From Endurance to Dressage
I know I said I was done with updates, but the wound didn't finish up as I had hoped. Bleck.
If you're new here, Izzy sustained a pretty massive laceration in January while under the care of a trainer. You can read the first and second posts here. The rest of the posts can be found by visiting "Izzy's Leg" in my posts by topic.
It's not that there is, or was, anything horrible going on with it, it just won't finish healing. I am starting to feel hopeful however, as the wound has made a giant leap forward of late.
I wish I had pictures, but I got so irritated that I sort of stuck my head in the sand and rationalized that if I quit taking photos, the situation would resolve itself. I guess that's sort of what happened.
Once I quit wrapping it the last time (early September), that tiny little bit that had a tiny little scab didn't just dry up and go away. It got bigger week by week until there was a small hole in his leg. And then this weird bump started to grow which was accompanied by an oily discharge when squeezed.
Oh for the love of God! That was all I could say day after day. Now what?!?!?!
I watched that little bump grow and fester and just kept my head in the sand. It wasn't particularly painful, anyone will flinch if you poke them hard enough, and it wasn't changing colors or developing an odor, so I just left it. Until I couldn't stand it anymore.
In late October, I started wrapping it again with the white lotion, but I made the wrap as simple and pressure-free as possible. I soaked a tiny strip of Telfa pad with white lotion and wrapped it in place with a thin piece of cotton roll to hold the Telfa pad over the wound. I topped that with two to three layers of Vetwrap to keep everything in place. I changed the bandage every other day as before.
When I took the horses in to see Dr. Tolley for vaccinations and fecals in early November, I showed him Izzy's leg and asked him what to do next. As I mentioned in that post, Dr. Tolley thought it looked fine and encouraged me to stick with it. He also recommended using a liquid bandage once I take this bandage off. The part that I hadn't shared before is that Dr. Tolley had a possible explanation for the slow healing.
He suggested that there might have been a foreign body, such as a bone fragment, lodged in the center of the wound that was preventing it from healing completely. Given the way it has behaved over the past two months, I am pretty sure that diagnosis holds water.
I took the photo on the left a few days before Thanksgiving. It actually looked better in person. The scab was paper thin and for the first time, it looked knit together. I took the photo on the right a few days after Thanksgiving. Notice that there is only new pink skin and no scab!
Up until this point, there has always been the slightest gap in the center of the scab. I am going to continue wrapping it until there is no scab and the skin looks like the rest of the scar. And even then, I might bandage for another week after that before I apply the liquid bandage (which I have ready and waiting).
I've been teasing myself lately about my impatience. This first happened on January 6, 2015. Wouldn't it be fitting if January 6, 2016 turns out to be the day it's officially "healed?" I won't be at all surprised if it takes another 6 weeks for that skin to really heal tightly.
If I had known last January that the trainer's prediction of "10 days" was going to be a year... But I didn't, which was probably for the best!
December's sales drive me nuts. Why can't all of my friends and family be equine enthusiasts? It would be so easy to get my shopping done if everyone just wanted a new dressage pad or a pair of glossy DSBs.
Since they don't, I had to fill my shopping cart with all of the things that I would like to have but don't need. I am not buying them of course. Well, I am not buying all of them, but there are a few things that I am allowing myself to splurge on.
Like a new dressage whip. I know I've put this on a Christmas wish list already, but I need more than one as I am prone to ditching it during the middle of the ride where it then gets stepped on and broken. With the Black Friday discount, it's only $7.10. There is a $12.00 shipping fee because it's over-sized, but since it's practically free, who cares! I am getting it.
I am also getting both boys some new bell boots although if you're looking for gift ideas, one cannot have too many pairs of bell boots. Speedy wears a medium and Izzy wears extra large. Speaking of which, the Raplast has worked as Izzy's boots are still intact and on his feet. Even so, they do wear out so I want a back up pair on hand. The Black Friday price for these boots is $10.36 - what a steal!
I don't like to jinx myself by buying things ahead of when they're needed, (like show stuff - I am not buying a shadbelly, no matter how good the sale), but when I saw that the Second Level Whinny Widget was on sale, I didn't even hesitate. I have all of the USDF tests on one of my website's pages, but I am getting tired of having to open the page every time I want to know how a movement is ridden at Second Level. At $10.30, I think I can afford a bit of an impulse buy!
And that's where I am stopping. I did have a bunch of other stuff in the cart, but I put it all back on the shelf and showed some restraint. Do you remember how I said that if I had money left at the end of the month I was going to upgrade Speedy's USDF Horse ID to a Lifetime Registration Number? Well, there's money left, but not if I blow it all on stuff that I don't actually NEED.
Besides that, my husband is looking for Christmas gift ideas and my birthday is a week after Christmas. I've already told my husband what I want, so hopefully these two things will be either under the tree or wrapped in birthday paper.
The Black Friday sale price for the cart is $51.16 - I think I almost need two!
I shouldn't have to even explain why I want these. I mean look at them. Yes, I know that both Speedy and Izzy already have full sets, but these would be for the warm up ring at shows. And after much debate, I decided that I want black fleece with black gloss. These will look stunning against Speedy's white coat. He wears a small in front and mediums in the back. When you buy two or more, the Black Friday sale price is $28.76 - at that price I'd be tempted to also buy them in Silver with white fleece (hint hint!).
And of course, you can't have too many of these. Gift cards are always welcomed gifts, especially when they're for the Riding Warehouse.
Now I just need my friends and family to send me links for their own Black Friday wish lists. Did you resist, or is your cart full of awesome deals?
My last lesson for the weekend was on Speedy G. The biggest goals for my work with him now involve more. More impulsion, more stride in the lengthening, more in the connection. Just ... MORE.
When I asked Chemaine about what we need to make the move to showing at Second Level, that was her response, more. I am not interested in showing at Second Level unless I can do it with scores in the 60s. I don't want to post a 54%; that means we aren't ready. When Chemaine said more, that's what she was saying. Unless I can get more from Speedy, low 50s is what we'll get.
So that's what we focused on for Day 2's lesson - getting quicker responses, a better connection, and longer strides.
We started in the center of the ring with Chemaine holding the dressage whip. I asked for something, and when I didn't get an immediate response, Chemaine reinforced my request with a flick of the whip. I can poke, poke, poke with my spurs all day long, but Speedy is pretty good at tightening up and ignoring the jabs. He has a very healthy respect for the whip though. Simply suggesting that it might tap his hocks is enough motivation for him to start stepping out.
Not-so-easy exercise #1 - have a partner on the ground with a whip to encourage a quicker response to the rider's aids.
Once Speedy was sharper to my aids, and let me tell you, forward fixes a lot of things, we moved on to getting a better connection. Chemaine has been using the compression exercise with all of her students to improve the connection and engage the hind end.
I wrote about this the other day, but when you combine compression with a quicker response, the withers start to lift and all sorts of good things happen. To compress, you shorten the stride while still asking for forward. It's not about dragging the horse to a halt or getting the walk from trot. It's about keeping the hind legs engaged while the frame gets shorter and shorter.
Once the horse is compressed as short as he can get, he must soften to the inside rein, and then the rider asks for go. The horse's response should be an immediate push off from the hind legs.
Not-so-easy exercise #2 - improve the connection with compression and lengthening.
Once Speedy was sharper to my aids and demonstrating some impulsion, we moved on to lengthening the stride. Chemaine has developed a bit of a rider cue to help with the transition from the compressed stride to the lengthened stride.
Rather than expecting a developing horse to move from compression to full-on lengthening, she has the rider lengthen in three stages. It goes something like this:
Another way to develop the lengthened stride if the horse has a tendency to lose the trot is to halt at X during the trot lengthening. The rider can move the halt along the diagonal to keep the horse thinking about the half halts. Also, the rider must remember that there is never a lengthen without compression first. So if you halt at X, be prepared to compress the stride again before resuming the trot lengthening.
Not-so-easy exercise #3 - develop the trot lengthening by compressing the horse in the corner and then thinking big, bigger, biggest rather than going for the lengthening in a single stride.
The last exercise we worked on was using the haunches in to control the counter canter portion of the single loop from First Level Test 3. Having control of the haunches will be important in counter canter and travers (haunches in) for Second Level Test 2.
We began by doing a haunches in at the walk. It was instantly "easier" with Speedy than it had been for Izzy. Speedy moved his haunches in as soon as I asked. I shared this earlier this week, but to ask for a haunches in, get an inside bend through a shoulder in or a ten-meter circle. When you're back on the long side, open your outside rein to ask the shoulders to move toward the rail. Then, bring your outside hand back to ask the horse to weight his outside hind leg as you push the haunches to the inside. You're basically asking your horse to take a bit of a banana shape.
When Speedy and I had it down pretty well, we picked up a canter. When he was relatively soft on the inside rein, we started working on the single loop. Chemaine had me focus on starting the loop deep in the corner with a good inside bend. As we neared the counter canter portion of the loop, she had me keep the inside bend as I sent Speedy into a haunches in which effectively pivoted him around X so that we were heading back to the next corner with a correct bend from nose to tail.
Not-so-easy exercise #4 - haunches in for counter canter on the single loop.
I titled this post Not-So-Easy Exercises because for me, right now in our training, getting quicker responses, a better connection, and a longer stride are hard for us. If we had those elements down pat, we would already be showing at Second Level.
The work at Training Level and First Level is about acceptance of the bit, a willingness to go forward, and maintaining a rhythm. Speedy's got that down. Second Level is where collection starts to happen, but we can't get that until Speedy can really stay connected while using his hind end effectively.
I'll be riding with these four strategies in mind, minus someone chasing us around with a whip of course. I don't generally ride Speedy with a whip, but it looks as though I am going to need to do so more often. I'll have to be my own enforcer! So for now, quicker responses, a better connection through compression, and a gradual lengthening of stride are goals for the next month or so.
If you try any of these exercises, let me know what you think.
I started Day 2 on Izzy. Unlike the day before, he was super tense.
No matter how tense and "pogo-sticky" he is, he's not scary to ride, but that doesn't mean it's fun or easy. Chemaine's son shot an hour of video, and for at least the first 15 minutes, it shows us bouncing around the arena with zero connection and absolutely no rhythm. But like I mentioned before, Chemaine can overlook the millions of things I am doing wrong and can concentrate on fixing one thing at a time.
To get Izzy focusing, we went right to work on spiraling down to the other end of the arena and then spiraling back. Once we'd done that a time or two, we worked on the leg yield from center line to the long side.
Even though he was tense, and bouncing around, Izzy's brain stayed connected, something that hadn't happened at the first two clinics we did with Chemaine. After doing some leg yields, Chemaine had me do a four loop serpentine at the walk as an alternate way to change reins. It also gave Izzy a chance to settle down, and by alternating the bend, it kept his brain engaged while his body was able to relax.
The serpentine really helped him to focus, at least for a minute. The walk to trot transition after the serpentine was nearly flawless. It's really hard to see in the video, but if you zoom in, you'll see what I mean.
The rest of the lesson, and it was a long one, was spent trying to teach me to get a haunches in. I could feel his haunches swing in at the trot, but when Chemaine had me use the haunches in to get a canter, everything went to hell in a hand basket.
Rather than have both of us feeling frustrated, Chemaine asked if she could get on Izzy. Are you kidding? I couldn't get down fast enough. I am all for training my horse myself, but if there is someone standing around who can show him faster than I can, I say go for it. And since I obviously wasn't clear on the purpose or execution of the aids, seeing it done correctly was a huge bonus.
It took Chemaine 17 seconds to get him to do a haunches in at the trot ...
Of course, that wasn't the end of the discussion as she had to show him a number of times that yes indeed, he had the right answer. Chemaine wasn't schooling the haunches in just to move his haunches around. The true purpose was to help me get a canter departure without him being counter bent.
A few months ago, I could not reliably get the canter lead of my choice. I am not balanced enough or correct enough with my aids to teach a green horse which lead I want. To help me get it, Chemaine had me help Izzy pick up the correct canter lead by asking him to counter bend so that his inside shoulder could fall into the circle. This made it crystal clear which lead I wanted him to take.
That worked well enough so that I can now get a canter departure, but it is unbalanced and takes a lot of work to get him up off that shoulder and onto the outside rein. Enter the haunches in.
To help him take a balanced first canter stride, Chemaine helped me get him on the outside rein by doing a shoulder in first. Then, maintaining that same bend, I opened my outside rein to draw his shoulders to the outside (instead of falling in), and then I pulled back to to get him on his hind end as I used my outside leg to push his haunches in.
If it sounds confusing, it is, and it was really hard for me to coordinate. That's when Chemaine got on. Once she showed him what all of the aids meant together, she cantered him for a while on the left lead to show him that he could do it.
By riding him, Chemaine was able to discover a lot about his personality. She found that he is often resistant because he doesn't have a lot of confidence; he doesn't think he can do it so he doesn't try. Once you get him going however, he realizes that the work is easy and he gets really happy. And truthfully, the work truly is easy for him, especially when his rider helps him.
I got back on and we schooled the haunches in a bit. Once Chemaine felt that I had it, we used it to get the left lead canter. The thing to focus on in the video is Chemaine's coaching, which is constant. It's humbling to share video of myself struggling, but if it helps someone else, the embarrassment is worth it. You'll see that Izzy is not easy to ride.
Even with my bumbling aids, the horse can do it. He just needs me to get better as quickly as I can so that I am more effective at channeling his natural ability. We do get better each time we see Chemaine. She's coming back in December, weather permitting, and I plan to have those departures under control!
Up next: Speedy's second lesson.
A moment spent reflecting on the good in our lives is time well spent. For me, I know that I am very fortunate to be able to lead the life I do. I have a loving husband, friendships that are life-long, a stable job, good health, and energy to enjoy the things that I love doing - playing with my horses and traveling around the world.
I hope that you have plenty to be grateful for on this day of Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day, and thank you for being part of my life.
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 …
3/27-28 SCEC (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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