From Endurance to Dressage
Back in my endurance days, we would say that if a rock had your horse's name on it, it was unavoidable. Izzy found his rock on Wednesday.
Our arena is rock free, but round rocks do work themselves up through the sand throughout the rest of the ranch. Izzy's quarter acre has smooth stones scattered here and there. When I worked Speedy in the round pen on Wednesday, he tore around with nary a problem. None of the rocks had his name written down.
When I worked Izzy, he trotted slowly and never once did a rollback or any kind of canter work. Even so, I saw him take a wonky step and knew he had hit a rock. He took some lame steps, so I called it a day certain that he would be fine on Thursday. He was not. He's sound at the walk, but landing unevenly at the trot. When the rock has your name on it, it's pretty hard to miss.
Hopefully he'll be sound today. And if not, time is a great healer.
My mom moved from Oregon to Mississippi a year ago. It's not like I got to see her regularly when she lived in Oregon, but at least it was a drivable distance. Her husband's family threw a family reunion this month, so they drove their motorhome from Mississippi to Oregon, but along the way they visited all of my mom's family. Since we were in Croatia, my mom saved our house for their last stop as they head back east.
I wasn't able to go to the barn the first day my mom arrived which worried me a little bit as I had only just felt like Izzy was back to normal. My mom loves horses, but she loves me more so whenever she's here, she always seems to enjoy going out to the ranch with me. Because I didn't want Izzy to feel any pressure, I played around with him in the round pen instead of riding. I made sure the "work" we did was a deposit into our trust bank. My mom was very impressed with the commands that Izzy knew. It was fun to show off what he can do.
Since Speedy has been feeling a bit neglected, I worked with him the round pen for a few minutes as well. The round pen work that I do with Izzy is usually about getting control of his mind which means I keep things very quiet and slow. If he's just being a jackass, the work might involve making him move out, but that hasn't happened in a long time. Round pen work with Speedy is about letting Speedy show off, something he loves to do.
Speedy had a good old time showing off for my mom. Right away he started blowing and went straight into passage. His tail flipped up, and he let it rip. I chased him, he chased me, and we both got to have some fun. It's been years since I've let him play in the round pen. For a long time, I've just let him loose in the yard where he occasionally lets loose with a few canters and bucks. He enjoyed the audience in the round pen way more than being loose in the yard.
My mom is heading back to Mississippi this morning, and I don't know when I'll see her next. Her husband's health is starting to decline, so future trips cross country in the motorhome are not likely. We've already decided the next visit will be by plane. Whether it's her flying here or me flying there hasn't yet been decided. Hopefully we'll see each other sooner rather than later.
Safe travels, mom. Call me when you get there.
Quite a few years ago I came across the expression, Trust Bank. At the time, I had never had a relationship with a horse where trust was an issue. I don't know if I had always been lucky or whether horses whose modus operandi, skepticism first, had just not yet crossed my path. Sydney was the first horse I'd ever owned who did not trust being ridden.
I feel quite justified in saying it wasn't me. Every trainer I worked with felt the same way about that horse. He had a bit of a loose screw. As long as you didn't ask him to travel in a frame, he was willing to go along to get along. Any kind of contact though, and all bets were off. That's when I first learned about the trust bank. I worked hard to make deposits in that bank, but Sydney made such huge withdrawals on a daily basis that our account was always empty.
I have rarely sent a horse packing. In fact, Sydney is the only one that I ever just got rid of. All of the others either died or I found them a new home with an owner they chose. No, really. I waited until the horse told me they had found their new person. With Sydney, I knew he was too difficult to re-home, so I sent him back to where I had bought him three years earlier. Our trust bank had gone bankrupt.
A month or two later, I found Izzy. I thought that I could just start with him like I had every other horse I'd owned, but I didn't realize how hard (trust) bankruptcy was to overcome. For several years trust was a big issue. I tried hard to develop trust, but Izzy wasn't making any deposits into our account. I wanted to sell him many, many times. It wasn't until I met my current trainer, Sean Cunningham, that things started to improve.
With our trust bank now firmly in the black, I work hard to prove to Izzy that he can trust me, and the more he trusts me, the more trustworthy he becomes. All of this is relevant to our recent vacation. Being gone for two and a half weeks withdrew a lot out of trust account. When I got back, I was very careful to make several deposits before asking Izzy to do anything that might worry him. The first day back, all I did was stuff him full of treats and take him for a walk out on the lawn where he grazed for nearly an hour.
The next day, I led him down to the round pen where we worked on listening quietly. All I asked for were walk transitions with a little trot. Unfortunately, we also had a group of tree trimmers with industrial equipment working on many of the ranch's forest of trees, so asking Izzy to do anything with all of that as a distraction was tough. Since we have built such a good relationship though, he was a very willing partner.
The next day, with the tree trimmers still there, we went back to the round pen, but this time Izzy was tacked up. We did the same work from the day before, and after I felt that he was completely relaxed, I slipped on his bridle and walked him in the round pen doing changes of rein through 10-meter half circles. He was very relaxed and calm.
Over the last few days, we've moved back to the arena. The first day we did some simple walk-trot transitions, and each day after, I added a bit more. We did a pretty normal ride on Monday which included shoulder-in, trot half pass, and even a bit of flying changes. Not every horse has trust issues. Speedy is the kind of horse that can go right back to work after months off. Izzy is not that kind of horse. His trust bank has to be pretty full for him to feel confident enough to work when he hasn't been ridden for a while.
To whomever coined the trust bank expression, thank you.
A Hair Cut
Izzy's mane and tail drive me completely batty in the summer. No matter what I do - and I have tried a LOT of things, he rubs both out by the end of the summer. Sometimes he rubs so hard that he creates open wounds on his tail dock, forehead, withers, and shoulders. Last summer I got so frustrated by the itching that I roached his mane. And suddenly, he stopped itching.
Just as we left for Croatia in early June, I stared wistfully as Izzy's perfectly grown out mane. It was the right length for braiding, and it looked silky and smooth. The day I came back, the first thing I noticed was that the bottom third had been rubbed out, and the rest was looking very ratty. I didn't even hesitate; I grabbed my clippers and cut the rest off. That was Wednesday. Since then, there have been no additional signs of rubbing. I hate braiding anyway, and if sporting a mohawk makes him more comfortable, then it is a win-win for us both.
A year and a half ago, I bought new tall boots with the intention of wearing them as soon as my current boots suffered a fatal blowout. I waited a month and then another month and then another month. Those darned boots just would not wear out. In total, I wore them every day for almost three years. Last week, Izzy stepped a bit too close and clipped me in the heel. Off peeled my boot's sole. I can't say I am too disappointed as I got an extra year out of them.
I've been wearing TuffRider Ladies' Belmont Dress Boots for quite a few years now. They're extremely comfortable out of the box, and while the price has steadily risen over the past decade, they're still very affordable at around $250. This last pair, which I did toss in the trash, had already had the zippers replaced, so it didn't seem worth it to get them resoled. If I get two years out of them, I feel it's money well spent. I wore them for three years.
When I first put the new pair on last week, I was very surprised at how squishy they felt on the inside. And when I did my first ride in them, I swear I rode better. The footbed was so soft and comfortable that it felt like my horse had developed some extra suspension since the last time I had ridden him. After having several weeks off, maybe he did develop some added suspension in his stride! Either way, my feet were quite happy.
New boots for me, a new haircut for Izzy ... We're ready for summer riding.
There are three things I love most about traveling. The first is that it reminds me how blessed I am. We work hard, and we save for these trips, but I recognize that not everyone has the means to do the same thing. Second, we like to challenge ourselves to do a lot of things that we might not otherwise consider doing. We love a good adventure, and this trip did not disappoint. And last, being gone reminds us of how much we love coming home.
June 5 and 6
We flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia on Monday and made it to our rented house on Tuesday evening. It was a long day to say the least.
Our first day in Dubrovnik was all about sleeping in and doing a bit of exploring. I spent many days swimming in the Adriatic Sea.
On Thursday, we left Croatia by car for the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a guide, we crossed the border safely to visit the Kravice Waterfalls and the fantastic city of Mostar. If you're anything like me, you probably know a little about southeastern Europe, but only in a general way. That part of the world has gone through so many changes that it's hard to keep up, but according to our guides ...
Croatia has been a "thing" since the Roman Empire when it was first called Dalmatia (as in the Dalmatian Coast). It has been its own kingdom and ruled by the Ottomans among many others. Croatians proudly say that they are excellent negotiators rather than soldiers. For centuries they negotiated with powerful countries for their freedom, particularly from their competitive neighbors, the Venetians. At the end of WWII, Croatia was combined with five other republics to form Yugoslavia. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Homeland Wars broke out, and after intense fighting - you might remember Kosovo and Belgrade, the different republics earned their independence from Serbia.
While Croatia has flourished due to its access to the Adriatic, the rest of the republics are still trying to recover from the Homeland Wars. Bosnia and Herzegovina are one country split by a deep religious divide.
On Friday, back in Croatia, we spent the day exploring the Lapad Peninsula - the newer side of Dubrovnik, where we were staying. This is funny because the house we rented was hundreds of years old and even had its own chapel built long before the house.
On Saturday, we tackled Velika Peak, 513 feet (171 m). That doesn't sound very high, but the climb was steep. As we climbed, we were certain we would have a great view from the top, but once we got there, we discovered it was a cell phone tower surrounded by trees and no view. Disappointing, but funny, too.
On Sunday, we again left Croatia and drove across the border into Montenegro. Again we were regaled by the history of the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia. We stopped at a few different points of interest, but the two most fascinating were Our Lady of the Rocks Island and the walled city of Kotor.
The story of Our Lady of the Rocks Island is touching. After two fishermen noticed a strange light coming from a rock, they rowed out to discover an icon of the Virgin Mary. The fishermen tried to bring the rock ashore, but it kept washing out to sea. Returning fishermen began dropping rocks at the holy site in homage to Our Lady, and others began dropping rocks as well. Two centuries later, an entire island had formed. In the 1600s, a Baroque church was built.
The walled city of Kotor looks like Disneyland for adults. As soon as we walked into the city, we quickly found our way to the back so that we could climb the city walls to the Church of Our Lady of Health. We obviously have a thing about climbing. The view from the walls was stunning.
After a very busy day in Montenegro, we spent Monday back in Croatia lounging around. I made my way to the beach for a swim, but the highlight of the day was a very traditional dinner of Peka - meat cooked under "The Bell." The dish consists of meat and potatoes and other vegetables like carrots cooked in a dutch oven or under a bell shaped lid. Since it must be ordered hours in advance, Mara, the owner of the house we were staying, kindly made arrangements the previous day for us to eat. It was absolutely delicious!
On Tuesday, we headed to the Peljesac Peninsula for wine tasting and a visit to an oyster and mussel farm. We both felt like this particular excursion was the highlight of our trip. First of all, our guide Ivona was delightful. She treated us just like family who had come for a visit. We toured two wineries, one in particular was so beautiful, and afterwards we headed out to the oyster farm.
The Peljesac Peninsula creates a very sheltered bay with water that is closely guarded against pollution of any kind which is perfect for the farming of oysters and mussels. The farm we visited is family owned. We were ferried out to "fields" where a floating moorage of sorts was anchored. Once aboard, Peter, our oyster farmer, showed us the process for farming both oysters and mussels. Then he pulled out a bag of oysters from the sea, shucked them for us, and served them with lemon, wine, and some typical sweets. He also steamed a large pot of mussels that were divine!
After our day of wine and oysters, we moved to an apartment in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. On Wednesday morning, we got up early to walk the city walls and visit the fort. Dubrovnik's Old Town was the site for many of the scenes from Game of Thrones, particularly those of Kings Landing.
On Thursday morning, it rained. A lot. My husband wasn't feeling well, so I braved the weather on my own. It wasn't cold, but I was dripping wet from head to toe. I enjoyed the day on my own though as I was able to explore without really thinking about where I was walking.
Because of the rain, we had to make a few changes in our itinerary, so on Friday we rejoined our earlier guide Ivona for a wine and tapas tour in the Old City. It was like meeting up with an old friend for dinner. Ivona took care of all of the ordering so that when we sat down, food was delivered. Everything she had arranged was local or typical for the region. She also paired wines with each plate to give us a taste of Croatian wine and food. For the entire afternoon, we laughed and told stories just like old friends. This is one of the things I love about traveling - the opportunity to share cultures.
On Saturday, we met up with Ivo for an afternoon jet boat tour of some of the Elafiti Islands. If the Oyster farm was our favorite, this day was just behind it. Croatia is all about the sea, so to spend an afternoon on a boat with the wind in our face was perfection. Our guide took us to several sea caves to swim and explore, and then he asked what else we'd like to see. We stopped at a small island to explore a park, and then he found a private cove where we swam and enjoyed a chilled bottle of wine. Honestly, I felt like we were living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
On our last full day in Dubrovnik, we spent the day swimming and eating one last great meal. Wine was also involved!
On Monday morning, we headed to the Dubrovnik airport for a very long, long day. We flew from Dubrovnik to Helsinki, Finland. After a couple of hours "enjoying" Helsinki - all airports look the same, we caught a flight to Seattle, Washington which took us over the north pole. In Seattle, the wheels fell off our bus as there was a problem with our last flight home. We ended up wandering around the airport until 5:45 a.m. where we caught an alternate flight back to Los Angeles. By the time we got home on Tuesday afternoon, we were both pretty trashed.
From Tuesday afternoon through Friday, I spent my time unpacking, doing laundry, going through the mail, and catching up with our dogs and horses. My husband went to work. We were both in bed every night by about 8:00. We had an extraordinary time in Croatia, but we're happy to be home.
Thanks for letting me share. Tomorrow ... back on schedule!
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%: