From Endurance to Dressage
What with Speedy having a summer sore on his man parts and my husband and I leaving town for a week right before our next show, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to manage my horses. Speedy needed daily medication, and Izzy really needed to be ridden during the week to be even somewhat ready for the show, so I called Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, and asked if I could bring my boys to him for two weeks. Even though Sean was already stretched thin, he agreed to take both horses - Izzy in full training, and Speedy as a boarded horse. In general, Sean doesn't board horses unless they're in training, but he made an exception for Speedy.
Packing for a show is always complicated, but packing for two horses to spend two weeks somewhere else takes a lot of checklists. Not only did I have to pack all of my show stuff, I had to organize two weeks of Speedy's various medications which included syringes, pills, ointments, and sprays. On top of that, I had to mix all of Izzy's various supplements which consist of an ounce of this, an ounce of that, a cup of this, and a scoop of that. On Monday, two days before we were drive to Los Angeles to catch our flight to Nashville, I packed all of it in the trailer, along with both horses, and drove the three hours to Moorpark.
Izzy has been to STC Dressage more than a few times by now, so when he unloaded, he was pretty bored with the whole thing until Speedy got out to join him. Suddenly, it was as if he had never seen the place. Speedy, who LOVES to show and is always a complete rock star when he goes somewhere new, fell apart. Neither horse could tolerate having the other leave their sight. The separation anxiety got so bad after I left that Sean had to rearrange a few horses so that Speedy could have Izzy right in front of him. Every time Sean opened Izzy's stall to clean or feed, Speedy lost his mind thinking that Izzy was going to leave.
Before the screaming got too bad, I packed both boys into their stalls and unloaded all of their stuff. Sean had suggested I leave my trailer while I was gone which meant my drive home and back again would be quicker. I parked it and then went to tack up Izzy. Lessons are still not worry free, but with both horses screaming their heads off, Izzy was a tougher ride than normal. At first, my frustration almost got the better of me. How much more of this could I stand? Then I thought about Sean's plan for us. He's in no hurry, and in fact, he wants us to take our time, slowly chipping away at Izzy's anxiety. Right then and there I gave up on the idea of a pleasing ride. By the time Sean was ready for us, I was focused on riding the horse I had at that moment rather than the one I wish I had.
I won't say I was sorry to finish the ride and hand the literal reins over to Sean. Other than the month I left Izzy with the trainer up north who was responsible for the massive wound he sustained while under her care, I've never before sent a horse for training. My previous experience had left me feeling quite reticent to do that again. Without having anyone else to care for him (and Speedy) while I was gone, I sort of had to do it, but I am glad I did. Sean's daily regimen is meticulous, and the horses really thrive under his watchful eye.
At Sean's place, horses in full training get ridden five days a week. The client either rides in a lesson or Sean schools the horse. I rode on Monday, and then when I came back ten days later, I took another lesson on Thursday. On Friday, we trailered over to SCEC for a schooling ride, and then Sean coached me through the show on both Saturday and Sunday. Sean rode on the days in between which didn't leave him much time to work any miracles. Even so, I knew that if Sean rode Izzy even just a few times, it couldn't do anything but help me.
While I was gone, Sean was able to work Izzy without any interruptions by me. He was able to focus solely on training my horse rather than training ME to ride my horse. He also introduced Izzy to to the vacuum - coolest grooming aid EVER, and Speedy and Izzy enjoyed several hours of turnout each day. Izzy wasn't an entirely new horse when I rode him again, but Sean was indeed able to give me some very helpful feedback. Probably more important was hearing Sean confirm that Izzy can do this, and with a bit more time, we'll be earning scores that are more than just squeaking by.
The lesson I took on Thursday and the schooling ride we did at SCEC on Friday weren't great. In fact, Izzy was a holy terror at SCEC, screaming his head off the entire time. Again, Sean drilled it into me that it didn't matter. Not reacting to Izzy's anxiety and instead showing Izzy that I was in control of the situation were what Sean wanted from me. Well, that and not snatching at the reins every time the big brown horse over-reacted or tried to do the thinking on his own. It is so hard to stay calm and loose through the elbows and hips while riding an aircraft carrier through a storm.
Spoiler alert: we did not get any great scores at the show, but even though my big brown horse was FOR SALE by Saturday afternoon, Sean insisted on an attitude adjustment that really helped turn things around on Sunday.
To be continued ...
We're finally back in town, and boy, has a lot happened over the past two weeks. First ...
It's no secret that I am a very frustrated Californian. Don't get me wrong; California is spectacular - our mountains, beaches, forests, and even our deserts are simply breathtaking. Our climate is perfect, and it's hard to find fresher produce, fruit, and nuts. But, and it's a big one. Our political climate is horrific. Our governor has gone crazy as have most of the legislators. I am aching to join the thousands of others fleeing the Golden State. Since we can't relocate quite yet, we decided to at least go on vacation.
Before deciding where to go, we looked at all fifty states - we worried about being denied re-entry if we left the country, and then we looked at how "open" each state was. Tennessee checked all of our boxes. The state is completely open, and all of the things we wanted to do welcomed visitors and spectators.
While I've heard about southern hospitality, I've never actually been on the receiving end of it. Whether the fine folks in Nashville actually wanted us there or not will forever remain their secret because Tennesseeans are the friendliest people in America. I have never felt so welcomed in my life. Even though it wasn't actually anyone's fault, anytime there was a delay or a product was sold out, we were given the most genuine apologies I have ever heard. The people of Nashville clearly wanted us to think well of their city and state, and they went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was so refreshing.
The truth is, there wasn't a single thing that I disliked about Nashville. Every time I turned around I found something else to admire or appreciate. At one point, I told my husband that everything about Nashville was just right. Nothing was too big, too small, too pretentious, or too overwhelming. It was as though the city was truly meant to be lived in like a comfortable pair of sneakers. Some places are meant to be looked at like a fancy piece of glass kept in a curio cabinet. You wouldn't ever use it, it's just nice to look at. Not Nashville. I even enjoyed the weather, hot and sticky as it was.
While we were in Nashville, we did most of the things that one should do while there. I am sure we missed a few attractions, but we made up for them by doing unexpected things. We had a hilarious time at the Ryman Auditorium sitting in all of the seats blocked by the pillars used to hold up the balcony. It felt a little sacrilegious to poke fun at the Mother Church of Country Music, but we figured a little goofing off had to have been done there long before us. While the acoustics may be fabulous, not all of the seats are equal.
All joking aside, the Ryman is definitely a must-see while in Nashville. The video shown before you go into the auditorium itself tells the Ryman's story and left both of us feeling a bit awed by the history that place has been home to. I can see why the place is called the Mother Church.
We also went to the Friday night performance at the Grand Ole Opry, another fantastic experience. Among other performers, we saw and heard Tommy Emmanuel who is arguably the world's best guitar player.
We visited the Johnny Cash Museum ... It was small, a bit over-priced, but still interesting.
We toured the Corsair Distillery whose home is in the Marathon Motor Works building which also happens to be the home of the Tennessee store of Antique Archeology (American Pickers). When we heard the store is really just a glorified gift shop, we skipped it. After the tour at the distillery, we also did some tasting. Who knew I liked Tennessee whiskey?
Unlike anything in California, many of the state museums are free to the public. We walked right into the capitol building and even had a peek into the Governor's office. The doors to the House of Representatives and Senate were wide open. No one hassled us or assumed we were intent on bringing down the building. We walked around peering at what interested us and never once were we made to feel like we were breaking any laws. California should take a page from Tennessee's play book.
On Sunday, we took a drive to Lebanon to watch our first in-person NASCAR race. We're dedicated fans, but we had never actually been to see a race in person. It was loud, but we knew that. The 40-minute drive to the track ended up taking 3½ hours due to traffic. While it was a bit disappointing, we still made it in time for the green flag to drop. It was also about a billion degrees with 80% humidity, but we enjoyed ourselves even so.
On our last full day in Nashville, we braved some pretty extreme heat (high 90s with 80% humidity). We walked back to the Capitol building to explore the Mall. It was one of the most beautiful city parks I've seen. Everywhere we looked there was something new to see. Each county had a large "seal" laid into the sidewalk describing it and showing its place on the map of Tennessee.
At the end of the park, we came to a large circle of towers. After walking around them for a few minutes trying to figure out what they were, we heard bells begin to chime. We looked up at the towers only to discover that they were actually bell towers. The towers surround the Court of 3 Stars which represents Eastern, Middle and Western Tennessee.
There is a bell for each of the Volunteer State’s 95 counties. Each quarter hour, the carillon plays a portion of the Tennessee Waltz. At the top of every hour, the 50-tower carillon plays the entire song. A 96th bell on the capitol grounds rings an answer symbolizing the government answering the call of the people. After hearing the bells ring at 10:45, we decided to wander around the park waiting to hear them play their full song. It was a very powerful experience.
We love to travel and have been to many countries and US states. While I haven't been to all 50 US states, I think that Tennessee is my favorite. In many ways it reminded me of our nation's capital. Like DC, Nashville has filled every nook and cranny with symbols of its history. Their willingness to wear their heart on their sleeve made me love the place even more. As we sat eating dinner on our last evening there, I asked my husband if he could see himself living in Tennessee. He didn't say yes, but he didn't say no either.
Tennessee, thank you for a fabulous time. We will be back.
Good-bye, California, and hello Tennessee. Yep, we're off to the Volunteer state this morning. We have a house sitter to take care of our two dogs, and both horses have been safely tucked into the barn at STC Dressage for the next week and a half; they got there on Monday.
We have tickets to a NASCAR race as well as to the Grand Ole Opry. We'll do all of the things that there are to do in Nashville. We chose Tennessee because it's one of the many states that is no longer in lockdown. We're sick of California's governor's "policies", so we decided to go somewhere with a healthier "climate."
See you sometime next week!
Of all of the horses I've owned, Izzy has been the one that needs the most body work. He is really hard on himself. He's big and strong, and he frequently uses his mass to work against himself and me. When 1,350 pounds of muscle slams on the brakes or dodges left, his joints experience a lot of torque.
At my most recent lesson in late May, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, commented on the progress that I've made with Izzy. He was impressed, and I was feeling encouraged. I had a few good rides after that lesson, but then the weather turned viciously hot, and Izzy had three or four days off. The next few rides after that were not pleasant, and I found myself asking What the h...? That's all it took. Once I hear myself utter those three words, I know Izzy needs some body work. Fortunately, CC was able to come out on Saturday.
Usually, CC just gets to work without my input, but this time, he surprised me by asking what I was feeling. I think that was a sort of promotion. I explained that Izzy couldn't bend, particularly to the right, and I suspected his ribs were sore again. They were sore, CC agreed with that, but as usual, I had missed the bigger picture. It was actually the C7 vertebrae in the neck that was preventing Izzy from bending. Normally, the C7 is hard to tweak and equally hard to readjust, but if there is a way, Izzy will find it.
The last time Izzy's C7 bothered him was when he broke a halter last summer by sitting back. It took a good month for the pain to show up. I am not sure what caused the "misalignment" this time, but Izzy was quite vocal about it. Because Izzy has seen CC for so many years and so regularly, it now only takes a few minutes to get him feeling good again. Saturday was no exception.
Once CC was able to manipulate Izzy's neck to his satisfaction, he went to work on the ribs. Izzy loves having body work done, but for this visit, he displayed some strange behaviors. While he always acts like he loves CC, for this visit he was over-the-top affectionate to the point of having quite a large erection. Izzy also demonstrated the flehmen response repeatedly as CC worked on him.
No matter how firmly CC pushed on his ribs, Izzy never tried to walk away. In fact, he leaned into the pressure and repeatedly asked CC for more by nudging him, nibbling at his neck and shirt, and generally just being a pest. Once CC was finished with the body work, Izzy persisted in following him around and snuggling up to him. CC finally laughed and had a D'oh moment. Laughing while he told me, he explained that earlier in the day, he had washed the tail of a mare in heat. That must have been the scent that Izzy was responding to.
No matter what CC smells like, Izzy adores him. CC just has a way with horses, and they respond to him. And since he always makes Izzy feel better after a visit, Izzy practically claps his hands like a little kid when he sees CC walking his way. While we use a halter for safety, Izzy doesn't actually need it. He'll stand for CC all day long. I hate that I have a horse who needs such frequent body work, but I love that I have someone so effective.
I wish CC would work on people. I've got this ache in my neck ...
Warning: Not all images are suitable for all viewers, especially the third one.
On Friday, I took Speedy to Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital to have his junk scraped and cleaned again. This summer sore business is no joke, it's not cheap, and it also (probably) really hurts. Poor Speedy.
Since Speedy is so shy about his man parts, there was no way to assess the state of the summer sore without giving him a sedative. Izzy's ding dong hangs out all the time allowing me a daily opportunity to check things out; I know his penis is in good shape. I wish Speedy weren't so reserved. Before Dr. Tolley could do anything else, he had to give Speedy a little mid-morning cocktail.
The summer sore wasn't nearly as ugly as it had been the week before, but Speedy's body is still working overtime to get rid of the Habronema larvae. Instead of just ignoring the little larvae that are trying to burrow through his urethra (so, so gross), Speedy's immune system is launching a full scale attack, killing the larvae which leaves yellow granules of dead larvae. At least his skin tissue hasn't gone necrotic this time, but Dr. Tolley explained that the remnants of the larvae do create a sore that is painful. And since the sore is in Speedy's urethra, it probably feels like what you think it would. Not good.
I thought Dr. Tolley dug deeply the last time we were there, but for this visit, he really got in there. I didn't know the urethra could be opened that much, but obviously it can. Dr. Tolley was especially thorough this time around. He wanted to be sure to catch every bit of dead larvae that was stuck. Once the larvae is completely removed, Speedy's body won't have anything to which to react.
Once Dr. Tolley felt confident that Speedy's urethra was free of Habronema larvae, he and Dr. Gonzalez put a fresh sock on Speedy's penis. Based on my feedback about the last one, he decided to keep this one long. The purpose of the sock is to act as a barrier around Speedy's penis much like a mosquito net around your bed. If the flies can't get to his lil' dude, they can't lay eggs on it. In addition, Dr. Tolley gave me a liquid steroid that I am "painting" on the sock which should soak through to cover the top of Speedy's penis. The steroid is supposed to reduce the inflammation and reduce Speedy's reaction to the flies.
For the next two weeks, Speedy will get his penis and/or sock (depending how long the sock stays on) painted with a liquid steroid twice a day. He'll also get covered in fly spray twice a day. Every other day he'll get a 5 cc/mL injection of Dexamethasone. He is also going to stay in the barn at STC Dressage in Moorpark which has a fly system. Unfortunately, this is all we can do for him. His body simply has to stop reacting to the fly larvae. It would be much simpler for him if the larvae could just pass through his system, land in his gut, and get pooped back out as eggs that hatch into flies.
My fingers are crossed that this next two weeks clears things up.
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%: