From Endurance to Dressage
At least I think he's back. Two rides are probably not enough to say for sure. After three weeks of just hanging out, he finally seemed sound on Sunday afternoon.
This lameness happens about once a year in the fall. At least five years ago, I took him to one of California's premier equine hospitals, Alamo Pintado. After extensive tests, Dr. Carter Judy felt that it was either an injury to the collateral ligament or a deep bruise. My own vet confirmed those two options, while my farrier seems certain it's a bruise. Either way, the solution is the same - time off.
After many years of the same pattern, I think I finally have a reason for why it happens. During the summer, I am at the barn every day in the early morning. I am a teacher and have most of the summer off. Speedy knows my schedule and looks forward to my visits.
Once I go back to work in mid-August, I simply can't keep the same schedule. I try to be out there seven days a week, but it's just not possible. It takes a while for Speedy's anxiety to build, but eventually, it reaches a point where he can't contain himself. At the least little provocation, he paces and whirls. When his pasture buddy goes out, he screams and whirls until he comes back. If he runs out of hay in the afternoon, he paces until I get there.
In all of the pacing and whirling he does, he inevitably whacks his own front feet, usually the right one, and comes up lame. The soreness will be quite pronounced the first day, but over two to three weeks it simply fades away.
I've checked his soundness once a week. On Sunday, he finally felt even in his stride. I only rode for twenty minutes, but we did most of the walk and trot work from Second Level. Since he felt good enough for that, I asked for some walk to canter to walk transitions. And then, just because I could, I checked in on the flying change. There was a buck or two in the canter half pass (which could only be called such because we were cantering toward the rail but it was awful), but when I asked for the change, he gave it promptly.
My fingers are crossed that he really is sound and stays that way. I have all week to reassure him that life is still worth living and that he hasn't been forgotten. Arabians are just too darned attached to their people.
If I am frustrated and dejected with where Speedy and I are, I am on Cloud 9 with Izzy's progress. After nearly four years of work, Izzy has finally decided to join my team. My mom and her husband were here over the weekend and even she commented on how obvious it is that he loves me.
My mom is a generous soul. She knows how much I need to ride, so even though they had driven nearly the length of California over the past week, she happily agreed to sit on the mounting block and shoot pictures while I schooled Izzy.
As I rode, I described what I was working on. She loves horses and thinks dressage is pretty cool, but she doesn't yet recognize all of the movements. I am sure it didn't help that we weren't doing them spectacularly either. But even so, it helped her to know what I was at least trying to do.
Right now, my rides on Izzy are no longer about teaching him how to be a good equine citizen. I am now schooling most of the movements from Second Level and even some from Third. The more complicated the movement, the happier he is.
Most days, I can now school the walk pirouettes, the counter canter, and the trot half pass. He loves it all. The turn on the haunches still throws him for a bit of a loop, but if I start it big, he really starts to sit for the second or third stride, and suddenly it's a full pirouette.
The counter canter hasn't come easily, he loves to throw in a flying change, but he now understands it. I simply have to reassure him that I won't let him fall. As long as I have a solid hold on the "inside" shoulder and remind him to stand up on it, he relaxes into the counter canter and holds it easily. We can now do a full lap around around the arena without losing the lead. The flying change is next!
None of what we're doing is fantastic. His stride is still a bit short, but he's begging to stretch, and he is 100% with me. He doesn't check out anymore, and he wants to work. He's enjoying himself, and he genuinely likes what we're doing. I can't tell you how grateful I am that I stuck it out with him. There were many days that I wrote for sale ads with every intention of posting them.
Those days are gone; I've finally decided to keep him. Check back with me next week though. I am enjoying this version of him while it lasts!
I am not sure I can call myself a Third Level rider quite yet, but we are schooling the movements. Nor do I know everything, or even most things, or anything, really. But holy cow, schooling the movements in the level above where you've been working brings a whole new level of insight.
I hopped up on Izzy on Friday afternoon with a bit of a mission. It's been three months since I made the switch to the dressage legal bit, and it's time for the big brown horse to start toeing the line every ride every time. My chiropractor puts it this way: he's too old to have opinions. I always add, and if he has them, he can keep them to himself.
My plan was to get on, get it done, and get off. You know horses though; nothing is ever that simple. Right off the bat he started thinking his own thoughts and then decided to tell me about them. Really loudly. How many times can you jerk the right rein as you yell, let (jerk) go (jerk) of (jerk) the (jerk) freaking (except I said it the other way) rein (jerk, jerk jerk, jerk!). The answer to that question is about 972, or until you're panting and out of breath. It took a minute for all that jerking to settle in, but he finally realized his butt was in a boatload of trouble at which time he thought it prudent to keep his opinions to himself.
And then we got some great work done!
Somewhere doing the ride I decided to work on canter transitions which slowly morphed into canter transitions with changes of direction. And suddenly I found myself riding the serpentine from Second Level Test 1 where you do a simple change over the center line and canter on the new lead. Instead of a simple change through walk, we did a change of lead through trot.
They started out a bit abrupt, but suddenly, I heard, first, change the bend to get him on your new outside rein which sets him up for the change of lead. All those months and years of riding Training Level and First Level I could NEVER remember to do that before the change from canter to trot to canter at X. Now I know why those movements are where they are. And more importantly, I now understand what to do to get a better transition. Thank you, Second Level.
Once I was fixing the bend - oh, and by the way, I've determined that Second Level's goal is to teach slow witted riders like myself how to bend their horses; he immediately figured out what I was going to ask for and started offering a baby walk to canter.
This whole dressage thing would be so much easier if we all got to ride a Grand Prix horse at the GP level. Then we'd go down from there. By the time we got to Training Level, we'd KNOW why we we're doing what we're doing.
It's really all so very simple (said no one ever). I can't wait until Fourth Level because then I'll totally understand what I was supposed to be doing at Third!
Speedy and I had a great first season at Second Level. We earned some low scores, we earned some middle of the road scores, and we cleaned up in the awards category. This season, we managed to earn:
I hoped with fingers crossed I'd get it this first year at Second Level, but I didn't really believe it would happen. Second Level had always seemed so intimidating. People tell horror stories of being stuck in its clutches season after season. Somehow, we actually didn't suck all of the time which allowed us to get the scores we needed.
My plan is to be ready for at least test one of Third Level by this spring, but I am not too proud to keep working at Second if we're not quite ready for Third. Second is a foundational level for sure, and getting better at it won't hurt our (eventual) Third Level scores.
But for now, In your face, Second Level!
After I saw all of the scores for Sunday's show, I realized my test 3 score, 61.829%, wasn't too shabby. For Training Level through Intermediate (only one of those) there were fifteen scores lower than 60% and only twelve scores above 60%. The high score was 69% by an open rider. The three Introductory Level tests earned 66%, 64%, and 67%.
I either rode this test better, or the judge felt sorry for me. We had no 4.0s. There was still a smattering of 5.0s though - one for our travers left and another for the rein back. Speedy only gave me two and a half steps before he rocked forward. I knew trying to fix it would create more problems, so I let it go and took the 5.0. We also earned a 5.0 for our final halt. Since I am now getting more energy, he quit wanting to actually halt.
The rest of the test was filled with a solid string of 6.0s (twelve of them), some 6.5s (seven of them), and even four 7.0s (for our walk work and a downward transition to collected trot). It's amazing how a few 5.0s can do more damage than the 7.0s with a double coefficient can help. How is that?!
I am not disappointed with our overall score. We definitely have some issues that we need to address before next year, but all in all, I think Speedy and I are certainly headed in the right direction.
Here's the video. You be the judge.
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 …
9/20 TMC (c)
10/11 TMC (*)
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)
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