From Endurance to Dressage
I came home from the barn on Saturday with the stupidest grin on my face. When I tried to tell my husband how good Izzy had been, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Speedy did the same thing."
Um ... what?!?!
No, I told him, Izzy was AWESOME.
Again, he shrugged his shoulders and said it was no big deal since that's what happens when a horse gets TRAINED.
Palm to face. How could he not see the miracle that was occurring right before him?
He was right, of course. This didn't happen in just one day. This is one year of work later. A whole, very long year later. It just feels like a sudden miracle.
I had some big AHA moments when I rode in the Christian Schacht clinic last week. That dude is a genius. In reality, it is Chemaine Hurtado, my regular trainer, who should get the credit. She's the one that's been slogging along with me this past year. Christian just helped me pull some things together at the right moment.
So what's going so great all of a sudden? Well, now that I know how much inside leg I need to use to get Izzy soft on the outside right rein, most of his shenanigans seem to have stopped. But again, even those have been disappearing slowly.
Since last fall, Izzy has tried to dissuade me from working by being a bit of a jerk for the first half of our rides. He went through several phases of refusal: balking, running sideways, kicking out at my leg, rearing, and flinging his head around wildly. Those things are now mostly gone.
On Saturday, I worked the inside leg to outside rein until he softened and engaged his hind end. Once we got the feel I was looking for, I asked for a left lead canter. He gave it immediately, and while it wasn't a perfect canter departure, it wasn't explosive. When I asked for the right lead canter, he offered that one as well.
I was able to canter all over my arena. We did squares, straight lines, 15-meter circles, and even some mini-lengthenings. As I was finishing up with the right lead, I looked at Izzy's ears in complete shock - they were floppy. This is the first time that he has cantered with floppy ears.
I feel as though we've summited a huge mountain and are now admiring the view from the top. It's a beautiful view from where I am standing, and I can't wait to get down to the other side!
I am such a sucker for good customer service. I am always willing to pay more for a product if I know with complete certainty that the company is going to treat me as though they really want me to come back. And if they listen to my feedback and try to make whatever "it" is right, I am hooked for life.
The Riding Warehouse and Smartpak are two companies that check off those boxes. And coincidently, both are having really good sales this Memorial Day weekend. At the Riding Warehouse, you can save 15% site-wide today with no code, and SmartPack is offering up to 20% off for USEF members with the code MEM16 at checkout.
But those two companies already have my regular business. I am talking about the folks over at Platinum Performance.
A week or two ago I wrote a blog post about mineral supplements. A few days later, I got a very polite email from Amy at Platinum Performance. She had seen my blog post and wondered if I would like to talk to one of their advisors about equine nutrition. She also offered to send me a free bucket of Platinum Performance if I wanted to give their product a try.
How could I say no? I was clearly interested in the product, and I did have a few questions. I sent a reply back saying I would love to speak with someone and that I would call back the next morning.
To my surprise, when I called, Heather E., the advisor to whom I had been referred, was actually available. And not only was she able to chat, she already knew a little bit about me. Man, these guys know how to reel you in! I love that kind of customer service.
Heather and I talked for a good 40 minutes. I think she would have happily stayed on the phone with me longer, but my recess bell rang ending the phone call. My life revolves around school bells.
My three concerns, all of which she addressed thoughtfully and intelligently, were 1) price, 2) extra energy, and 3) ingredients that my horses don't need.
Okay. There isn't a lot she can do about this one. Platinum is expensive, but ... she did point out some things that make the product slightly more affordable. For one, if you already give a bunch of supplements (I don't), Platinum Performance can replace most of them making your supplement regimen cheaper.
This issue warrants its own blog post, but I had already taken Izzy off the Quiessence for a trial period to test the product's efficacy. One week into the trial, Izzy actually seems more relaxed now that he's off the magnesium. This is most likely coincidental though.
We had an awesome lesson with Dr. Christian Schacht a week ago where I had a giant "break through" moment, so it could actually be more related to that. I had also started the horses on BVH's mineral supplement which provides selenium and Vitamin E, among other things. That could also be making him feel better.
In truth, I never noticed any changes while he was on the magnesium anyway. I was too afraid to take him off of it though for fear that he would be more tense than he already was.
That's a really long way of saying that if I switch to the Platinum Performance and stop the Quiessence, I won't be spending quite as much as I would have.
There's more to the price thing though. Heather explained that through the magic (my word, not hers) of Platinum's formula, Izzy's whole metabolic system would begin working more efficiently. This would have the benefit of reducing the amount of feed that he would need which is ultimately a cost saving measure. You would be shocked at the quantity of roughage that dude consumes on a daily basis.
On top of that, she suggested that the added rice bran he gets every day should also be eliminated as Platinum Performance provides rice bran as an ingredient which would mean he wouldn't need extra. Reducing his rice bran would also save me money.
An increase in the horse's energy level is was one of the unintended effects of feeding Platinum Performance that I have been warned about. We all know that Izzy doesn't need any more energy. He's already the destroyer of all things. I raised this issue with Heather. Rather than downplay my concern, she tackled the question head on.
Since Platinum Performance works on the whole body, it reduces inflammation and supports all of the horse's systems. The result is that it makes the horse feel really good. Initially, she explained, this can come across as too much energy. She said that once the horse is used to feeling good, the over-energized feeling will fade.
To help deal with excess energy, Heather outlined a plan for phasing in the Platinum Performance slowly while simultaneously decreasing energy sources such as rice bran. I really appreciated this approach as so many products actually use loading doses which add to the initial price of the product.
Ingredients That My Horses Don't Need:
I wholeheartedly subscribe to the KISS method of horse care - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Most of the supplements out there aren't tested by independent labs and they certainly don't have independent research that supports their claims of efficacy. Platinum Performance does.
So while its ingredient list is bigger and more encompassing than what Dr. Tolley views as the minimum requirement, he doesn"t dislike the product. His own formula targets the specific vitamins and minerals that our hay is deficient in. Platinum Performance goes beyond that providing support for the whole horse through the use of amino acids (which help build proteins), Glucosamine (for joint health), macro and trace minerals (which help the body's systems to function), and vitamins (which along with minerals serve as anti-oxidants).
It's hard to say that my horses don't need any of those. Will they die tomorrow without added folic acid? No, but the added amino acids and minerals found in Platinum Performance are all things that my horses do need. I don't think there is one ingredient that is simply a filler or junk.
You can probably see where this is all going. I decided to give Platinum Performance a try, but I am doing it on the company's dollar. That's right - Platinum Performance is sending me a bucket for free, no obligation. They simply asked me to try it. And since I am going on vacation for several weeks, they've agreed to ship me a fresh bucket so that it arrives just as I come home in late June.
Izzy will get to try it first while Speedy remains on Dr. Tolley's vitamin and mineral supplement. Izzy's needs are a bit more complicated than Speedy's are. Speedy is such an easy keeper that I am going to see how it effects Izzy before I decide whether to put both horses on it. And if it does indeed reduce Izzy's feed requirements, the decision will be much easier to bear financially.
If you're reading this, Platinum Performance, your willingness to reach out to potential customers and chat about our horses' needs without being pushy is very much appreciated. Letting us try your product for free says you truly believe we'll like it. I am looking forward to having you on my team!
I ordered two new fly masks with embroidery ... twice, but SmartPak had some problems with the order ... twice. They're only fly masks, and the truth is they're barely going to make it through the summer as it is. Even so, when I saw how cute Speedy's turned out, I was a bit disappointed that Izzy's doesn't have his name on it too.
My barn owner uses the same brand of fly mask, so I thought it was very opportune that SmartPak offered free embroidery. Speedy's is now clearly marked, but I had to label Izzy's in some way too. It looks a bit ghetto, but I dragged out a Sharpie marker and did my best. Now, there won't be a question as to whose mask is whose.
If I can find an embroidery shop in town that has a quick turn around, I might try and get Izzy's done too. Hopefully the Sharpie will fade because if it doesn't, the whole thing will look even more ghetto than it already does.
Until it gets dirty and tattered, I am enjoying the cuteness. How could you say no to this face?
It might have been a pain in the neck, but the embroidered pad that I ordered for Izzy turned out super cute!
I tried to get the "ü" done correctly, but SmartPak wasn't able to do it with this font. They called me to say that the ü couldn't be done which caused yet another delay. I didn't want to take even more time trying to find a different font, so I told them to drop the ü.
This is the Union Hill Dressage Pad. I ordered another one a few weeks ago as a show pad. When I saw how well it fit, I knew I had to have another one for schooling. When SmartPak offered free embroidery, I couldn't resist. And at $20, this pad is a total steal.
It fits perfectly, and I love the simplicity of the design. I hope SmartPak doesn't run this deal very often, or I may end up with even more pads that I don't need.
I cannot think of a better way to spend $20. Money well spent indeed.
Riding with Dr. Christian Schacht is a true privilege. He has a remarkable ability to "fix" whatever a rider is struggling with. He is famous for saying What trouble? This is a lovely horse; there's no problem here! This comes 20 minutes into the lesson after you've struggled with whatever for 6 months at home. He just sees what the horse needs you to do, and he makes your body do it.
On Saturday, I learned that what I need to do is persistently kick with my inside leg and build a wall with my outside aids until Izzy accepts my leg. My feel for when to soften is actually pretty good; I just need to be more relentless in the asking phase.
Before riding on both days, I warmed Izzy up in the round pen with the sliding side reins. On Saturday, I cut him slack when he tried to crowd me. He was in a new place and was lacking confidence. I tried to support him by being reassuring. By Sunday, I was over his clinginess. As we walked down to the round pen, he stepped on the back of my heel, tearing it nearly clean away from the boot.
All sympathy for my 1,200 pound cry baby vanished. I jerked him backwards and told him to get the hell off me. When he wanted to crowd me in the round pen, I informed him that I had a whip and was not afraid to use it. While he didn't magically soften and turn into a unicorn, he did look at me with a whole lot more respect.
I carried that unsympathetic attitude into the ring. I told Christian that Izzy needed a serious butt-kicking, so there was to be no taking it easy (not that Christian ever takes it easy on me).
From the instant that we walked into the ring, I was all business. I shortened that outside rein and dug in with my inside heel, and I never let up.
For every moment of that lesson, I was completely focused on engaging that inside hind leg, and I quit worrying about where his head was.
The more relentless that I was, the deeper that inside leg started to reach. And as a consequence, his front legs also started to really cross over. As we leg yielded out on the circle, I could really feel him stretching over his back as his hind end finally started working.
Christian helped me feel how much leg I need - and can use, on this horse. It's a lot. I had my baby spurs dug into his sides. He wasn't fearful or resentful, but he didn't want to happily volunteer hard work either.
As the lesson progressed, Izzy finally started to swing through his back and yield to my inside leg. Now that I know what it takes to get him legitimately "through," you can bet that he and my inside leg are going to become the very best of friends.
Unlike the day before, we finally got to leave the 20-meter circle. Christian had us working the 10-meter circles in a figure-eight as well as doing lots of cantering in two-point.
We didn't look like a going First Level team, or even a going Training Level team, but by the end of that second day, Izzy did look more and more like a dressage horse in training. I got some more tools for my belt, some new "feels" to shoot for, and Izzy got a lot of exposure to new and different things. The clinic was a huge success for us.
I am hoping to squeeze in one more lesson with Chemaine before we head off for vacation in two weeks. Now that we're on a roll, I don't want to lose any momentum!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%