From Endurance to Dressage
Since I've been riding weekly with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I've only used my Pivo Pod for Pivo Cast (Pivo's version of a Zoom call) and not for recording video. I am sure the day will come when Pivo Cast will be able to both record and manage a video call, but for now, it's one or the other.
On Sunday, I decided to set up the Pivo Pod and record a ride. Izzy has made so much progress in the past six months that I wanted to see it for myself. I keep all of my Pivo equipment in a mini backpack. I've got the Pivo Pod, charging cable, and remote in its case. I have my Powerbeats ear buds and their charging cable in a mini carry bag. I also have my solar charger and its two cables. I also keep a reusable jumbo twist tie for attaching the solar cable to a fence if needed, and I keep my bendable tripod in the backpack as well. Keeping all of that stuff charged up and ready to go is a bit of a pain, but having it all in one convenient bag makes it manageable.
I got to the barn, and pulled up to the arena to set everything up before I even saddled Izzy. As I put my truck in park, I reached into my purse for my phone, and rolled my eyes in complete exasperation. I had the Pivo and it's many accessories, but I had forgotten my phone at home. Whomp, whomp.
Of course, I had a great ride. In the middle of the ride though, Izzy tripped and almost had us both rolling in the dirt. In the canter, he stumbled, throwing me over his right shoulder. He leaped up from the dirt, further unseating me, and bolted to the side. I scrambled hard to get my butt back in the saddle and my feet back down where they should be.
Once I finally got him back under control, the poor guy was super worried about the near fall, so we walked for a few minutes until he felt more sure of himself. I really wish I had caught that save on video. Then again, it's probably better not to see how near death we all come when we ride. Ignorance is bliss!
Technology is great, but only if you remember to bring it with you.
A Lesson in Feeling
For the past six weeks, I've been taking Saturday morning lessons with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. Immediately after, I give "J" a lesson on Speedy. Working with Sean every week has definitely helped me not only as a rider - and oh, how it has helped me, but also as a "trainer."
Last week, my fifth grade students were working in small groups in Zoom Breakout Rooms; I am still teaching virtually. While I monitored the entire Zoom call and all of the Breakout rooms on my main computer, I joined one Breakout room by logging on with a different computer. This allowed me to both supervise and participate. I have one student that I needed to watch more closely, so this setup allowed me to monitor unobtrusively.
The whole point to telling you all of that was that it also gave me the opportunity to observe the other two kiddos in the group. What I observed was that one of those students is a kick ass teacher. She was modeling my own teaching style, and it tickled me pink to see her manage that group so effectively. As a classroom teacher, I know that a very effective way for kids to learn is to teach other kids. Peer tutoring allows kids the opportunity to teach what they know to a kid who may be shy about asking an adult for help. Kids helping kids creates a lot less pressure for everyone.
While I didn't realize it until this weekend, working with Sean right before working with J gives me the chance to show someone else what I've just learned. I obviously don't teach the same thing that Sean and I just worked on - Speedy's a different horse than Izzy, but I do take the ideas that Sean teaches me and apply them to what I am teaching J.
For the past two weeks, J has been trying to develop the feel for the leg yield. Rather than go over the same material a third week in a row, I decided to try to help her feel the hind legs in a different way. For the entire lesson, we did transitions, but we did very focused transitions. For each walk to trot to walk transition, I encouraged J to keep Speedy's top line round and steady; only his legs should change the rhythm. I wanted her to transition between gaits with no change to the tempo.
If you ride, you know how hard this is. Every time a horse loses his balance even just a bit, he'll likely speed up in en effort to catch up with his front end. I had J resist the urge to allow the transition if Speedy's head popped up or if he rushed. Once she could do the walk to trot to walk transitions without any change in the tempo, we moved on to the canter to trot to canter transition.
Speedy is well educated and has done many, many transitions over his lifetime, but he still needs a rider to help him balance. It took J a few tries before she finally "felt" the hurried steps from trot to canter, but eventually, she did feel them. As I continued to repeat, whoa, whoa, whoa, she began to feel when Speedy was getting quicker in the trot in the last few strides before the canter.
It is very, very gratifying to see how far she has progressed since starting with me earlier this year. I remember when getting a canter at all was a challenge. And now, just a few months later, we're fine turning her aids and focusing on more and more precision. Helping J is not as altruistic as you might think. The opportunity for peer coaching may be helping me more than it is helping her. Teaching several ladies the basics of dressage has taught me so very much.
I never think of trainers in terms of being peer coaches - they tend to know so much more than us, but maybe they, too, learn by teaching. Besides teaching J, I often find myself in a position to teach my colleagues, and they do the same for me, so it seems likely that trainers do learn as they teach.
Any trainers out there who want to share how they learn?
"Would You Rather?" Results
A week or so ago I shared a "Would You Rather?" post wherein I asked 10 Would You Rather this or that questions. Your answers were very interesting. By and large, the people who responded are very aware of where their dollars are going, and they want value for the money they do spend.
The Google Form link in the original post is still open, so feel free to add your own answers and comments. Are you surprised by the answers? Which was the hardest question to answer? Which was the easiest?
Would you rather? questions really force us to articulate what things we truly value. It's rare that we get everything we want. Most of us are forced to compromise at least some of the time. Some of us more than others.
Thanks for participating!
Nothing Leads to Nothing
Work has been overwhelming and our weather, horrendous. This summer, we've had at least 67 days where the temperatures were 100 degrees or higher. We've also broken the record for the number of days where our lows were 80 degrees or above, 18 at last count. And now, our sky is once again brown and yellow from smoke drifting down from Tulare County's fires. It has now been seven weeks since I have been able to ride in the afternoons after work.
Despite the long work hours, the heat, and toxic air, Izzy and I continue to show steady and very real progress. No matter how tired I am, each Saturday morning I gather all of my technology and take a virtual lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. No matter how long his own week has been - cleaning stalls, taking care of sick or injured horses, riding client horses, giving lessons, Sean continues to make time for me week after week.
As I rode on Saturday, the one idea that kept coming back to me was this: Izzy's tension is slowly turning from a "thing" to nothing. That doesn't mean he has stopped spooking and gawking. In fact, he spooked so violently at one point that even Sean gasped. We were cantering into a corner, and I was focused on getting into the corner deeply to give us room to straighten and leg yield away from the rail, when suddenly, there was no neck in front of me. Izzy simply vanished. It was a time traveling moment for sure. One second I was in the corner, the next, I was hovering in the air, and in the third moment, I was suddenly in the middle of the arena laughing. I was still in the saddle though.
Sean estimated that Izzy leaped at least six feet sideways. We were both pretty impressed that I was still in the saddle. Sean credited "the save" to being loose through my seat and hips. Had I been tense or tight, I would never have been able to ride it out, but by being loose through my body, I was able to stay with Izzy as he dodged left.
So yes, the spooks are still there. The difference, thanks to Sean, is that I am (usually) no longer overreacting to the theatrics. In fact, a lot of the time I don't even react at all. I simply continue on as though nothing happened. Sean explained it thusly: since I am no longer getting tense and reactive, Izzy doesn't get anxious and worried. Each time that I continue on as though it is a non-event, Izzy takes his cue from me and gets back to work. Instead of the situation escalating, nothing happens, and the more nothing happens, well, the more nothing happens.
It isn't that I have been ridding with fear, the tendency to grab at the reins and stiffen up is just an instinctual reaction. By Sean making me aware of what my body was doing, I've been able to change my response. Body awareness is a great thing. Most of the time we don't realize we're doing something until someone points it out. The same is true of my inside left leg. For so long, I've been squeezing at the knee which has left my lower leg to swing. Now that Sean has made me aware of it, I am consciously putting weight in my foot so that my leg nestles into the girth instead of swinging.
I've never blamed Izzy's lack of progress on Izzy. Okay, sometimes he is just a jerk, but I've always said that if one of my horses is having trouble, it's in all likelihood because of something I'm doing or not doing. With a new awareness of what my body is doing, I am able to better control the things that I have been doing unconsciously. Maybe having less time to ride has made me really focus on what I am doing when I do have time to be in the saddle. Don't they say it's perfect practice that makes perfect? Doing nothing when Izzy gets tense has done more for our progress than doing a whole lot of something poorly.
"Doing nothing" doesn't seem like a sound strategy, but it's working for Izzy.
I "Need" New Breeches
Okay, I don't NEED them, but my current collection of breeches is starting to look pretty weary. It also doesn't help that I lost 42 pounds and gained back 30. Everything pre-42 lost pounds was getting old. Everything post-30 pound gain is way too tight.
It's not like I have a bunch of money sitting around either. Speedy's Prascend order is in the process of getting filled. That's $340 bucks. My current eye glass frames date back to 2016. I just ordered new every day frames and a separate pair of sunglasses the total of which came to a bit over $400. My truck needs new tires, and I think something is going on with my brakes. That visit to Les Schwab is going to run about a grand.
And yet, I would still like a new pair of breeches. I am eyeballing these cutie pies from Lemieux. After a 15% discount and free shipping, they'll come out to $97.58. I've always wanted a pair of denim breeches, but I've never found a pair I've liked. I like these. At least I like them in the photos.
Does anyone have these? Are they comfortable? True to size? A waste of my money?I can't decide whether I want you to be honest and say they're amazing, or lie to me so I make better life choices.
Help me choose (or send me a cheaper option)!
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%: