From Endurance to Dressage
I sometimes wonder if I would pursue dressage if no awards were offered. Think about it. Would you bust your chops to get that next score if no certificate and patch were offered? What about getting that last Third Level score for a bronze if no bronze medal existed?
I am going to say that I would probably not be involved in dressage if it were not for the award programs offered by USDF and my own GMO, the California Dressage Society (CDS). I am a competitive person and highly goal oriented. While my motivation is mainly intrinsic - I am proud of a job well done, I do crave public recognition in the form of external rewards. I need at least some extrinsic motivation to propel me forward.
Fortunately, most of my motivation comes from within. Had I been the type who craves recognition in the form of podiums and endorsements, I would have quit long ago. Not to say there's anything wrong with being rewarded so dramatically; it's just that I would have lived life perpetually disappointed. I am simply not good enough to earn such a powerful spotlight.
I am good enough to earn certificates though, and Speedy and I have earned a pile of them! Since certificates are cheap, USDF and CDS can afford to be generous in how they're handed out. It is surprising how hard I have worked, and how much preparation and planning it took, to earn those certificates. While they may simply be a few words mass printed on a page, for me, they represent hard work and acknowledgement of a goal achieved.
Speedy and I were pretty successful this year if that success is measured by ribbons, trinkets, and certificates. The wins didn't come at CDIs and my competition was often just me, but I'll take those shiny small moments and hang them where they will continue to inspire me to keep trying.
What about you? Does your motivation come from within, or do you crave tangible proof of your success?
It's mine, but my head is hung in shame. How does it get this bad, and why haven't I dealt with it sooner? It was so grungy that I was forced to dunk each piece in a bucket of warm water to loosen the bits of cemented drool/hay/mud. Gross.
During Izzy's recent Boot Camp, I had to switch back and forth between his legal dressage bit and a corrective bit. Switching out bits on a crusty, stiff bridle is aggravating, so I grabbed an old bridle to use for the correction bit. This just meant that I now had three gross bridles to clean. They were so dirty that I had to bring them home. I couldn't face sitting hunched over on a mounting block in the cold with icy water. It was warmer in the house, and I had access to warm water, clean towels, and music. Having the dogs around for company didn't hurt either.
I started with Speedy's bridle, remembering to count from which holes everything was hanging. After I had cleaned and lightly conditioned the pieces to his bridle, I moved on to Izzy's back up bridle. After it was cleaned and laying in a pile, I reached for the third bridle. As I started counting holes, I paused and realized that there was no way I was going to remember the hole count for three bridles. I hastily reassembled the first two.
I had saved the worst bridle for last. Izzy's everyday bridle was a mess. I've said this before; he sweats like a sixteen year old boy. How can one horse create so much filth?
I ride Speedy in laced reins, not common for dressage, I know. Since Izzy is so strong, I've used nothing but rubber reins with him. They're wider and provide excellent grip. When I needed to add in a second bridle, I grabbed a standard pair of web reins with leather stops that I had laying around. I was shocked at what a different feel those reins gave me. (Speaking of feel.) They were lighter and allowed me to be much quieter with my rein aids.
Like everyone else, I have a tack room full of stuff. And like most of you, I also have a garage and office full of even more stuff. My husband calls it junk, but we know better. At home is where I keep my now unused endurance tack (all for sale!) as well as all of my extra extra bridles and reins. I have so many pairs of reins, many of them brand new, that I dragged them all out and went shopping for a new everyday pair.
I ended up choosing another pair of web reins, but I threw in a pair of synthetic reins (Beta, I think) that were soft and had a lively feel. I want to try them out and see what kind of feel they give me. They're smooth without any grips or stops so I suspect I discarded them because they slipped through my fingers. Since I have them, I'd like to give them a try anyway.
With my tack sparking clean and some new stuff to play around with, my next barn visit promises to be interesting. Who needs a Black Friday when you can shop in your own garage and closets for free?
This may wander a bit as I am just thinking out loud, but I recently had one of those epiphanies where you think, How have I not known that? Or in my case, how have I not been able to feel that?
I've been riding with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, for several years now. While she does come up with new stuff all the time, there are some things she has to say over and over and over. Deeper and rounder are two such things. In fact, not long ago she felt compelled to clarify that deeper and rounder are the same thing. She must have felt the need to explain it that way because Speedy was obviously neither of the two, indicating that my comprehension was lacking.
I don't remember the exact moment that it happened, but one day, I heard Chemaine's voice in my head say flex him to the inside to put him on your outside rein. At that moment, I felt something physically click into place. The bend isn't for the bend's sake. It shapes the horse's body so that the horse can move the way we want him to. Inside bend and outside rein are my new holy grail.
Think about it, how crucial is it that our horses be on the outside rein? It's everything! That's how you get a half halt. That's how you get haunches in or a turn on the haunches or a canter depart. And since the layers go on and on, I know that there must be even more that I'll be able to get from my boys when they're actually on the outside rein.
The thing with finally internalizing the idea of getting a horse on the outside rein is that it leads to lots of other ahas! like getting the horse even on both reins. I knew what that meant, but like the idea of inside bend, I didn't know it in my bones. It was more vague; something I was trying to create. Now, I get it; I feel the unevenness and work to get my horses better balanced between my two reins.
That's both the frustration and beauty of dressage. There is always, always more to learn, and even when you get it, eventually, you'll find an even deeper understanding of a concept you thought you already understood.
That's no joke. They have Cinderella feet for sure. Good thing I have a good farrier. Both of my boys stand very patiently for the farrier, so he just comes and does them whether anyone is around or not. As someone with a full time job, this makes my life so much easier.
Since I was on vacation last week, I was hoping to catch him in action so I could talk to him. I didn't have any major concerns, but there were a few things I wanted to ask him. He was pulling out as I pulled in, so we had a chat through our windows.
A year ago this past October, Speedy injured his coronary band sufficiently enough to put him out of business for several months. Ultimately, it has healed well except for one little thing. He's had a very narrow crack running from the ground up. That was the first thing about which I wanted to ask my farrier. When I mentioned it, he called it a line and said not to worry.
To address the line (it's a crack, am I right?), my farrier scooped out some of the hoof wall to keep it off the ground to prevent dirt from getting up inside. I am going to be honest here - while I recognize a decent shoe job and know when a foot looks horribly wrong, I leave the finer details to my farrier. That's what I pay him for. If he wants to call it a line instead of a crack and dig some hoof wall out to prevent dirt from getting in, go for it. If he says not to worry, I am worry free. So there was that.
When he finished with that clarification, he threw in a buuuuuttttt ... Well crap. I knew there had to be something. Right away he had noticed that Speedy's front feet had some unusual wear, especially THE RIGHT one. Oh, wait, you mean the one he had recently been lame on from WHIRLING AND PACING? That one? Yeah. Farrier noticed it and did some creative rasping to balance Speedy's hooves. My farrier was relieved to hear that there was an explanation for the wear because it wasn't normal for Speedy. I was just as relieved as he was.
Izzy, also known as Cinderella number two, got a good report for once. Instead of any problems, he got moved into a bigger shoe! This was great news since we put shoes on him this summer because he had worn his feet down to tiny little nubs and had gone lame because of it. Hearing that he had grown enough foot to be able to go to a correctly sized shoe for his body was great news.
Both of my Cinderellas are now good to go for the next month or so. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Speedy settles into the winter routine with no more pacing. My toes are crossed in hopes that Izzy will keep these new, bigger shoes firmly on his feet.
Farriers are certainly worth their weight in gold, and mine is no exception, but I don't want to pay him in gold for repeated visits!
Izzy's weeklong bootcamp is over, and while I didn't find out definitively whether or not he has ulcers, the experiment with UlcerGard gave me enough information to run it all by my vet. Quite a few of you chimed in with your own experiences and preferred tummy products; for that I thank you.
Here's what I found out:
1) By the third or fourth day on UlcerGard, Izzy was a much happier camper.
2) Izzy is more tense and anxious when the weather is less than perfect.
3) In less than perfect weather, Izzy does better with some lunging before he's ridden.
4) Five days after completing the first tube of UlcerGard, Izzy was a complete jackass.
5) Based on the return of the jackassery, I am changing Izzy's supplements to include something to aid his digestive health.
Rather than continue to guess on a treatment for Izzy, I gave my vet a call and gave him a run down. In a quick summary, I explained how unpredictable Izzy can be, what my feeding program looks like (Izzy rarely runs out of hay), what happened when I experimented with four days of UlcerGard, and how Izzy has been more anxious with the arrival of cooler weather.
Dr. Tolley listened carefully, and when I was finished, he agreed that ulcers were likely. He then launched into a thorough exploration of what we could try. I love that about him; he doesn't just offer one solution. He always gives me a list of possible fixes that range from the least invasive to the most expensive and elaborate. Those choices included lots of different drugs, GastroGard, UlcerGard, and over the counter supplements.
In his experience, ulcers are expensive to treat, I agreed, so finding the least expensive, but still effective, treatment was our goal. We also discussed a variety of studies, one of which showed that gastric ulcers in horses responded well to a lower dose (1 mg/day) of omeprazole as compared to what is prescribed in GastroGard (4 mg/day).
Dr. Tolley cautioned me against using other versions of omeprazole not manufactured by Merial. As one website explained, "UlcerGard and GastroGard are different than the omeprazole medication used to treat human ulcers (Prilosec) because they are not microencapsulated. Prilosec is microencapsulated so that it does not dissolve inside the human stomach. Because the equine and human stomachs are significantly different, the drugs used to treat their ulcers must be formulated differently."
Dr. Tolley laid out a possible plan of attack with room for variations included, but he left it to me to make the final call. He suggested 21 days of UlcerGard combined with an over-the-counter preventative to be given until further notice. He recommended SmartGut Pellets.
After reviewing SmartPak's list of ulcer preventatives, I decided to upgrade to the SmartGI Pellets. While the ingredients are nearly identical to those in the SmartGut Pellets, the SmartGI Pellets offer just a bit more to support the stomach and the hindgut. For a difference of twenty cents a day, I figured it was worth it.
UlcerGard comes in a four-dose tube for around $35, or you can get it in a six-tube pack for $202.50 which contains twenty-four doses of 1 mg/day. I have three doses left from my second tube, so if I combine those with the twenty-four doses, I'll get four weeks of treatment instead of the three that Dr. Tolley proposed.
SmartPak's shipping is not nearly as quick as some of my preferred online retailers, so I can't get to work on rehabilitating Izzy's gut quite yet. The UlcerGard should be here by Wednesday, so today I can get him started on the three dose I already have. The SmartGI won't be here until next week (if I am lucky). That might be for the good anyway as it will give me a chance to evaluate how effective the UlcerGard seems after a week.
So. Does my horse have ulcers? I don't know, but I am treating him as though he does. Wish us luck!
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%: