From Endurance to Dressage
I am heading out the door to give Speedy G a quick bath, he had a good one yesterday, and then up to Tehachapi. We had some solid canter transitions yesterday when I rode, so hopefully we bring those with us. Wish us luck!
This is not what I had intended for today's post. If you want to read that, scroll down and find the read more link and you can see what I was about to complain about. Instead, I want to, no, I NEED to write about Friday's ride. In short? It was AWESOME!!!!!!!
With a show on Sunday and this horrible heat, I decided to get to the barn early and just hit the trail. We haven't left the barn in at least five weeks (EHV-1/vacation), so I was eager to do something besides ride in the arena.
Going back a bit ... dear friend Taz's mom, who looked after Speedy while I was on vacation, had nothing but wonderful things to say about Speedy when I got home. She was so impressed with how friendly and polite he was and how willing to do whatever was asked of him. She's known him since day 1, and frankly, he was a bit of a stinker as a three and four-year-old. Even during his five and six-year-old years he was known to pull a few naughty tricks. But now, as a blooming seven-year-old, he appears to have turned into a right nice fellow.
So as I headed out onto the trail, I kept her words in my mind and realized that I am no longer riding that undependable four-year-old. I quit worrying that he was going to fall down or flip out. A few cars roared by which in the past would have sent him straight up into the air. He flicked an eye and stiffened his neck a bit, but onward and forward he went. The only thing he had real reason to freak out about, which he didn't, was a LARGE, YELLOW school bus that pulled up behind us pretty quietly and released its air brakes. That would scare ANY seasoned pony. Speedy did stop, tense his whole body, and step quickly away, but he did it with control. I was so proud of him!
That's all real nice, but it's not even what I wanted to write about. What I want to scream and shout and dance about is that on the way home, while Speedy was moving very nicely forward, we had some of the absolutely best strides of back to front connection that we have yet managed. I felt his back come up under me, my legs turned into melted ice cream as I gently hugged his barrel, I felt the most wonderful connection from the bit to my hands, and I RODE MY HORSE WITH MY SEAT! Can I get an AMEN sister?!
While in London we had the opportunity to visit the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace - sounds better than it was. But, it involved horses and hubby was sweet enough to humor me and in we went. We saw LOTS of coaches, but not so many horses. When you visit the royal stables, somehow you should see horses actually stabled. We got a quick peak at three. The website, actually very interesting, does point out that the horses aren't always on view as they travel and are occasionally out of the city resting. Well, darn! In any case, we actually preferred watching the mounted pair that were patrolling the park in front of Buckingham Palace.
Here's a quick video of what we saw ...
The official website of the British Monarchy says that only Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays are kept at the Royal Mews. This pair certainly seemed to fit that description, but the website of the Metropolitan Police - Mounted Unit says, "a half or three-quarter-bred animal has been found to be the best suited to police work." Check out the MPS site, it's pretty interesting.
The black on the right appeared to be the "junior" horse. While waiting for a light to change, a loud motorcycle came up from behind and he danced around a little as the officer on the big gray motioned for the traffic to wait as he and his partner advanced forward. When we saw them walking through the park, the black horse was definitely hanging back a half-a-length. He just had that look that said, "where's my buddy?"
I really loved the turn-out of both horses and was impressed with how clean and well-maintained their tack appeared to be. Wouldn't expect anything different ...
Here’s Where the "Ride" Ends and the Story Begins:
I begged, and then forced, Speedy to get to the top of the last hill. I knew we were in some sort of trouble, and perched on the side of the hill was not going to help. Speedy crested the hill and stopped. He refused to take another step. He wasn’t blowing, his pulse dropped immediately down to the 50’s, but he wouldn’t go any further. The drag riders were now with me and both ladies were pretty concerned. We decided that we should radio for help, stay where we were, and let Speedy rest.
The radio that they were using was on a shared “signal” and our messages only made it to the dispatch occasionally, which made communication nearly impossible. It was decided that we should travel a bit further to make it to the nearest marked trail so that help, if it arrived, would be able to locate us. After much tugging and pulling, Speedy was encouraged to go just a bit further to a jeep road. And then we waited. For two hours.
During our wait, one of the drag riders spent quite a bit of time massaging Speedy’s knotted hind end. The knots were so pronounced on his rump that you could feel them just by running your hand over his butt. On his inner thighs you could see the tendons standing out on his skin. The massage really helped though, and Speedy finally cocked a leg and went to sleep.
When Speedy woke up we decided to coax him down the hill a little ways to a bowl-like area that was filled with tall, green grass. It was now 8:00 p.m. None of the horses had drunk in over three hours. If we were going to stay the night, a very real possibility, we knew the horses needed some moisture, even if it was only from grass. It took some time, but Speedy finally agreed to walk to the grass. He immediately started eating and then peed a lovely stream of lemonade-colored urine. Hurray! No blood, which would have indicated a tie-up.
One of the drag riders decided to ride further down the road in hopes of spotting the trailer that we hoped was coming. Instead, she found Dr. Seals hiking in to find us with 5 liters of fluid, electrolytes, Banamine, and a pail to carry it all. A driver and a guide accompanied him. The drag rider rode back to us and we decided to head their direction. It took another hour to get the fluid into Speedy, and while that was happening, the group devised a plan for getting us all off the mountain. No trailer was coming. The roads were just not accessible for anything other than a serious four-wheel drive truck, and the trail we were supposed to take was simply too steep for Speedy to navigate. We would have to find a different way out.
The driver took my helmet and bridle, handed me a coat, and gave each of us a bottle of water. She returned to the truck and the rest of us started our hike out. It was now 9:00 p.m. Speedy and I had been on the trail since 6:30 a.m. I had only eaten a small breakfast, a fruit cup, an apple, 5 bottles of Gatorade, and several more bottles of water. I had also hiked at least 15 miles of very rugged trails. I was tired, hungry, and sore. But there was no choice but to keep walking.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the people with me. Gary, a ride volunteer, agreed to lead us out, with the two drag riders following and giving him directions. I followed them on foot, while the vet insisted he follow us to ensure Speedy’s safety. It was now completely dark and we were following paths that were steep, rocky, and shoulder high with grasses.
Somehow the drag riders were able to navigate the mountainous terrain and we arrived at the bottom safely. We now had to cross what they referred to as, The Hollows, a long meadow filled with knee-deep creeks, which Gary, Dr. Seals, and I forded on foot.
After hiking for nearly two hours in the dark, we finally arrived at a narrow, paved road where a three-passenger truck and a two-horse trailer sat waiting for us. We had six people and three horses to move. The group immediately worked out the logistics and insisted that Speedy and I be transported to basecamp first.
Once we were back in camp, Speedy dove into his hay, slurped up a pan of very wet beet pulp, and gave a deep sigh. I located all of my tack, took off my wet boots and chaps, and went to wait for the vet’s arrival. When Dr. Seals arrived, he gave me a big hug and told me how impressed he was with how I was able to hike that difficult trail with Speedy right behind me. We joked that it was good that I wasn’t paying him by the hour! I took care of my bill, thanked him for all he had done for us, and made my way back to the trailer. By the time I made it to bed, it was midnight.
Speedy and I had spent nearly 18 hours on the trail, rode and hiked 50 miles, but didn’t get a completion. That was the longest 50 that I’ve not completed!
That night, Speedy drained a bucket of water, ate nearly all of his hay and beet pulp, lay down to sleep, and looked great the next morning. He had no filling in his legs, his back wasn’t sore, and he took nice long strides from his very first step. I took him for a walk and he dragged me around looking for grasses to nibble on. He hopped right in the trailer and came home nice and quiet.
This Should be the End, But it's Not:
The burned area is just behind the palm tree.
Two hours after finally arriving home, the phone rang. There was a raging grass fire headed straight for the barn! My husband and I frantically leaped into the car and raced out to the barn. We met other boarders, who had thought quickly to halter each horse, as it looked as though we might need to evacuate.
The fired roared past the barn, immediately across the road. The wind kept it blazing just to the north of us, but it did manage to leap across the road and start burning up the driveway. Firefighters managed to put it out before it got too far, but we stood at the ready with hoses. Fortunately the fire stayed to the north, and the firefighters kept it under control. The air was filled with thick, black smoke, and ash fell all around the barn, but nothing on our side was burned. When the immediate danger had passed and we could see that the fire was well contained, we removed each horse’s halter and gave them all a pat. All I can say is, what a weekend!
That was the last endurance ride that I did, or rather, didn't do. Just several weeks after that "race," Speedy G and I went to our first dressage show. From endurance to dressage ... So now you know the rest of the story.
Most of my "around town" friends already know this story, but many of the blog readers may not know how the switch from endurance to dressage actually happened. I've said a few times that the focus of this blog is endurance experience and tips crossed with a focus on good equine health practices to (hopefully) produce a somewhat balanced dressage rider. In retrospect, I think this blog was actually born at the 2010 Just Coe Crazy ...
Just Coe Crazy
Click photos for larger view.
The “Just Coe Crazy” endurance ride, held last June 2010, was tough. The ride was held in the mountainous Henry Coe State Park, near Gilroy, California. The park is expansive and, as I would later learn, vehicle access is very limited.
I should ease your mind by saying that neither of us was injured in anyway, even though we did require on-the-trail assistance and a trailer ride back to camp. And while Speedy G and I didn’t ride the official course in the allotted time, we certainly did ride 50 miles!
The “Regular” Part of the Ride:
The morning started out warm and humid with coastal fog settling in over camp. We headed out on the trail at 6:30 a.m. already hot and sweaty. The trail climbed immediately, which was a bit of a good thing since Speedy G tried to buck as I got on. As soon as he started the climb, he put his head down and got right to work … for the next 15 hours.
The ride had three main sections: a 30-mile loop that was split into 2, 15-mile sections, with a 20-mile out-and-back that was done between the 2, fifteen mile sections.
At the end of the first 15-mile section, Speedy cruised into the vet check with a pulse of 49, well below the 60 beats per minute criteria. He was sound, had excellent scores for hydration and gut, and overall looked really perky. We left for the 20-mile out-and-back, knowing that we needed to pick up the pace.
This 20-mile section proved to be even more challenging than the first loop had been. It was nothing but steep climbs and descents. The footing was rocky and rutted. There was virtually no place to trot, and when the ground was free of rocks, the climb made it too difficult to move out. When we arrived back at the vet check, Speedy again vetted through with flying colors. We finished the loop in 3 and a-half hours, leaving just enough time to ride the final 15 miles. We left the vet check at 3:00 p.m. with two drag riders following close behind.
As we left camp we were told there was just one short climb and then it was downhill to the final vet check. The short climb turned out to be many miles long, too many actually.
Part 2 Here
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