From Endurance to Dressage
When I pulled Izzy up to the mounting block on Monday, he took a really wonky step. I hand walked him a few strides and noticed that there was definitely a hitch in his stride coming from the hind end. My first thought was that it was a cramp from all of the backing up he had done to avoid the bridle.
I reasoned that he might walk out of it. I got on anyway and asked him to just keep it slow and easy at the walk. Given how dramatic his meltdown had been over the bridling process, I figured that a quiet walk was probably just what he needed. After twenty minutes, he was no sounder, but not worse either, so I called it quits.
There was no swelling nor a wound, and he was bearing weight on it, so I turned him out in his paddock and hoped for the best. I watched him for a while as I puttered around, but the lameness got worse by the minute. By the time I left for home, I knew it had to be an abscess.
A lifetime caring for my own horses has given me a pretty good sense for when the vet needs to be called. A horse who is eating happily with a cocked leg is not one of those times. Even though Izzy took the classic stance - toe pointed down and a reluctance to bear weight, I decided to just watch it and see how bad it would or wouldn't get.
I gave him a gram of bute for several days, which he refused to eat, but other than poke around with a hoof pick, I just let it be. The next day, he actually looked better. He was bearing more weight on it, and by Wednesday, I started to think the abscess had absorbed or that it had been a cramp afterall.
On Thursday, I found the telltale drainage hole. It must have just blown before I got there because it was still oozing. I gave it a gentle squeeze and was rewarded with clear seepage that was odor free. Again, I left it alone without washing it or soaking it.
We had record rainfall last weekend which turned parts of Izzy's paddock into a soupy mess. He had high ground to stand on, but the mud no doubt softened his feet allowing a grain of something to work its way in. For me, having the abscess blow out through the heel bulb is the perfect scenario. Those heal almost as soon as they pop.
It's raining again right now with a forecast for continued rain through Saturday, but we had really warm and dry weather this week which eliminated nearly all of the mud. Hopefully the hole closed yesterday afternoon, but I am defintiely going to give it another close examination today.
If my horse is going to be lame, an abscess is just about the best case scenario!
In my experience, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even so, I am occasionally tempted and even fall prey to the shiny or amazing. Right now, the StripHair grooming product is calling my name.
Have you seen it? It's all over Facebook and has even generated a thread or two on Coth. I am not a COTH member myself, too much drama, but it is a good resource for getting reviews. Invariably, someone on the site has tried whatever it is you're searching for.
On the other hand, almot none of the naysayers has even seen the StripHair in person. COTH is filled with readers/commenters who appear to thrive on negativity and a distain for life that borders on maniacle. I don't put a lot of stock in what comes from that page.
The reason I am so hesitant to indulge my curiosity is that the product, essentially two hunks of rubber, goes for $48. That's an awful exenpensive grooming product that may or may not deliver as touted. The only reason that I am even considering spending that much money is because I have some Christmas cash itching to be spent.
I've never used a cactus cloth, but maybe it works about the same for a tenth of the price. Maybe I should get one of those first. I would love to hear what you all think. Is the StripHair worth it? Am I better off with a cactus cloth? Or, if I have to ask do I already know the answer?
I am okay with my jelly scrubber and soft brush. They're paid for and work pretty well. But there's still the matter of that hundred dollar bill ...
If you like bits, you should probably pick up a copy of the Myler brothers' book about bits. The book has been updated since I bought mine; it's now called The Level Best for Your Horse. It's on sale for $11.16.
My version of the book is quite small, pocket-sized really, but the pages are packed with great information about how bits work, how to know if a bit is not working, and what all of the different mouth and cheek pieces are designed to do. It's written in simple terms without being too technical. Even if you're not a Myler bit enthusiast, the book is a great resource about bits in general.
The last 100 pages of the book make up the appendix. Each page shows a mouthpiece with an explanation as to the function of that bit and then how it might be used.
Included in the appendix is a section on cheek pieces and their function. In English disciplines, it's common to simply use the cheekpiece most generally seen in your sport. Many of my bits have Kimberwick cheek pieces because that's what endurance riders used when I was competing. I don't have any Dee rings because they're typically seen in the hunter ring.
The book explains the purpose of various cheek pieces including the loose ring, the eggbutt, the dee ring, the full cheek, and all of the western shanks.
After researching the various mouth and cheek pieces, I decided (with the help of my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado) on the loose ring low wide ported barrel bit. The loose rings will allow me to be super subtle when Izzy is willing. The low and wide port is dressage legal while also offering Izzy the maximum amount of tongue relief.
The Myler philsophy centers around keeping horses comfortable and relaxed. "When the horse is resisting the current bit, it is too much bit for him and he can't relax." When izzy decides to be naughty, the ported barrel won't allow me any control which is why I am going to stick with the correction bit for a while. When he's behaving, we'll switch to the ported barrel. Hopefully he'll develop some confidence and decide that it's easier working with me rather than against me.
Check out the book. For the price, it's a super handy resource that offers easy to undestand explanations about a piece of tack that we riders don't always think about.
Well that didn't take long. The first few times that I used the double bridle, Izzy took it willingly, and then worked better than ever. The next few times I tried it, he started to show some resistance to bridling again.
Over the weekend, I spent time just bridling without the added pressure of a ride. Yesterday, he had a full on melt down over the bridle and gave me an impossible to ignore NO.
I did get it on, but he flew backwards each time I tried to bring it over his ears to secure it. And no, it's not an ear issue; he just knows over the ears means it's on.
Once I finally did get it on, he stood there practically trembling, but not quite. His entire body was rigid, and a near panic filled his eyes. No way was I going to ride him looking like that. I gently removed the double, gave him a reassuring pat, and let him stand and recover.
A few minutes later, I pulled out my original bridle with the correction bit attached. He gave it the hairy eye ball, but stood quietly as I slowly drew the crown piece over his ears. The dude knew the difference.
When I bought Izzy, his first owner told me that he was very expressive about his dislikes. Her experience came with a poor fitting saddle. According to her, Izzy had a complete fit about using a saddle that he didn't like. She couldn't get it off fast enough.
This is twice now that he's shown an obvious dislike for a bit. For the first, a thick and gentle double jointed snaffle, it took him months to convince me that he didn't like it. This time, he decided to be more persuasive; it only took him a handlful of bridling days to convince me that the double is not for him.
Before anyway suggests dental work, believe me, I've thought of it too. My horses get their teeth done by my veterinarian once or twice a year. Izzy's teeth were done this past March. While it is possible that something has changed in his mouth since then, I have felt around in there and even taken a quick peek. Nothing seems to be amiss, but I will let my vet know we've had some bitting issues.
The main reason I don't suspect a dental problem is because he seems to like the Myler Correction bit. He packed it around for three solid weeks without complaint or resistance. And in fact, even after having a melt down over the double, he stood quietly and let me put that bit on.
I am ordering a dressage legal Myler bit today. If I am going to have a tack issue, which I'd rather not, but if so, I'd much rather it be bits than saddles. And no, Universe, I am NOT tempting you. Who all has been down this particular path?
Today marks the beginning of my winter break - two weeks to rest, relax, and ride my horses. Lots of vacation days are definitely one of the perks of being a teacher.
I didn't get to ride over the weekend as it poured rain on Friday night. Here in my neck of the woods, we got 1.55 inches, a record for that date. While the arena footing was still firm, everything else was so saturated that I just didn't feel like mincing around through the mud to get there.
I never did unwrap a box filled with patience, nor did I find it in the toe of my stocking. Instead, I took a deep breath and tried to see this all from Izzy's point of view. He's not trying to avoid being a dressage horse, he's just a young horse who's still trying to get comfortable with his job.
So instead of riding, I spent a few minutes each day working on taking the bridle with confidence. Last week, he got a little resistant about lowering his head and opening his mouth. Instead of getting frustrated, I turned the practice into a game with lots of praise and treats.
The kids in my class brought lots of candy canes for our Friday party. When I told them how much Speedy loves sweets, they all rushed my desk to donate to the cause. While Izzy doesn't snatch them up as quickly as Speedy, he still likes them well enough to look for a second one.
After sliding the bridle off, I gave Izzy a piece of candy cane and a short break. While he was still sucking at the pieces of candy cane stuck to his teeth, I asked him to take the bit(s) again. I only put the bridle all the way on twice, and after that it was just about encouraging him to open his mouth and take the bits with his head low. After doing that two or three times with a candy in between, I called it good.
We worked through this two years ago when I first got him. But it seems that after going in the snaffle that he didn't like and then switching to the double, he's lost some confidence about what's going in his mouth. He shows his tension with a tight back and a raised head, so getting him to keep his head low for bridling is an important step for him.
My husband came through with the double bridle, so today I am getting my bits moved from the temporary double to this one. I found the dressage legal bit that I want, and I'll order it in the next few weeks to put on my regular bridle. My plan is to alternate between the two bridles.
Totally off the subject here, but I've been watching my neighbors fish in our little lake. It looked like such a relaxing thing to do (which can only help give me patience) that I mentioned to my husband that I'd like a fishing pole of my own. Even though I've fished since I was a little kid, someone else always set the pole up for me. All I had to do was cast and reel it in.
He's an avid outdoorsman himself who enjoys hunting and fishing, so I knew he could set me up with a rig that I could handle. On Christmas morning, he showed me how to tie on a hook and then gave me some tips for casting and reeling in. Bass fishing is not the same as fishing from the beach, so I spent some time practicing.
Now that I have a new hobby, you might find me casting a line as I ponder the next training dilemma. I think that will be a lot healthier than worrying about why my dressage horse isn't at the Grand Prix (yet).
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%