From Endurance to Dressage
Did anyone else catch this article on Horse and Hound this week? It was pretty interesting while also confirming what we all know about horses. They create bridges that connect people from all walks of life.
You can read a bit more about the Compton Cowboys here and then check out the Compton Junior Posse. None of us needs to be told how horses can change lives; we already tell that story. In fact, we get to see it happening every day in our own barns and back yards. That's just what horses do.
I am glad to see it happening somewhere so unlikely.
The other day on Facebook, I read these three articles from Horse Listening: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. They're worth the read, especially if you're a lower level rider like myself.
If I got it right, the first article describes making contact with a horse's mouth through the bit and reins. The second part explains how when the horse lifts and rounds his back, he is on the bit. In the third part, she talks about that amazing feeling of lightness that can happen when the horse is truly on the aids and collected. While these ideas are relevant all the time, the articles took on special importance this week as I continue to focus more and more on my sitting trot.
As I work on my sitting trot, I'm realizing how much more control a rider can have by sitting. The opposite is also true. A crappy sitting trot can wreak havoc on a horse's way of going, especially a horse as ... sensitive as Izzy.
On Monday, I knew Izzy was going to be a handful. He came into the arena and immediately had diarrhea. This is NOT normal. In fact, he rarely poops in the arena at all, and his stool is never loose. Even so, there he was, staring fixedly at something that I couldn't see. I gave a deep sigh, patted his neck, and told him it would be alright. Spoiler alert - it was!
Since my last lesson, I've been forcing myself to stay conscious of what my seat is doing. That means not allowing myself to "perch." When I perch, I squeeze my legs like a clothespin and my seat bones lose contact with my saddle. The instant I feel myself perching, I relax my legs. I also sit back and tuck my pelvis.
One way that I can tell I am really on my seat bones is that my lady parts feel squished. TMI, I realize, but with the whole sit like a queen, and move like a whore thing, it seems very apropos.
I know I am rambling. What I really wanted to say was how excited I was by Monday's ride. Izzy was tense and worried by what-I-don't-know, but by using my seat and legs (rather than going straight to my hands) to really engage his hind end, there was no drama. I just kept pushing that inside hind farther and deeper until he had no choice but to lift his back and create lightness in the rein.
And in the end, we had a few moments of really good collection. It was so good that we cantered a figure eight on the right lead with no change of lead! Small stuff I know, but every positive moment is a step in the right direction.
I was really tempted to put some Equiderma on Izzy's healing sheath skin, but I stuck to the prescribed Swat. I don't think it's 100% healed, but it looks good. Knowing what it looked like the first time we treated the sarcoid, this time it looks as though we might have actually gotten it.
The first time we treated the sarcoid on Izzy's sheath, we treated it with Xxterra Bloodroot Paste which caused the body to have an autoimmune response. Essentially, we tricked the body into attacking the sarcoid. It was gross and took the better part of six weeks. It also didn't work.
This time, we used Cryotherapy to freeze it off. It's been less than three weeks, and right now, all I see is pink healthy skin. I am assuming that the skin will darken over time. Here's what it looked like this weekend.
The site feels clean and smooth, and he's completely un-reactive when I touch it. Well, as un-reactive as a gelding can be when you go messing with their junk. We still have the one up higher on his sheath to deal with, but we won't touch that one until we're sure this one stays gone.
Having two horses means I get to learn twice as much as the average owner. I don't think my brain could cope with three horses and their problems ...
As much as I tried to talk myself out of it, I rode with the dressage legal bit on Sunday. With Speedy having that gash on his foot, I was able to ride Izzy nearly every day last week. Even though one or two of our rides didn't go so well, I felt that his energy level was normal enough that I should try the legal bit again.
It was a hard sell though. As much as I say I want to get him working in the bit, doing it is tough. I don't want to use it after a challenging ride - I don't want him to have any excuses to be naughtier, and I find myself making excuses after a good ride. If he's going well, why would I want to mess it up by putting him in a bit that he doesn't understand?
Suck it up buttercup was what I finally told myself. I switched out the bits knowing that I really need to stick to my once a week plan. If you're new here, there's a lot of history in that decision. About a year ago, Izzy began to flat out refuse to take his eggbutt lozenge snaffle. It began to be a knock down, drag out fight to bridle him. And once bridled, he was nearly out of control.
I began searching for a bit that would work, even trying out a double bridle before I finally figured out it was the tongue pressure he was fighting. Once I got him in a bit with tongue relief (a ported correction bit), I had no more issues with bridling him. While he isn't going great in the legal bit (yet!), at least he takes it readily each time I try it.
Since my lesson with Chemaine Hurtado a few weeks ago, I've been really focusing on being as effective as possible with my seat while using less hands. With the legal bit, I did the same. Unless I absolutely had to slow him down, I tried to leave my hands alone. At first, Izzy's head was pretty high and his back was hollow, but as he figured out that I just wanted a steady rhythm, his head started to come down on its own.
While I never got a great connection at the trot, the canter work was pretty decent, and he begged to stretch down at the walk. I've learned that when he starts doing something correct at the walk, I start to see it in other gaits as well.
I was also relieved that the frantic chomping of the bit from the week before never showed up. I know he was more relaxed this week, but was it because the bit was more familiar, or was he simply in a better mood? Who knows?
One last thing ... one reason I balk at switching out my bit is that I have to do three things: 1) raise and lower my headstall; 2) take the bit off the headstall; and 3) switch out my reins. All of that takes more minutes than I like to "waste," so I did something about it. I hooked an extra set of reins to the legal bit which makes switching bits a whole lot faster.
Back to the regular bit this week, but I am sticking to my once a week plan!
Somewhere in the middle of the summer, Speedy developed a crack just above his heel. My vet vet suggested I treated it with a wrap and antibiotic ointment, and it went away. A week later, it came back. I talked to the vet about it again, and he decided it was a form of scratches or something irritated by heat, flies, and dirt. He next recommended that I treat it with Genta Spray, a topical spray with both a steroid and an antibiotic. Here's what it looked like in early September when it was already improved.
While I sprayed it daily with the Genta Spray, I went out on a limb and treated it with a second topical treatment, Equiderma Skin Lotion. I am not saying that stuff is what did the trick, but I've decided Equiderma is now one of my must have on hand bottles of goop.
The crack is almost gone. It's not nearly as deep as it was, and the skin has closed steadily from the top and bottom. While I don't know which treatment did the trick, I do know the Equiderma helped with two other skin issues: the cannon bone crud and a nasty gash Speedy got last week.
I have no media of Speedy's cannon bone crud, but if you've ever seen it, know that it's even funkier on white hair. I scrub it every day with a dry jelly scrubber, but to get it off completely, I have to draw blood. I used the Equiderma several days in a row, not following the directions at all - I just glopped it on and walked away. A few days (maybe a week?) later, I hosed him off and the crud was gone.
I have no photographic evidence, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The stuff really does work. As an added bonus, there was no burning of the skin or irritation at all. He just had clean smooth skin to show for it.
Last week, I came out to discover a huge hunk of dried mud hanging from Speedy's foot. I hosed it off only to discover it wasn't mud at all, just a hunk of flesh that he tried to tear away from just above his hoof. I cleaned it as best I could and put him back in his paddock hoping it would look better the following day.
Of course it didn't, so the second day I used a more thorough scrubbing technique. The wound looked pretty much like hamburger. I simply couldn't get the dirt out of the crevices. Speedy had somehow gouged into the flesh at the hairline of his hoof. While he was sound on it, it was definitely painful and swollen. Not knowing how else to get the encrusted dirt out, I doused it with my new best pal, Equiderma. (Mineral oil is the first ingredient.)
The next day, I was able to get nearly all of the dirt to wash away. Only then did I feel comfortable coating it with a nitrofurazone ointment and wrapping it. Obviously Equiderma isn't going to heal a laceration, but the mineral oil did soften the caked on mud enough that I could pick it off.
It's not a career ending injury, but it is annoying. I am sure he'll be good to ride later this week. I do wish he'd quit trying to mangle his back feet though.
If Facebook has tempted you to pick up a bottle of Equiderma, I'd say get it. For $24 (at the Riding Warehouse), it actually seems to do what it says it does. Has anyone else tried it?
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%