From Endurance to Dressage
I am a better rider than most of the nearly seven billion people that call Earth home. I should feel awesome about that, but the reality is that when compared to actual riders, not just all of humanity, I am rather mediocre. Riding in a clinic, even with friends and people who I know are rooting for me, only serves to highlight my weaknesses. So while riding with Dr. Christian Schacht always inspires me, it also leaves me feeling somewhat dejected. I have a long way to go.
But, enough of that. Yes, I'll never reach the end of the road, but I am glad because the journey is so very fulfilling.
I took Izzy to his first over-night event this past weekend and was really pleased with how he handled himself. First, I loaded him at 6:30 a.m. -before he'd even had time to see his breakfast. He hopped right in, and then rode for the next two and a half hours with barely a peep. He unloaded a bit wide-eyed, but he wasn't freaking out.
I popped him into a pipe stall between several other horses, and while he wasn't thrilled, his behavior wasn't too bad. He paced back and forth and tried to hook up with the pretty mare next door, but I've seen horses behave worse.
He spent several hours in that stall and then to keep a friend's horse from having to sleep in the show barn alone, I moved Izzy to barn #2 for the night. The next morning, my friend's horse left, so I moved Izzy back to barn #1 where he fretted and worried for a bit but ultimately relaxed. I would say that he behaved remarkably well considering that he spent time in different stalls on his first over-night event.
For this clinic, my goal was to get as much ring time as possible to show Izzy that working away from home is no big deal. The one thing that I hoped to conquer was the ring itself. There are large mirrors along one side and in two corners. It's also covered which makes it a bit dark. At the C end, the ground drops away immediately, so it looks as though you're going to trot right off a precipice. If Izzy could relax in this ring, he could work anywhere.
The mounting block is just outside A. I got on and pointed Izzy toward the opening and asked him to walk forward. He didn't even blink as he walked under the roof. I don't even think he knew he was in a covered arena. He glanced at the mirrors for a moment, but then he never looked at them again. Neither did I for that matter. Well okay then ... covered arena conquered.
When you ride with Christian, he first asks what you want to work on, and then he tells you to just start riding. After watching for several minutes, he'll start to murmur instructions into the ear piece: lower your right hand ... more inside leg ... MORE INSIDE LEG ... turn with your outside thigh.
He doesn't explain the reason for his instructions. There's no lecture. He essentially rides the horse through you which gives the rider the sensation of what correct work feels like. I am not always sure how we got there, but I always savor the feel that he helps me achieve.
As I knew he would, Izzy came to work very tense with a hollow back. That's his thing. Speedy always starts out flat. Getting him put together is also a challenge, but in a very different way. Izzy gets very short across his top line, almost in a U shape. His head flies up and his stride is super short. We've been working on it, but Christian finally helped me crack the code.
In a lesson with Chemaine a month or so ago, we started tackling the issue of Izzy's lack of throughness. She had me focus on holding the outside aids firmly while using my inside leg to push him to the outside rein. I've been working on it, but Izzy has been super resistant and often refuses to give. Christian challenged me to PUSH him to a shorter outside rein WITHOUT backing down.
It took many circles for Izzy to figure out that life is so much better when he yields to my inside leg and relaxes into the outside rein. Without Christian forcing me to hold it, I would never have had the guts to ask for something for that long. Essentially, Christian had me kick him repeatedly over and over into that shortened outside rein. I don't know how long it took for Izzy to soften the first time, but it was a while.
Once he finally gave to my inside leg and agreed to engage his hind end, I got the magical feeling that I've been struggling with for so long. Every time his head popped up, I shortened the outside rein and pushed him into it with my inside leg. Over. And over. And over. Relentlessly.
Izzy had a few little moments - he balked pretty good at the scary precipice end, but other than that, he didn't do anything naughty. Our work simply focused on showing him that he has to yield to my inside leg. Period. In some ways the ride was pretty boring as we stuck to a 20-meter circle at E/B, but I appreciated having the opportunity to "practice" getting him to soften.
Besides riding, the other reason that I enjoy this clinic so much is that I get to spend time with some of my very favorite people. Jen, the event organizer, always keeps things so friendly and positive. No snarky people are allowed to participate. I don't know how she weeds them out, but everyone who comes to this clinic is always super supportive and encouraging.
After the clinic, Jen drove me back to her barn so she could gather some more feed for her horse who ended up over-nighting at White Birch with Izzy. While we were there, we hung out with some of her barn mates. Every one of them is funny, witty, and just plain fun to be around. Several ladies insisted that Jen introduce me to Stanley, the barn's head squirrel. There are too many squirrels to count, but Stanley is so large that they all know him on sight.
Of course, the best part of every clinic is Saturday's dinner. This time, our group was smaller than usual, but we had a pretty good time. And like happens every time I ride with Team Symphony, I always meet someone new. This time, a new-to-us rider joined our little group. I hope to see John at future events. Anyone that can make internet failures as funny as he can is always welcome!
Day two tomorrow ...
Even though it seems directed at kids, I perused the description in hopes that the advanced course would allow 45-year old women to participate. Why is it that there are no camps for adults? I would go in a heart beat.
I am sharing this camp because it is fairly local, and the facility is simply gorgeous. The schooling show that Izzy and I did last month was held here. Even though it was only a schooling show, Marily ran it as professionally as any USDF show can be run, maybe even better. I am certain that her camp will be run just as well. I know the image is hard to read, but here's the gist of it.
Greetings from Sequoia Hills Stables ~
For more information, contact Marily at 559-564-2038.
Normally, if I don't have anything nice to say, I keep it to myself. That's really hard to do. I get just as irritated and ticked off as the next guy, but I've found that griping about it doesn't usually make anyone feel better. And believe it or not, that includes me.
In this particular instance, I mean no harm; I am just checking in with you to see what your experiences are. Over the past month, SmartPak, I company that I really like, has offered several items with free embroidery. I don't typically get stuff embroidered because I tend to keep junk forever and use it on the next horse. But, given that it was free embroidery on a fly mask, an item that barely lasts our never-ending summers, I decided to go a bit fancy.
I ordered both horses my regular Crusader fly mask. After several weeks of not receiving a shipping email, I checked online and saw that the order was being packaged. Okey-dokey. I checked again the next day and was dismayed to find that the order had vanished. I called customer service and was told that there had been some kind of glitch. I gave a frustrated sigh and had the woman just redo the order.
As I was paying bills and balancing my checkbook the next morning. I saw that the new charge was way off in price. I gave SmartPak another call and was told very apologetically that only one fly mask had been processed and sent to the embroiderer (my email confirmation listed both). I remained very polite on the phone, but I was seriously irritated!
How hard is it to get two fly masks embroidered and sent to my house?
Ultimately, I re-ordered Izzy's flymask without the embroidery and was assured it would go out with my Monday order. We'll see.
In the meantime, I had also taken SmartPak up on free embroidery on a dressage pad. I ordered another Union Hill Pad with Izzy's name.
When I asked about that order, I was assured that it was being processed and should be delivered soon. Again, we'll see.
I like SmartPak and have no intention of taking my regular business elsewhere, but I would like to know if getting stuff embroidered is usually this difficult. I have to say that I am disappointed that Izzy won't get the cute little stitching that I had planned for, but it is just a fly mask and it won't last long anyway. But still. Disappointed.
So tell me, where is the best place to get stuff personalized? Am I better off just taking my stuff to a local shop, or is there someplace that gets it right every time?
While at Bakersfield Vet Hospital for Speedy's most recent appointment, I ran through a few things with my vet, Dr. Tolley. I've worked hard to develop a good relationship with the team that cares for my horses, and that includes my vet. Over the years, I've made sure to ask for and follow the advice that my vet offers. He's been in practice for more than 30 years; he knows his stuff.
Right now, both of my boys are in fine shape, as they usually are. Both have awesome feet, and their coats gleam with good health. They're regularly vaccinated, their teeth are examined at least annually, and they're in excellent weight. Twice a year they're checked for worms with an eggs per gram fecal test and then given an appropriate dewormer. They see the chiropractor as needed, which is at least once a year. There is not much more that I can do.
Even so, I like to check in with my vet to see if he thinks there is anything else I should be doing. The one thing that I felt was missing was a mineral supplement. Izzy already receives a magnesium supplement (Quiessence), but I wondered if I shouldn't be giving both horses something more.
Hay grown in the western part of the United States is well known for being deficient in selenium and vitamin E. Selenium, an essential trace mineral that helps the body deal with stress, and vitamin E serve as anti-oxidants. While I know that our hay is deficient in these essential nutrients, I've never done anything about it. Until now.
Dr. Tolley and I talked about the various supplements from which to choose. He's fairly conservative in his approach to caring for horses and can usually be counted on to choose the simplest and most often, cheapest option. His own horses live on dry pasture with some added alfalfa cubes when the grass gets sparse.
He recommends horses get a good quality roughage, a fat source, and a mineral supplement. He likes my current feed regimen: both horses are fed alfalfa/oat cubes, loose hay (Speedy gets some alfalfa while Izzy gets a grass or stemmy grain hay), beet pulp, and rice bran. Each horses gets fed by weight, and I weigh my feed every now and again to check that it's still right. While the feed was great, he felt that a mineral supplement was indeed missing.
Many years ago, Dr. Tolley created his own mineral supplement that was designed to pair with the hay typically fed to horses in Kern County. He contracted with a local feed producer to manufacture his mineral supplement formula. It comes in a plain white bag, no fancy label, and is sold either at the vet hospital or at a local feed store, Rosedale Farrier Supply. It costs around $30 for a 50 pound bag, and Dr. Tolley recommends a one-pound serving daily.
I bought two bags, enough to try it out for seven weeks. Since it's a mineral supplement only, I won't see any changes in my horses. This isn't designed to shine their coats or harden their hooves. The purpose is to help them at a cellular level. The better their cells can function, the healthier they'll be. And ultimately, they should live longer and have more productive lives.
I should have enough of BVH's formula to last until we get back from vacation in late June. In the meantime, I'm evaluating two other mineral supplements: Platinum Performance and Grand Premium Plus. Both products are highly reviewed and well respected, but Platinum Performance was originally created by the doctors at Alamo Pintado, our area's premier equine medical center.
Platinum Performance was created to specifically aid bone and muscle healing in our equine patients. Based on research done over several years by Dr. Doug Herthel, we found that providing key trace minerals, highly bioavailable protein sources, vitamins and essential fatty acids that are missing from the modern horse diet, our patients experienced enhanced healing of muscles and bones, thus reducing the post-surgical recovery and promoting a smoother return to normal activity.
Both products come in multiple weight bags, but for comparison, I chose the 25 pound bags. Platinum Performance costs $1.69 per serving, while Grand Premium Plus runs slightly less at $1.49. BVH's Mineral Pellets come in a 50 pound bag and cost about $0.60 a serving, clearly the cheapest. While BVH's supplement is a lot cheaper, and remember I'm feeding two horses so cost is a factor, it doesn't come with all of the ingredients that the other two have.
When Dr. Tolley and I discussed my options, he asked if I needed or wanted all of the other ingredients. That was a very valid question and one that I am weighing seriously. As I look at the price of each supplement, I wonder if they're worth it for me right now. Feeding either of the name brand supplements would run me right around $100 per month. If I stick with BVH's supplement, I know I am getting the nutrients that they need without anything extra, but it would come at a price that I can easily afford.
Do you have any experience with either of these supplements? Do you feed something else that was recommended by your vet? If you had BVH's mineral supplement available, would you choose it over the pricier but more inclusive supplements?
I have to keep reminding myself just how steadily Izzy is progressing. It's easy to get discouraged when you're not flying through the levels. I just keep reminding myself that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is a Grand Prix horse. Whether we make it that far is to be seen of course, but it doesn't hurt to aim high.
Less than two months ago, Izzy finally held a right lead canter on a 20-meter circle. That was just eight short weeks ago. Since that time, we've improved so much that holding the lead is no longer an issue. Now we're working on picking it up quietly. He has improved so much that I can now canter the quarter line and even work our way down to a 15-meter circle. We're also able to canter a square.
Our left lead canter is also improving. We've been able to hold that lead only slightly longer than the right. Just a month ago, I could get a canter departure, but then we worked on holding it without exploding. Over the weekend, I was finally able to school multiple trot to canter transitions while on the same circle. There is still some fussing and an occasional temper tantrum, but he can now pick up a left lead, canter as long as I ask, come back to trot, and then pick up the left lead again.
I've stopped using the sliding side reins before every ride, but I am still using them several times a week. One of the things that I was finally able to school with them was adjusting his trot. When I first started lunging him, Izzy pretty much had a single gear, and it was a fast one. It's taken several weeks to show him that he can just trot around quietly. The same for the canter; it's not a race and he's not going to get there any faster.
Now, I can ask for a relaxed trot, slow it down to almost nothing, and then send him forward into a bigger trot. Once he figured out that he wasn't in trouble when I asked for the bigger trot, he happily listens for the cue to slow down and waits for me to send him into the bigger gait. I found that the more I sent him forward and brought him back, the transition to canter was so much easier for him. That's what happens when your hind end is engaged.
This coming weekend, we're riding in another two-day clinic with the always fabulous Dr. Christian Schacht. I am so excited to hear what he thinks about Izzy. I know that the work I do with Chemaine Hurtado falls right in line with Dr. Schacht's teaching, but it will be great to see how much of her lessons that I've been able to implement.
Izzy needs as many field trips as possible, and while I'll be missing a show hosted by my CDS Chapter, I think Izzy will get a lot more training and exposure at a two-day clinic. This will be his first time stabling over-night, and we'll school in the covered ring which can be scary for a lot of horses.
Our progress might be a bit slow, but it's there, and we're picking up speed. Mighty is not that far away!
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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