From Endurance to Dressage
I finally did it; Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was able to give me a lesson using Pivo Meet. Since I was at STC Dressage for the weekend, we used the time to do a virtual lesson, in person. Sean takes a weekly lesson from David Hunt who is currently serving on the Judges Supervisory Panel in Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Since David lives in England, Sean uses a Pixio and Cee Coach communication system while David coaches from his computer. They have found the system to be more than adequate, and as a result, Sean is getting great coaching from a world renowned trainer who's working an entire continent away.
It was Sean who first suggested we try something similar. Right now, I am able to make the nearly six hour round trip to STC Dressage every ten days or so, but once I return to teaching in mid-August, I won't be able to do that drive as frequently. If we can make the Pivo Meet work reliably, I could take a weekly lesson instead of going to his barn only once or twice a month. During the four months that Sean and I have been working together, we've developed a sufficiently solid working relationship that we both feel comfortable working together from separate counties.
Before we could do the lessons virtually, I had to find some earbuds that could work over Wi-Fi without losing the connection. Pivo Meet is a lot like a Zoom meeting. We can each see and hear each other, but since I am riding, I can't see Sean which means I need to wear earbuds that are synced to my phone. When I first researched the different options out there, price was influencing my decision more than anything else. Once I got serious about doing lessons using Pivo Meet, I decided I should use a better set of criteria in making my selection.
After reviewing a lot of different earbuds, I bought the Powerbeats Wireless Earbuds from Amazon. While not cheap at $99, they have more than 10,500 reviews, and 89% of them are positive. I decided to go with wireless with wires - who came up with that description?, as opposed to truly wireless because I didn't want to accidentally drop and lose one.
To my surprise, these little dudes are fabulous. The sound quality was exceptional, and never once did Sean and I lose communication. He plugged his headphones directly into my laptop which helped him hear me better over the wind. I attached my phone and Pivo at the C end of the arena, and Sean sat at a table on a raised platform (see photo above) behind the Pivo. The Powerbeats earbuds paired instantly with my iPhone, and even down at the A end of the arena, we could hear each other clearly.
I worried that the earbuds might glitch as the controls are located on the flat panel that bears the "b" logo which rest immediately under the straps of my helmet. Nope. Once I had the power on and the volume set, I put on my helmet and never once needed to touch the earbuds. They were comfortable right out of the box - they come with three extra ear pieces of varying sizes, and in fact, I forgot I even had them on.
As great as Pivo is, it's not perfect. When I would forget and ride too close to it, it would lose me, but Sean reported that it immediately un-zoomed itself, looking for me. He was able to control the Pivo from the laptop, so he could remotely track me if needed. Once he assumed control however, it no longer tracked me automatically. He played around with that feature for a bit just so he would understand its limitations and functionality while we were both in the same "room." Overall, he felt like it gave him a good enough picture of what I was doing for him to coach me.
The set up did take some time, but I only practiced twice, once a few months ago, and once an hour or so before this lesson. The steps were pretty easy to follow, and I even forgot to do a few things like close all ten billion open apps on my phone. Even so, it worked pretty smoothly. I did write about Pivo Meet once before, so I used that post as my tutorial.
For this dress rehearsal, these are the steps I followed:
One successful experience doesn't mean we have the process perfected, but Sean is happy to give it a try. Since it will save me so much time and money (diesel is expensive), I am definitely looking forward to trying it for "real" next week. Unless we're in the Pivo Meet, we won't be able to hear one another if there is a problem, but I think once we have Pivo Meet open, Sean is tech savvy enough to get Pivo at least pointed in the right direction. And luckily for me, he's a sharp enough trainer that he can see a whole lot with even just a glimpse of Izzy's body. Mine too for that matter. My next lesson is on the 29th, and we're going to give it a try. I'll let you know how it goes.
For what I'll save in fuel over the next three lessons, Pivo will pay for itself and the Powerbeats. I am all in!
I am diving into the world of virtual lessons. I love my Pivo Pod and have it dialed in so that it works effortlessly every time. It has taken a few tweaks, but it now works perfectly. If you're considering a Pivo Pod, here are my quick recommendations:
Now, I want to start using Pivo Meet for remote lessons so that I don't have to spend nearly six hours driving for a lesson. Not only is my whole Saturday spent just so I can get a 45 minute lesson, but the price of diesel keeps going up. Driving to a lesson now costs around $70 which is nearly the price of a lesson!
While I would have loved for someone to just tell me what to do to make Pivo Meet work, I know from experience that doing the research myself usually gives me a better understanding of the process. I started off with this article from Pivo. The process is pretty simple:
The last thing I need to do - besides practicing some more, is acquire a set of wireless ear buds. Holy moly is that a rabbit hole. Apparently, there are wireless earbuds and true wireless earbuds. The first are wireless, meaning they connect via Bluetooth but they are connected to each other by a wire. True wireless earbuds aren't connected to each other. Both styles vary wildly in price, but I think I have found a pair that will suit my budget and needs both: PowerPro Sport 5.0 Bluetooth Headphones. What I like about these besides the functionality is that they claim to work up to a range of 100 feet.
Before spending the money on the earbuds though, I want to do a bit more practicing. I need to make sure I can get Pivo Meet to work smoothly every time. Right now, I am having a few problems, but I feel quite confident they are due to user error. While reading posts on the Pivo Facebook page, I also discovered that connecting the earbuds and getting them to work during the Meet can be problematic, so now I need to get that part working as well. Thank you, Janet and Ruth, for the tip.
If you have any other Pivo Meet tips, feel free to share!
Life has been verging on the out of control lately as I find myself working ridiculously long hours. You would think that working from home would make life easier. Sure, I can get a load of laundry done, and I can pee without having my neighbor come over to watch my class, but the work that distance learning requires is wearing me out.
Life must go on though, and I refuse to let this pandemic change every aspect of my life. No matter how tired I am, I make it to the barn anyway to ride or take care of what needs to be done. So, here are a few interesting updates.
Update #1 Pivo Pod
After a few initial adjustments, my Pivo has tracked me pretty much perfectly. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, comes down for a lesson, she no longer has to be videographer and trainer both. That part has been working great for several months. The trouble I was having was that my iPhone 7 Plus's battery would be drained by the end of the lesson.
I know I mentioned this already, and I shared my plan, but the first time I tried, my solution didn't work. My husband replaced my last solar charger when mine was stolen in November. The first time I connected my solar charger to my phone while using the Pivo, it didn't charge. I later discovered that unlike my first charger, you have to turn this one on. Doh! When I tried the whole set up again this weekend, I turned the darn thing on, and what do you know? It worked! At the end of the lesson, my phone was still at 100%. You gotta love smart technology.
Update #2 Gastro Elm
I now know with absolute certainty that the GastroElm is working. After giving it daily for almost two weeks, I missed a day at the barn. The very next day, Izzy's poop was once again ploppy, and the day after that, his belly was sensitive to grooming.
On one hand, I am thrilled that it is working. On the other, it's frustrating that the ulcer hasn't healed. I am hoping that if I persist with the activated dose, his tummy will eventually heal over. I had planned to just sprinkle the powder straight into his lunch, but since his stomach is till not quite right, I'll continue activating the GastroElm before top dressing his feed.
On the day his tummy was sensitive, I also syringed a dose before riding. I really like that about this product. You can dose them several times a day as needed for more instant "relief." I know UlcerGard (and GastroGard) should be the better choice, but honestly, I got quicker results with the Gastro Elm.
Update #3 Shedding
It always catches me off-guard how early in the year that Izzy starts to shed. The first hairs started to let loose over the weekend. I know the shedding is connected to daylight hours, but winter only just arrived here in California's Central Valley. We had our first heavy rain of the season. Before Sunday's rain, it had only rained about 0.2". Even with this week's heavy rain, we're still under 2 inches for the year!
Speedy of course won't start shedding until March or so, and then he'll continue shedding all summer. It could be just his age, but it's much more likely that his PPID (Cushing's Disease) is affecting his coat. Each year his coat gets a little longer, and he takes longer to lose it.
Focusing on all of the little things like solar power, ploppy poop, and shedding hair forces me to step away from my job even if just for an hour or two. My brain and emotional health say thank you.
Sometimes, it's the little things that are important.
A few local friends have been asking me if I like my Pivo. I don't like it, I LOVE it! I don't have time to watch hours and hours of video though, so I tend to use my Pivo Pod mostly for lessons. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables has been great about videoing lessons, but using the Pivo allows her to focus on giving the lesson instead of trying to teach and video at the same time. And with the Pivo, I can record the entire lesson which includes all of the non-riding conversation. It's during those chats that Chemaine gives me a lot of information.
Besides the Pivo's settings, which I now have dialed in and never adjust,
I bought a bendable tripod that I use to secure the Pivo to the fence. It wraps snuggly around the top rail of the fence and keeps the Pivo level. It's also strong enough to withstand a windy day.
A few years ago, my husband bought me a solar charger that I used at shows to charge my iPhone at night. At the last show I went to in November, someone stole it off my truck where I had set it to recharge. I've done this for several years without worry, but this time, someone thought it looked useful and swiped it. My husband bought me another one for my birthday. Since my iPhone is getting a bit old, the battery doesn't last very long, especially while using the Pivo Pod, so my plan is to use the solar charger while I am recording.
This is the part I have yet to try. I think I can wrap the charger with the foam twist tie and secure it next to the Pivo so that it can charge my phone while it's recording. This is still a work in progress though. It may takes some trial and error, but I am pretty sure it will work. I think I also need a longer iPhone cable .
Because I now have so many pieces for my Pivo, I needed a storage container to schlepp it all to the barn or my trainer's place. At a show I did in the fall, Riding Warehouse donated these cute little backpacks as show swag. It's the perfect containment system! And as an added bonus, it is hands free. I can wear it to the arena and still keep track of what my horse is doing. You know, 'cause it's Izzy.
I truly love the Pivo Pod and feel that it is worth every penny. Feel free to shoot me an email with any questions.
Things have been good in my neck of the woods. With such a mild winter, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been able to come down more frequently over the past month, and I've been able to go up to her place. During our lesson on Sunday I told her that it feels as though I've learned more in the past six months than in the past decade. That's not true of course, but it's really motivating to be in a learning phase as opposed to just trying to survive.
Now that Izzy's tummy is feeling better, he's back to being a bit of a jerk. I told Chemaine that it was almost funny that while his tummy was upset, he worked a lot better. Now that he's not thinking about his tummy so much, he's thinking about how hard his job is. I liked him better when he was feeling a bit puny. Sheesh.
Now that he's once again resisting the idea of being supple, I needed Chemaine to jump in with yet a new suppling exercise. I've been doing tons of shoulder-in and haunches in, particularly on the circle, and I've even been playing around with shoulder-in and haunches in to the outside of the circle. Essentially, I am just focusing on getting the different parts of his body to move and loosen up.
Like she seems to do, Chemaine came up with a variation on the exercises I've already been doing. How she does this on the spot, I'll never know. Using the quarterline again, she had me ride Izzy in a haunches in. Every time he resisted the outside rein, she wanted me to halt. No just do a half halt, but to really and truly halt. And while halting, she wanted my leg on and for Izzy to stay in the haunches in.
It sounds easy, but when you have 400 pounds in your hands, it's not. Instead of keeping his hind end underneath himself, he insisted on dropping his back and flinging his head up. It is my tendency to try to make things easier for him, so Chemaine had to insist that I insist that he halt. Not just shorten his stride, but to HALT, DAMMIT!
Initially, I didn't really understand the purpose of the full halt. As we continued trotting up one quarterline and down another in haunches in, Chemaine helped me see that by insisting on a full halt every time he resisted the outside rein, Izzy started to anticipate the full halt which helped him to understand the half halt. And that's why she's the trainer.
As I started to understand the purpose of the full halt, I was able to be more exacting in my riding. Haunches in for bend and to put him on the outside rein, full halt when he resisted. Repeat, repeat, repeat, Change direction. The point was to show him that once he gives, he gets to go on again. When things are crystal clear, Izzy learns so much better. The more clear and consistent I was, the more supple he was willing to be.
Then we did it at the canter. And once again, I tried to make it "easier" for him, but really, I was trying to make it easier on myself. Instead of coming to a full halt every time he resisted, I tried to cheat and just collect him super short. But as usual, Chemaine saw right through me and explained that the full halt made it much more clear to him that resistance is futile. When he resisted, he had to halt with his hind legs underneath him which is much harder than just being more supple through his neck and back.
As we worked, Chemaine asked for more. More what I asked? Her response was more half halt. She wanted me to make him earn the release by using more compression in the haunches in. Eventually, we used the 10-meter circle, something we're struggling with to the right, as a reward. When he was soft in the haunches in on the quarterline (but compressed), I turned it into a 10-meter circle and gave him more room to stretch forward. As soon as he braced, I collected the canter making the last half of the 10-meter circle much harder.
This exercise, trotting or cantering the quarterline with haunches in, is an excellent way to set up lots of other movements like the 10-meter circles, simple changes, and especially the canter half pass. Near the end of the lesson, Izzy was so soft on the left lead that I left the quarterline and floated across an imaginary diagonal line in a lovely canter half pass. For about three strides, and then it was less lovely, but still pretty nice.
Show season is on its way. We're not ready, but we never are. Each week though things get less ugly, and there are actually whole minutes where things are pretty. Not just moments, but strings of moments. As we worked on Sunday, I actually heard myself say, "Do you remember when he couldn't canter on the right lead?"
And now, he has a very pretty right lead canter. The left's not too shabby either.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read