From Endurance to Dressage
I love having Speedy and Izzy living side by side. They are both much happier and more relaxed. They might be happier, but I am not. According to the ranch owner, the boys play off and on all day. They tear up and down the fence line, striking at each other over the fence before charging off the other direction.
The good thing is that Izzy's energy level is much more manageable. The bad news is that they are chewing the crap out of one another. Both horses are covered with bite marks from head to rump. Most days, I shake my head in exasperation. Over the weekend, I worried that a vet visit might be in order.
Speedy had a hunk of hair missing from the side of his face with a very obvious bite mark in the middle of his jaw. The missing hair and rumpled skin weren't the problem, it was the swelling in his cheek that had me worried. I couldn't tell whether the damage was on the inside or the outside. I poked at it gently only to feel a very squishy pocket of liquid. Dude.
I did what every take-care-of-it-yourself horse owner would do. I grabbed my head lamp and the hose and did a pretty thorough investigation. I flushed out his mouth, grabbed his tongue, and peered up in there to see what was what. All of his teeth were still there, which, if you've followed our story for any length of time, you know doesn't always happen. He's already lost one tooth from fooling around.
My view wasn't as good as it would have been with a speculum to hold his mouth open wider, but I could see pretty well. There was nothing obviously out of place. He's also eating quite enthusiastically which I know he wouldn't do if he had a wonky tooth. Past experience is quite a useful predictor of behavior. He's also taking the bridle willingly. The swelling is seems due to a little edema, and thankfully, it finally started to go down yesterday. I think I can skip a vet visit.
Every day as I pull into the barn, I cross my fingers that no one is dead. I swear I don't make this stuff up.
Now that we're showing Third Level, I waffle between feeling rushed to get everything perfect, and relaxed knowing that I have all the time in the world. I mean, realistically, how much farther can we go? Sure, Fourth Level is looking like a distinct possibility, but after that? The FEI Level? I am not holding my breath.
So really, what's the rush? Over the weekend, I took some time to shore up some areas that I felt needed patching up, namely our flying changes and the overall quality of our canter work.
Earlier in the week, I broke our left to right flying change which put me in a complete panic since we have a USDF-rated show this weekend. A busted flying change is not what we need right now. I realized that Speedy needed more jump in his canter to get the change, so I played around with some canter to walk to canter transitions insisting that they be crisp and clear.
Wouldn't you know it, but suddenly, our canter had more jump and a much clearer rhythm. Our left lead canter was back on track, but the right lead was being hampered by the fact that Speedy's ribcage was pushing through my right leg. No bueno. So I schooled that a bit. Bend, half halt, MOVE OVER! A few dozen of those and magically our right lead canter got jumpier with a clearer rhythm.
And just like that, the flying changes were back. Who knew that getting your horse in front of your leg with a soft inside bend would fix faulty flying changes? Palm to face moment right there.
Fall is awards season, at least it is if you show dressage. The championship shows are winding down and scores are being tabulated. Here in California, both the CDS Championship and the USDF Region 7 Championship shows have ended. It's now time for awards.
On Saturday evening, my husband and I, along with Team Symphony and about 75 other people, attended the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS's annual awards banquet.
The banquet was held at the very beautiful Oak Tree Country Club. It was actually supposed to be held last weekend, but with the recent power outages across California, it had to be moved to this past weekend. The Country Club was able to pull it off though, and surprisingly, it looked like most everyone was able to make it.
The dinner was quite lavish with prime rib and parmesan crusted chicken, a wide array of side dishes, and a decadent apple crisp topped with freshly whipped creme. Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC), is a small CDS Chapter with fewer than 40 members, but they work hard to put on a first class banquet and awards ceremony.
Although only a small chapter, TMC recognizes open riders, amateurs like me, and juniors. Awards are given for Champion and Reserve for each level, Introductory through Fourth Levels. TMC is a generous chapter whose goal is to promote the sport of dressage and to encourage rider participation.
Team Symphony was well represented with riders winning championships at Introductory, Second, Third, Fourth, and Western Dressage.
Speedy and I earned the Adult Amateur Championship for Third Level. While we didn't have much competition, we still had to earn an average of 60% or greater. Our year-end average was 63.379%. I am really proud of this award. Third Level isn't exactly easy.
This was Lois and Terry's last year as TMC board members. They decided to retire, much to the dismay of the rest of the chapter. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, along with myself and several other people, have stepped up to fill the Quinn's especially large shoes. Chemaine will serve as Chairperson with me as her Vice-Chair.
Let's hope we can put on as successful of a show season and awards banquet as the Quinns have these many years.
For the first time in at least a year, I asked Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to hop up on Speedy. Not that she doesn't want to ride him, but for the most part, I am doing all the training rides with her coaching and teaching me.
I made sure that Speedy was warmed up before she pulled in for our lesson because while she didn't know it, my plan for the lesson was to finally have her ride his canter half pass to see where we're stuck. Basically, I wanted to know if it was me, the mostly likely explanation, or him. As it turns out, it was mostly him. His canter half passes are weak right now because he just hasn't quite developed the reach and strength for the WOW type of canter half pass that I am expecting.
It only took Chemaine a few minutes to figure out his issue. The main reason his half pass is a bit sticky, particularly to the right, is because I've let him lean on that right rein since the beginning of time. I am working on it, but it's proving much harder to fix than it would have been way back at Training Level. For now, Chemaine's advice is to get what bend I can and not be too hard on him. It'll come.
Chemaine did show me one exercise to help develop his reach and strength though. Just because it's hard for him doesn't mean I'm not going to work on it. Working on it is how it will get less hard. Essentially, the exercise involved half passing to the quarterline, moving his shoulders back toward the rail, and then riding forward in a haunches in. When the bend has been reestablished, move laterally into the half pass again.
The first time I tried it to the right, Speedy ran headlong into to my right rein. We had a little discussion about it, and then we tried it again. The feeling is of moving the shoulders out of the way toward the rail to allow the haunches to swing in. It's very difficult to do when you're falling in on your inside shoulder. Once we tried it a few times, he got much more supple, and the half pass did improve.
We now have several new exercises that we can do to free up his shoulders - counter canter 20-meter circles with 10-meter true canter circles at each "corner," pivoting out of the corner, and now this half pass to haunches in exercise.
We're Not-So-Speedy-Dressage for a reason.
This has been one heck of a week. Strike that. It's been a hell of a month. I've been teaching for 26 years. Never before have I had a first quarter kick my butt as much as this one has, and I am not alone. Every one of my colleagues is saying the same thing. What can you do though? Adulting is hard, even when you're approaching 50.
So when I got to the barn yesterday afternoon, I immediately felt the urge to sweep the feed/tackroom floor. There was no pressing need, and it's not like anyone is going to blame me for in tracking dirt. In fact, I'm the only one who does sweep. Even so, that dirt on the floor reminded me of the mental mess that I've been packing around this week. There is something very cathartic about sweeping. Scooping poop will give me the same sense of cleaning out the cobwebs.
And then I rode Speedy. It wasn't a great ride. I was pretty tired, and my heart really wasn't in it. Speedy knew it and took full advantage. He was behind my leg and heavy. I tried to get something productive going, but all I managed to do was break our flying lead changes. Out of "nowhere" the left to right change disappeared.
Eventually I realized how behind the leg he really was. As soon as I got some more jump to the canter, the change was there. I quit on that good note, and besides, we'd been working for a solid half an hour.
I untacked and let Speedy wander off to check out the lawn. As I was hanging up his bridle, I grimaced at the caked on dirt and gunk. It was just like the floor - it didn't have to be cleaned RIGHT THEN, but I couldn't stand it. I started off by wiping it clean with a damp cloth, but that didn't satisfy me. I then used a bit of leather creme but still wasn't free of the mental muddle I've been fighting. I finally dragged out the lederbalsam and finished it off.
With my fingers already feeling sticky, I looked down at my boots and figured a little more mental housekeeping wouldn't hurt. I wiped my boots free of dust and massaged in some of my boot conditioner. I find it's easier to clean them while I am wearing them. I looked around and realized that my mental state of mind had improved.
Today's going to be a busy day. I have an early morning Battle of the Books party to host for eleven 4/5/6th graders. We have a science assembly at 8:30, and then I'll be managing the lunch time detention program during my lunch. Add to that, it's Dress Up like Your Favorite Book Character day. Nothing like throwing in a bit more crazy to an already hectic day.
My husband has already agreed to pick up sushi for dinner. Bless him.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%