I bought a horse in 1992. She was a National Show Horse by the name of Keili. She was unregistered, out of Legionaire Domain (American Saddlebred), four years old with horrible ground manners. She wasn't started under saddle and she hadn't been handled very much at all. When I went to see her, she flipped her head while I was leading her and smashed me in the head, breaking my glasses. (That tacked $300 onto the purchase price.) She was the only horse I looked at and I paid $700 for her. Everything about that transaction was the absolute wrong way to buy a horse. So, you ask, why did I purchase her? Because I was stupid and thought I could do anything I wanted with any horse I brought home. And the price was decent for a horse I thought would meet my needs.
I got her, partly because I always want a horse, (it's a obsession) and partly because I wanted to do dressage. Dressage to me, at that point, was this elegant, intricate show thing and somewhere in the back of my head I could see myself riding dressage in the Olympics. At that point I knew nothing about warmbloods, OTTBs, or any of the other horses used in Grand Prix and dressage. All I knew about dressage was that it was a way of riding your horse so that it "danced". I thought a National Show Horse could be a great dressage horse.
Keili and I never really clicked. I didn't realize until several months later, that the BM at the place where I was boarding her, took it upon herself to work her when I wasn't around. Her methods weren't gentle, which increased Keili's psychotic behavior, something I wasn't understanding. Keili wouldn't stand tied and the BM decided to put a rope around her belly and run it up through the halter ring. The first time she pulled back I guess she flipped herself through the fence. I think that was the second time in her life that Keili was tied. It left a lasting impression. I couldn't figure out why this horse kept breaking halters and lead ropes. After a couple of months I was able to ride her, but she never became stable, calm or steady. And there was nothing Dressage about our riding. Usually it was me looking for a soft place to land when she went sideways at speed because she didn't like the shape of a shadow under a bush. I really think she would have made an Endurance horse, because she would go all day at speed and still have a ton of energy at the end of the ride.
I finally sold Keili after she jerked back at the end of a lead rope, thinking she was about to be eaten by a mountain lion disguised as a saddle stirrup. When she hit the end of the rope the railroad tie she was tied to snapped off at the ground and I suddenly had a psychotic mare attached to a 6 foot long, one foot square, 35 pound battering ram. It was like watching your worse nightmare come true. I was pretty sure she was going to kill herself. When the post whacked her in the forehead and she went down, I was sure she was dead. She scrambled to her feet and for once, held still. I got to her and released the rope. She was bruised and nicked up, but no major damage was done. I knew, however, that I was in over my head. I sold her a week later.
I had forgotten that barely recognized dream from 20 years ago when I first got Ashke. My focus this time was endurance riding (and once again I was as ignorant of that discipline as I was of dressage twenty years ago) and although I have the right breed of horse to do it, I'm not sure he will ever be sound enough. Nor do I think I want to trot for that long. Ever. So, the point of this post? I am now riding dressage. I had my first lesson on Tuesday and then I practiced what we went over on Weds and Friday. And the really cool thing, Ashke is doing it. Twenty years later and with my heart horse, I'm finally learning the beginning steps in this incredible dance.
At least we were.
We had a set back today. I met N at the barn at 1:30 to ride the Mesa. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Cali's LF leg was just slightly swollen and warm. She had a splint there a year or so ago and it seemed like it was bothering her again. The area with the most heat however was the outside of her fetlock, so I kind of wonder if maybe she knocked it into something. N was disappointed, but I told her it was fine if we didn't ride out. It was better to be safe then to risk a bowed tendon or other issue that might sideline them for several weeks. We decided that I would ride Ashke and Cali could graze. N agreed to take some pics for me.
When we got to the dressage arena, I lunged Ashke briefly. He seemed really stiff and sore to me, but he wasn't favoring any of his steps. He also wasn't stretching into his walk, like I know he can. After a few turns in each direction, during which he was flawless, I attached the sidereins and lunged him again.
He tries so hard and he really is willing to try and lift his back to propel himself forward.
For any of you who have been following this blog, you know how much of a struggle I've had with him bringing his head down. I'm now convinced this is a product of weakness in his back from being starved almost to death AND the damage done by some idiot trainer that thought wrapping a rope around his hind leg and dropping him on his hip was a grand idea.
Ashke was tracking up okay, but just didn't seem smooth or loose. N and I talked about how he was moving, but couldn't really pin point what the issue seemed to be.
I am riding him with N's Back on Track dressage pad, to help stimulate blood flow and warmth in the muscles that need help. What I really need is a rump rug to cover his loin area to help warm his muscles before work. I have placed the 3' by 4' BOT pad on my list for Christmas.
We didn't really spend a ton of time on the side reins. Once Ashke had done a couple of W/T transitions I halted him and got ready to ride.
He was not nearly as good today as he had been last night or on Weds. I rode him for three or four circuits of an about 20m circle, and he did not want to be in a frame. He was struggling to extend his trot and he started doing the headflip, lift his front feet off the ground every time I asked. N wanted me to get some propulsion at the trot, but it was like pulling teeth to get him to move. When I turned him to the left, it became apparent why.
He was very lame to the left. Head-bobbing lame. I think I asked too much too soon. I rode him on Tues, Weds and Friday. That was as much as his muscles were going to deliver.
I immediately stopped, got off and hand walked him to the stable. Then N and I walked both of our horses back out to the arena and let them graze.