From Endurance to Dressage
Oh, boy, do I hate it when I am wrong. To my credit, I usually admit it, albeit begrudgingly, but I do at least make the acknowledgement. So what am I wrong about this time? Well ... the double bridle. And it's not that I am wrong exactly; it's more like I seriously miscalculated. I was certain that Speedy could work his way through Third Level and maybe even Fourth in a snaffle bridle. Go ahead. You can laugh.
We've been doing "okay" in the snaffle bridle. Our struggles felt more related to my lack of understanding the level. There was also the assumption that Speedy just found the movements too hard. None of it seemed related to the bit.
After I asked for some feedback though, some of your responses started to resonate, especially those about the flying changes. After one particularly frustrating ride where Speedy would not let go of the inside right rein, it occurred to me that if Izzy had behaved that way, I would have popped my correction bit on him for a quick little reminder.
As soon as that thought crossed my mind, I realized that it might do Speedy some good to go in a curb for a ride or two. He slurped up Izzy's correction bit like it was his daily driver. What is it with that bit by the way? Both of my horses love it. All of a sudden, I had a half halt and a half pass and changes that didn't include a woohoo-buck and bolt combo.
For my next lesson, I used the correction bit and asked Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, if she thought Speedy was finally in need of the double bridle. Based on what she saw, she agreed with my "realization."
Having friends in the tack business can be a real advantage. I looked around for inexpensive double bridles and came back to my friend Valerie's shop, The Dressage Pony Store. She carries a few different bridles in a variety of price ranges, but it was the Grand Prix Double Bridle that caught my eye. At $135, it seemed too good to be true. What are friends for though if not to call when you need advice?
I sent her an email with a few questions and then called her up with a few more. She assured me that the bridle looks and feels way nicer than the price would suggest. She sent me a photo of her pony Clooney wearing the bridle, and then she put on one of the browbands I had ordered to check the fit of that. Mine aren't here yet since they're being custom made somewhere in Europe. So, along with two new browbands, I now have a brand new double bridle on its way. It's scheduled to arrive tomorrow.
Good thing I don't mind eating crow.
In all the hubbub of finding a new truck, I completely forgot about my newest dressage score. I mean, I know I earned it, but waiting for USDF to see that I've earned it feels like an eternity. On Monday, after I rode Speedy, it suddenly popped into my head that USDF had probably updated their scores. I barely made it in the door before I was checking my scores. I told you I'm a score stalker.
In case you can't read the pinkish box, it says, "Two scores at Third Level, must be awarded by two different judges. Rider has one qualifying score at this level." Rider has one qualifying score; that means I only need ONE MORE score for a USDF Bronze Medal.
If you've checked my scores, no offense taken if you have, and frankly, I'd be disappointed if you haven't. How can you weigh the veracity or relevance of anything I say if I don't have the credentials to support what I write? My mediocre scores should prove to you that I am indeed what I say I am - a struggling adult amateur on a horse not bred for dressage but who is doing it anyway.
I am kind of surprised by the sheer number of USDF scores Speedy and I have earned, 81 at last count. And those scores don't include schooling shows or CDS only shows. We're at well over a hundred if you toss those in. What we may lack in quality, we've made up for in volume.
I know a lot of people will look at my scores and tsk, tsk them. Yes, I would like my averages to be higher, but showing is how I get better. I don't have access to weekly lessons. Shoot, sometimes I am lucky to squeeze in a monthly lesson. Over the years, most of my feedback has come from judges. I ride a test, I read what the judge thought, and then I try to improve on what we did before. If you go back to review all of my scores, you'll generally see a progression from low to at least higher within each level.
Once Speedy and I earn that last score for the Bronze Medal, we're going to hang out at Third until I feel that he has developed more lightness in his collected work. And that half pass has to improve before we even think about moving on to Fourth Level. Frankly, I need to get better, too. This level is requiring a lot more balance on my part as well.
I know I tend toward self-deprecation, but it's said in all earnestness. Seriously. If you have a goal, go for it. What I lack in talent and natural ability, I make up for in grit and determination. Most of the time, it ain't pretty, but it gets the job done. Dig deep, friend, and it will happen.
At least that's the pep talk I keep giving myself.
One of the reasons that Newt, my new truck, didn't make it home on Saturday was because she's getting a gooseneck hitch installed. Blue Truck had a B&W Hitch with a roll-over ball. You pulled a pin, and the ball flipped down beneath the level of the bed. The safety chain was hooked to two large eye bolts that screwed in and out. With the ball flipped over and the eye bolts removed, the truck's bed was flat and ready for use.
There was no way in hell that my husband and I were going to install the new hitch, even though B&W provides a great video with instructions. Instead, I opted to have Paso Robles Ford use their local company to get the job done before I even brought the truck home.
B&W has made a ton of improvements over the past two decades. They've changed the way the ball appears in the bed while (hopefully) improving its performance. To move the ball out of the way now, you pull a pin from under the wheel well which releases the ball. You lift the ball out of a 4 inch hole, flip it over, and drop it back in on its head - so to speak. Then you re-engage the pin.
Since I traded in both Blue Truck and Juke, Newt will serve as both my hauling vehicle and my daily driver. Having a cleaner bed with nothing to unscrew and remove will be pretty convenient.
While I was perusing B&W's website, I found a great video that explains how they designed their gooseneck hitches. If you're at all interested in buying a trailer or you have a new one, it's worth the two and a half minutes. They also have a long list of towing products including bumper pull hitches.
Besides a new hitch, Newt is also getting a navigation system installed. Newt came with Ford's Sync option, but it only allowed for music, voice, calling, and entertainment, not navigation. That was a deal breaker for me. One of the things I most wanted in Blue Truck's replacement was GPS. Newt will have it in the next few days.
Hopefully at least one one of these things is being installed today. Monday's holiday slowed down the shipping process, but I was assured that deliveries would be made in two days, and that was as of Saturday. I'm a realist though, so the truth is that Newt is probably still sitting on the lot awaiting the arrival of either the hitch or the navigation system. It's no biggie. I can wait.
To be continued ...
I am a Stitch Fix girl, although you would never guess it. I hate to shop. I hate to try clothes on. And I used to hate most everything in my closet. Riding clothes excepted. I love shopping for those. It's sad when your selection of breeches and riding tops are the most expensive and nicest things in your closet.
When I found Stitch Fix on Facebook a year and a half ago, I gave it a try and have been looking forward to my monthly fixes ever since. I LOVE getting my box full of new stuff, and I almost always keep everything. So when Phil Van Treuren, owner of SaddleBox, reached out to me to ask if I would be interested in giving SaddleBox a try, I jumped at the chance!
If you haven't heard of SaddleBox, it works like this: You sign up for a monthly shipment for just under $35 a month. Each month, you get a box full of mystery horsey items like gourmet horse treats, grooming tools and tack, and gifts for the horse owner.
I have to say, the "Christmasy" element of the box is really one of the coolest things about it. When my husband brought the box in with a quizzical look on his face, I rubbed my hands together in glee and tore it open on the spot. It was really fun digging through the contents to see what I had received.
My box contained 8 items:
I LOVED some of the items ...
You can never have too many rolls of elastic bandages or hoof picks. That Carat Cake looks good enough to eat myself, and while I have tons of soft brushes, I hoard them so another one is always welcome. And that sticker needs no explanation. It's my favorite thing in the box.
But some of the items just weren't in my wheelhouse.
Speedy used to LOVE peppermints, but since stuffing his Pergolide in various treats, he's grown suspicious of anything that I can actually afford. Izzy might like them though. Speedy would also kick the crap out of me if I tried to use a metal blade on any part of his body. Izzy's not much of a fan of metal either. I only use long clinician style lead ropes since my boys can get a bit (cough cough) fractious at times, so the 8-foot rope is too short for my needs.
However. I definitely would consider sending a SaddleBox as a gift. No horse person that I know would say thanks, no thanks to a gift like that. How many gifts are easy to pick out while still being fun and creative? Not many.
If my budget had just a tiny bit more padding, I'd be all over a monthly SaddleBox. I love NOT having to shop. I LOVE having things delivered to my house. I LOVE horse stuff.
Please sign up for one, and if you do, let me know. I am happy to live vicariously through your monthly box of joy. And if you get something that doesn't float your boat, I'll take it!
This weekend was a bit bittersweet. I finally let go of Blue Truck. I am not going to lie; it was hard to do, and I got pretty emotional about it. I am Blue Truck's original owner, having had her for nearly 20 years. That's longer than many of you have had your spouse or kids.
After our first house, Blue Truck was the most expensive thing we had ever purchased. That body style had just come out, so what we were looking for wasn't yet sitting on a lot. We took a lot of time custom ordering her. She had a Triton V-10 engine, four-wheel drive, beefed up differentials, a tow package, no carpet (for which we paid extra!), and a crew cab body style to accommodate two rowdy Labrador Retrievers. Blue Truck also had power everything from the windows to the door locks. And this was when windows were still rolled up with a crank handle. Oh, and we had a CD player.
We spared no expense on that truck knowing that we would have it at least ten years. Little did we know that it would exceed our expectations by another decade. We ordered Blue Truck in the late winter, but didn't get to drive it home until the end of May. We were living large, that's for sure.
In the beginning "the truck" - she didn't yet carry the moniker, Blue Truck, belonged to both my husband and myself. There was a lot of arguing over who got to drive it. Eventually, we settled on a weekly rotation. My husband drove the truck one week, and I got to drive it the next.
Eventually, the newness wore off, and our lives changed. In 2005, Blue Truck officially became mine alone. We even changed the title to reflect my sole ownership. Somewhere along about that time I started calling her Blue Truck.
I've been contemplating replacing Blue Truck for more than three years. New trucks are expensive though, and I am still waiting on that money tree. I didn't suddenly inherit any money, but I finally came to the conclusion that Blue Truck was probably approaching the point where my chances of getting stranded were getting pretty good. Last weekend, I started internet shopping. I found something that looked right, so I made a few calls and threw in my perky, super-fun Juke for good measure.
Over the weekend, we drove both vehicles to the Ford Dealership in Paso Robles, a two-hour drive. It seemed unusual to me, but the dealership was quite used to taking multiple vehicles in on trade. Apparently it's done with some regularity.
I did all of my searching and then negotiating through the internet, emails, and texting. How weird is it to negotiate for a vehicle via text? Not that weird apparently. When the sales guy and I needed to find a text I had sent, I had to look over his shoulder to help him spot the right part of the message, and he had to scroll through a LOT of texts. Selling cars through a text message is his normal.
New Truck, Newt, for short, didn't make it home with us though. Newt needs a gooseneck hitch and a navigation system installed, so we drove home in a loaner. If everything goes to plan, which only happens sometimes, Newt will get delivered on Friday. I thought last week was long. This week is going to take forever.
To be continued ...
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%: