From Endurance to Dressage
Central California finally got some rain this weekend.
We had a good downpour on Friday morning, but it was just enough to get things damp. On Sunday morning, we woke to heavy clouds and a few sprinkles. By 7:30 a.m. the sprinkles had turned to real rain - enough to make me think it might be enough to skip a ride and spend the day lounging in my yoga pants. Not doing yoga of course.
Since we've moved, we've yet to have a day where we could just lay around and hang out. I know the horses need to be ridden, but both boys seem okay as long as I at least drop by. As much as I wanted to simply snuggle up on the couch, I did drive by and give them their Platinum Performance and a few scratches.
I was rewarded by the most brilliant rainbow I've ever seen. The boys got a few minutes of my time, but then I did spend most of Sunday just laying around. We watched the #48 win this weekend's NASCAR race, some family dropped by to see our new house, and I made home-made clam chowder to go with the wet and windy weather. It was a nice day.
November has to be quieter than October was. I don't think I could do two Octobers like that in a row!
Izzy has been a complete stinker the past few weeks. I am not completely dense, so I suspected it had something to do with my irregular visits earlier in the month, but I couldn't figure what the deal was.
Day after day, he has gotten worse instead of better. I've done all of the "right" things: after nearly two weeks of not riding, I started out with free play in the arena, lunged him in the sliding side reins, hacked around the neighborhood, galloped in the open field (which he loved), all before I asked for a short ride in the arena.
The short rides have turned out to be an hour because he was so awful that I couldn't find a single good moment in which to stop and say there, that was good. Every afternoon, I left the barn with a for sale ad written in my mind.
So what's he doing? Well, everything except what I want. Fortunately, his bag of tricks is pretty small, but he's pulling them out one by one. The other day he tried his I can't turn/bend to the right. Yesterday, it was all about locking his neck, flinging it into the air, and going mach 10. If it wasn't full speed forward, it was a balk with a humped up back.
I begged. I fumed. I might have even cried a little bit. Then I got the whip out, which I haven't needed in several months, and went to town on him. After 15 minutes with my new best friend, Izzy was willing to turn right and mostly accept the tempo that I asked for.
I put him away without a peppermint or a cookie (it's a petty victory, but it made me feel better), and then I called Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables. I was 100% ready to sell him. I explained my frustrations, and after a pause, she posited that it sounded like Izzy and I are in a power struggle. She continued by explaining that Izzy might be upset over my recent absence.
As soon as she said it, the puzzle pieces fell into place. I know Speedy was bothered by my lack of attention, but he shows it in a different way. He gets very clingy when he's irritated with me. He wants all of my attention, and when he doesn't get it, he nips at me, calls to me, and flips his head in frustration.
Izzy has been pretty insecure on the ground these past few weeks. He has started crowding me, so much so that I've been schooling him on the ground with the dressage whip. He acts like a monster is right behind him wherever I lead him. In the arena, he won't keep his attention on me and does the head swivel while chanting Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
I think Chemaine is right. Izzy has lost at least some confidence in my leadership ability and has decided that he should be the one in charge. So, I need to remind him that he is the employee, and I am the boss. Since he refuses to check his email and has zero skills at texting, I'm going back to the two tools he does listen to - my whip and spurs.
It's going to be ugly for a little while, but I like having a plan. Chemaine is awesome, and I am glad she was able to talk me down from the ledge. What I need more than anything is to hear stories of the my horse was a jerk for 8 years before he was finally sane variety.
I'll go first ... I HATED Speedy for at least the first 3 years I had him and then tolerated him for the next 3. After 10 years together, I finally adore him.
Now you ...
Well why not? We all know how awesome Speedy is. That dude just takes everything in stride. I had a pretty rough day yesterday at work and after an obnoxious ride on Izzy the day before, I was simply not in any kind of mood to deal with his sh ... enanigans again.
When Speedy saw me pull up, he barreled over to the gate and started whinnying his head off. His lameness has improved steadily each day, so I decided that lame or not, he would enjoy toting me around the ranch.
Even though Speedy hasn't been ridden in more than two weeks (thanks to my recent move to a new house and then his lameness), I felt totally comfortable throwing on a halter and nothing else. I didn't even bother to pick out his feet or dust off his coat. I simply walked up to the gate, grabbed him, sidled up next to a horse trailer, and hopped on.
Speedy was so thrilled to be doing something with me that he barely let my butt settle onto his broad back before he stepped off smartly down the road. The dude was on a mission. If he's still lame, it's not at the walk. My plan was to just walk around the ranch, but since he was so perky, I headed out the front gate and tooled around the neighborhood.
When we got to the old golf course, Speedy volunteered a little trot, and when I realized that he felt sound, I gave him the go ahead. We trotted over to the little copse of trees where there are some whoopsie doos.
We trotted up and down with me laughing like a hyena. Even though Speedy has zero jumping skills, I aimed him toward one of the railroad ties scattered around as borders. Without even a moment's hesitation, he popped over it like he was da man! And seriously, he is!
Remember, Speedy was bareback, in a halter, and he hadn't been out in over two weeks. He has zero jump training and neither do I. We nailed that cross tie! Repeatedly!
And lest you think we're a one hit wonder, we jumped both of them, several times! Oh my gosh - most fun I've had in a long time.
Every time I start to think that I should pass Speedy on to a green rider, he shows me how much fun it is to have a totally broke and dependable horse to ride. I get on Izzy and write sale ads every day. I get on Speedy and simply have fun.
Can anyone find a way to squish those two horses together to give me a wonder horse?
There is nothing like a barn full of hay. It smells good, it looks good, and it gives you a feeling of complete satisfaction. Knowing you don't have to worry about getting more for a while is a very good feeling.
I don't have to buy hay anymore, but I still love to see a barn full of the sweet smelling stuff. My ranch owner's hay barn was getting pretty empty, but she assured me that a delivery was on the way.
While I was busy moving, the hay truck finally arrived. I was bummed to have missed it because it is quite interesting to watch the squeeze at work. The ranch owner feeds alfalfa because it's cost effective and plentiful here on the west coast. To my joy, she also feeds a beautiful grass hay that she brings in from Oregon. That's what just got delivered.
While Reggie and his son tarped the ends of the hay stack, Speedy and I hung out on the lawn watching them work. Stacking and covering hay is not nearly as much fun as admiring the finished product.
I was pretty pleased at how relaxed Speedy was about the noise of the tarp as it shook and flapped. Speedy gave the guys a long look, but then he went back to grazing.
Now that the hay is delivered and covered, winter is welcome to arrive. It was so warm on Saturday that both boys got a bath, and no one shivered. We like our sun here in California, but we would all welcome some rain.
The worst part about buying and selling the two houses was that I was simply not able to be out at the barn like I usually am. Like a lot of riders, I make notes about every barn visit: who got ridden, who got walked, who has an owie, and so on. While I shoot for seven days a week, I usually miss about three days a month.
That one was July's page. I didn't miss a single day, but that was because I was making up for the 16 days I missed while we were in Italy in June. Here's October's page - every slash is a non-barn day:
During the week of the 9th, I managed to run out and at least check on my boys, but that was it. One mid-week visit was simply not enough for Speedy G. The ranch owner sent me a text on the 16th saying that Speedy was lame at the walk.
Trusting her read on the situation, I didn't make it out that day, but I was there the next. Speedy looked decent at the walk, but he was grade three on a trot out. He still is, but at least he's looking better. There isn't a single mark to account for the lameness and he has no swelling or filling anywhere. I feel comfortable just waiting it out. As he has done so many times before, he probably just whacked himself during all of his pacing and whirling (in his enormous dry pasture). I am sure he's just bruised.
While pretty ugly, the gash in his face is less worrisome. I am glad I didn't see it on the day it happened because after a day or so it was still deep enough to put my finger in. I've been gently coating it with coconut oil, and it already looks much better. It's probably going to leave another scar, but it will be just one of many.
While a bit dirty and covered with flies, Izzy fared much better over the week. He had a couple of small nicks on his legs, but by the time I saw them, the skin was already flaking off and clean skin had already grown in. Instead of whirling and pacing like his dorky big brother, he spent his time digging a massive hole.
While I love that Speedy adores me, I wish he didn't feel the need to pine for me so dramatically. Now that I have time to ride him again, he has to remain bored as he is too lame to ride. I sense an O. Henry tale in all of this. Irony ... it seems to be an essential part of horse ownership.
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%: