From Endurance to Dressage
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.
While Izzy is getting a day or three to rest up, I've been watching a Pivo video I shot on Sunday. There are a few things I saw that gave me pause - some good, and some not so good.
The first is that it does look as though I am at least occasionally restricting his neck. While I am riding though, it doesn't feel like it. If I give him more rein, his head shoots up or he runs off. When he's trying to run through my rein or be a giraffe, I flex him to the inside and push him sideways until he relaxes his neck and carries himself. It's easier to "talk" to him on a circle. It's much more difficult on the straight ahead moments, especially the medium trot. I am so eager to give him the rein that I hold them so lightly that he occasionally jerks them free. This is definitely something that I need to figure out: how to give him more room without riding a giraffe.
Besides the restricting thing, there are lots of things that I am really pleased with, and they all have to do with the walk. It was in the walk that we lost a lot of points at our last show. When Izzy is tense and bouncing off the walls, he jigs. Riding him is so different from riding Speedy who LOVES to walk. He always saw the free and extended walks as an opportunity to stretch his neck and catch his breath. Izzy hasn't quite figured that out yet.
Over the past week, I've been focusing on the walk. When he jigs, I compress the walk until he almost halts, and then I let him back out. Collect and lengthen, collect and lengthen ... just like you would do at the trot or canter. I am also focusing on the cues for the free walk. I want him to know that the free walk is a "thing." As we come through the corner, I straighten him by aligning his hips and shoulders, and then I purposefully send him forward with a squeeze from both legs as I let the reins slide through my fingers. We'll see if it helps this weekend.
Another movement that is hugely improved is the rein-back. Two months ago, he couldn't do one. He would scramble backwards with his head in the air and his back hollow. It took a few rides, but he quickly learned what I wanted. I started with asking for only one step and then praising him hugely when he gave it. We did that for several days until he would take one crisp step backwards and halt squarely. Then I added a second step and a third and a fourth. He now backs very purposefully, but his back has been tight. This past week, I worked on getting him really soft and round and then maintaining that during the rein-back. I am learning that with Izzy, the smaller my cue, the happier he is, so now I am asking for the rein-back with the littlest bit of rein possible.
Along with the free walk and rein-back, his turns on the haunches are also getting so much better. For a while, he was just stuck and couldn't move. During that clinic I did with Amelia Newcomb, I showed her what I meant by getting stuck, and she "fixed" the problem in less than 30 seconds. I had been focusing on the hind end, when what I should have been doing was bringing his shoulders around. With Speedy, I had to really keep control of his haunches, or I lost them as they would shoot out to the side. So that's how I learned to ride a turn on the haunches.
Izzy doesn't have the problem of wayward haunches in this movement, so I was unintentionally planting his feet so he couldn't move. Amelia had me think about bringing the shoulders around with an open inside rein. Immediately, he swung around his haunches like a pro. Over the past week, I've been building on that new learning and helping him to bring his shoulders around with a soft neck and loose back.
I just keep reminding myself that we only need to make everything just one point better. It doesn't have to be perfect.
One point is all we need.
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.
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 …
3/6-7 El Sueño (***)
4/17-18 El Sueño (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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