From Endurance to Dressage
My mom moved from Oregon to Mississippi a year ago. It's not like I got to see her regularly when she lived in Oregon, but at least it was a drivable distance. Her husband's family threw a family reunion this month, so they drove their motorhome from Mississippi to Oregon, but along the way they visited all of my mom's family. Since we were in Croatia, my mom saved our house for their last stop as they head back east.
I wasn't able to go to the barn the first day my mom arrived which worried me a little bit as I had only just felt like Izzy was back to normal. My mom loves horses, but she loves me more so whenever she's here, she always seems to enjoy going out to the ranch with me. Because I didn't want Izzy to feel any pressure, I played around with him in the round pen instead of riding. I made sure the "work" we did was a deposit into our trust bank. My mom was very impressed with the commands that Izzy knew. It was fun to show off what he can do.
Since Speedy has been feeling a bit neglected, I worked with him the round pen for a few minutes as well. The round pen work that I do with Izzy is usually about getting control of his mind which means I keep things very quiet and slow. If he's just being a jackass, the work might involve making him move out, but that hasn't happened in a long time. Round pen work with Speedy is about letting Speedy show off, something he loves to do.
Speedy had a good old time showing off for my mom. Right away he started blowing and went straight into passage. His tail flipped up, and he let it rip. I chased him, he chased me, and we both got to have some fun. It's been years since I've let him play in the round pen. For a long time, I've just let him loose in the yard where he occasionally lets loose with a few canters and bucks. He enjoyed the audience in the round pen way more than being loose in the yard.
My mom is heading back to Mississippi this morning, and I don't know when I'll see her next. Her husband's health is starting to decline, so future trips cross country in the motorhome are not likely. We've already decided the next visit will be by plane. Whether it's her flying here or me flying there hasn't yet been decided. Hopefully we'll see each other sooner rather than later.
Safe travels, mom. Call me when you get there.
I mostly made it through Saturday and Sunday without doing too much online horse shopping, but the sales aren't quite yet finished. Two of my favorite places are having sales that are making it very difficult to resist.
#1 Esprit Equestrian
Esprit Equestrian doesn't do a lot of sales as their breeches are already priced pretty competitively, so when they knock off $5, my instinct is to BUY BUY BUY! I've had my eye on a pair of Classics in Slate Grey, but I am trying to resist, especially since we're leaving for Europe next week. I already have the Classics in Mahogany, Navy, Black along with the White PROs 2.0 and Hunter Green PROs which are no longer available. And of course I have two surcingle belts that pair with the breeches perfectly.
If you're looking for a comfortable pair of tights/breeches, get these; you won't be disappointed, but hurry. Today is the last day of the sale. Oh, and if you do order a pair, you might try my discount code for a few bucks off: bakersfielddressage.
Today is the last day of Riding Warehouse's Stock Up for Summer Sale. I had planned to resist entirely, but then I remembered that I had a little left over on my Riding Warehouse Gift Card that my mom sent me for my birthday. As soon as it got hot, I pulled out a brand new fly mask for Izzy that I ordered at the end of last summer. Within two or three days it was shredded to nothing. Jerk. I had just enough left on the card to get him a new one. Again, jerk! I went with the Kensington 73% UV Fly Mask w/Web Trim - Exclusive. At under $30, I was willing to give it a try.
While the sales aren't over yet, I am trying really hard to leave my credit card in my wallet for the rest of the day. What about you?
Sunday was Izzy's birthday; he turned 15. I always enjoy Speedy's birthdays, but for obvious reasons, Izzy's birthdays are worrisome. We're the only mid-level dressage team who can't even pull off a successful outing at Introductory Level. As each birthday ticks by, we have one less year to get anywhere. I feel as though we're running out of time.
I said as much to Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, but he scoffed and said maintenance isn't a big deal. Plenty of horses (and people) continue working into their senior years. I get it, but I still wish time wouldn't pass so quickly.
When I told my husband how old Izzy was, he raised his eyebrows in surprise. That old? was his response. When I said that I've had him more than 8 years already, he said it feels like much longer. I agreed.
I've never had two old guys at the same time. One has always been young and upcoming. At this stage in my life though, I don't know if I'll ever want another youngster. They're fun and exciting, but they're also a gigantic pain in the butt, especially if they're big and brown.
Fifteen years old ... it was a bittersweet birthday. Even so, happy birthday, Izzy!
No, not that kind, although it would be nice. The kind of firsts I am talking about have to do with the big brown horse, but they have nothing to do with competition.
When I first started riding with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, he used to say that we would eventually crack through Izzy's tough veneer. I was skeptical, but every once in a while we would see a new crack. I haven't heard Sean use that expression in at least six months, probably more. While Izzy is still a challenge, I think Sean has finally delivered. Izzy is a completely different horse these days.
First of all, there was the poop pile incident where Izzy calmly took off on his own to go exploring. In the more than six years that he has lived at the ranch he has always been way too nervous to leave the safety of the other horses. It was a long time before he was willing to graze the lawn right in front of the other horses without bolting to stand as close to Speedy as possible. In the last few months, I've seen him wandering farther and farther without worrying that he's alone. And then last week, he did two brand new things that Speedy learned long ago.
The first thing Izzy did that seemed to come from out of the blue was that he put himself away as I was finishing up for the day. For a long time I have turned Speedy out in the yard knowing that once he was finished grazing and visiting, he would find his own way back into his paddock. Speedy learned early on that going back inside meant that his lunch bucket was on the way, so he frequently put himself away early in hopes that doing so might bring forth his goodies sooner. It often worked.
In an effort to train Izzy to do the same thing, I started to turn him loose but made a lot of noise emptying his lunch into his feeder. When it is time to put him away, I make sure that his lunch is always waiting for him. To my surprise, he finally took the bait last week. As I was finishing up with Speedy, I glanced over to Izzy's paddock and saw him happily slurping up his lunch.
After lots of treats and candies, Speedy long ago learned that the tack room/feed room was a very good place to be. He has learned the trick so well that I have to be very careful to shut the door when I am not around, or I'll find him nosing his way through bags of feed and treats. Speedy is still a pretty sensitive horse though so I don't trust him completely. It wouldn't take much to spook him while he is nosing through things, and that could be disastrous if he panicked. The rule used to be no front feet across the threshold. Eventually he blew past that so the rule was changed to keep at least one foot outside. He no longer follows that rule as he now crosses the threshold with all four hooves. Tail OUT is the new rule.
Last week I forgot to change from my muck books to my tall boots for riding, so like I've done many times before, I parked Izzy in front of the door while I raced in to grab my boots. Every time I do that, I always come out with treats or peppermint candies to reward him for not running off. On Friday, after having turned him loose while I did my chores, I glanced up to see him looking at me expectantly at the door. I was shocked but very happy to see him. We've been playing a lot of games together in the arena in an attempt to teach him to come looking for me. I think the games are finally working.
These might seem like minor firsts, but for Izzy, they are huge signs of a willingness to work with me. They're not blue firsts, but they're just as beautiful.
Izzy is finally able to be trusted to graze the property without maiming himself or someone else. Speedy earned this privilege many years ago. It wasn't until Izzy's equine neighbor Archie passed that I started letting Izzy have free rein as it were. When Archie passed, he left his pasture mate on her own. Pixie and Izzy quickly became fast friends. She lives in the pasture directly across from him.
When Archie passed, I started turning Izzy out in front of Pixie's paddocks so she would have company. He quickly realized he had access to good grass by staying close to her. Once he decided that he liked her and she him, he began to behave himself and earned longer and longer turnout periods. Now, he gets to roam at will while I do my chores. On Sunday, I lost sight of him and had to go hunt him down.
It took me a minute to find him because he had wandered off a bit farther than normal. As I called to him to get back to where he was supposed to be, he blithely ignored my demands and proceeded to summit Mount Poop.
He made me walk all the way over before he agreed to get back down. There is a little road that runs up the back of the poop pile, but seriously. What could he possibly need to see up there?
I couldn't help but laugh at him because it's a poop pile. Eventually he wandered back down, but his roaming privileges might have to be limited for a while.
Why can't he just check out the girls like most boys?
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%: