From Endurance to Dressage
Oh, that makes me laugh. Nothing is normal with Speedy. That boy makes me and everyone around him march to his own personally selected drummer. Even the drummer gets told what tune to play.
While I mostly adore Speedy, he is also the most infuriating equine I've ever owned. He is nearly impossible to please, yet he'll do anything that I ask of him. Believe me, doing Third Level dressage was never anything I even considered when I bought him in December of 2007 - more than 11 years ago (I missed his Gotcha Day). And yet, here we are.
While he may call most of the shots around here, I am putting my foot down for now. The "separation" anxiety is really just a temper tantrum. Speedy is perfectly fine by himself at shows or standing by the tack room out of sight of his friends. What he doesn't like is that Izzy is getting me all to himself while he is being left behind.
Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I may be anthropomorphizing a bit, but not by much. Speedy is wicked smart, and his feelings get hurt pretty easily. So, I am going back to an old method I've used to halt the whirling and pacing.
A few weeks ago I hung one of my Blocker Tie Rings, one of my all-time favorite gadgets, in Speedy's paddock. If you aren't familiar with the tie ring, it's a small "clip" through which you can loop your lead rope. If a horse pulls back, or gets caught on something, he can pull back, and the rope slides through the ring. It has three settings of "firmness." Speedy always gets tied with the loosest setting as he never challenges being tied up. Izzy gets tied on the middle setting as he has learned that steady pressure on the rope will also allow him to walk away, unchallenged.
While it adds yet one more step to my busy schedule, Speedy now gets tied up when Izzy gets ridden. Last night, he hollered a few times, but it was of the pathetic ... waaaahhhhh kind. When I brought Izzy back to his own dry pasture, Speedy was standing there calmly giving us both the stink eye. He knew the jig was up; at least until he can think of a way to outsmart me.
The worst I've ever seen him do while being tied to a patience pole was to rear up ever so delicately and stamp his feet on the landing. He's careful about being tied. For the most part, he just stands there. Since I can't afford any more vet bills, his new normal will include a lot of conversations with the fence.
That's okay; maybe he can work out some of his feelings in fence pole therapy. That pole is a really good listener.
Speedy knocked a tooth loose. I told you that yesterday. The plan had been for Dr. Tolley to squeeze Speedy in between other appointments while I was at work. That didn't happen, for which I was secretly glad. I wonder if Dr. Tolley deliberately didn't squeeze him in knowing how much I love to be involved in my horses' treatment. Besides just being a concerned owner, I dig this kind of stuff. In the end, I got to watch.
Besides the standard IV tranquilizer/sedative, Dr. Tolley needed to block the nerves in Speedy's mouth much like your own dentist does when drilling out a cavity or creating a crown. For horses, this means blocking the ipsilateral mandibular nerve which is accessed through the mandibular foramen, an opening in the lower jaw.
To find the opening, Dr. Tolley followed some very specific measurements. He marked the location on Speedy's jaw with a Sharpie Marker much like a surgeon will do before cutting.
Then he used a very long needle which he injected into the mandibular foramen via Speedy's throat latch.
While Speedy "cooked" a bit, Dr. Tolley brought out an equine skull to show me what he had done.
You're looking down the skull toward the front teeth. You can see both mandibular foramen(s) - the two circular openings, almost in the center of each side of the jaw.
Dr. Tolley's purpose was to "flood" the canal with anesthesia, numbing the teeth along that side of the lower jaw.
Since I was fascinated by the procedure and because Dr. Tolley loves it when his clients are just as geeked out by this stuff as he is, he went and brought out his manual for doing these types of procedures. When I asked if the book was written for lay people such as myself or for veterinarians practicing medicine, he quickly assured me that this was literally his how-to guide.
Once Speedy's mouth was numb, the procedure was fairly simple. Dr. Tolley took a length of regular wire and threaded it through Speedy's undamaged teeth much like you would use dental floss.
Of course, nothing with Speedy is easy. Even though he was quite tipsy and numb, he still put up a fuss. Eventually Dr. Gonzalez joined in to help steady Speedy and keep his tongue out of the way.
Once the wire was through the front teeth, Dr. Tolley wrapped it around to "capture" the damaged tooth - the one on the far right. When the wire was wrapped around the teeth, Dr. Tolley twisted it tight, clipped off the extra bits, and smooshed it flat.
To support the tooth even more, Dr. Tolley wrapped a second layer of wire around the upper portion of Speedy's teeth. To ensure that the wire stayed up high, he used his Dremel tool to carve out a bit of Speedy's tooth to act as a guide, or a track, for the top row of wire. He secured that one exactly like the first.
And that was it. Dr. tolley finished off the whole job with a shot of penicillin. Speedy can go back to work at any time. Of course, I am to check his mouth for loose or broken wires and regular flushes with water won't hurt. In six weeks, Speedy goes back in to have the wires removed.
We opted not to take x-rays, but in the event that the tooth is fractured, I'll start to see signs of infection, and then we'll have to pull the tooth - a more expensive and less favorable option.
While Speedy should be fine, and I stress the should, I've taken all shows and clinics off the table. That means that I won't be going to the Lilo Fore clinic after all. I could take Izzy of course, but frankly, my wallet can't handle anything else right now.
I hope Speedy gets to show later this summer, but it was just stressing me out too much to try and get him ready for a clinic by mid-April. I felt an enormous weight lift from my shoulders with the decision. I've got some Izzy plans for May though, so you'll still see us out there.
Let's hope Speedy is done with the theatrics.
First of all, you kind of need them; horses too. Keeping with the theme of this winter though, Speedy tried to knock his out.
Speedy's a worrier. He paces and whirls when he thinks he's been left on his own, which NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS. On Sunday morning, while I lunged Izzy, Speedy apparently paced and whirled a bit too hard and whacked his face against the pole that holds up his roof.
I swear I cannot make this stuff up. When I saw the blood on his mouth, I pulled back his lip and saw a tooth hanging to the side. I gently pushed on it to see if it was loose, and he snapped his head back with an audible intake of breath. That sucker looks like it must hurt.
Since he was eating and looked fine otherwise, I decided to wait to call the vet until Monday. Frankly, my wallet couldn't handle a Sunday emergency vet visit for something non-life-threatening. The ranch owner and I both agreed to give it one day to see if the swelling would go down overnight. It didn't.
I called the vet on Monday afternoon, but due to a busy schedule, a day off, and the dentistry required to fix this, it was decided to drop Speedy off last night so Dr. Tolley can get to him some time today while I am work. The plan is to wire the tooth back into place. Sort of of like having braces.
I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, and Universe? F*#@ you!
Izzy's been a tough nut to crack; we all know this. One minute he can be offering flying changes, a lovely uphill canter, or even a trot half pass.
In the very next minute, he can't make a left hand turn without ripping off my arms and nearly bashing me in the face.
With Speedy being so intent on injuring every part of his body, I decided that Izzy has got to start earning his keep. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, pulled into the ranch for Sunday's lesson, I let her know that Izzy needs to step up his game.
We discussed what he can do: half pass - sort of, flying changes when I ask - sometimes, walk to canter to walk - also sometimes, stretchy trot circle - actually better than Speedy ever did, a decent trot to canter transition, counter canter, and he's sometimes straight. Give all of that a good shake, and then roll the dice to see what turns up. We decided to call him a First Level horse - in training. It's been more than a year since I've ridden a First Level test, so Chemaine had to remind me what we'll need to work on.
Now that I can get Izzy in front of my leg - most of the time, it's time to start playing around with adjusting his stride. That's where we started. Chemaine had me do a bunch of transitions within the gait. Nothing wild or crazily new in that concept, unless you're a big brown horse who hasn't been able to lengthen his stride at all. I think Chemaine was a bit surprised at how easily he offered a longer stride.
And then since I can, one more of that baby lengthening of stride.
We also played around with the leg yield. Since Izzy moves laterally so easily, unlike the Speedy pony, it's more about keeping all of his parts in line without letting the shoulders lead too much while leaving the haunches behind.
The biggest First Level movement we'll have trouble with is the canter to trot transition at X, and later, the canter to trot to canter transition at X. Damn X anyway. Once Izzy starts cantering, he just can't stop. Especially if we cross the diagonal. All he sees is more real estate to cover. And in his opinion, the faster the better.
According to Izzy, trotting in the middle of a good long run seems like a dumb idea. He would much rather keep on cantering and turn it into a counter canter; that he understands. In fact, once this horse canters, it's really hard to get him to stop.
As much as I'd love to just write my own test - A enter cantering, X continue to canter, C track left still cantering, E canter left 20 meters, K-A-F canter, F-X-H change rein, C counter canter ... USEF won't let me. So for now, Izzy has to learn to do that transition without me needing to haul back on the reins to half halt his freight train of a canter.
Always one to think on her feet, Chemaine offered two different tools to keep Izzy on my aids. The first was to think shoulder fore as we canter through the corner, heading for X. This will keep him on my outside rein as I ask for the transition to trot.
When that doesn't work, and you knew it wouldn't be that easy, Chemaine said, "If he falls off your outside rein right away, canter a 10-meter circle." And the beauty of that exercise is that there are a lot of 10-meter circles as you cross the diagonal.
Eventually, we got a few good canter to trot transitions across the diagonal. I love having a plan, so focusing on the movements at First Level with an eye to finally, finally getting this horse into a show ring only increases my motivation.
Here's a short video of that exercise.
One of the things that I love most about Chemaine is that she is never out of ideas. She works the horse and rider that show up for that day's lesson. It's a good thing because next week, Izzy might show up acting more like an Intro Level horse!
I had a rough last week. Fortunately it wasn't because of horses; they've given me enough gray hairs this winter. On Thursday, a friend tagged me in a Facebook post that pretty much saved the rest of the world from total annihilation as I was very close to going postal - how much crap can one person take?
It's Dwight's face that cracks me up the most. I know that's the look that Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, must have on her face when Izzy starts with his jackassery. I looked at that meme all weekend long, laughing harder each time. It's easy to get a little punchy though when you're on the edge.
Thankfully, while horses can drive us to the brink of insanity, they can also keep us standing squarely on our two feet. My own equine therapists, a Goddess and a Wild Card did their jobs well (sort of) over the weekend, leaving me mostly prepared to tackle Monday. My husband drew a name for last week's book give-away. Congrats to Mag for winning a copy of Is Your Horse a Rockstar.
Mag wrote, "I think mine would be the "mean girl" even though he's a gelding. He has to show everyone that he's in charge - pasture mates, stablehands, etc. I would love a copy to see if that's one of the choices!"
Mag's copy is in the mail, headed her way. And Mag, I'm wondering if your gelding might be The Macho Man, The Boss, or even The Prize Fighter. I hope you'll let me know!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
3/27-28 SCEC (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read