From Endurance to Dressage
Half pass at canter is hard. Really hard. Super hard if you're on a horse who just doesn't really like lateral work. You know, horses like the gray speedy pony. Speedy doesn't much care for the half pass at trot or canter. He's not particularly fond of leg yielding either.
After getting some good lateral work after that hard-to-name canter exercise, I thought I'd try a canter half pass with the correct bend. Since the canter half pass is still a relatively new movement for me, I don't always know how to best set it up. The flailing fail we had was probably a lot my fault since I decided to half pass from the center of my very wide arena to no place in particular.
As we came around the corner, I set Speedy up as we came down the middle of the arena. I asked for sideways and he shot forward as though he had never stepped sideways a day in his life. When I say shot forward, I mean he kind of bolted. Jerk. I immediately changed the bend, and smacked his hip with the whip and said move it, mister! in a pretty stern voice.
As soon as I changed the bend and threatened his butt with another good whack, he was all about the sideways. Unfortunately, a canter half pass with the wrong bend is not going to score very well.
Not wanting him to think that a canter half pass has a wrong bend, I tried it again, but the next effort was out of the corner and back to the rail. That he can do. I am fairly certain his "success" had a lot to do with the fact that I was aiming at tree (I don't have letters) and riding it like renvers along a diagonal line.
If the canter half pass is broken, it's totally my fault. That's what you get when you play around with something without using it correctly. Stuff gets broken. Good thing I have a good trainer and a lesson (hopefully) this weekend.
Enjoy your weekend!
Boy do I have a good one for her. Hopefully she leaves me enough money to cover Speedy's latest vet bill. His tooth got pulled yesterday.
In mid-March, Speedy whacked his jaw on one of the poles that supports the roof over his shelter, knocking a tooth loose. He has a frustrating habit of whirling and pacing when he's anxious, so that was our best guess. Hoping to save the tooth, my vet anchored it to the neighboring tooth with wire. You can read about it here. When after two months the tooth still hadn't settled back in place, Dr. Tolley said it needed to come out.
Equine dentistry is very similar to human dentistry. Speedy first got a tranquilizer/sedative and then just like you'd do to a human patient, Dr. Tolley numbed Speedy's gums and lips. After that, he snipped the two wires that were holding the tooth in place. He first tried to pull the tooth with a good wiggle, and then he grabbed a tool similar to a flat-tipped screw driver and attempted to dig it free.
When neither of his first attempts accomplished the job, Dr. Tolley grabbed a pair of good old pliers. With a firm tug, Speedy's tooth popped free.
Just like when a kid looses a tooth, there was a fair amount of bleeding that Dr. Tolley mopped up with gauze. Once he cleaned up Speedy's mouth, the bleeding stopped. He next examined the hole searching for fragments.
The incisors, like all equine teeth, attach deep within the jaw bone. Without an x-ray to confirm it, Dr. Tolley wanted to be sure that the fracture had been a clean one without tooth fragments hindering the healing process. It should be completely healed in about three weeks, but I am to check it daily for any signs of an infection.
When I asked Dr. Tolley about aftercare, he shrugged and said there wasn't a therapy that he thought would hasten the healing process. He said to just ride him. By the time we got home, Speedy was happy and appeared pain free. I gave him nearly an hour to graze and wander. He might have still been numb of course, but he happily chomped on the grass, pausing for a long drink at Izzy's trough.
Hopefully he ate dinner last night. I warned the ranch owner, who doles out Speedy's morning Prascend, that he might be particularly grouchy about getting his pill this morning. Hopefully the text I get is a good one.
When I had my last lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she showed me an exercise that I haven't yet shared. It came as we ended the lesson, kind of in response to a question I had about getting Speedy to MOVE his hind end over, particularly in the half pass. Be prepared for your brain to melt just a little bit.
Speedy is built to go forward in a pretty level frame. Moving sideways is hard for him. Sitting is equally difficult. Third Level is all about lateral movements with collection though, so we're always looking for ways to show him how to move his body over and stay balanced.
The exercise Chemaine showed us doesn't really have a name. On Facebook, someone called it a "counter canter leg yield." If that helps you visualize it, then the name suits. Essentially, it's a canter half pass with the wrong bend. How do you even ... and why would you? I know, smoke came out of my ears, too.
Here's how it goes: pick up a canter. For us, the more difficult half pass and flying change is the right to left canter, so we started with a right lead canter. As you come through the corner, cross the diagonal. Change the bend, BUT HOLD THE LEAD. Push the haunches to the right with the intention of getting them parallel to the shoulders. Once you arrive at the rail or corner, do the flying change.
The difficulty with this exercise, of the many actually, was keeping my inside leg forward to say hold the lead while at the same time pushing my outside hip into him to tell tell him to move his hips OVER.
We only did the exercise with Chemaine once or twice in each direction, enough so that I understood what I would be asking for. When I rode Speedy a day or two later, I tried it again near the beginning of the ride while he was still fresh. A battle of near epic proportions ensued.
Instead of moving his haunches and body, he barreled through my right rein with his shoulder, and gave me a huge middle finger. I jerked him to halt and then picked up the right lead canter again. And again he blew through my rein and again I halted him. We ran through the exercise until he finally started to respect my right rein, and suddenly, he could move laterally. He gave a very good flying change, and that was it.
The next time I rode him, there was no fight in the exercise, and he did it correctly in both directions. The flying changes were smooth and easy. This exercise is now my go-to for fixing a dragging hind end. Here's a quick video of riding it with Chemaine explaining.
If you've used this, share what it fixed, and if you try it, share how it helped. I am still trying to get the hang of it.
As hoped, Izzy and I hit the trail on Saturday with my friend Marci and her Arabian gelding Gem. I am over the moon happy with how much progress Izzy has made over the past few weeks. Just one month ago, I told my husband that I had had it with Izzy and that he was officially for sale. I just couldn't get through to him. We had great days, great months even, but then the jackassery would begin anew.
In desperation, I had a clandestine lesson in April with a trainer who I knew would be honest with me. I needed someone who had no personal relationship with me to critically evaluate my riding. I needed to know if I was the right rider for Izzy. Since that lesson, everything about our relationship has changed. A few things clicked into place giving me some new strategies for deescalating Izzy's tension.
One thing that Sean Cunningham, the trainer with whom I met, observed was that under saddle, Izzy wasn't really looking to me for security or guidance. While there are a lot of ways to gain your horse's trust, it happens best for me on the trail. With Sean's words fresh in my mind, I took Izzy to Summer Lane Farm's annual trail ride in early May. The next weekend I met up with Marci and Gem for a trail ride along the river bottom. And when Sunday's show got cancelled, I hastily emailed Marci and asked if she had plans for Saturday. Izzy has done more traveling in a month than he has over the past two years. I think I've been a little remiss.
We didn't take pictures, so it's hard to show you the kind of trail we rode, but it presented both of our horses with plenty of challenges. To my utter delight, Izzy tackled them like a seasoned pro. We started out by climbing the bluffs which look just like you would imagine - a mostly vertical wall with trails carved along its face.
When green horses are first asked to go downhill, they often lean forward, threatening to go ass over tea kettle. When we turned around to head back to the river bottom, I prepared for the ubiquitous nose dive that was sure to come. Instead, Izzy rocked back on his haunches, got light on his front end, and carefully picked his way down to level ground. I am not going to lie, my jaw might have hit the ground in total surprise. Who was this horse and where has he been hiding?
We rode for a solid two hours climbing whoop-dee-dos, stepping over logs, squeezing through narrow channels, crossing the bike bridges (again), and even splashing in the Kern River. Izzy never jigged, choosing instead to plod along (mostly) willing to go where I pointed him.
The only "issue" he had was staying focused on such a busy day. The trails were filled with hikers, runners, other horses, cyclists, and dogs. HIs head was on a swivel. I insisted he keep his poll loose though. That was the purpose of these trail rides: learning to stay relaxed even when things are distracting.
With school ending on Friday, I'll have a lot more free time to do more away-from-home things. On the agenda are more Saturday rides with Marci, at least one more lesson with STC Dressage, and maybe even another trail ride back at Summer Lane Farm. While my main goal for the summer is to get my Bronze Medal with Speedy, getting Izzy to a show is also on the list.
All we can do is try!
I needed some retail therapy this weekend, so it's a good thing the sales were aplenty. There wasn't any particular reason as to why I felt the need to spend money that I shouldn't other than maybe being bummed out by yesterday's show being cancelled. And truthfully, I really should be using my money to chip away at Speedy's winter vet bill. I still owe $819.40, and I'll be adding to that on Wednesday when I take him in to have that pesky tooth pulled.
As I paid bills and budgeted for the month of June, I threw caution to the wind and hit the Place Order button. I just couldn't resist Riding Warehouse's Memorial Day sale. The 20% off nearly everything sale goes through today, so you've still got time to order.
I am pretty sure a hundred bucks isn't going to break the bank, and really, it's not like I went hog wild or anything. Most of it was stuff that I will be needing in the next month or so. Body Glide is a savior over the summer, and I throw in a bottle of Pyranha nearly every time I order, especially in the summer.
The Flaxen Flow is something I am using to see if I can keep Izzy's skin and coat better moisturized. I had Speedy on Platinum Performance's flaxseed oil for more than a year to help him with his weight. While I think it's a great product, it's pricey, something I've mentioned before. Flaxen flow is a lot cheaper. The first bag lasted three months. At $27 a bag, that comes out to $9 a month, well worth the price of experimentation.
Izzy's coat takes such a beating in the summer that I am experimenting with a couple of different products to see if I can keep his coat moisturized. The flaxseed oil is one of them. His coat has already lightened considerably over the past month, and I am beginning to think it's less from sun fading though and more from genetics. Maybe this is really his summer coat color.
The entire month of May has been cloudy and rainy. We've had longer daylight hours, but we haven't had the intense sunshine we typically get this time of year. Izzy's coat still lightened, but it's also a lot silkier than last summer. Is that because the sun hasn't burned it, or is the flaxseed oil keeping his skin and coat moisturized? By the end of this second bag, I'll know that it was working if his coat stays soft.
While I can sort of justify buying another pair of breeches - it's ridiculously hot here in the summer, and I NEEDED another pair of cooler riding tights; the three pair of tights I bought last year are still awesome but too big for my smaller self; I needed a pocket; the truth is that I couldn't pass up a pair of full seat tights for under $45. That's a great price, especially if I like them. They should be here on Wednesday, so I'll let you know what I think.
So? Anything you couldn't pass up this weekend? Or maybe you're heading over to the Riding Warehouse right now to get in on the bargains. Let me know what you got!
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 …
3/6-7 El Sueño (***)
4/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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 (***)
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