From Endurance to Dressage
I am saying that with an eye roll and a harrumph. The end result was fine, but driver of the big brown truck, you sure made it a challenge!
I was working in the arena the other day when the UPS truck came roaring by. It's one thing when it zooms down the "main" road, which is a single lane of black top through our quiet little neighborhood of farm and ranch properties, but it's totally different when it zips down the neighbor's access road which lies at the end our arena. That little drive is barely a car width, and it's covered with a canopy of trees.
I ride down that road; little kids bicycle down that road; the dogs play on that road. There is no shoulder to speak of and the visibility is quite poor given how narrow and shaded it is. And really, it's just a long driveway.
Of course, I was riding at that end of the arena as the truck shot past. Speedy tucked his butt and tried to bolt. I hollered out to the UPS guy to SLOW DOWN, but he must not have heard me as five minutes later he was zooming back by. I yelled AGAIN as he continued out onto the neighborhood road. Jerk.
The good news is that the excitement of a noisy brown truck got Speedy in front of my leg. We had an awesome ride. Even though I use spurs, he's pretty hard to get moving really forward. I might think about carrying a whip now and again.
Anyway ... Speedy did two exercises better than he's ever done them: the zig zag leg yield and the counter canter into a volte.
For the first zig zag attempt, every time I changed the bend and put my leg on to scoot him over, he shot forward. After doing that through two changes of bend, I hauled back on that outside rein and dug my spur in until he stopped rushing forward and took a good sideways step. I gave him a huge pat on the neck and picked up the trot again going down the long side.
As we approached the corner, I gave him a little half halt, added some bend, and leg yielded him into the corner. As we came out of the corner to head down centerline, I made sure we had a little bend, weighted my inside seat bone, turned my shoulders to the inside, and bumped him left for a few strides. I changed the bend and my shoulders and bumped him to the right for a few strides.
All I can say is HOLY SMOKES that was fun! For the first time, we both got it exactly right. He was so light in the front end that he felt like he was fairly skipping across that centerline back and forth, back and forth. You should have heard me squeal with laughter when we got back to A. I gave Speedy a great big hug and praised him over and over.
I wanted to hop off of him right there, but we hadn't been working for that long, less than 15 minutes, and we really needed to work on the canter. "Fortunately", that's just about the time that dang UPS truck came roaring by so Speedy caught a second wind.
Since he was so hot to trot, I shortened my reins, and stepped into my left stirrup. He was so nicely in front of my leg that his canter departure was excellent. And since he was already on his hind end, the canter was soft and light. We did one 20-meter circle, and then I did a counter canter circle at E/B. Oh my gosh it was so light and balanced. Gone was the rush onto the forehand.
The last time I rode with Christian, he told me to close my eyes and just remember that I was riding a left lead canter even when we track right. So now, when I am working on the counter canter, I focus on keeping my left hip forward (on the left lead), and I chant, LEFT ... LEFT ... LEFT as I track right. I do the same thing, only in reverse, when we are on the right lead cantering left.
It may look and sound silly, but it helps to keep my body in the correct position without losing the lead. As we get better and better at the counter canter, maybe I won't have to say it out loud.
We did the counter canter both directions and included a few Mickey Mouse ears on each circle. As of right now, we can only do one ear at the top of the circle and one at the bottom. We aren't strong enough to do two ears on each side. As it is, our voltes are more like 12-meters which doesn't leave room for two ears anyway.
I don't care that we can't do all of the exercises "right." I am having fun, and more importantly, it seems as though Speedy is having fun. He loves challenges, and I know he is so thankful to be done with those boring 20-meter trot circles from Training Level. Now that we have so many different exercises to work on, I can keep things interesting for him.
Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a successful New Year!
Christmas vacation finally arrived which meant I had time to drive up on Monday and see Izzy for myself. You gotta give me some serious credit. It's a 260 mile round trip to visit my horse, and I plan to do it three more times in the next week and a half. That's more than 1,000 miles in two weeks!
The original plan was to watch the trainer ride and then take a lesson on Izzy. As we all know, best laid plans don't always work. On Thursday, Izzy came up lame. There was no heat or swelling, so it was assumed that he was footsore. He's been barefoot all his life (something I was going to change when he came home), and living in an irrigated pasture. After three weeks of work, it was decided that he needed shoes sooner than later.
Debbie Davis, the trainer, made special arrangements with her farrier for an emergency shoe job. Since this was Izzy's first shoeing, he of course put up quite a fuss. Fortunately, the vet was on site and was able to serve Izzy a delightful cocktail and serve as handler.
He had a few days off with some bute to help with the inflammation, but on Sunday night, he whacked himself or wrenched something. When we went out to get him, he was noticeably lame on the left front. There was some minor heat and swelling on the inside of the leg, partway between the fetlock and knee. I couldn't find a scratch or puncture wound, but he was definitely sore.
My plans for riding were scratched, but I had a great time playing with him anyway. I spent my time hosing off the mud on his legs and checking out the inflammation. This was a great opportunity for me to see how he handled the wash rack and the poking and prodding that comes with a lameness exam. I later poulticed the leg and wrapped it, all of which he handled with zero complaint. In fact, he let me poke at his leg while standing in the yard with no one to hold him.
I know a lot of people would freak out a little at their brand new horse coming up lame, but this kind of stuff doesn't phase me. Being a Looney Tunes worries me, but a whack on the leg is no big deal. So while it might slow his under saddle training for a week or so, Debbie has agreed to work on plenty of other things: lowering his head for bridling, more clipper desensitization, ponying, hammering his feet, and so on.
After I scrubbed his legs clean, I spent more time grooming his whole body, paying special attention to his head, face, and ears. He is already much better about lowering his head than he was three weeks ago. I also hammered his feet and worked on his mane and tail. He wasn't totally relaxed, but he clearly enjoys being groomed and handles the cross ties like a pro. I even left him in the barn aisle by himself while I went back to my car for supplies.
Even though I wasn't going to ride, I still saddled and bridled him. I mostly just wanted to check the fit of my tack. Fortunately, my girth and Micklem bridle (both were Sydney's) fit perfectly. My saddle also seems to fit, but as with Sydney, I really think I'll need to use a riser pad instead of the fleece half pad. How Speedy is the widest horse I've ever owned, I'll never understand!
I donned my helmet and gloves and took him for a walk. Frankly, I could have walked around all day. I was smiling like an idiot the whole way. He was so, so good! My favorite thing about this horse (so far), is that when he's worried, his go-to reaction is to just stop and stare. I'll take that any day over a whirl and a bolt.
My diamond in the rough definitely needs more polishing (and time), but I am so happy with how well he is settling into a routine and how sweet he is. So far, he hasn't fussed at anything that I've asked him to do. Under saddle might be a completely different thing, but I'll cross that bridge if we get to it. My plan is to go back up on Friday morning. I hope he's sound enough to ride, but if not, we'll just continue bridling, saddling, and hand walking.
For the first few weeks of December, I thought that maybe no, Izzy wasn't so fabulous. You do not know how hard it was to hold on to the positive memories I had from looking at him in November. I so wanted to pour my heart out and have a blogger's pity party.
But, I hate to over-react, especially publicly, so I only expressed my concerns to my husband and JL. My husband, bless his heart, simply told me to relax, give Izzy time, and then reminded me that he has never picked out a bad horse. So glad I married that man!
JL was equally calm. She reminded me that Izzy is very young and green and that a "settling in" period was to be expected. She encouraged me to work on a plan for evaluating his progress and make decisions when I had more information.
So what was I worrying about? Well … over a two week period, I asked Debbie Davis, the trainer, for updates. I should have just let them do their job without needing to hear the nuts and bolts. The problem was that secretly, I had hoped that I had bought the most naturally talented horse on the planet. My new horse was going to be piaffing and passaging out of sheer joy. Uh-huh. Idiot.
The first report included phrases like … "a handful, anxious, difficult, TB tendencies," etc. Later, the update included ... "showing improvement, but still needs to be worked in the round pen, lots of pent-up energy, some bad habits. If his focus can be channeled, he has the potential to be a nice gelding."
As George Takei would say, Oh my. None of that sounded like a horse who was piaffing and passaging out of sheer joy. On the plus side, there were at least photos proving that he could be ridden.
So, for three weeks I fretted and worried. Izzy Zweibrücker wasn't pooping rainbows which meant I was going to have to do this the old-fashioned way: lots and lots of time and patience. I shook off the worry, took a deep breath, and soldiered on.
Chemaine, my dressage trainer on the coast, said something that reminded me of my original plan which was to buy a diamond in the rough. Since I couldn't afford a finished warmblood, I had bought the next best thing: a green bean warmblood who had excellent breeding, the right conformation, and no baggage. I've worked with a lot of green horses. I can do this.
Stay tuned … part 2 tomorrow!
I am on Christmas Vacation. It's not quite as good as summer vacation, but I am still one happy camper. To celebrate, Hubby and I drove up to our cabin on Friday afternoon for two nights of eating, drinking, and watching movies. We hoped there'd be some snow, but we were a bit surprised by how much there actually was.
We've hardly ridden the quads over the past three years because of the horrible dust that our drought has created. We have great Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) trails, but even in the forest the dust can be stifling. We really like riding in the snow, but again, thanks to the drought, we've had almost none of that.
So when we pulled in and saw that there was snow, we knew we had to fire the quads up for a trail ride. As with horses though, you can't simply saddle up after months of non-use. In our case, it wasn't frisky ponies that were the problem. Instead, we had a clogged up carburetor and 8 flat tires. All of that was easier (and quicker) to fix than ill-fitting tack and fresh horses.
While I can usually start my quad on my own, it just wasn't happening for this ride. Fortunately, my husband is as good with motorcycles as I am with horses. A few tweaks of the idling screw, some quick work with the throttle, and my bike sputtered to life. After airing up all eight tires, we were finally ready to hit the trail.
Trail riding on the quads is laugh-out-loud fun, especially in the snow, but it can also be terrifying. I can gallop a horse at 30 miles per hour, ride out a buck, and stick a drop-a-shoulder and whirl spin, but put me on a machine that can't save your butt on a snowy trail with a drop off on the side, and suddenly I am a Nervous Nellie!
My husband is a great sport, and not because he has to be. He's just that kind of a guy. Even so, I always insist that he take the lead so that I can watch how he navigates the obstacles. In the back, I can also go as slowly as I need to without holding him up. He appreciates being free to go ripping off down the trail, but he always waits for me, and if it seems as though I'm taking too long, he'll double-back to check on me.
Fortunately for me, our regular trail was blocked by a massive tree so we had to ride on the road instead. I love riding the road as it is level side to side with plenty of curves to make it fun. It's a one-lane, paved road that climbs up over the mountain, and off-highway vehicles are prohibited for most of the year. Just above our cabin however, the road is closed throughout the winter which means OHVs have it all to themselves.
We had a great time zooming over the snow-covered road and fishtailing around the corners. When the snow gets too deep, the quads will bottom out. We had perfect snow depth for riding; too deep for cars, perfect for quads and snow machines. Occasionally, we like to throw the snowshoes into our quads' packs and ride up to the edge of the deeper snow for some hiking. We didn't think to do that on Saturday, but with the arrival of a real winter, maybe we'll get a chance to do that on our next visit.
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%: