From Endurance to Dressage
Ima Rock Starr
Speedy G is simply a rock star. There's no way around it. What I find so surprising is that I helped him get that way. It's not like I consciously planned it, but I always say it's so important for our equine partners to be good citizens because it guarantees them a long and productive life. Speedy adores attention, especially from humans, but if he weren't such a solid equine citizen, I wouldn't be able to let others ride him.
A month or so ago, "T" started taking a weekly lesson on Speedy. T is getting married in Montana in a few weeks, so between traveling for the wedding and my schedule, she probably won't be back to ride for nearly a month. Since Speedy won't be happy standing around weekend after weekend, I'll probably need to hop up on him once a week or so to keep him tuned up.
T did manage to come out on Saturday for a lesson though. She's definitely got the bug and is rearranging her schedule to ensure she makes it out at least once a week. I've told her that I don't have a formalized program for teaching, but I think I am going to need to get something a little better organized, especially if she keeps coming out. She's a very good student and learns whatever I throw at her. So far, we haven't needed to repeat a lesson.
For this lesson, I picked a few things that I wish I had understood from the very beginning. And the truth is, whatever trainer I was working with at the time probably tried to show me these things, but in the beginning, it's all so overwhelming that it's hard to remember what just happened.
T comes from a bit of a hunter background, so sitting up and back in the saddle is a new feeling for her. So we started out by using just her core to lengthen Speedy's stride in trot and then bring it back. I started out by asking her to adjust his stride every quarter of the circle, but I quickly realized that was too difficult. Instead, I had her quiet her seat for half a circle and then push him forward for the next half of a circle.
What I am enjoying about teaching these lessons is that it really helps me to articulate what I have learned. It's even more impressive to see her take my words and make them a reality. Part of it is because Speedy knows the drill - being a "schoolmaster" and all, but it's also because T is listening and then doing what I am suggesting.
The exercise was challenging for T. When we finally took a break, she was sweaty and gasping for breath, but she was smiling through the hard work. She loves that Speedy shows her when she's done it right!
We also worked on crossing the diagonal at the trot with a change of bend at X. Back in 2010 when I first started dressage, I didn't realize how important crossing the diagonal correctly is. I turned the corner, changed my posting diagonal at X and then made the next corner. Now I know that using the corner effectively is how you get your best shoulder-in or your best half pass. Those corners are so valuable. I showed T how to move the shoulders in the corner so that Speedy was able to leave the corner with his haunches directly behind his shoulders. When she lined him up correctly, she was rewarded with a much more powerful "medium" trot. Each time they got it right, her face lit up and she let out a wheeeeee!
I think what I am most enjoying is being able to help someone else feel what it's like to get it right. I haven't ever had that experience myself. In my lifetime of riding, I've never started with a finished horse. We've always had to learn it together. Long, long ago, a friend gave my teenaged self a trailer ride somewhere. I swore right then and there that if ever the opportunity presented itself to give back to someone else, I was going do it when I was able.
Right now, I have a horse who has a hock that is fusing. He probably shouldn't be schooling Third and Fourth Level, but he is perfectly sound enough to do low level work. There is a young woman who wants to see what dressage is all about. It makes me incredibly happy to share my very wonderful horse with her. It's my chance to pay back the kindnesses that were done to my younger self.
In the end, I really just want my horse to be happy. For him, standing around is not much fun. He loves to come out and play, and I don't think it has to be with me. As long as his rider acknowledges how fabulous he is, he's happy to work with most anyone.
While Speedy's registered name is G Ima Starr, it really should be G Ima ROCK Starr!
A Pivo Helper
My new Pivo Pod Silver is working out great. So far, no complaints. It seems as though the things that go wrong tend to be the result of user error although I have seen some really funny blooper moments on the Pivo Facebook page. My favorite one is when Pivo followed the shadow of a horse instead of the horse itself. That beta horse mode sure works well!
While there are lots of little add ons that you can buy for your Pivo, I bought a case - which I love, and the smart mount - which was an unnecessary purchase for my situation. You never know though. I'm adding it to the growing pile of things I don't need, but I'm holding on to anyway. The one thing I didn't buy was a tripod because we already had one here at home.
The Pivo Pod definitely needs some kind of a tripod, if only just to stabilize it for outdoor use. Long ago, my husband bought the GorillaPod pictured above (left), and I thought it would work well for the Pivo Pod while also serving to hold my document camera (which I use daily to teach math). In theory, yes, it would work, and it did except for when I forgot to peel off the document camera and toss the tripod in my barn bag. I got to the barn with no tripod which makes Pivo really hard to use. You see? User error.
My district bought all of the teachers document cameras, but they don't have a clip end. I am not sure how they're intended to be attached, but I've seen my colleagues using rubber bands (like me), duct tape, bendable extension arms with clips, and so on. It's actually a gigantic pain because I use my MacBook's FaceTime camera for our face to face time, but when the kids need to see what I am writing, mostly during math, I have to plug in the document camera, open the FaceTime app, and share my screen. I then drag the tab with the Google Meet next to the FaceTime window so I can see the kids alongside what I am writing. They can no longer see me, but they can at least watch my hands do the math.
If you're a teacher or a parent, you know how frustrating the "mirroring" feature is. Everything is either backwards for the kids, or backwards for me. I am constantly asking the kids is this backwards or right? Is it backwards on the big screen or backwards on my picture? They ask the same thing especially when they do a video submission of an assignment. Using the document camera in FaceTime has solved the problem, but once I want the kids to be able to see me again, I have to unplug it, let my computer cycle through its camera choices until it lands on the FaceTime camera, then I have to turn my laptop's camera back on. Nothing drives me crazier then, wait, I didn't see that. Can you show it again?
But this is about Pivo not Distance Learning. I quickly realized that it would be much more convenient to have a dedicated Pivo tripod, so I looked into buying a second GorillaPod. Unfortunately, those things are mega pricey especially compared to the competition. The Joby GorillaPod that my husband bought comes in at a hefty $50 from Amazon. Yes, it's a great tripod, but there are a lot of other tripods out there that seem to offer the same functionality for half the price. I ended up ordering the UBeesize 12 Inch Flexible Cell Phone Tripod Stand Holder with Wireless Remote Shutter & Universal Phone Mount, Compatible with iPhone/Android/DSLR/GoPro Camera. It cost $23.99 with free Prime shipping, and it arrived the next day.
The Ubeesize tripod has all the same features as the GorillaPod, but comes in at half the price.
I haven't had the chance to try it out yet, but if the Ubeesize doesn't prove to be as stable as the GorillaPod, I can always use it for my document camera and keep the GorillaPod for the Pivo. The Ubeesize tripod has rubber coated legs which I think will actually grip better than the smooth plastic legs of the GorillaPod.
I am wondering what technology my "technology" is going to need next!
A Lesson in More Bend, More Forward
Izzy and I have been peeling back the layers of the dressage onion for way more years than I'd like to admit, especially since we're not nearly as far along as I think we should be. With Speedy looking at retirement, I have finally been forced to start working the big brown horse in earnest. It's not like we've been doing nothing the past six years, but now I am motivated like never before.
We're going to a USDF show at the end of October whether we're "ready" or not. We've done a couple of schooling shows and a couple of CDS shows, and while those have tremendous value, they don't count in the eyes of the dressage world. It is at USDF shows where you really get to put your money where your mouth is. So when I scheduled a mid-week lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner at trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, we put Izzy to work with an eye to actually showing him off at a show rather than merely surviving a show.
While watching the video that Pivo recorded, I think I heard the words more and bend and forward at least 5,000 times. Sometimes they were used seperately, but usually they were strung together, more bend ... more, more, more, MORE BEND! MORE FORWARD! Poor Chemaine. She either thinks me deaf or dumb or possibly both. As a side note, if you are thinking about getting a Pivo, if you don't have a barn full of friends willing to record, if you ride alone, GET THIS GADGET, it really is that cool.
Like I always do, I told Chemaine what I wanted to work on - Izzy's just so flat. I need him to have more bounce. Oh, you mean he needs more swing. Well okay, that sounds good, too! When Chemaine asked me how I thought we would get more swing, I immediately said we need more forward because that seems to be the solution to everything. I was half-way right. What Izzy needs is more sideways with forward. According to her, moving him laterally with get him more supple in the hind end which will allow him to step more deeply which will create more swing. Okay, roger that.
Chemaine walked over to two of my corners and rearranged the poles to create a fan of three cavaletti poles. And then she put Izzy and me through five different exercises using the cavaletti poles to either start an exercise or to finish it.
By the end of the lesson, Izzy was snorting and swinging. Those two things seem to go together. At least they do when he's doing them. Of course, we also did some canter, and that was just a bunch of flex in, flex out, go down if he'll take it. We did it on the circle, around the entire dressage court, on smaller circles, and on the serpentine. That's something that I need to do every single ride. He wants to be so tight in his back and neck at the canter, but it's because he doesn't quite believe me that relaxing feels so much better. He's getting there though.
The Pivo gave me access to so much more information. It's tough for a trainer to teach well and capture great video. By being able to rewatch the entire lesson, I got a clearer sense of where Izzy started, and where he ended up. I was able to see the exact moment that he gave or the exact moment when he got something. An hour of video takes a long time to watch, but it's like getting a second lesson for free.
The video also showed me that we're not as far "behind" as I think we are. We definitely have more nice moments than bad. And in another month, I am excited to see where we'll be.
Total Pivo Success!
I'm feeling very punchy at the moment. I've been sitting at my desk working for 14 hours, so no telling what you're about to get. This is supposed to be yet another Pivo post, but my mind may wander.
I had the Pivo fully charged. My phone was fully charged. I brought both to the ranch for my Wednesday lesson. I was fully prepared. Or so I thought. The one little thing I had forgotten was my GorillaPod tripod. Well, shoot. I looked around the feed room trying to spot something tall enough upon which to rest Pivo, but nothing looked as though it would work.
Then I remembered that I have some of those super big, foamy twist tie things. I have no idea what they're called, but they worked just fine. I wrapped them around the Pivo and then twist-tied the whole thing to the top rail of the fence. I pushed all the right buttons on the app, and walked away. I never looked at the Pivo for the entire lesson.
I scanned the entire 54 minutes and 28 seconds of video and could only find one or two very short moments when Izzy and I weren't on the screen. That's way more footage than I would ever get from a friend. And who could blame someone for not being willing to video for nearly an hour? Of course, now I need to find time to sit down this weekend and truly watch the video because we worked on some pretty hard core stuff, including a bunch of cavaletti exercises that I want to write about.
For now, my fingers are crossed that no new updates come out for a bit. I just updated my phone, so I was really glad that didn't change anything. Pivo peeps, can you give me a few weeks before you make any changes? Thanks in advance!
What Took So Long?
This is really just silly, but I cannot figure out why it took me so long to put my Bronze Medal lapel pin on my show coat. I am not going to lie. Earning a USDF Bronze Medal is probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I've completed 100 mile endurance races. And yet, I've been staring at the pin sitting in its little plastic case on my desk ever since it arrived earlier this summer.
I am deeply proud of earning a Bronze Medal, but I am also "over it." Having a Bronze Medal does not make me a better rider or a better human. I will always see myself as a struggling rider because there is no end to what I still need to learn. So while I am very proud of it, it didn't change a single thing in my life other than give me a bit more hardware to add to my jacket.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about introspection. The author being interviewed talked about how we see ourselves. It was a talk about internal versus external credit. I don't remember the exact term but what it amounted to was this: when bad things happen, do you blame the situation or the choices you made - external forces? On the flip side, when good things happen to you, do you give credit to your choices - internal forces, or do you feel that you just got lucky?
In my case, I invariably credit the good things in my life to luck and the bad things to my own ineptitude or poor judgement. This of course isn't a healthy mix. By taking all of the credit for the "bad things," I am not recognizing that some things are literally out of my control. I can't control the weather, crazy drivers, or a pandemic. Attributing all of my successes to luck isn't healthy either as doing so negates hard work, education, and good decision-making. Without acknowledging the "wins," it makes it even more challenging to build on good decisions.
That idea really hit home. I decided that I need to take less responsibility for the not-so-great things and give myself more credit for the successes I've earned. My first tangible step in doing that was to pin my USDF Bronze Medal label pin to my show coat.
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%: