From Endurance to Dressage
White Birch Farm - Click to enlarge.
No, it's not cancelled! My times have changed slightly. I am actually riding at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and 10:45 a.m. on Sunday.
There are nine ride times for Saturday. The first is at 10:00 a.m. and the last begins at 4:45 p.m. On Sunday, the first rider will go at 10:00 a.m. with the last riding at 3:15 p.m.
Thank you all so much for the many kind and encouraging messages! Wow, what great people I find myself connected to. Not one person has suggested that I am in over my head! I can't wait to get going!
And it's a rain or shine deal; check out their covered arena pictured above. Nice, huh?!
I feel like I owe an explanation about my trailer pictures the other day. There were so many nice comments about the trailer itself. I hope, hope, hope, the pictures didn't come across as a "brag." My intention was to show that having a bigger trailer with living quarters is expensive and a LOT of extra work!
I never went to horse shows as a kid, and as an adult I've only been to dressage shows. I've been to three or four local h/j shows, but they're not rated and only attract local riders. My experience with traveling with my horse is essentially from competing in endurance races. I have only recently learned (over the last two years) that not everyone who competes has a trailer. It seems that many riders get to shows via their trainers.
Endurance riders drive all kinds of rigs. Some are small bumper pulls with a truck with an extended cab that serves as a sleeping area. Some riders make do with a tent. You will see every type of camper/trailer/tent that you can imagine. But the truth is, sleeping in your truck or tent really, really stinks. Any rider who plans to do endurance rides for any length of time eventually upgrades to something bigger.
Long time endurance riders have BIG trailers. Doing-it-forever endurance riders have BIG trucks that carry BIG campers. Some of them drive HUMONGOUS RVs that pull even BIGGER trailers. My rig was nothing fancy at an endurance ride. In fact, it was a little on the smallish side, at least out here in California.
One of Bakersfield's endurance families (Mom, Dad, two daughters) hauled a 4-horse living quarters trailer that was around 40 some odd feet! My trailer is barely 27 feet long. I once met a woman at a ride whose camper was big enough to host a party with at least ten people, and I am NOT exaggerating!
When my trailer is paid off, hopefully in the next three months, I promise to tell you how I went through TWO living quarters trailers. Believe it or not, I've never even owned a regular bumper pull!
As always, horses are expensive. Getting them somewhere, even more so!
My last few lessons have been jammed packed with ideas to get Speedy's hind end to move evenly with his front end. He has pretty much given up going above the vertical to escape the contact. His go-to maneuver is now to drop behind the vertical. For weeks we've been addressing this evasive action which is of course a direct result of shortcomings in my own riding.
Being above the bit or behind the bit is a result of poor feel on the rider's part; that would be me. I am slowly understanding what I need to do/feel to "catch" him before either one of those things happens. The best strategy for preventing either thing is to shorten my reins. I've done that. The next thing I had to learn was to be much quicker to add leg and less eager to use my hands. We seem to have "fixed" that, too.
Before I rode on Monday, my BO had her lesson. There is nothing better than watching someone who is just learning what you have already learned. It was a free lesson for me. As she was riding, her gelding's nose kept coming above the vertical. Right away, it popped into my head that I know how to fix that! Sure enough, JL told her to add leg and quit leaning forward. The rider has to set the parameters and the horse has to come to her.
Watching it happen as opposed to riding it, really helped it make perfect sense. It is so obvious when you see the rider letting her arms get longer and longer and her body begin to tilt forward. Doh! I was struggling with those same ideas, but I am finally getting that I am not helping my horses by letting my arms move forward. This just help them be heavy on the forehand.
As soon as RM's lesson was over, I hopped up on Speedy with all of JL's recent suggestions to RM ringing in my ears. I also had a very good mental picture of what giving the rein away looks like and what happens when you let your body lean forward.
I let JL know that I was feeling anxious about looking inadequate and too inexperienced for the clinic. I asked if we could just work on pulling together the last few ideas that we've been working on without really throwing in anything new.
We started out at the trot. JL was quite happy with how well Speedy was pushing off with his hind end. I've gotten much better at catching him when he even thinks about dropping behind the vertical. And the best part was that I could feel it start to happen before JL even gave me one of her, "Oops!" comments.
When Speedy thinks about dropping behind the vertical, I "lift" him back up by adding leg without letting my hands push forward. He doesn't get to go faster. He can speed up his butt, or slow down the front, but I am not letting him fall apart. His head up with hind legs two strides behind means that his back is hollow and he's not round. If he gets a chance to drop the contact and fall behind the vertical, I know that he is just preparing to let his hind legs slow down which will hollow his back and send his nose into the air.
It's like riding a handheld accordion; there's a whole lot of keeping his front and back ends in the right place.
I now know how to put my horse together. I also know what it takes keep him put together. With my reins nice and short, I can be more proactive and less reactive. With shortened reins, I can feel any loss of contact and correct it before it shows up as a horse with his nose above the bit, or a head dropped behind the vertical.
My lesson went really well. Speedy and I were able to do some lovely figure eights without a loss of contact when I changed rein. We also schooled the left lead canter just a bit. JL suggested I really get him off my inside rein during my warm up. While on a left lead, I exaggerate the bend so much to the inside that she can see both eyes while I keep him out on the circle with my inside leg. When I return to a normal bend, his neck is much more supple.
It shouldn't feel like a show, but it does. I just want to show up prepared to ride my best for the clinician. I feel like if I have some basics under control, we might be ready for something more. I think we're ready for this weekend's ride.
The Christian Schacht Clinic is this weekend. I am riding at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday. I am both nervous and excited. I am excited for the obvious reasons: it's a clinic with a well-known trainer whom I have seen before and admire. I am nervous though because Speedy and I are pretty low level riders, and I really don't want to be embarrassed. We work very hard here at home, but no one else is going to know that. They're simply going to see an aging adult amateur on an average horse struggling with the basics.
It's too late to back out, and I wouldn't anyway. No matter how inexperienced we are, I am going down there as prepared as I can be: my farrier gave Speedy some sparkly new shoes yesterday, we have good fitting tack, and my pony is pretty darn likable. Our performance may not wow anybody, but I am hoping Speedy's charismatic personality will win them over!
On to the real point of this post. I haven't gone anywhere with the horses since October. Remember the dead battery from the other weekend? I decided that maybe I better give my trailer a once-over to be sure that it had weathered this cold snap without any surprises.
After I vacuumed the floor, I replaced my large outdoor floor mat and lawn chairs. I also bring an EZ-up if it's going to be hot, but that's stored in my garage. I need to load my generator, but I usually do that on the day I leave as I need to fill it with gas. For a quick one night trip, I'll only run the generator to charge my phone and maybe to watch a DVD on my laptop.
I am pretty sure that I'll be the only out-of-towner at this clinic which means I'll certainly be the only one staying over-night on the grounds. It can be a little intimidating to camp alone, but knowing Speedy is close by always makes me feel less "alone." I always get up in the night to check on him and without exception, he always looks for my arrival. Sometimes I even hang out in his stall with a glass of wine and just visit. I know he enjoys the company as much as I do.
If you're interested in seeing Christian Schacht work, we will be at White Birch Farm, 10680 Broadway Road, Moorpark, California.
Horse Maintenance Overview
Now that winter is Game On, I thought I'd take a minute to review my feed and supplement routine.
We've had some very cold weather here in California's central valley. Our winter temps are commonly in the 40s and 50s with cloudy skies that threaten rain that rarely arrives. We live in what's known as a rain shadow. The mountains on our three sides get all of the rain before the clouds can finally lift themselves over and reach us. We do get some rain of course, but it's usually less than six inches a year.
This winter, instead of rain, we've had unusually low temperatures. For several weeks, our skies have been brilliantly blue and cloudless, which has allowed our temperatures to plunge into the 20s with highs barely reaching into the 40s. It's been cold.
I don't body clip my horses, but I don't blanket them either. Even with this cold weather, my boys have had only their winter coats and their nightly hay to keep them warm. I've been quite happy to see that even though it has been quite brisk at night, both boys seem to be holding their weight well. Their coats are dense and thick, and all their bony points are well padded. I try to groom both boys each day to remove the sand that attaches itself to their coats. I don't know if it helps them to stay warmer, but I always feel that fluffing their hair must do some good. With little to no rain, mud hasn't been a factor. And even when it does rain, both boys enjoy the barn roof and tend to sleep "indoors."
I set our feed scale to re-measure my boys' nightly beet pulp to make sure I was still feeding what I thought I was feeding. I usually increase their supplemental feed a bit during the colder months, but this winter I've actually fed a bit less than before.
Both boys get a pound and a half of shredded beet pulp ...
... and then they split another pound and a half of rice bran pellets. Most winters, they each get their own pound and half serving, but since they're holding their weight so well this winter, they're just getting the shared portion for now.
I didn't bother to weigh the hay this time as my barn owner re-weighed when the last load of hay came in. And the truth is, she wants everyone to have plenty to eat and then some, so we mostly check to see that nobody's feeder gets too empty too quickly.
Speedy gets alfalfa/oat cubes at night. I haven't weighed the bucket lately, but the three shovel fulls that get dumped in weigh about ten pounds. In the morning he gets a solid flake and then some of alfalfa hay. When I arrive in the afternoon, there's still lots of stems and some leaves left in his hay net and on the ground. If there is too much wasted hay, we feed just a little less in the morning.
For Sydney, we just try to keep something in his hay net at all times. I feed two large flakes of alfalfa in the afternoon, but there is always a pile of hay at the bottom of the feeder from the morning. He gets a flake and a half to two flakes in the morning.
If I boarded at a big barn, I am sure that my boys wouldn't get such unlimited access to hay, but that's why I am where I am. The last place I boarded at was managed by a guy who fed each horse according to his work load and size so Speedy had ample feed while there. I am willing to pay whatever it takes so that my boys have hay in front of them at all times. I think it helps their overall health.
My barn owner prides herself on providing the best living arrangement possible for the horses under her roof. Stalls are cleaned meticulously; the boys are fed generously; turnout is a priority; flies are managed; and the general atmosphere is always one that encourages the horses to be relaxed and happy.
I love Boarding Heaven. Only happy horses live here!
Lexol for Leather?
Sometimes I get tired of writing about riding. Maybe if I experienced more moments of perfection, the task of recording my journey would feel less like a task and more like a celebration. The trouble with being a perfectionist is that you're never quite happy; there's always that little more than can be done. When I get to a place where progress is slow and perfection seems unattainable, it's best if I take a moment to look up and watch where I am going. Invariably, the change in focus brings about a fresh perspective, and I can move on.
To clear my mind of canter departs and rein length, I started to do some chores that I've been doing only inadequately at best, or not at all, at worst. When my new bridle arrived, it prompted me to give my old bridles a thorough scrubbing. Speedy's schooling bridle is a synthetic so I dropped it into the sink with some Palmolive dish soap and took a sponge to it. I also gave his bit a thorough scrubbing as well. When the whole thing was dry and reassembled, I was quite pleased with the result.
Sydney's bridle is leather which meant that I had to do things the old fashioned way. I didn't clean it perfectly, but it did look much better afterwards. His bit, too, got a thorough scrubbing.
I actually keep leather wipes handy so my tack never gets too dirty, but since it's never horribly filthy, I am never very motivated to really condition it either. During show season, I do condition and clean at least once a month, and often times more if we've been really busy.
My saddle, a Custom Revolution, is made from a nice quality leather so I work hard to keep it relatively clean. One nice thing about winter is that we have very little dust which means I don't have to clean and wipe it down as frequently as I do during the dusty, summer months. I also keep it covered when not in use.
I am going to a clinic this weekend so I decided my saddle needed some attention. Since I couldn't ride on Friday or Saturday, Thursday afternoon was the perfect time to do a thorough conditioning and cleaning. The conditioner would have several days to penetrate and absorb without funking up my breeches.
For the last year or so, I've been using Effax's Leder Combi cleaner/conditioner. It seems to work, but it's really "liquidy" and doesn't lather up at all. I've also used Leather New by Farnam, but it never feels as though it wipes away cleanly. It also leaves my tack feeling sticky. I bought Lexol's Leather Cleaner a few weeks ago in hopes that it might work a little better.
I was delighted with how well it worked. I followed the directions: spray Lexol Leather Cleaner onto a damp sponge and gently scrub leather. I liked how thick the Lexol was. It sprays out almost like liquid hand soap, and it lathers quickly. I used a clean, damp sponge to wipe the cleaner off. It dried quickly and didn't feel sticky afterward.
After the saddle was dry, or as dry as it was going to get on a cold winter afternoon, I smoothed on a layer of Passier's Lederbalsam, a product I really like.
I'll ride during the week of course, but with a quick swipe with a leather wipe, my saddle should look nice enough for the clinic. And with my new bridle, Speedy should look quite handsome!
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 showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: