From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy and I finally went out for a real trail ride. Not just a quick hack around the neighborhood, but a two-hour ride where we actually left home and trailered out to trails. I had more fun than I've had in ages.
I hauled Speedy and myself out to Hart Park and parked at Horsemen's Barn, a staging area for trail rides, parties, and barbecues.
There are many great things about this parking area: it's only 10 minutes from the barn, there are at least 10 miles (or more) of trails accessible from this point, and the view is really pretty. The barn area has corrals, tie rails, a wash rack, water spigots, and picnic tables.
While I enjoy riding alone, I also like doing stuff with my husband so I asked if he wanted to meet me at the parking area with the dog. I knew he wouldn't want to go the whole way (which took me two hours), but Tobias loves the river, and I knew it would be something fun the four of us could do together.
If I ever say another disparaging thing about my gray pony, Speedy "You da man" G, you all have full permission to smack me silly. That boy is golden.
We headed out across the road to the park's hiking/equestrian trail. Tobias ran ahead like a crazy man, splashing through the river and bounding back up on the trail in front of Speedy. While Speedy gave him the occasional stink eye, he was careful not to step on Tobias and he never threatened to kick or nip. And more than once, Tobias stopped immediately in front of Speedy to sniff or just to be a pain. Speedy would touch him with his nose, and Tobias would be off terrorizing the ducks and squirrels.
Speedy was happy to follow along after my husband who would occasionally walk along side Speedy and pat his neck, especially when Tobias got silly. Speedy loved both the attention and the company.
After a half hour or so, my husband took Tobias and headed back to the truck while Speedy and I continued on around Lake Ming before heading back to the trailer. Before my husband left, he took a couple of photos for me. "Ear pics" are great, but sometimes we need to see the whole body.
Once Speedy and I were on our own, we picked up an endurance trot and boogied around the back side of Lake Ming. We hadn't done such a big, ground covering trot in a long time. Speedy had a blast and was more than willing to zoom along.
After we circled around the California Living Museum and the Soccer Park, we got back down along the river and picked up a rocking little hand gallop back to the trailer. Speedy loved that!
Several times along the trail, we were met by various people who asked to pet Speedy. At one point, a group of at least ten kids came charging through the trees yelling, "Horse! Horse!" Speedy stood politely as kids (from infant to 13 years old) stroked his nose, belly, and tail. He adores small kids and always drops his nose to their level. And no matter how many tiny feet are beneath him, he never, ever steps out of place.
As we neared the trailer, an elderly couple stood to the side so we could pass by. Behind them, stood an even older woman who looked pretty fragile. I stopped Speedy when the man asked if he was an Arabian. Speedy was so careful next to those elderly people that my heart just swelled with pride. They pet his nose and admired his sparkly bridle charm, oohing over how soft and friendly he was.
No matter how eager I am to finish up my ride, I always stop and let people visit with Speedy. He is an incredible ambassador for not only the Arabian breed, but for all equines.
When we wrapped up for the day, my heart was so full of love for this guy. He has truly turned out to be an amazing horse, game for anything that I ask of him. There aren't a lot of "show horses" that can be tossed into a trailer on a brisk morning at 38℉, ridden with an exuberant Labrador Retriever, and then motor along the trail by themselves with a pleasant expression. Not only can he do all that, but he can be trusted to hand gallop along the trail and then return to a quiet free walk without any shenanigans.
He certainly made me proud this weekend. I hope we can do the ride again before my Christmas break is over.
Dear Amanda and Tristan,
How is it that the simplest thing can be infused with so much meaning? When I opened your Secret Santa gift, I both squealed in delight and nearly burst into tears. How could you have known that I have coveted a halter nameplate since my early teens? It's mortifying to admit, but I never felt as though I had earned the right to sport such fanciness.
It's a simple thing: a halter nameplate. How can it mean so much? As a teenager, I swooned over fancy horses in magazines and always admired those regal names engraved on lovely halters. I've owned many horses myself, some who were quite fancy, but I always felt like a nameplate was something that had to be earned.
Somehow, you managed to find the most perfect gift for me: one that I've always wanted but would never buy for myself. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, thank you, thank you.
The day Amanda's gift arrived, I was headed out for a trail ride where my husband was going to meet me with the dog. After he parked, he handed me a package while I was saddling. Somehow, he knew that I'd want to see it right away.
I stashed the package in my trailer's tack compartment and went riding. As soon as I came back, I took care of Speedy and then ripped open the envelope right there in the parking area. I was overwhelmed by what was inside. There is no way that Amanda could have known that her gift would be so meaningful to me.
As soon as I walked into the house, I begged my husband to get out his tools so that he could help me attach the nameplate. He insisted that he be allowed to finish his lunch first, but as soon as he was done, he helped me punch some holes. When he had finished, he told me he was on his way to Home Depot so that he could get some Loctight for me so that the screws wouldn't fall out. I know my husband has no idea what a halter nameplate means to me, but he sensed how important it was to me nonetheless.
Amanda also sent an engraved bridle tag with Izzy's barn name. This touched me just as deeply. She had given me a nameplate with his regal name, just like I had always dreamed of, and a bridle tag with his barn name.
In case you missed it, here's the video I shared yesterday.
Debbie, the trainer, still has Izzy in the round pen, but it's a big one. She feels that the circle is helping him to stay balanced. There is also less that he has to focus on in a round pen because he knows where he is going. Right now, she's mostly working on his longitudinal balance with some lateral movement.
I got on him after the lunging but before Debbie rode him. Right away, he got tense and bunched up. He even started to do a baby rear. Not feeling any embarrassment, I suggested that it would be better if Debbie got on to show me what they've been doing with him.
When she got on him, he relaxed and started walking out nicely. She showed me that she gives him all the rein while simply insisting that he keep his head down and stretch. Before he could even pop his nose up, she was sponging the rein and insisting that he keep his head down and stretched.
Once he was moving forward with a nice, relaxed walk, they picked up a trot where she insisted on the same thing: head down and stretching. After watching her work for a while, I felt confident about trying it again.
As soon I got on and asked for forward, Izzy's stride got short, but I quickly figured out that I needed to let my hips swing more, and I had to take my leg off of him. Before too long, he was walking with a big stride and stretching downward. We changed direction, and again he got a little short-strided until I relaxed through my hips and let the rein out.
While he did trot here and there, that wasn't the goal so I brought him back to a walk every time. I wish I had tons of natural feel and could just sense what to do, but alas, that's not the case. Keeping him walking forward took a lot of direction from Debbie and a ton of focus on my part.
I called Chemaine the next day and discussed the training session over with her. She gave me some excellent pointers:
Izzy's in a large paddock with enough room to canter around if he feels like it, and the staff will make sure he's blanketed, fed, and cared for. When I go up, I can work on getting to know him better, encourage more head lowering, and we can do some of the lunging work that Debbie showed me they're doing with him.
He sure looks like a fancy pants to me. I just hope I don't screw things up!
I finally got to see Izzy being worked! When I went up to see him on Monday, he had just whacked himself and was lame. Fortunately, he was sound by Wednesday and got worked pretty hard. When I arrived on Friday, his leg was clean and tight, and he looked sound as ever.
Although I am really happy with this trainer arrangement, I do wish Izzy was at least an hour closer. I like that he is being worked by a professional while I get a chance to know him better. I've never bought a horse and done it this way before, but it would just be easier if it wasn't such a long drive.
And being totally honest with myself, I don't have a good enough skill set to start this horse by myself, at least not correctly. I have started other horses, including several Arabs, but our end goal was very different. They needed excellent ground manners (I can do that with Izzy with no problem) and to be able to stop and go. The trail teaches them to bend, watch their feet, and rate themselves. It doesn't take too many wet saddle blankets before they realize that listening and stopping are good things.
Izzy needs more than just a stop and go button, and I don't have the luxury of letting the trail teach him about bending and being balanced. I just don't know enough myself to help him through these first few weeks and months. Once he knows his job a little better, I won't confuse him so much as I fumble around on his back. For now, having a trainer work with him (and me) will make things much clearer to Izzy, but there are things that I can do in the meantime.
On Friday when I went to see him, I had a chance to do more on the ground stuff with him. I pulled his blanket; he's still a bit shy as it crosses his bum. He is learning to lower his head so haltering him is getting quite easy. I washed his tail, brushed it, and gave it a quick bang. He behaved very well. I also groomed and saddled him. The only sticky part right now is getting him to lower his head for the bridle and reins.
Debbie and her assistant are working on it, but he still has some learning to do. He's not nearly as bad as Speedy was, so I am not really concerned about it. But since I am paying for his training, I might as well get as many holes filled in as possible.
When Speedy was a youngster, he refused to take the bit, fought lowering his head, and hated the reins tossed over his ears. But when he fussed, it involved a lot of rearing, jerking away, and wild head swinging. Izzy will happily take the bridle and allows the reins to go over his head, but only with his head high.
If I use a mounting block to bridle him, he stands quietly and has no problem being bridled. That's not acceptable though. He's simply too tall to work that way. And leaving that little habit untouched would no doubt lead to other issues: difficulties with worming, trouble making tack adjustments, tricky to exam his mouth, and so on.
He's learning to lower his head nicely though, so I imagine that in a few more weeks it'll be mostly a non-issue. And even if he isn't totally "broke" to lowering his head by the end of January, I can continue the work as that's something I have lots of experience doing.
Here is the video of the trainer working with him. An explanation and my own time on him coming tomorrow.
No more black and white. Well that's not completely true. I still love black and white, black with more black, and even black and silver. But my tastes are expanding, largely thanks to all of you (you know who you are!). A few of you have given me some gentle nudges toward the world of bling, color, and even publicly displaying my name on stuff (aka monograming).
Izzy needed a new halter as none of my rope halters were going to fit. Yes, I know they are adjustable, but that is only easy to do when they're new. When they're ten years old, those knots are pretty well tightened. A new one is less than $20, well worth not having to deal with knots! Since I love my purple lead rope, I bought a purple halter!
The two purples don't quite match which is okay as I didn't plan on using them together. Instead, Speedy's black Tekna halter gets the purple lead rope, and Izzy's purple rope halter gets the black lead rope.
I like my horses to have their own rope halter and flat halter. I keep a spare rope halter and lead in my trailer, but Speedy's regular rope halter has special rings to attach reins for riding which I keep with my trail bridle. It doesn't have its own lead rope. Since Sydney's rope halter fit both him and Speedy, I kept that halter and lead hanging for quick use, but it was too small for Izzy. Soooooo, that halter and lead are now Speedy's alone, but that left me one lead rope short.
I am extremely picky about lead ropes which means I only use clinician style yacht rope leads. They're definitely pricier than a standard 10 foot poly lead (almost $30), but they are oh so worth it.
Since every halter needs its own lead rope, I simply had to order a new one. Riding Warehouse, my go-to for stuff like this, has the perfect lead rope, and it comes in twelve colors (I already have the purple one). I bought the teal rope for Izzy's brown halter.
With Christmas happening and shipping dates being all wonky lately, the lead won't be here as quickly as it normally would. That's okay. I can wait.
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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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