From Endurance to Dressage
Horses Are Expensive: July
Things are NOT getting any less expensive. As expected, the truck needed new tires which bumped my July bills over the two grand mark. Funny to say, but my goal each month is to spend less than two thousand dollars. Something always comes up though: one of the horses gets sick, trailer needs repairs, big show somewhere far away, or tack needs fixing/replacing. Sheesh ...
I already know that August is going to be an expensive month as well. I have a schooling show the first weekend, a clinic the second weekend, and Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) the final weekend. I got to "skip" the farrier bill in July, but that bill be due again in August. It's not that shoes were free, but Jaime came at the end of June and will return the beginning of August which meant he didn't come in July. It's a good thing as that bit of savings helped fund my new tires.
I will save something on my August board, yippee, as I was on barn duty for several weeks in July. That savings is what's funding a part of the RAAC show; the show premium and stabling for RAAC came out to $413. No small potatoes.
I don't mean to sound as though I am whining. I could save myself a boat load of money if I stopped showing, but it's the showing that I like the most. From October through February I probably won't show so my expenses should go back down.
Maybe I need to start investing in an apple a day ...
Sydney had another lesson!
I know this doesn't seem of much interest to most of you, and quite a few probably didn't even make it this far into the sentence. For me? Being able to take Sydney to a lesson is HUGE!!!! I am feeling quite pleased today. Mt. Self-Doubt, prepare to be summited!
I've been working with JL since last summer. She has helped me enormously with Speedy. I started taking Sydney to her last July fully expecting to show him late that summer. That, of course, didn't work out. In fact, the longer I took lessons, the worse he became until finally, it was just too dangerous to ride him in a lesson setting. The pressure and "noise" of the lesson were just too much for him.
I shed a few tears and then devised a new plan. I've spent the past three months teaching Sydney (and me) to just relax. Nothing else. Thoroughbreds are not like Arabs. I've since learned a little about how they think. They don't like to feel pressured and they don't like making mistakes. So, I took off the pressure and gave Sydney many, many opportunities to get the right answer. I learned how much I can push him (not very), and how to reward him when he gets the answer right.
I am happy to say that he is now quite the happy fellow. I took him to a lesson a few weeks ago. JL encouraged me to start turning up the volume, but slowly. Turning up the volume means go a little faster and tolerate the whip and firmer leg pressure. So I did all of those things. We played "Race Horse" - slooooow trot to go, go, go fast trot back to slooooow trot. I started tapping his shoulder with the whip when I needed more go or when I need him to move over. I also started getting firmer with my leg which he learned doesn't always mean GO! Sometimes it means move sideways.
I took Sydney to see JL on Wednesday. I think she was quite impressed with how tolerant he has become. I ride him with quite a loose rein which has encouraged him to go deep and low. JL liked this. He's much looser through his back and swings nicely. Now that I can turn up the volume a little, JL thinks he's ready for more contact. But instead of forward into the contact, which is stressful, we're going to work on sideways to the contact.
We started with the lesson on the pulley halt. This went quickly as I just had that same lesson on Speedy. We started at the walk. Sydney understood it almost immediately. We worked on getting the halt with as little pull on the outside rein as possible. Even if he thought about stopping, he got a release. We then moved on to the trot. Again, piece of cake. His halts started getting quicker and sharper. He understood the purpose of the outside rein. Since he was able to get the right answer right away, he was happy to play the game.
The pulley halt lesson is all about teaching the horse to respect the outside rein. Rewarding even the thought of stopping lets Sydney know that he has the right answer, something an OTTB wants. I could tell he liked the exercise. Once he was stopping smartly with the quietest aid possible, we worked on moving off my inside leg just like we had with Speedy.
The exercise goes something like this: inside leg tap, outside hand squeeze. There can be no forward movement. At first, just Sydney's hind end moved. He still earned a good boy. Next, just his front end moved sideways. He still got a release and a good boy. Little by little I was able to time my leg, seat, and hand aids so that I got a fairly correct lateral movement that included his whole body. That earned a very good boy, and the lesson was over.
My homework is to continue with the pulley halt practice each time he gets ridden. If he responds quickly the first time, move on. If not, continue until he gets it. Then we're to move on to sideways movement until I can continually get the sideways movement while walking in a small circle, spiraling out.
On Thursday morning, I gave it all a try. I could not be happier. The pulley halts went perfectly, even at the trot. The sideways movement was not so easy, so we did a few attempts with some sideways movement, and then we took a nice walk break with some trot circles. After working on the pulley halt and sideways stuff, his trot work was much improved! We then returned to the sideways stuff where I got a decent spiral circle at the walk. Sydney got numerous good boy pats and that was the end of the ride.
What will make this work for us is that I won't take Sydney back for anther lesson until I either feel stuck or ready to move on. With Speedy, I feel like we get it so much faster and are ready for the next week's lesson. Taking away the timetable from Sydney's progress removes the pressure. If it takes me three months to get a good spiral circle at the walk, okay. Interestingly, we actually did two or three decent ten meter circles after the sideways exercises. I think we might be onto something here!
Definitely a two-steps forward kind of day.
Of course it won't look quite like this today, but it will still be much cooler than in the valley.
I ride a lot, at least five days a week. I also do a lot of other horse-related activities: shows, clinics, expos, etc. Those things all happen on the weekends. If I am not careful, my life becomes completely horse-centered to the exclusion of all else. This is not a healthy thing, especially when one wants to remain happily married. Hubby and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this week.
To help maintain this marital bliss, I make sure that there is at least one weekend a month that is not horse-centered. We try to use those weekends to go to our cabin where we can relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of our daily life. There is no phone, no cell service, no internet, no cable (just DVDs), no traffic, no pizza delivery, and very little noise. There's just the two of us. It's a nice break from reality.
This means that there won't be a blog post tomorrow and maybe not one on Sunday either. I am sure you can do with a break from reading anyway. Enjoy your own weekend, horse-filled or not, and I'll see you Monday.
How to be less restrictive ...
This is actually a poor title; I don't really know how to be less restrictive. If I knew how, I would obviously not be restricting Speedy's movements. Let me back up. The judge at Sunday's show felt that I was restricting Speedy at the canter and at times, in our turns. Hmm ...
We are improving, of that there is no doubt. The judge's comments used to include words like hollow, unsteady, needs more bend, needs more activity, etc. These comments are being replaced with different ones: some loss of balance, needs better stretch, encourage stretch to contact, and so on.
Speedy had Monday off, but by Tuesday it was back to work. I decided to really focus on the judge's comments and see if I could figure out how I was restricting Speedy and how I could get more suppleness of the back.
I started out at the walk and really focused on maintaing contact while still feeling the slightest movement of Speedy's head and neck. I even closed my eyes and allowed my body to feel like it was melting into the saddle. Our trot transition got a lot softer. Hmm ...
We worked on walk to trot transitions all the while focusing on ME being soft. Speedy is already super "light" in the bridle. His go-to evasion is to get behind the vertical and drop the contact as soon as he can. If I am stiff or "hard," he just tenses his back and there goes any suppleness of the back. So I focused on soft and loose. I kept my elbows bent and tried to get some sway in my shoulders. I finally got the softness that I had been missing over the last week.
We moved on to the canter where I tried really hard to follow his motion without bumping him in the mouth. It took a few efforts, but we got what felt like a more rhythmical canter that wasn't rushed or strung out. The canter to trot transition was also quite improved.
Oddly enough, I am much softer and more relaxed when I ride Sydney. When I hop aboard Speedy, I feel an intensity that causes tension in us both. I know the feeling stems from a desire to improve, but I need to find a way to soften the focus so that my intensity is somewhat diffused. On the flip side, I need to be slightly more intense with Sydney. I get too loosey-goosey on him, and I think he might now appreciate the support of some focused energy.
Riding two very different horses forces me to constantly evaluate my aids. Sometimes they're effective, sometimes less so. Either way, I just keep plunking away!
I did a five minute warm up for this test. It was pretty warm, and Speedy doesn't need much of a warm up for his second ride of the day.
As I entered the arena, I paused at the judge's booth to give him my name and number. I also smiled and joked about giving this another try. The judge laughed (bless his heart) and promised to do something about the wacko spectators. I don't remember what he actually said, but it was something to that effect. It was really kind of him to acknowledge our earlier difficulty in such a jovial and light hearted way. I was feeling pretty good as we took our warm up lap.
I don't know if the judge gave me extra time or if we were just running ahead, but I had time to pass by "P" three times before the judge rang me in. Speedy was cool as a cucumber the whole time. That's the pony I love!
Test 2 went very much like Test 1 without all of the drama. We started with sevens, earned another 6 for our left lead canter (really?!), and got sevens for both our trots across the diagonal (!). The right lead canter scored a 5.5, again better than the 4s we were earning just a month or so ago, but the stretchy trot is still a problem; we earned a five with the comment, limited stretch, reluctant.
We may have some work left to do on our stretchy trot, but our trot work up the center line both from X and at A is worth bragging about. We earned sevens across the board. Our final trot down centerline came with the comment, fairly steady and straight. I'm good with that!
Final score was 61.607% which was good enough for a blue out of two riders. The score sheet is below. Click images to enlarge.
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%: