From Endurance to Dressage
If you're looking for help with your sitting trot, you won't find it here. Sorry. How is it that sitting can be so difficult? I mean really, we're all experts at sitting on our butts. We do it all day long!
When I decided that my time at First Level was rapidly drawing to a close, I started working on my sitting trot for real. That meant I actually looked at my watch and started timing the length of time I could keep my butt in the tack without switching to a rising trot.
Some days, I can sit for 5 to 10 minutes, but then I get frustrated and move on to "real work." I have discovered a few things that help though. 1) I sit better in the afternoons when I've been walking for hours. 2) I sit better in the mornings if I do some stretches first. 3) I sit better when I am focused on a specific movement like shoulder in or leg yielding.
It was pretty hot when I rode Speedy on Tuesday. My arena has some really large trees that will throw great shade in the early evening, but I ride a bit too early for it. Instead, I get a couple of areas that shade maybe a 15-meter circle. I decided that sitting trot in the shade was the focus for the day.
I am happy to report that I rode for 23 minutes and didn't post once! We spent the time working on Speedy's collected trot, shoulder in, turns on the haunches, and walk to canter to walk. And you know what? My sitting trot is getting better!
I can sit the trot when the work is slow or collected. I am even finding that we do some movements better when I am sitting, like the leg yield. The real hurdle is figuring out how to sit Speedy's lengthened trot. Since Speedy is smaller than most dressage horses, there's less "hang time" from one stride to the next. This means my pelvis needs to move much quickly than it would on a larger moving horse.
My Second Level debut is in 10 weeks. It might be a bit ugly, but we're going for it!
Since mid-July, I've been thinking that Izzy needed to see the chiropractor. But you know how things go. At the end of July we went to San Diego for a week, and when I got back he was better. Then when I still thought he should see the chiropractor, Speedy and I went to RAAC, but the chiropractor was also gone showing. As we left for the show, Izzy came up lame, but it turned out to be an abscess that blew on Monday, the same day that school started.
I finally called the chiropractor on Saturday and was lucky to get a same day visit. There were no surprises. Even though the chiropractor had been out this past May, Izzy was sore from hocks to poll.
Even though Izzy's same old spots were irritated, the chiropractor had to work on him a long time to help him find relief. Izzy's poll was locked up tight as were his neck and loins.
In the end, the chiropractor felt that Izzy's hocks were the cause of all of his discomfort. When I got home and reviewed Izzy's medical records, I was not surprised to see that Izzy's hocks were injected mid-July of 2016. Mid-July of this year was when I first felt that he needed an adjustment. It looks like annual hock injections might be our new normal.
As luck would have it, my vet just left for a two week vacation, but I was able to talk to him before he left. He agreed that Izzy should have them done again, so we have an appointment scheduled for the doctor's first day back, a week from Friday.
I hate having to wait so long, but the time will go quickly. Speedy and I have a show this Sunday, so my brain is kind of focused on him anyway. It's also hot, and since I now have to ride in the afternoons, I am a little less motivated. Izzy has already had a few days off. For the next week, he'll get ridden lightly.
Thank goodness I have one easy horse. Izzy, it isn't you!
Living in a dressage-sized world with an Arabian presents the occasional problem. Appropriately proportioned bridles are hard to find. Less than enveloping dressage pads are hard to find. Even a girth short enough for Speedy's well sprung barrel can be tricky to find.
So it was no surprise when the halter that Speedy won at the California Dressage Society Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition was a wee bit too big.
I pulled out my trusty, if not very sharp, hole puncher and went to town. I punched new holes up the crown and several more along the chin piece. The halter "fit," but there was excess leather hanging everywhere.
We have a pretty reputable saddle shop in town that builds custom saddles and does other leather repair work, so I popped in on Monday afternoon and asked what they might be able to do.
In less than 15 minutes, their leather guy trimmed the crown piece, added stitching, dyed the stitching to match, and added a few more holes.
With the crown piece taken care of, he next tackled the voluminous chin piece. He neatly trimmed the end shorter, dyed the newly cut leather black, and then added a few more holes.
The whole job was done quickly and cost me a very modest $20. He even told me to bring it back for any adjustments at no additional charge. Many thanks to the guys over at Granite Station Saddlery.
I drove straight to the barn from the saddle shop and threw the halter on to check the fit. Speedy was eating, so he was less thrilled than I was.
It's not often that I get so excited by a ribbon or an award, but this one is pretty special. I've won 3 coolers (1 for endurance and 2 for dressage), but I like the halter the most! I think I worked harder for it than the first place coolers.
I prefer my rope halters as they can get wet and dirty without stiffening, so I am not sure when I'll even use the fancy leather one. I am thinking it might be fun to use at our show this next weekend, but for now, it's hanging in my office where I can enjoy it every day.
Thanks for being such a great teammate, Speedy G!
Now that the RAAC is over, I have one more show for the 2017 season, the final Tehachapi show. It's this weekend. We're doing First Level one more time in hopes of maybe eking out the highest overall average score for the adult amateur division. There's a $100 prize and certificate at stake, so it's worth aiming for. The competition is stiff however, and I think I am only in third place at the moment. Win or lose, I hope it's the last First Level test I ride.
The problem with moving up a level is that Speedy and I have been poised on that brink before only to step back down. When we wanted to move from Intro to Training Level, USEF radially changed the tests so that the Training Level stuff got moved down into Intro. That meant that we stayed at Intro for another year.
When we finally moved to Training Level, we did well enough the first season, but our scores were in the bottom 60s, and I knew we weren't ready for First Level. The second year we did Training Level, we finished with scores in the high 60s and low 70s. We moved to First Level.
Our first season at First Level went okay. We started with scores in the high 50s and low 60s, and ended with some solid mid-60 scores. I was hopeful that we could move on to Second Level in the spring, but over the winter, Speedy kept coming up lame. It was so intermittent that I couldn't keep him in regular work. Then, in the spring, he suffered some tendonitis brought on during turnout, and I gave up any plans of showing him for the rest of the year.
This winter, Speedy's lamenesses resolved themselves. The tendonitis had long ago healed with no issues, and the night time turn out took care of the whirling and pacing that was causing him to be sore on the right front. We started at First Level again.
And now, here we are staring down Second Level. I think we're ready. Our scores are solidly in the mid-60s, and it feels as though we're pretty confirmed at the level. I just don't think there is anything more to be learned by hanging out at First again.
I am pretty sure US Equestrian isn't going to surprise us with new tests, the current ones are good through November of 2018, so it's simply up to Speedy to stay sound and healthy.
As I was looking over the shows that start the 2018 season, which begins in October, I saw two different shows that looked great for first timers. The first is in Fresno. It's a two-day show with Saturday's event being a schooling show (cheap!), and Sunday's classes are USDF-rated. I think this is a clever show set up. If we make it, Speedy and I will have one day to dip our toes into Second Level before we let it all hang out at the rated show on Sunday.
The second option is at Hansen Dam in November. It's also a two-day event, but on Saturday, riders get to do a Ride-a-Test twice, and then on Sunday, there's a schooling show. This option would be cheaper with a lot less stress.
I don't know yet which one I'll do. Heck, I might even do them both!
As per my plan, I took it easy on Sunday. I fed early like I always do and took Speedy out for his mandatory lunge/walk. He simply won't eat breakfast unless I do. But after he was tucked back into his stall, I climbed back into bed and read until 7:00 (I was RV camping, so I had that luxury). I eventually coaxed myself out of bed and made a leisurely breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, I also kept my sunglasses on, wore a wide brimmed hat, and stayed in the shade. Since my ride time wasn't until 2:26, I had the whole day to wait through. In fact, I was the last rider of the day.
I am not sure if you noticed Speedy's braids, but I kicked some butt on those babies. They were so neatly done that they held through the night and were still good enough to use on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty proud of them. After the last time I did this particular braid, I knew I finally had it down pat.
My strategy for Sunday's ride was pretty clear: stay out of the heat during the day, do a short 15 minute warm up, and don't give up before I'd even started. I slept in, hung out in the shade all day, and forced myself to wait to saddle until even friends thought I was pushing it.
I felt kind of bad about the last part of my strategy, but I was seriously intimidated by my competition, no matter how friendly they were. The one thing I forced myself to do was to NOT watch any of their rides. I was just as worried about them making a critical error as I was about seeing them put in a brilliant ride. I didn't want to place well due to someone else's mistakes, but I also didn't want to lose my confidence by watching a winning ride.
By the time the ring steward gave me the go ahead, the heat had returned, but I felt better equipped to deal with it. I marched Speedy into the ring and gave it our all. He was still behind my leg and he still curled, but we put in a pretty solid effort.
When I finally had time to sit down and study my test, I was relieved to see that we had nothing lower than a 6.0, and there were only four of them. We also earned eleven 7.0s, which was what I had been working towards all summer! Our final score for the test was a solid 66.029%.
If you read my post from the other day, you know my finishes at RAAC have been either first or eighth. While we didn't win, I was very relieved to not be in eighth place. I was more than happy to receive that red neck ribbon!
First place always receives a lovely cooler (I already have two of them), but second gets a leather halter. I know it's silly, but I am so in love with the thing!
Here's the video of the ride followed by the score sheets.
We have one more show in a few weeks to finish out the 2017 season. So far, I am more than satisfied with where I am towards accomplishing this year's goals. Win or lose at Tehachapi, I'm calling the season a success!
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.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 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