From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy and I are making the trek up to Tehachapi on Sunday for the second of four, CDS-rated shows put on by the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS. It's a well run series with great cash prizes, it's super well organized, and it's less than an hour and a half away - a huge bonus!
With my limited funds this year, this series is pretty much the entirety of my show season. I did do our one and only local show, and I still plan on going to the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in August, but this small, four show series is my main hurrah for the year. As such, scoring well has become my goal.
I am probably not going to win either of my classes on Sunday, I have some pretty stiff competition, but I am striving to bump up my scores. Speedy and I have shown that we have the ability to earn a high 60 or even a score in the 70s (we have two of those at a USDF show). Those scores are certainly not gimmes, but at least we're capable of them.
To that end, I've really been focusing on the areas where we tend to score the lowest. At last month's show, the judge really dinged us for Speedy being too curled. This happens when he's not pushing from behind. In order to "fix" it, I've been getting his hind end much more active while focusing on the sit.
I love the photo above, not because it's particularly correct, but because it might be the first photo I have of him with his poll at the highest point and his croup lower than his withers. The dude is learning to engage his hind end and sit down. The very next photo in the series is even less attractive, but his poll is still up (no curling!) and his hind leg is way underneath him.
So yesterday, I focused on lengthening the right lead canter and coming back to a working (or even collected) canter without needing a million strides to get there. When we rode at Expo, Chemaine helped me get a truly lengthened canter stride that was actually reaching and not just running faster.
I realized that to get that feeling, Speedy has to be sitting down in order to push up and forward. When his hind end is engaged, he can return to a working or collected canter without me having to jerk his face off. He gave me some excellent transitions to working canter yesterday which gave me confidence to ask for a bigger and more powerful canter.
If I can get it at the show, we'll definitely bump our sixes closer to sevens.
In May, I wrote about Speedy's weight loss and my plan for packing on some pounds. While he's not exactly round, he does have a bit more flesh on his bones.
These aren't great photos, and the difference is really hard to see, but I can feel it with my hands. In real life, his croup and hip bones are less pointed. The fleshy layer over his ribs now extends farther back towards his flank. His belly is a bit rounder, and I am no longer flirting with the eighth hole on my saddle's billets.
His current diet includes as much alfalfa as he will eat, which is not as much as I'd like. He gets a modest flake twice a day, but there's always a small pile left. He simply won't eat any more.
In the mornings, he gets three pounds of LMF Senior, about two and a half pounds of soaked beet pulp, and two scoops of Platinum Performance. In the evenings, he gets another three pounds of LMF Senior. In all, that's nearly nearly pounds of concentrated feed combined with what is essentially free choice alfalfa.
I had planned on seeing the vet at the end of June if I didn't see progress, but I think I can hold off on that for at least another month. I am hoping that by mid July, he'll be rounder still. I don't want him fat by any means, but I sure hate to see all of his bones so close to the skin.
Keep eating, Speedy G!
At the western States Horse Expo a week or so ago, Chemaine showed an exercise for helping to know if your horse is truly lengthening the stride or simply getting quicker. I've been doing the exercise at home and have seen some excellent results with Speedy G.
I put two cones down the long side of the arena and a matching pair on the other side. I start out in a working trot or canter and count how many strides it takes to get from one cone to the other. Initially, I try to match the number of strides on both sides to ensure that my tempo is even.
Later, I do trot lengthenings and count to see if Speedy's stride is definitely longer. I can tell he's truly lengthening when we get fewer strides than we did before. It's the canter work that is really showing the most improvement though. And it's not just because I threw out a couple of cones, but that has helped.
Yesterday, I focused on the 15-meter circle into a canter lengthening from First Level. The lengthening has been tough for us because I have a hard time getting him back to a working canter. With the recent work I did with Chemaine, Speedy is now pushing off from behind (instead of dragging himself on his forehand) which helps him sit when we come back to a collected canter. At least that's how I am riding it.
Chemaine informed me that I need to ride the First Level tests as though they're Second Level. Thinking about it this way has forced me to really insist he pick up his poll, accept the contact, and sit.
We have a CDS-rated show on Sunday. I am really hoping to see our scores improve if I actually ride him more forward like I do at home.
Izzy must have read yesterday's blog post because when I went out to ride, he decided right away to behave himself.
It's been exactly two years now that he's been in "full work." In case you're late to the party, or maybe you just need a recap, here's how his under saddle work has gone.
At three, he had 60 days put on him by a trainer. His owner then rode for another two months or so until she became pregnant. He then spent the next two years growing up in a large pasture.
I bought him in November of 2014 as a six year old and immediately shipped him to a trainer for a "tune-up." Within a few weeks, he suffered a pretty ugly laceration to his hind leg which took a year to heal. I started "riding" him in the spring of 2015, but it was mostly lunging, sacking out, and being careful of the leg. By June of 2015, we started working on go, stop, turn right, turn left.
The first summer I had him was about getting off the property without anybody dying. We loaded up twice a week for a trail ride or a lesson. We hit all of the local trails, sometimes even bushwacking when things were overgrown.
The next summer, 2016, I introduced Izzy to the show ring doing Intro at four schooling shows and one CDS show. We never broke 60%, but we didn't die either.
Here we are, starting a third summer. While I constantly feel like we're running in place, never actually getting anywhere, I know that's not true. I can't say that he's that much farther along, but he has grown up some. He gets in the trailer willingly and rides quite calmly. I know I can get on him wherever we are, and I won't die. He can walk, trot, and and canter pretty much wherever I point him. And when he's paying attention to me, he looks amazing.
I feel like we should be tearing it up in the show ring by now though, and we're not. We're still just slogging away, trying to get a rounded topline with some (heaven forbid) relaxation. When I rode on Sunday, it took an hour to get anything close to obedience, and I wasn't expecting a lot. An ear flicked in my direction would have been enough.
Yesterday? I rode him for 12 minutes. His back was supple, and he was almost too elevated and sproingy for me to ride well. It wasn't a perfect ride, but his body was accessible. We did some walk and trot work, and then he picked up the correct canter lead each direction without an F-You.
Other than to continue the not dying part, I don't have a plan for this summer. If I could just convince him that he's not going to die, we could clean up at a show. I just need to figure out how to convince him that this is worth his time. I guess I do have a plan for the summer.
There aren't many places on the planet right now that are hotter than California's Central Valley. I even Googled Bagdad's temperature, and it was only 109℉. This morning, at 5:00 a.m., it's already 82℉ with 44% humidity. It will be 100℉ before 11:00 a.m.
A few days ago, the predictions were even higher at 112℉. Both the highs and lows are supposed to break records set way back in 1938. While I love our local meteorologist (go, Miles!), he's not always right. I hope this is one of those times.
I was on by 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning, and Izzy was hotter than the weather. It took a full hour to get his brain connected to his body. When I realized that he was going to explode, I untacked him (after 15 minutes of walking), and threw him in the round pen where he worked off some of the excess energy.
I tacked him back up and was pleased at how politely he stood without even a halter. I worked him another 30 minutes simply asking for some obedience and submission. I got a smidgeon of both, but it wasn't enough to make me smile.
Today, I am braced for more jackassery, but for both our sakes, I hope he'll settle the heck down. I think wet saddle blankets are an excellent way to quiet down a horse (see above), but not when it means I have to worry about myself getting heat stroke.
Hello, summer, you suck.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: