From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy's patience finally ran out on Tuesday. This whole not working until he has some hoof under him finally got to him. He kicked down his gate and busted out.
Speedy's desire to work or play with me can be a bit ... cloying at times. I love that he loves me, but honestly, did he need to tear down the barn?
Speedy gets at least 12 hours of turnout a day. At dinner time, this gate is chained open so that he can use the large sandy pasture at his will. At breakfast time, his gate gets locked so his neighbor gets daytime turn out. This system works great for me because I no longer have to worry about whether or not my horses are getting enough time out of their stalls.
For Speedy though, turnout isn't enough. Yes, the nighttime walking dissipates his energy, but it's the social interaction with me that he needs to be happy. He has a neighbor who he plays with, but the dude knows I am his person, and his feelings get hurt when he doesn't get enough of my time.
Speedy's been laid up for two months. During that time, I've spent a few minutes each day with him caring for the hoof, looking for any cuts or bumps, and checking his weight. At least one day a week, I bring him out for a groom and a graze on the lawn. In the last three or four weeks, I've also hopped up on him bareback and ridden around the property in a halter. It obviously hasn't been enough.
Even though Izzy hasn't been ridden in three days, I devoted Thursday afternoon to my gray pony. He practically purred. I scraped off as much of the crusted-on dirt as I could, and then led him up to the arena. I still don't have an all-clear to ride, but I wasn't worried about damaging anything with a walking ride.
Speedy was high as a kite, but he was thrilled to be working again. I did a bunch of leg yields, haunches in, and a bit of half pass - all at the walk. When we were finished, I hosed him off while he stood politely and quietly. Satisfaction simply oozed from him; all was once again right with his world.
I think he's ready to get back to work, even if it's just at a walk. I know he'll get the go ahead in a few weeks anyway, so if I start by working him at the walk now, he'll be just that much fitter and more supple once we start trotting.
And really? I've missed him just as much as he missed me. Maybe more so.
As I've mentioned about a billion times, Izzy is a challenging horse to ride. Many of you are amazing riders and would have no trouble with him, but sadly, I am merely average and not amazing. I am however, persistent.
As such, I keep on keeping on, mostly because he's teaching me so much. Just about the time I am ready to throw in the towel (like last week), he teaches me something new, and we move on. Let me explain.
My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, rode in a clinic with Robert Dover last week. She posted several videos of the lesson (in a private group so I can't share), but one in particular really spoke to me. I didn't catch the context of the moment that Robert was schooling her through, but I think the gist of it was getting a better connection in order to achieve more forward and suppleness in his gaits.
Just the way Rocky was moving reminded me of what Izzy does when he's super tense. He gets way too round and sucks back. Then we get stuck: If I add leg, he bolts, but if my half halt is too strong, he rears. See above. It's a problem for sure.
At the beginning of the video, Rocky looks a little stuck himself. He keeps trying to break into a canter where his haunches are swinging back and forth. I know that feeling well. When Izzy does it, it means he's trying to go forward, but he doesn't think he has anywhere to go. Robert's response to Chemaine was this.
It's not from a lack of desire to please you. It's from a confusion of what it means when your lower leg goes near him. Does it mean you want him to react and like run off of it?
That's exactly what it feels like when I am riding Izzy. When he's that tense, putting my leg on feels like I am igniting a rocket.
Don't think you have to bring him so much back.
Hmmm ... that's when I really got to thinking because that's exactly what I do. I just keep half halting stronger and stronger until we're finally walking. My thinking is always about getting him to relax at the walk before going back to work.
As I watched Chemaine ride, Robert kept encouraging her to add more seat and leg instead of half halting. In fact, he had her think of getting a bigger stride.
Think more like, "You want me to extend?" and you say, "Resist the extension."
In the video, Robert was coaching her to think about an extension by adding leg and energy, but he didn't really want the extension. He wanted Rocky to lift his withers, drive with his hind end, and have more suspension in the trot.
As they crossed the diagonal on a right bend, he had Chemaine do a haunches in to really get the horse on the outside rein. When they came to the opposite long side, she changed the bend and allowed the haunches to fall in line. Through the corner, Robert urged her to push the horse forward. When Rocky broke into a sucked back canter again, he said this.
Contact, contact ... push him forward! Keep your reins. No matter what, keep your reins. Give him a kick forward if he doesn't go on the right rein. "Take my rein, pull on my rein!" He's got to want to go to the extension. I don't want to feel him back away. Less restricting in your hand until he pulls on your hand. Then you just resist the medium.
Without watching the video, I know this is hard to imagine, but Rocky was sucking back and not wanting to go forward. Robert was encouraging Chemaine to both maintain the steady contact while not restricting him. This is a problem I definitely have. Robert added one more thought in the video.
Give him a push that makes him go to the rein and then close it.
That last comment was like a light bulb coming on. I think that too often I push on the gas and pull on the brake at the same time. Robert's comment helped me see that I should be asking for forward, and once I get it, I can then ask for a half halt or simply resist too much forward.
Over the last few days, this is how I've been riding Izzy, and it's been working! Every stride, I push my hands forward as I ask for forward. I am hoping that Izzy starts to think that he has room to go forward. I've also been asking for tons of haunches in on the circle and across the diagonal. The benefit has been a looser back and a horse too busy to think about being spooky.
Chemaine will be here for a clinic on both Saturday and Sunday. If you live close by, we'd love to have you audit. She promised to bring us what she learned from Robert Dover. I am excited to hear what she has to say!
Eek! Guess what showed up at my house last night?!?!?!?
Before I show you, (if you haven't already figured it out, and how could you not since it's obviously a BOOT box) there's a cute story about how this delivery was made possible.
Every day when my husband brings in the mail, I ask, "Is there a check for a million dollars?" No matter how many times I ask, and I've asked it a lot, he either gives a simple nope or a more elaborate MAYBE, LOOK AT THIS! when it's some sort of scammer junk mail.
So ... the other day he brought in a pile of mail and dropped it in front of me. I immediately spotted a gray envelope that was not junk mail. I pulled it from the stack and noticed that my name and address were typed on the front, but there was no return address nor postage stamp.
Our mail carrier is well known for goofing up the mail, so I figured it was from a neighbor or our HOA. When I picked it up though, I became even more puzzled as it was thick and bulky. Something besides a piece of paper was in the envelope.
When I slit it open, my eyes just about popped out of my head. It was filled with cash! It wasn't a check for a million dollars, but it sure looked like it! My husband has a great sense of humor and thought it would be funny to cash a recent bonus check and hand it to me in cash. Dude's a keeper for sure!
He knows I've had a ton of First World Problems lately in the form of strange and random bills, so he handed me a stack of the bills and told me to do with them whatever I wanted. I wanted to go wild and buy all sorts of things, but I am so careful with money that I kept out a portion to pay for Speedy's vet visit last week, and then I put the rest away.
When Speedy's vet bill turned out to be much, much lower than anticipated (thank you, Dr. Tolley!), I decided to use the rest of what was unspent to buy myself some new boots! Our favorite tack store, the Riding Warehouse, had them listed for $219.95, but I had a 20% coupon, so I got them for a whole lot less!
I chose the wide model because I don't plan on riding in them. Instead, I bought them for work, and I'll need to tuck in my jeans. I have 30 minutes of yard duty every Tuesday morning from 7:20 - 7:50. It gets cold and damp out on the playground. I also teach P.E. every day, even in the winter. These will be perfect for tromping around on the wet asphalt and muddy field.
They're a tiny bit big in the footbed, so I am going to by some gel inserts, which I do for all of my boots anyway. I am stupidly excited about these boots. I've been wanting them for so long but just had trouble justifying buying one more thing.
Thanks, Mr. Sweaney!
Oh, and if you want that discount code, shoot me an email.
I've owned at least 10 horses over my lifetime, ridden more than that, and even leased another one or two. A few of them were difficult, but they ultimately became excellent riding horses who were very good at their jobs. My last two horses, Sydney the OTTB from New Zealand and Izzy the big brown horse, have been more challenging than any of the others.
Sydney just couldn't make it as a dressage horse, and it wasn't just me who thought so. Several trainers agreed. I gave him to someone who was good at rehoming difficult horses. About once a week, I suffer a crisis of confidence and consider selling Izzy, too. Without fail, he always comes back with a good effort though, and I get sucked back into believing that he and I can become dancing partners.
Last week, he and I had a terrible ride.
From the moment I got to the barn, I had to talk myself into riding. I was tired and not really feeling it, but I convinced myself that some saddle time was just what I needed.
Izzy always meets me at the gate, or at least starts walking toward me. Not that day. I had to go get him. Lately, I've been grooming him in his turnout without the need for a halter. He wants to be with me and enjoys the grooming. Not that day.
When he walked away, I grabbed my halter and brought him back and tied him to the fence. When he reached out to nip me, a game that he sometimes takes too far, I tried to pop him in the nose, but missed. He glared at me, took a moment to formulate a plan, and then sat back hard. When nothing gave, (I usually tie him with my Block Tie Ring), he sat back deeper and really put his back into it.
Eventually, when nothing broke, he jumped back forward and stood in place. I never yelled or reacted. I just stood there watching him. When he was done, I finished grooming him and walked him over to the tack room to saddle up, but I was even more reluctant to ride.
We walked up to the arena, and I got on like always. As we went through our normal warm up, I could feel him getting more and more tense. Gone was the fabulous horse I've been riding over the past month. After trying everything to get him to soften, or yield, or simply recognize that I was up there, I decided that a canter might work out some of the tension.
It did not. We cantered on the right lead, but when I asked for the left lead, he threw a fit. He. Absolutely. Would. Not. Canter. Left. I finally gave up. In the past, when he couldn't or wouldn't bend, my first assumption has been that he needs to see the chiropractor.
That thought frustrated me even more since CC was just here three weeks ago. I am willing to do a lot for my horses, and I do, but twice monthly visits by the chiropractor are just not in the budget. Basically, I threw in the towel, had a pity party, and decided I just don't have enough talent to ride this horse.
As it tends to, a greater power stepped in and kept me out of the saddle for three days. I had some social commitments to take care of and a work meeting cropped up, so before I knew it, it was Friday, which thanks to our nation's veterans, was a day off. I was able to to take Speedy to the vet and ride Izzy early in the afternoon.
Suddenly, my big brown horse was once again on my team. We had a delightful ride, and then followed it up with an even better ride the next day. What changed? Well, probably me for starters, but I also watched some video of Chemaine Hurtado riding last week with Robert Dover during a clinic. I messaged Chemaine and told her to bring Robert's tips with her this next weekend for our clinic. She agreed.
Until next week, I am backing away from the for sale ledge ...
This past Thursday, I posted an update, but as I was uploading some progress photos, I realized that in the most current photo, Speedy's hoof didn't look as good as it had just two weeks before. I called Dr. Tolley that day and scheduled an appointment for Friday morning.
I can't say enough about how much I appreciate the top notch care that Bakersfield Vet Hospital provides its clients. No matter what questions I have, or what problems I bring to the hospital, the entire staff jumps in to consult or help. While I was waiting for Dr. Tolley to finish with another client, Kathryn ran fecal tests in her lab while letting me hang out to watch and chat. It's like getting three or four for the price of one!
Dr. Tolley started his exam by using a stiff brush to knock away the dirt. It was clear that the wound had healed over, so he moved on to scrutinize the coronary band and hoof.
Using what looked like a Dremel tool, he next filed away excess growth from the Coronary band. He also opened up the damaged part of the hoof a little to remove what looked like dead tissue.
Although he probably should have used the clippers first, I know he pulled them out to really clean up the site to make sure he hadn't missed anything.
When the damaged area of hoof looked smoother, he tackled the bottom of the foot. Here's where it gets interesting. The coronary band is producing new hoof faster than the old hoof can grow down. Remember that the hoof wall became separated from the coronary band and is no longer connected at the top.
The coronary band is prolapsed, meaning it is bulging out. With nothing to pull it down, the new hoof wants to grow out and over the old hoof. Normally, the new hoof growth pushes the existing hoof down as it grows because they're connected. It reminds me of an adult tooth pushing on a baby tooth. Sometimes one or the other is not lined up correctly, and the adult tooth will grow at a crooked angle if it doesn't have enough room to drop into place.
To give the new hoof room to grow downward rather than outward, Dr. Tolley cut an arch into the portion of hoof directly beneath the damaged area so that the old hoof can sink down out of the way.
Over the next two weeks, Dr. Tolley wants me to use a rasp to file away any hoof within the red lines that touches the ground. Leaving a gap there encourages the old hoof to fall down as the new hoof pushes in from the top.
Dr. Tolley assured me that even though it looked hinkey last week, it was growing just fine. All he did was clean it up a little bit. In fact, he said that I can probably put Speedy back to work in two weeks. I am to send him a fresh picture before he gives the final go ahead.
By late November, there should be sufficient new hoof to provide enough support for riding. The only concern will be whether the old hoof is strong enough to resist breaking away. If it's not, we can put on an eggbar shoe to support it while more hoof grows.
While I want to ride, I don't want to mess around with expensive shoes when I can get the same result by waiting a few weeks longer. I should know more in a couple of weeks, but it all looks good for now!
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%: