From Endurance to Dressage
Izzy's first ever USDF show is just six weeks away. Of course, telling the universe that I am going to a show is practically a guarantee that something is going to go haywire between now and then. Even so, I like to plan ahead. Universe, please don't hold this against me.
Getting ready to show on Speedy was a liner process. I studied the directives for the level. I practiced the movements for the level. When I felt we were in the ballpark, we went and showed. Usually our scores weren't great. We went home and practiced some more. We scored better the next time. We practiced some more again. Eventually, our scores rose, we won some things, and we started on the next level.
Izzy does not learn that way. His learning path looks more like a kindergartner practicing cursive. There is some up, some down, and a lot of sideways. We go forward five steps, only to reverse ten. We march forward for a few months, and then all hell breaks loose, and I threaten to sell him. All the while though, our scribble moves in a generally upward direction. I frequently forget to stop and think how far we've come.
Right now we're schooling the simple changes, particularly the canter to walk. During our last lesson, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, said something really interesting. When something catches Izzy's attention, he likes to snap his head up, stop moving his feet, and get a good look. It's a been a problem since the beginning. While Izzy has a pretty decent bolt in his toolbox, his preferred tool is the balk, and he's quite good at it. So when he tried to quit moving his feet, Chemaine said that he is welcome to think about it, but he has to still move his feet.
It's not like I've just been letting him stop to think about things. No. I've tried a lot of different ways to convince him that he still has to go forward. I've used spurs. I've used bigger spurs. I've used the whip. I've tried kicking until I've left dents in his side. None of it has cured that tendency to slam on the brakes, but it's gotten us through.
Izzy is not the same horse he was six years ago or even one year ago. He has learned a lot and grown up some. Now that he is more mature and walking around with a bit more confidence - by comparison, Speedy is flat out arrogant next to Izzy, the balking is something that I need to begin to address again. I put my baby spurs back on.
Outside of the arena we have some of those ubiquitous plastic chairs. I think one of them had fallen over, but I am not sure. Izzy was. Not only had it fallen over, but it was crawling with horse-eating bacteria. He gave that chair some serious stink eye, went into slow-motion, and then pedaled backwards. I goosed him forward with my baby spurs, and he hopped straight up in the air in total shock. Hello, naughty horse, meet my heel.
I've ridden with those baby spurs for the the last fews days, and the desire to balk has steadily decreased. I bring that back to the simple change because it is a movement that requires that the brakes and the gas pedal be pressed simultaneously. In order to go from a canter to a walk, the horse has to be pretty collected with his hind legs active and carrying.
In Second Level Test 2, the simple changes are done in a three-loop serpentine as you cross the centerline. When I was riding those tests on Speedy, I hated that movement because it was so hard. I now see how doing it on the serpentine helps set the horse up for success. As you leave the rail, the horse should be put in a haunches in so that his haunches are already stepping under while the rider collects the horse down to the walk. To do so the rider's legs say keep going while the hand and seat say whoa. My legs aren't strong enough to convince Izzy to keep stepping under, but now that he knows the baby spur is there, he's been much more willing to get that bit of a piaffe feeling in his hind legs.
Over the weekend, we were finally able to ride the three-loop serpentine with actual canter to walk transitions close to the centerline. The walk to canter part is not a problem. Izzy's got Speedy beat there. Every time I finish a ride, I ask if it's good enough and reliable enough yet to take to a show. A week ago, I would have said no. This weekend, I felt like the simple changes were weak, but they are there. My entry for the October show is filled out. The only thing missing is which tests we'll do. We have until the beginning of October to decide.
Will it be First or Second?
While it's mostly a huge waste of time, Facebook does have its uses. My favorite thing to do is check in on my friends. Sarah has the cutest little boy who loves her horse almost as much as he loves her. Sandy does all of these fascinating runs/walks around the world on her NordicTrack. Laurel shares pictures of the tantalizing meals from her family owned restaurant, Sorella. Valerie's online shop, The Dressage Pony Store, is constantly tempting me with beautiful show clothes.
I also follow what's going on over at USDF. My group member organization, the California Dressage Society, has their official page as well a members only page. I skim the political stuff as quickly as I can although I occasionally get sucked into reading something that just makes me angry. And then there's the so and so likes this product, this page, this group. That stuff has a lot of distraction potential because if so and so likes it, it's probably worth liking. The owner of that page/product knows that which is why it's such an effective marketing tool. That is how I saw the Pivo ad; a friend liked it, so it popped up on my feed.
On Sunday afternoon as I was eating lunch and scrolling through Facebook, a Pivo ad caught my eye. If you're an equestrian, you've probably already seen or heard about Pivo. You might even have one already. If you've never seen Pivo, it's a small device that uses your cell phone to record video. The thing that makes it so useful for equestrians is that it has a horse recognition feature so that it can track you while you ride.
I've been interested in the concept, but the truth was that I assumed it was a cool gizmo too expensive for occasional use. But then I saw it on Facebook. I clicked the ad and saw the current sale price. I have no idea if they're normally this cheap, but at $155.87 out the door, I thought it was worth the risk. I ended up buying the faster model, the Pivo Pod Silver, which is currently selling for $139 directly from Pivo. For an extra $20, I upgraded to the Pivo Pod Silver Starter Pack which includes the Smart Mount and Travel Case.
If you're new to Pivo Pods, there seem to be two versions, the Pivo Pod and the Pivo Pod Silver. They look nearly identical, but the Pivo Pod Silver claims to be two times faster. I figured that I should probably go with the faster model as Izzy has been known to move more quickly than asked for. That's a joke. When dealing with technology, I like to get the fastest model possible.
Both models, the Pivo Pod and the Pivo Pod Silver come equipped with Auto-Tracking*, Multi-Stream Live*, Smart Capture* and 9 Quick Create modes*
as well as:
Panoramic Mount (with bubble level)
Extendable stabilizer legs
Tripod-ready (¼ thread)
Micro USB charging cable
The only difference is that the Pivo Pod has a rotation speed of 10 seconds per 360º rotation while the Pivo Pod Silver has a rotation speed of 4 seconds per 360° rotation.
(*All features require companion Pivo Pod app.)
I am not an impulse shopper. I like to research things, check out reviews, think about it a while, so I don't know what came over me. All I can say is that a Pivo Pod Silver should be on its way in a few days. I hope it gets here before Saturday as I am taking Izzy to a Cavaletti Clinic with Erika Jansson on Sunday. It's supposed to be able to pick you out of a group of moving horses, so it would be fun to try it out.
I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to try it out.
I've talked about this before, but I can't really earn "over-time" pay. That's one of the bad things about being a salaried professional. My district gives me a flat salary no matter how many hours I work. That seems great if you think oh, good, I'll knock off early today, but it never happens. It's far more common for me to be lesson planning and grading papers at 6:00 a.m. and answering emails until 8:00 p.m. I think salaried is just another way to say a slave to the job.
I have found creative ways to earn a little extra money at work though. Except for this year, my biggest money-maker has been to run the lunch time detention. The pay is horrible, it's a lot less than my salaried rate, but since I work through lunch anyway, at least I get paid something for it. With distance learning in effect for probably the entire school year, there is obviously no detention, so that money-making scheme is out the window. Instead, I have finally earned enough university units that they can no longer be applied to my salary earning potential which means my district is now paying me for "seat time" if I continue to take continuing education courses.
A few years ago, my district created its own in-house university, pbvU. We have three sessions a year in which courses directly related to our curricula and programs are offered. For each course, teachers spend seven hours in class (nights and weekends) and eight hours doing coursework. Each pbvU course is equivalent to a one-unit accredited university level class. Over the summer, I took two courses in Distance Learning Instruction - which basically taught me how to be more effective at teaching remotely. I am now a "certified" distance learning instructor. Whatever. I just needed the cash.
Along with those two certifications, my school-site principal asked if I would attend another training before school started. In that one, we got an overview of the district's chosen distance learning platform, Canvas. I was paid for the three-hour training with the understanding that I would serve as a resource for not only my grade level team, but any other staff member that needed support. Again, sure, whatever, how much are you paying me?
While the courses are usually quite helpful and relevant, they're also a huge time commitment. You don't get credit unless you complete all of the requirements. So I could do the seat time, but if I don't finish the course work, I don't get paid. I've taken ten units over the past two years along with working full time, riding, taking lessons, and showing. I won't be taking another one for a while.
I got paid for the first course and the extra training on Thursday which is how I'm paying for Speedy's next box of Prascend which I'll order in December. I get paid for the other course next month which is how I bought a Pivo.
What?! I know! More about that tomorrow ...
Yep, my man, Speedy G. I hadn't ridden him since early August. After body work and hock injections didn't ease his lameness, under my vet's recommendation, I took him over to Alamo Pintado for a thorough lameness exam. As it turned out, Speedy's left hock was well on its way to fusing. He should have been lame long ago, but the guy hung on long enough to earn us a USDF Bronze Medal. You have to love horses with heart. His must be huge!
My plan had been to give him the fall and winter off, but when a young woman reached out to me about local riding and training opportunities, I introduced her to Speedy. T has now ridden Speedy a few times, and it seems like a good match. She's just learning which means the work is pretty easy, and easy work is what Speedy seems to need. T is getting married soon, so she's been busy with wedding preparations which means she hasn't been able to ride for the past week or so.
Since Speedy has been 100% sound, I decided to hop on him on Saturday to see how he felt. I don't know who had more fun, him or me. I only rode him for 15 minutes, but he was ready for whatever I asked. We started with some easy trot work with a few trot to canter to trot transitions; I was mostly checking to see what has happened since T has been riding him. I also wanted to give him a little bit of a tune up to make sure his status as school master was still deserved.
After reminding him that yes, he can still go in a soft and round frame, I decided to see if he was willing to give me some flying changes. Boy, did he! We did one each way, and both were crisp and clean. And then, just to see if we could, I asked for three changes across the diagonal, a movement from Fourth Level, test 1. Easy peasy. Speedy G gave them to me as if we've been schooling them every day.
I'm going to stick with my plan of low level rides through the fall and winter, but I am definitely going to hop on board every now and then to check in on him. Both vets thought it likely that he'd need to retire from upper level work, but they didn't rule it out completely. If Speedy's game for more work this spring, I am in!
It's rare that I don't saddle up anyway. For the most part, I simply power through those day that I just don't feel like it. There is another reason that I'll skip my ride though. Every now and again, and it's rare, but sometimes, the horses don't feel like it either. Speedy loves to work, but occasionally he'll try to talk me out of a ride just because he's feeling lazy, particularly if it's hot. Izzy is ALWAYS ready to play. He's not as smart as Speedy is, so I don't think it has occurred to him that he might have a say in his work day.
So yesterday, when I walked down his fence line with a cookie in hand, and he didn't come over to take it right away, I worried that something might be amiss. I wiggled my fingers at him as he stood along the fence with Speedy. He looked at me, contemplated whether the cookie was worth the short hike, and finally acquiesced to come and take it from me.
I applied fly spray and started to curry his coat. Normally, he nips and licks me, wanting to play. Not yesterday. He stood quietly which is what he's supposed to do, but I could just tell that he wasn't in the mood. After brushing his coat and giving him a good once over, I unclipped his lead rope and sent him out into the yard. Sometimes, the horses just have off days too.
As Izzy wandered out on the lawn, I decided that Speedy was due for a thorough grooming. He was delighted to have me all to himself. He hasn't been getting to spend as much time with me since his arthritis diagnosis, so Izzy's meh day turned out to be Speedy's gain. As I worked conditioner through his mane and tail, I kept my eye on the big brown horse. He had sidled up to Ali, the ranch owner's Fox Trotter, and was making googly eyes at her. She of course flipped him the bird as she peed in his face. I was happy to see him behaving normally.
I was looking forward to a ride yesterday since it was so much cooler. On so many days this past few weeks we could smell the smoke and see ash. Yesterday though, the smoke had risen so high that it simply lowered the temperature without being low enough to make breathing difficult. I don't know if Izzy was just tired or if the smoke and bad air had just finally caught up with him, but I listened. He doesn't tell me no very often, so if he needed a day off, I was more than happy to give it to him.
Saddle up anyway; unless your horse tells you otherwise.
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read