From Endurance to Dressage
The clinic was a week ago, and no, I didn't forget to write about it. My Pivo Silver recorded an entire hour of video, and finding the time to sit down, watch it all, take notes, and capture relevant screenshots required more time than I had. Amelia's feedback was so digestible though that even though I hadn't had time to watch the video before now, I was able to ride all week with her suggestions replaying in my head.
First, some nuts and bolts stuff. I am the vice chairperson of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of the California Dressage Society. We're a small chapter located in the Tehachapi Mountains, but we also serve the Bakersfield area and beyond. Historically, the chapter's events have been held at the BVS Equestrian Center, home of the Bear Valley Springs Dressage Club. Hoping to better serve our Bakersfield members, I volunteered to organize and host the October clinic at my own barn.
We could not have had a nicer day. Our smoky, hot weather broke just in time for the clinic. We were blessed with a chilly morning and blue skies. In all, we had nine riders and a good turnout of chapter and club members who came to watch. Amelia Newcomb was a gracious clinician who was never anything but encouraging and friendly as she helped each rider bring out the best in his or her horse and in themselves. She worked on getting the horses softer and rounder, quicker off the leg, and bending more honestly through their bodies. She had riders sitting more quietly, using their seat bones more effectively, and stretching their comfort zones while still building confidence.
Since I had to be at the ranch the entire day anyway, I volunteered to ride first. All but one other rider had to trailer out to the ranch, so being saddled and ready to go at 8:15 was a bit of stretch for everyone else. It worked out well for me to go first because by the time I was finishing my ride, Laurel was riding over from her place. Once Izzy was cleaned up and put away, I was free to direct traffic, get riders to sign releases, and point the way to the restroom.
I've ridden with quite a few different clinicians over the years. A few have made me consider quitting riding altogether, which is pretty hard to do. A few have left me feeling like I just drank a sugary drink - it tasted good going down, but afterwards, it didn't really serve a purpose. And then there are those clinicians that stick with you like a good book. You know those books that leave you thinking about the characters days and even weeks later? Amelia's lesson was a lot like that. She used lots of short, quick instructions that were easy to understand, but said at just the right time to be immediately effective. Here are some of the things I heard her tell me:
Every horse is different of course.These are the things she suggested for Izzy. For other horses, she wanted more activity behind, she wanted the horse to react more quickly, and so on. Izzy doesn't need quicker, and he doesn't need more activity. He bounces off the walls as it is. Over the past week, I've been able to get some really good change in Izzy's neck (it's getting longer and lower) and in his willingness to relax.
We have a two-day USDF show this weekend. I've reached out to Amelia to see if she can give me a lesson on Friday evening; the show's venue is in her neighborhood. She has a clinic and is waiting on the schedule, but with any luck, she'll be able to help us warm up the night before. I will definitely be looking for future opportunities to ride with Amelia. If you have the chance to ride with her or audit one of her clinics, I strongly recommend it. And if you have time, you should check out her YouTube channel; it's packed full of instructional videos.
If we're a hot mess this weekend, Amelia, it's totally NOT your fault!
Since "T," Speedy's new friend, is going to be busy for the next few weeks, I decided I had better hop on him at least once a week to keep him in shape. While I love that gray pony to pieces, he was more than a bit of a stinker!
Just for fun, I decided to give Pivo a try with Speedy. Since I was riding in the morning, I had to put Pivo on the opposite side of the arena so that it wasn't facing the sun. Every time I glanced over, it looked like it was tracking us just fine. Upon review however, either Pivo or my phone's camera did something rather annoying toward the end of our 29 minute ride.
Pivo did lose us a couple of times at the A end, but it quickly found us. Once we started the canter work though, the video looks as though Pivo was watching a tennis match. We stayed in the frame, but it appeared as though Pivo was looking left and right really quickly. Once we walked, Pivo calmed back down, tracking us smoothly until the next canter when it again got glitchy. I haven't used the Pivo enough times to know if this was a problem with my phone's camera or with the Pivo. It could also be that I missed a setting.
I kept the ride to just under thirty minutes. Now that Speedy's not in regular work, It's hard to judge how much of his resistance was due to being tired or possibly pain. He's 100% sound, but when he got heavy or resistant, I tried not to be too picky. And as much as I wanted to school certain movements, the canter half passes were a hot mess, I didn't think it was worth the fight if he was feeling a bit ouchy.
I did school most everything from Third Level though, including the shoulder in and half passes, both in trot and canter. We didn't touch on the medium gates though since he was heavy in my hand. I didn't want him barreling around on his forehand, but I also hesitated to ask him to sit too much either.
The one thing that Speedy did want to do were the flying changes. He got every single one of them right, even when we worked on the line of changes from Fourth Level - three changes across the diagonal. He was so sharp off my leg that I even gave a try at counting strides between each change rather than just aiming for the first quarter line, centerline, and second quarter line. Speedy practically danced through those changes.
I thought it would be harder to "retire" Speedy than it has been. If I didn't have Izzy, I might be feeling blue about it, but Izzy's a lot of fun to ride, and he's giving me plenty to work on. If all I get to do are play around with flying changes and teach a lesson on him here and there, I'm perfectly happy to let Speedy pick and choose what he wants to do.
He's given me more than enough in our 13 years together. If we spend the next 13 just playing around, I will be one very happy girl.
My new Pivo Pod Silver is working out great. So far, no complaints. It seems as though the things that go wrong tend to be the result of user error although I have seen some really funny blooper moments on the Pivo Facebook page. My favorite one is when Pivo followed the shadow of a horse instead of the horse itself. That beta horse mode sure works well!
While there are lots of little add ons that you can buy for your Pivo, I bought a case - which I love, and the smart mount - which was an unnecessary purchase for my situation. You never know though. I'm adding it to the growing pile of things I don't need, but I'm holding on to anyway. The one thing I didn't buy was a tripod because we already had one here at home.
The Pivo Pod definitely needs some kind of a tripod, if only just to stabilize it for outdoor use. Long ago, my husband bought the GorillaPod pictured above (left), and I thought it would work well for the Pivo Pod while also serving to hold my document camera (which I use daily to teach math). In theory, yes, it would work, and it did except for when I forgot to peel off the document camera and toss the tripod in my barn bag. I got to the barn with no tripod which makes Pivo really hard to use. You see? User error.
My district bought all of the teachers document cameras, but they don't have a clip end. I am not sure how they're intended to be attached, but I've seen my colleagues using rubber bands (like me), duct tape, bendable extension arms with clips, and so on. It's actually a gigantic pain because I use my MacBook's FaceTime camera for our face to face time, but when the kids need to see what I am writing, mostly during math, I have to plug in the document camera, open the FaceTime app, and share my screen. I then drag the tab with the Google Meet next to the FaceTime window so I can see the kids alongside what I am writing. They can no longer see me, but they can at least watch my hands do the math.
If you're a teacher or a parent, you know how frustrating the "mirroring" feature is. Everything is either backwards for the kids, or backwards for me. I am constantly asking the kids is this backwards or right? Is it backwards on the big screen or backwards on my picture? They ask the same thing especially when they do a video submission of an assignment. Using the document camera in FaceTime has solved the problem, but once I want the kids to be able to see me again, I have to unplug it, let my computer cycle through its camera choices until it lands on the FaceTime camera, then I have to turn my laptop's camera back on. Nothing drives me crazier then, wait, I didn't see that. Can you show it again?
But this is about Pivo not Distance Learning. I quickly realized that it would be much more convenient to have a dedicated Pivo tripod, so I looked into buying a second GorillaPod. Unfortunately, those things are mega pricey especially compared to the competition. The Joby GorillaPod that my husband bought comes in at a hefty $50 from Amazon. Yes, it's a great tripod, but there are a lot of other tripods out there that seem to offer the same functionality for half the price. I ended up ordering the UBeesize 12 Inch Flexible Cell Phone Tripod Stand Holder with Wireless Remote Shutter & Universal Phone Mount, Compatible with iPhone/Android/DSLR/GoPro Camera. It cost $23.99 with free Prime shipping, and it arrived the next day.
The Ubeesize tripod has all the same features as the GorillaPod, but comes in at half the price.
I haven't had the chance to try it out yet, but if the Ubeesize doesn't prove to be as stable as the GorillaPod, I can always use it for my document camera and keep the GorillaPod for the Pivo. The Ubeesize tripod has rubber coated legs which I think will actually grip better than the smooth plastic legs of the GorillaPod.
I am wondering what technology my "technology" is going to need next!
Izzy and I have been peeling back the layers of the dressage onion for way more years than I'd like to admit, especially since we're not nearly as far along as I think we should be. With Speedy looking at retirement, I have finally been forced to start working the big brown horse in earnest. It's not like we've been doing nothing the past six years, but now I am motivated like never before.
We're going to a USDF show at the end of October whether we're "ready" or not. We've done a couple of schooling shows and a couple of CDS shows, and while those have tremendous value, they don't count in the eyes of the dressage world. It is at USDF shows where you really get to put your money where your mouth is. So when I scheduled a mid-week lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner at trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, we put Izzy to work with an eye to actually showing him off at a show rather than merely surviving a show.
While watching the video that Pivo recorded, I think I heard the words more and bend and forward at least 5,000 times. Sometimes they were used seperately, but usually they were strung together, more bend ... more, more, more, MORE BEND! MORE FORWARD! Poor Chemaine. She either thinks me deaf or dumb or possibly both. As a side note, if you are thinking about getting a Pivo, if you don't have a barn full of friends willing to record, if you ride alone, GET THIS GADGET, it really is that cool.
Like I always do, I told Chemaine what I wanted to work on - Izzy's just so flat. I need him to have more bounce. Oh, you mean he needs more swing. Well okay, that sounds good, too! When Chemaine asked me how I thought we would get more swing, I immediately said we need more forward because that seems to be the solution to everything. I was half-way right. What Izzy needs is more sideways with forward. According to her, moving him laterally with get him more supple in the hind end which will allow him to step more deeply which will create more swing. Okay, roger that.
Chemaine walked over to two of my corners and rearranged the poles to create a fan of three cavaletti poles. And then she put Izzy and me through five different exercises using the cavaletti poles to either start an exercise or to finish it.
By the end of the lesson, Izzy was snorting and swinging. Those two things seem to go together. At least they do when he's doing them. Of course, we also did some canter, and that was just a bunch of flex in, flex out, go down if he'll take it. We did it on the circle, around the entire dressage court, on smaller circles, and on the serpentine. That's something that I need to do every single ride. He wants to be so tight in his back and neck at the canter, but it's because he doesn't quite believe me that relaxing feels so much better. He's getting there though.
The Pivo gave me access to so much more information. It's tough for a trainer to teach well and capture great video. By being able to rewatch the entire lesson, I got a clearer sense of where Izzy started, and where he ended up. I was able to see the exact moment that he gave or the exact moment when he got something. An hour of video takes a long time to watch, but it's like getting a second lesson for free.
The video also showed me that we're not as far "behind" as I think we are. We definitely have more nice moments than bad. And in another month, I am excited to see where we'll be.
I'm feeling very punchy at the moment. I've been sitting at my desk working for 14 hours, so no telling what you're about to get. This is supposed to be yet another Pivo post, but my mind may wander.
I had the Pivo fully charged. My phone was fully charged. I brought both to the ranch for my Wednesday lesson. I was fully prepared. Or so I thought. The one little thing I had forgotten was my GorillaPod tripod. Well, shoot. I looked around the feed room trying to spot something tall enough upon which to rest Pivo, but nothing looked as though it would work.
Then I remembered that I have some of those super big, foamy twist tie things. I have no idea what they're called, but they worked just fine. I wrapped them around the Pivo and then twist-tied the whole thing to the top rail of the fence. I pushed all the right buttons on the app, and walked away. I never looked at the Pivo for the entire lesson.
I scanned the entire 54 minutes and 28 seconds of video and could only find one or two very short moments when Izzy and I weren't on the screen. That's way more footage than I would ever get from a friend. And who could blame someone for not being willing to video for nearly an hour? Of course, now I need to find time to sit down this weekend and truly watch the video because we worked on some pretty hard core stuff, including a bunch of cavaletti exercises that I want to write about.
For now, my fingers are crossed that no new updates come out for a bit. I just updated my phone, so I was really glad that didn't change anything. Pivo peeps, can you give me a few weeks before you make any changes? Thanks in advance!
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 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 …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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)
10/11 A. Newcomb (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