From Endurance to Dressage
I actually have a wi-fi connection so I thought I'd do a quick update. We made it to Santa Barbara safely - whew! After getting Speedy G situated, I found my parking spot, ate my mac-n-cheese and then walked back down to check on him.
Speedy G has a HORRIBLE neighbor, a stallion, behind him. Every time Speedy moves, the neighbor horse rears and tries to reach over the top of the partition. He also kicks the wall violently and basically scares the living crap out of my poor boy.
Speedy saw me coming down the barn aisle and just about burst out of his skin. I took him down to the lovely warm up and just let him trot and canter around me. Then we played tons of chase games, all still on the line, to burn off at least a part of his nervous energy. I put him back in his stall, which earned another uproar from nervous neighbor, and hung out for the better part of an hour.
Speedy did calm down, but I don't think he got much sleep. Here are a couple of quick photos.
I leave this afternoon for our first two-day show. I have to admit, I am pretty excited about it. I've mentioned before how much I love horse camping. This won't be quite the same thing, but it's close. I know I'll be parked a little ways from Speedy, and I am pretty sure I won't be able to see his stall from my parking spot, but he'll be within easy walking distance.
I have everything loaded that I think I'll need: my saddle and bridle were stowed last night; shows clothes and boots are loaded; and my clothes and groceries are ready to be tossed into the living quarters. I am ready to go.
Did I mention that Hilda Gurney is the judge for this show? She's kind of a big deal here in California, and probably elsewhere as well. It's a good thing I am not in the "know" about these things, or I might be intimidated by her success. She has three Olympic medals, including an individual gold! I watch a lot of RFDTV, and the USDF Symposiums are a regular feature. She's one of the regular clinicians that appears on the show so my impression of her has been formed by watching how she treats riders at the clinics. She's always kind, but she definitely has high expectations. I'm looking forward to reading her feedback.
My tests are memorized, as usual, and my goals are firm. I want to have fun which is always my number one goal. I want Speedy to enjoy himself. He's a pretty laid back dude and seems to like outings so I am not too worried about that. I would really like to get my second qualifying score for Intro C, a 65%. I have one already, but I need two scores of 65% to qualify for RAAC. I'll get two chances to earn it over the weekend. I would also like to get a 60% at Training One, which would also be a qualifying score. And even though I get two opportunities, the scores have to be earned under two different judges which means even if I get 60% on both days, only one of the scores would count. But that's okay. I'll take two 60% scores at T1 any day - qualifying or not!
Pray to the weather gods that blue skies prevail and that traffic heading into Los Angeles is light. I'll catch up with you on Monday. Have a great weekend!
Click photos for larger views and captions ...
They're back! Well, sort of anyway. JL won't be around for next week because it's our Easter Break, and she has some vacation plans. So do we! No biggie though as we'll aim for the following Monday which is still part of our vacation week. After that, we're back on the schedule.
Speedy G and I had a great time at last night's lesson. I know Speedy did because JL kept commenting on "content" he looked. I think it was meant as a compliment!
Overall, JL was very pleased with how much we've accomplished in the last month. She really liked my new hand position (thumbs pointing to the bit), and she really liked our improved contact. Our transitions to canter were much better, and our downward transition to the trot was also improved. In fact, everything was in such great shape that we all needed to do was finesse some of those transitions in preparation for this weekend's show.
It was a confidence builder to be back in her arena without all of the scary antics that we had last time I was there. Speedy is a different horse of course, but success is success and I don't really care where the confidence building comes from. I'll take what I can get.
Yesterday morning I chucked my show clothes and dressage boots into my car with the intention of stowing them in the trailer on Tuesday afternoon. You might remember that a a few months ago I went to an event and left all of my riding attire in my car instead of loading it into the truck and trailer. I also wanted to add my muck bucket, rolling saddle cart, shampoo bucket, and a few other odds and ends. I wish I could just remember everything that I need at one time, but alas, that's not how it works.
I reached into my car's cubby compartment for my always present trailer keys. I reached a bit further, and then further still. Crap. No trailer keys. And equally bad, no truck keys either. I am the world's best non-panicker. If you're in a crisis, you really want to be with me. I don't panic, and I don't get hysterical. Instead, I get eerily calm. It's a little creepy actually. Someone's arm could be dangling by a thread and I'd be all, that can't be good. Is there a doctor nearby? And I would say it in a totally Stepford Wife kind of way. After the crisis is over, I usually sob and bawl and fall totally apart. During? I am your gal.
So rather than freaking out, (have I mentioned that I have a a big show this weekend and need to hit the road on Friday after work which means there's not a lot of time for screw ups?), I stood in the middle of the driveway and slowly circled around. My brain was working in overdrive - where were my keys?
Slowly, very slowly, I started to picture my keys in the bottom of a horse bucket. It was a blue bucket. A blue horse bucket in the locked tack room of my horse trailer. Bingo! As though I was Superman himself, my laser vision pierced the tack room door and clearly saw those keys inside the tack room in the bottom of the bucket. Well now, isn't that special?
My brain quickly did a rundown of all trailer entrances: tack room door, pad-locked; horse compartment door; pad-locked, camper door, locked; pass through door from the camper, locked; truck, locked. Hmm ... this kind of sucked. Still not panicking, I reasoned that my spare keys were at home, and I'd just have to load everything the next day. But no. That wasn't good enough. What if I didn't have another padlock key at home? And frankly, I couldn't even remember where the spare padlock key was, or if there even was one.
I grabbed RM's bathroom key which would get me into the house where my spare truck keys hang. Maybe the padlock key was on that ring. Half-way to her door, I stopped and realized that there was a padlock key on my car's key ring which was in my hand. I looked down. Was it the right padlock key? I had no idea. I walked over to the trailer and slid the key into the lock. Doh! What an idiot ...
Whew, that was a close one.
I bought the fourth edition.
Calm, Forward, Straight recommended Erik Herbermann's book, Dressage Formula, and I bought it. I don't purchase every little thing that's suggested, especially books. There are just too many of them, and I already have a small collection, but I am really glad I bought this one. If you're interested, you can find it here from Amazon.
I am over half way through the book, and want to read straight through to the end, but I keep making myself stop to think about what I've read, and more importantly, go ride and practice what I've read. Chapter one focused on the rider's mental attitude: having respect for the horse and not anthropomorphizing him. Chapter two was all about seat and position. This was good to read, but nothing new jumped out at me.
Chapter three dealt with the aids. The biggest thing I got out of that chapter was an excellent description of the heavy, stiff, or 'resistant' side. Herbermann says that if the horse is heavy to the left, it is the right hind that is the horse's less preferred. In order to help the horse use both hind legs evenly he suggests several things. When riding on the difficult-to-bend side, the rider should send the horse forward with the inside leg, keep a steady and gentle contact with the outside rein, and feather the inside rein by releasing and then slowly closing the fingers back on the rein. He suggests saying twenty-one as you do so. When tracking the other direction, send the horse forward and keep the outside rein steady and the neck absolutely straight. Don't fiddle with the outside rein, but do maintain a passive contact on the inside rein.
The other tidbit I really enjoyed from that chapter was to give the aid, get a response, and then stop giving the aid. Bingo! Herbermann is big on letting the horse do his job. We shouldn't go around carrying the horse by doing his job for him. I have a tendency to nag. No more!
And then I got to Chapter 4. If you zip on over to your local Barns & Noble to have a peek at this book and you start reading some of it but you don't plan to actually buy it, READ CHAPTER 4! I wish I could just scan the chapter and let you read it. The chapter is called, "Working the Horse." It's basically a color by numbers explanation of exactly how to ride correctly. And for a lower level rider like myself, the advice has been perfectly expressed!
The first part that hit home was his description of the three principles of riding: calm, forward, and straight. The forward part really made sense. He says that when a horse is forward, the horse uses more energy than what is needed to get from one point to the next. Through the rider's influences, this excess energy is converted into rhythm. Rushing on the other hand is unbalanced and indicates fear or tension. Lazy movement indicates that the horse is on the forehand and isn't active behind.
The next part that gave me a total AHA! was the section on framing the horse. I've heard that term so many times, and it always sounds like a front to back description: Squeeze the horse forward, establish a wall in front with the bit, send the energy back through the rein. In Herbermann's world, the "frame" is on both sides of the horse! The left seat bone, leg, and rein contain the left side of the horse, and the right seat bone, leg, and rein contain the right side of the horse like two riverbanks through which the horse is allowed to flow forward. When the horse is forward and the riverbanks (the seat bone, leg, and rein) waterproof, the energy will be prevented from leaking out laterally. This "frames" the horse!
I've been working Sydney (and Speedy, too) with these images in mind. We're definitely making progress. Sydney goes back for lessons next week. We have returned to the pre-rearing and pre-bolting stage which is a good thing. We're now calm and relaxed, but we need to get softer and work better over the top line. I'll keep you posted!
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%: