From Endurance to Dressage
Horses are Expensive 3.0 - September
They're even more expensive if you do all the things: shows, lessons, vet, farrier ... Somehow, I managed to squeeze in an awful lot considering September only has 30 days, and I went back to work.
My biggies for the month were the same as any month: board, farrier, lessons, gas, and that whopper of a vet bill. When looked at individually, none of the charges are all that exorbitant. It's when I put them all together in one month that they make me cringe. Especially that vet bill. I have been paying that sucker down bit by bit all year only to watch it creep back up even as I made another payment. I am so glad that thing is paid off.
Out of curiosity, I changed the parameters of the monthly report to show how much I've spent thus far in 2019. My September bill looks pretty hefty when viewed as a percentage of $16,338, my year-to-date expenses.
Then I started digging though my report customizer and found a report that I've never used before - a two year, side-by-side comparison.
It is interesting to note that some years, I spend quite a bit more in some areas than others. Veterinary Costs, I am looking at you. In 2019, I definitely spent more on my truck and the farrier, but a lot less on supplements. Bye, bye, Platinum Performance ...
On my report, I can click each dollar amount and a detailed list pops up. Here's what it looks like when I click 2019's Veterinary Costs.
I like reports. It's interesting to see where my money goes. What we spend our money on is truly a reflection of our priorities and values. Some might even say our spending is a barometer of our core life values. I recently saw this interesting statement about core values.
While some people ... might expressly share their core values, often the best way to identify these values is to watch how they behave.
It makes me wonder what my spending says about my own values. I think self-reflection is what is called for here.
A Peek at Fourth Level
I mentioned this the other day, but Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, is already pushing us to prepare for Fourth Level. Since she seems confident that we'll get there someday, I decided to actually read the Fourth Level Tests. And you know what? They weren't intimidating at all!
Even saying that makes me laugh because that probably means I am not doing it right. Back when I was contemplating Second Level, I did the same thing - I read over the tests. When I got to the part about doing a simple change, I figured that part must be easy. Wasn't that what I was doing at First Level already, simply changing the lead through trot? HAHAHA. No.
Chemaine has encouraged me to try some of the Fourth Level movements, particularly the working pirouette at X. On paper, it looked much too hard to even try, but after the counter canter to 10-meter true canter circles she had me doing last week, the movement started to look easy. I gave it a try. Speedy "pirouetted" like he's done it every day of his life. Like I said, I must be doing it wrong.
I checked out a Youtube video of the movement and realized that I am actually on the right track. Our "pirouette" is probably a bit too big right now, but so was our walk pirouette when we first started. Take THAT, Fourth Level. You're not as scary as you thought!
Oh, and that three single flying lead changes thing? We've been doing that for more than a week. We aren't getting it every time, nor are we getting it at the quarterlines and X, but that's mostly because my court is 10-meters too short. When we do it for real, it will seem super easy when I have a full diagonal with which to work. That movement is actually really fun. I save it for the end of our rides because these days, Speedy gets all excited about the changes.
Everything on the Fourth Level Test makes sense to me except one thing. For the love of God would someone please explain this to me? What in the holy hell does this even mean. I am certain it must be a typo.
"Counter change of hand in trot and canter" - those words don't even belong together.
See? I must be doing it wrong!
Outside Rein Epiphany
The other day I told you about the butt kicking of a lesson that we had a week ago. What I didn't tell you was that I had a major epiphany about the outside rein. There are only two reins. How is it that I still can't use them correctly?
When Speedy struggles with something, it is 99% of the time because I am doing something wrong. My aid is applied incorrectly, my seat is off balance, my timing is off, something. Everything. Anything. It's not you, it's me is a fact of life around here. Poor Speedy.
Somewhere amidst all of the you're doing it wrong but said in a very positive and constructive way, I heard Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, say something about opening the outside rein to move his haunches. It was as though I'd been hit with a stupid stick. Huh? was all I could think to say.
I kid you not. I do not know how to use my outside rein. Since we started doing both trot and canter half passes, I have been pulling my outside rein straight back in an obviously feeble attempt to get Speedy to move his haunches over.
Apparently, if I were to simply open my outside rein instead of pulling it straight back, I would be able to draw Speedy's shoulders into the opening created by the rein which would have the effect of moving his shoulders over which would in turn allow him to move his haunches in. Palm to face moment right there, folks. Rider of the year.
Oh, and it works. I've been using the idea on both Izzy and Speedy this past week, and it is shocking how much easier it is to get the haunches to move when you open the outside rein. Try it. It really does work.
And while I was solving that problem, Chemaine offered me one more little tip. In the trot half pass, when Speedy is finally bent and my outside rein is open, and he still can't quite get it, think about piaffe. If he can't keep the forward, he has to stay in that box I've created and still work hard. Piaffe is harder than just going forward. Even though it's not actually a piaffe, just by me thinking piaffe he has to work harder than if he just went forward.
So the next time you're opening your outside rein to move the haunches, try thinking about piaffe, too. Who knows how many problems you'll be able to solve? My ineptitude is your gain. You're welcome.
Genetics and Time
Brown horse is still brown. His winter black hasn't yet started to show through. But color isn't what makes a horse good though, is it?
What makes a horse good is genetics and time. Lots of time. Like years. Izzy has good genes; his sire line is quite respectable. He was sired by Inbegriff whose own sire was the Oldenburg stallion, Ideal.
Liberty Work presented by Michelle Ives-Purdy with the famous stallion IDEAL. When this video was made IDEAL was the number one Oldenburg Breeding Stallion in the World. This work was a testament to his temperament and her patience. By the way, Michelle is still teaching and training.
Izzy's dam was a Thoroughbred mare named Banjo Rose (born 1989). I don't know much about her other than what appears in her online pedigree. Her family tree looks like a road map of Europe with horses from Italy, Great Britain, France, and even a few from Canada for good measure. In Izzy's RPSI passport under Mutter/Dam/Mère she is listed as Hauptstutbuch, but I don't know if that puts her in the Oldenburg Registry NA's Premium Mare Book or Main Mare Book. If you're in the know, I would love to have that explained.
Izzy's genes are what they are. It's up to his people, that would be me, to invest the time. While it has taken me a very, very long time, he is finally turning into the horse I hoped he'd be. Every ride is now about dressage, not about turning him into a semi-respectable equine citizen. He goes in a legal dressage bit to which he mostly respects and gives. He occasionally forgets his manners, but he is easily persuaded to GET OVER IT.
For the past few months, I've been schooling the quality of the gaits. His back is now supple and he can stretch deep and round over his top line. I've created a bit of a monster though. For so long I worked on RELAXATION, and now that's all he wants to do. I am trying to put a bit of zip back in his stride. It takes a ton of leg to get his butt to move forward. It's a good problem to have.
Our rides are now filled with transitions, lots and lots of transitions. We collect and lengthen at the trot. We do the trot to canter transition over and over until it's soft. We do the same thing, if not more of them, for the canter to trot transition. Now that I know what's looming ahead at Second Level, I am fixing those blooper moments now rather than later.
I am having fun riding him, and he seems very happy. That's really all I can ask. We have some schooling shows lined up for the fall, and if all goes well, he might actually make it to a USDF-rated show next summer. For now, I see a lot more transitions in his immediate future.
And that, too is a good problem to have.
Stuff is getting real. Real real. Like can't fake it real. Last Tuesday, I had a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. Someone needs to remind her that I'm still a lower level rider because she's somehow gotten the idea that Speedy and I have made it to the mid-level ranks. During our lesson she kept saying things like he already knows how to do that, that's what he used to do, we fixed that already, and her favorite, MORE BEND.
This lesson rocked my newly minted, mid-level rider butt. Speedy's too. It was one of those lessons where you keep saying things like, wait. Wait, what? We did? Is that a good thing? You want me to do what? And my favorite, if you say so which means I'm not feeling what you're seeing.
Somewhere along the way, I must have said something about Fourth Level, and I KNOW it wasn't about wanting, or even needing, to be there, but Chemaine is suddenly busting my chops, Speedy's too, to get us heading in that direction. All of a sudden it's MORE BEND, push him to the bit, keep him in the box, don't let him escape that way, nor that way, QUIT LETTING HIM ESCAPE! And it's all coming at me at Mach 10.
The thing is, I trust Chemaine. If she thinks we're ready, we're ready. The last few lessons have been about getting more power, more suspension, and more bounce in the movements. Chemaine's visual for me has been about cramming Speedy into a box. Picture shoving a pissed off kitty into a shoe box. Every time I get the front end there, a hind leg pops out. Just when I think I've got those hind legs where they need to be, a head pops up. Speedy's not as annoyed as a cat of course, but he's just as agile.
Each ride now begins with flexions to the left and right to supple his neck and poll. We then move on to a go, half halt, GO exercise to get him in front of my leg. That quickly becomes a use that energy to go UP exercise. By the time we get through all of that, we're ready for the real work to begin.
Knowing that our half passes are our weakest movement right now, Chemaine planned out an exercise to address the problem(s). This exercise will help me get Speedy's shoulders out of the way as we begin to think about the canter pirouettes which will only help improve the half pass. It went something like this: counter canter a 20-meter circle at B/E. At each "corner" of the circle, do a ten-meter circle on the true canter lead with haunches in. Here's a quick video of our struggle.
It's definitely not an easy exercise, but there were a few strides where I could feel the pirouettes trying to happen. "A few strides" might be over-stating it, but the idea was there.
Canter pirouettes aside, my job right now is to insist that he stay round in front while also sitting and pushing from behind without losing the impulsion. In other words, staying in that box. In the past, he escaped the work by getting behind the vertical. That's mostly a thing of the past. Now, his "escape" is to come above the bridle, a much easier thing to fix.
Thank goodness we have another lesson this afternoon because I need to hear all of it again. Especially the MORE BEND part.
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%: