Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Dressage" photoshoot!

But first yall need to see my adorable dog.

D'awwww cute Cersei

Tres cute, yes? (And don't laugh but I made that dog bed myself, out of an old flannel sheet and the stuffing from a crappy pillow. She loves it.)

Ok, on to the "dressage." It's in quotes because it doesn't actually look much like dressage - a gaited horse, a western-ish saddle, jeans. She's in a single jointed D ring snaffle though! That's gotta make it more dressagey. (Also please note I am wearing a helmet and not smoking. It's one for the record.) My husband came and took some surprisingly good pictures and video of us!

Yesterday, I experimented with different bits for Dixie. She wasn't doing fantastically with the wide Pelham, so I went to my parents and dug out what I vaguely remembered as my Tom Thumb. It's not actually a TT - it's got a copper roller thing covering the joint in the middle, so each side moves very little. It's also a good bit narrower in diameter than the pelham. She was pretty "meh" about it - didn't hate it, didn't turn or stop any better in it than in the pelham. Then I thought back to one of my Life Lessons About Horses, one that's stood me in good stead for a long time so far:

There are no magic bits. (In fact, there are no magic items of tack. Obviously there are exceptions, like if the horse bucks because the saddle fits so poorly, but in general there's no magic.)

I dug out the single jointed D ring snaffle. The worst she could do is run away, right? And if she runs away, I'll just circle her til she gets tired. This isn't much different from our "bad" days. There is no magic bit. There is no magical brake pedal. As long as I don't haul back on both reins and poke her palate with the bit, it'll all be ok.

She liked the snaffle, quite a bit. We had no brakes, but she was in a bit of a mood and she never woahs when she's in that kind of mood no matter WHAT bit she's in, so I decided we'd stick with the D ring.

So today we had a long lesson in the honest-to-god snaffle bit. Worked on several horse lessons: basic bending at a halt, giving to inside leg pressure, and speeding up without panicking. I had several human lessons going, too: quit flapping your legs off and on the horse, do NOT thump her with your heels and expect her to stay calm, SIT DOWN when she gaits, and teach her to give to inside leg. All in all we did quite well together - not perfect, but we both tried really hard. And my knee hurts - if I hurt my knee, I must be using my legs in a different and hopefully better way, right?

I got a bit of carrot stretching / bending at the halt. We got Dixie to give to inside leg - to spiral outwards on a circle, basically - to the left. The right, not so much - she's very one sided right now. And I bollocksed the first time I asked her to speed up. We got a really hollow choppy racky thing. But the second time I got a smooth upward transition... to a trot! D'oh. Oh well, both she and I know that she can gait just fine and we'll get a really smooth gait one day :)

Here we are at a halt while I talked with Hardy. I love her alert but calm expression. (By the way, that's a halter on under the bridle, not a weird noseband.)

Pretty picture, stretchy walk. She's not even going fast; this is just how she walks if she's not collected at all.

Here's a video of her "totally normal walk." I think we were working on the elusive inner leg cue, but I'm not 100% sure.

Dixie, walking around from Funder on Vimeo.

Here's our bad upward transition. I thumped her with my heels to speed her up, and she went way faster but very hollow and freaked-out.

Dixie, fast gait from Funder on Vimeo.

And here's our good upward transition. This time, I kept increasing leg pressure without resorting to heels or tensing up, and I got her to speed up! Yay! To a trot. Rrrgh. Still, it's progress.

Dixie, trot from Funder on Vimeo.


  1. I'm not sure that's a trot! The few steps I could see, it looked like same-side legs moving together, not diagonals. You did a nice job, however, being patient, and asking, not telling, her to increase her speed.

    I love the two sided face--my tovero has the same thing: tobiano-ish (solid with normal-looking blaze) on one side, and apron face (overo characteristic) on the other.

  2. Maybe you're right and it's a pace. I don't know; I watched that segment of the video too many times and it didn't make sense after a certain point!

    So what's her patterning, tovero? I am not good with paint patterns.

  3. i thought tobiano and overo referred to where the white comes from on the horse, like overo comes up from their belly and tobiano comes down from the shoulder. I dunno. I am not a paint/pinto person per se. Isn't "piebald" black and white and any other color with white is a "skewbald?" And isn't there a distinction between what you call a horse where the majority is white vs. the majority is colored?
    I'm a freak. I just wanted to comment that she has a really nice free walk! :)

  4. I guess all that knee action is typical of gaited horses at the walk. It looks crazy but nice to me.

    And yes, that was definitely a pace, not a trot. Looked much more comfortable than Tonka's pace, though, which is huge. His pace is faster than his canter.

  5. What a gorgeous horse. Your riding instructor or coach in this video looks like Daniel Boone in a movie I saw when I was little. You are a nice soft rider and she's a lucky horse to have you. Gaited dressage! Sistah!

  6. dp - I'm honestly not sure if the immense knee action is genetic or because she was padded/chained when she was first "broke to show." :( Tonka was a pacer, right? I love reading about the genetic / physiological difference in trotters and pacers. Not just STB's, but if you consider any horse as trotting, pacing, or something in between.

    Flying Lily - he's a GERMAN! Drives a big purple Chevy 3500. There aren't many Germans in Mississippi, trust me. I like him a lot, and I think I'm fortunate to get to learn from him. He loves beginners and loves teaching good fundamentals.


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