From Endurance to Dressage
I haven't seen a video of my riding in quite some time. I still have a mental picture of this:
My leg has always been fairly good, but boy oh boy, did I struggle with my upper body, arms, and hands. I was over bent at my pelvis; my wrists were always "broken," and I had no bend in my elbows. I did have a great deal of enthusiasm and a tremendous desire to learn though, so I am not going to beat up on this lovely woman. For someone with zero professional help through three decades of riding, she has managed to come far in three years.
I was lucky to have someone around recently who shot a minute of me riding Sydney. It's not a great video, but it is enough to let me see how much improved I am over the last few years. My upper body is really nice, and I can now see my elbows bending and moving with an elastic connection. My wrists are no longer bent, and my thumbs are on top.
If you watch until 0:51, you'll see a lovely downward transition that shows us both being very balanced in our work.
I've had a chance to use the Higher Standards Leather Soap a few more times. I can now say with no hesitation that this stuff is great. I don't know how it works on really dirty leather, but for leather that has a typical layer of sweat and dirt, it is fantastic.
I've used it to clean both of my bridles several times. It still has a lovely scent; sometimes scented products bother me, not this time time. I also like how it is continuing to clean my bridles without leaving any residue. Each day that I come out, my bridles feel clean and soft without that tackiness so many cleaners leave behind. The product wipes off easily and very little scrubbing is necessary.
I finally got a chance to try it on my saddle and was even happier with the job it did there. My saddle is made from buffalo which is very soft and porous. Most soaps are difficult to use on such soft leather. the Higher Standards Leather soap went on easily and without much effort removed some buildup from where my boots and stirrup leathers rub my panels. Big score for that!
I also used the conditioner on my saddle. I chose a warm day so the conditioner came out of the tub more easily. The first time I used it, I wasn't as happy with how hard it was. With the warmth of the day, the conditioner had melted a little and came out much more easily. I loved how it spred across my saddle; it seemed to melt into the leather. I let it sit for a little while and then went back with a soft cloth and was pleased with how easily it buffed to a smooth finish. My buffalo leather doesn't seem to "shine" like some leather saddles do, but I knew it was clean and soft.
I am not a big fan of contests, but I'd like to thank Libby, the creator and owner and Higher Standards Leather Care, for letting me try out her products. As a way to "share the love," I'd like to send one of you a container of leather soap and conditioner. Here's how to "enter":
Not one of my favorite barn chores, but it's one that I have to do twice a year. We have very sandy footing here, but it's not particularly soft. Sand is actually quite hard so we like to bed our stall footing with either shavings or wood pellets.
I've blogged about this a dozen times or so, but wood pellets are small pellets of compressed wood that separate into a coarse sawdust when wet or crunched. They don't blow away in the wind, they don't get lifted with the pitchfork, and they blend into the sand nicely to give a fluffier surface.
I buy a pallet of 50 bags twice a year. I use one bag in each stall once a week. I usually buy the pallet earlier in the spring, but my schedule got a little hectic in April due to our trip to Washington, DC, so I had to do it yesterday in the heat.
Since Sydney was still a bit tender footed on Saturday, I was left with some free time so I drove on over to Tractor Supply. Unfortunately, the guy who loaded the pallet into my truck wasn't such a great forklift operator (oh … hahahah - that reminds me of my favorite meme).
As soon as I turned out onto the road (a busy four lane street), the top half of the pallet slid over the side of my truck. The pile of 50 bags was shrink wrapped, but there was no way the plastic was going to hold all the way across town. And at just over $5 a bag, I couldn't afford to let 15 bags hit the road.
I pulled over as quickly as I could and sliced open the plastic shrink wrap. I then had to lift at least 15 bags back into the bed of my truck. I wish I had thought to take a photo of my leaning tower of pellets, but alas, I didn't. I made it back to the barn safely and then had to unload and stack the 50 bags.
I should be good until fall, but then I'll have to do it all again!
But at least he has a shoe back on.
I am trying not to be grouchy about this whole thing, but I've not been very successful. It just seems as though when I get one of my horses ready to move up a level or move on to something bigger and better, something happens to set us back.
Oh, well. Moving on …
The area of the sole and wall that Dr. Tolley dug out has healed well with no sign of heat or abscess, but we're not back to work quite yet. On Thursday, I took Sydney to a farrier across town, my own was unavailable. Brad Allen is a long time farrier in this area and now operates out of his own shop, Rosedale Farrier Supply. He sells farrier equipment as well as feed, tack, and other things like fly spray and Betadine. In the back of his store, he has a sizable space for farrier work. It's quite nice with large mats spread across the floor, a power fan, and most importantly, shade!
He cut off Sydney's wrap and closely examined the work Dr. Tolley had done. While the hole wasn't tender per se, the whole sole was very sore. Brad didn't even need to use the hoof testers to get a reaction; his finger pressure alone achieved that.
Without a shoe to keep Sydney's sole off the ground, he is more than likely bruised. While the wrap was essential for fighting any infection, it also kept the foot wet and sweaty which contributed to the soreness. Even though he had an Easyboot on, he was still bearing weight directly on the sole of his foot. Brad felt that once Sydney got his foot back off the ground and the hoof dried out, he should return to soundness fairly quickly.
When I checked on Sydney last night, he was much sounder than the day before. I turned him out for the first time in two weeks. He enjoyed a mad gallop and then did some trotting around. While I cringed at the slight head bob, at least he wanted to move around. While at his lamest, he hadn't wanted to walk around very much and a trot was a no go.
I suspect that I might be able to do a light ride today. I'll pop him on the lunge line for a few minutes first to see. Luckily (?) we've had extremely hot and dry weather (100℉ with 10% humidity) which is helping to dry out and harden his foot.
Most of you have heard about the Higher Standards Leather Care Products. I am late to the party. Maybe you are, too.
Libby, the owner and creator of Higher Standards, contacted me and asked if I'd like to review her products. I was honest with her and said that I don't typically do that kind of thing for fear of not liking the product in question. I kind of make it a point to only write good things about other people and products. You know the adage, If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. She was willing to take the risk and mailed me a container of her soap and conditioner.
The leather soap comes with a nice little tack sponge that can be stored inside the tub. The soap itself is a soft solid, similar in density to Chapstick. When you wipe it with a sponge, only a thin layer of the product is lifted. I imagine that it lasts for quite a while, even with daily use. Libby sent me "Ben's Rosemary Mint" which had a light, clean smell that wasn't "perfumey."
I try to clean my leather after every ride, but in all honesty, it's probably more like every three out of five rides. The day I used the soap, Sydney's bridle had been used at a clinic and Speedy's had been used several times since its last cleaning. They weren't particularly gunky, but they needed to be cleaned. I followed the directions as printed.
The directions say: "sponge should be wet thoroughly but not dripping. Wipe over soap in container, wipe tack (or scrub, depending on how dirty it is!) and wipe off any visible suds or residue, with the same damp sponge. (If one side is too loaded up with soap, I flip to the other side and wipe off) Let dry and you can follow with a conditioner if your tack needs it -- since the soap is a conditioning soap, if you use it after every ride, you won't need to use an additional conditioner. If your tack is very bad, old or just dry, follow with a light coat of a conditioner. Designed for daily use. Contains glycerin, fats and essential oils."
I was really pleased with how little pressure I needed to use to wipe off the dirt and sweat. It seemed as though the soap just melted the dirt right off the leather. Once I had gone over the bridle from top to bottom, I did it again with just a clean, damp sponge, rinsing the sponge after every few strokes.
I left that bridle to dry while I went and rode. When I came back, the leather was super clean with zero residue or stickiness. It actually felt brand new, out of the box clean. I was pretty impressed. I usually use Effax's Leather Soap, and while I like the soap's conditioning properties, I don't always like the little bit of gumminess that it leaves behind.
I followed the cleaning with an application of the conditioner, but I definitely need to use that a few more times to decided whether or not I like it. I will do a later review of that product. Since I've only used the leather soap once, I don't know how well it actually conditions. I'll need to use it for a few weeks to see. But as a cleaner, it sure did a nice job.
A one time use doesn't usually give you a true sense of the efficacy of a product, especially in leather care. With that said, I can definitely suggest that you add the leather soap to your leather care routine. I haven't had a chance to use it on really dirty leather, and probably never will as I never let my leather get that dirty, but for daily cleaning, Higher Standards Leather Care can be recommended to leave your leather feeling clean and smooth.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%