From Endurance to Dressage
Git-R-Done 55 - April 2010
Speedy G's endurance career started out very well, and it may be that more races await him in the future. I don't know if my year of carefully planned camping and trail riding experiences helped, or if camping and trail rides were just in his genes. He took to the whole thing like a pro. He seemed to really like camping. He stood tied at the trailer with no issues and LOVED the Hi-Tie.
Endurance riders put a lot of value on a horse who "takes care of himself." Horses that require a lot of coddling and care can be exhausting to ride. Speedy turned out to be a very independent and confident fellow at endurance rides. He ate and drank without any encouragement. I couldn't keep the hay bag full enough and I frequently had to get up in the middle of the night to refill his water bucket. Horses could pass him on the trail or leave him behind, and he just didn't care. This trait alone makes an endurance horse's "price" go up. Who knew my little gray pony would have so much endurance potential?
While he ate and took care of himself like an absolute super star, speedy he was not. There was no way to over ride him. He was very careful to conserve energy. He figured that out on his first 30 mile ride. Many, many endurance horses start the race jacked up on adrenaline and end up burning far more of their gas tank's fuel than their bodies have been conditioned for. Not Speedy. He was the epitome of slow and steady. Not that I wanted to race him. Back of the pack was my goal, especially for his first few seasons. But when I did want to move out a bit faster, it took a lot of work to convince him that it was worth it!
Speedy G did his first limited distance event (Crazy Coyote 30-miler) one month before his fifth birthday (four year olds may compete in distances under 35 miles). I really wanted to wait until he was five, but this particular race was well suited for a youngster. It is flat, wide open (no cliffs to fall over), and the vet checks are all in camp or very close by.
The race went very well, but several miles from the finish, I thought we were going to need a vet while on the trail. Speedy G was dragging his toes through the sand, head hung low, and looked absolutely defeated. I kept checking his metabolic signs, but nothing other than his attitude indicated a problem. Taz's mom was riding with us. I encouraged her to ride ahead to the finish line, but she insisted on staying with us in an attempt to pull Speedy along. By this point, I was walking on foot literally dragging him behind me.
We made it to camp in the time allotted, and I quickly pulled Speedy's tack to present him to the vet as soon as possible. She cocked an eyebrow at me and told me to get Speedy G an ipod. What for? I asked. This is one bored pony, came her reply. There was nothing wrong with him. In fact, once he was back in camp, he looked as if he hadn't done a thing. He certainly didn't look as though he'd just ridden 30 miles through the desert sand. She thought he was one of the best looking horses of the day. I was shocked. I got home and ordered a new heart rate monitor. After that, I learned how to read his I think I am going to die expression for what it really was. I'm bored ...
Speedy G's endurance career was off to a good start. He completed the Git-R-Done 30-miler a month later, and then spent the summer doing more camping and trail riding. I decided that I wanted Speedy G to be very versatile. I had seen with Mickey Dee that horses frequently need a second career, so I also started taking some dressage lessons with Speedy G. At first it was just monthly, weather permitting, but during the summer of Speedy's five year old, we went once a week. The lessons probably weren't very "dressagey" as they were more about balance and control. As the fall arrived and I went back to work, we returned to once a month lessons when the weather permitted.
I was still competing on Montoya and took her to several endurance rides that summer and fall. But in January 2010, I lost her to colic and Speedy G went from back up horse to my only horse. While dealing with the sadness of losing Montoya, I took Speedy G to the Twenty Mule Team 35-miler one month later in February. We rode through some pretty horrific weather, and he once again showed what he was made of. In April we finished the Git-R-Done 55 miler with a ride time of 8 hours and 59 minutes. He still wasn't fast, but he was methodical. He caught the eye of several riders who asked if he was for sale - that always puts a smile on a rider's face. He was now six years old and ready for a full time endurance career.
I was feeling confident in Speedy's ability, and I felt that he had potential to become a "stayer" in the sport. Montoya had competed for ten years, a rarity in the endurance world. I wanted the same for Speedy G. I entered the Just Coe Crazy 55-miler, but did it with a great deal of trepidation. It was advertised as a difficult race, and with only one other 55-miler under our belt, I didn't know if Speedy G was ready. My gut was right, he wasn't. But we were in good company. The winning time was more than two hours longer than a traditional 55-miler's winning time might be. We went 45 miles or so before Speedy called it quits. You can read about it here.
After that ride, I just lost my interest in endurance. Most people who know me already know this. Without Montoya, the endurance world just didn't have the same luster that it once did. I decided to give Speedy the summer off, and we focused on dressage instead. I started twice-weekly lessons with a different trainer and started showing. That was the summer of 2010. By fall, I realized that endurance races were probably a thing of the past.
I don't know how Speedy felt about it, but we've not done an endurance race since. We now show pretty regularly and are working hard to advance as high as he and I can. Who knows? Maybe the day will come when the endurance world calls us back. Or maybe the call will come for just Speedy G.
On the drive home, Hubby and I worked on names. We tried a lot of them. Since I am such a big NASCAR fan, I decided that he needed a racing name. After all, wasn't he going to be an endurance horse? His dam's name was G Im Fast, and his damsire's name was Fast Ptrack. Suddenly it popped into my head that I frequently tell my students not to be a Speedy Gonzalez. You know, that little Mexican cartoon mouse that always zips around shouting, Andale, Andale! And Speedy G became his name.
The next morning I met G Ima Starr FA's owner near Lancaster which is about the halfway point to Perris. Speedy G loaded with no fuss and trailered all the way home without a single sound. When I opened the door, he looked at me in surprise with a mouthful of hay. He unloaded quietly, walked into his stall, took a long drink of water, and dug into the hay that had been left in anticipation of his arrival.
I wasn't ready to ride a three year old. Instead of continuing Speedy's under saddle education, which I felt was a bit spotty, I spent four months working on his ground manners. I worked diligently on his saddling and bridling issues. Knowing how stressful it can be to saddle and bridle a horse in freezing, 40 mph winds in the desert darkness, I decided that we were going to be ready for any kind of endurance conditions. I also used the long lines for ground driving and worked on mounting from a stand still. My plan was to do ground work until Speedy's fourth birthday in April, but the little stinker needed a JOB, and fast. So in March, a month sooner than I had planned, I started working him under saddle, first in the round pen, then in the arena.
With the help of our barn's caretaker (center of the picture), Speedy started working on walking trail rides. Dario had a lovely mustang mare who proved to be a real Steady Edwina for a youngster. He graciously accompanied us on frequent trail rides. We trailered out to every local event we could find. Speedy's four year old year was spent camping and trail riding in both small groups and large. I knew that he would need those experiences if he was to be successful as an endurance horse.
Hover over picture for captions, and click pictures for links to locations.
To be continued ...
G Ima Starr FA joined my little family December 8th of 2007. You know him as Speedy G. His story isn't remarkable in any way, but he was maybe the first horse that I bought with something specific in mind. I guess I should start at the beginning.
Speedy's story actually started in the fall of 2006 when Mickey Dee first showed signs of an early lameness. After joint injections and six months of rest, I knew that Mickey Dee wouldn't be returning as an endurance horse, and I decided to sell him. My plan was to buy a young Arabian gelding that I could start as my next endurance mount. Montoya was still going strong and I simply needed a back-up pony.
I had a mare and knew that two mares was asking for trouble. Mickey was black and always had trouble with our summer heat. So out of that, I decided that I wanted a gray gelding and my search began. I wasn't in a hurry as Mickey was still in my barn, and I didn't want to feel pressured to buy the first thing I saw. I looked online for several months, but nothing was quite right. All the geldings I saw were either too old, had too many miles, or were simply too expensive.
Eventually I spotted an ad on the classified page of Endurance.net, the endurance website, for a 4 year old, gray, Arabian gelding. His price was in the ball park so I sent an email and started making plans to go and see him. After some back and forth messages, Hubby and I made the three hour drive south to Perris, California. When we got there, I was pretty disappointed to discover that he was only three years old and while he was "broke" to ride, I could see that there was still a lot of work to be done. Saddling him required two people, the owner and the rider employed by Feather Arabians. Speedy fussed quite a bit while being saddled and he even reared as he was being bridled. I was already regretting the long drive we had made. Hubby, always non-plussed about equine antics pointed out that all horses do that. Couldn't I just work with him? Well, yeah, I could, especially after all the training I had done with Mickey, but the point of paying this much was to not have to do all of the training.
Since we had driven so far, we decided to see what the rider could do with him. The arena was a mile or so down the road (in an equestrian community with little or no traffic) so we followed the rider at a distance in the car and watched him school Speedy along the way. Much to our surprise, the rider had him plod though every puddle he could find. He sent him up onto the sidewalk and back to the road. He climbed dirt piles in an adjacent field, and jogged him along the shoulder of the road. As we parked and walked to the arena, both Hubby and I were looking at Speedy with a new level of respect. This horse had potential.
The rider, a Hispanic gentleman who clearly had a good touch with horses, worked Speedy at all three gaits while we watched. He circled, he backed, and leg yielded all around the arena. After some time, the owner asked if I wanted to ride. I'll admit it. I declined out of a healthy dose of respect for what a three-year old can do. I wasn't prepared to ride such a youngster.
Hubby and I walked back to the car and started talking about the horse. When I decided to bring Mickey home, the conversation was more about my safety and what would happen if I got hurt. This conversation was about how suitable Speedy might be. Hubby liked him and was impressed with all the rider was able to ask him to do. I was more skeptical. I listed his problems: he was too young to start as an endurance horse (they have to be five before they can do 50-milers), and his ground manners were awful. Hubby pointed out his strong points: he was very athletic and already broke to ride. Knowing my ability to work with naughty horses, Hubby thought the ground manners issues could be worked out easily.
I have a great amount of respect for my husband's opinions. He knows me very wellI and has a good sense of what I can do. If he liked the horse, there was probably more potential than I was seeing at that moment. Hubby was looking at the big picture while I was hung up on a birthdate and some rough edges. I decided to buy him.
To be continued ...
Fire Mountain 50 Miler, 2006
I eventually began taking Mickey to endurance races. He had learned to stand tied at the trailer and as long as I wasn't away for too long, he trusted that I would come back. My living quarters trailer at the time had a sliding window that I could open and lean out of. He would eagerly look into the window to make sure that I was close by. I took him camping over on the coast many times and rode many conditioning miles.
Some years later, Mickey developed a slight lameness at the extended trot. This is career ending for an endurance horse. I took him to Alamo Pintado, one of the best equine hospitals in the country, for a diagnosis. The fat pad between the joints in his fetlock was wearing away. This injury is caused by repetitive motion, like sustained trotting. I had to face the fact that while he couldn't continue as an endurance horse, he was plenty sound enough as a trail horse. At the time, I couldn't see beyond the endurance world and had no interest in trail riding or in any other discipline. I couldn't afford to keep a horse that wasn't competing, but I felt an obligation to be sure that he had a good home. As difficult as it was, I decided to sell him.
Camping at Montana de Oro
I spent a year reconditioning him into a trail horse. Endurance horses look at the trail differently than the average trail horse. Endurance horses know that their job is to get down the trail quickly. There's not a lot of walking and there is no ambling. Mickey had to learn to stop and smell the roses. He also had to learn that someone other than me was now going to be riding him. That scared me. I didn't know if someone else could ride him, especially someone looking for a quiet trail horse. Fortunately I had friends that helped me out and we discovered that he was a perfect gentleman for other riders. Once I started to look at him as someone else's horse, I realized what a great horse he had become.
I listed him for sale on various sites and sent the word out. I was very honest about his shortcomings as I wanted his new owner to be happy with him. I wasn't in any hurry to sell him and decided that I would trail ride and enjoy his company as long as it took to find the right owner. It took many months, but I finally found his next owner. Or more truthfully, Mickey found her. Much like he did with me, Mickey spotted the woman and chose her on the spot. He also liked her husband. While the woman was grooming Mickey, her husband whispered to me that his wife had cried just looking at his sale photos. That's how much she had connected with him.
As they drove away the day before Thanksgiving, I asked her to keep in touch. She didn't, but I trust that Mickey Dee made a good choice in his owner. I think about him often and wonder ...
The End ...
Mickey Dee - Summer 2005
Mickey's story is a very interesting one, and it's all true.
It was July, 2001. I had gone to Summerlane Farm's annual foal tour and was enjoying the foals and other horses on the property. As I was touring the barn, something I had done many times before, I stopped short at the stall on the end. Wow! That's all I could say. Inside was a stunning black Arabian. The only way to describe him was as a fire breathing dragon. Every vein in his neck stood out. His neck was arched in the way that only Arabians can do. His nostrils were wide, wide open. His black ears were pricked intently forward and his eyes were round and focused. He looked right at me. Not just at me, but into me. It was an eerie exchange. He looked nervous, but confidently ready for battle at the same time. He was a jaw dropper for sure.
Summerlane Farm's owner breeds some of her own horses and takes others in for training. I knew this had to be one of the training horses as I knew he wasn't one of her own horses. I quietly asked around and found out that he had been in training, but the owner had fallen ill some time ago and abandoned him with Summerlane Farm. A new home was being sought for him. The farm owner heard that I was looking at him and offered to show him to me that afternoon. I knew I couldn't afford him, and I certainly wasn't looking for a second horse, but the owner seemed eager to turn him out and the rest of the guests wanted to see him as well.
Everyone was asked to clear a large path away from the stall since he was very claustrophobic and was going to bolt through the stall once it opened. He did, but the farm owner safely kept hold of the lead and managed to get him into the large round pen safely. To call him halter broke would have been very generous.
A large group of people, maybe 20 strong, had gathered around the perimeter of the round pen, myself included. The farm owner turned the gelding loose and sent him around. I leaned against the fence and rested my forearms on the top rail with my chin in my hands. He was stunning. He started his turnout like all horses will. He bucked and farted and tossed his head and shook his mane. He galloped a few laps around the round pen and then stopped right in front of me.
The farm owner sent him on with a wave of the lead rope, but again, he stopped short, right in front of me. The crowd of people laughed while the farm owner sent him on with another wave of the lead. And again, the horse galloped around, but returned to stand right in front of me. This time he reached forward very delicately and puffed into my face. He looked me right in the eye and stood rock solid in front of me. At this point, the crowd knew that something very odd was happening.
Each time I tell this story, I get looks of skepticism with eyebrows cocked in disbelief. I swear that every word is the truth. Several friends were with me and even they find this story hard to believe, but they will tell you it is true.
The farm owner tried to send the horse around, but he was absolutely fixated on me. He never looked at anyone else. Not knowing what else to do, I climbed through the fence and stood in the middle of the round pen. I tried to send him away, but that horse just pinned himself to my shoulder and followed me. I've been around horses my whole life and had owned a half a dozen by this time, but I had never experienced a connection like this. I was secretly thrilled at the connection and equally frightened by it.
As the crowd began to disperse, I checked the horse over and asked the farm owner to tell me about him. I learned that the owner had cancer and had recently signed over the horse's registration papers to the farm owner as payment for owed board and training. His name was Mickey Dee. He was six years old and had just been gelded the month before. He was unbroke and wouldn't tolerate being touched anywhere below his back or chest. His feet had been trimmed while he was being gelded as it was impossible to touch his feet. He was sired by Desperado V, son of the legendary Huckleberry Bey. Many, many of today's Arabians have roots that go back to the Varian Arabians. Desperado V is still producing and is a sire of great repute. To have one of his get was a real honor.
As I looked the gelding over, I liked what I saw. His conformation was nearly perfect. His back was short and strong and he had a hind end that went on for days. He carried himself in a lovely uphill frame and looked incredibly solid. He was wild though, and as a recently gelded six-year old, he had developed stallion-like behaviors that would be with him always. I told the farm owner that I was interested in him and would call back later in the week.
I thought long and hard about that phone call. I talked it over with my husband. We both agreed that this was a dangerous project. Could I handle this horse? I hoped so, but I wasn't sure. I just knew that this horse had literally chosen me as his owner. He had looked into my heart and decided that I would do. How could I walk away? I called Summerlane Farm but hoped that the farm owner had changed her mind and couldn't fit me into her schedule. Nope. She was looking forward to my call and set up a time for me to come back out.
I did go see him, and we talked at length about how un-broke he really was. She shared what she had done with him in the time he'd been at her barn. He had arrived with a halter and lead hanging from his head as the owner couldn't get it on and off. She had worked with him enough that the halter could be put on and taken off. He could be led, but going in and out of the stall was still a struggle. He couldn't be tied as he pulled back, hard. This horse needed everything. In some ways he was worse than a mustang off the range since he had developed some serious fear issues.
Hubby insisted that Mickey Dee's registration papers list his name as owner. He wanted to be able to sell him if the horse hurt me and knew that once my name was on those papers, it would never happen. Summerlane Farm's owner gifted the horse to me with the understanding that he would not end up in an auction yard if he couldn't be broke. As long time acquaintances, she trusted me to do right by him. I brought the horse trailer over and after some coaxing, she was able to get him loaded. The unloading would be up to us. The drive home was a bit nerve-wracking as he wasn't accustomed to being in the trailer. It took three of us to unload him.
To be Continued ...
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