From Endurance to Dressage
He may not be very fast, and we can all see that he's rather plump, but even so, Speedy G sure does shine up well.
Since being lame for three weeks in February, he's been hand walked for 30 days, ridden bareback at the walk for 30 days, and then had some very light under saddle trot work for another week or two. He's been cantered maybe 5 times. Even so, we're going to a show today!
We'll be in Tehachapi for a CDS-rated show. We're showing Training Level Test 2 at 9:21 and Training Level Test 3 at 10:20. Wish us luck!
It seems as though both of my boys are finally back in action, together. Speedy has certainly lost a lot of conditioning, but at least we're doing real schooling rides again. And Sydney, even with a hole in his foot, is sound and happy to be back to work. Both boys got ridden last night.
Last July, I took Speedy to the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition, a USDF/USEF rated show. We showed Training Level Tests 2 & 3 to great success. We earned a first place 67% in a championship class to finish out our year.
Last fall, we were schooling First Level (and even some Second Level) in preparation for the 2014 show season. In early February, Speedy came up lame and was diagnosed with a collateral ligament injury deep in the hoof capsule. The vet recommend a 6 month rehab schedule that scrubbed out our 2014 show season.
At a recheck visit with the vet in April, it was decided that the earlier diagnosis was very unlikely, and Speedy was cleared for work. I've slowly brought him back to walk, trot, canter under saddle, but we are nowhere near First Level. I am taking him to a CDS-rated show tomorrow where we're showing Training Level 2 & 3. I just want to see where we actually are.
Last night's ride was the first one in which I really rode him without worrying about whether he was fit enough or not. For the past three weeks, I've ridden him very conservatively to ensure that he doesn't tweak something for lack of fitness. He feels sound, but he lacks a lot of impulsion, and I can very clearly feel his lack of balance.
The best thing about Speedy's lay-off was that he got a break, which he might have needed, and I got to improve my riding by schooling Sydney. I am not sure if Speedy actually lost balance. Did I just get better at detecting it? I am hoping that we can earn at least some 60s tomorrow.
I love this horse. At times, I have felt incredible frustration in knowing that I did not possess the skills to ride him effectively. There were months at a time that I simply wanted to sell him and be rid of the problem. I am so glad I didn't. Even my trainer can see how much he enjoys being with me and how happy he is becoming in the work that we are doing.
My homework for this week has been to slow down the walk before I ask for a canter transition. While we were warming up, I could feel that I have been allowing him to rush in the trot work as well. When he rushes the trot, he starts the canter hurried. So we played around with collecting the trot to get a better canter. Well duh.
I had a pretty big epiphanic moment last night; a bunch of stuff just sort of jelled. For several years, JL has been telling me to slow down the front end. I really truly felt the why of that command. Rushing is the cause of imbalance. If I want my horse to be balanced, I need to slow down the front end and rev up the hind end. I knew this before, I understood what she meant, but last night, I finally felt it become part of my muscle memory. (If that's really possible.)
I am not saying Sydney has a perfect walk to canter transition, but it has improved markedly in just a week. The right lead canter departure from the trot is still funky, but again, at least there is a departure. His buttons might not be firmly installed yet, but we're getting close.
You know how the weather can be just too bad to ride in, but not so bad as to keep you home? That's what we had yesterday.
I left for the barn at about 3:55, my regular time. By 4:15, the sky was getting black and the wind had started to gust ferociously. Just when I was grabbing Speedy's halter, rumbles of thunder could be heard approaching. Well, drat!
I will ride in bad weather, but it looked as though a pretty fierce-looking storm was about to move through. And it did. There was spitting rain, jagged bolts of lightening, howling wind, and booming thunder. The whole thing lasted just over an hour. My riding window after work is pretty tight. By the time I could see that the storm was passing, there wasn't enough time to ride.
Instead of riding, Speedy got turned out for the first time since February. He was rip-roaring around his stall because of some flapping tarps, so I took the chance that he was less likely to get injured on the lunge line than while crashing around his pen.
I used my cotton rope line that is at least 30 feet long and let Speedy warm up a bit. I asked for some trot and canter in both directions. Once I figured he was listening, I gave the okay for the gallop. He was pleasantly surprised to say the least!
When he was finished, I let him just wonder around the arena to his heart's content. It was his first turnout since his mystery lameness this past February. While he was turned out, I cleaned Sydney's Micklem with the Higher Standards Soap (Don't forget to leave a comment about that; I'll be drawing on Sunday evening.)
I brought Speedy back in and turned Sydney out as well. I had really wanted to ride. I had a lesson on Monday, but then work obligations kept me from the barn for both Tuesday and Wednesday. It's now Friday and I am itching to get in the saddle. Today is predicted to be clear. Hopefully I get a good ride in as Speedy and I are going to a show this Sunday, our first together since last July!
Yes, that one, THE Breeders' Cup. Over the years, the Breeders' Cup has been held in many locations: Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, Belmont Park, and of course, at Santa Anita Park.
I've already written about going to Santa Anita here, here, and here. But this is different. This is really the big time. This year's event is being held on October 31 and November 1; we're going on the final day.
Getting tickets wasn't impossible, but it wasn't exactly easy either. We signed up for the opportunity to buy our tickets before they went on sale to the public. Given that we ARE the public, I can only wonder at the riff-raff that Santa Anita will sell to once the pre-sale option has closed.
When we've attended the races in the past, we've gone for box seats. They are relatively cheap and offer excellent views. And since there is so much seating available, we only have to buy two seats and get the whole box to ourselves. Remember these seats?
For a total of about $35, we got two seats of the box and no one joined us. We had a TV that showed the races at Santa Anita as well as races at other tracks around the country. The view was spectacular and we had a great view of the finish line.
Tickets for those exact same seats for the Breeders' Cup are $975 per seat, AND patrons must purchase the entire box!!!! Admittedly, it's a two-day package, but most boxes have 6 seats. That's six grand!!!!!!!
We didn't get those seats.
Instead, Hubby tried to find restaurant seats but discovered that patrons must purchase the entire table; those seats were $1050 each. We ate lunch there last time without having to pay for the seats, just the food.
After much searching, Hubby finally opted for the less than glamorous stadium style seating located at the first turn. A large video screen will be placed in the section, and we will be able to see the finish line, but it won't be the view we're accustomed to (wah!). The price for those seats? $125 + an $8.00 processing fee per ticket and a $15 shipping fee per order.
If you look way to the right in the photo above, you can just sort of see where our seats will be. They're not the best, but the experience of being at such an illustrious event will make up for it. At last year's Breeders' Cup nearly 60,000 people showed up to watch the nine races.
If you're interested in attending this year's Breeders' Cup event, you can check out the seat map and pricing here. The race is a long way off, but we're still excited about it. With the Belmont Stakes just around the corner and California Chrome representing my neck of the woods in such a spectacular fashion, we've got racing fever.
By the way, we did another online bet for the Preakness and won a few more bucks. We used Hubby's TwinSpires account though which I can recommend for its user-friendly process. We're getting ready to place our next round of bets for the Belmont. Go, California Chrome!
I would like to thank you all for your kind words regarding yesterday's video post. Success in dressage, as in many sports, is really based on a sliding scale. A successful ride for me would be disastrous for Carl Hester or Steffen Peters. But can you imagine getting the chance to experience even their worst day in the saddle? I say this because while I know that I have learned a ton in the last three years, I still have a very long way to go which is why I am glad that ...
Sydney is back to work - woohoo!
We were two weeks without riding. But after Monday night's lesson, I feel pretty good about where we are. I had been so worried about all of our recent progress just slipping away while he was sidelined with a hoof injury. I needn't have worried.
Sydney was still lame as of Saturday afternoon, but by Sunday, he looked sound enough for a let me check kind of ride. I couldn't have been happier with him. After two weeks of no work with only two or three turn outs, Captain Awesome was present and ready for duty. He didn't squeal, toss his head, or resist in any way. He seemed very happy to be back under saddle.
I asked for some simple trot work without a lot of contact and then asked for a walk to canter transition in both directions. The departures weren't great, but he did do them. With that, I called it a day and decided that he was sound enough for a lesson the next day.
JL is great about letting me tell her where our sticky spots are. I am sure she has some kind of outline or plan, but since she only sees me once a week, she does sort of leave it to me to let her know what I want to work on. Right away I told her about wanting to improve our walk to canter transitions. It turned out to be a really great lesson.
We warmed up with some suppling exercises; bend your neck this way and so on. From the trot, I asked for a left lead canter and then worked on softening him and having him round up without transitioning to the trot. Once we were good there, JL brought us back to a walk and asked for another canter departure. For the rest of the lesson, we worked on really slowing down Sydney's front end so that he could coil up his rear end for the canter departure.
The number one problem I was having was letting him hurry into the canter from the walk. When the walk is hurried, it sends him the message that the canter must be hurried. He then leaps into the canter and begins to gallop. So to improve our canter, we improved the walk. I struggled with feeling confident in saying NO to his quick steps. JL repeatedly reminded me that I am not hanging on him nor am I pulling back. It was okay to ask for lightness at a collected walk.
If I insisted that he get light and wait for me at the walk, it only improved his canter. JL also had me think about where the canter comes from. I need to slow down the front because the canter is coming from the hind legs. If he is "running" with his front legs, his hind end has to work much harder to catch up which is why he departs at a gallop.
Once I "got it," I was super vigilant about slowing down the walk by gently working both reins by sliding or sponging. As he leaned into my hands to "run" I just pulsed the rein and added leg. My message to him over and over was to slow down the front end but move it with the hind end. Once I felt him light up front and coiled behind, I softly ask for a canter departure.
We had a few, very wild departures on the wrong lead. It took JL a few times to see what I was doing wrong. I was worrying about the inside bend so much that I was forgetting my outside rein. Sydney was leading through his outside shoulder which caused him to pick up the right lead. When I straightened him up with the outside rein, it sent him into the circle on the correct lead.
When I was done with the lesson, I realized that Christian would have probably had me think about shoulder in rather than moving into the circle like JL did. I think it's the same concept, just different vernacular.
Once I had Sydney's shoulders in front of his hind legs, he was able to pick up the canter from the walk. The second element we had to fix was the immediate transition to gallop. While he was picking up the correct lead, he was leaping into a wild gallop that included head flinging. To fix it, I quit using the inside rein to get a bend and focused on protecting that outside should with the outside rein. Bingo - we had it!
When we got one really nice departure without the wild galloping, we ended the lesson. JL was really pleased with how calmly Sydney had dealt with the repeated mistakes. In the past, he would have been so anxious about doing the wrong thing that he would have checked out in self-defense. For this lesson, he stayed in the game and kept trying. That wasn't to say he wasn't a bit tense, but I could feel that it was more about trying really hard to anticipate what I wanted. As my aids became clearer, he was relieved to let me be in charge.
Our homework is to improve the walk by removing the hurry. Sydney and I have definitely come a long way!
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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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