canter, dressage, dressage lessons, dressage training, equestrian, horses, natalie perry dressage

DIY Dressage


I’ve always been a Do-It-Yourself fan. When it comes to riding, I usually enjoy doing the work myself and only occasionally ask my trainer to ride my horse. However, there are times when it is well worth it to ask my trainer to help us get over a significant hurdle.
In this week’s lesson, I had the strong desire to get off my horse and ask my trainer to please do it for me.
Natalie was yelling, “Don’t give up! I know it’s hard. Keep at it!”
I was cantering around in circles, feeling like the human fly. Micah was blowing me off. I have worked less hard mountain biking, nordic skiing, and running a half marathon.
Micah simply didn’t want to give up control of his right shoulder in the left lead canter and he especially didn’t want to give me a trot/canter transition while doing it. With Natalie’s encouragement, I ‘won’ (aka: got what I was asking for) but it was exhausting.
While I can’t wait to ride again tomorrow and test out what I learned, I also realize that having Natalie do some schooling will speed up the process. Micah’s the kind of guy who gives in once he knows the game is up. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when Natalie climbs aboard next week. She is my secret weapon.
While DIY is great, it’s silly not to use all of the tools that are available to us as riders. And, I’m having so much fun anticipating next week’s lesson. . 🙂

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Tough, Quick & Tactful

This week I asked Natalie to give Micah a tune-up.
The fact is, I’d gotten soft physically and mentally.

This week I’ll ask Clint Eastwood to remind me to be Tough and Quick. I’m counting on Natalie to help me to be Tactful.


Micah had experienced a brief lameness (happily resolved) and I’d been worried that he was out of shape and perhaps not feeling 100%. I asked less of him and he was happy to comply, with a distinct sluggishness under saddle.
When I reported my fears to Natalie she said, “Well, Hannah’s not having any problems getting him to go forward.”
 (Hannah’s a young rider who rides Micah three days a week.)
In that moment, I realized that I’d been had — my horse was taking advantage of me. Damn.
Since then, we’ve been working on getting Micah to be more forward. Things improved but I know he’s got more go in him than he’s been giving me. Which is why I asked Natalie to help.
It had been months since Natalie had given Micah a tune-up and I was looking forward to seeing her at work. Natalie is quick, tough, and tactful — a beautiful rider.
I’d warmed Micah up before Natalie got in the saddle, so he was ready to go. Within minutes, he was in trouble for pulling on the rein and slowing down. They had a ‘discussion’ wherein Natalie addressed the issue in no uncertain terms.
Micah rolled his eyes and looked over at me, asking me to bale him out.
“Sorry buddy,” I said. “You asked for this.”
Within 15 minutes Natalie had Micah forward and round. He looked terrific, like an upper level horse.
“Your turn,” she said.
I got on and could feel Micah’s forward energy beneath me. His engine hummed.
“So I need to stop letting him get away with so much,” I said. “Be tougher about all infractions.”
“Tough and quick,” Natalie said — emphasizing that I had to be just as quick to reward to correct response as an inappropriate or inadequate response.
The image of Clint Eastwood popped into my mind. His characters have never been tactful but they’re certainly been tough and quick.
This week I’ll try riding with Clint to toughen up my soft side but let Natalie’s voice remind me to be tactful.
“We need to do this more often,” I told Natalie – referring to her tune-up. The lesson was an eye-opener and extremely worthwhile. For once, Micah was more tired than I was. Note to self: use your trainer to your full advantage. It’s worth it.

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dressage, dressage training, Forward, natalie perry dressage, riding, Round, transitions

Forward AND Round

Photographer Barbara Dudley captured this moment at our chapter’s last show of the season. I call it “A Moment of Prayer” as I am clearly gathering my strength and wits about me, http://www.barbaradudleyphotography.com/.

This week Micah and I revisited the concepts of forward AND round — emphasis being on AND.
I’d been working on my leg position (again) and, per usual, when I’m working on position I let a lot of other things go.As a result, in our Thursday lesson, Micah offered me a choice of forward OR round.
“He can do better than that,” Natalie said.
At the walk, I insisted on both, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Micah’s a wonderful guy but he tends to ignore my legs. However, persistence paid off. Once I gathered enough determination to sincerely insist on forward AND round at the walk, Micah gave me both.
Next up, bring it to the trot. As expected, it took a little while to get both forward AND round at the trot, and then at the canter … but establishing this at the walk was the most critical element.
To test our skills, Natalie threw in transitions — down and up. Lo and behold, if I could hold the forward/round in the transition, the next gait started and continued in a better frame.
On the other hand, if I let things fall apart, I’d have to spend several strides bringing it back together.
Bottom line — don’t give away what you’ve earned! Insist on forward AND round and maintain it through up and down transitions and all gaits.
This was an excellent (if tiring) lesson. I brought this attention to detail to Sunday’s practice ride got better results right off the bat.
Micah can always feel my intention and tends to go with the program when he’s certain I mean it. Good boy!

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October 16, 2017
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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
Anything Can Happen at a Horse Show
June 24, 2018
The Equestrian’s Guide to Staying Married
May 30, 2018
All the Pretty Horses
April 10, 2018