From Endurance to Dressage
Every few months I like to reevaluate what my boys are eating. I am sure you do the same thing, so chime in with your feed protocol.
With property values so high and water so limited here in California, there aren't many facilities where horses get to live on grass. If they're lucky enough to get grass, it's usually pretty short, and not plentiful enough to live on. The ranch owners where my boys live have several large lawn areas in front of the house reserved for occasional grazing. After riding, I nearly always let one of them loose to graze for 20 - 30 minutes a day.
The ranch owner buys excellent quality hay which is good since that's mostly what my boys eat. This year's alfalfa is particularly nice with fine stems and lots of green leaves. The grass hay is so good that Speedy prefers it to the alfalfa. Since it's not calorie dense enough, he only gets it while I am tacking up.
Speedy gets up to three weighty flakes of alfalfa a day, depending on how much he eats. If he hasn't cleaned up most of the hay from the previous feeding, he only gets one flake. He likes to eat, but when he's had enough, he walks away.
Izzy gets up to three large flakes of grass hay and two very thin alfalfa flakes a day. Right now, he's in a hoover it all up stage. After a while, he'll slow down on the grass hay, but he'll always finish the alfalfa. When he slows down on the grass hay, the ranch owner makes the flakes a bit smaller. He's such a chunk right now that if she gave him any more he might pop, but I like him nice and round.
Speedy's a hard one to feed. He could live on just hay, but he simply won't eat enough of it to get a rosy bloom. I can't get his corners rounded on just hay. If I give him too much supplemental feed, he feels satiated and quits eating the hay. I've landed on a good balance this year with all the alfalfa he'll eat and five pounds of LMF senior split into two feedings.
To add even more calories to his diet, I also feed a half cup of Platinum's Healthy Weight flaxseed oil. Price-wise it's cheaper than the LMF. I go through three bags a month of that (at $20 a bag) while the flaxseed oil lasts nearly two months (for around $62). The oil is very convenient to feed, and Speedy likes it enough to eat every drop.
Izzy is much easier to feed. Combined with the hay, he gets about three quarters of a pound of shredded beet pulp with an added pound of LMF senior. The LMF is really just to treat him after a ride. If he doesn't get ridden, he gets about half a pound of the LMF.
I used to scoff at supplements. And even today, I still question their efficacy. If money were really tight, the first thing I'd get rid of would be the supplements. But since my budget allows for them, I give them with fingers crossed that they're actually doing something helpful.
Both boys get two scoops daily of Platinum Performance Equine, the wellness and performance formula. Since both of my boys were healthy and fit before I started them on Platinum Performance, I never saw a sudden bloom develop. Of the two horses, Speedy already had a silky coat and lovely feet before I started the Platinum Performance supplement, so it's hard to say whether it has done anything other than make up for any nutritional deficiencies.
Since Izzy's feet need some help, I am also feeding Platinum Hoof Support once a day. None of Platinum's products are cheap, but I feel better knowing that the formulas were created by a veterinarian and that there is research to support the product claims. If anything, I know the products aren't hurting my horses.
I've mentioned this about 10,000 times already, but Speedy loves hard candies. He gets two of them after every ride and anytime I think he's earned it. There are not enough of those times in his opinion. I've also started tossing two peppermints in his morning bucket which the ranch owner feeds. He hadn't really warmed up to her, so I suggested she give him some candies every morning. I haven't heard whether it's working or not.
Izzy like the LMF and grass, so those are his treats. He's not as big on the candies, and cookies are only meh. LMF works for me since I already keep several bags on hand.
I know this sounds like a complicated feeding regimen, but it takes me less than five minutes to fill up my buckets. It's the first thing I do when I get to the barn. I feed as the last thing I do, so my buckets are always rinsed and waiting for me the next day.
So, what's in your horse's bucket?
Poor Izzy. He is having a devil of a time with the flies. Late summer is the absolute worst time for flies here in Bakersfield. Most of us joke that the flies are getting in their last hurrah before the cooler weather sets in. They come out in force, and they're particularly sticky and bothersome. They go for your eyes and ears and land on places from which you can't shoo them.
Summer lasts a long time here in the Central Valley, and so does fly season. It won't get cooler for a while yet. And when fall finally does arrive, it will last approximately three days, and then winter sneaks in. The flies will be gone though.
The ranch owner uses Fly Predators, and I apply my fly spray liberally, but the flies still torment poor Izzy. When I showed up the other day, he was perched over his barrel gently rubbing the flies away from his belly. At the same time, he was nodding his head up and down trying to dislodge the flies that had made his noggin their home.
I grabbed my fly spray and climbed through the fence. I sprayed every inch of his body and let him rub his face on my shoulder until he was satisfied. He went back to his barrel, but this time it was to play. He grabbed it a few times and rocked it off the ground. He likes the thunk sound it makes as it stands back up.
And then he was over it. Once the flies had left him alone, he ditched his barrel in favor of standing by the fence, waiting for the stallion to come over and chat.
I know both of us will be glad when summer is over.
I am not an expert at flying changes. We can get them, but not reliably or even consistently. That's okay; I am patient(ish).
The problem with a movement like the flying change is that you either get one or your don't. Movements like shoulder in or medium trot can be improved while you're in the midst of doing them. If your shoulder in doesn't have enough angle, fix it and continue on. Same thing with the medium trot; half halt and go for it again.
The second I get on Speedy, I want to start working on the flying changes, but I can't because he needs to be suppled and in front of my leg. That means I need to do about a million transitions, some shoulder in, some travers and maybe a few turns on the haunches before I can even think about a flying change.
Once we do start the canter work, I can't just ask for a flying change either because I need to get him soft and on the outside rein first. If I've been diligent and correct in my aids, I can start to think about asking for the change after we've done a few simple changes through walk and maybe some counter canter.
Speedy has a good work ethic, but if the task even smacks of drilling, he's out. Speedy likes things to be interesting, and he likes to feel successful. He doesn't appreciate being asked to do the same thing over and over. All of this means that by the time he's ready to give the flying lead change a try, he's been working for about 25 minutes. He doesn't think he should have to work much beyond 30.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, told me something funny the other day that I've really taken to heart. One of her clients asked why she couldn't do whatever it was until the second try. Chemaine laughed and said it was because she prepared on the second try but not on the first.
Well that explains a lot. With that thought in mind, preparing, I've been super careful about asking for the flying change. Speedy will only give me his best effort a few times which means that I can't afford to waste his time by not preparing.
On Monday, I got a crisp change. I changed direction, got the next one right away, and called it quits. I don't want to burn Speedy out or make him dread that part of our ride.
As long as I am patient, Speedy will get it, and he might even make it look easy. We've got all winter to work on it.
I should also add energy because I only have so much of that, too. My intentions were good on Sunday even though I'd had a long week. My plan was to ride both horses, go grocery shopping, tackle my laundry, hang out with my husband, and maybe write a blog post or two.
Most of my to do list got done, but not the part about riding both horses. I managed to ride Izzy, but by the time I put him away, my energy level plummeted. I gave Speedy some good back scratches, told him I was sorry, and hit the grocery store.
Sometimes, it just doesn't happen.
A couple of weeks ago I had to put shoes on Izzy when he finally came up sore footed. Over the summer he'd been wearing his feet off faster than they were growing. I was worried about the way they were looking, almost triangular shaped, but since my farrier didn't express any concern, I kept hoping they'd normalize as we headed into fall. They didn't.
Even though he had been barefoot for nearly two years, my farrier and I decided to put shoes back on. Izzy was sound immediately. But of course, in true Izzy fashion, he pulled the left one a week later. It came off super clean with no damage to the hoof, but it took my farrier a couple of days to come back out and reset it. (What do you mean he can't be at my immediate beck and call?) I didn't want to risk chipping the hoof at all, so Izzy got a week off as we waited for the farrier.
The first couple of times that I rode him with the original new shoes, we had a come meet Jesus ride followed by a see how nice it is when you behave? ride. Then he pulled the shoe.
I am not a barefoot only! nor a shoe them all the time! proponent. I do what seems to work best for the horse. With that said, the next time I rode Izzy (with the reset shoe), he felt far more balanced and straighter than he maybe ever has. I could chalk that up to my brilliant riding, but I won't because I can't. More likely is that the new shoes have him more balanced than when he was barefoot with questionably shaped feet.
I am not sure that Izzy will keep the shoes on. Like I said, he's already pulled one, but I am going to keep my fingers crossed. I am going to leave this set of shoes on as long as possible so that he has a chance to grow out some hoof. It's an eye rolling situation; most riders want to keep their horses' toes shorter. I need Izzy's to grow out!
To help, he's still getting his Platinum Performance every day, but I've added in Platinum Hoof Support, the same thing I used for Speedy when he tried to slice off his hoof last October. I can't say that it helped - his hoof grew back just fine, but was it because of the supplement or just nature?
I don't like creating expensive poop, but I am willing to risk it if it does indeed stimulate hoof growth. Izzy needs all the help he can get.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%