From Endurance to Dressage
Today's the day. Well, technically we don't fly out until early tomorrow morning, but we need to leave for the airport in the middle of the night, so we're calling today our day of departure.
I had to run out to work for a couple of hours in the morning, but I was able to take care of the horses during the early afternoon. I rode both all week long, so they're ready for some rest. I also had one last chat with the friend who will be looking after Izzy's leg. I gave each horse a special goodbye, but they have no idea that I won't be back tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even the day after that. Fortunately, Speedy knows my pal quite well and will look forward to her visits.
The rest of the afternoon was spent packing and sorting out all of our devices and cords. How many electronic gizmos does one couple actually need? Apparently at least nine: two iPhones, two iPads, two cameras, a Kindle, an iPod, and an international clock. I really wish we could un-complicate some things.
One of my students gave me a Subway gift card as a parting gift, very sweet, so hubby agreed to go grab us some sandwiches for dinner. Neither of us really wants to cook or do dishes.
My alarm is set for 1:25 a.m. (holy smokes), and we're already checked in with United. Even though we fly internationally every other year or so, there is always something different. This year, United has an app where you can scan your passport and upload it directly to the airline to expedite the check in process. You can't even print boarding passes unless you scan your passport. Pretty slick.
Even though we do all of the pre-flight stuff that can be done, parking and getting through security always take a bit at LAX. It's just a busy airport with a fairly high security risk. I'd rather feel safe and be stuck in a line than zip through and wonder who is in the seat behind me! So yah for the TSA.
We'll be in Lisbon, Portugal in a few hours. Our first night's stay will be in the castle at Obidos - a very small town just north of Lisbon. After that, we'll continue north and then make a leisurely clockwise circle as we spend two weeks exploring the country, before returning to Lisbon for a tour of the city.
From Lonely Planet ...
Surrounded by a classic crenellated wall, Óbidos’ gorgeous historic centre is a labyrinth of cobblestoned streets and flower-bedecked, whitewashed houses livened up with dashes of vivid yellow and blue paint. It’s a delightful place to pass an afternoon, but there are plenty of reasons to stay overnight, as there's excellent accommodation including a hilltop castle now converted into one of Portugal’s most luxurious pousadas (upmarket hotels).
See you all in a few weeks!
Speedy got a new bit.
I am not one to follow any particular fad, so it should come as no surprise that I would choose a bit that is often quite controversial. As I was researching this bit, I discovered that people can really hate it for it's "severity." I long ago discovered that a bit is only as severe as the rider's hands.
Speedy has been getting pretty heavy in my hands over the past few months. Well to be truthful, it's not like he's ever loved contact. He wants to be light, but that leads to being too light. I've tried several different bits, but I've never found one that he obviously likes.
My trainer suggested that I go more radical in the change just to see if I can elicit a different response from him. I decided to start with the baucher bit because the fixed attachment to the bridle provides greater stability. One thing I know about Speedy is that he likes "quiet" in his mouth. If I am too loud with my hands, he lets me know it.
If you've never seen a baucher in person, the bridle attaches to the smaller ring, which seems upside down. (It bugs me that the Korsteel stamp is upside down!) I read that this bit is often times referred to as a hanging snaffle.
I put it on Speedy's Micklem and quickly realized that this bit won't work with that headstall. The Micklem's "flash" interfered with the bit. For my demo ride, I simply buckled the flash under the bit like a chin strap.
I later dug out my old SmartPak Plymouth bridle and put the baucher on that headstall and put the eggbutt lozenge bit back on the Micklem. I found this incredibly funny. How does one go from using two Micklem bridles to using NO Micklem bridles in the same week?
I am not going to say that the baucher has, or will, solve all of our contact issues, but like JL suggested, it did kind of freshen Speedy up. He always grabs at the bit as I put the bridle on. When he put his mouth around the baucher, he spit it back out and got a surprised look on his face. He knew it was different. I then bridled him without any issue, but he spent several minutes playing around with it.
Both times I used the baucher bit, I hopped up bareback. I didn't want to do a real schooling ride until I felt that he was comfortable in the bit. I had read several reviews that said horses will either hate it or love it.
I started out with a long rein and just walked around for a minute. When it seemed clear that he wasn't in the total haters club, I shortened my rein a bit and asked him to round up a little for a medium walk. To my surprise, he softened much more quickly than he had at Sunday's show. And frankly, the surprises kept coming.
When the medium walk went well, I asked for a baby trot. Like always, he was a bit sassy, but he did it. He did want to over round, which may end up being a problem, but at least he wasn't leaning heavily on the bit.
Speedy has never liked me trotting him bareback. It's only been over the past year that he was willing to trot with me directly on his back at all. So imagine my surprise when he offered a canter! I can't attribute that to the baucher of course, but it sure did seem as though he was a bit more uphill with this bit and that the canter was easier for him.
We did a number of light and easy canter departures tracking both left and right. I only rode the circle once or twice before coming back to a trot, but we did it several times, and each time the departure got better and better. I also noticed that Speedy's typically dry mouth was dripping with foam.
While the benefits that I am seeing with this bit may be short lived, I am very eager to continue using it when we get back from vacation later in June. For now, Speedy will get to hang out for a few weeks having a little R and R of his own.
I already can't wait to get back in the saddle.
From this weekend ...
My barn owner had just added some wood pellets and shavings to her stall, and the bags were still laying out in the barn aisle waiting to be tossed into the trash.
Had I been saddling Speedy, I would have cleared the bags out of the aisle before even thinking of walking him by them. No matter how many times I've worked with Speedy, he will never get over plastic bags or tarps. They're simply his Kryptonite.
Izzy on the other hand, has zero fear of anything. He never spooks at traffic noise, flapping bags, or the mower. And if he does flinch at something, his feet stay put, but he looks rather embarrassed by the momentary lapse in courage.
I don't know who to thank for this complete lack of fear. Did his first owner, Noemi, expose him to just the right stuff at just the right time in his life? I know she had him playing with all sorts of weird object as a youngster.
Is it just good breeding? He has some solid Oldenburg lines in his pedigree like Inbegriff and Ideal. Or is it just who he is, the luck of the draw?
When I first bought him, he showed a pretty good tendency towards courage, but he lacked confidence. Back in November, he would walk past scary objects, but he wanted to do it slowly and with a somewhat wide berth.
We haven't left the property in a few months; I've been busy with the under saddle work and riding Speedy. Once we're back from our trip and I am officially done with school, we'll be doing more hand walks and "trail" rides around the neighborhood. We'll see if his confidence has grown.
He's looking and feeling ready to start expanding his horizons.
Like I said yesterday, cake must improve your dressage scores. Really. I give you permission to eat cake any time you need to boost your score. That piece of cake helped raise my score by eight percent - that's a lot! That's right. I raised my test 1 (First Level) score of 55% to a whopping 63.438% for test 2.
I am not exactly sure how it happened, but I think I decided to actually ride my horse for this test. You know, by preparing for the movements and actually trying to set Speedy up for success. That kind of thing. Who knew?
Lois, the show secretary, a local trainer, and my reader for the day, gave me an excellent tip. She suggested that I view the 15-meter canter circles as my friends and use them to collect Speedy so that he was really on the aids for the canter lengthening. Sigh. That's what having a dressage dressage can do for you - point out the obvious.
I used the time before the bell rang to work Speedy outside the ring by doing a relaxed and thoughtful working trot. I didn't ask for big or brilliant. I just asked for relaxed and submissive. Thankfully, he was on board with my plan, and we sailed through First Level's second test as though we've been doing it all season.
Our trot lengthenings really need work, but I already knew that. Our leg yields are better than I thought; check out that seven! And our ten-meter half circles were really solid, but I already knew those were a strength and an easy way to earn points. Speedy's compact little body makes that movement without any effort.
Like Lois suggested, I made those 15-meter canter circles my BFF. And it paid off. We got a 6.5 for the first one with an acceptable 6 for the canter lengthening right after. And for the second 15-meter canter circle, we rocked another 6.5 with the comment, "some uphill moments." And as Lois suggested, that balanced circle set Speedy up nicely for the right lead canter lengthening (6.5), our more difficult side.
And not like it was by design or anything, but I helped Speedy maximize my scores by improving those movements that had a double coefficient. We earned a 6.5 for the free walk (13 points), a 6 for the left lead canter lengthening (12 points), a 6.5 for the right lead canter lengthening (13 points), and another 13 points for our stretchy trot (last year's needs to improve movement.
This wasn't a brilliantly ridden test, but the judge was tough and these scores are pretty solid. I am more than happy to see those sixes and sevens our first time showing First Level at a rated show. In fact, I'd be happy to see this score after riding First Level all year. Once we get a more acceptable trot lengthening under our belt, First Level is going to feel easy.
Yeah ... probably not, but you have to shoot for something!
It was so good to enter at A. I haven't been in a dressage court since last November, and I have missed it. And while our first test went about how I expected it to, I still enjoyed myself and was thrilled to finally be showing at First Level.
I did a horrible job of taking photos, so there aren't even any fun "show prep" photos to fill in the space - sorry about that. The morning did go well though. Having afternoon ride times was a real treat. It meant that I was able to pack the trailer and give Speedy his bath the morning of the show rather than in the afternoon before.
I was worried about how the day was going to go though as Speedy was really upset about the whole bath thing. As soon as I pulled the trailer around he got anxious, which is normal, but he continued to dance around and shiver right up until the moment that I loaded him. He knew what was going on and was either excited or worried.
Fortunately, I had lots of time once I arrived at the Bear Valley Equestrian Center, so I clipped Speedy to the HI-Tie and let him finish his breakfast while I went to check in and watch some other riders go. Standing there for an hour took all of his worry away. He relaxed, and even seemed to get sleepy for the rest of the day.
This show tends to attract a lot of beginner riders and people trying out new levels, so there aren't usually any big names to see, but we were blessed to watch a century ride! Anne Santer, a local rider whom I've known for many years rode her very senior Arabian gelding at First Level. A century ride is one in where the rider's and horse's ages combine to equal 100 years. BA Ibn Dream is 28, and Anne is in her seventies. What an awesome accomplishment for her!
Since the First Level tests are new to me, I asked Lois, the show's secretary, to read for me. I have only used a reader twice before, but I just didn't want to be stressed out about completely memorizing the tests. Even with Lois reading, I still went off course and incurred a two point error!
The test started out well with a seven for our entry and halt, and the scores continued to be okay for our half circles at E (a six and a five point five), but from there on out we were just not quite there.
I know our biggest struggle at this level is going to be mastering the lengthenings. We don't have one at the trot yet (see movement five), and I can't unlengthen him at the canter!
New for us is the amount of medium walk we need to do. At Training Level, the medium walk is only for a few steps to help gather the horse for the working trot. First Level has longer stretches of medium walk. Speedy kept anticipating the trot cue, so his stride got a bit hurried (see movement six).
I think I started this test knowing we weren't well prepared. I had never ridden the test from start to finish, not even at home. I don't have a 60-meter length in my dressage court, it's closer to forty-five, so I never could piece everything together all at once. I rode each part, just not all together.
All of the movements just came at me a bit too fast. I know I was also just letting everything happen rather than preparing for the next movement. Speedy wasn't helping me out either. He was fighting me in the canters, which has been his MO lately, as he doesn't want to really sit. It's hard work, I get it, but like I said, he didn't exactly give me anything voluntarily.
We walked away with a 55%. Not good enough, but the judge wasn't giving anything away for free. She was fair across the board though, giving good scores when they were earned. She also doled out some pretty painful scores; I saw more than one 40-something percent on the board.
I didn't beat myself up about the ride. I had an hour until my next ride so I went up and had some cake to celebrate Anne's century ride and thanked Lois for reading my test. She gave me a few pointers (which turned out to be REALLY helpful), and then I went back to the trailer to study test 2.
Cake is apparently quite good for dressage riders as my second test went much better! More tomorrow ...
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%: