Barn, dressage, horses, horsewomen

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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dressage, dressage training, transitions

First Snow at the Barn

After five days in Palm Springs, over Thanksgiving, it was a bit shocking to come home to snow and temperatures in the 20’s. We’d been hoping for snow, so of course it came the day after we arrived in Palm Springs. We were jealous — although I did enjoy an afternoon by the pool, soaking up the sun.
I worked hard to muster up enough enthusiasm to head to the barn this afternoon. I waited until the temperature was supposed to peak at a grand 30 degrees, then took off.
It was my first snow drive of the year, so I started with white knuckles but relaxed as the Honda Element and its snow tires did their job. This doesn’t mean the other drivers were doing their part. The drive took much longer than normal as people either a) drove too fast, showing off their 4WD; b) drove slow, in fear for their lives; or c) gawked at cars stuck off the side of the road.

Micah makes a beeline to the gate upon my arrival.

Micah makes a beeline to the gate upon my arrival.

Finally I reached the barn, gorgeous under a coating of snow. I’d been worried that Micah had been cooped up in his stall for nearly five days. Without snow pads on his feet, he doesn’t get turnout if the snow forms balls under his hooves. This horse loves his pasture time, so stall time makes him cranky and energetic.
On top of the stall time, it’s been so cold that Micah wasn’t being ridden. Riding when the temps are in the teens isn’t much fun or especially good for the horse.
As I drove up, I was happy to see Micah out in his pasture with his buddies. It ws so cold and dry that the snow didn’t stick to his feet.
Micah was happy to see me, too, and made a beeline for the gate. This is rare. I’d like to think it was love — but he probably wasn’t getting much grass, through the snow. I am his human treat dispenser.
The human treat dispenser has arrived!

The human treat dispenser has arrived!

It was 24 degrees in the sun (the forecasted 30 degrees never happened), and even colder in the barn. My knees were knocking from the cold, despite lots of layers.
My thoughts of riding went out the door, freezing into icicles on the way out. A gentle lunging would be more than enough in this weather.
No one else had ventured out (imagine that!), so we had the barn and arena to ourselves. I let Micah thoroughly stretch out at the walk in both directions, then asked for a relaxed trot. Micah was happy enough to comply. He likes having a job and this was easy work.
If Micah has any silliness in him, it’s going to show up in the canter depart. I really didn’t want him hurting himself, so I kept things as relaxed as possible when asking for an up transition. While he thought about doing a little rodeo work, he held back.
A few circles of canter, then a trot transition. Wait until the trot is relaxed, then back to canter. We even got some stretchy trot moments.
I called it quits long before Micah started to sweat. No need for that in this weather. While I missed getting to ride, better to keep myself and my horse healthy, give ourselves time to adjust to the weather, and hope the week’s forecast of a warming trend (into the low 40’s!!) is correct.
Until then, brrrrr.

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An Unexpected Award

Earlier this year I started this blog, ‘Dressage for Mere Mortals,’ in my usual, trial-by-fire method of learning. After months of reading about blogging, the only way for me to really gain ground was to jump in with both boots.

I am still very much a beginner, as humble of a blogger as I am a rider. Which is why it was especially surprising when I received a message from horseclicks.com that they’d awarded my blog a Top 50 Horse Blogs Award. How did they find me? What was their criteria? I’m pondering those questions with a smile on my face. It’s lovely to be noticed.


Blogging has been a fascinating experience for several reasons:

1.  Setting up the initial format took a little work. Fortunately, I had  two experienced bloggers to help. Technical I am not.

2.  I love writing short format and having a weekly deadline is good discipline.

3.  Connecting with readers and other bloggers is fun. They share their stories and lives and I share mine. There’s a sense of community.

4.   I can never quite predict which blog posts will get the best response.  My two snarkiest posts (‘My Stupid Legs’ and ‘Dressage Show Rant’) generated the most comments thus far, which was entertaining.

5. There are technical aspects I’m still learning about: increasing readership, tags, categories, etc. Still trying to figure out Twitter.

As always, thank you to those of you who read my blog, take the time to comment, and share bits of your life with me. It’s so rewarding to receive your input and support.


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A Horse With No Name, America, Desert, equestrian, horses, Songmeanings.com, Wikipedia

Desert/Horse/No Name

Every destination needs a theme song. Unfortunately, a trip to Palm Desert, CA has unearthed memories of the most inane desert tune ever written. Like a sandstorm that just won’t quit, the melody howls  through my days and nights–making me wish for shelter from the storm. The song’s reference to a horse makes it all the more difficult to escape for the horse-starved traveler.  I’m referring to America’s 1971 hit ‘A Horse With No Name.’

I apologize if the song pops into your head as well, because it’s one we’d all like to forget.

Desert vista, minus horse

Desert vista, minus horse

In the interest of research, I went to songmeanings.com (who knew there was such a thing!) and learned that there’s been much controversy as to whether or not the ‘horse’ in the song referred to heroin. Really? It’s hard to believe anyone with half a brain would come to such a conclusion…or care.

It’s also hard to believe that there’s a Wikipedia entry about ‘A Horse With No Name.’ However, they nailed it with the following description: “The song has also been ridiculed for its banal, oddly phrased lyrics, including “The heat was hot”; “There were plants, and birds, and rocks, and things”; and “‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”

Wikipedia also notes that there is speculation that band members were intoxicated with cannabis while writing the song–which is more believable than the heroin reference (above).

The chorus is as absurd as the rest of the song, but has that unfortunate ‘sticks like glue’ quality that only really bad songs have. Following are the lyrics that linger, including the ‘la la’ (actual lyrics, I’m not making this up) which goes on for far too long. Sing along if you like–at your own risk.

“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

La, la”

At week’s end I’ll return to Bend, with hopes that the taunting tune will remain in the desert, where it belongs. Perhaps the sight of a real horse—with a name—will make it go away.

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Barn Babes in Vegas

The barn is nearly empty this week, as most of the barn babes took off for Vegas to (supposedly) watch World Cup Dressage and (as documented on Facebook) drink cocktails in hotel bars.


I am sooooo jealous! But at the same time, having the arena all to myself is almost as good as a chilled Lemon Drop, a drink I appropriately first sampled in Vegas, many moons ago.

Wanting to practice my dressage tests for next month’s schooling show, I had no one to enlist but Al, my engineer husband. Al knows nothing about dressage but is a quick study. No matter what, I knew it would be entertaining.

I showed Al the USEF test booklet, gave him a quick explanation of dressage movements, made a drawing of a dressage arena (markers and all) and gave him a beer … a crucial element in marital negotiation.

Next up, using a small ceramic horse in the fictional arena, we went through the test. I wanted Al to have an idea of a) where the letters are and b) how much preparation a rider needs in order to go from one movement to the next.  I’m not certain Al can tell one gait from the next, which can only make things more interesting.


Call this prep work for the next day’s outing to the barn, where I asked Al  to read my tests. What a guy! As a stereotypical analytical, I expected Al to have lots of fascinating questions, and he didn’t disappoint.

Continue reading…

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cantering, dressage, horses, riding

Going to Great Lengths

In the past few weeks, my canter work with Micah has undergone a significant transformation. With a schooling show right around the corner, that’s good news.

Originally, Micah’s canter was on the forehand and felt like more of a ‘careen’ than a canter. Although I had basic steering, it certainly wasn’t power steering. I didn’t want to mow down anyone in our path — which is why Natalie kept us on the 20 meter circle for what felt like ages.

To clarify, with a better rider on his back, Micah was/is fully capable of a beautiful, balanced canter. The learning was on my end.


Micah accepts a sugar cube, in payment for a job well done. He’s not worried about that cow in the background & is also ignoring that fantastic view of the Cascades.

Unable to resist playing tricks on the rookie rider, Micah enjoyed pulling me forward, out of the saddle. At the same time, he’d ease the reins out of my hands, making sure he was in charge. I’m quite sure he kept score and gave himself a bonus point every time he outsmarted me.

Continue reading…

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December 1, 2016
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