From Endurance to Dressage
If you haven't read yesterday's post yet, check it out for a chance to win a pair of Roeckl's newest gloves and a gift card from the Riding Warehouse.
I am so fortunate to have found a trainer who realizes that sometimes, we need to hear her ideas come from someone else's mouth. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been my go-to trainer for several years now. While she's encouraged me to attend clinics, I hadn't ever felt the need to seek another trainer's advice. Until now.
I've taken a lot of lessons with Chemaine. Speedy and I have gone from an Introductory Level pair to a team knocking at the door of Third Level. With Izzy, things haven't progressed in such a linear fashion. Frankly, he and I are more often than not a hot mess. Yes, he can half pass, but half the time I can't get a stretchy trot circle. We're up, we're down, we're all over the place.
For the past month, things have been way more down than up. In fact, I came home a few weeks ago declaring that he was outta here! I was just over it. In desperation, I sent out a message to a fellow trainer of Chemaine's. Someone who I had seen show many times. Someone who knew me, but didn't know me. Someone who didn't know a thing about Izzy or about my relationship with him.
Enter Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage based in the Moorpark area. He is a Bronze and Silver Medalist, and is just two scores shy of his Gold Medal. He is a very quiet, but effective rider, and his teaching style is very similar to Chemaine's.
I sent Sean a message and asked if he would be willing to do a rider/horse evaluation. I wanted to know if I am simply not an educated enough rider for Izzy, or on the flip side, if is Izzy mentally capable of what I am asking. Essentially, I wanted to know who is the problem in this relationship. By the way, the answer is usually me, but I wanted to be sure.
A week or so ago, I loaded up the big brown horse and headed to Moorpark, two and a half hours away. A few days before, I had switched Izzy back to the correction bit. I packed that bit and bridle along with two others. I wanted to give Sean as much information as I could.
To my surprise, Izzy self-loaded in the trailer without needing Speedy as motivation. Besides going to the vet a few times over the winter, he hasn't even been near the trailer. And yet, he made the journey without a peep. When I unloaded him, he looked around for a minute, and then he started munching on the hay I had hung for him. I tacked him up without any fuss and then led him over the arena. While I was very pleased with his happy-go-lucky demeanor, I was also very surprised. Maybe he's matured more than I thought. Point to the big brown horse.
Because it was so windy, Sean had me use a two-way communication system. I mention this because I fully expected the big brown horse to start off with a big spook and a bolt. Windy weather is definitely not his jam. But nope, he just stood there looking around as I dropped my stirrups and climbed on. From there, his tension started to rise, and he gave a few hard spooks. But really, I was quite pleased with the maturity he showed.
Sean watched me ride for a few minutes, and then he started directing me to focus on being consistent and vigilant with the bend. Right away he pegged Izzy as being a horse who lacks confidence. Yep. He pointed out that he carries a lot of tension in his poll and top line. Again, yep. In less than 15 minutes, Sean was able to really hone in on where we both struggle. Point to the trainer.
To my relief, I am not causing Izzy's tension, but I am not necessarily helping it either. Sean suggested some things that I can do to help Izzy build confidence in me as his rider.
1) Insist that he let go through his poll by using lateral flexion with an inside leg. Izzy does not get to deviate from that position. As he releases the tension, I can straighten him for a few strides and let him move into the contact, but then it's back to lateral flexion. As Izzy finds relief in this position, he will seek it more willingly.
2) I need to ride Izzy with contact all the time. He doesn't get a loose, free rein as this is when he looks for things at which to spook. Instead, I can use walk "breaks" to reinforce the idea of letting go through the poll.
3) When Izzy spooks, I am to ignore it completely and ride as though nothing happened.
4) For now, I am to stick with the larger movements: 20-meter circles, serpentines, and figures of eight. These will help keep Izzy balanced as he builds trust in me as his rider.
While Izzy wasn't perfect during the lesson, I definitely felt the tension ease throughout his body simply by insisting that he release at his poll. When I put all of my focus there, he quit stabbing at the ground with hurried steps, he quit looking for things to spook at, and he started taking some deep breaths. Eventually Sean got on him and worked on the same concepts. As a MUCH more educated rider, he got Izzy softer and softer, and his back loosened up. I could see that Izzy felt so much better "supported" - mentally and physically.
Every ride we've had since that lesson has been better than the one before. All of the "pieces" for success have been there - Chemaine's given me the tools I need, it just took someone else to reframe it all for me. Sean didn't whisper any magic words or teach me something that I didn't already know. What he did do was help me connect what I know with a new feeling. And once I feel it, I can't unfeel it.
And just to sweeten the pot a little bit, the Riding Warehouse jumped on board with a $25 gift card!
It's no secret that I love Roeckl gloves. In fact, they're the only gloves I wear. Yes, I know they're a tad bit pricey, but they are absolutely worth it. They're long wearing, they feel like a second skin, and as a bonus, they look good doing it. So when Roeckl asked if I would take a look at their new glove, the Melbourne, I shouted YES!
Taken from Toklat's website:
The Melbourne was designed with eventers in mind. It has a long double-layer cuff and no Velcro for a bulk free wrist area, and allows one to wear a watch over their glove. The backhand is made with ECONYL® yarn, which is made entirely from regenerated nylon waste (such as fishing nets) and is infinitely recyclable without sacrificing quality. The palm is made of Roeck-Air, a thin but hard wearing material designed for both grip and breathability.
I am glad that Toklat explained the cuff because I was initially perplexed by the lack of velcro. After riding in them though, I appreciated being able to see my watch.
A little extra that Toklat didn't mention is the handy little pull strap located on the inside of the wrist. At first, I thought it was there to affix the label to the gloves. As I was riding though, I felt myself reaching down to give my gloves a little tug to reposition them, something I obviously do without noticing. Since the gloves have a cuff, it was too form-fitted to grab and tug. When I looked down in confusion, I noticed the little pull tab positioned right where I needed to pull to get my gloves in exactly the right place. Ingenious!
While Toklat asserts that the Melbourne Glove is designed for eventers, this dressage rider thought they were great. The same features that eventers enjoy appeal to dressage riders.
The grip on the palm is what I expect from a pair of Roeckl gloves: grippy without being tacky or too sticky. The fit was true-to-size, if not maybe a bit generous. Don't trust me on sizing though. Since I've lost more than 40 pounds, everything seems to be running big. I've typically worn a 7.5 in gloves, but I could have maybe gone down to a 7.0.
The material on the back of the glove is thin and stretchy and feels almost like a pair of tights. I love that the fabric is made from 100% recycled nylon waste. When I checked out Econyl's website, the company who makes the fabric, I was heartened to read that they rescue nylon products from the ocean and landfills, clean and purify it, and then reuse it.
The true test of whether or not I like a product is if I completely forget that I am evaluating it as I ride. The second I climbed into the saddle, I forgot to think about the gloves. Just like my Roeckl Lona's - the two-toned version, they feel like I am riding with skin to leather contact without damaging my skin. There was no bulk or anything to interfere with my "feel" on the reins. And because of the fabric on the back of the glove, they were also very cool during our recent hot weather.
There aren't a whole lot of vendors here in the U.S. selling the Melbournes yet, so if you're interested your best bet would be to buy them from Toklat ($59.95) who carries every single Roeckl glove. Other retailers who carry them are Adams ($59.95) or in the UK, Horze (€42.95). Or, you can win a pair here!
I rarely do giveaways, I think I've done four?, but this company makes a product that I truly love, so I am happy to spread the word. Since I don't do complicated, the rules for this giveaway are pretty simple.
1) Roeckl and the Riding Warehouse are giving away a pair of Roeckl Melbourne Gloves, black/size 7.5 and a $25 gift card, respectively.
2)The giveaway will run between Monday, April 22nd and Friday, April 26th.
3) Head over to Facebook and "Like" their page - Roeckl Equestrian.
4) Head over to Facebook and "Like" the Riding Warehouse's page.
5) Leave your email in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. No one else can see your email address.
6) Leave a comment describing your experiences (if any) with Roeckl and Riding Warehouse.
7) Since I like simple, over the weekend, I'll write everyone's name down on a slip of paper and have my husband pull a name out of a hat (or whatever I find laying around).
I love having my own horse trailer. I hate taking care of it. But, it has to be done. I had this past week off, so I determined to make it productive. One of the biggest chores on my list was cleaning my trailer, inside and out.
Normally, I do the whole thing in one big marathon of a day, but this time I took a more reasonable approach, breaking the task up over three days. The first day, I gave the exterior a cursory hose down, and I swept out the poopy shavings from the horse compartment.
That was the easy part. For day two, I scrubbed the actual crap off of the walls and dragged the mats out to scrub the floor. That has got to be one of the dirtiest jobs out there. Did Mike Rowe every feature horse trailer scrubbing on his show, Dirty Jobs? No? He should have. That is one disgusting job.
For the first time ever, I admitted that I have reached the age where I am physically unable to haul those mats back into the trailer by myself. I recruited my husband's help which meant that part of the job took 5 minutes instead of an hour.
For the third day, I decided to take a page out of the Cob Jockey's book and clean my trailer's exterior the "right way." That is if the "right way" can be done in exactly one hour because that's all I was willing to put into this project.
Not knowing how much I was going to need for my three-horse living quarters trailer, I ordered a full gallon of Wash/Wax All (the product reviewed by the Cob Jockey) from Amazon. At $27.95, it seemed prudent to buy the whole gallon rather than 2 quarts (@$15.95 each) so that I didn't have to skimp on the application. I had no idea if 1 quart would be enough.
Either the Cob Jockey's trailer is much, much newer (probably) than mine, or she worked a lot harder (also likely) than I did because it was HARD work scrubbing those stains away. I had already sprayed off the obvious debris, and I had used a brush to scrub away the top layer of road grime. Even so, I SCRUBBED.
I will say that while it took a fair amount of elbow grease, my trailer did come out cleaner than it would have without the wash/wax product. I couldn't get all of the streaks off, mostly because I didn't want to spend the time, but it does look a lot better.
Once everything was wiped down and dry, I tossed in some fresh shavings. I know it's ridiculous, but fresh shavings can make even the poopiest trailer look like new.
I also hung my new Trailer/Mini Hay Net Freedom Feeder, courtesy of the company's owner who happens to be a part of Team Symphony (Chemaine Hurtado's group of Adult Amateurs and Juniors). I've used these slow feeders a lot over the years and love how long they last. This is the first trailer-sized net I've had, and so far, it's working really well for traveling.
So for now, my trailer is sparkling clean. While it won't stay that way - just sitting there parked it gathers spider webs and dirt, it made me feel good to get it looking ship-shape.
The only question now is, who gets to show first?
Run and do it right now! You won't be sorry.
I am not much into fads, and so far I've resisted all of the specialty grooming brushes currently out there. Oh, but if anyone wants to buy me a Haas brush, I'll take this one. Since I don't (yet) have a Haas brush, I stick to my jelly scrubbers and a soft brush for each horse. They aren't fancy, but they get the job done.
With Speedy shedding more slowly than usual though, I started looking for a shedding tool/blade/brush that might get the job done more effectively.
Enter the HandsOn Revolutionary Grooming & Bathing Glove. Each pair comes in three colors - black, lime green, and purple. They sell for $24.99 (pair), but with coupon code RWEJ, Riding Warehouse will knock 20% off the purchase price.
Both of my dogs absolutely loved these grooming gloves. They kept shoving their way in trying to get just one more scratch down their backs and faces. I figured that if the horses didn't like them, I knew I could leave them at home to use on the dogs.
I needn't have worried. Both of my horses enjoyed the grooming, relaxing as soon as I started. The glove pulled off Speedy's winter coat hair in literal handfuls.
The two things that I liked best about the gloves were 1) they worked really well on legs, and 2) my hands didn't get nearly so tired. Not gripping a brush or arching my hand underneath a strap gave me more energy to use on swiping the brush. It was also very convenient to have a "brush" in each hand.
While the gloves worked great on Speedy's still shaggy coat, I wondered how they'd do on a nearly slicked out coat. While Izzy was slick and clean already, he thoroughly enjoyed getting his back scrubbed. And surprisingly, a fair amount of dust came up even though he looked clean.
If you have still have a horse that is in the midst of shedding, you need these gloves. If your horse is nearly slick but enjoys his back scratched, you need these gloves. They can be used wet or dry and you determine how much pressure you apply. For once I am on board for a grooming fad.
These gloves are my new favorite grooming tool. Anyone else?
This past February, I wrote about my ancient clippers and how poorly I care for them. Let me rephrase that, your Honor - I don't do any clipper maintenance unless you count blowing the loose hair off of them. Either here or on Facebook, someone chastised me about my lack of a maintenance program. "I hate your face right now" (as one of my colleagues is fond of saying) because you finally guilted me into opening the 20-year old manual for the second time ever.
The first time I opened the manual was a few weeks ago when Maureen politely asked me if I'd make a copy of it and mail it to her. I almost just mailed her the original as I clearly was never going to use it. Joke's on me, I guess. With my OCD tendencies, I couldn't unsee the invisible look of reproof from Oster regarding my own clippers and their obvious need for some TLC.
I apologize to whomever's face I just claimed to hate. It's really the fault of my 5th grade English/Language Arts curriculum. For the last few weeks, I've been teaching the differences between scientific and technical texts. Since the whole clipper thing was fresh in my mind, I stupidly told my kiddos that I had been leafing through my clipper's manual which would be a technical text as it tells the reader how to make or do something. And since I DO NOT TELL LIES, I felt compelled to actually look through it.
Again, I couldn't unsee the fact that my clippers REALLY NEEDED SOME MAINTENANCE. So, I sat down over the weekend and flipped through the booklet, mentally ticking off the things I was willing to do - clean the area beneath the blades, check; remove the cover from the bottom cap, check; remove the cover of the gear mechanisms and lube it all, um ... are you kidding me? Big fat NO. But remember, OCD.
In the end, I started with the easy stuff, see those filter caps above, and figured I'd just clean the parts that seemed easy to reassemble, and go from there.
Funny moment: as I was peering into the cavity of the gear box thing, I realized I couldn't see diddly squat. I suddenly remembered that I keep a headlamp in my barn bag, so I tossed that on for a hands-free light. My husband walked in about that time, and I know he had to try very hard not to laugh at me because this kind of crap is NOT MY JAM. It helped though, and as a bonus, it made me feel all kinds of empowerment. I actually took out all of those innards.
Once I got going, it was - dare I say it? fun. Gross, sticky, and black, but I felt like I was doing the community a service. Go, me. But of course, just about the time that I was feeling quite successful and well, mechanical, a random washer dropped onto the table from the towel that I had been using to clean the parts. Well, hell's bells. Where did that come from? I had clearly said that part out loud as my husband snickered from the living room.
In the end, I sort of just guessed where it went. When I told my husband that I was hoping everything would still work when I plugged it in, he asked how much clippers could cost anyway. When I replied that several hundred bucks would cover it, he urged me to FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.
To my relief, they whirred to life just as they always do. They've even already been put back to work, and before I put them away, I blew on the blades to clear out the loose hair.
See? I have a maintenance program. Don't judge.
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%: