From Endurance to Dressage
This horse. Izzy hasn't quite figured out whether or not he wants to actually come through the doorway like Speedy, but he's getting close. Just like Speedy, Izzy likes to hang out with me while I am puttering around. The way the ranch is configured, the road is quite some distance from where the horses live, and if they did make a run for it, the first road they would come to is just a single lane that travels through the neighborhood. Making it to the "main" road, which is only a two-lane affair anyway, would mean passing by lots of other horses and green grass. I feel safe letting my boys wander.
Yesterday while I was putting my tack away and mixing feed buckets, Izzy poked his nose in looking for a treat. Once my buckets were ready, he followed me back to his turnout. When I turned around to take off his halter, I realized that he had double backed to the feed room. I had left the door open, so I quickly looked back to see if he had worked up the courage to actually step foot inside. He hadn't, but he was busy doing something else.
Instead of helping himself to a feed bag, the big brown horse decided to do some dumpster diving. He tipped over the trash can and then rooted around inside it, tossing the trash to the side. When that proved boring, he decided to give the lid a look-see.
I picked up all the trash, replaced the trash can, but before I could get the lid back on, Izzy insisted that he wasn't done checking things out.
Of course, when the whole thing turned out be nothing, Izzy tried to flee the scene.
All this from a horse who thinks new places are terrifying. Maybe it's a sign that his confidence is growing.
Dude, bring that curiosity with you to shows!
Last week, Dover sent me one of those daily emails highlighting some product or other. Most of the time I delete them without checking out the "special" sale, but on that day, I did scroll though, and what to my wondering eyes did appear? Why nothing but a burgundy colored fly veil! Rats!
I have spent a small fortune on fly veils this year, and sadly, I lost one of the pricier LeMieux bonnets at a show in May. I am fed up with spending money on bonnets, but I have been wanting one in burgundy/maroon to match our Sunday turnout.
The black bonnet is okay, but one that matches my coat and helmet would look so very nice. So when I saw that Dover add, and then when I saw the price and reviews, how could I say no?
The thing with color though is that matching it close enough to look good can be tough. In the picture, the veil looks more pinkish red than burgundy or maroon, but so did my helmet. My fingers are crossed that the veil will match, but if not, I can school in it or simply send it back.
I'll let you know once it gets here.
Got it Goin' On
As some of you know, I serve as Vice-Chairperson for the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC) of the California Dressage Society (CDS). CDS is a Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Federation (USDF). Not just a group member, but the largest GMO. And while we're not the biggest CDS Chapter, we've got it going on!
By studying my little attempt to organize the various dressage organizations (see above), you can see that TMC is a chapter of CDS which is a GMO of USDF which falls under the USEF umbrella. I thought education won the prize for alphabet soup; I might be wrong.
This is my second year as Vice-chairperson of my CDS chapter. At the end of 2019, all of the previous board members retired - aren't they glad now? Try as we might, the new board struggled mightily during 2020. Every single time we tried to plan something, the Covid-rug was yanked out from under us. Even with COVID restrictions though, we still managed to get some things accomplished. We held four, two-day clinics, we sold t-shirts in support of the 50th anniversary of the Bear Valley Springs community, and many members learned how to Zoom.
We've been MUCH more successful this year. We've just finished our third show & clinic combination, and our entry for the fourth one is now up on our website. We've held an ongoing tack sale which has raised hundreds of dollars thanks to the many donations we've received. Plus, with help from our sister chapter, Ventura County Chapter, we've sent both an adult amateur and a junior rider to their respective CDS clinics.
One of my jobs as Vice-Chairperson is to manage pretty much all social media on behalf of the chapter. I update our website regularly - check it out! as well as our Facebook page. On our Facebook page, I post funny or interesting memes as well as create Events for our shows/clinics and monthly meetings.
Besides managing the website and Facebook account, I've also worked really hard with the rest of the board (all two of them!) to redesign our chapter's logo. You wouldn't believe the amount of discussion that took. Simply ditching the old for something new wasn't nearly as easy as it sounds. First we had to identify what was wrong with the old logo and then create a plan for designing something that accurately fit our region and demographic.
After lots of discussion, mock ups, and jokes about the poop emoji, we finally sent our idea to a local graphics company who happily modified the design no less than a dozen times. We chose a rider wearing a helmet with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background. California's state flower is the poppy, and since it blooms all over Kern county in the spring, we felt it was just the pop of color we needed. With an updated font and a rearrangement of our chapter name, we're incredibly proud of our new logo.
Over the past few days, I've been working with the graphics company to place our first few orders. So far we've ordered two banners, one for CDS to keep, and one for us to to display at our shows and clinics. We've also ordered year-end awards that have the logo embroidered on them (shhhh ... that's still a bit of a secret). Right now, I am collecting order forms and payment for this year's t-shirt.
Now that we have a logo, we're coming up with all kinds of things upon which to embroider or silkscreen. As soon as the Union Hill Dressage Pad comes back in stock, I am definitely getting at least one so I can embroider our logo on it.
When I was in my 20s, and even my 30s, I rarely volunteered for anything because I didn't have the time, or frankly, the experience to be of any real help. Now that I am 50, I understand how important volunteers are for any organization. And with 30 years of adulting under my belt, I feel that it's my turn to give back. Being on a board does take a lot of time, but just like being a trainer/coach, I get to see the other side of the coin.
Volunteering is hard work, but it's also a ton of fun. Do it!
When Your Horse is a Rock Star
Have I ever told you how much I adore Speedy G? If not, man that horse is amazing. For those that may be new here, I bought Speedy G as a three-year old to be my back up endurance horse; he's now 17. When #1 endurance horse had to be euthanized in 2010, Speedy was suddenly my only endurance horse. That summer, I decided to leave the sport after nearly two decades. I looked around for something else to do, and dressage caught my eye. Ten years later, after having started out at Introductory Level A, Speedy and I earned a USDF Bronze Medal. That was last summer.
Shortly after earning that award, Speedy came up lame. After chiropractic work, hock injections, and radiographs, Speedy was diagnosed with advanced arthritis in his left hock. Both vets, my regular vet and the referral vet, felt that Speedy would never be able to continue working at the level I wanted to, so he was semi-retired.
Fortunately, Speedy makes his own luck. Almost immediately, a young woman reached out to me wanting to learn a bit about dressage. After a short rest period, Speedy was again sound (and has remained so), so "T" started coming out once a week or so for a lesson. Speedy loved giving lessons and proved to be a wonderful schoolmaster. This June, just before relocating so that her husband could do his hospital residency, T showed him at Introductory C and Training Level 1. I was so proud of them both.
Throughout the past year, other ladies have come to ride Speedy as well. "J" has really stuck with it though, riding as often as our schedules allow. We both work, and with show season upon us, J has often had to watch rather than ride as Izzy and I do our thing. She has even made the drive to Ventura County just to watch Izzy and I show. According to her, it was worth the trip just to be immersed in dressage. On Sunday, J got the opportunity to show off everything she has learned this past year.
They made me even more proud. I am surprised my head still fits through the doorway. When we went to pick up J's scoresheets, I gasped in delight! She and Speedy earned a 68.75% on her first ever show! The score would have been a 70% had she earned a 6.0 instead of that 4.0 (see the score sheet below). She couldn't get a trot because Speedy decided to take a very long poop all the way from H to M. The judge even went back to note the reason for the low score. On movement (no pun intended) 7, she added in blue ink, "Due to pooping!"
One of the things that made me particularly proud was J's centerline scores. Over the past few weeks, we worked really hard on that 10-meter half circle as well as getting a balanced halt. In the beginning, J's centerlines were really wide or too tight. And once she finally halted, nowhere near X, she would let Speedy root the reins out of her hands so he could stretch or relax. When I saw that 8.0 for her final centerline, I might have let out a celebratory woot woot! It was so very gratifying to see her hard work pay off.
After a bit of a break at the trailer and a very short second warm up, we returned to the ring for the second test, Introductory C. We reviewed a few quick things, and then J took Speedy into the ring. When the judge rang her bell, J got right to work. The second test was nearly as strong as the first, but they had one issue. J just couldn't get Speedy to pick up the first canter, "3" and "0," and then he didn't want to hold the second one, "5" and 4". To J's credit, she shook it off and didn't let it affect the rest of the test where she scored an 8.0 and a string of 7.0s.
We celebrated the scores from the great movements and talked about what we can do to fix the canter. We have several weeks to work on it before the next show. She can get it easily at home, we just need a bit more work to help her get it at the show.
Seeing Speedy work so happily for yet another rider made my heart swell with pride. Every 7.0 and 8.0 J earned felt like a feather in MY cap. Her scores proved that Speedy has had a correct dressage foundation and that my amateur training/coaching has been accurate, thanks to Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. The judge noted that J needs to show more "bend" which is what I've been asking her to do as well. Hearing that come from the judge confirmed that I am on the right track as a trainer/coach. Just as a reminder, none of Speedy's ladies pay me for any of the training or coaching since I am an adult amateur.
I would encourage any adult amateur that has a steady horse to offer lessons to kids or beginner riders. Giving lessons and coaching these ladies through their first dressage shows has taught me far more than I could have ever taught them. We have one more local show to do, and I know J will work hard to get that canter transition down pat. And no matter how she and Speedy do at the next show, I'll be just as proud of them as I am today.
Rock star horse for sale, $10 million dollars; but lessons are free!
Another (New) Girth
My endurance horses all did best with mohair girths, a natural fiber, but girth shape wasn't much of a factor. When I transitioned to dressage, Speedy did best with a fleece girth. While Speedy does get sweaty, it has never been so copious as to warrant frequent cleaning. Izzy, on the other hand, sweats like a teenage boy which means his girth needs to be cleaned a lot. Izzy started with a fleece girth, but it was constantly "crunchy," so I bought a synthetic girth that served him well for quite some time.
I liked that Ovation girth, and I still have it, but eventually, it started to wear a bit. About two years ago, I replaced it with the Collegiate Memory Foam girth, which I also like. It works great, and I assume that Izzy finds it comfortable. The one thing that I don't like about it is that when I wash it, it takes some time to dry. In the winter, it can take days to dry which is really impractical. The girth is still in fine shape, but it doesn't smell great because I don't rinse it off very often because it takes too long to dry.
My friend Valerie, who owns the Dressage Pony Store (she makes sure to give every product she sells a thorough trial) uses the Thinline girths on her super sensitive pony as well as on Cinco, her big guy that doesn't care so much. While at STC Dressage a few weeks ago for a lesson - she's in training with Sean Cunningham, I saw her girth, a Thinline. After feeling the material and closely examining its construction, I decided to order one for Izzy. It came a week or so ago.
The Thinline is not contoured like the memory foam girth, but Izzy has never needed that feature. Like all of my girths, it has roller buckles which are a must have. The thing it doesn't have is elastic at both ends, but what it does have seems a bit smarter. Both buckles are part of a variable buckle system, distributing pressure evenly with its unique stabilizing d-ring. This is a pretty smart system. If you pull one side, the other side gets shorter. This eliminates any gapping. I call it "self-correcting."
My favorite feature of this girth is how easy it is to clean. When I pull it off, I swish it in a bucket of water, shake the excess water off, and then hang it up. If I need it right away, I can easily wipe off the beaded water with a towel, but since it's not porous like the memory foam girth, it dries almost immediately. Having had two sets of Thinline reins, I do know that the Thinline material doesn't like chemicals, so I imagine that leaving it gross and sweaty might eventually cause the material to fail. Since I love that it dries immediately, I have no problem giving it a quick rinse each day. I keep a bucket of water just for rinsing my bit after each ride, so adding the girth to that regimen is no extra work.
I've ridden Izzy in the girth more than ten times now, including at the show last week, and he seems perfectly comfortable in it. Even though we're having the 4th hottest summer on record, the Thinline material hasn't irritated his skin or left any rubs. If it works in this heat, it'll be fine in the winter.
The only thing this horse hasn't had new in the past year is a saddle. Don't tell him!
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%: