From Endurance to Dressage
Back in 2020, I sent a sample of Izzy's mane to UC Davis's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory to see if he carried the cream dilution gene. The report came back negative, which really wasn't a surprise, but I wanted to know for sure. I've written about this tons of times before, but Izzy has a wildly varied coat throughout the year. In early winter he is nearly black, but by summer he's what many might call a buckskin.
We are in full summer here in the Central Valley, and Izzy's coat has already started its summer change. Interestingly, this year his coat is fading very quickly in the areas underneath his tack. This is a new system of fading. Normally, he fades all over his body at the same time. In the photo below, you can see that he is fading under his saddle pad and girth.
I have been hosing him off after every ride whether he sweats or not. Salt will definitely cause fading of the coat, but it is even more pronounced this year than I have ever seen it. He's even going " tan" under his headstall. In the photo below, the lighter coat is really obvious behind his ears where his headstall rests.
A few people have expressed concern that Izzy is experiencing a vitamin and mineral deficiency, but my vet doesn't think so. Izzy is fed high quality grass hay, beet pulp, rice bran, milled flax seed, a quality vitamin and mineral supplement, and he has access to a salt block (which he ignores). He also grazes most days for 30 to 45 minutes on fresh grass. I am not worried about any deficiencies.
Each summer, his coat changes to a color that was different from the year before. Sometimes he goes very light, other times, he has developed what I think are Bend Or spots (named after the stallion, Bend Or). I can't wait to see what his coat does this summer.
All I care about is that he not scratch holes in himself as he itches away the gnats and flies.
A few weeks ago, I was ready to throw in the towel. Again. Izzy is not easy, but no one ever said it would be. Or should be. And frankly, I probably wouldn't want to ride him if he were easy. Even so, there are days and weeks when I am just done with the struggle.
During last Saturday's lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I told him that I always take the harder path. Always. Trail riding wasn't enough. I wanted to do endurance rides. Twenty-five milers, no easy task, weren't enough for me. I had to do hundred milers and multi-day rides. Intro and Training Level were fun, but that wasn't enough either. I wanted a Bronze Medal. I got it, but now I want a Silver one.
While Sean readily agrees that Izzy is not an easy ride, he's not so quick to lay the blame at my feet. In fact, when I tell him that I am the sucky rider making this whole thing more of an ordeal than it otherwise might be, he puts his black booted foot down, hard. Nope, don't even go there. He doesn't put it in those exact words, but you get the drift. I don't think Sean thinks in terms of "bad riders" or "good riders." Like any good teacher, he probably thinks in terms of developing riders. Having a growth mindset - versus a fixed mindset, means you always see potential rather than limits. I guess I'd rather be someone who "has potential" rather than being a bad rider.
As we continue to do our dance, Izzy being resistant and hard to convince one week and pliable and rideable the next, I find myself at a crossroads almost weekly. Over the past month, we've talked about selling Izzy, and Sean has made it clear that he will support my decision whichever path I choose. Right now, I am looking down Frost's two roads that diverged in a yellow wood. Do I take the left path or the right path? During this Saturday's lesson, I rode a very ridable and talented horse. Sean was quiet much of the time; he didn't have a whole lot to say. Months of teaching are continuing to pay off.
When I thought we were done with the lesson, Sean asked for just a bit more. "See if you can get a bigger, more reaching canter." And Izzy gave me more. Sean asked for a longer reaching trot. And Izzy gave me more. It was the most rewarding work he's given me in quite a while. Will this weekend's lesson be as rewarding? I don't know. All I can do is stare at those two roads diverging in that yellow wood. Without fail, I'll no doubt select the one less traveled by.
But in the end, I'll know it has made all the difference.
The main reason we moved Izzy into the stallion's pen and the stallion into Izzy's pen was to help Speedy deal with the flies. I'll get there; give me a minute. Even though we use fly predators, the ranch is situated on the Kern River which means we deal with a lot of insects other than flies; gnats are particularly troublesome. While bugs are a pain in the patootie, the real problem is that Izzy won't let Speedy wear a fly mask nor a fly sheet.
Izzy has more energy than the rest of the horses on the ranch combined. Living in a large pen and being ridden four to five times a week doesn't use it all up. Since Speedy was his immediate neighbor, anything on or around Speedy became a toy. Frankly, Izzy is kind of a pest. Now that he's living on nearly a quarter of an acre with no shared fences, he can no longer rip off Speedy's clothes, and he has a lot more room in which to do obnoxious stuff.
Now that Izzy isn't there to rip it off, Speedy has kept his fly mask on every day for more than a week. I take it off each day to clean it and put a bit of ointment in his eyes. I was also able to buy a new fly sheet, and Speedy has been pretty happy to wear it. I bought the TuffRider Comfy Plus Belly Band & Tail Flap Fly Sheet because of the belly band, but when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that it had three straps for the belly instead of just two.
While the belly band doesn't completely cover his sheath, it does offer a pretty fair amount of coverage. It will certainly make it more difficult for the flies to get up in his urethra. At least I hope so anyway. This particular fly sheet isn't fancy, but for the price - $39.95, it more than meets my expectations. It has two front buckle closures with an additional velcro closure, adjustable leg straps, a tail flap, and a soft lining at the shoulders to prevent rubbing. Will it last all year? Probably not - it already has a few teeth marks where Speedy has grabbed at it, but it was cheap enough that I won't mind buying another one.
Since I had my credit card out, I also bought two new Cashel Crusader Standard Fly Masks for my trailer. I always keep two in the trailer for hauling. Speedy's wearing an old one right now. If Izzy can prove that he won't destroy his cheapo fly mask, he'll get one of these, too. I like these because they're soft, and they provide more coverage than a lot of other fly masks. When you rip yours off and tear it into three pieces fifteen minutes after I've left, you no longer get to wear nice things, <cough> Izzy.
And since my credit card was still out, I also bought a fresh tub of electrolytes, Kentucky Performance Products Summer Games Electrolyte. These have served me well in the past. Last summer, I bought a pelleted electrolyte. Izzy ate them, and they were easy to feed, but I can't remember where I found them. I do like these though because they're powdered which makes it easy to adjust how much I feed.
Of course, all of my fly gear and the electrolytes came from the Riding Warehouse. If you're in need of some summer supplies, RW has some cool new products. If you're placing an order anytime soon, hit me up. I usually have a 15% discount code that I am happy to share.
Here's hoping the bugs are persuaded to avoid our no fly zone!
At this point, I am all in. Esprit Equestrian Wear (EEW) is definitely playing my song. So far, I've purchased a Surcingle Belt, a pair of the Classic Breeches, and a pair of the (discontinued ) PRO Breeches. I should note that while the PROs have been discontinued, EEW has created the 2.0 PRO which is currently available in white only with the assurance that more colors are on the way.
While the Classics are a perfect fit for me, I wasn't as happy with the fit of the PRO breeches. My friend Jen LOVES them, so it seems that body type is probably a factor in whether you prefer one over the other. The PRO breeches are definitely cuter with the contrasting sparkle trim.
There is so much I love about this brand: the fabric is fantastically smooth and soft; the faux zipper and belt loops push these tights into a whole new category; and the pockets are what equestrians with a cell phone addiction have been pining for. Hey, you never know when you need to take a photo of something. Or call your vet, or the farrier, or your trainer.
I wanted to love the PROs as much as I love the Classics, but the compression lining just didn't work for me. Again, my friend Jen loved it. The compression fabric is sewn in across the inside top of the Classics, but I can't feel it. In the PROs, it covered every inch. Since it was just too much compression for me, I simply cut it out. If you choose to do that, be careful. I accidentally snipped a little too quickly, and now I have a little tiny hole at the knee. Once the lining was removed though, I enjoyed all of the cuteness of the PROs with the comfort of the Classics.
The fit is nearly identical from one style to the other, but the PROs are definitely a little lower in the rise. On the EEW website, it states that "The 2.0's have 2 more inches of rise in the rear for more coverage, no inner lining in the seat area, and an added front phone pocket seam to hide the pocket line." Those are basically the things I noted that would improve the fit for me.
The large pockets on the Classics are on the outside of the fabric of the leg while the pockets for the PROs are on the inside. The pocket seam was a little too visible on the PROs for my tastes, so I am glad they're fixing that. And of course, removing the lining from the seat will make these more comfortable for my body type (AKA Chunky Monkey). After wearing each pair, I created a spread sheet to compare the the two different styles.
For me, the Classics beat out the PROs in comfort and pocket configuration while the PROs win for cuteness. Both are priced so well that you won't feel bad ordering them in multiple colors. I actually like that Esprit Equestrian Wear is offering more than one fit because we all have different shaped bodies with different preferences. If you decide to give one of their products a try, use the code bakersfieddressage for a one-time 5% discount. Hey, every bit helps.
Now I need another belt ... oh, look some of them are on sale!
This has been a c-r-a-z-y week. I moved from one to school to another on Monday. On Tuesday, I moved Izzy from a large paddock to an even larger one. Later that same day the chiropractor came out and gave me a quick lesson and adjusted Izzy's out-of-whack poll and neck. On Wednesday, I spent a long morning taking care of Speedy's eyes and hanging out with Izzy as he was still pretty annoyed that Dollar had taken over his pen. I have finally found some time to write about last Saturday's lesson, but so much has happened since that I forgot what we worked on.
After watching my video from Sunday - I always record the next day's ride, I remembered that we worked on a couple of small things. One thing Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, had me think about was keeping my hands closer together. I tend to to let them get too wide, especially in the lateral work. Other than that, most of the ride was just about fine tuning things that have been in progress.
While I love AHA moments and big take-aways, I also appreciate lessons where Sean just gives me a little coaching here and there as I ride. Fortunately, Izzy was feeling pretty confident with where we were, so I was able to just ride. We worked on shoulder-in travers, renvers, and then the half pass. We wouldn't be getting eights or anything, but Sean was really happy with how I was riding and what Izzy was giving me.
When I was talking to the chiropractor about Izzy being a complicated horse, he disagreed with my assessment. He feels that Izzy is actually pretty simple. I thought about it and had to agree. Izzy is definitely a you get what you see kind of horse. I guess the complicated part is in how to ride him. Here's a short clip of some left lead canter to trot from the video I shot on Sunday. You can see where he braces and comes against my hand, but there are also good moments of relaxation.
Every day is a new opportunity. I definitely wish it were easier, but if it were, I'd be bored and forced to choose something equally challenging.
I wonder if I'd like sky diving, rocking, or bungee jumping more?
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
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: