A few days ago, one of my students came off her horse. She was breaking in new boots and wasn't super steady, he's young and stupid; she went one way, he went the other. It happens. Horses are unpredictable, even those with the best of characters.
As a lifelong Chicagoan and New Yorker, I know snow. I know winter—the cold, the damp, the nasty driving conditions, the salt that rots the bottom of your barn shoes and your aluminum horse trailer. Snow makes driving to lessons hazardous and affects my business in the wintertime. It makes turnout difficult, and it can make riding outside impossible.
Fred* (name changed to protect the large and fuzzy) is a curious case. Backed as a 3-year-old in draw reins and a chambon attached to less than ideal hands, he started sticking his tongue out. He’s now in his mid-teens, and he’s been doing it ever since.
Fred’s not helped by nature—he’s a funny cross, one of the ones you’d be surprised to learn wasn’t an accident, and he has a long back, a short, thick neck and a flighty temperament. But nurture has not done all it could to improve his shortcomings.
Dang, my horses are nice! Especially when they behave like they did on Tuesday. Ella picked up right where she left off, pirouettes with a little more of my inside thigh pressure to help her figure out where she needs to be in the balance, quick work in the piaffe—active and under, not pushing out behind and covering too much ground—and some playing with her balance in the left half-pass. Done and done. Easy peasy. Yay!
Nothing does my type-A heart good like killing two birds with one stone, so I combined a trip to see a sales horse with taking Midgey and Ella for a brief stay at the Hasslers'. I hauled up Sunday night and rode with Scott Monday morning before taking off for New Jersey.
Every year, the amazing folks at Hassler Dressage and Harmony Sporthorses host the Young Dressage Horse Trainers' Symposium a three-day invite-only event. It's one part clinic, one part demonstration, one part conversation, and all parts fun. Clinics are wonderful, but Symposium is unique because there are 60+ professionals all in one room, sharing experiences in an open, judgment-free environment. It's really marvelous.
I live in a one-bedroom apartment above the barn. It's perfect—kitchen, bathroom, lots of closet space for all of my pack-rat accumulations, and a really great couch I inherited. I'm in dire need of a decorating intervention from someone on TLC, and a date with a vacuum cleaner, but its location, location, location is to die for. I can look out my window and see horses in their paddocks. I can throw hay in my underwear. (Not that I ever have. Nope. Not ever.) And most importantly: I can hear the horses at night.
Every Wednesday and Friday I teach in Middleburg, at the farm belonging to my student who is leasing my Billy, my older statesman Grand Prix gelding. Every now and then I hop on him, and I'm always struck by how amazing he is. Billy was no easy ride as a younger fellow—he was hot and firebreathing and tight in the back—but his canterwork is unbelievable, textbook, and his natural gift for passage gives a rider an incredible feeling.
Ella redeemed herself on Sunday, though not with the scores I was hoping for—a meager 63 percent on a forward, fluid, mistake-free ride. Whatever. My plan for changing her warm-up to be more like a normal school rather than a test prep session worked really well, and while I'm sure her being a little tired from five days of horse show helped, she was a totally different animal—quiet, rideable, and way more confident. And that is a big victory in and of itself.
I did wuss out and scratch everyone today, though I feel like a dolt because the weather was bad for about 2 seconds before turning into a pretty glorious day. I almost wish I had given 4-1 a whirl with Midge, because he's ready for it, and it would have been fun. Alas.
Cleo and I had a very nice hack around, and Midge did the same but with a lot more spooking and snorting.
Ella and I had a really useful school with Scott, and I realized that I warm her up for the shows differently than I school her at home.