From Endurance to Dressage
Teaching is an extremely rewarding job, but occasionally it makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs. Fortunately that doesn't happen very often. School is just about finished for the year - the students' last day is Friday, so last week, my fifth grade team put on a full-day, celebratory event to wrap up our study of US History. Even though it was 100 degrees, I had the most fun I've had in a long while.
We call it Pioneer Day. To start with, all of the kids dressed up like early pioneers - jeans and suspenders with straw hats for the boys, calico dresses and bonnets for the girls. The kids were divided up in "families," and each family designed and built a covered wagon. Since my kiddos are virtual, I built one of the wagons. And yes, that is my muck-bucket cart. I bought wood-paneled contact paper and wrapped a cardboard box in it. Like most of the kids, I used pool noodles for the cover's ribs. I wired on a lariat and stuffed a feed bag full of alfalfa hay. I strung clothespins with baling twine and hung an Oregon or Bust sign on the opposite side. My girls loved it!
To start off the festivities, all of the "families" gathered out on the playground as our "guide" got us organized. Each family was given a map with the directions from Missouri to the Oregon Territory (a neighborhood map marked with the rivers and passes we would journey through and across). And then, one by one, each family got into line, forming a wagon train that stretched at least a hundred yards in length. We went out through the front gate of the school and proceeded through the neighborhood. Lots of the neighbors came out to wave and encourage us as we passed by. Along the way, we stopped at the park where each family was given a chance card. Many families "lost" members to snake bite, cholera, or wagon failure.
Since each wagon was home-built and decorated, there were quite a few mechanical failures. Many wagons lost wheels or simply fell apart. Since we had played a version of the game, "The Oregon Trail," the kids took the mishaps in stride and even proudly bragged about their calamities.
Once we got back to school, we parked all of the wagons out in the grass and spread blankets to sit on. The music teacher lead the kids in Home on the Range type singing and followed it up with square dancing. Right about that time, four of my little darlings decided they weren't having fun, so I was forced to quell their little revolt. That was an eyeball gouging moment that made me miss out on the singing and dancing. Ah, well.
For the final two hours, we set up stations around the field where the kids participated in weaving, crossing a river (a wading pool filled with ice and water), and even a trading post. Since "western" activities were well within my wheel house, I provided a game of horseshoes made from actual horse shoes. A very good friend removed the old nails, sanded off the rust, and then primed them. I finished them off with a coat of red and blue paint.
But of course, that wasn't the end of my contribution. As a grade level team, we tried to get district-approval to bring Speedy for the day, but that was a hard no. Instead, I improvised by hauling two straw bales, a bunch of bits, a halter and bridle, buckets of feed, saddle pads, and a western saddle to school. At my horse-inspired station, we talked about how the pioneers would have fed their oxen, mules, and horses, and then at the end, everyone got to climb in the saddle for a photo shoot.
I truly love my job, but the best moments are when I get to bring my love of horses to the kids. So many of today's kiddos have no connection with rural living, so showing them a part of life with which they have no experience serves to enrich their education. I actually had a few kids, boys no less, who asked if the bits had been in a horse's mouth. When I said of course, they dropped the bits with a disgusted look on their faces and wiped their hands on their britches. I laughed.
Kids are so funny.
On Thursday evening, I tried to buff the finish one last time. I wasn't able to get rid of the stroke marks, so I gave it one more light application of Clyde's Conditioning Cream. On Friday morning, I tossed my saddle in the truck, prepared to ride in it after work.
As I saddled up, I was quite pleased with how it looked. All of the tackiness had disappeared, and even after rubbing it vigorously with a paper towel, no black came off. I wasn't able to smooth out the stroke marks, but all of that is under my butt and thighs anyway, so I truly didn't care. Having it all black was what mattered most.
I rode for just under an hour. When I dismounted, I was very disappointed to see that something was wrong with the finish under my seat bones and thighs. I couldn't figure out if the dye had rubbed off - I was wearing black tights, or if the finish had been removed. Once I unsaddled, I was able to get a closer look at it. I had used the deglazer which is intended to strip the finish which allows the dye to penetrate the leather. It clearly worked.
I went back to Clyde's website and read the detailed instructions again. According to the directions, the Leather Conditioning Balm should have been the last step. I put my saddle away and added another layer of balm, but the finish looked exactly the same the next morning. Since I had a lesson, I rode in it anyway, but then I brought it back home.
I pulled out my supplies from the first time I dyed the saddle back in 2018. Back then, I had purchased the black leather dye, Deglazer, Tan-Kote, and Resolene, all made by Fiebings. The Tan-Kote is a finishing product that adds shine to the leather. The Resolene is a glossy final finish that is durable and water repellant. The last time I dyed the saddle, I used the Resolene, but I wouldn't use it again as it made the finish too glossy.
I started out by wiping a tiny bit of the Tan-Kote on the seat just to see what it did. It did indeed make the leather shiny, so I coated the entire seat, saddle skirt, and both fenders. I let it dry and was very encouraged by the shine. After watching a video from Fiebings, I decided to apply a second coat of the Tan-Kote.
Later that afternoon, my saddle looked great. By the next morning, the Tan-Kote felt cured and dry, so I decided to ride. As it turns out, it wasn't quite dry enough.
On Sunday morning, after having sat for twelve hours on a warm day, the finish no longer felt tacky. As I warmed Izzy up, things felt pretty good. It wasn't until I started to do a rising trot that I knew the saddle hadn't yet dried. My butt came out of the saddle, but my breeches did not. Since Izzy was already saddled and we were moving, I decided to just see what happened. I rode for 30 minutes and then got off to check how much damage had been done. The loss of shine wasn't too bad, but I want to try and fix it.
In late June we're going on vacation which means if I apply anything to the saddle it will have nearly a week to dry and cure. I am going to continue riding over the month which will give me enough rides to see how much of the Tan-Kote and Recoloring Balm are worn away, if any. I am hoping that after today's ride things will look settled.
I'll keep you posted.
EDITED: I would skip the deglazer.
Four years ago, I dyed my used, but new-to-me dressage saddle. it was a scary process, but a fellow blogger had done it successfully, so I gave it a try. It ended up looking quite nice, and I was happy with the results. Lately, my saddle has once again had that grayish, sickly hue rather than being jet black.The most offensive areas of the saddle were the cantle and the front of the saddle's knee rolls. Those are the areas that see the most sunlight. My saddle is stored indoors under a cover, so the fading happens while tacking/untacking and riding.
I've been seeing ads on Facebook for Clyde's Leather Recoloring Balm. After watching some reviews on Youtube, I ordered the black recoloring balm as well as the conditioning cream. Their website was a tiny bit tricky to use because there are lots of deals, but they only work if you buy the right combination of products. Shipping is also free if you spend $40, which I did.
Shipping wasn't super fast, but I wasn't in any hurry either. Cleaning your saddle alone takes some planning and preparation. Recoloring it was something I really had to plan for. Since I was going to a show and needed to clean my saddle for that, I figured I could do the recoloring afterwards. And since it was super hot this week - several days of over 100, the timing worked out perfectly because I wasn't going to ride anyway.
I brought my saddle home on Monday afternoon and cleaned up the little bit of dust that had accumulated over the weekend. I had done a good cleaning job a few days before, so it didn't need much work. Like the first time I dyed the saddle, I used a deglazer to remove as much of the Resolene from the saddle that I could - although most of that had long since worn away. I also stripped off my leathers and gathered my supplies. Clyde's sent a mini brush, a small sponge, and a pair of disposable gloves. Use the gloves; this stuff is inky black.
The recoloring balm feels a bit like boot black cream. I started by dabbing off the product that was stuck to the seal underneath the lid and applied it carefully to the saddle's skirt thinking that if it looked horrible, at least it wouldn't show too much. Once I could tell that it was going to be fine, I moved to the saddle's cantle. I found that the balm worked a bit like a stain - spread too thinly and it didn't cover enough. Instead, I found that dabbing it on covered the gray the most effectively. Once it was covered, I used a circular motion to smooth it out.
I spent less than 20 minutes applying the recoloring balm. What I quickly discovered, and liked, was that I didn't have to apply it everywhere. I focused on the grayest areas first and was then able to blend it into the areas of the saddle that were still black. Different parts of the saddle absorbed the recoloring cream more easily than others. The butt of the saddle (the rear part of the panels) and the leather under the panels absorbed the cream much more smoothly. Those parts of my saddle have a dimpling pattern in the leather rather being super smooth.
I also liked that it was a cream rather than a liquid. When I used the black dye the first time, I had to be really careful not to spill the bottle or splash the dye as I applied it. With the cream, I could hold the container in one hand and dip the sponge in as needed without worrying about it spilling.
I tried to apply the cream in a circular fashion as recommended. As I was working, I could tell that I was going to need to buff out the stroke marks once it had a chance to cure. The direction sheet recommends 24 - 36 hours for curing. Since I applied the recoloring cream on a warm day, I let the saddle sit for an hour or two and then went to check on it. It was completely dry. I tried buffing out the application marks, but a little black came off on my microfiber rag, so I decided to let it sit until the next day. Instead of buffing, I applied a light coating of the conditioning cream and rubbed it in gently.
So far, I am more than satisfied with the color. While it might look a bit "splotchy" with stroke marks, once it is being used, it won't bother me a bit. I am also not finished with it yet, so it may buff out better once it has cured. Even the stroke marks don't smooth out, it still looks so much better that I don't care. It was also a very, very quick DIY project that was much less scary than using actual saddle dye.
Stay tuned; I'll share the final results on Monday.
Many, many thanks to the amazing photographer, Bailey Crocoll, a good friend of my friend, Wendy, which makes us all friends. Even though Izzy and I didn't actually "show," Bailey was kind enough to catch some really pretty shots of the big brown horse. Be still my heart!
While we didn't actually make it into the dressage court, we at least looked good doing it.
I mentioned this in yesterday's post, but I used the Pivo Pod at a show this weekend. That little gadget is worth its weight in gold. If you're new to the Pivo Pod world, Pivo is a small device that enables your cell phone to track and record your movements. I've been using Pivo to record my rides for nearly two years. Last summer, I began using Pivo's Meet feature to take virtual lessons with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage.
It was Sean's suggestion that we try using Pivo at a show so that he could coach me virtually. According to the USEF Rulebook, Dressage Division Rule 120.5 regarding the use of Electronic Communication Devices, ... Electronic devices that transmit and/or receive information may be used in the stabling area and in warm up areas. Sean offered to coach me at the show with the Pivo, but instead of mounting it to the fence, he suggested I have someone hold it who could "force" it to track just me. I didn't know if it would work or not, but I was more than willing to give it a try. The difficulty is that Pivo will follow any horse that crosses its path unlike the much pricier version that works via GPS. Pivo doesn't care who it follows which makes it challenging to use in an arena where there is more than one horse.
Pivo recently stopped supporting Pivo Meet, the app that I had been using for our virtual lessons, so one day last week I had to download Pivo's newest app, Pivo+, and get familiar with its controls. We used it for the lesson on Saturday without any issues. I was pretty sure we could get it to work at the show.
The hard part was figuring out a way for someone to hold a cell phone for nearly an hour. It's fine to record one or two tests, but tracking a rider in a busy warm up for 30 - 45 minutes would get pretty tiring. While I was giving my friend Kathy a quick tutorial, we discovered that the simplest thing would be to hold the phone and Pivo Pod while they were mounted to my little tripod, which is how we ended up doing it.
Once we had everything hooked up, I launched the Pivo+ app, sent the meeting link to Sean, and waited for him to join me. I know it wasn't an easy job for Kathy, but we couldn't have done it without her. While Sean and I could hear each other perfectly through my earbuds (and he could mostly see me), she had no idea what was going on because she couldn't hear either of us.
Meanwhile, Pivo would suddenly swing left or right as it landed on the nearest horse. She would try to keep my phone pointed towards me, but Pivo would get a wild hair and look left and right. Since its field of view is pretty big, Sean could still see me, but Kathy couldn't tell. And even though I told her not to worry about any of it because Sean could take control of the Pivo remotely, she still worried because she knew how much stress I was feeling trying to keep control of the big brown monster. Kathy later quipped, if you can't impose on your friends, who can you impose on?
Once it was all over, we sat in the sun for some lunch and laughed about the whole thing. Not that it even remotely paid her back for her effort, but I gave her the swag bag show management provided to all of the competitors before I even peeked inside. I also brought lunch and let her choose which bag of chips she wanted first. That's just the kind of friend I am.
I am not sure how many other riders are using their Pivo Pod for show coaching, but it worked great! We will definitely be doing it again.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%