From Endurance to Dressage
In February, I set a new goal to get Izzy off the property at least twice each month. I started riding out on the old golf course and around the neighborhood pretty regularly. I did the same thing in March. About that time, I was battling Izzy's excessive energy which I now know was due to too much alfalfa in his diet. The work out on the trail helped dissipate some of the energy.
By April, the restrictions around COVID-19 were firmly in place, and frankly, I kind of forgot about going anywhere. We also realized what the alfalfa was doing, so leaving the property didn't seem quite so important.
Instead of leaving the ranch, I started doing short trail rides around the property after every arena ride. We've been able to get a lot of miles out of those eleven acres. I know every spooky spot, so that's where we head. We circle trees and bushes and old piles of junk until Izzy softens and walks forward freely. We do it from the left eye and then from the right eye. We have lots of little roads that crisscross the ranch, so it's easy to keep it varied.
The trail rides out on the property are definitely helping to improve the work we do in the arena. When Izzy gets tense or braced, I treat him like I would if he were tense about a spooky bush out on the property. We circle, and I ask him to step up into my hand. As soon he softens, we move on. Every time I "win," he seems to breathe a sigh of relief. Izzy's a somewhat dominant horse, but he's also fearful which makes him a pretty poor leader.
Me being the leader is something relatively new. It's not an argument we have on the ground, it's a given that I am in charge there. Convincing him that I am also in charge when he's under saddle has taken a long, long, LONG time. When we work now, his ears are on a swivel as he listens to me. For so long, they were nearly always pricked forward as he tried to work and monitor his surroundings.
Yesterday, instead of working in the arena, I saddled up to ride around the ranch. Izzy's been so good lately that I decided to risk shooting video of part of our ride. Normally, I need both hands on the reins. He was still a bit look-y, but just my voice was enough to keep him feeling safe.
Speedy would be bored out of his mind if I asked him to ride these same trails over and over, but Izzy needs it. He doesn't seem to remember that we've circled that stump twenty times or passed by that pile of roofing shingles thirty-two times; he always sees something new. So until he gets bored, we'll keep doing it. Besides the fact that he needs the work, I think we both enjoy the walk without the need to perform.
I recently realized that other than writing about his feet or coat, I've hardly mentioned Izzy at all. A few months ago I wrote a post about taking him out on the trail, but other than that, I've probably left you with the impression that he's not been getting worked. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, I ride him more often than I ride Speedy. The real reason I haven't written much about him is that I didn't have much to say; no news is good news. Plus, I hadn't had a lesson on him in a year.
The last lesson I took on him was in April of 2019 with Sean Cunningham. Sean helped me look at Izzy with a different eye. He gave me some great tips that I was able to use throughout the summer and fall. It wasn't that I didn't want more lessons on Izzy, I just felt like he and I were really developing a solid relationship, and I didn't want to rock the boat. I wasn't stuck anywhere. Every time I got on him, he was (mostly) better than the time before.
As Izzy and I continued to work through the fall and winter, I started worrying that taking a lesson might actually disrupt the balance we had achieved. I was discovering how to ride him while keeping the peace. When he feels pressured, he gets really anxious, so I kept the pressure to a minimum. When I ask for something new, he immediately feels like he won't be able do it, so I tried to present things in a way that made him feel successful. His work ethic is phenomenal, and as long as he feels successful, he'll work all day. As long as I was patient, he was willing to keep trying.
Since things were going so well between us, I just stopped including Izzy in the lesson rotation. That wasn't a problem since Speedy and I were deep into Third Level showing and schooling the half passes and flying changes. I needed every lesson I could get. What I was learning on Speedy was easy to bring to my rides on Izzy. While I didn't take lessons on Izzy, he still benefitted from my work with Speedy.
In February, Izzy went to the vet for some routine care. The scale showed that he had lost a few pounds, which I must have conveyed to the ranch owner. By mid-March, I was desperately wondering where my relaxed horse had gone. Out of nowhere, Izzy was once again spooking and flinching at every little sound; most of them imagined. It was as if his skin were on fire.
In desperation, I renewed my Dream Horse account and started writing For Sale ads. Real ones, not just the kind you write when you're frustrated. I had given up. I also mentioned his behavior to the ranch owner. After chatting with her, I suddenly realized that there was an actual reason for the renewed jackassery. Since he had lost weight, the ranch owner had increased his alfalfa so that he was getting full flakes during the day, not just a token handful.
As soon as I realized what had happened, I asked for no more alfalfa, not even a little bit. We switched him back to straight grass, and I increased his beet pulp and rice bran. If I had not seen the difference with my own eyes, I wouldn't believe it, but THE VERY NEXT DAY, his energy level was cut in half. And the day after that, he was even quieter. I have never before had a horse so sensitive to alfalfa. As soon as we cut the alfalfa, Izzy relaxed and was once again focused and listening.
Eventually, Izzy "caught up" to Speedy, or nearly so anyway. Once I realized that Izzy's trot and canter half passes were better than Speedy's, I started to run out of material. The only work from Third Level that we can't quite get is a medium trot and a flying change. After schooling both things by myself for a bit, I decided I finally needed help, so I called Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
In all honesty, I never really talked to Chemaine about why I had stopped taking lessons on Izzy. It wasn't something that I planned, it just happened. I needed to work out some things with him on my own. In any case, Chemaine seemed perfectly happy about coming for both horses instead of just one.
The lesson consisted of one basic element repeated: we worked him hard in a collected gait so that a stretch and a lengthening would feel really good. We did it in the walk pirouettes, haunches in to shoulder in at the trot, counter canter to true canter, and finally in the canter half passes. In every movement, I looked for the "ask." Did he ask to stretch and lengthen his stride. If so, I let him move out bigger.
Izzy will never be an easy horse to ride, but he is finally broke. It sounds funny to say that about a horse who will be 12 next month, but it's finally true. If I want to show him for real, and I don't mean at Training Level, it's now my job to learn to be a better rider for him.
Chemaine helped me fix a few things about my own riding. Well, they might not be fixed, but at least they're now on my radar so that I can start fixing them. She pointed out that my inside leg likes to drift back which is not such a big a deal on Speedy, but on Izzy, a horse whose haunches already squirt out every which way, it's a lethal mistake. I also need to soften my elbows to give him somewhere to go. That's a challenge with a horse as powerful as Izzy. It means using my seat a lot more effectively.
Now that Izzy and I finally feel like partners (again), we're ready for more lessons. And once the show season finally gets underway, we'll give First Level a shot. I can finally say that we're schooling a level (or two!) above what we're showing.
The video below shows an exercise where Chemaine had me work Izzy "hard" followed by a moment to relax. My arena is only 50-meters long, so this particular exercise is even more challenging. We did a 20-meter counter canter circle (or just half) at EB with a 15-meter true canter at A and C. We followed that up with a canter half pass.
For those of you that have been with Izzy and me since the beginning of our journey, you know that we've come a long way. I love where we are, but I am also looking forward to where we're going.
I am ready for another lesson!
Lights, Camera, Action!
This is the third post in a series where I am detailing the process of getting my Class A Commercial Driver's License. You can read the other posts at the links below.
As I've already written, there are a lot of steps involved in order to get a Class A driver's license. While I wait for the DMV to start accepting appointments, I've been hard at work getting my truck and trailer ready for the Vehicle Inspection Test (Section 11 of the California Commercial Driver Handbook). I've heard from several people that this is the hardest portion of the series of tests to pass.
For the most part, my horse trailer is in excellent working order. My tires are relatively new with good tread remaining, my brakes work, and there are no cracks or rot in the floor's frame. My tail lights, brake lights, and blinkers all work fine, but I did notice a few clearance lights were missing covers or not working at all.
Even though most of my trailer's clearance lights, also referred to as "running lights", worked, there were a few that either lit only intermittently or not at all. Two of them were in really bad shape but that is because Speedy has chewed on them. Jerk.
As I was listening to Kevin Reinig on a recent Facebook live post - by the way, Kevin is our current USDF Vice-President and a previous CDS President, he mentioned that it is an automatic fail if any light on the truck or trailer doesn't work. I gave an exasperated sigh and commented that I might just rip them all off and replace them with reflectors. While Kevin laughed, I could tell he didn't think that was a very good solution.
I didn't think it was a good idea either, so I did some research to find out exactly how many of the boogers I needed, and how many of them needed to be operational. According to the Electronic Code of Regulations, "All lamps required by this subpart shall be capable of being operated at all times." Well crap. All of them? That meant my five broken ones weren't going to fly.
There are also regulations as to the number and type of all lights, clearance and otherwise, that are needed as well as requirements for where they need to be mounted. I'll let you look at those yourself. Fortunately, the manufacturer of my trailer knew the DOT's rules because I have everything in the right place.
The first thing I did was check for any blown fuses in my trailer. It would be pretty stupid to go in for a repair only to hear that a $0.10 fuse was blown. I pulled all of the fuses out and discovered that they were all good. I was actually disappointed because replacing a fuse is super easy and cheap. When I realized that wasn't the problem, I gave Pensingers a call.
Pensingers is my go-to trailer repair shop. They've fixed a few things for me over the years. A year and a half ago they fixed the trailer plug receptacle in Blue Truck's bed, and since I was going to be there for that job, I had them install two 12-volt fans in the horse compartment of the trailer. I love those fans by the way; that was the best idea ever.
The guys at Pensingers do a really good job, and they don't mind answering questions. I now know why some of the lights are amber and some are red. Everything that you see as you approach the rear of the trailer is red ...
... But as you approach from the front, those lights should be amber. This helps you know which direction a large rig is traveling which is particularly helpful in the dark.
While most of my nineteen clearance lights were working, I did not want to mess with this situation every time a bulb quit coming on. I asked that everything, even the working ones, be replaced with LED lights which are much more expensive, but they last forever. I am so glad I did as they are now much brighter and definitely safer.
When I called Pensingers yesterday to see how much it was going to cost and when the trailer would be ready, I was a bit panicked to hear that it would be done in the next few minutes, "But you never called to confirm the price!" I squeaked out to the tech. We had agreed that they'd call me if the job was going to be north of $800 which I was fully expecting. Turns out, they found the LED lights much cheaper than expected, so they didn't bother to call and confirm the price.
Replacing nineteen clearance lights and the license plate light came in at $503.22 out the door. I have never been so thrilled to drop half a grand on light bulbs.
I am one step closer to my Class A license. Stay tuned for more.
I am no Imelda Marcos or anything - boy, is that showing my age. Some of you may remember that in the late 1980s Imelda Marcos "and her family gained notoriety for living a lavish lifestyle during a period of economic crisis and civil unrest in the country." She was also famous for her more than 1,000 pair of shoes. I like shoes, but not that much. I should clarify. I really like having the appropriate foot wear for the task at hand.
I like slippers on cold days, waterproof boots for rainy days, sandals when it's hot, tennis shoes for running, my Converse sneakers for hanging out, and heels when they're called for. I also take very good care of my shoes. I have a pair of Laredo ropers that are at least 25 years old.
And of course, I have a variety of boots for different horse related tasks. I have my show boots; they live in my horse trailer. I have a pair of schooling boots which live in the tack room. I also have a brand new pair of schooling boots that are still in my office waiting to be called up. My schooling boots still have a few more miles left in them, so until I have a zipper blow out or a sole falls off, I'll keep the new ones in storage until the old ones die.
I also own a few pair of really old Ariat Terrains left over from my endurance days. I only keep them for emergencies. One pair lives in my horse trailer, and another pair lives in a trunk in the tack room. I've actually needed them once or twice over the years. Although as funky as they are, I should just get a new pair to keep on hand.
Besides my schooling boots, the pair of shoes that I wear most often are my muck boots, or as I call them, my barn boots. Even my husband knows which pair I mean when I mention barn boots. I replace these every one to two years. They take an absolute beating, but they save my schooling boots from at least some of the daily wear and tear.
For a long time, like close to ten years, I wore the mid-calf Mudruckers. I liked them a lot until I found the Noble Outfitters version, Muds. For the first year or two, I wore the mid-calf version which I really liked. This fall, I bought the tall boots which I REALLY liked in the winter. When it got sloppy muddy, I didn't have to worry about splash over.
You know what I mean. You're squishing through the mud and suddenly you hear a squelch and poopy water suddenly squirts over the opening into your boot top and drips down onto your socks. Or when filling the water trough, the hose goes a bit wild and you feel icy cold water trickle down the front of your shin bone. That doesn't happen with the tall boots.
A few weeks ago, we had some days in the 80s. I quickly realized that the tall boot version of my Muds wasn't going to work when it hit 110℉. At 80℉, my socks were soaking wet, and I had to scrape my boots off over my sweaty calves. I never had that problem with the mid-calf boots as the opening was pretty generous which allowed more air to circulate.
I did a quick search on Amazon and found the answer to my problem. Noble Outfitters makes a super short version of their Muds which comes to just a couple of inches above my ankles. they're going to be so much more comfortable when it gets hot.
As a bonus, when they arrived, I noticed that there was a special offer on the hangtag for a free pair of Noble Outfitters' "Best Dang Boot Sock™- Over The Calf" - my all time favorite socks. I immediately sent in my proof of purchase.
I love the boots, but the day after they arrived, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and it rained for several days in a row. I had to drag my tall boots back out. Very funny, Universe, very funny!
The Steps For Getting a CDL
In the first post in this series, I talked about how to know if you need a Commercial Driver's License. Because my horse trailer has a GVWR of more than 10,001 pounds, I do indeed need a Class A CDL. Once I made that determination, I started doing some research. For this post, I am going to share some resources I found to help you get started.
Once you know for sure that you need a Class A driver's license, whether it's commercial or noncommercial, you need to start at the California DMV. This link will get you to the Driver License (DL) and Identification (ID) Card Information page. Everything you need to get started is there.
The first thing I did was print the four pages that explain the process for getting a Commercial Class A Driver's License. At first glance, it's overwhelming. It's four pages of line by line items. Last year at this time, I did the same thing. I printed out the steps, and then I quit. This year, knowing that the CHP is enforcing a law that dates back to the 1990s, I decided to look at getting my CDL as though it were a USDF Bronze Medal. We all know that's not easy, and it can takes years to get the right scores from the right number of judges. Getting a CDL can't be any harder.
On a separate, but related note, there has been recent legislation aimed at changing the law. The first bill died in congress, and the second, SB-415, written by State Senator Shannon Grove, was pulled before it expired. In a recent Facebook post, Mrs. Grove pledged to continue working on this issue:
Thank you all for your input and for being engaged on this issue. I am invested in working on a solution to this problem and wanted to provide you a quick update on our efforts.
Horse Trailer Legislation Survey
Given that the law might not change anytime soon, I am going to continue to pursue my Class A license. I have also heard rumors that the CHP is talking about releasing a new bulletin that would indicate that the CHP would not be pulling over trailers to check for Class A licenses. This would replace a bulletin from February 5, 2019 that clarified for officers what types of licenses drivers should have, essentially giving them "permission" to pull drivers over who were pulling larger trailers.
Back to getting a Class A license ... When I looked over the list with a firm goal to actually accomplish getting a CDL, I realized that I had some of it done already. Just like when you start thinking about a Bronze Medal, and you realize you already have your First Level Scores. And even better is when you realize you are actually half-way to the Bronze with your score at Second Level. It's motivating when you realize you're farther along than you thought.
Here are all of the steps you need to complete to obtain a Commercial Class A License. Remember that some of the steps are far more involved than others, but still, a checkmark is a checkmark.
2) provide proof of your Social Security Number (ready to show)
3) provide necessary documents for a REAL ID (I already have a REAL ID, but I regathered the necessary documents anyway)
4) pay a fee
5) give a finger print scan
6) pass a vision test
7) pass the applicable knowledge test (this is the written test - I've taken two practice tests and passed them easily).
Once you do everything listed above, you will be issued a Commercial License Permit (CLP). The permit is good for 180 days, and it may be renewed for an additional 180 days. This leaves plenty of time to prepare for the skills test which includes these three components:
If you fail any segment of the three skills test, all other testing will be postponed and it will count as one failure towards the maximum of three attempts you are allowed. There's also a retest fee tacked on. When and if you pass the skills test, you will be issued an interim CDL that is valid for 90 days until you receive your brand new, shiny CDL in the mail. I added the brand new, shiny part.
If you're interested in obtaining a Commercial Class A CDL, but you're worried it might be too hard, read over Section 11 of the California Commercial License Handbook. Another really helpful document is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Safety Planner. This thing provides simple explanations to help you understand and comply with federal safety regulations as they apply to commercial vehicles.
I've already started working on my Emergency Equipment and my Optional Emergency Equipment, but I'll share that in an upcoming post. Until then, Drive Safely!
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%: