From Endurance to Dressage
The bigger question is: How can you?!?!?!
I like my two C4 belts. They're funky and whimsical, yet still practical. Two is simply not enough. When I squealed in delight upon seeing the Facebook post, my husband cocked an eyebrow and asked me rhetorically if I didn't have enough belts already. No was my simple response. Just like I don't have enough pairs of breeches or sun shirts either.
So which belts did I order? The two that I've talked about of course!
If you want one, or make that TWO, you'd better hurry. The sale ends tomorrow at midnight. If you get one, let me know which combos you picked. If you can't swing it this time, which combo would you pick? I love seeing the combinations that I wouldn't think of myself.
If you've ever watched the PBR, you'll have to admit that those bulls are super athletes and can move in phenomenal ways. I can't say I've ever seen one do a canter pirouette, but I bet they could do it.
In the last few months, Izzy has made the transition from the proverbial bull in the china shop to a fledgling bullerina. He is now slowly morphing into an actual dressage animal that more closely resembles an equine. Sort of like this ...
And a few strides later we had this ...
Chemaine gave me some new tools that have really helped change things over the past few days. My new focus is to shift Izzy over to the outside rein by using my inside leg and seat aid. It wasn't that I haven't been working with the outside rein, but I was more intent on getting some inside bend rather than pushing him to the outside rein. I think inside bend and being on the outside rein can be two totally different things.
Getting an inside bend with the inside rein can be an end in itself meaning there is no corresponding outside rein. I've done this with Speedy plenty as we school the shoulder in. Sometimes, he simply refuses to let go of (or soften) to the inside left rein, so I will drop the outside rein completely, and over bend him to the inside while driving him forward down the long side until he gives to that rein.
For the last few weeks I've done something similar with Izzy. I've bent him to the inside as we spiraled down to a smaller and smaller circle until he made the circle without any tension on the inside rein.
It's a subtle mental shift to leave the inside rein alone in order to focus on the outside rein. My job is now to be very firm and supportive with that outside rein without letting Izzy drift out or be counter bent. This is where my seat and legs come into play. If I use too much inside leg, I will push him out so it's important to keep my outside leg and rein there to say not out this door.
We had a bit of an argument yesterday that included the biggest rear he has offered. It all started because he didn't really want to work and was behind my leg. When I closed my outside aids and put my inside leg on to say bend around it, he went up instead of forward. While that was certainly not the right answer, I liked that he knew drifting sideways wasn't an option. The correct answer would have been to push forward with the inside hind and give to the outside rein.
A few moments after that discussion, he launched straight forward into a huge bolt. Again, that wasn't the right answer, but at least he went forward instead of up. And again, I know that he was just trying to figure out the easiest way, meaning least amount of work, to do what I was asking.
After getting told quite sternly that rearing up and bolting forward were not the correct choices, he finally got the answer right. There was still a fair amount of tension in his neck, but by using Chemaine's strategy of compressing his stride with the outside rein and asking him to soften to it with the inside leg really started working.
I held that outside rein firmly until he gave, and then I softened and asked for a slightly bigger stride. We did it over and over down the long sides, across the diagonal, and while doing 20-meter circles. While this softening exercise is about getting more throughness at the trot, the effects can also be seen in the canter. Izzy can now pick up the canter both directions without exploding. Mostly.
Chemaine suggested that I ask him to compress and soften right before the canter aid. He now understands the aid (mostly) and can pick up the canter more or less when I ask. I have to be very aware of keeping his shoulders even between my aids, and especially while tracking right, I have to make sure I keep even weight in both hands until he softens to the outside rein.
I think that in another couple of weeks, the canter departure buttons will be pretty firmly installed, and we can start finessing and improving the quality of the trot/canter transition. He's been an interesting horse to school because he's not nearly as linear in his development as Speedy. Izzy can already do some of the movements from Intro all the way to Second Level. I feel like we just need to continue building his foundation, and before I know it, he'll be wowing me with all he can do.
My best friend likens Izzy to a bull in a China shop. A truer characterization could not be made. He doesn't intend to cause trouble, but he's a little oblivious to his own size and frankly, he doesn't know where all of his parts begin and end.
I was actually quite pleased with how Izzy handled this most recent road trip. He wasn't bored, but his tension level was much lower which let him do some thinking. Kathy graciously toted my tack and essentials in my new cart while I led Izzy up to the ring and cross ties. For previous trips, there was a lot of snorting and carrying on, but this time, he was a Looky Lou, but he remained calm and carried on.
We warmed up in the short court with two other riders, the first time I've ridden him with anyone else in the ring. He was tense and hollow-backed. Despite his tension, I still rode in and around other horses who were spooking and cantering, and I was able to use the whole ring. So even though he was a bit of a mess, he showed me that he can handle a warm up ring.
At about the 30 second mark, Jackie's horse gives a big spook at A, and it takes Izzy a few seconds to see what is going on. Once he sees Dempsey being naughty, he starts thinking about getting the heck out of Dodge. Here's the video:
The spook didn't phase me at all, we had only been riding for a few minutes, and he was high as a kite. What I love was that after a quick pat, he got right back to work.
A little bit later, one of the horses in the barn gave a nice snort as we were trotting by, and Izzy did an awesome reining rollback.
On the video, you can hear me laughing. While his spooks are pretty hard, he's not trying to unseat me. I never felt like I was even close to coming off, and he always regroups and comes right back to me.
I am not sure what he was fussing at in these next photos, but in all likelihood it had something to do with softening (or not) to the outside rein.
There were some video fails as well. In the end though, he finally said yes.
Right in the very beginning of the video, you might have seen him stop short. That was the second time ... in a row. My best friend was bummed that she missed the first stop, so she quickly turned the ipad back on in hopes that he would do it again. She squealed in delight when he gave me the exact same body slam in the exact same spot.
Izzy is definitely not a beginner's horse, but none of these spooks or naughties are in any way scary. He never gives me a reason to think oh, crap. In fact, when he's being balky or kicking out, I feel perfectly safe giving him a good old fashioned pony club kick or whack with the whip.
Izzy is actually a lot of fun to ride. He's powerful, pleasant to look at, and a pretty decent dude. So even though he's a bit of a bull in a China shop right now, deep down I think he's really a Ferdinand at heart.
As usual, I had a great lesson with Chemaine Hurtado yesterday. That woman can really teach. If only I lived slightly closer, like say within 100 miles, Izzy and I would definitely be farther along than we are.
When we finished the lesson, she told me that I am doing a great job with Izzy. While I love to hear that, I am always waiting for her to qualify the compliment with the addition of "... for someone who doesn't know what she's doing." I know that she doesn't really think that of course, but I do feel like his progress would be much faster under a better rider. And of course it would, but he's got me, so our progress is what it is.
So what kind of progress are we making? Steady, monthly progress. Each month I have been able to achieve what Chemaine is looking for which allows us to move on to the next step. Chemaine's word for the day was educated. As soon as she said, "now that Izzy is more educated," I understood exactly what she meant. He now has a training foundation that we can start building on.
Up until now, it's been about giving him some rudimentary skills: go, stop, turn, etc. Now that's he's more educated, I can start really working on the dressage pyramid. For this lesson we started focusing on throughness and even some straightness.
Last month, Chemaine had me focus on getting a good inside bend while also doing lots of changes of bend. To do this, I used the inside rein and spiraled in or out while also doing a lot of counter bending. Now, she wants to me to use less (or almost no) inside rein and instead start to build an outside wall with my outside leg and rein. When my outside aids are firm and steady, I will be able to push Izzy's inside hind deeper with less sideways movement and more forward movement.
This took me a little while to understand. Essentially, I have to be very firm in my outside half halting rein while using my outside leg to keep him from drifting all while asking him to give to that outside rein with my inside leg. We all know this as inside leg to outside rein. As I asked him to soften to the outside rein with my inside leg however, I kept losing his shoulder to the outside.
To help both of us understand the concept better, Chemaine had me compress Izzy's stride with my outside aids, effectively slowing him down, while asking him to soften with my inside leg. Once he softened to the rein, I could give him an inch and ask for a longer, more forward stride. Each time he lost his balance, I again compressed his stride, and asked him to soften to the outside rein.
When we moved on to the canter, the idea was very much the same. We had already worked on quieting my canter cue the other day, so for this lesson, Chemaine had me really focus on firming up my outside aids. By establishing an outside wall with my outside rein and leg, I was able to keep Izzy's shoulders between my aids rather than letting them blow out (which is why he gets the wrong lead).
My video quality was pretty poor for this lesson so you can't hear what Chemaine is saying, but essentially, she's having me get him soft to the outside side rein before I ask for the canter. She had me think, compress ... soften ... canter. You can see both of us struggling, but once we get it right, the canter is really nice and soft. In the video, I am deliberating patting him over and over during the canter because it helps me release the inside rein and it confirms for Izzy that he's doing exactly what I want.
We weren't able to capture the best of our canter work, but Izzy finally offered a canter that wasn't explosive. To the left, he got so soft that I was able to canter the whole arena all with a super soft inside rein. To the right didn't get quite as nice, which you can see in the next clip, but we were finally able to canter the whole arena without losing the lead in back or doing a flying change in front.
Two months ago, we couldn't get a right lead canter, and the left was pretty iffy. Last month, we finally got a right lead canter, but it was wild and wooly. So while this clip shows a total lack of straightness down the long sides, I am really pleased that he can now hold the lead without galloping off into the sunset.
More on the lesson tomorrow with some funny blooper photos!
To say I go through tires quickly is an understatement. I'm worse than NASCAR teams Hendrick or Petty. Maybe I ought to give those guys a call and see if they've got some extras laying around.
My "easily" accessible records only go back to 2011, so I don't have data from earlier than that, but since 2012, I have bought a new set of tires annually for one vehicle or another.
I had my truck's tires rotated in December when I had new brakes installed. At the time, the tires looked great. I drove Speedy to Expo in February and everything felt fine. In Early March, I took both horses to the vet and noticed a worrisome roughness on the way home. It was a sensation I felt the last time my tires needed to be replaced. I checked all eight tires (including the trailer's) and couldn't find anything that looked suspicious.
Since we're heading to Simi Valley this morning for a lesson, a trek of about 125 miles over California's busiest highway, I gave my tires another visual inspection yesterday morning. Thank goodness I did. The problem finally showed up - blown out sidewall.
I keep my vehicles a long time which means I do a lot of regular maintenance and replacement of parts. The one thing that I can't prevent is weather damage. The sunny side of the trailer and truck have wheel covers to protect the tires, but when you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, weathering happens as the truck and trailer sit.
I called my trusty tire guy and asked him to get some tires ready for me as I was headed his way. The truck rode so roughly that I drove the entire ten or so miles at no more than 30 miles an hour. It was only slightly embarrassing to wave drivers past me as my hazards flashed on and off and on again. I didn't care though as I've driven behind slower drivers who didn't have the decency to move over like I did.
Once my new tires were installed, I took advantage of Blue Truck's freedom and zipped into the corner gas station and drive through car wash. These things are not easy to do with a trailer following wherever we go.
I hooked Blue Truck back up to the trailer, "fixed" another little thing that's busted on my trailer (I have got to get that fixed sooner rather than later), and loaded some hay and tack. We're leaving fairly early today as long as the weather holds. Here's to solid tires with no blowouts!
See you all tomorrow!
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%: