Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dakota works on zooming less

Dakota really likes to go ZOOM on the lunge. He's in a big hurry to get somewhere. At the clinic, Suzanne encouraged me to work with him on carrying power rather than running. It has taken hundreds of half halts, but he's starting to get the idea. He has been acting crabby about his D-ring bit lately, so I switched him to a thinnish loose-ring French-link snaffle. We'll see how that goes. Maybe he needs a float.

I think he is just cute as a bug.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My clinic takeaways + recent video

My two biggest takeaways from the November clinic were 1) Tighten my legs at all gaits. They're flopping like dead fish. 2) Get Clair to carry herself higher in front. No more ducking down and behind the bit. I think I'm making good progress in both areas. I had some issues in the clinic with Clair picking up the left lead when I ask for the right. I'm really puzzled about what I'm doing to cause that -- you'll see some examples in the video below, taken 12/6. I've moved toward asking for the right lead only out of 12 meter circle, and that seems to work. I've started working the first-level simple change through trot. Towards the end of the video I was able to perform ├╝berstreichen to the right on one and both reins, which is real progress. She's really coming off my hand in canter and carrying herself. Today I introduced first-three shallow counter-canter serpentine and she did awesome. She is such a good girl and I always have so much fun with her!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Video of Paddy in the clinic

Trainer Holly got some super collection out of B's lovely Irish Draft eventer, Paddy, at the Suzanne May clinic. He's a big boy but looks light as a feather in this canter!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Transitioning to barefoot

Clair seems to have really good feet. I'd like to have her barefoot if possible. Eight weeks ago I had the farrier pull all four of her shoes. Since then her hind feet have been doing great. Her fronts, however, really got beat up in the hoof wall, especially in the front of the hoof. It all chipped away -- the crazy wet weather over the last eight weeks didn't help. Her soles stayed hard has a rock, and she showed no lameness at all, so I talked to the farrier before her latest trim last week and told him if she needed shoes on her fronts, that was fine with me. He said he'd really like to keep giving barefoot a try. He trimmed her while I was on the road, and her feet looked really good when I returned, but I could tell that Clair was footsore in front. Yesterday she minced her way across the gravel driveway, and she looked hesitant when I lunged her, even though the arena footing is lovely and soft. Today she seemed at least 50% better -- striding out better over the gravel and more willing to move out on the lunge. I think in a day or two more she'll be back to normal and I'll be able to get back on her.

I haven't ridden her since the saddle slipped (except I quickly hopped on after the accident for W-T-C. which went fine), but the more I think about it, the more I think the whole thing was entirely my fault. Clair has gotten quite fuzzy in the past couple weeks, and it's really slick fuzz. I think I was just too blase about getting the girth tight enough with her slicker coat. I'm also using a short-billeted dressage saddle for the first time ever, and I read that because more of the "grip" comes from the girth rather than the saddle, it's extra important to get the girth tight. You just have less surface area to provide friction.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Driving Your Horse Forward

Driving Your Horse Forward

My husband, Wolfgang, would always say, "you can't ride until you can drive!" Forwardness and impulsion are most definitely not running a horse off its feet! Doing so just confirms that the horse is on the forehand and running through the bridle, often with a shorter, quicker stride. The rider must then pull the horse around corners and curves and into transitions.

The rider must be sure that half-halts actually come through and reach the hind fetlock, causing the horse to shift its weight back, hesitate for a moment, and wait for the rider to push it forward in the desired direction or transition, tempo, and frame. This method also ensures that the rider "gets" the horse in the corner (Wolfgang also said, "Corners are our friends!", but that's another subject), can push the horse into an actual lengthening (rather than speeding up), and can accomplish clear, balanced transitions between and within gaits and movements.

Being able to drive the horse forward is also indispensable when dealing with disobedience. The rider must be able to correct everything forward. Usually the rider's instinct is to stop the disobedience with the hands, which tends to get the horse "behind the leg". Doing so just creates another set of problems. The seat and leg aids should actually precede the hands. The idea is to always ride the horse from back to front no matter what the horse does momentarily. This consistency in the rider's aids is not lost on the horse, which can only help the progress of training.

Our goal is self-carriage, which implies that other criteria have been met, such as "throughness" and balance. This is the point at which "driving your horse forward" can create true impulsion instead of running.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two for two

Prior to yesterday, the last time I fell off a horse was probably three years ago, when Baby Huey spooked at some ducks during a trail ride. That time I landed on my feet. Yesterday the fall from Clair wasn't bad at all. Today I made it two for two by getting bucked off Dakota. This time a trip to urgent care was the outcome.

Dakota is a sweetheart. He has never bucked, bolted, kicked, or bitten. He always tries hard. Today the barn owner B and I set out for a trail ride. We had just turned toward the driveway when I remembered I wanted to take my phone. I turned Dakota back toward the arena, where my phone was sitting on a shelf mounted to the arena railing. My car was also parked there, and to get to the phone we needed to maneuver between the car and the railing. There was about an eight foot gap, tight but not crazy tight. Dakota didn't want to squeeze in there. I was being pretty patient, just gently urging him forward, when in a flash he had a full-on panic attack. He sat back on his haunches, whirled 180 degrees, and started bucking as hard as he could, which is hard. I think I stuck it for two jumps and then I was off to the left. It was all so out of character for him!

I landed on my left forearm and hip. I really smacked into the ground, but i just felt sore when I stood up. I got back on Mr. D, and we continued our trail ride. He was a bit unsettled for the first ten minutes, but then he was fine. i felt fine myself. I spent the afternoon helping my husband install windows. I was a little gimpy on my left leg but still feeling pretty ok. By five o'clock, though, my left wrist was starting to really hurt and swell up. It was also making a weird clicking noise when I rotated it. I'm headed out of town tomorrow on a business trip, and I wanted to have it checked before I left, so off to urgent care we went. They x-rayed my wrist and hip. No obvious fractures but they want a radiologist to doublecheck the images tomorrow. I don't get on the plane until late afternoon.

Impressive hematoma, no?

B has a theory that maybe the tight space triggered a bad memory for Dakota -- maybe the stocks when he was at BLM? She said he looked terrified. I tend to agree that it was some kind of triggered trauma, because it was completely unlike him. We'll get back to it on Saturday and leave all this bad luck behind! (And after two smacks, I need to buy a new helmet!)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Keep your weight to the inside

The last few times I've ridden Clair, I've noticed that the saddle has shifted to the left a bit upon mounting. For some reason, the fact that this kept happening didn't really penetrate my brain. Today it happened again, enough so that I had to dismount, reposition the saddle, tighten, and remount. Still, I wasn't thinking much of it. After about fifteen minutes of a lovely schooling session, I was working a fifteen-meter canter circle left. I thought to myself, hey, your weight is shifted to the outside. Fix it. I tried and suddenly realized the whole saddle and both pads had actually shifted to the outside, and the centrifugal force was too much for me to overcome. We were coming up to the round-pole railing, which I really didn't want to fall on, so I launched myself over it and out into the grass. Clair Mare, bless her heart, cantered one more stride, stopped, and started grazing under the rail. I landed on my left shoulder and smacked my helmet-clad head pretty hard, but other than seeing a few stars I was fine. The saddle and pads were 2/3 under Clair, but she didn't care at all. I slipped my hand under the girth to see how loose it was, and it really wasn't loose at all -- it was still quite snug. So now I'm wondering -- is Clair puffing up while I tack up (when she has never done that before) or is this saddle just not fitting right? Clair and I both really like it, but if it doesn't fit, it doesn't fit.

I got back on and did W-T-C both directions. I was very careful to keep my weight to the inside! It's pretty embarrassing to allow such an avoidable accident. Clair was a little hesitant about left-lead canter ("Mom, are you sure? Last time you went flying."), but quickly went right back to work. Such a good pony!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recent Clair Mare video

Clair Mare and I have to get ready for a clinic -- Suzanne May is coming to town November 14-16! I would like to be able to show off most of second level if possible.

Here's video from Sunday. My main self-criticism is my loose, busy legs. Clair is a peach as always. I'm starting to get better about feeling when she goes behind the vertical and gently correcting.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lubbock: Heart of the rainforest

The ponies have been neglected for more than three weeks. At the beginning of September, I was out sick for a week with a mystery illness that caused severe pain and nausea. An ER doctor finally diagnosed me with GERD and accompanying ulcerations in my esophagus and prescribed an anti-inflammatory that kicked in after 48 hours of taking it and finally allowed me to get out of bed and go back to work. I have an endoscopy scheduled in October to see what's going on down there. But at least in the meantime I feel pretty good.

As soon as I started feeling better, it started to rain. And rain. And rain. In Lubbock. It's a semi-arid climate, and they've been in a drought forever. Three straight weeks of rain isn't really something you expect around here. One night this is what the freeway near the university looked like:

And most days this is what the road to the barn looked like:

Even when I could make it to the barn, the arena was partly underwater and completely soggy. And so, the ponies have been having a vacation up until today. Even today, we ended up driving along the edge of an adjacent field to avoid some remaining lakes on the barn road. But at least the arena was 2/3 dry.

The kids were great! Clair is often very, very busy when tacking up, and today I expected a frenzy of activity, but she was actually quite good. She acted up only once on the lunge and was otherwise very ladyike. She has some bot eggs on her legs, so I picked up a pumice stone on the way home today and will attack them tomorrow. Dakota was zoomy on the lunge. He cantered and cantered and cantered. No bucking or rearing, though, which surprised me. I kept the Pessoa long on both horses so they could work in a training level frame, since they'd been sitting around so long. I'm so glad to be getting back to work with them!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vintage Stubben facelift

Back in February, I bought a cool brown Stubben off of eBay. I got an awesome price on it, and it fits both Dakota and Clair very well. I'd been meaning to have it serviced, as the billets were split, and I suspected it had never been reflocked. I did a Google search for certified Stubben saddlers, and found Amanda in Virginia. She did a wonderful job! She replaced the split billets with some slightly longer billets that still are hidden under the flap. Add in some leather conditioner, and what a difference. Look at the kneel roll!



From the side it almost looks like a new saddle.



Now that it's reflocked, I think it fits Clair even better than before. Both ponies move along happily in it. I have a matching brown bridle I'm using on Clair, and a cobbled-together black one I'm using with Dakota and his hard-to-fit head. If I show Kota, I'll need to cobble something together in brown.

Clair and I are getting along great! We're working on perfecting our canter communication; I keep letting her drop to trot without meaning to. Gotta get her more on my leg. The departs are crisp and clean. Many times when lungeing, Clair has offered walk-canter. I think it'll be a breeze under saddle. I'll probably start schooling it for fun since it comes easily to her.

I've started asking Dakota to stay more firmly on my aids and really listen to the outside rein. He'd rather go back to baby aids, but each ride he fusses a little less and settles into work sooner. He has developed a tremendous hay belly, so I'm working hard on conditioning. It's nice to see him plump and sassy after ending up on the thin side post-Oregon-winter.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Clair Mare in the Pessoa

Forgot to post video of Clair's first time in the Pessoa yesterday. Here it is!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Clair Mare, Dakota, and the Pessoa

I introduced Clair Mare and Dakota to the Pessoa system this morning. They both did fabulously! Clair was slightly irked in the canter, with lots of tail flipping, but I like how she moved in it. Dakota had two small tantrums and was rather zoomy, but for a first try I was proud of him.

I'm hoping to find someone to lease Dakota at least part time. If you're in the Lubbock area and interested, please take a look at the Dreamhorse ad. He's a fun and uncomplicated guy!

I had a great ride on Clair! I was wearing a new pair of breeches that are officially the worst pair of breeches I've ever owned. I might as well have been wearing Teflon for all the grip the full seat gave me. So she's definitely not very forward, and our biggest bugaboo is her tendency to want to duck behind the bit -- on full display here. There's always a lot to work on. We did a little leg yield, some shoulder in and travers, and a tiny bit of half pass at the end. The final bit is half pass out of the corner, straighten to a few strides of diagonal, and then a few more strides of half pass. I am so proud of her!

Update 8/18: Oops, I see the video of me on Clair didn't upload fully. Will fix tonight! Second update 8/18: Fixed!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Clair mare goes to work

With Ted's injury, it has been a crazy week. He received a steroid injection on Thursday, and I think that has helped him turn the corner. He still has several weeks of recovery ahead, but yesterday he was able to eat some real food for the first time, and he's needing less pain medication every day. He's headed in for an MRI on Monday.

I got Clair mare out and free lunged in the round pen Wednesday night, and then last night I was finally able to throw some tack on her for a session in side reins. I remembered I had a bridle I had bought last fall. It's brown to match the Stubben I bought back then. It doesn't fit her perfectly -- the bit rode a little too low in her mouth, and I wanted the cavesson one hole higher. The flash also was too big for her. Once I punch a few new holes it'll all be just fine. The loose ring French snaffle that wasn't working for Dakota seems to fit her perfectly. I have a nicer one on order, but for now this will do.

As I was tacking up, a squall blew through, dropping the temp from 90 to 70 in about ten seconds and kicking up all sorts of dust. I had her attached to the metal fence cross pole (just wrapped the lead line around four times). She only pulled back once, and then for just a couple seconds. I don't know if she's used to anything but cross ties, so I was proud of her keeping it together while the squall blew through. The mini donkeys wandered over to help. The girth I have for the Stubben is just a bit too short for her (and really is almost too short for Kota at this point; he's put on weight like a champ). So I need a longer girth. The Stubben seems to fit her really well! She has an easy back to fit.

I lunged her off the cavesson in side reins. I kept the side reins pretty long since the bridle really wasn't fitting just right. She was very businesslike and obedient. Good girl!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Clair Mare arrives! plus unrelated evening mayhem

Clair Mare arrived at the farm yesterday. Her former owners got her trailered over from Dallas nice and early, before it got too hot. She was supremely unstressed by the trip -- not even sweating. She was also unstressed by her new surroundings: interested, but not afraid (not even of the mini donkeys). We popped her in a stall with a run to start and gave her some hay, which she munched in between explorations. She was being extra mareish with her gelding neighbor; I hope that winds down as she settles in. She is so sweet to people but a little bitchy towards geldings.

We only had just so much time to spend before I had to get back to work, so I don't have great pictures yet. It was noon in the bright Lubbock sun, and I had sunglasses on. Basically I pointed my iPhone in her general direction and had no idea what I was shooting. But here are a couple arrival shots.

Towards the end of my work day I had a 911 text from my husband. Two of our dogs had gotten into a fight (over a tennis ball) and in trying to break up the fight he had gotten knocked flat on his back, which is already chronically injured. He was a wreck, and the two dogs were a wreck. I walked into what looked like carnage and a husband on the floor with back spasms so bad he looked like he was having a seizure. He was all, "I'm fine; take the dogs to the vet!" Which would have been funny if I hadn't been so scared he had a fracture. I called friends who came over and took the dogs to the vet while I took Ted to the ER. I got a call from the friends before long that neither dog was really hurt -- just a few bites on each of them, and one of them had a good laceration on her ear that was the source of all the blood. Dogfights often look and sound like they're killing each other, but in the end it's usually all sound and fury but no real injuries.

Ted really was a wreck when we got to the ER, but they gave him injections of pain meds and muscle relaxers, and two hours later he was so much better. He was able to wobble out on his own two feet, and he slept pretty well. More drugs this morning, and he's sleeping again. The horrible spasms are mostly gone. Our health insurance kicks in September 1, and he is SO GOING to a back specialist!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Clair under contract pending vet exam, plus video of her sire

My offer on Clair has been accepted! I'm arranging for a prepurchase exam, and assuming she passes I'll have her shipped here ASAP.

Here is video of her sire, Sir Sinclair. His offspring are accomplishing some great things.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More possible competition horses

I buzzed over to Dallas for 24 hours Saturday through Sunday and tried out two horses. First up was Clair the 16.2 hh Dutch Warmblood mare. She's seven years old and has a good bit of second level. I rode her late Saturday night and again early Sunday morning. It's so nice to be able to get on a horse you're trying out twice. The first time you're just trying to figure them out. The second time you can have some fun.

Later on Sunday I rode Presley the 17 hh Westphalian gelding. He's been mostly used as a jumper and doesn't have a solid dressage background. He's an impressive horse with gaits to die for, which I unfortunately wasn't able to show off in my test drive. I couldn't get him in front of my leg at all. But he was a sweetheart.

I don't know if you can tell from the videos of me on Clair, but we really clicked. I did W-T-C, leg yield, shoulder in, and haunches in. Clair was very willing and content throughout the ride. When her owner rode, she also showed me some trot lengthening and a turn on the haunches. The mare's got skilz! So -- drumroll -- I emailed an offer on Clair this evening. Fingers crossed! I will have her vetted with x-rays. Maybe, just maybe, I found my competition horse!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Starting to try out some possible competition horses

I'm in no big hurry, but I do eventually want to lease out Dakota and find myself a horse to take up the levels. I'm finally in a financial position where I can afford to do this -- both buy the right horse and then have enough disposable income to compete.

This weekend I tried out a lovely Andalusian mare in Kansas. We got along quite well. I do love trying out different horses. I will cut myself some slack since it was my first time on her, but my self criticisms are: I'm riding her too much behind the vertical, with not enough connection, and she could be more forward. But she looks happy in the video, and she has foam, so those are pluses.

This weekend we travel back to UWMC in Seattle for my one-year post-kidney-donation followup. I feel great and have had no problems.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On the mend

The vet visited Dakota yesterday to take a look at his mouth. After light sedation, Dakota was utterly stoned. The vet agreed that there was some swelling on the left side of his mouth, but felt that it was mostly resolved. She suspects he was either stung by an insect or got a sticker or small stick stuck on the left side of his mouth several days ago, and it manifested most severely on Sunday. He's well on the road to recovery and will be ready to go back to work Saturday. The vet liked the eggbutt snaffle I'm using and thinks it fits him well. Great news on all fronts.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fantastic fig, and dental detective work

I love our new house in Texas. Among the many things I love are the pecan tree in front and the fig tree in back. The pecan was in great shape, but I had my doubts about the fig. Lubbock has been suffering from a drought for a couple years, and this house had been empty for a year; the fig was looking pretty pathetic. I took this picture in early May when we had all the truly dead branches trimmed down. The tree trimmer assured us that it would bounce back.

I've been setting the hose at the base of the fig and letting it drip a few hours at a time several days a week. Look what happened in ten weeks! We've even got a bunch of fruit ripening. I never would have predicted such a quick recovery.

I've suspected a burgeoning mouth issue with Dakota for a couple weeks now. He's been giving me some subtle signals that something isn't right -- a little bit of head tossing on the lunge and under saddle. I've been using a loose-ring French link snaffle with him, and the first thing I suspected was that it was half an inch too wide for him (not thickness but width between the rings) and pinching. So I ordered an eggbutt French link snaffle a half-inch narrower. It seemed to fit him very well, and in any case he has been willingly opening his mouth for the bit when bridling, so I thought I might have fixed the problem. But he still had some uncharacteristic head tossing even with the new bit. I thought maybe it was just him getting used to a different feel, but I was planning to get a vet out just in case. Today I was planning on a quick ride, but when I got Dakota in place to attach the cross ties, as I reached for the halter to hold it steady for the cross tie, Dakota threw his head up and to the right. He absolutely didn't want me near his mouth. I took a closer look, and I think it's swollen on the left side. Poor man. I bagged the idea of riding and will get the vet out tomorrow. Dakota had his teeth floated in November, so I'd be surprised if he needs another float, but we'll see.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dakota settles in, and a new canine addition

Dakota is doing great. I lunged him several times in the new arena, and then one night the property owner was just leaving for a sunset trail ride as I arrived and invited us along. Dakota is always so sensible that I said yes, tacked him up, and off we went, even though he hadn't been ridden in twelve weeks. We had a lovely hack. Dakota's feet were a little tender on the gravel roads, so we moved up to the edges of the cotton fields. He was a total steady Eddie, walking calmly the whole way except for two quiet trot sets. What a good boy. He's on free choice grass hay from a round bale at all times, and he looks great.

Dakota's pasture mate is a quarter horse gelding named Shiloh. They are thick as thieves and completely adorable together.

There are also two mini donkeys on the property. Who doesn't love mini donkeys? They are a force to be reckoned with. One night one of the dogs was chasing a jack rabbit all over the property. The dog made the mistake of following the rabbit through the donkey pasture, and one of the donkeys charged and knocked the dog through the air about ten feet. The jack rabbit was relieved and managed to escape.

My GSP Sam passed away about six months ago, and I have really been missing him. I talked Ted into thinking about adding an adult rescue GSP, and while I think he was a little hesitant to add a fourth dog, he agreed. We found a beautiful boy in Amarillo named Duke, and we've had him for two weeks now. He had a rough start in life and is fearful of many things, but we've already seen a lot of progress. He's a sweetheart and a clown. We love him to death. And all four dogs are living in harmony.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Today's Dressage Saddles

Today's dressage saddles

I am not a fan of the newer dressage saddles these days. Compared to the saddles we learned on in my youth, today's saddles seem "orthopedic" to me. They are big and bulky like overstuffed sofas!

In comparison, our saddles then seemed almost close contact. If there were knee rolls, they were very small. There was no such thing as a thigh roll or leg block.

Riding was about balance, and good position was acquired with long hours on the lunge line. We wanted to be able to move, if necessary, to properly aid our horse. This is invaluable in training.

It's strange, too, how in the past one saddle fit most every horse in the barn. I know people today who still have such saddles. I rode saddles that were 20 to 30 years old and still in fantastic condition.

I don't understand why riders these days seem to feel the need to change saddles so frequently! Neither do I understand blaming your saddle for riding or training woes. That is rarely the cause.

The dressage boom has spawned a plethora of "cottage industries" surrounding the sport. I don't really recognize most of the newer brands, and by the time I do, they have disappeared. Prices have gone through the roof, too. Can the price of raw materials have gone up so much, or are we paying for some exotic idea or sponsor? I actually know riders who are not supposed to run their stirrups up on the leathers for fear of rubbing through the thin, stretched leather on their saddle! It seems to me that we have become more obsessed with having all the faddish "trappings" than we are with learning to ride.

-- by Suzanne May

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back to work in Texas

Hi there! "Saturdays with Suzanne" has been keeping this blog going while Ted and I plus three dogs and one horse made our way from Oregon to Texas. Dakota stayed behind in Oregon at a lovely private barn for about six weeks before I was able to get him scheduled on Equine Express. He needed to put on weight anyway, and he sure did! He looks lovely now. We had no problems with the shipping until the very end, when on the Saturday night he was supposed to arrive, a huge thunderstorm blew through. The barn I have him at has a dirt road leading to it, and when it rains hard, the road turns to sticky soup almost instantly. There was no way a big rig could get through. We called around frantically and found him a temporary stall at another barn with paved roads, and he stayed there five days until the dirt roads dried out.

Through it all, Dakota has absolutely impressed me with his temperament. He is not a spooky horse. You can just walk him around a new place, let him take it all in, and then he acts like he's lived there all his life. I can't wait to start competing him.

Here's some video of our first lungeing at the new place. If you're wondering why it looks a bit apocalyptic there, it's because the property was built in an old, abandoned pecan tree orchard. It's a great location just outside town; there's a beautiful big arena and even some cross country jumps are available. Plus there are miles and miles available for trail riding. Oh, and the black pitty mix that gets rolled in the second video is ok -- no injuries, and now he gives us a wide berth when we lunge.

Last night I had the farrier out to give Dakota an early trim. The switch from wet climate to extremely dry climate was rough on his feet -- lots of chips and beginning cracks. The farrier cleaned him up and said all was well -- just to keep an eye on him and we may do some extra filing in between trims for the first couple months.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: A Definition of Dressage

A definition of dressage

Back in the 1970s, my trainer took up the challenge made by The Chronicle of the Horse to send in a comprehensive definition of dressage. Those were the years--especially after the U.S. won a surprise bronze medal in the Montreal Olympics--when dressage really took off here, and the AHSA (now USEF) reported that dressage was the fastest growing discipline in the country.

Together (since my first language was English and his was not) we came up with the following definition, which was one of two selected by The Chronicle to be printed:
Dressage is a method of training with a logical communication system (aids), with the help of which a qualified trainer, through progressive gymnastic exercises, can decontract**, supple, and develop certain groups of muscles and de-activate others, accordingly, for whatever purpose a particular horse is intended, so as to educate the horse, both physically and mentally, to maximum efficiency and obedience.
**"Decontract/decontraction" (used as the opposite of contract/contraction) is not really an English word. It is French, but we used it at my trainer's insistence. We commonly use the words "relax/relaxation" in the U.S., but as with many translated dressage terms, these words are close, but not exactly what we mean. In dressage the horse's muscles should be "ready, but not tense," which is not the same as relaxed at all. "Relaxed" is not ready. We were called out on this, too, by people writing in, but we never changed it. Trainers who speak six or seven languages and have dressage books in several of them can be rather stubborn.....or is it rather more correct???

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: The Training Scale

The training scale

Back in the early 1970s, my Ukrainian trainer, who had been an officer in the German cavalry, taught the training scale. His father had actually been a direct student of the great James Fillis, who, at one point, taught the horse guard of Czar Nicholas in Russia.

The training scale originated in the early 1900s in the German cavalry, although the great masters before that undoubtedly practiced these principles without actually stating them in a scale or pyramid form.

My husband, Wolfgang May, a German Bereiter, also taught the training scale in exactly the same way. The German words, however, are much more descriptive. Unfortunately, when we try to translate each of them into one English word, a great deal of meaning is lost.

There are six main levels of the scale or pyramid; however, they are all inter-connected, include other aspects of training, and should be thought of as a checklist more than as ends in themselves.

Number one is rhythm, which includes an element of relaxation, although relaxation is not quite the correct word for what is desired. It is, however, the closest word we have in English. The horse must move forward with regularity. This steady rhythm allows the rider to begin shaping and molding the horse into the desired frame.

Number two is suppleness. We want the horse to bend around the inside leg evenly to both sides. Most often the horse bends more easily to one side than the other. This suppling not only requires the shortening and bending of the stiff side, but also the stretching of the soft side on which the horse tends to "collapse."

Number three is contact. Some contact is necessary for both numbers one and two of the training scale, but this is the stage during which the horse really comes "on the aids" due to the effects of performing numbers one and two correctly. The horse becomes not only soft in the hand in its lower jaw, but also gives evenly in the poll. Half-halts can then travel from the horse's mouth to its hind fetlock, thereby affecting balance and submission.

Numbers four and five are where there as been some debate. What we read these days is that number four is impulsion and number five is straightness. What I learned 40+ years ago and what was pointed out to me in actual German texts by both of my German-trained instructors, was that number four should be straightness and number five should be impulsion. This has been brought up and debated at USDF conventions.

To me it is just pure logic. Gone are the days when instructors could or should get by with explaining training methods or teaching as some kind of "dressage mystique". Everything about dressage is perfectly logical. It appeals to the math student in me, and the ability to "prove" a problem by working backwards from answer to question. Is it not logical that a crooked horse cannot move with true impulsion? If a horse is not even on both sides, can the stride be even on both sides? I have never heard a good (logical) explanation of how impulsion could come before straightness.

It is logical, however, that a horse cannot have impulsion without being straight, cannot be straight without being "on the aids", cannot be "on the aids" without being supple, and cannot be supple without steady, even, regular rhythm.

(Some of this confusion may be explained by a simplistic translation of Gustav Steinbrecht's (1808-1885) words in Das Gymnasium des Pferdes (posthumously published in 1886) in which he advocated riding a horse both "forward and straight". It was explained to me that he meant that a rider should continually straighten his horse while riding forward.)

Number six is collection. As before, it is logical that a horse cannot have a shorter, more elevated, frame and stride without impulsion. Collection is not slower. It is more animated and demonstrates the culmination of each and every step of the training scale or pyramid.

As stated earlier, all six steps work together, and while a rider may need to work on each individually at times, they should be thought of as a checklist, too, for each gait and each movement a horse and rider add on their wonderful dressage journey.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: The Stretchy Circle

The stretchy circle

Before "stretchy circles" were added to the low level dressage tests, we used to do this in training. It was called "showing the way to the ground" (probably a translation from German) and later, "long and low."

The stretchy circle does not consist of letting the horse pull the reins out of your hands or allowing him to run on the forehand. It is instead a systematic lowering of the horse's head and neck while keeping the horse on the aids.

A rider should be able to place the horse's head and neck at whatever height and length he or she wants it to be, depending on the level of training the horse has achieved. Being able to do so demonstrates how "connected" and "through" the horse has become.

We want the horse to "look for" the rider's hand. It is one of the results of successful half-halts. What?!? In the half-halt article I said that the horse should demonstrate a moment of self-carriage after a successful half-halt. This is true, but after that moment, the ride can either regain contact with both reins and ride on in the same frame OR, in this case, ask the horse to lower its head and neck further, just as we do when the horse is above the aids at the withers.

Toward that end, we ride the horse at a steady working trot rising, as asked for in the tests (although this can and should be done at the walk and canter as well). The rider begins, as always, with applying the upper inside leg. This time, however, the rider uses a slightly elevated outside rein, then gives that rein, and "follows" the horse's head down with the inside rein. It might take a moment, or it might not happen at all at first. The rider can follow this up by half-halting on the inside rein (slightly upward) as well, releasing, and following down with the outside rein. This works on the corners of the horse's mouth, not the bars. Soon the horse begins to understand and seeks the contact and elastic feel on the reins with which it has become accustomed and comfortable.

In this way, the rider can keep "stepping" the horse's neck down to whatever level is desired. The horse's head should remain perpendicular to the ground--neither behind nor in front of the vertical (although slightly in front of the vertical is widely accepted). We want the horse to remain giving in the poll: that is, opening and closing the throat latch depending on the degree of elevation.

The horse should, obviously, lengthen in the frame and stretch over its back, but it should not get quicker or shorter in stride or fall on the forehand. Balance should be maintained as evidenced by the hind legs coming under the body and lightness being maintained in the rider's hands. This lightness should ensure the horse's cooperation in coming back together in a shorter, more elevated, frame at the end of the circle.

When "stretchy circles" are performed correctly, they provide remarkable insight (a "light bulb moment") into how to achieve what is to come next as a horse and rider move up the levels.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: The Half-Halt

The half-halt

Countless words have been written about half-halts, and yet they remain a mystery to most riders. In dressage, it is said that “’feel’ is everything and the only thing”, and this old saying may have originated with half-halts.

Half-halts are supposed to precede and follow all changes between and within gaits, between movements, and before and after corners, changes of direction, and changes of bend. Half-halts are absolutely necessary for successful transitions. They help create and maintain balance and bend, indicate throughness, and facilitate self-carriage. No half-halt is complete until the rider gives, and the horse demonstrates a few moments of self-carriage. Riding a proper half-halt pretty much defines good riding. It reminds me of a team training session I attended in 1976. Col. Bengt Ljungquist was coach of the U.S. team that year, and we won a surprise bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics. In observing the team hopefuls, he didn’t ask to see their piaffe, passage, and one-tempi changes. He asked to see them ride a proper half-halt. I wish all trainers, instructors, and judges would require as much. The definition of dressage is “training,” after all, and not “fancy movement."

How does one ride a proper half-halt? This is where it gets tricky. It’s difficult to explain a feeling and can be confusing.

Simply stated, a half-halt begins with the rider’s legs and seat, the resulting impulsion is “caught” with the hands, which shift the balance back to the hindquarters, and then the hand gives to demonstrate self-carriage. This is the point at which the rider can ask for the previously mentioned transitions.

Half-halts don't always work right away. The horse usually comes above the aids at first for all but the already skilled rider. That’s OK as long as the balance shifts back, although many riders give up or change tactics when the horse goes above the aids. Eventually, the rider must be able to keep the horse on the aids throughout the half-halt to prevent losing the all-important back. This is really no different than when any new movement is introduced. Remember that the horse can be above the aids not only at the poll, but also at the withers.

Ideally, the half-halt starts by using the upper inside leg into the outside rein, with an opening inside rein, which takes (to support the inside leg and bend) and then gives while the outside rein picks up any slack offered (to keep the balance shifted back). The outside leg stays slightly back to guard the haunches.

Tip: Remember NOT to follow your giving hand forward with your body. Sit back so you can use your seat, not your legs, heels, or spurs, for forward movement.

While I just described an ideal half-halt using diagonal aids, the rider might need a unilateral half-halt (e.g., on the stiff side), using leg and rein on the same side, when riding a greener, more one-sided horse.

Sometimes it takes an all-out, two legs, seat, and two hands half-halt (e.g., when a horse is leaning in the hand or running through the bridle). Still, the rider should try to use the outside rein straight back through the elbow and a more or less opening inside rein, because giving in the poll is a function of bend. A thinking rider should be riding in position right or left most of the time. Position right or left can be thought of as half a shoulder-fore, which likewise can be thought of as half a shoulder-in. This lines the horse’s shoulders up in front of the haunches, which are wider than the shoulders. If the shoulders and haunches are equi-distant from the rail, the horse is actually crooked. A crooked horse cannot attain the needed impulsion for extended and collected movements.

If done consistently, the horse will begin to respond to the upper inside leg and come on the aids before the hand even engages, and thus the rider will be riding from back to front instead of the other way around. It is the rider’s goal to push, not pull, the horse where he or she wants it to go.

At first half-halts need to be used more often than the rider believes possible to accomplish, but soon they can become less frequent and less intense until the smallest of movement of the upper inside leg into the steady outside rein and a tiny squeeze of the fingers on the inside rein (checking the softness of the lower jaw) will suffice. The rider will then enjoy the ride, and the horse will demonstrate softness and thoroughness and balance and self-carriage, resulting in the biggest movement possible for that particular horse. WOW!!!

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Gadgets


There are several pieces of equipment or devices or gadgets out there designed to help riders put their horses in a more or less proper frame. The various riding disciplines favor different types of equipment. Dressage training equipment generally ranges from simple side reins to groups of devices known as martingales (running, standing, German), draw reins (which include all "running" or "sliding" reins), or the more complicated de Gogues and chambons. If the trainer rides or lunges over ground poles or cavaletti while using these devices, the horse can be encouraged to "use itself" while in this more or less proper frame.

The simpler and more direct the effect of the device, the more skilled the rider or trainer should be. Otherwise, the net effect will probably be negative rather than positive. The draw-type reins especially fall in that category. Even side reins are relatively easy to abuse. Most martingales are easier to use, but they still need to be adjusted properly and may not help as much as the rider may want them to.

Chambons are the most difficult and dangerous for the inexperienced horse person to use. Also, they should always be used for lungeing--not riding. There is a danger of the horse flipping over backwards. Of all the devices previously mentioned, the de Gogue is the most benign. It is easy to use and adjust. In it the horse is free to go long and low or short and elevated--even jump. Its beauty lies in its subtle complexities. Even your lunge line itself is versatile and can be used in several different ways as a kind of device.

The Pessoa system was invented by Nelson Pessoa (a great Brazilian jumper rider back in the day, as is his son, Rodrigo, now). It is an awesome addition to lunging equipment. It encourages a horse to not only flex at the poll, but also bring its hind legs under its body, thereby using itself properly. It can be adjusted from long and low to elevated and collected. It is truly an ingenious piece of equipment.

The bottom line, however, is that none of these devices can ride or train the horse by themselves, and they are only as effective and useful as the experience and ability of the rider or trainer using them. In the final analysis, devices only help accomplish what a skilled and proficient rider can do with a plain snaffle bridle and his or her hands, seat, and legs.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Consistency


What is the best way to go about learning dressage? I've seen many approaches in the last 40+ years. Obviously, some ways are more successful than others.

Ideally, you can buy a schoolmaster, take lessons, and periodically have the horse tuned up. At the other extreme, you can be a working student for a trainer and not own a horse at all. I was lucky enough to be a working student for 13 years AND have access to FEI horses. There are lots of variations in between. It all depends on how much money and/or time you have, or want, to put into it. Money helps, but you cannot buy knowledge and the expertise to apply it.

The one thing that successful ways of learning all have in common is consistency. By consistency I don't mean taking the same lesson once a week every week for two years. Progress must be consistent, too. Toward that end, it helps to supplement your lessons by studying. Books and videos help you understand what you're trying to accomplish if you know how to use them. Not everyone does. Watch a lot and listen a lot. Develop your eye. Ask a lot of questions.

Be as consistent as possible with your source of instruction. If you switch instructors too frequently, you never master any method at all. On the other hand, if you can demonstrate a degree of expertise in one method, it is easier to correct or adjust a small detail than it is to start over. That is why one-shot clinics don't work for any but the already accomplished rider. Clinics should be thought of and planned as a series to derive the most benefit. Of course, the instructor or clinician should have classical goals and methods.

If you really want to learn something, a lot of thought should be given to selecting the individual from whom you consistently take instruction. Unfortunately, it's not easy. Often those with the weakest credentials are also the most opinionated, arrogant, and glib. The talk should translate into results, and the results should be tested in some way (such as competition, but not limited to competition) after a minimum degree of competence has been reached.

Discussion of theory is great; however, don't confuse parroting words with true understanding. In this sport "feel" is everything and the only thing. Ya can't just talk the talk--ya gotta walk the walk.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: The Horse's Physical Development

The horse's physical development

All of us have heard the statement that proper dressage makes a horse more beautiful. If you're not sure if your training and/or lessons are successful, look at your horse. True, it takes time. Not forever, though! Your horse's physical development is a good check of whether or not your horse is really "on the bit" or "on the aids" (the preferred term).

Neck changes are often the most obvious. The neck should gradually become more arched and develop a crest, but the degree depends somewhat on whether you have a stallion, mare, or gelding. This can be noticeable even at rest. Over-developed under-neck muscles must be eliminated. Also, the neck should develop width from the base (in front of the withers) up and not from the ears down. The former indicates that the neck is stabilized between the shoulders. The latter indicates resistance in the poll. These horses also often "break" in the third vertebra instead of the poll.

Incorrect attempts at collection can result in a shortened, cramped neck, and the horse is then above the aids at the withers. In that case, the half-halts cannot go past that point, over the back, to the hind fetlock. The back becomes hollow, and this prevents "connection" and "throughness". If the horse's back is properly "up", the backbone should become less prominent as muscles develop along either side of it. Your saddle may fit better, too.

If the hind legs are active, they not only track up under the body, but also close the angles of the joints, resulting in a lowering of the hindquarters. The muscles that develop in the upper hind leg just above the gaskin are known as "breeches" because they look, from the rear, like the old-fashioned breeches with a "peg."

The muscles over the top of the croup should be smooth and long, not bunchy and overdeveloped. Likewise, there should be no "hunter bump" or peak. These unwanted changes mean the angles of the hind leg are not closing. If there is no lowering of the haunches, there is no relative elevation of the forehand. A straightened hind leg can pop you out of the saddle, too, and indicate that the hind legs are "out" or being "left behind". You want to develop a "body mover" as opposed to a "leg mover."

There should be an even and harmonious development of the horse's body which results in transforming some of the "pushing power" into "carrying power". This can be heard as well as seen. The horse no longer pounds the ground. A horse that is using itself properly is sounder, more comfortable (not at the expense of big movement), and more beautiful, too!

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Transitions


The quality of transitions is one of the indicators of the degree of "connection" and "throughness" the rider has achieved. Transitions have always been important, but the 1995 national tests began to stress that importance by giving transitions their own score. No longer could a rider have a nice extension and a poor transition and end up with a good score by default.

When your horse is connected, it moves as one unit. The rear end doesn't come along just because it's attached. It actually carries and pushes the front half of the horse. When a half-halt is given, it travels all the way to the hind fetlock, demonstrating "throughness." The horse should show no resistance in the lower jaw, poll (or upper jaw), neck, back, or hind leg. No half-halt is complete until you give, and the half-halt has not come through unless the horse demonstrates a few moments of self-carriage when you do give.

Upward transitions should be preceded by a successful half-halt. During the resulting moment of self-carriage, the horse can be asked to lengthen within a pace (and not get quick or run) or change paces entirely.

Downward transitions are often where problems with "throughness" show up the most. We see either resistance (the horse comes above the aids) or no real transition at all as the horse falls on the forehand, leans in the hand, and slows down because of an upcoming corner rather than collects. Collected paces are shorter and more animated, not slower. If you end up pulling or being pulled, instead of pushing your horse through a corner with a soft inside rein, not only has your half-halt not been successful, but also you are not realizing the benefits afforded by riding proper corners.

Downward transitions require more driving aids than upward transitions to facilitate shifting the balance more to the hindquarters, which lower to achieve the relative elevation of the forehand. Balance is required to achieve soft--not harsh, jarring, or abrupt--downward transitions.

Everyone talks about and supposedly rides half-halts, but it is the transitions--those between movements, between paces, and within paces--that present the clearest and most unavoidable evidence, to those willing to seek and understand it, of whether or not those half-halts (and therefore transitions) are successful.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Circles, Corners, and Other Curved Lines

Circles, corners, and other curved lines

One of those expressions that most dressage riders have heard but seldom practice is that dressage riders "get" their horses in the corners. Actually, most circles, corners, and other curved lines are seldom used to their best advantage. When executed properly, these figures aid not only suppleness but also balance, straightness, impulsion, and collection. However, these benefits are usually not realized because of poor execution.

In general, most riders tend to give on the outside rein and take on the inside rein when performing any movement involving more bend. This may be an involuntary and unconscious action on the part of the rider, but it has a detrimental effect just the same. It results in a slightly lengthened rather than slightly shortened frame. The horses ends up more "strung out" because the bend is more in the neck than around the inside leg; therefore, the outside of the bend gets longer rather than the inside of the bend getting shorter.

If, on the other hand, the rider initiates the turn with the inside leg and "catches" the resulting increase in impulsion with the outside rein while opening the inside rein to indicate direction, the horse will respond by bending around the inside leg and shifting the balance back. Then the rider can give on the inside rein and drive, rather than pull, the horse around the turn, thereby completing the half-halt. Of course, the rider's outside leg must be slightly back in order to guard the haunches. If the horse's hind leg steps out, the horse will have successfully avoided bending in the body.

This should give the rider some insight into correct bend. The bonus is that it also helps to understand half-halts: how giving in the poll is a function of both bend and riding the horse from back to front--not the other way around.

These are obviously not minimal accomplishments(!) and explain why dressage riders are endlessly performing circles, corners, and other curved lines.

-- by Suzanne May

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: The Desire to Understand

Announcing a regular new feature on my blog: Saturdays with Suzanne! I have been training with Suzanne May and her late husband, Wolfgang May, since 1995. The in-person training has been very on and off in recent years, but she has always been my go-to gal for questions about dressage training and theory. Take a look at the biographies of Wolfgang and Suzanne here.

Saturdays with Suzanne will offer weekly writings from Suzanne on training problems and dressage theory. If you have a question, she'd be happy to answer it for you! Consider her the Anne Landers of dressage. Please leave any questions for Suzanne in comments. And now, on to her first article!

The desire to understand

One morning I was sort of listening to a movie or book critic on TV, and he made a statement that seemed to me to apply very much to our sport. That is, "...the urge to be 'with it' most often overpowers the desire to understand it.". How true that is! When individuals are trying to learn, their focus should be on just that: learning. Instead, many tend to become advocates, prematurely, of a particular style or perhaps a well-known person. This is not to say that we should not admire accomplished individuals. However, don't blindly follow an example or a method to the exclusion of others unless you have the expertise to successfully dissect and examine it. To do so tends to stunt, if not stop altogether, the learning process. One then forms opinions based on incomplete or incorrect information and defends them with equally faulty reasoning, usually missing the point entirely. This becomes a vicious circle when you are forced to defend your position (even to yourself). Learning requires an open mind, not defensiveness.

It is not easy to be a good student. It takes perseverance and patience. To want to learn is necessary but not enough. One must take responsibility for one's own learning. There is no mystique. It is all very logical.

We all know we have an interest in dressage; however, it requires introspection and honesty to discern exactly which aspects actually draw us. This has nothing to do with whether or not we wish to compete or trail ride or apply our knowledge to another aspect or pursuit (i.e., education, breeding, etc.). All of these require a certain correctness.

But what if it is ego or the social aspect that is our true motivator? What if the horse is just an instrument or a prop? Is it acceptable to appear or act knowledgeable, or do we really want to be knowledgeable? Can we set aside all pretenses in order to achieve this goal? Are any excuses really acceptable, or are they just excuses? Do we give in to the urge to be "with it" and thereby doom ourselves, personally, to mediocrity, or do we have the courage of our convictions and the resistance to that which is flawed or fake?

Do we have a genuine and profound--or just a cursory--interest in the desire to understand dressage?

Monday, April 7, 2014


I thought this was a really interesting article on the differences in male and female anatomy and how they affect riding position, but it seems like the recommendation boils down to: women should ride in a "chair" seat. That can't be what is meant...

Sunday, April 6, 2014


I'm sitting in my father's house in Lincoln, Nebraska, keeping an eye on him while my brother and his family go to church. My dad was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a little over three years ago. He is now nearing the end of his terribly difficult journey, spending his final days in home hospice, and at the moment he is sleeping deeply and calmly, for which I am grateful. ALS is a cruel disease, and my father has coped valiantly. Now I wish only for a peaceful passing. I am blessed that my situation allowed me to turn what was supposed to be a weekend visit here into an indefinite stay when it became apparent that my father was declining rapidly.

I came to Lincoln after I flew to Lubbock, Texas, for a job interview on March 26. I got the job! So the menagerie will be moving to Lubbock in a month or two -- me, Ted, Dakota, Lucy, Lola, and Annie. It's a good job in book publishing, and I have lived in Lubbock before (and enjoyed it), so in spite of the sadness of my father's situation, we are feeling some happiness and excitement. Dakota is coming along so nicely that I'll keep training him and likely sell or lease him to a young rider in Lubbock at some point. I'd love to get him to third level: earn your bronze on a mustang! I think he has the physical talent and mental chops to do it. So have no fear: the blog will continue!

For now, though, I'll just keep watching my dad sleep.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Almost-canter, trot lengthenings, and more leg yield

On Tuesday I had a fabulous ride on Dakota. He was relaxed, focused, and feeling completely confirmed in walk and trot. I'm starting to sit the trot for thirty seconds at a time, too. He has a very comfy trot to sit.

Things were going so well I decided to see if I could get a canter to the right under saddle. My routine for this sort of thing is to, first, add a grab strap to the saddle. (Actually, I always ride with one. It's great for working on snugging yourself down in sitting trot, especially in lengthenings.) I establish a twenty-meter circle in trot with a solid outside rein. I allow a little slack on the inside rein and hold the grab strap with the inside hand. Then it's go go go with the canter aids. At first I don't care if the horse runs and falls into canter. Whatever works. I didn't quite get the canter with Dakota, but boy, were we close. He stayed on the circle like a good boy and didn't do anything silly. I gave it three tries and then let him walk for his efforts.

The almost-canter fired Dakota up, so after he stopped puffing I went back to trot and asked for some lengthenings. He liked that! Even better, he sat his little fanny down like a champ in the downward transitions. Such a good guy!

As I cooled him down in walk, I asked for a few leg-yields along the wall, and those are coming along so well. Pretty soon I'll give it a try in trot.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

First lesson under my belt!

I gave my first official lesson on Dakota today. Dakota gets a gold star, an A+, and lots of carrots for his behavior, which was exemplary. We started with the student on the lunge line, both directions, working first on establishing body position at the walk and then working up to rising trot. Then I turned them loose to work on a twenty meter circle around me at walk and trot, both directions. The student has a nice natural position and soft hands, and Dakota was a happy camper. The student seemed like she was getting a lot from the lesson and indicated she was understanding what I was saying. We've got another lesson scheduled in a week! I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I'm in "fatten up" mode for Dakota and Flash. They're both looking a little scrawny. I'm upping their supplemental meals, plus I'm trying to wrangle extra hay for them whenever possible. The grass should start to come in during the next month, and that will make a big difference. They've both got little spots of rain rot as well, so I try to get those areas doctored once a day. I think it's under control. Using Durasole on the feets about 4 times a week, and hooves are looking great. Now to just hang in until summer.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Sammy the GSP has been battling a mast-cell tumor surrounding the lower joint in his back leg for several months. Steroids helped, and benadryl helped, but tonight the tumor swelled up terribly and was causing Sam awful pain in the joint. He was whimpering and crying and couldn't find a comfortable way to lie down. I couldn't stand to see him like that and decided it was time to let him go. He would have been 16 this summer.

I found Sam when he was running loose at a dressage show I was managing. The judges told me to "go catch that dog." I don't think any of them had ever chased a German shorthair before. I finally caught him and turned him over to animal control. No one claimed him, and he was going to be euthanized, so I took him home. He has been with me from Lincoln to Lubbock to Eugene. I miss him so much.