From Endurance to Dressage
I don't think Speedy and I are ever going to make it to a show this season. Between California's freakishly weird weather and Speedy's attempts to maim himself, we're still stuck at home. For the first time in its history, which is looooong, the Tehachapi Chapter of CDS has had to cancel a show.
I am super disappointed, but that's horses. If something can go awry, it will. There's no sense in boohooing about it. Instead, I've already printed the show premium for our next show which is a USDF/USEF/CDS affair.
My friend Jen is the show manager/secretary for all of the El Sueno shows, which are my favorite. The rings are lovely, stabling is swanky if you pay for the upgrade, and she lets me camp on the cross country course for free.
El Sueno also has a fun Loyalty Card program where after you pay for ten classes, you get a class free. I have eight stamps right now, so this show, a two-day event, will fill my card and get me started on another.
Given how expensive USDF/USEF shows are, El Sueno's got a good plan in attracting riders by giving them something back for their repeat business.
When Speedy and I made the move to Second Level last show season, I was annoyed to find that our hard work was going to cost me an extra 40 bucks since I ride two tests over two days. I had never paid attention to the costs of the higher level classes. I never thought we'd actually get that far.
Besides the two El Sueno shows, the only other USDF/USEF-rated show I did in 2018 was the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, and it already has added costs since it's run like an AA Championship (even though it isn't. They give lots of swag so the extra cost is worth it). Now that we're showing Third Level, the sticker shock has worn off, but I am curious to know if other shows charge more for the mid- and FEI Level tests.
Since I'm not showing on Sunday, I've messaged my endurance friend Marci to see if she wants to hit the trail again on Saturday. If I can't show, I might as well give Izzy some more out and about experience.
To those of you showing this weekend, good luck!
On Tuesday, I had one of those lessons where your brain gets buzzy, and you almost feel like you had too much to drink. But in a good way. With Sunday's show likely to be cancelled, I told Chemaine, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, that I just wanted a regular lesson. There wasn't any need to try and polish anything up for the show. I am glad that's the direction we went because we tackled some of our fundamental weaknesses.
The first was our consistency. Chemaine used that word over and over throughout the lesson: consistency of frame. consistency of rhythm, consistency of bend, and so on. Now that we're showing Third Level, we have to kick it up a notch, tighten things up, and smooth out the rough edges.
Keeping Speedy consistent in his frame is my job. Too often he plays around trying to avoid the frame that I've established. As soon as Chemaine encouraged me to "get him consistent in the frame," something just clicked. She probably didn't see the light bulb come on over my head, but I sure felt it. By maintaining that consistency in his frame, he'll be more balanced in his collection and of course steadier in the bridle.
For the rest of the lesson, consistency became the theme. For the shoulder-in, Chemaine reminded me to keep a steadier tempo. Move the shoulders over, half halt to keep him on the rail, but then release the halt halt to allow him to move. So often my half halt is too long, preventing Speedy from moving forward. Chemaine encouraged a half halt, half halt, let go. Half halt, half halt, let go rhythm to encourage more fluidity in the shoulder-in.
She employed the same strategy for the renvers and the half pass. Half halt to move the haunches, keep a consistent bend, and allow him to move forward. Repeat, repeat, repeat. When we moved to the trot half pass, she changed the aids slightly by directing me to do shoulder-in slightly to haunches in to shoulder-in to haunches in. By putting all of this together, I was able to keep better flexion while keeping his haunches to the inside of the bend all while still maintaining a consistent tempo.
One weakness that's no longer is our medium trot. A year and a half ago, I could barely sit a working trot. I made it my mission to be able to a) sit the trot so that I could show at Second Level, and b) sit the trot so that I could someday get out of Second Level. I worked on it over last winter and by our first show in March of 2018, I could sit the collected trot, but I bounced all over the place for the medium.
I continued to work at it last summer until I could more or less sit the medium trot without too much air beneath my butt. Chemaine promised me that as Speedy's medium trot got more balanced, more powerful, and more uphill, the medium and extended trot would be easier to sit. She was right. I still don't sit it as effortlessly as I would like, but I am sitting it, and more importantly, I am actually creating the medium trot with my seat.
This series of screen shots is from one medium/extended trot across the long diagonal. Our extended trot looks suspiciously like our medium trot. Maybe the judge won't notice.
We couldn't finish the lesson without schooling the flying changes. They are so much improved, but there's still work to be done. The left to right change is almost reliable if I set him up correctly and remember to look in the direction of the new lead. The right to left change is still a bit hit or miss. It happens, but they're often dramatic or not clean or he simply changes before I ask. Here's a left to right change done relatively correctly (after about five attempts).
At the end of the lesson, I asked Chemaine to be straight with me. Compared to other adult amateurs on horses that they're bringing up from ground zero - in other words, riders not on school masters or $80,000 imports whose extended trot has to be tempered rather than developed, how do I stack up? I don't need to be awesome. I don't need a 70%. I just don't want to embarrass myself or her at a show. I don't want to be that rider that causes the judge and everyone around her to cringe.
While Chemaine's response didn't make me shout out hell yeah!, I was relieved. She replied, Let me put it this way: everything is recognizable. You know what? I'll take that. Recognizable is at least a 5, and maybe even a 6. We're ready.
Well, not on Monday. But that's only because I had no lesson or show planned. In fact, it was downright lovely. Our normally 90 plus degrees were tempered with this series of winter storms that has invaded California. So instead of 90 degrees, it was in the 70s. Instead of searing blue skies, we had big puffy clouds. Overall, it was quite a lovely day.
Of course on Sunday, the day I was supposed to ride with Sean Cunningham of STC Dressage, it poured and poured and poured some more. I rode with Sean about a month ago and was really looking forward to hearing what he thought about what we look like now. I also had a stack of questions for him now just growing taller.
Even though Sean couldn't make it to Bakersfield for a lesson, I still tried to ride. If you count saddling up and then hunkering down in the hay barn as the rain cascaded off the roof. I eventually just gave up and pulled Izzy's saddle.
Even without a lesson, things have really started to come together since that lesson a month ago. Shifting my focus to lateral flexion above all else has really helped Izzy relax. When he gets tense or worried, the tension just builds until his brain falls out. Sean's idea of going back to lateral flexion seems to allow the tension to simply dissipate.
It is in the trot work that I am really seeing the relaxation. One thing that I "discovered" on my own about the efficacy of lateral flexion is that when Izzy gets tense and braces through his poll, I flex him to the side and then I turn to look at the hip on the same side. I insist on the flexion as I ride him forward into the turn. Even though it feels like magic, I know it's just a matter of more weight being put on my inside seat bone and aligning my shoulders to his. It still feels like a magic trick though as his tension slowly melts.
On Saturday, we worked on the canter. Lateral flexion, especially to the right, is much harder to get so I asked him for a lot of counter canter and then counter flexing in the true canter. With counter canter I also asked for canter half pass, and then on a whim, I asked for the flying change. Of course he nailed it.
For Monday's ride we did a fair amount of leg yielding in the trot before moving to the canter. And then in the canter, I again asked for shallow counter canter loops. I can't say that he ever truly gave to the right rein, but he actually settled in to a nice rhythm and accepted the half halts.
I am hoping to make the drive to Moorpark in a couple of weeks to meet up with Sean again. While it's more convenient if Sean could make it here, the trip off property will be good for Izzy. We're progressing slowly, but I still have summer plans for him.
A show maybe?
I am sure that California is the butt of everyone's jokes this week. While the rest of the country has been languishing in the winter of 2019, Californians have been donning tank tops and sunscreen. Turns out, the joke's on us. Winter must have heard us smugly snarking about our 90 degree weather and flipped a u-turn. She then slammed into us broadside and dumped rain and snow all over the state. Not once, not twice, but for more than a week. And she's not done.
This month, Bakersfield has already had 1.4 inches of rain, excluding what's predicted for today. And while that number might look puny to you all, we only get a bit over 6 inches for the entire year! An inch in May is far, far out of the normal range.
I looked back at data spanning 24 years, and I could only find one year, ONE YEAR, that showed more than a trace of rain in Bakersfield for the entire month of May (2005 with .75" of precipitation). It simply does not rain in California during the summer months. In fact, it rarely rains until November or December. And even then it's only a few days out of the month. It has already rained 6 times this month in Bakersfield, and we still have 10 days to go!
Big deal, right? It's just rain. It happens. Normally I would agree, but our first show is on Sunday in Bear Valley where it's supposed to rain every single day this week, including both weekend days. I sent a pitiful email to the show manager and asked whether the show was still on. It's a yes for now, but it will all depend on how well the footing holds up.
I am trying to be hopeful, but I will be so disappointed if Speedy and I don't get to give Third Level a try on Sunday. My plan is/was to show at this CDS show before going to a USDF show two weeks later. I'd really like a practice run before we go "live." You know what I mean?
Ah, well ... it will be what it will be. But still. Quit raining, dammit!
With out first show of 2019 just days away, I gave Speedy a final haircut. My pre-show grooming routine isn't particularly fancy, but I do like Speedy to be neat and tidy.
Out of sheer laziness I've jumped on the bumper of the German "fuzzy muzzle" bandwagon. I quit shaving muzzles a few years ago. Since both boys live outside, it's justified. I miss a clean shaven chin though. While I leave the muzzle hairs in place, I do clean up his jaw and beard. A shaggy head is rather unattractive. And besides, it's easier to keep the jaw cleaner when it's clipped. Flies can make a mess in between the jaw bones.
I've never been a fan of shaving the inside of the ears though; ear hair keeps flies out, although I do gently clip anything that's protruding. Speedy might be approaching old many status, but there's no reason to advertise. I also like a freshly clipped bridle path, even keeping it trimmed throughout the winter.
A few weeks back I tackled Speedy's fetlock feathers, cutting off most of the hair in a rough cut. His feathers get really, really long. Like pony tail long. Izzy hardly grows any fetlock hair. Go figure. Since it's a pretty big job, I saved the "finer" cutting for this past Saturday. You can still see the clipper strokes, but by Sunday, it will have evened out. The judge can't see it anyway.
As I trimmed up the hair from his front feet, I scrubbed at the crusty skin left over from his winter of woe. You might remember the many times he tried to maim himself, including tearing off both front feet. I am happy to report that the hair has grown back over the wounds of both front legs, hiding any scar tissue. Unless you rub your hands over the bumpy skin, you can't even tell he had sutures.
I rubbed a squirt of Knotty Horse oil treatment through his mane and tail, and once his tail was tangle free, I banged the ends. I don't think I've mentioned it, but I bought the 1.5 oz size of Knotty Horse for myself. I use it several times a week and am thrilled with how soft and silky my hair is getting. That stuff is amazing.
I also used my tail thinning comb to thin out the bushiness. That tool was an awesome find. I checked on my link to the comb and discovered that it doesn't work anymore, but a quick search on Amazon revealed that it is still available here.
Of course on show day, Speedy will get a bath, and I'll braid his mane. He enjoys showing, so even if his girl doesn't go all out on grooming, he brings enough sparkle to make up for it.
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read