From Endurance to Dressage
I'll admit it. I am constantly trying to find an equine application for all things non-equestrian that I encounter during my daily routine. Who can't find TONS of horsey necessities at the grocery store, Target, or Home Depot? Even my husband knows that Lowe's or OSH can produce tack, feed, or barn items.
But really, athletic shoes? How are they even slightly useful for the equestrian other than for the obvious?
I bought a pair of Sketchers' Shape-ups over the weekend and finally wore them to work on Wednesday. I have to say, they may well do what they claim! I spent the day working very hard to stay balanced. I kept tipping forward and back as I struggled to stand up straight. The tendons on the outside of my knees were actually a bit sore by 3:30.
I have concluded that these are the PERFECT shoes for dressage riders. The glossy, twenty-page insert that came with my shoes even says so! According to Sketchers, walking regularly in Shape-ups may ...
Improve posture (there's the shoulder, hip, knee, ankle alignment)
Strengthen the back (for holding up those horses heavy on your hands)
Tighten abdominal muscles (perfect for slowing your pace)
Firm buttock muscles (for the sitting trot)
Tone and firm thigh muscles (better leg position)
Reduce knee joint stress (cheaper than the MDC Stirrups that I bought)
Firm calf muscles (keeps the toes forward and heels down)
If they really can do all of this, I might even show in them!
Uh-oh! I just realized that I wasn't very clear about my reason for wanting to blog. Let me start by saying that I DO NOT like attention. I hate putting myself "out there." Just a week or so ago, my boss asked me to do a presentation to my coworkers about a technique I am using at work. Sure, I said. The whole time I was speaking, and these are people that I eat lunch with EVERY DAY, my hands were shaking and my mouth was stuffed with cotton. Let me say it one more time ... I REALLY don't like attention.
I know that's what you're saying with a very skeptical look on your face.
Then please explain.
So here it is: I really like dressage, and I want everyone else to like dressage just as much as I do. I want people to see that it is FUN and accessible for even the most beginner rider! That's one reason for the blog.
I like to write almost as much as I like to ride! Writing and riding are my two favorite therapies. I have been keeping a journal about my equestrian adventures since the mid-1990s and am on the second volume of a book that contains OVER one hundred pages. How much better can it get than to write about riding? That's a second reason for the blog.
I am on a journey of ... discovery sounds so corny, but there it is. I am leaving the endurance world behind and embracing a whole new style of riding. I have felt like a total moron for the last year as my brain and body have had to really stretch to take in so much new information. I think that transition is an interesting topic to discuss, and I hope you'll join me in the conversation. That's a third reason for the blog.
I am sure that I will realize other reasons for blogging as I go, but for now, that's why I started the blog. Please feel free to comment!
If you're a Facebook friend, you've already seen this! But in an effort to show the rest of the world that EVERYONE starts at the bottom, I am putting this out there for the world to see, gulp! Every YouTube video I watch shows these great riders riding great horses. You won't find that here. What you will see is a horse and riding trying very hard!
I had a great lesson with my dressage coach on Monday. She is an awesome teacher and I am a good student, just not a fast learner. She helps me to feel so confident and accomplished after the ride, but videos bring me back to reality! Learning to be a better dressage rider would no doubt be easier on a school master (a well trained horse), but since it's just the Speedy pony and me, we'll get there when we get there! In the meantime, here's a bit of my ride from Monday.
By the way, the music is by the Trailer Choir and the song is called, "Wal-mart Flowers."
One of the best things about endurance riding is the tack. Yes, it comes in every color you can think of, but that's not what I mean. What I mean is that the tack is not leather. I hate leather. It's hard to keep clean in our hot climate. It doesn't like to be dunked repeatedly in water. It breaks. Overall, it's just not suitable for my busy style of horse-keeping. I like stuff that I can either hose off, or swish in a bucket at the end of the day. The early pioneers of endurance tack vendors felt the same way.
The first non-leather tack that endurance riders used was made from nylon, and many still use it. I can't say for sure, but it may well have been invented by Henry Griffin. He has been around a looooong time. You can find his stuff at Griffin's Tack. Nylon tack can be washed easily, but it also shrinks and stretches when it gets wet and dries out. It also gets stiff and has a tendency to fray near the hardware. It's cheap, though and comes in lots of colors. I had several pieces of nylon tack.
The next big thing was BioThane, created by BioPlastics in 1977. Oh, man! That stuff was the greatest. It's a plastic coated webbing that is virtually indestructible. It can be dunked in water, sprayed with a hose, or even put in the dishwasher. I've never done this myself (ew!) and I am not sure the manufacturer recommends it, but I have heard it done. BioThane tack comes in every color you can image; dayglo, tie-dye, matte, sparkly, etc. Running Bear carries a lot of tack items in BioThane. I still have several BioThane pieces.
The next thing we saw was Zilco tack. They use a range of synthetic materials, but they also started padding many pieces of their tack with a PVC waffle backing. The one disadvantge to the original BioThane tack was that the strapping was pretty narrow, especially on the breast collars. The thicker backing dispersed pressure and minimized chaffing. I still use their breast collar, crupper, halter, leathers, and headstalls.
The one issue with all of these synthetic products was that they could be stiff when it got cold and they didn't shape as readily to the horse's profile as easily as does leather.
To solve some of these issues, BioThane introduced Beta, which can be found at the Distance Depot and other stores. Beta is a synthetic material, but it looks and feels almost exactly like leather. It comes in many colors, is just as easy to clean, and is just as durable as BioThane. I use three different sets of Beta reins and adore them.
And the newest synthetic to come along is Tekna. It is a synthetic material that feels a lot like Beta, but I am not sure quite what it is. The Tekna website describes it as, "a suite of hi-tech, breathable materials designed to maximise performance, durability, and comfort while minimising maintenance
Okay ... now the truth. Yes, I bought the bridle, but it was my fifth attempt at finding something that I both liked and that fit my Arabian horse. Dressage tack is not sized for Arabians. Horse size is waaaay too big and cob sized tack fits ... funky, for lack of a better word.
The first bridle I bought was a Wintec bridle. Cheap and useful, but not attractive. The second bridle I bought was from a friend, new and cheap, leather with some bling, but too big. The third bridle I bought was also from a friend but it suffered from the same problems as the second, cute with bling, but also too big. The fourth bridle I bought (okay ... this is ridiculous!), was from ZIlco, my trusted tack manufacturer. This time it fit, pretty well, but it looked plasticky and didn't hang very nicely. Big sigh ...
And then I found the Tekna bridle. Bridle number five. The material feels wonderful, the throat latch hangs correctly, and the cheek straps fit well. The only problem with it is that the brow band is slightly snug, but I am hoping it will "stretch" a little with repeated wear. I certainly hope so because there is no bridle number six!
Anyone need a bridle? I have four for sale!
I turned Speedy out this afternoon to burn off some of his energy. I have a lesson tomorrow and want all of his extra energy to stay at home!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%