From Endurance to Dressage
I don't remember where I read it, but I recently saw an explanation of the canter that made a lot of sense. The canter was described as a wave motion, an undulating up and down. If you ever watch a slow motion video of the canter, you can see the uphill and downhill moments. And just like in a scientific wavelength, a canter can be lengthened or compressed. For a rider to stay connected to the saddle without the saddle smacking her in the butt, she must ride the wave which means following the horse's up and down motion by opening and closing the hips.
I am by no means an expert, but I love a good metaphor or visual. Learning to sit the trot is challenging and so is correctly sitting the canter. Visualizing how to sit the trot or canter helps me actually do it. I used a lot of visuals when learning to sit the trot like pedaling a bicycle backwards and using alternating seat bones.When I heard the canter described as a wave, that description resonated with my visual brain. When I can attach an image to a feeling, it is much easier to imagine myself doing it.
For the past two Fridays, Brooke has been able to come out for lessons on Speedy. I have to feel a bit sorry for Speedy's ladies as I very unapologetically like to experiment with what I am learning. This idea of the canter as a wave was so intriguing that I couldn't help but play around with the idea as I coached Brooke. Fortunately, Brooke is a triathlete so she is more body aware than a lot of other riders might be. While she's still in the early stages of developing a dressage seat, she enjoys the lessons that focus on her position, and she's quick to feel the affects that a new position has on Speedy's way of going.
With that in mind, I spent a good amount of time tweaking Brooke's position as she rode. She's still struggling with her balance, especially in the canter. Like many riders, she wants to lean forward and grip with her lower leg. As she rode, I kept up a steady stream of instruction: Let your inside leg hang. Sit on in your inside seat bone. Sit up. Let your elbows follow. And so on. I know she enjoys riding, but I think I get more out of these lessons than she does. When I see my coaching have an immediate effect on her position and Speedy's way of going, I know that I truly understand the concept of whatever it is that I am teaching.
I am desperate to get a lesson myself, but until Izzy's foot heals up (more on that soon), Speedy is just going to have to put up with me. School is just about to start anyway which means I am about to get busy as all heck. While I am working 12 hour days, Izzy's pastern can heal.
Hurry up, brown horse; I am itching to get back to it!
I just finished another Thorndyke mystery, Pontifex, Son and Thorndyke. Dr. Thorndyke is a fictional detective who, with the help of both his partner, Jervis and his lab technician, Polton solve crimes by gathering forensic clues. The short stories and novels were written from 1907 - 1941, long before the police relied on fingerprints and DNA evidence. I love the stories because Thorndyke relies on hard evidence to solve his cases rather than just good inferencing.
This summer, Izzy's "issues" have left me feeling like a detective myself. Ever since coming home from Croatia in mid-June, Izzy has been a hot mess. I've written post after post describing the many ways I have investigated his Not Quite Rightness. He has had body work twice, he's been on GastoElm to soothe his stomach, he has seen the farrier, I've consulted the vet, and I've talked to my trainer. I've seen evidence of improvement, but then something else crops up. The other day, it occurred to me that saddle fit might have become an issue
It might seem like I am grasping for straws here, but I don't think so. Instead, I'm working the problem, or problems. I saw Izzy step on a rock and walk off lame. That lameness seemed to have led to the need for body work. Now that Izzy has recovered from the stone bruise and seems sound from a chiropractic sense, I can tell that something is still not quite right. One "symptom" that has come and gone over the years is Izzy's tension while being tacked up.
I keep a hay net filled where I tack up. Izzy is happy to nibble while having his feet picked out or being groomed. Lately, as soon as I put the pad or saddle on, his back tenses up and he flinches almost as though he's having a spasm of some kind. I've tried a lot of things to reduce this tension, and they seemed to have worked until this summer. This week, I started to wonder if my saddle might be causing some discomfort. I had it adjusted last August which meant it was probably due.
I reached out to Tamara Solange, a saddle fitter and County Saddlery representative, and asked if she had time in her schedule to see us. Fortunately, she was in between road trips - she travels all over southern California fitting saddles, and was able to see us yesterday. I gave a brief run down of all that has happened so far this summer while she listened thoughtfully. I also told her that Izzy has gained nearly a hundred pounds since she last adjusted my saddle.Once I was finished, she placed the saddle on Izzy's back without any padding. Right away she noticed that my saddle was twisting a bit because one panel had flattened a bit more than the other.
Tamara then sat down with my saddle and got to work. As she ran her fingers along the underside of my saddle, a few things stood out to her. Besides one panel being a bit flatter than the other, she also felt that the tree points didn't have enough padding which might be causing some bruising. Just like last year, she felt that the saddle is a bit wide on Izzy, but nothing that correct padding won't fix.
Working with her tools, Tamara slowly added a bit more more padding here and there, especially around the saddle's "points." She also firmed up the area of the panels directly under my seat so that once I am in the saddle, there will be sufficient padding between my butt and Izzy's back. While she worked, Tamara happily answered all of my questions. She clearly loves her job and was happy to share her knowledge about correct saddle fit. Once she was finished, we tacked Izzy up like always, and to my relief, he showed none of the tension he's shown this summer. It was even more telling because we weren't at home. Just being somewhere else should have been enough to cause tension, but it didn't.
My job over the next few days is to continue to tack him up and monitor his response. I am not riding quite yet as Izzy tore open the side of his pastern while we were in Cambria - more on that injury next week, but Tamara wants some feedback because she'll be in Bakersfield on Monday and would like to make any additional corrections if needed. Even if the new fit has no affect on his tension while saddling, I am still happy to have had Tamara make the adjustments she did as they were needed no matter what.
Now, if only Izzy would stop hurting himself. I'd like to close this case!
Over the past week or so, I've managed to do several trail rides around the neighborhood. For the first ride, I saddled Izzy and rode with DG, the other boarder at the ranch. She rides a very nice mare that both of my boys are absolutely in love with. We followed the path out through the neighbor's cherry orchard and then made our way across the old golf course and back home. Once we arrived at the river, we spotted some beautiful sunflowers that I hadn't seen before.
It was such a lovely spot that I couldn't help but stop and take a bunch of pictures.
Yesterday, the ranch owner and I did a short ride around the property. This time I was on Speedy so when we came to the sunflowers, I hopped off and took even more photos.
Before we rode around the property though, we did a bit of work in the arena. Speedy is still giving me some sas, but he's slowly remembering that he's a schoolmaster and schoolmasters are, by definition, well behaved. By the time we hit the "trail," Speedy was a perfect gentleman.
Taking some time to stop and smell the ... sunflowers is time well spent.
For many years, my life was horses, horses, and horses. The older I get, the more I appreciate doing things that have nothing to do with my over-sized, four-legged friends. While doing things with my husband doesn't always included our other four-legged friends - visiting Croatia for example, it usually does And boy, were they a big pain in the patootie!
On Sunday, my husband took me (and the dogs!) to Cambria for a two-night stay to celebrate our 29th anniversary. While I love both dogs, they're a lot to manage when we travel. They're constantly thirsty, they want out all the time, and they love to pee at four in the morning.
The motel was very pet friendly with all sorts of canine amenities - dog biscuits in the lobby, no carpet, enclosed patios, lots of grass, dog bowls, and so on. Even so, every time one wanted out, we had to snap on leashes, grab poop bags, and herd both dogs to the pet area.
When we weren't looking for a polite place to let them do their business, we drove up past San Simeon, home to Hearst Castle, to check out the elephant seals. The Piedras Blancas Rookery claims to be the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible, free, and open to the public every day of the year. If you've never seen them before, they're pretty impressive. Elephant seal bulls can reach 16 feet in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.
For this visit - we've seen them many times, the seals were in a location that was really close to the fence which gave us a much closer look than we've ever had before. We could see their faces, their battle scars, and in one case, even a tag number that had been left on the seal's skin.
Besides watching the elephant seals, we ate some amazing seafood and watched two spectacular sunsets. If you've never seen the sun set in the Pacific Ocean, you should come out for a visit. It's a hard sight to beat.
The next night's sunset was even prettier.
We're already looking forward to next time.
One is a permanent goodbye, and the other is just for a few days ...
First, we're headed to the coast for a long weekend to celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. On the one hand, it's hard to believe that we've been married for nearly three decades. Where does the time go? On the other hand, I feel like I've known my husband my entire life, and it's not that far from the truth. We met when I was just nineteen, and he was twenty-one. Most summers we take some big trip that I always feel is how we celebrate our anniversary, but my husband likes to take me somewhere on our actual anniversary when he can. So, I'll see you some time next week.
The other goodbye is a permanent one, and I am hoping that by the time we get back next week, our little tacking up trailer will be history! It hasn't been used as a horse trailer for a very long time, but we have found someone who has a use for it. As for us, the ranch owner is having a covered hitching rail installed in the trailer's space. We've met with the welder and drawn up plans, and he's supposed to start tomorrow! We're not sure how long it's going to take, but I am hopeful it is done within the week.
I'll let you know how it's coming along next week. Enjoy your weekend!
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%: