From Endurance to Dressage
In honor of this hallowed day, I'd like to share some of Izzy's riding terrors. I don't see them, of course, but obviously he does. I introduce you to the Corner of Death. It helps to read it with a creepy echo bouncing around and maybe some weird screams and cackling.
There are three things that make this corner such a bogey-man. The first is that jump standard with a single red panel. What? You can't see it glaring at you? Does this help?
Not gonna lie; that thing has nearly gotten me killed at least 56 times. Equally as vicious are the weird creepy things lurking by the neighbor's gate. It's the gate back there in the trees that you can't see. I should point out that it's a SILENT gate.
Since we can't actually see the gate from the arena, I hiked over to it for the photo. Imagine my surprise when nothing happened while I took the picture. It just sat there quietly behind its wall doing and saying NOTHING.
Set back across the road, just to the right of the Corner of Death sits a metal carport that is clearly a refuge for the crazed and demented. Every once in a great while, like maybe twice over the past 14 months, when the wind was really howling, so maybe it was actually something else ... that carport has made a creak or groan. Izzy's not taking any chances. He gives it the hairy eyeball every single day. When the looneys make their move, he knows he'll be ready.
Halloween ... an equestrian's every day normal!
I can't remember who I was talking to about this, maybe it was here, but today's "bad" rides are six months ago's "good" rides. Not like that's a ringing endorsement of my big brown horse's progress, but it's still progress.
When I pulled into the barn on Saturday, Ranch Owner and L were just heading out for a hack around the neighborhood. The mare who lives with Archie was fine with the separation until Archie left the property. They leave now and then, but she always acts like it's the first time.
I groomed and saddled Izzy who paid her no mind until he saw her. She was gazing fiercely in the direction that Archie had gone, crying for him to return. Izzy immediately felt that things were terribly wrong, and so he too began to stare fixedly. He, of course, had no idea what he was looking for, but he judged it to be important.
I let him look for a minute, but then we continued on up towards the arena. I did my regular stretches, I should write a post about that, and then hopped on. Izzy was tense, but he wasn't terrible.
I did our typical warm up with lots of bending, leg yields, and changes of direction. He was more or less settling in when all of a sudden he slammed on the brakes and tensed his body in terror. Ranch Owner and L had just come back onto the property.
I added leg and said go. He planted his feet and threw his head even higher. I asked for forward one more time and then popped him with the whip. When he refused, remember, these are two horses that he knows well and sees every day, I machine gunned him with the whip ... whack! whack! whack! whack!
The little booger refused to move his legs. I took that whip and added some muscle to it until his legs started to scramble backwards. That meant more whip. Eventually he hit the mounting block, scrambled awkwardly, and finally realized he had better do something to make the whipping stop.
Meanwhile, Archie and Willie plodded calmly towards us without batting an eye. L gave a quiet "sorry" while I kept whacking Izzy to go forward. I shook my head in total exasperation. What. The. Hell. Just really.
Of course, his brain was long gone by this time, but I insisted we persevere through the rest of the ride. As I mentioned before, while this was not a good ride by today's standards, I would have been thrilled with it six months ago. He was full of tension and wound tightly, but he still worked.
Eventually, Ranch Owner and L came walking by on foot. Izzy caught sight of them exactly as we approached the Corner of Death. He launched up and forward and for a moment, I was pretty sure I was going to be hitting the dirt. I somehow managed to get my butt back in the saddle, and when we landed, he got a very sharp jerk on the reins.
I booted him back into the canter and worked that corner until he rounded it somewhat decently. I brought him back down to a trot and asked him for a stretchy trot. All at once, I felt a big portion of the tension drain from his body, not all of it, but enough. He gave me a pretty decent stretch, so I let him walk and called it a day.
It wasn't my favorite ride of the month, but once again, I walked away with the win. Izzy might one day be an "easy" horse to ride, but I doubt it. He's just full of piss and vinegar. Some days I wish for an easier horse to ride, and then I remember I have Speedy G.
If Izzy's my spicy, Speedy's my sweet.
When my chiropractor, CC, was here on Sunday, he confirmed something that Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has also been saying. Izzy has plenty of go; more leg is not the solution. CC described him as having a Big Motor.
CC went on to explain that with a horse like Izzy, you're kind of compelled to ride front to back. He forces you to constantly slow him down with the reins as you ask him to lighten up. It's a problem for sure.
In a lot of ways, having a huge engine is awesome. It doesn't take anything but the merest whisper of a thought to get forward from the big brown horse. On the other hand, it means that he's always trying to get his front end out of the way before it gets run over by his hind end.
I had a really interesting ride last night. It was hot (oh, my God, still?!?!), so my plan was to do some walk/trot in the legal bit. Things started out fine until Izzy remembered that he's terrified of the corner by the road. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've schooled that corner. A billion at least.
With the legal bit, I don't have near the stopping power that I do with my ported bit, so when he wants to run through the bridle, he can. When he flung his head up and pretended he was a giraffe being run down by a pride of lionesses, I gave him as sharp a reminder as I could without any leverage as back up. Which is to say I yanked on him about as noticeably as a tick on a rhino.
We then spent a solid 15 minutes working on vertical and lateral flexion. And darn it if that horse didn't finally soften up his poll and let me move it around. We circled and paced in front of that scary section until he would let me flex and counter flex him without him attempting to flee the scene.
The way I saw it, I had a huge win last night. Getting any kind of submission in that legal bit has been a slow process. I got it last night though. I hate to jinx anything, but I think we've summited yet another mountain. I don't know how many are in the range, but this horse is making progress in leaps and bounds.
I know a brilliant horse is in there somewhere, big butt and all!
In early September, I had the sarcoid on Izzy's sheath removed via cryotherapy. That was the second attempt at removing it. For those who asked for an update, here it is.
It seems like the sarcoid is gone for good this time. The skin is smooth and soft and to my surprise, it looks like some of the pink skin is regaining its black color. Dr. Tolley explained that cryotherapy does much the same thing as a freeze brand. The pigment is destroyed, leaving all future hair (or in this case, skin) white. He also explained that if the freezing went deep enough, the skin might produce new pigment cells ... or something like that. Either way, some of the skin is definitely returning to its black color.
Speaking of looking better ...
At the end of September, Speedy sliced open his coronary band and separated the hoof wall from the coronary band. It looked pretty bad, but has healed remarkably fast.
My farrier was out yesterday for a regular trim. He ended up cutting a small arc out of the bottom of the hoof wall. This will serve to relieve the pressure that the new hoof is causing on the old. The amount of hoof he notched out is about the same as would be seen through normal wear on a barefoot horse. You would never know that just a few weeks back Speedy's coronary band was a hot mess. I can't believe how much hoof he has grown in just the past week!
When it rains, it pours, but I think it's also said that good things come in threes. That seems to be the case as yellow dog is also back to her normal, pain-in-the-patootie self. Two weeks ago, yellow dog required an after-hours emergency visit to the vet for what turned out to be an overdose of palm fronds. After taking it easy for a few days and getting to eat better than we do, she perked right up. She's back to terrorizing Tobias and wreaking havoc on the yard.
I'll be glad if these are the last of the surgeries/injuries/illnesses for at least a month or two. My wallet can't handle much more!
Izzy is proving to be pretty high maintenance. Annual hock injections, regular chiropractic visits, sarcoid removals ... Speedy's the one doing all the winning, but Izzy gets all the feel goods. Whatever it takes, right?!
The first few years I had Speedy, he needed adjustments all the time, but not any more. It's been a year and a half since his last visit with the chiropractor; he just doesn't seem to need it. When I had Izzy adjusted in May, he was moderately sore; it had been ten months since his last adjustment. Three months later, he was so sore that CC couldn't work him out of all of it. I had his hocks injected (again).
It's been three months since that last adjustment, so I decided to call CC before Izzy could start complaining. He had a few sore spots, but nothing that CC couldn't work out in a few minutes. He had his regular poll thing, and his rib heads were definitely starting to get sore, but other than a few tweaks here and there, the visit was mostly about prevention.
I am hoping that with quarterly chiropractor visits, I can keep Izzy from needing annual hock injections. It stands to reason that if I can keep him from being body sore, he might use himself more correctly which will be easier on his hocks.
CC doesn't think that regular adjustments will prevent Izzy's hocks from getting sore, but it certainly can't make them worse. My vet thinks that the big brown horse is just hard on himself. Until Izzy toughens up, CC and I will be seeing a lot more of each other.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read