From Endurance to Dressage
While I was cooking dinner last dinner, I decided to flip through the newest SmartPak catalog. The first several pages were designed just for me, a closet girly-girl. The graphics were done in soft pastels and the fonts were are all very feminine. I couldn't help but look at the clothing featured.
And I saw these:
SmartPack is now making Piper t-shirts to coordinate with some of their Piper Breeches (new colors!). The shirts also come in black and navy; I ordered the pink and green to go with the two pair of Pipers that I have in those colors. I have two other pairs of Pipers, but no new -t-shirts for them!
The shirts are $10.95 each right now, which is not a sale price. They look like 100% cotton, which I don't usually like to wear as it gets pretty beat up, but at ten bucks apiece, the t-shirts are easily replaced. There were no reviews regarding the sizing, so I will be sure and let you know what I think when they get here (with Barn Saver free shipping, that will take longer than usual).
And in case you're as tempted as I was, SmartPak is also offering 10% off with the promo code SPRING2015 (USEF members also get another 5%).
I had yet another lesson on Austin on Monday afternoon. No, still no cross rails, but we did canter the poles! I think JL only let us do that so I didn't quit this hunter thing all together. She had just finished twisting and torquing on my poor legs for the better part of thirty minutes, and I was starting to hurt.
I am a good student - I listen, and I try to do exactly what she asks. For this lesson however, I found myself getting a bit grumbly as I WAS doing what she asked for, but it still wasn't right. I finally just stopped Austin in his tracks and showed her what I meant.
Within moments, we both laughed because I realized that we were using the same vocabulary but the words had totally different meanings when applied to a dressage seat and a hunter seat.
The issue was my upper body. She kept asking me to sit up, so I did. But then she asked me to press my hands into Austin's mane so that I could get deep in the saddle. If you ride dressage, you know that you can't sit up and press into the mane - your arms aren't long enough. That's what I told JL, my arms don't reach!
I showed her what sit up means to me. Look at the 'Upright Seat' - that's sitting up. JL then understood my problem and searched for a way to explain what she wanted. We discussed pelvic position: I wanted to tuck my pelvis and be on my seat bone, but she said for a hunter seat, I need to tip it forward. WHAT?!?!!?
So I did.
Rather than sit up, which to me means sit back, she asked me to lengthen my spine. Oh .....! Basically, she wanted me to do squats above the saddle. Stand up and try it. You cannot do a balanced squat if you keep your back straight up and down.
By bending your knees slightly, you adopt the posture of the picture on the far right. In fact, with knees slightly bent, you can easily roll your pelvis underneath you and even sit back farther.
To achieve a hunter seat, you have to squat down deep in your knees which means tipping your pelvis forward. Your upper body is pointing at an angle rather than at the ceiling. So when JL asked me to lengthen my spine, she just wanted me to get the roundness out of my back and flatten it.
So really the "Forked Seat" image isn't all that incorrect for a hunter seat; that rider needs more bend in the knees, and the spine needs to stretch forward to take the curve out of the lower back, but I think the pelvic angle is pretty correct. At least, that's how it felt while I was riding: deep squat through my seat and legs with weight on the balls of my feet, looking up with a flat back and opened chest.
I asked JL to take a picture of my leg in the correct hunter position so that I could see it and think about it later. She asked me to put my leg where I thought it should go. She was a bit surprised that I pretty much got it placed correctly without any help, so yah me.
For the photo above she did tweak on it just a little bit, but since my leg was in a pretty good place, she dropped both stirrups one hole. I fell apart.
It's amazing what one inch can do to your balance, but after only two or three weeks of this kind of leg position, I am still not strong enough to hold the position with the longer stirrup length. Since she didn't want me to be ineffective, JL returned the stirrups to where they were.
For the last few minutes of the lesson, she had me canter Austin over a pile of two poles. It was ridiculously fun, and Austin loved it! The whole time that we had worked on my position, we ignored his stiffness and didn't worry about any kind of a frame. I simply kept him pointed in the correct position as I played around with my position. For me, it was quite challenging. For Austin, it was thirty minutes of extreme boredom.
Even when I asked for the canter, he harrumphed about it until he saw the poles. I've never really ridden a jumper before, so it was great fun to see him lock on to the poles and relish the process of popping over them. He gave a few exuberant bucks and head tosses once he was on the other side, but my seat and balance are more than good enough to ride them out. No offense, Austin, but Speedy's got a much bigger buck.
It was a lot of fun to change up the flat work. We'll see how much more I get to do now that Speedy's back in the rotation.
I had a much needed epiphany this weekend. It's taken four months, but I've finally realized that Izzy is not Sydney. Of course I don't mean that literally. That wouldn't be much of an epiphany. What I mean is that Izzy isn't going to treat me like Sydney did. Izzy's not going to live in fear, and he's not going to run off and leave me.
I think that's a country song ...
Since buying Izzy this past November, I've worried that at any moment he was going to start blowing up and having the kind of meltdowns for which Sydney was so famous. I've caught myself walking on egg shells this whole winter.
Every time I see a truck coming down the road, I brace for the inevitable duck and whirl to the right. Every stroller that comes by gives me flashbacks of Sydney galloping sideways in terror. I find myself flinching at every bang and clang from the neighbor's barn because I know that should illicit a panic attack. But Izzy, he doesn't hear any of it.
Don't get me wrong; Izzy isn't dull. He hears everything, but I've finally realized that he reacts totally differently than did Sydney. Izzy cranes his head around to get a look at everything, anything, and nothing. He's a wide-eyed baby in love with the world, but none of it bothers him. He doesn't feel threatened, and instead, he's always dying to know more.
So what helped me see this all so clearly? Well, my barn owner is doing some stall remodeling on the other side of the barn. I had finished lunging at the far end of the arena and was getting ready to hop on Izzy bareback. Suddenly, his head shot up, he pricked his ears intently, and then he dragged me as close to the arena gate as he could get.
I stopped what I was doing and listened. Suddenly I heard what he heard - a grinding screeching sound of metal dragging on metal. I immediately went into "Sydney can't handle this" mode and considered calling it a day. But then I paused a moment and studied Izzy and realized that he wasn't scared at all. He was fascinated by what was going on.
The welder who will be doing the work was in the barn aisle so I hollered out to him and asked what was going on. He explained that they were removing a shade netting and a panel from each stall. As soon as I knew what was causing the sound, my tension evaporated, and I matter-of-factly explained it all to Izzy.
I brought him over to the mounting block as usual and hopped on. For the first minute or two, he was still distracted by the loud noises emitting from the back side of the barn, but shortly after he refocused on me and happily went to work. Of course, his attention span is quite small so within no time he was gawking at the neighbor's property, a flying bird, ants crawling, and and other invisible distractions.
It was at that moment that I realized Izzy is not the same horse as Sydney. I loved Sydney, I truly did, but he was simply too unpredictable and explosive in his behavior to be any fun. I feel safer on Izzy with a halter for a bridle and a half pad and surcingle as a saddle than I ever did on Sydney.
While we still have a long way to go before we're actually doing any dressage, I am already having so much fun with this horse. He's a funny boy with a super laid back personality. He gets goofy and "big" on occasion, but it usually takes too much energy to maintain for long. If I just give him a moment to pause and reflect, he realizes that mellow is a lot more fun and usually leads to treats.
I ❤️ you, Izzy Zweibrücker!
Speedy has essentially had five weeks off. He's back to work now, but I'm going slowly with him. We started out with a walking ride, moved on to a very short walk, trot, canter ride, and then we did a schooling ride that was fairly short (20 minutes) where we focused on bending and leg yielding from a 15-meter circle to the rail. Over the weekend, we had a regular schooling ride with no modifications. He's sound, but stiff on the left rein.
I want to let myself be bummed out about losing some fitness (both mine and Speedy's), but I am not letting myself go down that path. Instead, I am just focusing on bringing him back to where we were a month ago.
During his five weeks "off," we did get two days with Christian Schacht, so I am hoping we haven't lost as much training and conditioning as I fear. While at the clinic, another rider was kind enough to shoot some pictures of Speedy while we were working. She sent them to me recently, and they couldn't have come at a better time.
They are just three weeks old which means that Speedy can't have lost that much conditioning and training while we struggled with getting him sound. I've enjoyed looking at them. Here are just a few of my favorites.
All photos by Cecile.
Hopefully, Speedy and I get back on track quickly!
While Speedy was at the vet the other day for his lameness exam, we did his vaccinations and dental work as well. I usually take my horses during my Easter vacation, but since we were already there, it seemed prudent to maximize the visit.
Dr. Tolley is an excellent equine dentist, and I never get tired of watching him work. After he does his initial exam, he always hands the head lamp to me for my "opinion." I am getting pretty good at spotting the obvious hooks and rough spots, but he's still the master. For this visit, Speedy had a few sharp edges as well a wave that had developed over the chewing surface of his teeth.
Dr. Tolley and I usually chat about horses and ideas that are new or falling to the way-side. For this visit, I made the comment that bringing your horse to the dentist is definitely a First World issue. How many people around the world don't have access to a dentist for their children? Dr. Tolley remarked that for many Third World nations, an equine dentist would help the family more than a human dentist.
If their horses had better care, they could work harder and live longer helping the families to increase their often meager incomes. That was a sobering thought. How much have I spent in the last few months just so that my horses can continue to perform a job that doesn't earn me any money? It certainly helps to put our own lives in perspective when we think that for many people around the world, their horses are used to earn a family's livelihood.
Dr. Tolley gave Speedy his round of injections, scheduled the farrier appointment, and sent us on our way. Before leaving however, I made what is hopefully Izzy's last appointment regarding his leg. Dr. Tolley and I have a small bet going about when the wound will actually close. We're due back on April 3rd. He thinks it should close before then; I hope he's 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%
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%: