From Endurance to Dressage
Well, ooh la la! Speedy and I made the March edition of Dressage Today.
We're on page 26 of the March issue in case you have it handy. Several months ago I submitted a photo for "The Clinic: Photo Critiques" column. I love this part of the magazine and usually flip there first. Whoever the critic is, they are always kind to the riders while still being helpful.
Susanne von Dietze, the current critic, said some lovely things:
Unfortunately, Speedy and I won't get to work on any of this any time soon, but here is the essence of what she said:
The rest of the column focuses on exercises to correct asymmetry as well as how to deepen one's seat, mine in particular. I am really excited by what Susanne von Dietze said. That she could find more than one positive thing to say makes my day. And the criticisms are all things that I am quite aware of; my hand position has been my Kryptonite all along. And the slight forward tendency is thanks to many years of riding endurance where we get off our horses' backs. Lots to work on, but lots of time in which to do it!
By the way, this is great timing as I am heading to the Christian Schacht clinic over in Moorpark on Saturday morning. I ride at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Come on out, or better yet, bring your own horse for a ride; there are still spots (805) 603-0309!
See you on Monday!
I know I've mentioned it, but who can keep track? I am taking Sydney to another Christian Schacht clinic this Saturday and Sunday. In preparation, I've been riding the pants off him to a) eliminate the rearing, b) keep him as tired as possible, and c) maybe take a few steps forward.
Our rides over the weekend involved some hairy stuff (no rearing though), but I decided to let the dressage aspect of it all fall to the wayside in favor of tackling it all like a young horse training issue. What does that mean you ask? Well …
When there was nothing but a tense ball of fury beneath me on Saturday, I decided to get in two-point and ride it out in a hand gallop. Which I did for a Very. Long. Time. So long in fact that I started to worry he might never slow down. Once he did begin to tire, I asked for a bit more canter, and then I put him to work at the trot.
The next day, a less tense ball of fury returned, but I was again able to ride it out in two-point with my fists planted in his mane. I told him to trot. Go. I just sat there up/up/downing the whole while as we used the entire arena doing circles and crossing the diagonal at a blistering trot pace. It didn't take him long to come back to a more sensible rhythm.
My approach was to say, see I am not going to hold you back, but if you keep going like a maniac, you're going to be very tired. It seemed to work since by Sunday, I was able to do 10-meter figure eights but I had to show him that he could walk the straight side between the two circles. When he finally figured out that speed was not the purpose, he started to anticipate the walk stride and relaxed completely. Finally, Dude!
It seems as though he's trying to figure this out. He can't go left, right, up, or back. WTF? is what he's thinking. So it now seems as though he's going back through his list of evasions trying to find the right answer. His oldest evasion was to run through my aids and get the hell out of the conversation. That didn't work for him this weekend so I am hoping that we are finally, finally getting somewhere.
I explained all of this to JL before Monday's lesson. She snapped her fingers in an I have an idea gesture and put me to work. She agreed with the let him go but stay with him idea, but added a new element to it. With horses who expect to get their mouths pulled on, they often run off once the pressure is released; that's Sydney. Even though I have learned not to pull back, when he's anxious, his response is to bolt for the finish line.
He can't hear my seat when he's like that, so my recourse is to pull him into a smaller and smaller circle until the difficulty of that maneuver slaps him in the face and he remembers that I am up there. If I can't pull back and he won't listen to my seat, I have to do something other than let him bolt around the arena; hence the small circles.
Since he was tired already, JL had me work on asking him to go faster so that I could practice slowing him down with a rocking rhythm. Since he already wanted to slow down, it worked beautifully! Here's how it goes.
As he increased the speed (because I asked for it), I planted my inside hand and rhythmically rocked the outside rein to a specific count: hold for two counts, let him go. Hold for two counts, let him go. If he slowed quickly, I let him coast a bit. If he didn't slow, I rocked firmer and held for longer and released for less. This is supposed to teach him that when I let him go and he takes that to mean RUN faster, there will be a follow up hold. It's a steady rhythm that he knows is coming. It's not just a hold until he slows down.
He was already a bit tired from his previous days of work, but he tuned into the exercise almost immediately. Once I had it to the left, our more reliable direction, I worked it to the right to a great deal of success. I still need coaching on the frequency of the hold and release time, but I get the exercise and have been using it all this week in preparation for this weekend's clinic.
JL is hoping that when we enter the arena for the clinic, I'll be able to use the technique to slow Sydney's RUN reflex and get him under control.This won't work if he's gone totally looney tunes, but if he's at least partway with me, it might help. I'll let you know how it goes.
We had a busy Monday at the barn. Since it was a holiday, for some of us at least, my barn owners put in a hard day of work. And since I can never just sit around either, I did my best to help out with the chores.
We're in the midst of a horrendous drought here in Central California so we're battling dust under frustratingly, brilliant blue skies and crisp, spring like weather. That sounds great for most of you on the east coast, but we're pretty worried about what we'll be drinking if the rains don't come soon.
You see, after about March, California has a natural drought cycle that doesn't end until about November; we call it summer. Unfortunately, that naturally dry season hasn't really ended for the past few years so our normal drought season has been really long.
Not that that has anything to do with our busy barn day except for the fact that I did a ton of sweeping to remove the heavy pile of dust from our tack room and feed storage area.
My barn owners did the heavy lifting though. First they tackled the manure pile, rotating the as of yet un-composted material, and then they spread the "good stuff."
They also worked the arena. There is nothing better than a freshly dragged arena!
Once the dragging was done, I used my awesome t-squares and meter tape to re-build my dressage court. Before the t-squares, the job used to take me a good hour and a half. This time, 32 minutes, and that included digging out my supplies and returning them to their storage places.
I finished off the already busy day with a lesson, which went great, but I'll write about that tomorrow!
Ha ha, I crack myself up; foot footage. That's as good as a movement movie. I wish I had thought to take a video clip when Speedy was really lame, because after watching this clip, you're going to wonder why all of the fuss. I am beginning to wonder myself.
The whole thing started four weeks ago with an overnight lameness. He was sound when he went to bed, and dead lame the next morning. After a chiropractic visit, he was again sound by Friday only to turn up dead lame again on the weekend. We went through that cycle for three weeks: he would get sound by Friday, only to be dead lame by Saturday. We took him to the vet last Monday where he presented quite lame. By Tuesday he looked nearly sound, and by this weekend, he looked like this.
I've already shared the vet's diagnosis: abscess, bone bruise, or damage to the collateral ligament. It has always felt like an abscess to me, but there is no tell-tale "blowout" to prove it. Until I know otherwise, I am treating it like a collateral ligament injury.
Since returning from the vet, he hasn't shown that horrible degree of lameness that the vet saw. To me, he looks a little bit sore on the right front, but nothing like it was. And so far, he hasn't returned to the pattern of repeated lameness by the weekend, which was such a baffling phenomenon. What would cause a horse to cycle through a lameness so predictably?
I've closed off his stall so that he can't access his "outside" paddock, which has limited how much he can move around. I've also been hand walking him daily, which I was doing even before the vet visit. He is also on a tablespoon of aspirin daily.
I can't imagine that those few changes are enough to help a collateral ligament settle down. If I am wrong please let me know! I just hate wasting 6 months of time if this really has nothing to do with a soft tissue injury. I am not in a rush if it is, but I sure wish I had a cheaper way to know for sure (the $2800 MRI was just too expensive for this girl).
Until something confirms an abscess, Speedy is on a diet of daily hand walking (5 weeks to go), aspirin (3 weeks to go), and lots of scratches in all the right places (no end date).
I rarely share stuff that's not horse related, but this was just so much fun that I can't resist!
My husband and I have been together for almost 24 years (we started dating in November 1990 and were married in the summer of 1994). Even after so many years, we spend a lot of time together. We travel, we go on dates, we eat dinner together every night, we laugh, he still brings me flowers, he still brings me random treats because I might like them, and on and on. He's a great guy who lets me just be myself and follow my own dreams. He also understands my horse thing and supports it where he can.
I am not a very impulsive person, okay, I am not impulsive at all, but I really wanted to do something fun and spontaneous for him for Valentine's Day. So about mid-week, I told Hubby that we had to pick up his gift very early on Saturday morning. By Friday night, I was bursting with excitement. Mostly because I had kept a secret, and I knew his gift was going to be a big surprise!
We loaded up bottles of water and the dog, and headed out on the hour drive to his "retrieve" his gift. My husband is pretty smart though, and with no hints from me, guessed where we were going. I was taking him skydiving!
With only an hour's worth of notice, Hubby suited up, went through a brief training, and did a tandem skydive from over 10,000 feet [post-publish edit]!
Hubby had a great time and even said he'd do it again. If you live in this part of California and are interested in skydiving, give Skydive Taft a call; they're a very friendly group and seemed genuinely interested in making your dive fun and safe.
Lelo, hubby's instructor, shot the photos and video.
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%: