From Endurance to Dressage
This is going to be short. I know you just snorted at that; when am I ever brief? But seriously, I am T-I-R-E-D. I drove two and a half hours to the Ventura area on Friday and had a lesson. I rode in a clinic on Saturday and drove another two and a half hours home. Once at the barn, I braided a horse, switched out my tack, and repacked for a show on Sunday. Sunday's show was an hour away. So yeah ... I am a bit tired.
My Friday lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was fantastic. Within just a few minutes, she had me working Speedy in a lovely frame. He was the lightest and most on the aides he's ever been for me. We accomplished this with one suppling exercise, and one series of cues.
Suppling exercise: down the long side, flex him to the inside and bring his shoulders in off of the track. Walk a few steps, and then with your leg at the girth have him bring his shoulders back to the track. Repeat several times down the long side. The exercise loosened Speedy's neck and shoulders so that when we picked up the trot, I was able to move him much more easily from my leg.
Chemaine next worked on my position a little while working at the trot.
I can't wait to work with Chemaine again. She'll be with Team Symphony at RAAC and invited me to stable with her and her students so that she can coach me there. I was so touched that she invited me to join her group. They are the nicest group of ladies you'd ever want to meet, so I immediately said YES!
After the lesson, Chemaine drove me over to Castle Rock where I met up with fellow blogger, Sarah, who writes about eventing her gelding, Hemie. Check out her blog at Eventing in Color. Sarah saddled Hemie and gave him a fun jumping ride while I watched and took some video. As she was finishing up, she offered me a quick ride. At first I refused, but then I thought why not?
I don't ride in a jumping saddle so that gave me a few giggles as we walked around. I finally asked Hemie for a small trot and just looped around without asking anything of him. I found that I was having some steering issues though and wondered why I was riding so poorly. Then I laughed out loud as I realized what was happening: Hemie had locked onto the jumps and kept aiming for them while I was intent on going around them! I found this hysterically funny.
After cleaning up Hemie and putting him away for the night, Sarah and I drove back into town and had a relaxing dinner where we just chat and found out a bit more about each other. She's a lot of fun to hang with and I appreciated that she took the time to meet up with me. I am definitely calling her back when I am next in Ventura.
We're heading to the cabin for a few days so you might not hear from me if we don't have an internet connection. If we do, I'll be sharing how the clinic went. If not, see you in a few days.
My braiding, that is! I made it back into town yesterday afternoon (What an AWESOME clinic!!!!!). I turned Sydney out, gave him a quick bath and started on his braids. An hour or so later, this is what I got. Not too shabby. I ride Intro C at 9:39 and Training Level Test 1 at 10:19. If you're local, come on up! Otherwise, see you all tomorrow.
Aw ... how nice! Both Fly on Over and Calm, Forward, Straight gave us a Liebbster Blog Award. Thank you, ladies! If you're a blogger, you already know that the LBA has raced through the blogosphere. If you're not a blogger, the LBA is a lot like a chain letter. You get picked and then you get to do the picking. Here's how this one works:
HOW TO ACCEPT THE AWARD: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:
11 Random Facts
11 Questions Answered
1. What horse show would you love to show at, if money was no object?
Not that I'm rich, but money's not usually the problem, ability is more my hold up. Right now, I would love to be able to make it to the California Dressage Society Championship Show. I need five qualifying scores; I have two.
2. Name one attribute that would be a deal-breaker for a horse you would like to purchase?
3. Name one piece of tack you covet.
A REALLY nice bridle. My mom bought me a lovely Stübben, but I only use it to show. I would like a nice bridle to use for schooling, but I am too cheap to drop $200 on something that's going to get dusty every day.
4. Favorite equine website?
I visit the California Dressage Society's page a lot.
5. Describe your dream trailer.
I actually own it already - a three horse goose neck with living quarters. And it's all mine! I just made the final payment in April.
6. Cats or Dogs?
Dogs, no question.
7. Favorite 90's TV Show?
Truthfully, I don't watch a lot of television, but I remember the very first Simpsons episode that aired in December of 1989. I watched it all the way through the 90's and still watch if I catch an episode.
8. East coast or West coast?
West coast - not a fan of humidity!
9. Are you a girly-girl or a guys' girl?
Neither. I am too much of a tomboy to be a girly-girl, but I hate beer which kicks me out of the boys' club!
10. Name one fear.
11. What's your favorite thing about yourself?
I am without pretense.
11 Questions for You
11 Awesome Blogs (in no particular order)
If you're still here ... I am taking Speedy G to an over-night clinic this morning, and while I will be back sometime Saturday, I have to get Sydney ready for an early Sunday show which means that I will see you on Monday. Have a great weekend!
Sydney has been easy on my tack. His pad fits perfectly. My saddle fits him nicely. An oddball bridle that was too awkward on Speedy G fits him attractively. Not only does Speedy's first dressage bit fit him comfortably, but he seems to like it. He's just become my "easy" kid.
Speedy on the other hand? He's just a troublemaker when it comes to horse clothing. Have you seen what he tried to do to his new fly sheet? The one I just bought so that he would be more comfortable while we were on vacation?
Before he destroyed it completely, I washed it and put it away. Maybe when it gets really hot and the flies get really bad, he'll wear it with more appreciation.
Speedy has been a bit of a challenge when it comes to tack. Dressage pads are too big. His dressage girth is tiny. I've tried at least three dressage bits in an effort to make him more comfortable. Even Cob sized bridles fit awkwardly. I've bought no less than seven bridles for him.
After reading a recent article in Dressage Today, I decided to switch up his bridle again. I've been using my Tekna bridle for schooling.
The Tekna dressage bridle features a softly padded browband and noseband, removable flash, and buckle ended cheekpiece. It's made of QUIK-CLEAN material and has stainless steel fittings.
It's a nice bridle. The cheek pieces are narrow enough not to overwhelm his face and the caveson is thin enough that it doesn't dwarf his muzzle. I recently re-attched the flash in an effort to stabilize the bit.
What I don't like about this bridle is that it is fairly stiff. Since it's not leather, it doesn't move or give as gently as leather might. I started to wonder if the stiffness of the caveson was causing some bracing.
Dressage Today's article wasn't that helpful. There were simply too many conflicting opinions. There is no general consensus on exactly how tight the caveson should be or how high/low the bit should rest in your horse's mouth. What works for one trainer, doesn't work for another. In general, the bridle is fit right if your horse rounds up and accepts the contact. That's not very helpful.
The part that I did find helpful was a different way of describing chewing the bit. That expression has never made sense to me. Both my horses "chew" on the bit, and I know that's not the kind of chewing that's meant. Instead of chewing, the article suggested thinking of sucking on the bit like you would a lollipop. Hmmm ... that makes sense. In order to suck on a lollipop, the caveson and flash need to be loose enough to allow the jaw to slide around, but not so loose and as to be merely decorative (my words, not theirs).
I recently started using a flash since Speedy likes to gape at the mouth while working. I can't seem to find a definitive answer as to how the flash should be adjusted. Most of the time it looks quite tight on a horse which I just don't care for. If his lips are clamped shut, how can he suck and chew on the bit?
To help me decide how to adjust his bridle, I took some photos of Speedy's mouth without the bridle. Speedy tends to have open lips. And I don't mean droopy, taking a nap lips. At rest, his lips are open. He doesn't have a very "relaxed" looking muzzle, does he?
I moved his eggbutt snaffle (with a double joint) to a cheaper leather headstall that I picked up last year. Here is his mouth with that bit. Same open mouth. I adjusted the caveson so that I could slide two fingers under any part. I tightened the flash with the same idea; it's not flapping, but it's not squeezing either.
Here is the leather bridle adjusted to where I think it should be. Even though there is a little wrinkle at his lips, I might raise the bit one more hole. While I was riding, the cheek pieces moved slightly as I picked up the reins. I need to think about it some more.
He did work well with this bridle. I don't know if he was just in a working mood, or if he did prefer the give of leather to the more rigid fit of the Tekna bridle. I'll be curious to see what Friday's trainer and Saturday's clinician say about the fit.
While the leather quality isn't particularly fabulous, the bridle seems to fit well, and Speedy has a pretty pleasant expression while wearing it.
I've actually ridden horses in several countries: the Canary Islands (Spain), Ireland, Scotland, and now Belize! Even when I don't get to ride, I am always searching for horses wherever we travel. Hubby knows how much I enjoy the ponies so he's usually on the lookout as well.
One of the things that I found most interesting about Belize's style of equine care was how most horses were grazed. Everywhere we went, we saw horses with ropes tied around their necks staked out alongside the road. Belize is quite green, and grass grows lushly everywhere. Most Belizeans are relatively poor so they take advantage of what mother nature provides.
Our guide explained that most of the horses were used for working on farms; they carry produce into town and help plow fields. Many are used just for fun. In either case, the method of feeding is the same. Someone has the task of moving the horse from place to place so it can graze during the day. Water is either brought to the horse periodically, or he is led to the river where he can drink.
For the most part, the horses looked round and fat. There were some though that were painfully thin. Our guide said that the thin ones were either old or had lazy owners. The gray pictured above is tethered exactly like all the others we saw: no halter, just a loop around the neck.
We saw many types of animals along the road grazing: chickens, goats, pigs, and horses. Everyone in the village knows to whom each animal belongs so there is no theft.
You probably know the Amish don't like to be photographed so these photos were taken on the sly.
As much as I love horse-keeping in far away places, I did a terrible job of taking photos! We stayed six nights at duPlooy's Jungle Lodge and I never took a single photo of their barn or the horses at pasture. We were just too busy! Here are the photos that I did take:
Our trail ride, several hours, took us to explore Xunantunich, one of Belize's most popular Mayan ruins. Knowing we were taking this ride, I brought my helmet from home and wore it even though the guide gave me a "whatever" shrug.
We rode with a nice couple from Michigan, Kirk and Suzanne. Neither of them have really ridden, a time or two maybe. Suzanne was pretty nervous about riding, as many novices can be. When she saw me wearing a helmet, she quickly asked the guide if he had one for her, too. I was really happy to hear her ask and told her what a thoughtful choice she had made!
The trail meandered through a wide variety of footing and scenery. Some of the trail was wide and open, but other parts were rocky and somewhat steep. A few sections were quite muddy, as you would expect in the jungle, but the horses were very sure-footed.
The horses were actually quite nice. They were very steady, but were quick to take advantage if left to navigate on their own. My own little mare quickly realized that I wanted to get somewhere and happily passed the many grazing spots that called her name. Suzanne's horse was more of a problem. Once he realized that she had no concept of kick and pull, he wondered off the trail whenever and wherever he wanted to. Eventually, the guide got tired of waiting for her to catch up and simply ponied her horse along.
Hubby, who is not a rider and hasn't been on a horse in at least ten years, did a great job of keeping his horse on the trail and moving forward. His comment was something to the effect of, see, I listen! Meaning that when I think his eyes have glazed over as I discuss picking up the canter or doing 20-meter circles, he might actually be listening!
After turning off the gravel road, we ambled along for a while until we got to a newly fallen tree. Our guide was a bit surprised to find our way blocked. He tied his own horse to a tree and started snapping branches and shoving debris out of the way. He rode his own horse through the branches, but it wasn't pretty. He quickly decided it was safer to have all of us on the ground as he led each horse through.
The little building to the left is actually a butcher "shop." Cattle are raised in the adjoining pastures and then butchered right here. Although it's pretty hard to see in the photo, Xunantunich can be seen in the very center of the horizon (click photo to enlarge). We eventually stood on top of that temple and could see this clearing.
Once we got to the main road, we were picked up in a van and driven the last two or three miles. The horses were tied to trees while the guide took a break. Later, he led all of the horses back to the lodge while we went on to visit the ruins.
And here we are visiting Xunantunich, pronounced shoo-nan-too-nitch. And yes, we climbed this pyramid! That's how we got the great view of the butcher shop. El Castillo, at 120 feet tall, is Belize's second tallest structure.
Lunch was at Benny's Kitchen, an open air restaurant famous for Mayan and Creole dishes. Hubby had the Mayan dish, pibil, which is pork cooked in an underground oven. I went with our guide's choice and had the fried chicken. Instead of riding the horses back, we opted to take the van as it was air-conditioned and much faster!
It's always great fun to ride someone else's horses, but I am always happy to be back home with my own two boys.
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
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: