From Endurance to Dressage
I recently wrote about Your Dressage in a post titled, Hey, USDF, Looking Good! As it turns out, Speedy and I made an appearance this week on the site with an article about our journey from Endurance to Dressage. You can read it by clicking the Achievement tab or here.
We've received a fair amount of feedback on the article, all of it very positive. The one thing that has surprised me though is how inspiring readers felt it was. I never feel that I am "inspiring" anyone, especially since I feel like we represent riders of the struggle bus. Struggle Bus Riders Unite! If there was one thing that I could hope other riders might take away from our story, it would be this: with hard work and a bit of luck, any rider can be successful. Speedy and I are the poster children for average. I am an average rider, my horse is an average horse, and neither of us is particularly talented. And yet, we achieved an accomplishment that fewer than 10,000 riders have been able to do in nearly 50 years of the the medals being available.
So whatever your goal is, whether in dressage or some other discipline, don't let yourself be discourage or intimidated by the competition. You do you! Set big goals, but it's also important to set mini goals that will serve to motivate and inspire you to reach for greater things. Don't be afraid of failure. Failure shows you where you need to improve which ultimately leads to success. If I can do it, ANYONE can.
And if you do check out USDF's Your Dressage, take a look at their Weekly Poll; the answers are always interesting. I voted twice this week since I have two horses, and I am looking forward to reading the results.
Have a great weekend!
There are probably a million apps that will track your "run," or in my case - ride, but I am loving the free UnderArmour app, MapMyRun. I've used it out on the trail a few times where I was able to map the distance and pace that we've covered. This would have been an awesome app back when I was still endurance racing. Back in the old-old days, we used nothing, but then handheld GPS devices became available. I had a Garmin 12 which was huge and not terribly reliable in canyons and under trees, all place we were likely to be riding. The apps available on our phones today are so much better, and they're free. Progress, you gotta love it.
The other day I forgot to wear my watch which is just about as distressing as forgetting to wear a helmet. That actually happened a few months ago. It wasn't until the end of my ride when I started complaining (to myself) about the sun in my eyes. I reached up to adjust my helmet, and to my horror, discovered I wasn't wearing one. How in the holy hell did I NOT notice I WASN'T wearing my helmet? For forty-five minutes.
Anyway, back to the watch thing. I time every single ride so that I know how long my warm up is and how long I've been riding. Without my watch, I'm just as likely to ride for twelve minutes as I am two hours, and both would feel the same. A watch keeps me on track.
I had worn my breeches with the awesome cellphone pocket, so I turned on the MapMyRun app and dropped my phone in my pocket. One of the things I love about the app is that at each mile ridden (run), a pleasant voice comes on to tell you you've reached a mile. She then tells you how long it took and after you've done two or more miles, she tells you what your average pace is. I rode Izzy for 1 hour, 1 minute, 18 seconds which covered 4.65 miles. Here's what it looked like.
When I opened the map, I laughed out loud. The green dot is where we started, and the red dot shows where we ended. Is there any doubt where the arena is or whether I used all of it? For the past several months, I always ask Izzy to sidepass to the gate so that I can open it without getting off, and then we work in some corner of the property focusing on walking without bracing through the neck. His not mine.
As we headed left out of the arena, right on the map, we walked through the tunnel carport - a fun trick to check his trust level, but as we passed some barrels that are in the driveway - they're filled with dust control product awaiting application, Izzy decided that he. simply. could. not. So we did. Obviously we spent quite some time weaving through those barrels. Once he decided that why yes, yes he could, we meandered back to the barn (the red topped roof at the bottom of the photo) where I hopped off.
Speedy's hocks were injected last Wednesday, but I had been given the okay for an easy ride on Saturday. Since I had the app up and running, I decided to map that ride as well. You can see the route above. That ride took 48 minutes and 29 seconds and covered 2.0 miles. I was riding with a woman who just moved to the ranch - there are now three of us, but the other one only comes one day a week for a lesson on her pony. Sarah, the horse DG rode was quite a slow walker, so Speedy and I stopped and waited for her quite a lot. We normally do that loop in about 35 minutes; sometimes less.
I don't normally ride with my phone in my pocket - I only have two pair of breeches with a pocket big enough to hold my phone securely, but I think I am going to start mapping more of my rides. It was quite illuminating to see how "far" we had ridden in our arena.
It's funny that I rode more than twice as far in the arena than I did on the trail.
With COVID-19 keeping most of California on lockdown, my small chapter of CDS, the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter, has been forced to cancel at least five of our six shows. The October show is still hanging on by a thread. Determined to meet our members' needs, we turned our show series into a clinic series. This past weekend, we offered a two-day clinic with "S" Judge, Barbi Breen-Gurley, and both days were full! Barbi hails from the central coast where she runs her training and boarding facility, Sea Horse Ranch.
I am prepping Speedy for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, so he doesn't really need a clinic opportunity, but Izzy sure did! He was a total rock star at our clinic in June with Ulf Wadeborn, so my fingers were crossed that we could build on that success. I was not disappointed. He was absolutely perfect!
Before beginning my ride, I stopped in front of Barbi to "prepare" her for the possibility of the wheels hurtling off our little struggle bus. Izzy stood politely listening, ears flopping to the side. Taking me at my word, Barbi instructed me to start walking Izzy in a small circle in the corner while asking him to flex his neck. Her thinking was to give him a job right away before he could get tense. And then suddenly, it wasn't about soothing Izzy's tension, it was about addressing my position and riding.
You see, over the past few years, an amazing thing has happened. My tough customer has turned into a reliable and very rideable dressage horse. Right away Barbi realized that Izzy wasn't the rocket on a string that I had prepared her for. Instead, she saw some things in my own position that if changed, would help Izzy perform better.
Once Barbi ascertained that I was under-selling my horse, she peppered me with corrections. The first thing she worked on was my left shoulder; it wants to push forward all the time. This is a big issue as we track left. If my left shoulder is forward, my left hip is forward which has the effect of creating a very crooked horse. Over and over, Barbi insisted that I push that shoulder back. Since my feeble attempts weren't having the desired effect, I instead started thinking about pushing the right shoulder forward. That got my body moving.
There was more however. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has finally convinced me to actually look where I am going, but Barbi insisted that I also get my horse to look that direction as well. One way she helped me establish the correct bend was to insist that I look between Izzy's ears. Why that is so difficult to do, I do not know, but it is. I tend to be looking far in advance of where we're heading which means I'm looking, but I am not asking my horse to look which means I am not getting the correct bend for the figure.
The lesson started to sound a little like this: get your left shoulder back. Where are you looking? Where is your horse looking. Left shoulder! And then, she threw even more at me. Not only was my left shoulder a problem, but my arms weren't following at the walk and canter. Her next instruction was to look down at my hands. Where they following forward and back, forward and back? No, they weren't which meant Izzy couldn't get soft and forward in the canter.
So then Barbi's list of corrections included left shoulder back. Look up! Look down at your hands. Left shoulder!!!!! Look up! At one point, I burst out laughing. I felt like the world's most idiotic rider. As a "bronze medalist," I should be able to better coordinate my aids. Sheesh. Barbi apologized for being so "tough" on me, but I told her that I am not easily offended, so bring it! She took me at my word. And the truth is, her corrections were done kindly and never made me feel inadequate. Her praise for things done well came quickly and frequently.
At the end of the lesson, we talked about what I had learned, which I just shared. It was the conversation we had after that that turned out to be more meaningful for me. Barbi wanted to talk to me about introducing Izzy as such a difficult horse to ride. She explained that while he might have had his moments in the past, I should really let go of that image of him as he is a wonderful horse. She really and truly loved him.
I have such a hard time "owning" my successes - whether they be in my own riding or in how my horses behave, because I don't want people to think that I think that I am better than I am. Any judge or trainer will know what kind of rider I am the second we walk in the ring. They'll also be able to see what kind of horse I have as well. Barbi appreciated that attitude, but I think she wanted me to think more of myself and of my horse than I do. She very kindly told me that she enjoyed teaching me, and that I had done a great job applying her "demands." My step-mom recently made me promise to eliminate "it was just" from my vocabulary. To hear Barbi say something so similar really gave me a lot about which to think.
If you ever have a chance to take a lesson with Barbi Breen-Gurley, I would highly recommend it. In fact, all of the riders at the clinic liked her so well that we're bringing her back for our August date. If you're local and want to join in, reach out to me on our Facebook page or message me directly.
I recently wrote about the dust control product that the ranch owner uses. I dismantled the dressage court last Monday, and on Tuesday the footing was leveled, and then the ArenaKleen was applied. On Wednesday, I took Speedy to the vet, so Thursday was my first chance to take the dust-free dirt for a spin. Before riding though, the ranch owner and I replaced the dressage court.
I am just going to say right now that a little geometry really helps with your "geometry," if you know what I am saying. When I first started laying out a court, this was at the barn where I was last, I mapped out a space that was 20 meters wide and however long the arena was. Back in those days, the best I could get was around 45 meters in length, maybe. I didn't bother with the letters. Then, I moved to the ranch where I am now, and since the arena was roughly the size and shape of a dressage court, and I mean roughly, I piled my poles off to the side and rode the arena as is.
Once I made the move to Second Level, it was strongly suggested that I get my head out of my butt and create a freaking rectangle as my geometry sucked. I dusted off my meter tape, dragged the poles back in, fumbled with my t-squares, and built a half-assed 20 by 50-meter dressage court. And to make it look good, I added letters that were mostly in the right places. The problem was getting the dang thing "square," and I don't mean that I turned the rectangle into a square. What I mean is that I simply could not get four right angles, even with the t-squares. Without four right angles, I had a parallelogram instead of a rectangle.
Then a month or so ago, the ranch owner volunteered to help me set up the court after we'd dragged it smooth. Oh, hallelujah, but did that ever help. With her sighting by eye and directing me to the left or right, we started to get things a little straighter. After once again dismantling things so we could treat the footing with the ArenaKleen, the ranch owner and I set aside a morning to rebuild the court together. Knowing I was going to have help, I decided we would do it the right way. I pulled out my little map of the court and sat down at my computer to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle with a 20-meter side A and a 50-meter side B.
We started by measuring out the 20-meter short end at A. Then the ranch owner held the tape in the corner, and I walked down the long side keeping the tape as straight as I could. We then measured out the other short side. As I looked at my calculations for the diagonal line, I realized that something was off, so we both whipped out our phones to recalculate. The ranch owner is a legit scientist, so she used a scientific calculator while I asked Google to do it for me. In the end, we both came up with a hypotenuse that was correct, 53.85 meters or 176.68 feet. For a 60-meter court, the hypotenuse would be 63.25 meters or 207.5 feet. Double check my math.
Having an accurate measurement for the diagonal line cut our work time by more than half. Instead of trying to line things up by sight, we walked back and forth with the meter tape a few times, and suddenly, the dressage court was an actual rectangle with four right angles. Once we were happy with our four corners, we dropped the letters in place and placed the poles down the line. We found another eight poles, so it took a bit of extra time to figure out how to maximize their placement, but when we were finished, the whole thing felt so much straighter, and the added poles created sides that were much more visible.
After taking a break in the shade, I saddled Izzy up for a ride. With the newly treated footing, it felt like we were riding on wet sand. There was absolutely no dust, and the footing had a slightly spongy feel. With the added poles and the newly correct corners, I started feeling like an actual Bronze Medalist. It was glorious.
So, Euclid, Pythagorus, thank you. Little did you all know you would have such a profound impact on the dressage world.
It was bound to happen, and fortunately, I was prepared for it with a spare, ready to go. And no, it wasn't a tire. It was my every day schooling boots. Last November, I took advantage of a black Friday deal at the Riding Warehouse and bought a pair of back up boots for the inevitable day when my current boots suffered a fatal injury. That day was Thursday.
I've owned two pair of the TuffRider Belmont Dress Boots, (plus a pair of the TuffRider Baroques) and I love everything about them. What I've loved most about these boots is the comfort level. They are soft and broken in from the first moment you zip them up. There truly is no break in period. Secondly, I love how they look. I love the high Spanish top, the punched toe cap, the zipper guard at the heel, and the textured look of the leather. Of course, from the photo above they look about as ugly as can be, but these have had some serious miles put on them. Here's what they looked like out of the box.
The third thing that keeps me coming back is the price. For well under $200, I get a super comfortable pair of boots that I don't feel bad abusing. When I ordered them last November, I paid a paltry $131.16. A black Friday deal helped with the price. They normally go for $163.95. I've been wearing my current pair since April of 2018. That's twenty-seven months of hard wear which works out to $4.80 per month. I spend at least twice that on my monthly boxes of tea.
I've been fighting the zippers for a couple of months. I've been running a hunk of wax up and down the zipper teeth in an effort to lubricate them. But zippers, they just don't last forever. On Thursday morning the left zipper blew out after I snapped the top snap. I looked down, shrugged my shoulders, and rode with some air conditioning over my calf. After my ride, I sat down to take my boots off, and the right zipper blew out. All I could think was finally. I had expected a wardrobe malfunction long before July.
It wasn't just the zippers. I was already walking around with two good-sized holes and a developing third. Since none of the holes affected the boots' functionality, I've been living fairly patiently with the oddly placed vents. For the past few weeks I've been tempted to chuck the boots in favor of the new pair gathering dust in my closet, but common sense told me to hold out a wee bit longer; that old pair was bound to kick the bucket sooner rather than later. My common sense was right.
After snapping the photo above, I rather unceremoniously dumped the boots in the trash. Even with new zippers, those boots weren't worth rehabbing. I've worn the new ones a time or two - once or twice to work (they're really cute with a long skirt), and I think I wore them to a schooling show or clinic. I wore them over the weekend, and just like all my other TuffRider tall boots, they've been so comfortable that I forgot they were new.
If you're looking for a comfortable and inexpensive schooling boot or even a show boot, give the TuffRider Belmonts a try. I am now on pair number three and looking for another sale to keep a pair in reserve. I dread the day TuffRider quits making them.
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%: