From Endurance to Dressage
When schools closed in March of 2020, I knew we were in for a world of hurt. I wrote about my fear that the drastic response to the virus was likely politically motivated. I still believe that. Whatever you believe, we are still feeling the effects of a national shutdown and likely will continue to do so for the next decade. Yesterday, I found yet another aftereffect of the lockdowns.
Before 2020, I was buying Ivermectin for around $2 a tube. By 2021, you couldn't find Ivermectin for horses because so much of it was being used to treat humans. There must still be a shortage because the cost of Ivermectin is now 500% of what it was just two years ago.
My vet recommends using a dewormer at least twice a year, more if an Eggs Per Gram (EPG) shows a high enough positive number. His preferred time of year to dose is in the spring and then again in the fall after the first freeze. The problem is that we rarely get a freeze until winter and our fly season lasts for 10 months. It turns out that I typically worm in January and then forget to do it in late summer as I wait for a cold snap. It didn't get cold until after Thanksgiving this year.
I was checking through my vet records and realized that I haven't used a dewormer since January. Oops! I placed an order for two tubes yesterday. They should be here by Saturday.
Maybe I'll remember to use a dewormer this summer. Probably not.
I've had Speedy a long time; 15 years to be exact. His Gotcha Day was December 8, 2007. I always remember Izzy's Gotcha Day because Facebook sends me a reminder in my Memories. Speedy doesn't get Facebook reminders because I hadn't joined Facebook yet. Facebook had only been available to the public for a year or so by 2007. I don't even have photos from his Gotcha Day because I didn't have a smart phone. Almost no one did. The first iPhone was released in 2007. A lot has changed in the world since I bought Speedy.
Speedy and I have done a lot together, and he's made a lot of friends along the way. We've participated in two, completely different disciplines, and now he's a schoolmaster giving lessons. In fact, he's meeting a new rider this afternoon. Speedy is now 18, and he's healthy and sound. I don't know that I am his forever home; I hope so, but I've always said that Speedy will let me know what he wants. The Universe keeps sending me ladies who want to learn and ride, so for as long as that lasts, that will be Speedy's job. When he's ready for something else, I am quite sure he'll let me know.
Happy belated Gotcha Day, Speedy!
I've said this before, a lot of times, but Izzy is not the easiest horse to ride. And truthfully, he never will be, at least not for me. A better rider would be able to do better; I am not that rider. While I am not thrilled with this situation, it is what it is, so I continue to get the best work from him that I can.
Winter is always hard for him. I've always ascribed his winter behavior to the cold. He's a big horse, so he doesn't cool down easily. In the summer, it takes a lot to get his engine revved. When it's nice and crisp and the air crackles, so does he.
Since I know this about him, it no longer upsets me. I just roll with it. When I rode yesterday, he was his regular winter self - on fire. When we first got to work, I felt myself thinking, just trot like a normal horse, please. Then I realized I was only asking for him to trot on the rail, all the while hoping and wishing to the Blue Fairy for something magical to happen. Suddenly, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was in my ear telling me to start asking Izzy questions. He reminded me that if I don't take charge, Izzy will.
Just so we're clear, I wasn't in a lesson, but after doing close to 100 lessons with Sean, all of them with ear buds, I am used to him speaking directly to my brain. Recalling his voice while I ride is simply muscle memory. I immediately moved Izzy off the rail into a leg yield, and then another and another.
It shouldn't be a surprise because Sean has been helping me to get there, but those leg yields felt pretty fantastic. Rather than leaving my outside rein empty as has been the issue lately, I very clearly felt that I was riding Izzy into both reins evenly. Once I felt that I had his attention, I started to switch up the leg yields. As we reached the diagonal, I asked for a half halt, and later, a full halt. Then we picked up the trot and leg yielded in the other direction. Eventually, we were zig zagging across the dressage court.
I realized that Izzy had shifted from braced and distracted, to focused with power. He wasn't as supple as I would have liked, but for him, it was a big step forward. In the canter work, I remembered to ask him questions as well. We did some leg yields, counter canter, and haunches in on a circle. Since it is in the canter work that he can really push back against me, I focused on getting him to bend through his body by asking his haunches to move around.
The more I asked him to move away from my leg into my outside rein, the more willing he was to start reaching instead of pushing. One of the things that Sean and I have talked about is using these cold months to focus on a good foundation of training so that when the weather warms back up, Izzy will be that much farther along in his training. When the basics are better established, it should allow us to do better at shows.
For now, shows are many months away, so I am riding the horse I have today.
Merry Christmas! It's still the season after all. The day after Christmas, I always feel hungover - too much food, sweets in particular, too much champagne, too many Christmas movies, and too many boxes and paper to be rid of. It's a good hangover though. It's the kind that leaves you satisfied and full.
My Christmas wish list was very small. I only asked for a couple of things, and my husband was happy to find them for me. The one worth mentioning here was a charm bracelet - an empty charm bracelet. I have two other bracelets with "charms," but they came with the bracelets, and new charms can't be added. My step mom had one when I was a kid, and I always loved fingering each charm asking her where it came from. I've always wanted a real charm bracelet of my own.
Last month I shared a photo of a little pony pill box that a student gave me as an early Christmas gift. Along with the pony were three little charms. As soon as I saw them, I knew I was finally going to create a real charm bracelet for myself. So, that's the Christmas gift I asked for, a bracelet with large links.
In preparation for the bracelet, I ordered a bag of mini jewelry ring connectors. There are 500 in the bag, so I have plenty for however many charms I acquire in the future. I set aside the three little charms form my students and waited for Christmas.
Despite having asked for the charm bracelet, I actually forgot about it. I knew that if Santa didn't deliver, I could always order the bracelet later, so I was quite delighted to see it lying on its bed of satin when I opened it yesterday morning. Once the rest of the gifts were all opened, I promptly set to work attaching the charms. I squeezed the connector rings as tightly as possible, but I am still worried the connectors will come open. Before I wear it, I am going to give each ring a tighter squeeze.
I am so happy with this little charm bracelet and can't wait to begin adding more memories to it.
Again in honor of the Advent calendar, here are two things to tide you over until next week.
It seems as though a lot of horse girls keep their hair long. For many, it may be a style preference, but for me, it's because I don't have time to mess around with regular haircuts, daily styling, and frequent hair washing. I get my ends trimmed about every 3- 4 months, and I wash it once a week. Once you train your hair, it can easily go with a lot less washing if you aren't getting it really sweaty. If you work out a lot, you probably need to wash it more frequently. I obviously don't work out a lot. The proof is here ↙️.
My hair is really long. It's so long that it nearly touches the waistband of whatever I am wearing. It's both a blessing and a curse: I don't have to do much with it, but it gets everywhere. I can't even pick out a horse's hooves without my hair falling in my eyes and the hoof. All of which means that I wear my hair in a pony tail more than I don't. I have more barrettes, jaw clips, and pony tail holders than I do socks, and I am always looking for cuter ways to wear a pony tail.
Last month, I stumbled on PONY-O, and I now own three of those little dudettes. For a girl who likes to live in pony tails, these things are AWESOME, and they actually work as described. They are a ring of flat copper covered in a rubberized coating. You push your hair through, flatten the ring, and then bend each end under. I tend to wear low pony tails because the weight of my hair pulls my pony tails down into an unflattering sag. With these little gems, I can wear a high pony tail, and it stays high all day long without pulling.
The black and brown ones (above) are the M-L size, but my hair is just thick enough that it fills up so much of the loop that there isn't enough left to bend the ends under. When I wear those, I pull up half my hair and leave the rest down which looks great with a PONY-O because you can angle the loop to sit up instead of sagging on the back of your head. I just ordered and received the XL - the black Geoflower print on the right, and that one holds all of my hair. Shipping is slow, 1 - 2 weeks, but I wasn't in a hurry. If you have enough hair to put it in a pony tail, I highly recommend these bad boys.
Yesterday, I called up my friend Marci, the endurance rider, and made a riding date with her during my winter break, which begins today. I told her that Izzy needs to get tired. Now, for an endurance rider, that needs a bit of context. There's 100 mile tired, 50 mile tired, and work-some-sassiness-off tired. Izzy and I are in the third category. Marci is gearing up for a 50-miler in the middle of January, so she was eager to have a riding partner for her last conditioning ride before her race.
I told Marci that Izzy could easily do 10 - 15 miles at a near endurance pace. It's me that might be the weak link in the group. I just don't have the same gear that I used to have. Dressage saddles are not quite as comfortable as a good endurance saddle, but I'll make it work. The first day that we could both get our schedules to line up is two weeks from today, so my fingers are crossed that the weather forecast holds true. We're slated for some rain in the next week, but the following week looks good. Marci and I completed many, many endurance rides together over nearly two decades, so it will be fun to hit the trail with her and Gem.
Fifteen miles of brisk trail work gets a lot more done than 20-meter circles!
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%: