From Endurance to Dressage
We go on vacation for two weeks almost every summer. It's hard to leave my horses for that long, but the upside is that being gone for so long reminds me of how much I truly enjoy riding. Saddling up that first time after so many weeks out of the saddle is like coming home. When we ride day after day, we get used to the smell of hay, the warm muscles rippling under your hand, and the feel of smooth leather in your fingers. It all comes alive when you've been gone for a while.
My first ride on Izzy was a bit awkward for both of us. He was pretty tight-backed even though I had lunged him first, and when I asked for a trot, I was reminded of how big he really is. The ground looked a lot farther away than I remembered. I didn't ask for much. We trotted a few 20-meter circles, and then did a few changes of rein across the diagonal. That was it.
The second ride went much better. I lunged him again in the sliding side reins, and he definitely started to relax more than he had the day before. My riding legs returned, and I remembered where we had left off. On the lunge line, I've been asking him to spiral in to me so that he's doing a small volte around me at the trot. When he's soft on the line, I slowly send him back out on the circle letting him stretch down and lengthen his stride.
This is a fun exercise because it really asks him to step deeply with his hind leg while maintaining a good inside bend. Once I am in the saddle, I can repeat the exercise, and I always get a good response from him.
After I leg yielded out from the volte, I quietly asked for a canter. I am learning that he needs to me to sit very lightly and be prepared to go into two-point for the first few canter strides. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, I also have to be ready to add leg when he humps up his back and starts to buck. We went though a few bucking strides before he finally relaxed his back and cantered forward.
Once I felt him let go through his back, I was able to take a light seat and ride him forward. I was grinning ear to ear. After a few reminders of how to pick up the correct lead, we cantered both directions. I know this seems like baby stuff, but I am really pleased that after almost three weeks of no work - just turn out, I was able to hop on and get right back to work.
I was so pleased with him that I scheduled a lesson for this coming Tuesday, and I mailed off two entries for schooling shows in July. I signed up for Intro A and B because right now, he just needs more exposure. Once he can handle the atmosphere and can pick up the canter a little more reliably, we'll move up to Training Level.
But what of Speedy? Speedy officially can go back to work. For the month of July, we can do walk and trot, and in August we can start to canter. Before leaving for vacation, the vet had given the okay for walking rides on firm ground. Several times a week, I hopped up on Speedy bareback with a halter and rode around the neighborhood for 30 minutes.
While the walking rides gave him some level of fitness, he's still out of shape. I decided to begin his trot work on the lunge line. This is the second day on the line, right as I asked for the trot.
While he looks sluggish and totally on his forehand, I love that he is sound. As we worked, he developed a bit more impulsion, but he spent the entire time trying to stretch down. I worked him for 10 minutes the first day and 15 the next. I let him walk 1 - 2 minutes to warm up followed by 2 minutes of trotting. I then asked him to walk another minute and then trot again for 2 minutes. Then we changed directions and did the same the other way. I use the timer on my watch to make that we don't over do it.
I think I'll lunge him for a week, adding my saddle in a day or two. After that, it's just a matter of building his fitness back up slowly over the month. I worked hard to keep his weight low over the four months he was off, so that part shouldn't be an issue. The thing I want to watch is that he stretches and strengthens the tendon gradually.
It's good to be back home!
By the way, I have to run up to the cabin for the night to take care of some tree removal (bark beetles plus four years of drought have devastated California's forests), so I won't be around to post tomorrow morning.
I love to travel - new foods, new languages, new cultures, but I also love coming home. After a good night's sleep, the first thing I did was to go grocery shopping. As I drove down our wide street with ample parking and then browsed the grocery aisles overflowing with products that I recognized, all I could feel was gratitude for the life of ease and abundance that we live.
Italy was great, how could one think otherwise? But at the same time, it was crowded, parking was a nightmare (so glad we took the train or hired drivers), and everything was so expensive. Even so, we loved every minute of it. As I look back at my last post (scroll down a bit or hit this link), I am amazed that my pictures show a place even more beautiful than the internet photos I shared.
First Stop - Venice
In Venice, we got lost in narrow alleys, rode the Vaporetto (water buses), watched a glass maker in action, toured the Doge's Palace, hung out in St. Mark's Square, and began our gastronomical journey. Oh. And wine. And Prosecco. Every day.
Next Stop - Florence
In Florence, we saw art. All of it. More art than I ever hope to see again. I loved Michelangelo's David though, it was truly magnificent and worth going to see. We also visited the Uffizi (too much art), the Vecchio Palace (home of the Medici), the Duomo, and all of the other stuff that you're supposed to see. We enjoyed amazing food, gelato, and Chianti - my new favorite wine!
And Then - Pompeii
Of everything we did over the two weeks that we were in Italy, hiking around the rim of Vesuvius was the most spectacular. My photos can't even begin to do that view justice. We were the only people that hiked it the entire day. We even dropped down inside the crater to feel the steam vents - hot enough to cook food. It was simply awe-inspiring.
The ruins of Pompeii were also quite interesting. We ended up going twice. The first afternoon, we went by ourselves to get a feel for the ruins without hearing a guide's explanations. The next afternoon, we returned with a guide, which helped pull the whole story together. If you visit Italy, I would recommend adding Pompeii to your itinerary.
And on to the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast was truly stunning. The blue of the Mediterranean Sea was mesmerizing - you could stare at it for hours, and we did. We swam, hiked, ate, and even cooked some of our own meals. We took a boat/cruise to Capri, a neighboring island where we swam, enjoyed wine and prosecco, and reveled in the wind and spray from the boat. That trip to Capri was my second favorite thing that we did in Italy.
Last Stop - Rome
If I could have rearranged a few things, I would have added at least one more day to our stay in Rome. There was simply so much more to see. We spent one morning in Vatican City touring the Sistine Chapel, The Vatican Museums, and the Basilica (we've now been to the two biggest churches in the world). We spent another morning touring the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Ancient Rome including the Roman Forum.
In the afternoons, we saw the Spanish Steps (not sure what the big deal is), Trevi Fountain (very pretty), and Piazza Navona (also unsure of the draw). We spent a lot of time just ambling around, stopping for a pizza, some wine, and occasionally some more gelato.
I worried about gaining weight, but I shouldn't have. My husband's Apple watch kept track of our daily mileage. In the first week, we walked 60 miles. In total, we walked more than 100 miles over the two weeks, most of it included steps. Most days we walked between 7 and 10 miles. One day in Positano, I climbed/descended more than 4,000 stairs and walked several miles.
I am really glad to be home, but we're already planning our next vacation - an African Safari!
We're are heading to Italy this morning. We'll be gone until late June, so you'll have to find someone else with whom to drink your morning coffee. I'll miss you!
In case you're wondering where we're going, here's our itinerary.
First Stop - Venice
We'll be in Venice for two nights. We're touring the Doge's Palace and among other things, a glassworks factory.
Next Stop - Florence
We're taking the train from Venice to Florence where we'll stay three nights in an apartment. We have tickets to see Michelangelo's David as well as the Uffizi Museum.
And Then - Pompeii
Again, we're taking the train. We'll only be in Pompeii for two nights. For me, the ruins of Pompeii are quite fascinating, but I am far more interested in Mount Vesuvius.
We've booked a hike up to and into the crater of the volcano. As a science teacher, this is super cool! I've been to several other volcanic craters (Costa Rica and The Canary Islands), but this one looks pretty neat.
And on to the Amalfi Coast
We'll be picked up in Pompeii by a guide for a private car tour of the coast. We're staying four nights in the small town of Positano. We got an apartment here that is on one of the cliffs over-looking the Mediterranean. I can't even imagine how relaxing this part of our trip is going to be.
Last Stop - Rome
Our driver from the Amalfi Coast tour we'll take us into Naples where we'll catch the train to Rome. We'll stay in the Italian capital for three nights. We have several tours arranged: Vatican City (which includes the Sistine Chapel) and the Colosseum along with the Forum and Palatine Hill.
We have a direct flight from Rome to LA, and then a two and a half hour drive home. Coming home from Europe is always a very long day.
See you in a couple of weeks!
Preparing for vacation is exhausting. I definitely need a vacation after all the work it has taken to prepare for this one. I am sure some travelers can simply toss a few things in a bag and catch a flight, but I am not one of them. I wish I could do it, but I am too much of a worrier.
I've spent the last few weeks confirming reservations, arranging tours and guides, buying tickets online, and exchanging currency. I've also had to do some shopping, get a pedicure and haircut, and wash my car. Even I am rolling my eyes at those last few. Who is going to notice a fresh trim? Probably the same person who is going to watch my car get dusty in airport parking.
For most people, that's the extent of their preparation. If you own animals, the work continues. I had to arrange a house sitter to care for our two dogs which took three pages of directions. In my defense, I had to explain the alarm system, my cleaning lady's schedule, and what to do when the gardener comes.
But the preparations didn't end there. I also had to prep for the horses which took a whole truckful of supplies because all of my feed was approaching empty. Even though Izzy gets alfalfa/oat cubes as his main diet, I also feed him a small amount of hay each day to supplement the cubes. There was less than a 1/2 bale left, and all three of my feed barrels were nearly empty.
Thankfully, school let out this past Friday which meant I had most of the week to get everything done. On Tuesday, I unhooked my truck from the trailer to get hay and feed. It was good timing because I also had to get it smogged in order to pay my 2016 DMV fees which are due this month. The smog technician didn't even bat an eye when I pulled into the station with a truck load of hay.
Buying hay and feed is easy; unloading everything is not. I spent several hours stacking hay and filling feed barrels. Everything also got a good spring cleaning: the feed barrels got dusted out, old hay was raked up, my first aid box got reorganized, and all of my boots and pads got hung out of the reach of the mice. Unused stuff seems to attract them.
My friend, KG, also came over to make sure she knew where everything was. She's going to be doing turnout and fly spray work for the first 9 or 10 days that we're gone. Then she's going on vacation so any turnout or fly spray will be up to my barn owner for the last week.
On top of all that, I've also been riding. I won't miss scooping poop or dragging the sprinklers around, but I am going to miss my boys. I know they'll be fine while I am gone, but it's really hard to trust that others can do just as good a job as I do. Scooping feed and using fly spray are tricky job, don't you know?
Are you a throw-it-in-the-bag-and-go traveler, or are you more like me? Please share your own "Going on Vacation, Here's My List" stories.
I am such a sucker for those email blasts from SmartPak. I get one nearly every day. They're the ones that give you steep discounts off particular products. I think they've figured out which ones I go for and which ones I ignore because lately, I've used every single one.
Today's One Day Only sale is on SmartPak's own Eqology line of clothing. The pieces in the collection are moisture wicking and breathable. I've had my eye on the color blocked shirt for a while, but I wasn't too excited about paying $50 for a t-shirt. I can get the same thing at Kohl's for half the price which I actually just did.
When this offer showed up in my morning email, I decided to take another look at the shirts. While I do plenty of riding in work-out gear, tops designed for riders are always a little better as the cut tends to be longer - something runners don't need. When I calculated the price of the Space Dyed Shirt, it came out to $28. After throwing some fly spray and two pair of socks into my cart, the order qualified for fast and free shipping. I hit submit order.
I've found that SmartPak will usually extend these one day only sales a few extra days, but just in case they really mean it this time, get yours early! I bought it in blue/green. Which one did you get?
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%: