From Endurance to Dressage
The clinic was a week ago, and no, I didn't forget to write about it. My Pivo Silver recorded an entire hour of video, and finding the time to sit down, watch it all, take notes, and capture relevant screenshots required more time than I had. Amelia's feedback was so digestible though that even though I hadn't had time to watch the video before now, I was able to ride all week with her suggestions replaying in my head.
First, some nuts and bolts stuff. I am the vice chairperson of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of the California Dressage Society. We're a small chapter located in the Tehachapi Mountains, but we also serve the Bakersfield area and beyond. Historically, the chapter's events have been held at the BVS Equestrian Center, home of the Bear Valley Springs Dressage Club. Hoping to better serve our Bakersfield members, I volunteered to organize and host the October clinic at my own barn.
We could not have had a nicer day. Our smoky, hot weather broke just in time for the clinic. We were blessed with a chilly morning and blue skies. In all, we had nine riders and a good turnout of chapter and club members who came to watch. Amelia Newcomb was a gracious clinician who was never anything but encouraging and friendly as she helped each rider bring out the best in his or her horse and in themselves. She worked on getting the horses softer and rounder, quicker off the leg, and bending more honestly through their bodies. She had riders sitting more quietly, using their seat bones more effectively, and stretching their comfort zones while still building confidence.
Since I had to be at the ranch the entire day anyway, I volunteered to ride first. All but one other rider had to trailer out to the ranch, so being saddled and ready to go at 8:15 was a bit of stretch for everyone else. It worked out well for me to go first because by the time I was finishing my ride, Laurel was riding over from her place. Once Izzy was cleaned up and put away, I was free to direct traffic, get riders to sign releases, and point the way to the restroom.
I've ridden with quite a few different clinicians over the years. A few have made me consider quitting riding altogether, which is pretty hard to do. A few have left me feeling like I just drank a sugary drink - it tasted good going down, but afterwards, it didn't really serve a purpose. And then there are those clinicians that stick with you like a good book. You know those books that leave you thinking about the characters days and even weeks later? Amelia's lesson was a lot like that. She used lots of short, quick instructions that were easy to understand, but said at just the right time to be immediately effective. Here are some of the things I heard her tell me:
Every horse is different of course.These are the things she suggested for Izzy. For other horses, she wanted more activity behind, she wanted the horse to react more quickly, and so on. Izzy doesn't need quicker, and he doesn't need more activity. He bounces off the walls as it is. Over the past week, I've been able to get some really good change in Izzy's neck (it's getting longer and lower) and in his willingness to relax.
We have a two-day USDF show this weekend. I've reached out to Amelia to see if she can give me a lesson on Friday evening; the show's venue is in her neighborhood. She has a clinic and is waiting on the schedule, but with any luck, she'll be able to help us warm up the night before. I will definitely be looking for future opportunities to ride with Amelia. If you have the chance to ride with her or audit one of her clinics, I strongly recommend it. And if you have time, you should check out her YouTube channel; it's packed full of instructional videos.
If we're a hot mess this weekend, Amelia, it's totally NOT your fault!
I don't generally blanket my horses. Our winters are mild, and we get an average of about six inches of rain. Over the past two years though I have needed to blanket Speedy on the rainiest nights. Whether it's his age - 16, or the PPID (Cushing's Disease), he hasn't been able to keep himself warm enough in the rain. Last winter, all of Speedy's blankets fell apart, literally. While they all appeared to be in excellent shape, once they were exposed to the elements, they just disintegrated. Speedy got a new one, and it's ready for this winter.
Izzy's blanket was much newer and had only been used a handful of times. The problem was that I had purchased that blanket for another horse, and it was about an inch and a half too small for the big brown horse. It was wearable, but it didn't hang as nicely as I would have liked. It wasn't much of an issue as Izzy wears a blanket even fewer times a year than Speedy. On the days that Speedy stands shivering, steam pours off Izzy's back.
Izzy does occasionally get cold though, especially if we get a winter storm that's wet and windy, a rarity around here. His hand-me-down blanket did not survive last winter. It started with a small tear here, and ended with a ginormous rip there. After duct taping it and tying buckles back on, I finally tossed it in the dumpster. It had served its purpose.
I knew that if I waited and watched long enough this fall, blanket discounts would start to appear. I don't blanket Izzy often, but I want to have one on hand if I feel he needs it.Yesterday morning, Dover sent me a very enticing email. As they say, patience is a virtue. I am not sure how long the sale is going to last, but Dover is offering 20% off Dover brand horse clothing with code CMXBLANKETS, and shipping is free with a $35 purchase. I don't love or hate the Dover brands, so I decided to see if there might be a too good to pass up blanket deal.
Izzy doesn't need a fancy pants, super luxury blanket. He and I both know that whatever I buy is bound to show some hard wear by spring, no matter how few times he wears it. I was searching for something that was heavy weight, waterproof, had front snaps, a tail guard, leg straps, and crossed surcingles. Oh, and it needed to be cheap, like under $100. I found a deal that seemed too good to be true. And if it weren't from Dover, a company I trust to make it right, I would have doubted that I was getting what I ordered.
I ordered it, especially when they actually had a size 82 in stock. I only hope it's big enough since blanket sizes are a lot like ladies' pants sizes - an 8 in one brand doesn't fit like an 8 in another. This 82 might swallow Izzy, or leave him tugging at the collar. For the price though, it was worth the risk. Once I entered the 20% discount code, the cost of the blanket dropped to $55.99, nearly half of what I was hoping to pay. I feel like I should have a second one to keep as a back up.
With no rain predicted for the rest of this month, and probably not much in the months to come, the blanket may not even get used this year. For California's sake, I hope it does. Even if it means I need to buy a replacement because Izzy has mangled this one with so much use, it will be worth it.
Come on, rain, we're waiting!
US Equestrian has a fairly comprehensive guide that outlines which drugs are permitted and which drugs are not. Even so, some questions don't have a definitive, ready-to-go answer. Case in point, prednisolone.
Izzy was recently prescribed prednisolone for his Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD) which is being caused by midges. My vet reminded me to check out the withdrawal time with my dressage governing body, US Equestrian. While I was in his office, we quickly found the 2020 USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications. We located the Common Prohibited Substances page and quickly scrolled through the list. Prednisolone was not on either list (permitted with MRF and no MRF accepted). I assured him that I would dig more deeply.
Knowing that a steroid had to be on some list somewhere, I later started flipping through the pages, reading a bit more closely. On page 8 of the 2020 guide, page 12 of the 2019 guide, there is a list that details how long drugs remain detectable. Prednisolone is not on the list, but methylprednisolone is, and it's detectable for 14 days. That got me worried.
I spent a fair amount of time asking Google to describe the differences between methylprednisolone and prednisolone. The only results I got were for methylprednisolone and prednisone. I called my vet back. He assured me that methylprednisolone and prednisolone are indeed two different medications. Methylprednisolone is much more powerful and acts more quickly. Prednisolone falls under the category of "corticosteroids other than methylprednisolone and isoflupredone, e.g. triamcinolone and betamethasone."
The issue for Izzy is how long the drug is detectable. We have a show in less than two weeks. We have another show two weeks after that. Since the detectable time for methylprednisolone is two weeks, he wouldn't have been able to have a dose for a full month. That would not have been good.
Fortunately, the detectable time for other corticosteroids like prednisolone is seven days. This means we can't follow my vet's initial treatment plan of two weeks of 20 tablets a day followed by two weeks of 18 tablets a day followed by ... you get the idea. Instead, he'll get his last dose on Friday. He'll be off the medication for a week for a two-day show October 24th and 25th. He'll then get another week of the prednisolone, and then he'll go off it for another week so that we can go to another two-day show November 7th and 8th. He'll then go back on the prednisolone until November 30th.
Fortunately, Izzy has had enough medication - IV, oral, and topical, that his skin has finally healed over, and he is no longer itchy. Of course our cool evenings have probably helped nearly as much as the drugs. Our lows have been in the 50s which has no doubt annoyed the midges. I just hope that being off the prednisolone for a week won't allow the little boogers to gain a new foothold.
I've always been a voracious reader; I don't even remember learning to read. It just feels like I always could. By the time I was twelve, I was reading adult fiction. Stephen King's novels were my favorite. My stepmom still teases me about always having a book in my hand, and there was usually a second one in case I finished the first one. If you're reading this, you're probably a reader, too.
I've never tracked how many books a year I read, but I knew it was at least 30, and probably more. This past March, as COVID-19 was really picking up speed, I realized I had a little extra time on my hands and found myself reading more often than normal. I did a quick count of how many books I had read since the first of January and realized that I was reading more than a book a week. I decided to see if I could read 52 books in a year. Last night, I finished number 52. Since I can't remember exactly where I started, I know it's more than 52, but I wanted to err on the conservative side.
I am a very eclectic reader. I typically don't read a lot of contemporary fiction, but as I scrolled through my Kindle library, I realized that this year I've read more current fiction than normal. In other years, I find myself reading a lot from the twentieth century, particularly the first half of the century. While I have two favorite books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird and Watership Down, my favorite book is usually the one I am reading right now.
In no particular order, here are ten books from this year that I think are worth reading.
There are many others that I'd like to share. I read two more of Charles Martin's books, he's always wonderful. I reread George Orwell's Animal Farm, which should also scare the hell out of you, as well as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. The Haunting of Hill House, which is nothing like the Netflix telling, is worth a read as is another by Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I could go on. There are just more good books than there are years in which to read them.
It might sound strange, and I don't understand it myself, but to "celebrate" having reached a goal, 52 books in a year, I started Truman Capote's In Cold Blood last night. Having been written in the mid-twentieth century, it falls solidly in my wheelhouse. It's such a well known book that reading it feels like a privilege, hence the feeling of having earned it as a reward.
If you feel like sharing, let me know what some of your favorites from this year are.
While Speedy is semi-retired, he's not retired from life. He still enjoys working and playing. When I rode him last night though, I found myself wondering how much work should I be asking for? If he's no longer going to compete, should I still ask for some collection? Should we still play around with the medium gaits? How about the extended gaits?
I rode him in the double bridle as I have since learning about his fusing left hock, but this was the first time that he really resisted sitting. I wasn't asking for a lot, just some feeling of lightness. With "T" riding him weekly (not lately as she just got married and is till out of state), I want to make sure he stays fairly well tuned up for her sake.
Since he's sound, I want him to stay that way, but I also want to keep him fit and strong. Sitting around and "babying" his joints is a surefire way to reduce his ability to articulate those joints. But what's the perfect amount of work? For the first half of the ride, he just would not get off his forehand. When I started thinking in terms of a low level horse, one working at Training Level with an eye toward First, I decided that Speedy could do a little more. I tapped him with the whip.
He bucked. I tapped again, and suddenly I had a much more forward horse who started using his hind end. I played around with canter/trot transitions and had to encourage him to actually trot, not walk in the downward transition. Speedy was so prepared to sit that he was giving me walk transitions instead of a trot. We also did some flying changes as he really enjoys them.
By that point, he was pretty sweaty, but he was also fired up and really moving well. I came to two conclusions. The first was that I don't think he needs to work in the double bridle anymore. He was fussy in it, and seemed a little grouchy at being made to work. When T rides him in his old snaffle bridle, he looks much happier and more willing to work than I felt he did with me in the double.
The second thing I realized is that I am going to have to commit to riding him at least once a week to ensure that he stays fit enough for T to ride, especially if she can't make it out more than once a week. Dressage is hard, even at Training Level. If he's going to do low level work, once a week is not enough to keep him fit. And if he's not fit enough, he's more likely to sustain an injury. In all the years I've owned him, he's never suffered a riding injury, and I don't want one now. He needs to stay fit which means a bit more riding.
Ultimately, I just want him to be happy. For now, he wants to be ridden. At what level, I just don't know. It's hard to know if he resists because it's hard or because it hurts. Speedy's never been one to beg for more challenging work. He's always been the type to do just enough to stay out of trouble. It's going to be a challenge to recognize when he's saying that's too much versus I don't want to. I thinking he's got a few more years of being able to put in a solid work day.
He just might need some convincing.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read