From Endurance to Dressage
Not mine - although with all of the wacky things happening to me lately, a sore back would fit right in. Actually, I would have preferred that the aches and pains had been mine. Instead, they belonged to Izzy.
Izzy last saw CC, his personal body worker, at the end of December. For that session, CC worked on Izzy for at least an hour, and even after all that time, CC just didn't feel like he had gotten all of the kinks worked out. There is only so much a horse can take though. When I called CC out last October, he didn't need to do anything, but the two visits before that one, June and April of 2021, Izzy did need work done. The visit before that, way back in July of 2020, no adjustment was needed.
It's really tough to figure out a reliable schedule for Izzy as he can be fine for six months but then need work done every six weeks. CC felt really good about this adjustment though, so I hope Izzy stays put together for a while.
Every time CC comes out, he teaches me something new. Since Izzy's C7 has been the problem lately, CC showed me how to feel when that's an issue. Basically, you can press your fingers into the jugular groove just above the chest. If the horse isn't sore, nothing will happen. If he's sore at the C7, like Izzy was, the muscles will either spasm, or he won't let you press there. That's what Izzy did on Friday afternoon which is why I put out a mayday call to CC.
When CC pulled in on Saturday, Izzy was happy to see him, but in a rough way. He loves CC, but he was not too happy about being touched. Within minutes though, Izzy found immediate relief and happily did whatever CC asked, including the big stretch above. Besides being out at the C7 which is a relatively new thing, Izzy was also sore in his regular spots: the poll and rib heads. New though was some soreness in his lower back. CC did that thing where he drags a blunt tool along the top of the croup which makes Izzy hunch his back and tuck his pelvis. It always works though. Whatever had been spasming along his loins cleared right up.
Izzy is pretty hard on himself. He plays roughly, and when he spooks, it's like getting hit by a truck. As hard as it is on me, it has to be harder on Izzy. I don't know what we would do if we didn't have CC so close by. Of all of the equine chiropractors and body workers that have seen my horses over the years, CC is by far the best. It helps that he's also a horseman himself.
Sometimes he'll say that a particular issue is bothering Izzy due to play, but he also pinpoints training issues that might be causing the discomfort, or he explains how the discomfort has been affecting the work. He is always right. As much as we both love him, I am hoping we don't need him for a while.
Let's try for an injury free March - both for me and Izzy.
I have made it my goal to record my ride the day after a lesson. So far, I am doing pretty well. Before I started using my Pivo Pod for virtual lessons, I would drag my set up out to the barn every six weeks or so. A friend told me that she records every single ride and watches every single video. There is no way I am up for that kind of torture, but I figured that I could, at the very least, skim through 45 minutes of video once a week. Sunday was that day.
This post is really about the video clips that I created from that ride, but I just need to say this: Holy cow, Izzy looks like a real dressage horse! When did that happen?!?!?!
This first little clip made me laugh. First of all, I never stop talking to Izzy. I must say good boy at least a thousand times during each ride. During this particular clip, I publicly acknowledged the error was mine even though there was no one watching. I am pretty sure I was apologizing to Izzy. Sound up.
There is nothing humorous, interesting, or even cringeworthy in this next clip. I chose it because it represents what most of our rides look like now. We have our share of bobbles here and there, but our rides are slowly coming together.
One of the many things that I have learned from Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, is to have more patience. Sean has helped me see that asking for anything - whether it's a transition or a leg yield or a shoulder-in, before the relaxation is there, serves no purpose. Getting a prompt canter doesn't matter if the next step is a bolt or stumble. Instead, I now know to just sit and wait until Izzy is ready. I ask, and if Izzy doesn't answer correctly, I wait and ask again. My reward is transitions that are getting quieter and quieter. This is the first canter transition of the day.
I've shown these clips in order of how they happened during the ride. After cantering to the right, Izzy started to anticipate the left lead canter. When I wouldn't let him hurtle himself into the gait, he got a bit sassy and then didn't know what to do with his attitude. That generally means a bolt and scoot is coming. While he did bolt into my hands, I LOVED that he very quickly let go of the tension and came right back to me mentally.
After the spook, it took a few minutes for me to get Izzy back on my team. I didn't worry about it. We walked for a minute or two, and I changed the subject. We halted, did a rein back or two, and then carried on. Our left lead canter is still braced as he is learning to canter without leaning on my hands. Even though there are a few rough bits, over all, he looks pretty darn good.
I usually dread watching my videos, but now, I am starting to recognize that my riding is improving quickly, and as a result, Izzy is becoming so much fun to ride. While he still gets very distracted, more and more of the time he's listening to me and trying so hard to do what I am asking. I can't believe what a difference a year can make. Making the switch to STC Dressage was really hard to do, but I am so glad I took that risk.
Think about where we'll be in another year!
After missing my regular lesson the Saturday before (Life), I got back on track with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, on Saturday. Over the past year, Sean and I have managed to get together for a lesson nearly every week. During the summer, I drove down to his barn about every five to ten days, but since school started back up, I've ridden every weekend with him. That consistency has enabled me to make huge growth in my riding.
All of these photos are screenshots from video I shot the next day.
As I warmed up on Saturday, Sean and I chatted about the horse world and our plans for the summer. I have grown to really appreciate the opportunity to just ride without feeling like I need to be directed. Sean encourages me to make decisions and think on my feet. This really helps when I am on my own. There isn't a difference between a lesson and a schooling ride; I do both the same way which helps me incorporate what I am learning during lessons into my every day riding.
That's not to say that Sean isn't actively engaged and teaching, because he is. For much of the lesson though, Sean just observed while occasionally commenting that he was really liking what he saw. At this point in our relationship, I don't need him telling me what to do every moment. Instead, I need constructive feedback when he sees that I need it, and that's what he did.
I recently realized that Sean rarely needs to remind me about being soft and elastic in my arms and body. He's reminding me about my swinging left leg less and less. He no longer needs to tell me to move Izzy around in his neck and poll so that he doesn't get stuck in one position. I've been able to slowly incorporate all of these things so that they're becoming part of my muscle memory.
Don't misunderstand; I know that I have a lot of improvement left to make, but I think it's important to stop and appreciate the growth that has been made. If I never stop and acknowledge that I am improving as a rider, my confidence in my riding decisions will never grow, and that is one area in particular that Sean needs me to show progress in - confidence in the tools that he's teaching me to use.
A month or so ago, Sean helped me understand that izzy has "tells." I am still learning them, but even being aware that he has them has helped me identify when he's about to spook or bolt or exit stage right. During this lesson, I asked Sean about how to keep Izzy more consistently in the contact. Izzy will truck along steadily, but then his head snaps up, and I have to start over. Sean pointed out that Izzy has a tell for that as well. Really? That never even occurred to me.
While Sean might not have noticed, I took that comment to heart and really focused on identifying that particular tell during the rest of the lesson. Of course, I didn't figure it out that day, but it has been added to my mental riding checklist. Sometimes that list gets too long to manage, but I am finding that many of the things on that list I now do unconsciously, so it doesn't give me such a headache.
One movement that we've been schooling over the past few weeks is shoulder-in to renvers. It's certainly tricky, and I don't think many riders school it regularly, but Izzy and I are busting it out. Sean feels like this is a particularly valuable exercise for tense and stiff horses like Izzy because it's a fantastic supplying exercise. And anybody who knows us, knows that we need tons of suppling.
Our first tentative show date is in late April. I still haven't talked to Sean about where we should start off for this season: Training Level, First Level, Second Level? My feeling is that we should continue at First Level even as we school movements from Second and Third. Izzy's confidence in me is really starting to grow, so I don't want to over face him with anything tricky. We'll know more after the first show.
And if it turns out to be a hot mess, all we can do is continue doing what we're doing and trust that Izzy's confidence will continue to grow.
So besides what was going on with my truck's glow plugs and my checkbook, the past two weeks threw me a few other curve balls. The first falls under the category of TMI, and actually, so does the other.
A month or so ago I started having those little moments where when you laugh too hard you think, OMG, I almost peed myself. Then I started having the same issue when I picked up something heavy or even tried to pry the lid off a jar. And once, I think I did pee myself if only just a little bit. Finally, I realized that almost peeing yourself is not necessarily a sign of old age, so I went to the doctor. If you have two X chromosomes, you know that no girl has time for a UTI, but she has even less time to see a doctor for a UTI. Anyhoo, no amount of crossing my legs and squeezing them tight was making things right, so cranberry juice and antibiotics joined my daily list of things to do or take.
So yeah, I had that going on, but then because things run in 56s - 3 would just be way, way too simple, I had this weird bump on my lower back that the doctor insisted required surgery. Oh, for the love of all that's holy. After numerous phone calls and visits to a surgeon, the date was set - a week ago last Monday. If life is going to suck, you might as just have all of the sucky moments piled into one week so that you get it all over faster.
Of course, during the consultation with the surgeon the week before surgery, I asked if I would be able to return to work the day of the surgery. He gave me an is she stupid? look and replied that I would be going under general anesthesia and wouldn't be allowed to drive a car much less go back to work. Oh. When I asked if I could at least resume my "normal" activity the day after, he said of course. HAHAHA. Seriously, doctors should be required to ask each patient if she rides horses because my normal and his normal were probably not the same thing.
Surgery was supposed to be in the morning, but then it got moved to the afternoon which really stunk because I had to fast for eight hours. That's easy to do when your fasting hours are during the middle of night. With a 1:00 p.m. surgery, I had to fast through breakfast and lunch which also meant no liquids including water. Since I couldn't be near food or water, what else was there to do but ride right before my surgery? I see you all nodding your heads. Made sense to me too.
The joke was on me though. My surgery ran late which meant I sat naked in an open backed gown in a plastic chair for more than four hours waiting my turn. By the time I came out of surgery and got home, it was well past dinner time. I realized there was no way I was going to be recovered enough to drive to work the next day, much less ride. It's not like I am a cry baby or anything, but even though I only have three stitches, they're huge and even bending over to put my shoes on feels like my skin is about to pop open.
By Friday afternoon, I was determined to ride. My inside parts seemed to be keeping it together, and since I had a lesson on the next morning, I figured I had better make sure I could make it through a short ride before tackling a lesson. When I got to the ranch, I saw a cloud of dust hovering over my boys' paddocks. I looked over to see what the commotion was and laughed at their antics. Both boys were galloping around, rearing, bucking, and generally having one heck of a good time.
I decided to piddle around a few minutes to let them get their wiggles out, and before I knew it, an hour had passed. They just did not let up. Both of them were a gross sweaty mess. I have no idea what had gotten into them, but I wisely decided to skip the ride. If Izzy had that much energy, I thought it safer for the longevity of my stitches to not get tossed around like a rag doll. Fortunately, I felt even better the next morning, and never gave the stitches another thought. I don't go in to get them removed until a week from Friday.
Hopefully, they stay in.
Between peeing every five minutes and trying to keep my skin sutured closed, I feel like a water balloon that has sprung a leak.
Besides all of the hassle with Newt, I had a few other hitches in my daily giddy-up that forced me to sit out a few games.
Like most everyone else, I don't make enough money. And with the way the economy has been behaving, the money that I do make is just not stretching as far as it used to. With show season quickly approaching, I've tried to get a few side hustles going to cover some big bills that are looming. The first of which is Speedy's newest box of Prascend. You would think that something that comes in such a girlie shade of pink would contain something a lot more fun than $350 worth of pink pills.
I also need to come up with a grand to cover my boys' annual spring vet visit. To help with those costs, I took on another writing project with the attorney that I have worked for over the past couple of years. It's interesting work, and I know her clients need my writing skills, but it's really time consuming and emotionally draining. I already have a time consuming and emotionally draining day job. Working a second one is ... well ... time consuming and draining.
Of course, writing for an attorney doesn't get me the full $1500 or so that I need for vet bills and drugs, so I also took two Saturday classes that my school district was offering. Rather than pay for the classes, we get paid for going. I attended two Saturdays back to back which made for one very long work week. The side job and the two classes still didn't get me what I needed, but then a miracle happened.
When I saw that my paycheck had been deposited, I cheered and fretted at the same time. I am a salaried employee which means I don't make over-time, and my check never changes. I get an annual salary that is divided into nine monthly payments to cover the 183 days that I work. My monthly check might vary by a dollar or two due to small tax changes, especially in January, but this one was $529.59 too high. Crap?
First thing Monday morning, I called our payroll department and asked what was up. I was told that I was being refunded for some over-withholdings from the previous year. Bank error in my favor? No way! I was dubious and asked repeatedly if the reimbursement was correct. When I was guaranteed that it was right, I gave a deep sigh and a huge hallelujah. Five hundred bucks was going to do a lot to cover my vet bill. I even started to see a bit of a surplus.
The very next day, I got an email saying the reimbursement was actually an over-payment and would need to be repaid. #we're so sorry to inconvenience you. I think I said this yesterday, but mother forklift. Back to the side hustles I go.
What can you do, right?
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: