From Endurance to Dressage
Thanksgiving break was rather stupendous. I was able to ride both horses for six, count 'em, six consecutive days. I was off work two hours early on Wednesday which is how I got the six days of riding instead of just five. I am going to admit it. I actually "horsed" myself out! I spent anywhere from 4 to 6 hours at the barn everyday for six days. That's a lot of barn time. Love you, sweet husband!
So when Monday morning rolled around and I headed off to work at 6:25 a.m., going to the barn after work seemed like the thing to do. But when the dense fog didn't lift, and my sockless toes didn't warm up, the barn visit seemed less and less like a good idea. As the 3:05 bell rang, I shooed my students out the door and started gathering my purse, my coat, my reading glasses, my phone ... oh, hey Mr. O about .... and what do you think we should do for ... and one more thing ... Four or five oh, waits turned into 3:40. Well, shoot!
I walked out to my car and realized that I really didn't want to go to the barn that day, hence all of the self-imposed delays. It was cold, I was cold, and I really did have a pressing errand that really did need doing. Really.
And so I drove home. I completed the pressing errand, for which hubby was grateful, and enjoyed a glass of wine and a few minutes of solitude on the sofa.
Tuesday dawned just as foggy and cold as Monday, but my interest in my daily barn visit was rekindled. I shooed my students out at 3:04 (!) and snuck out 6 whole minutes early. Once home, I quickly ditched the teacher clothes in favor of some of breeches and a warm sweatshirt and zipped out to the barn. Speedy got a quick Hello Bud! with some turn out, and Sydney got a walking ride around the neighborhood followed by some arena time.
It's amazing what a barn-free day can do to your enthusiasm!
Yesterday's post about dusty stalls and bedding created some interesting discussion. I feel like I need a bit of a disclaimer here. The choices I make for my horses are MY choices for MY particular horses. You might disagree with MY choices and if you do, I urge you to follow YOUR choices and do what you think is best for YOUR horses. I frequently ignore the recommendations of others and stick to what I think/know is best for my situation. On the flip side, I also seek out advice from others and use it if it seems like a sound practice. So there you have it - my disclaimer: do what's best for your horse regardless what anyone else thinks. Unless it's your vet. It's probably best to do what she thinks!
So with a bit of hesitation, I wanted to continue the stall care discussion by addressing the urine problem. As you know, my stalls are very open so ammonia is not a big deal. Even so, I don't want my horses sleeping in wet bedding. Unfortunately, Sydney prefers to pee indoors.
We scoop the wet bedding and toss it outside to dry, but he continues to pee indoors. The dirt outside is plenty soft enough to absorb the urine, but his habit persists. Speedy is currently peeing outside, but as soon as it rains and the outside gets muddy, he will also pee inside. Yuck! In the past I have used a few different products to combat the ammonia odor and wetness, but it's been quite a while. As with the pellet issue, I decide to do a little research.
As before, I visited Wikipedia to find out more about hydrated lime. You can read that article here. [Val, of Memoirs of a Horse Girl, will no doubt enjoy the scientific nature of the article.] The first part of the article describes its low toxicity and goes on to list the many ways hydrated lime is used, including as a food additive. Ah, good! I was feeling very encouraged. But then I read the last line of the article, Unprotected exposure can pose health risks and exposure should be limited. It can cause severe skin irritation and chemical burns/blindness/lung damage.
I went with the Sweet PDZ, available at Tractor Supply
As before, I felt a serious need to dig a bit further. A few Google clicks later and I stumbled on Equus Caballus: Cutting Edge Health and Nutrition for the Modern Horse. The article sounds very scientific and even throws around a few scientists' names and references a few government agencies. In short, the author confirms that hydrated lime causes irritation and burns and should be used very cautiously. I am not interested in using a product that I must use cautiously. I want to toss it around willy-nilly which means I need a different product.
The article goes on to describe products "such as Sweet PDZ, Stable Boy, and Stall Dry, [which] are composed of substances like diatomaceous earth, clay, and natural minerals, such as zeolites, that are non-toxic and won’t irritate your horse’s mucus membranes or respiratory system. These products, especially diatomaceous earth and clay, are considered highly moisture-absorbent, and the minerals trap ammonia within tiny channels in their structure, eliminating odors and noxious chemicals from the stall and the air. [...] Research has shown these products to be highly effective in ammonia and moisture absorption, and their all-natural content makes them an excellent alternative to hydrated lime."
In short, these products work, don't need to be used cautiously, and can be used in a willy-nilly fashion. My kind of stuff! Even better, these products can be safely dumped into our composting site!
RM has built a lovely barn that provides ample roof covering with two wind-blocking walls in the open air stalls, but they're not exactly typical. It feels funny to write a post about stall care since my stalls aren't very "traditional".
Even with the lovely barn, we still have the problems that come with traditional stalls: dust, urine spots, and wasted feed. RM has done quite a bit outside of the stalls to combat the dust problem: all around the barn there is grass, and down the barn aisle we now have a lovely layer of decomposed granite.
Click photos for larger view.
The horse runs that are on the outside of the stalls have plenty of fresh air and dust isn't much of a problem. Winter rain and summer sprinklers take care of that. And even though our stalls are open on two ends and across the top, the inside dust can be a bit of a problem. The dust problem is exacerbated when the horses spend most of their time inside away from the summer sun and winter rain. To deal with the dust, all of us at the barn use wood shavings or pine pellets.
The pellets that are marketed as stall bedding cost several dollars more per bag than the pellets marketed as a fuel product for pellet stoves. Since I have used both and cannot find a performance difference between the two, I set out to do a little research on the differences between the two products.
My first stop was Wikipedia. I wanted to see how wood pellets are manufactured and is there a difference in how they are manufactured based on intended use. Apparently, all wood pellets, whether for fuel or bedding, are made the same way out of the same materials. Click here to read more.
Although Wikipedia's article was rather encouraging, I dug a little deepr to see if I could find some kind of chemical or material difference between the fuel pellets and the bedding pellets. I stumbled on Marth, a company that manufactures wood products. They produce wood pellets as bedding and fuel. Here's what they have to say:
"Marth Wood Shavings makes valuable materials out of waste wood.
Some of these products are closer than you may think. [...] Fuel pellets made by Marth Wood Shavings are used to produce household heat and electricity. Bedding made by Marth Wood Shavings may even be lining the bottom of your pet’s cage."
"Refined in our pellet mill, Marth Pellet Bedding is made using pressure to bind small absorbent particles of wood together. The resulting pellets are super absorbent and make it easy to separate out animal waste, which translates to lower replacement costs."
"Marth Fuel Pellets are made of 100% pure renewable and sustainable wood fiber. These super efficient wood pellets are made by compressing wood particles. The compression creates heat, releasing the wood’s natural lignin, which then bonds the particles into pellets."
They're the same product!
Tractor Supply Company currently sells 40 pound bags of pine pellet bedding for $6.99. A 40 pound bag of fuel pellets are $4.99 - a two dollar difference! When buying twenty or thirty bags at a time, that can be a big savings! What do you use to bed your stalls?
One of these days I need to write a blog post about blogging. I try to write about things that are happening right now, but sometimes so much happens in a week that I have to wait to share the post for a few days, or even a week. This lesson, for example, happened the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
I know I've shared this about a billion times, but just in case you missed it, Sydney is very tense. His neck is tight which means his back isn't loose and swinging. Each time he gets a lesson, which is usually every other week, we work on teaching him to be freer in his neck, shoulders, and back. At our most recent lesson, JL had me try something new. New is probably not the right word. It's not as though she keeps trying new fangled tricks. I guess I should say she added a new element to what we've already been doing. And in truth, maybe she hasn't added anything at all. Maybe I am just gaining a deeper understanding of the tasks that she assigns.
But I digress. For this lesson she had me plant my inside hand on my thigh so that I would quit asking for a leg yield by pulling back with the inside rein. She doesn't call it a leg yield. She calls it moving sideways. As in, start moving him sideways as you come to the corner. We need more sideways here. And now ... sideways.
She finally made me understand that moving away from my inside leg has nothing to do with the inside rein. Understanding it, and demonstrating my understanding are two different things. So, in order to keep me from pulling his head around in my effort to go sideways, she had me plant my inside hand which made me utilize the inside leg and the outside rein.
We started with a pretty small circle which meant my inside rein was fairly short. I tapped Sydney's ribs with my inside leg and at nearly the same moment, performed a half halt with the outside rein. This was supposed to tell him, not forward, but move away from my leg. Coordinating the outside rein with the leg tap was difficult for me. Even so, little by little I started to feel the sideways motion.
JL feels that it is important to let a horse know when he has the right answer. With her coaching me from the ground, she would call out when we had gone sideways for a few steps, and then tell me when to stop asking for sideways so that Sydney had a break. And then we did it again. We repeated the motion over and over and then changed directions. Eventually we moved to the trot where we had to start the concept again as it was difficult to feel the sideways motion at the faster gate. And if I wasn't consistent with the outside rein, the sideways motion didn't happen. Instead, Sydney would just go forward. Once I could feel the motion again, we worked on sideways while doing figure eights.
By the end of the hour, I was astonished at how loose and soft Sydney was. He was making the turns without tossing his head and his neck looked as though it had grown at least a foot. He was grunting, sighing, and hurumping all at the same time. His ears were flopping like a puppy's and he kept taking deep, sighing breaths. It was the most incredible feeling.
On my walk home, I felt terrific about what we had accomplished, but I knew the real test would be whether I could accomplish this looseness on my own.
I did a walking ride the first day which was fairly successful. The next day we worked at the trot, and I was able to achieve some of the softness from before, but not to the same degree. On the third day, I nearly gave up. Nothing was working. Speedy was calling from the barn which served as a serious distraction. The neighbor was running a mower which served as a second distraction. The arena across the street, which was empty, turned out to be a third distraction. The whole thing was looking like nothing short of a disaster.
I took a deep breath and came back to the walk. I quit worrying about the sideways motion and just tried to bend Sydney's neck. I pulled him left. I pulled him right. I tracked left and bent him right for a counter bend and repeated the bend to the other direction. Before too long Sydney's neck began to feel softer and his neck began to lengthen.
Ultimately, I am proud to say that I was able to soften and lengthen Sydney's neck without the aid of my trainer. I was so proud of Sydney! Now I really know what inside leg to outside rein really means. Let's see if I can keep the feeling.
This is what I saw on Thursday morning ...
The first words out of my mouth ... ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!?!?!?
I took a deep breath. That was no way to start our national day of thanks. I thought about it. I decided I could live without riding Sydney for the next five days - the length of my Thanksgiving break. My farrier is coming on Thursday. It's not a big deal.
And then, just as quickly, I realized that there was no way in heck I was giving up riding Sydney for the next WEEK! Endurance riders are well known for their resourcefulness. RM has even dubbed me the Barn McGyver. I looked around for a hammer. It's a good thing that I didn't spot one right away as I am completely unqualified to reshape a shoe and then nail it on.
My next thought was to wedge Sydney's size three foot into a size one Easyboot. I actually dug out one of the boots and placed it against the bottom of his hoof even though I knew there was no way it was going to fit. I was right. This was clearly a Cinderella moment and Sydney was definitely not Cinderella. His big toes were looking a lot like those of the ugly step-sisters. The boots are made of rubber and they do stretch a little, but not a full size. Then I remembered that eons ago I had lent/given/sold/traded a pair of size two boots to dear friend, Taz's Mom (shoe sizes don't correlate to boot sizes). Thanksgiving morning or no, I quickly dialed her number and got Hubs on the phone.
Since Taz's mom had a handful of turkey, I quickly explained to Hubs what I needed. He told me to sit tight and he'd call me right back. That man is a true problem solver and I have come to rely on him for many oddball requests. Even so, I wasn't too confident that he'd be able to navigate the TACK ROOM. I dejectedly finished grooming the Speedy pony who luckily had on all four of his shoes. At least he would get ridden daily. To my surprise, my cell gave a cheerful ring and Hubs gleefully reported that he was currently holding a size two Easyboot.
Oh, glory, hallelujah, happy Thanksgiving! I thanked him profusely and said I'd be by in a bit. Fortunately, Taz's Mom lives in the same neighborhood where I board both boys. I finished riding Speedy, popped him backed into his stall, and zipped over to retrieve what I hoped would save my Thanksgiving vacation.
Slightly crooked application, but the boots tend to shift slightly with use anyway. As you can see, the boot was a perfect fit! I have had MANY year's experience with Easyboots, but I know Sydney has not. On Thursday morning we did a walking ride to see how he would cope with the boot. I don't think he even noticed it was on.
I was particularly thrilled with how steady he stood as I put it on. For some horses, the tugging and twisting can cause a little concern the first time the boots are applied even though they do not cause any pain during the application. Most endurance horses are pros about the boots and stand quietly no matter how much tugging and wiggling occurs!
For Friday's ride, we went back to full work. We did lots of trotting which included many changes of direction and figure eights. The boots performed as expected, and Sydney's hoof wall remained intact.
As the makers of Easyboot are fond of saying, "Get an Easyboot, or get a sense of humor!"
To learn more about Easyboots and their application, check out this brochure from EasyCare Inc.
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%: