From Endurance to Dressage
I gave Izzy most of last week off. He had done a show on Sunday and then the next few days were in the 106℉ - 108℉ range. It was just too hot to ride. When I finally got on him on Friday afternoon, I was more than pleasantly surprised. While not an upper level horse, he was not the same horse I had ridden the week before.
He was suddenly softer and more supple throughout his body. I kept the ride short, only 15 minutes, but in that time, we managed to both trot and canter quietly. Saturday was nearly the same. By Sunday, some of the wiggles had returned, but I schooled through them easily.
During the last few lessons with Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she had me think of compressing Izzy's stride to balance him and suppling his jaw and poll in the canter. Both of those ideas have really helped me put together a bunch of loose pieces, especially in the walk and canter.
I've never had a horse who wasn't naturally balanced in the walk, so it's not a gait that I've schooled a lot. Izzy is not balanced at the walk. With Chemaine's comments ringing in my ear, I've started to play around with the walk as an end in itself, not just as a way to rest my horse.
I can now feel that Izzy wants to fall forward and scramble at the walk. By using a firm half halt and compressing his frame, I can ask him to come off the bit and soften. When he does, I can soften in return and then ask for a longer stride. The more I practice this compress, soften, lengthen exercise, the more quickly he is starting to soften and as a result, his walk is getting longer and more relaxed - exactly what we've been missing at shows!
While still a long way from show worthy, Izzy's canter is also starting to come together. For so long, I thought I needed to sponge the inside rein almost exclusively. Chemaine helped me see that it's not only about suppling his neck; his jaw and poll are pretty stiff as well. She helped me see that I need to sponge whichever side he's holding. And in Izzy's case, more often than not, it's the right rein.
Tracking right means that I need to work the outside rein to keep his shoulders in line, but the inside rein needs work as well to get some bend. When we track left, it's almost all outside rein - the right. When I get him to let go of that rein, the bend comes more easily.
As we've been working the canter, I've paid much more attention to the idea of getting his poll and jaw to loosen rather than focusing on his neck. Once I can get his rhythm under control with a huge half halt, I then use a milking the cow image as I massage the reins in his mouth. His canter has gotten better and better over the past two weeks.
We're going to a California Dressage Society show on Sunday. CDS shows are normally judged more strictly than are schooling shows, but not usually as tough as the judging at a USDF show. With a only a few days until the show, my focus is to continue improving the walk. If I can get a relaxed walk in the ring, Izzy's level of relaxation will improve, which should help our overall score.
We were so close to a 60% at our last show. Maybe this will be it, and if not, it doesn't really matter as we'll keep working anyway.
Walk on, Dude, walk on!
An order from Riding Warehouse is coming my way ...
Since moving to the ranch less than a month ago, Izzy has pulled the same shoe twice. The first time, he pulled it cleanly off, and I was able to track it down easily. My farrier was in the area and was able to reset it that same day. This time, Izzy didn't pull the shoe off. Instead, he left half of it hanging on tightly.
As luck would have it, I discovered the wonky shoe while chatting with the ranch owner. As I gave it the stink eye and tapped it ineffectively with my hoof pick, she told me to hang on a second as she had a good pair of nippers that I could borrow.
The farrier always makes it look so easy. It took me a minute or ten, but I was finally able to pry the shoe off without tearing up the hoof wall. I thanked the ranch owner for the loan. I would have been out there forever with my hammer and hoof pick trying to get that thing off. She showed me where she keeps her farrier tools so that the next time I have a loose shoe, I'll know where to look.
With all of Izzy's new space, he's able to do a lot more zooming around. I am also hosing him off more frequently which has softened up his feet. Woo-hooing with soft feet is a good way to irritate your farrier. Izzy was due for shoes this week anyway, so I guess the timing was good.
After a lot of thought and number crunching, I jumped on the Platinum Performance bandwagon this summer. You can follow the start of the journey by reading through these posts.
At the beginning of June, Izzy was eating 30 pounds of alfafa/oat cubes (included in my board bill) with free choice timothy hay ($27 a bale) along with two pounds of beet pulp and an equal amount of rice bran (around $18.00 a bag each). That's almost 40 pounds of feed a day. While he looked good, it was costing me an arm and a leg. He was also getting Quiessence in a Smartpak at around $25 a month.
When I made the switch to Platinum at the end of June, Heather, my Platinum advisor, assured me that Izzy's nutritional needs would change. She was right. As I transitioned him to the Platinum, I slowly cut back on the beet pulp and eliminated the rice bran. I then gradually reduced the amount of free choice hay. His weight remained the same!
It was clear that his body was metabolizing his feed in a much more efficient manner. In addition to that, his energy level also got more focused. He's still energetic, but it's a quieter energy. He literally seems happier, calmer, and more content in his own skin.
I think I gave Platinum a solid test these past seven weeks. Izzy went to three schooling shows (all almost three hours away), one of which was an overnighter that included a lesson on the first day. He also did an away from home lesson that included five hours of round-trip driving. On top of all of that, I changed barns. Through it all, his weight remained fairly constant, and he dealt with the activity as well as any veteran.
Izzy now gets two medium flakes of alfalfa each morning along with some grass hay. In the evenings, he gets several flakes of just grass hay. I haven't weighed it, but it's less than 30 pounds a day. He's also getting about a pound of beet pulp with his daily scoops of Platinum. He never finishes his hay. On some days, my barn owner reduces his evening ration because he has left so much from the morning (he likes it, it's just too much!).
Izzy hasn't been on Quiessence since early May. The money that I spent on that supplement is now going toward Platinum as is what I used to spend on beet pulp and rice bran. Platinum is actually costing me less per month than all of that feed did. In fact, eliminating the Quiessence and cutting back on all that feed is almost covering the cost of putting both horses on the Platinum!
A 17.5 pound of Platinum Performance costs $101 dollars plus an additional $7.58 in California state taxes. It has 60 servings, the perfect amount for two horses to consume in a month. Since I elected to do auto-ship, my shipping charge is only $5.00. The grand total for my first paid bucket of Platinum Performance was $113.58, or $56.79 per horse for one month.
I think that I am getting more for my money than I was. I haven't yet seen any changes in Speedy, but I didn't really expect to either. Just knowing that I am better meeting his vitamin and mineral requirements makes the cost worth it.
Has anyone else considered Platinum this summer? I know one of my friends has both of her boys on it (Baltimore!) - anyone else?
I don't want to complain about the heat, and truly, I try not to, but we have finally reached a temperature where even I won't ride. I ride every day; I enjoy it. It doesn't matter if it's cold, hot as heck, or blowing hard enough to make even Dorothy check the sky. But this, this is just too much.
So far, we've had 41 days of triple-digit heat this summer with more on the way. Our normal is around 33 or so. It's been hot. Since my work week barn time falls from 3:30 to 5:30, I can't escape the hottest part of our day. I can ride at 100, maybe even 102, but 108 (42.2℃ for my foreign friends) is simply out of the question.
I did hop on Speedy bareback with a halter on Wednesday, but we rode down to the river and then tooled around for no more than 20 minutes. We both enjoyed the walk. Izzy hasn't had a ride since Sunday's schooling show, but I think he earned a few days off.
Even though I haven't done a schooling ride this week, I've put the time to good use. One afternoon, I let both boys out on the grass in front of their paddocks. It was quite interesting to watch the dynamics. Speedy is now a confident horse who understands what free grazing means; he's all business. When I let Izzy join him, Izzy's lack of confidence was immediately apparent. It was obvious that he felt uncomfortable without me telling him what to do.
He immediately sidled up to Speedy and suggested they run off. To where he didn't know, but things were not safe. Speedy took him to the end of the fencing, and then stopped and looked around. I brought Speedy back to the grass while Izzy followed along. After several more attempts to leave, I finally held the end of Izzy's rope; he relaxed then and started to graze.
Letting the horses graze on their own without me holding the end of the rope wasn't allowed at my last barn, but now that it's permitted, Izzy will get more practice. I think letting him have some "freedom" will help develop a bit more confidence - something he definitely needs.
There has also been a lot of hanging out in the shade and visiting. A lot of enjoyment can be had listening to your giant pony slurping up something wet and tasty.
While Speedy also enjoys his afternoon beet pulp laced with Platinum Performance (update on that tomorrow), he enjoys a good back rake more. He'll stand there all day long for that.
The weather should break just a little next week which is good as Izzy will be going to another show on the 28th. I plan on spending a lot of time doing walk to trot to walk transitions next week. Now that I think about it, maybe those 105 degree days are what I need for a better walk.
Triple digits or not, I hope to be back in the saddle this afternoon.
After the "roaring success" that was Test A, I made it my goal to GET. A. WALK.
And that was it. That's all I cared about; I didn't care if he bolted, bucked, or left the arena. My two goals for the show were to 1) have a controlled warm up and 2) not get a 4 for the walk. We met our goal for the warm up, but we earned yet another 4.0 for the free walk in the first test. When the judge and I chatted after the first test, she agreed that getting a walk would go a long way toward improving our overall performance.
I'll let you decided if our free walk was improved.
Right?!?! How much better was that?????? There is so, so much wrong with that ride (unsteadiness in the bridle for one), but he walked! There was absolutely no jigging or piaffing. It was far from perfect, but it was so much improved over his first effort. The judge gave it a 6.0 (generous, but better than than the earlier 4.0) with the comment, not tracking correctly. I'll take it!
We have a long way to go, but I really want to celebrate our "wins." Did you notice our first halt? Honestly, that thing is getting really nice. We earned a 6.0 (tensing back), but I really like how square he is trying to be. This boy really does have talent.
And in case you missed it, this is proof that Izzy can walk. I've been schooling it at home during our warm up and cool down and any time he gets particularly tense. As we continue to work on it, it should start to appear during shows as well.
Of the eight tests that we've done since April, this test was definitely our best even though we earned the exact same score as our test B two weeks ago. Our total was a 58.438%, but we had no 4s! Izzy earned a 7.0 for Gaits and the judge awarded me a 7.0 for Rider's Position. The rest was a mix of different 5s and 6s. If Izzy keeps improving at this rate, we'll crack 60% soon.
Our next show is CDS-Rated. Maybe it will happen there!
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 Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read