From Endurance to Dressage
I haven't written anything about the Speedy pony in a while. Even though Izzy's been getting most of the blog space lately, it doesn't mean that Speedy's been a couch potato - quite the opposite.
For the past month, Speedy and I have been refining our First Level moves. While we still have a ways to go, I am feeling really good about where we are. Test 2 now looks easy, on paper anyway, and Test 3 looks ... comfortable. It's hard to believe that just a few months ago those tests looked a bit intimidating. Today, I feel like we should be able to get out there and knock these tests out.
When I was riding the Training Level tests, I usually had more of a cross my fingers feeling. I didn't feel confident in our ability to ride the movements well. Now, I know that we can execute every single movement well. It doesn't always happen, but at least I know there is nothing in these tests that we can't do.
Today we're off to a two-day, USDF/USEF/CDS-rated show. There are a few things I am working toward, but I am not going to let the pressure get to me. I am going to go out there and simply ride to the best of my ability. If we get the scores I have in mind, fantastic, but if not, I am reminding myself that this is our very first attempt to show First Level at a USDF show. It's okay to not be brilliant.
I have an afternoon lesson with Chemaine, and she'll be coaching me during my warm-up rides on both days. I am feeling really positive about this show and can't wait to get in the ring.
See you all on Monday!
Not related to horses in any way, but I still wanted to share. Today is our twenty-first anniversary. My husband and I exchanged our wedding vows more than two decades ago today.
I've written about this before, last year we celebrated our twentieth anniversary with a quick trip to Las Vegas, but it's worth mentioning again. Marriage is a lot of work, but when you get it at least half-way right, it's the greatest thing around.
We don't put a lot of emphasis on our anniversary date. It's mostly just another day. Instead, we work on our marriage pretty regularly. That doesn't mean it always goes well; we've had our issues like everyone else. But when we have a problem, we figure out what's wrong, and we fix it together.
We met when I was nineteen and he was twenty-one. After just a few weeks of dating, I knew I wanted to marry him. I shake my head at that now. We were married three and a half years later. At twenty-three years old, I somehow found my life partner.
Like most couples, we've been through multiple jobs, a couple of houses, several dogs, a few horses, at least four trucks, and the occasional busted something or other. Through all of the big and smalls of life, we try to be a team. I know what his strengths are, and he knows mine. We work hard to value what each of us brings to this partnership. So far it's working out pretty well.
We all know that life has no guarantees, and it can be fleeting. It's also true that no one is going to bring you happiness; we have to make our own. My husband and I have embraced that concept. So for us, that means living a life where we respect and cherish each other. And when things start to go sideways, we simply choose to work it out, whatever it takes.
Here's to (at least) twenty-one more years of happily ever after!
KG and I had big plans to trailer up to Rancheria Road yesterday, but California's weather had something to say about it. We are immeasurably grateful for the rain that the El Niño weather pattern is bringing us, but it did force a change of venue.
Our new plan is to trailer up to Rancheria Road tomorrow. We love this "trail head" because it is a wide dirt road that winds up to several thousand feet in elevation. If you climb long enough, which we used to do regularly but won't do tomorrow, you hit pine trees and much cooler weather.
Instead of RR, we chose to go back to the same staging area that we've been using for the last several weeks. But to make it a new adventure for Izzy, we rode the trails in a counter clockwise direction. You know what they say, different eye, different brain. Izzy proved the adage true.
While he was excited, his brain stayed connected. We started off by walking through the path that has that weird rock in front of it, and then we dropped right down onto some twisty single track trail. Izzy handled it like a pro. Yes, he was crowding Taz and hopping up a bit, but it was very much a This is fun! attitude and not mentally checking out.
For most of the way, Izzy was really relaxed and having fun. A few times though, he noticed things that he hadn't seen when coming from the other direction. While he did spook at those things, I had him on the buckle and never worried about him bolting. His spooks were just flinches or small refusals.
He was doing so well in fact that we rode to the end of the trail on the north side of the river. To continue on, you have to cross over the weir which takes you to the south side of the river.
A weir is a essentially a mini dam. It holds back the river until the city or county (or whoever) needs the water. The weir is then opened up and the water flows underneath. When the weir is completely open, the water rushes really loudly.
This weir is covered with an access road which is part of the designated trail system. What makes it scary is that you can hear the water pouring out from underneath, and the machinery that operates the weir hums along immediately to the side. The whole things is surrounded by a chain link fence, so once you start crossing, you're effectively in a long chute. Some of the horses find the hollow sound beneath their feet a bit disconcerting.
Although Taz is not a fan of this crossing, he obediently marched forward. Izzy didn't have much choice but to follow. We made a small lollipop loop and then came back to re-cross the weir again. Taz was no more eager to cross the second time, but he knows his job. Since Izzy was seeing it from a new perspective, he still clung closely to Taz's side as he crossed, but he did it without any resistance.
Each time that we've ridden out there, Izzy has been really bothered by other horse and rider pairs. People on the ground haven't bothered him. It's people on horses that cause him some concern. KG and I have discussed this at length, and we suspect that he's wondering what the heck those horses are doing out there. He isn't bothered by Taz at all, and in fact, finds him to be a great source of comfort. Other horses with riders however, have made him quite nervous.
For this trip, we came up on a pair of ladies riding two very handsome horses. I stopped and asked if they would mind taking some pictures of us. While they weren't able to figure out my iphone, they were willing to stand and chat with us a moment. To my delight, Izzy was totally comfortable standing with them. He did give them an initial I don't know as they approached us, but once we were all grouped together, he was happy to stand and listen.
Once we were back at the trailer, he dove for the water bucket before I could even pull his bridle. He also asked very obviously for a treat. As promised, he got a scoop of rice bran in a feed pan. He's a quick learner! As before, KG and I hung out for a while so the horses could eat and drink and relax. I want Izzy to enjoy being at the trailer. So far, my plan is working.
Since this particular ride was about challenging Izzy a bit, I decided to load him up first while Taz was still tied to his own trailer. Izzy thought about it a moment, but then he hopped in. He did give a whinny or two, but then he settled down and waited for me to pull away.
Everything about the trailering part of going places is getting much better. Each time he unloads, he gets more and more careful about it. For this trip, he actually reached for the ground without so many panicky steps. I was also able to start saddling him before KG pulled up. And once we got home, he unloaded happily and looked around for some grass to eat.
I am really looking forward to tomorrow's adventure!
Three weeks ago, not so much. Ask me again next month and we'll see how I feel about Izzy then. This week, I am grinning from ear to ear.
After just one lesson with Chemaine, Izzy's whole attitude toward dressage has changed. A switch has definitely been flipped, and he's starting to see what it is that he needs to do. Don't get me wrong, he's still inconsistent in the contact, rooting the reins, curling behind the bit, and having trouble maintaining a steady rhythm. But it's all to a lesser degree.
That's a step forward folks, and I'll take it. There are far too many of the two steps backwards days not to celebrate those days when stuff's going right.
So what's going right? Well, since Thursday's lesson, we are now actually cantering when I ask for it - that alone is HUGE. I just hadn't felt confident enough to ask for the canter before our lesson. I wasn't sure that I could keep him from exiting stage right.
Chemaine helped me see how to ride him with a very giving contact while still keeping him under control. In fact, I have a droopy inside rein now. I play with it, and he lets it go. When I let go of the inside rein, and HE lets go of the inside rein, we can get a better bend and his inside hind leg can step through.
So now as I ride, I focus all of my attention on "regulating" his rhythm (my new favorite dressage word - thanks, Chemaine!) and playing with the inside rein. When I put those things together correctly, he carries himself in a very cute little frame and even occasionally stretches down.
When I rode yesterday, there was not one attempt at being naughty, bolting, spooking, or trying to write his own agenda. For our first ride of the day, we walked around the arena for twelve minutes. We walked deep into the spooky end, made circles, rode straight lines, and did it all without worrying.
When I got on him for round two, we trotted into the scary end of the arena without incident. And then we cantered to the left and cantered to the right. We did lots of trot circles that included changes of direction and even some large serpentines.
Like Chemaine said, right now it's all about regulating the rhythm for him. And you know what's funny? Not haha funny, but doh! funny. Rhythm is the bottom tier of the Dressage Pyramid - immediately followed by relaxation. I knew that of course, but it just makes me shake my head when I see it actually happening.
This post is courtesy of Austen over at Guinness on Tap.
Yesterday, I shared some photos of Izzy playing during turnout - I also shared two of those photos on Facebook.
We all know that real racehorses don't spend so much time dawdling through the air. Austen found the perfect video to go along with the whole dressage horse or race horse theme. Check it out.
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%: