From Endurance to Dressage
I get asked all the time at shows if Speedy is an Arabian. When I first started getting that question, it baffled me. I mean look at him ... doesn't he look like an Arab to you?
Way back in the beginning, when I moved from endurance to dressage, no one ever asked if Speedy was an Arabian. It was pretty obvious.
There are a lot of different Arabian types. There are the super "dishy" Arabs with over-exaggerated features which stand in sharp contrast to the coarser Arabs who don't have the finer features of the classically bred Arabians. And then there are horses like Speedy. He's my favorite type, and I've had three others just like him. He is stamped with the elegance of the Arabian horse's finer features, but he has the solid bone structure that allows him to be a working horse.
Now when people ask me if Speedy is an Arabian, I know why. He doesn't look like the Arabs they're used to seeing - the prancing gazelles of the horse world. He also doesn't act like the Arabs they're used to seeing - flared nostrils, eyes wide, tails flipped over the back ...
At home though, Speedy can let his freak flag fly. In his own turnout space, he loves to show off and remind me that he is all Arab ... flared nostrils, eyes wide, and tail flipped over his back.
All Arabian ... I knew you'd have to see it to believe it.
When I rode with Chemaine last month, those were almost her parting words to me. I actually think I heard her say, "half halt, half halt, half halt!"
I've kept that idea in my mind over the past month. When things seem to be going haywire, and I can't figure out how to get back on track, it will occur to me that I should probably half halt. Of course, I'm usually about 45 seconds too late, but at least it is now occurring to me to half halt as a solution. I got a great reminder of that last night when I rode Izzy.
Before I go on, I should point out that Izzy is not easy to ride. He is not scary like Sydney was, although when people watch me ride him, I know they are thinking thank goodness she's on him and I am not.
I might be frustrated at how hard he's making things, but I am not scared of him. In fact, after he nearly flipped me over his back twice last night after scooting forward - at the walk, I just laughed at how silly he is.
Every day that I see him, I marvel at the things that he now takes in stride: he is a doll in the cross ties, he can go through the gate without bolting past me, he leads quietly, he lowers his giraffe neck to the ground with a simple touch to his poll, and he even lifts his 12,000,000 pound feet up for picking out. But ...
Each ride is a painstaking ordeal. I know we're making progress, but he questions the need to frame up every single day. Are you sure I can't run around with my nose sticking waaaay up here? And when my answer is no, dude, you can't, he squeals, grunts, shakes his head, and looks for a way around me.
Every. Single. Time.
Right now, I am doing the same exercises for each ride. I start out on a circle at the walk and bring him to a halt and ask his him to soften before walking on again. We do this about 400 times. As we're walking and halting around the circle, I am slowly spiraling down to the other end of the arena by leg yielding into the open end of the circle. Before he knows it, we're at the scary end. As we leg yield, I do lots of halt halts to encourage him to step over instead of forward.
When we've done that spiral down to the end while half halting to both directions, I do it at the trot. Of course, he questions that as well: are you sure that's what you want me to do because it feels really hard, and I would rather buck, squeal, or run off somewhere else. My answer is always the same, a hard jerk with the outside rein to say no, stay right here.
It's tedious, and it's frustrating that he is such a slow learner, but little by little he is figuring it out. After several firm jerks, he quits trying to run off. And after about 30 minutes, just as I am losing daylight, I feel his brain engage, and he asks: wait, you mean you just want me to trot around with this bit carried softly in my mouth? Why didn't you say so?!
And then we're done. Last night, I had to be a Nazi about the half halts. Every single time he poked his nose into the air or tried to run through my aids, I half halted hard until little by little, the half halts came more from my core than my hands. My response was always the same - an audible nope, accompanied by a tightening of my core, and rein if I needed it.
We're getting there - it's slow, but it's happening. And the exciting thing is that when he finally relaxes through his neck and lets his back swing, he is so fancy and uphill. Like Chemaine told me last month, the great scores come from riding that knife edge of "almost out of control." Izzy's got it in spades!
When I got to the barn on Monday afternoon, my plan was to turn Izzy out and ride Speedy. The weather was quite cool and brisk and Izzy hadn't been out since Friday; we had been in Phoenix for the weekend.
Speedy's the type of horse that you can just hop on even when he's had weeks or months off. Izzy ... not so much. And frankly, I just wasn't into a rodeo type ride.
When I walked Izzy over to Laurel's turnout, I was thrilled to see that Austin was turned out in the center arena which meant that Izzy would have a friend during turnout.
Laurel was on her way to work and actually needed to put Austin away, but she quickly agreed to let him stay out longer if I was willing to put him back. She was just as happy for him to have someone to play with as I was. Both of our horses are stabled in a way that they can't touch another horse through the fence, so to have the opportunity to bite and play with another horse is a real treat.
I think both boys enjoyed their impromptu play date.
Before we left for Phoenix this past weekend, I wrote a blog post about taking both boys to the vet for vaccinations. I didn't realize how many people have been following Izzy's leg wound story and recent lameness. Based on some of your comments, there are some out there who are a bit worried. I guess I need to fill in some blanks.
First off, Speedy is happy and well. He is not thrilled with all of the recent leg yield work, but he is kicking some serious butt at the canter transitions. At Second Level Test 1, you have to do a simple change of lead through walk on a serpentine. I am desperate to get to that test, so I am schooling that particular movement to the best of our ability.
Right now, in my short court, he can do the change of lead through trot on centerline. This means we canter to the quarter line, make the change of lead at centerline and canter around the half circle to the next quarter line where we do a quick downward transition to trot. We do a change of lead on centerline again and canter the next half circle to C or A where we start over.
Since it's a short court, my half circles are only about 15-meters. Even so, Speedy can still get the lead change on the centerline every. single. time. The dude rocks it. The simple change is coming.
Izzy is also happy and well. The soreness, whether from a bruise or not, seems to be healed completely. Late last week I was finally able to get in several schooling rides that included walk, trot, and canter. I didn't feel a single mis-step. The rides weren't exactly pretty, but we spiraled down to the far end in the trot in both directions and did a bit of canter work.
Chemaine will be here this coming weekend for Casual Clinic #3, so we will have plenty to work on.
As far as his leg wound, it really doesn't look bad at all. I am just frustrated that I am still dealing with it. I want to be addressing the scarring, not the wound itself. There is still a teeny tiny part that doesn't want to close over completely.
Sorry for the poor photo, but by the time I get to the barn, the light is pretty bad. You can see the little part that I am talking about. It's the circular area right in the middle. It has a little scab on it, which I am hoping is a real scab this time and not just the cap to proud flesh.
Over the past two months, the scab had been closing over the top, but proud flesh was growing underneath. I would pick the scab off only to find over-granulated tissue underneath. Right now, this scab seems right, so I am leaving everything alone.
So there you have it - two healthy horses. They're both getting ridden regularly, and everyone is fit, healthy, and happy.
I love getting new stuff. Seeing a brown box outside my door always makes me feel giddy, even when I know it's just vet wrap.
Of course, nobody orders just vet wrap. You have to throw a few more things into the order. And in this case, the vet wrap was actually the add on to get the free shipping.
What I really needed were new bell boots for Izzy and a way to keep him from chewing them off in the first 24 hours. After much research and web browsing, I decided on RapLast.
There are a few different anti-chew products on the market, but I needed this kind of quickly and aerosols don't come by plane.
Since I bought Izzy a year ago, he has had some kind of wound on his body that has required doctoring. And I am not talking about little scrapes and bumps. His are HUGE and most have to do with his legs and feet. He is just so active in his stall and paddock that he is tearing himself to bits.
Most recently, he has tried to separate his hooves from his body. I have tried several pairs of bell boots already, but he has managed to get them off his feet within a day or so. I put them on and the next day I find them ripped into a million little pieces.
I read the warning label on the RapLast very carefully, especially after reading the reviews. From what other users have said, this stuff is quite nasty. I donned gloves and laid out a plastic barrier before I doused the bell boots with the RapLast. I even kept the gloves on while I put the boots on.
When I first put him back in his stall, he started chewing on the bell boots immediately. Crap. I don't have much hope for this product. Not one to be deterred, I threw caution to the wind and set the nozzle to spray. The directions explicitly forbade using the spray feature as the dose delivered would coat too large of an area. Fine by me.
After coating the bell boots again, this time with the spray dose as opposed to the stream, Izzy reached down to give the boots another tug. He quickly gave the flehmen response which gave me some hope.
I don't know if this stuff will work or not. I have my doubts. I've probably just wasted another $30 in boots and spray. In the meantime, my order also included some Mane and Tail, so I gave Izzy's tail some much needed attention.
Izzy has a very luxurious, full tail. I rarely touch it except to keep it banged or to run some kind of conditioner through it. Even though I coated it with some Mane and Tail detangler, it was still pretty gnarled. I pulled out my conditioner of choice, EQyss Survivor Detangler, and rubbed it through his tail. This stuff is fabulous, but it is on the pricier end of the spectrum.
After his tail was neatly combed through, I lifted it and cut a good six inches off. It looked so much better that I wondered how I let it go so long.
So even if the RapLast doesn't do its job and Izzy continues to whack his own feet, at least he has good hair!
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.
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 …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
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