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.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Buckets and buckets

We've had three days of hard rain, topped off with a monsoon yesterday. It's flooding everywhere! I wasn't sure if I was going to make it to the barn yesterday.

Casino the tb gelding asks, "Got any spare water wings for me?"

I was proud of how Dakota handled the screaming wind and sideways rain. He was pretty high at first, but after a minute he settled down and was his steady self. I've found the key to getting a united left canter depart every time: in addition to shortening the outside side rein, I've found that I need to keep a steady feel on the lunge line and ask for the depart only when he gives me a nice inside flexion. If I get lazy about that, he pops his inside shoulder and goes into a disunited canter. Now that I've gotten the right feel, I'm not seeing any more disuniting. He's getting very strong and balanced in canter in both directions; I think we're ready to start work on canter under saddle.

Here's a shot from today. There's not supposed to be any water there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More leg yield, and a new-to-me Stubben

I was in Nebraska for a few days visiting family, so Dakota got some more time off. I will be so glad when the spring grass starts coming in. Despite supplementing all winter with an alfalfa pellet mix, a high-protein pellet, and Cool Calories, he is just maintaining and not gaining. I think he needs to put on 50-75 lbs. He's shedding like crazy, so maybe we're in for an early spring. I lunged and rode him today. He still needs a strong outside rein when cantering to the left, or he disunites. Still gonna get a chiropractor out just in case. I bought a used Stubben Tristan in Havana brown off eBay, and it arrived today. It fits Dakota perfectly and looks really nice with his coloring. I have a brown bridle coming as well. Dakota is just so good under saddle. Easy to get on the bit, and he's really starting to find his balance into the outside rein. We did some more leg yield nose-to-wall, and he's so willing and good about it. We also got an accidental turn on the forehand when he got claustrophobic; I went ahead and praised since this is all mainly about learning to move the hindquarters away from my leg.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Northern Louisiana goes polar

My equestrian extravaganza trip to Louisiana to visit my long-time friend and trainer Suzanne May did not go quite as planned. Of the six days I was there, four featured godawful weather. The first day offered up a high in the upper 20s, SNOW, and a 30 mph wind out of the north. Suzanne already had a clinic scheduled for what turned out to be the only two pleasant days, and we were both exhausted at the end of each clinic day, so I actually didn't do any riding at all. I did sit with Suzanne at the clinic and absorbed as much as I could. I was happy to note that at least 80% of the time, I was seeing what she was, and would have offered similar comments or advice. I helped out with showing a couple clinic riders some lungeing techniques, once with a horse who was curling behind the side reins, and once with a horse being introduced to the Pessoa system. I feel ready to begin teaching! And just in time -- I picked up my first client and have a lesson scheduled a week from Wednesday.

I picked Suzanne's brain about Dakota's disunited canter to the left. I told her my instinct was to shorten the outside rein to encourage the haunches to stay to the inside -- and she confirmed that that was a good strategy. I've been lungeing Dakota that way for three days now, and he has begun picking up a united canter three times out of four. Success! This week I also introduced nose-to-rail leg yielding, and Dakota did super! He is just such a willing little man. I ended each ride by asking for three steps of leg yield in each direction and then going to a long rein. In a few more weeks I'll introduce leg yield from quarter line to wall and turn on the forehand.