From Endurance to Dressage
Imperioso is his registered name, but his barn name is Izzy. I also frequently refer to him as the Big Brown Horse because he's both big and well ... brown. Brown is not usually an official horse color, but in Izzy's case, that's the color his registry, Rheinland Pfalz-Saar International (RPSI), recognizes. Specifically, dunklebraun - dark brown. Even though I call him brown, he is really just a dark bay. While I had him tested for the cream dilution gene a while back - it came back negative, I should do it again but test for something else.
Each fall and spring, as his new coat comes in, it is nearly black. He's not yet as dark as he will eventually get, but I love the coat color he gets after summer. While Speedy's coat used to go through some interesting changes, he's mostly white now. Even the flea bitten areas are getting fewer and fewer.
I've always loved horses of color - roans, pintos palominos, buckskins, dapple greys. You would think a brown horse would be the least interesting coat color, but the opposite is true. Izzy's coat changes colors all year long. Since he didn't lighten nearly as much this summer as in the past, I wonder if he will darken as much as usual this winter.
Light brown or dark brown, he's still just a Big Brown Horse. I think I'll keep him.
I am pretty sure I've never told you this story ...
One of my all time favorite snacks is potato chips. I love them all: Ruffles, Pringles, Lay's, Doritos, and especially Cheetos. I really, really like Cheetos. Back when I was still endurance racing, the one big treat that I always gave myself was a bag of chips for the drive home. After riding 50 or 100 miles, I was always starving and depleted of electrolytes, and chips just hit the spot.
Many years of chips in Blue Truck after an endurance race passed. Eventually, I quit endurance riding and made the transition to dressage. As it turned out, two days of showing had the same effect; I was also hot, tired, and feeling the need to munch on chips on the drive home, so the tradition of a bag of Cheetos or Lay's continued.
After 17 or 18 years of eating chips on the way home from an equine-filled weekend, I discovered that I had a very bad habit. It was funny enough that I had to tell my frequent traveling partner about it. Kathy, who has been my endurance partner, moral support for Izzy, and Pivo holder extraordinaire, often came with me as I traveled with my horses and those bags of chips. I think I was cleaning my truck one day when I noticed that the entire corner of my seat, next to the center console, was COVERED with an orange stain. I realized that while eating chips for all of those years, I had been wiping the grease off my fingers on the corner of Blue Truck's seat.
Earlier this week, Kathy tagged me in a Facebook post with the meme above. Come to think of it, I never checked HER side of the truck. She ate as many Cheetos as I did. When I bought Newt, I broke that habit. Now, whenever Kathy and I travel, she checks my seat for the tell-tale sign of orange, and we laugh all the way home, munching on our bag of chips.
Orange is still the color of truth.
On Friday morning, Izzy tried to give himself a concussion. Or maybe just a black eye. I spent a hot minute Googling whether horses can be concussed and discovered that yes, they can experience concussion, but traumatic brain injury is quite uncommon. Interested in the topic? Check out this article by Equus. TBI or not, Izzy did take quite a blow to his noggin.
We all know that Izzy is an ask questions later kind of guy. He doesn't always think his decisions through very clearly, and on occasion, he has been known to make questionable life choices. Friday was one of those moments. As I've done on more than one occasion, I climbed into Izzy's feeder to clean out some weedy hay and other leftovers. He came over to assist, nibbling at my neck and grabbing onto my shirt tails. When he got tired of me, he walked over to the gate, ready to go play. When I climbed out of the feed bin, I smacked my hands together as I beat off the dust.
Whether it was the clapping noise my hands made or something else all together, Izzy whirled and bolted straight through his shelter. I am not sure how he missed me in his flight of terror, but thankfully, I walked away unscathed. He did not. As he charged between the two poles, he threw his head up and whacked himself right between the eyes on the bottom edge of the cross bar that supports the roof.
I heard a loud clang followed by stampeding hooves. To say I was a bit startled would be an understatement. After cringing, I blew out an exasperated breath. Now what? If isn't ten things, it's another 4,876. I watched as Izzy threw an out and out fit. He bucked. He stomped his feet. He threw himself to the ground rolling vigorously. If I didn't know any better, I'd have thought conking his melon caused him to colic.
When he seemed a little more quiet - no sense in both of us having a near death experience, I walked up to him to try and check him out. Izzy loves to nuzzle and gently lip me, but his nips tried to become well-aimed bites. I gave his nose a quick smack out of self defense which sent him off on another bucking fit. I decided he needed a few minutes on his own for my safety if no one else's.
The ranch owner and I stood outside the fence next to the barn watching him. She didn't want me going anywhere near him as he seemed almost dangerous. I agreed. Within just a few minutes though, I could see that he was settling down. When I went and put his halter on, he hung his head rather sheepishly. I pulled off his fly mask and saw a very thin scratch right between his eyes. It wasn't even bleeding. I was worried that he would develop a huge goose egg, but he never did.
I walked him out onto the lawn where he enthusiastically began to chomp grass. I pulled out my cell phone and gave CC, Izzy's body worker, a quick call to explain what had happened. As I knew he would, CC explained that looking at him right after an incident wouldn't be wise. If there were to be any swelling or trauma, we would need to let it subside first before trying to do an adjustment. CC said he'd come down on Tuesday to look Izzy over.
In the meantime, he suggested I ride the next day to see what we had which I did. I had a lesson on Saturday and explained to Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, what had happened so that he would be prepared if my ride went south suddenly. Other than being mindful that Izzy might be a bit sore, we were able to do a regular lesson. I rode him again on both Sunday and Monday, and he was quiet and workmanlike.
As promised, CC came out on Tuesday. The visit took all of ten minutes, and most of it was spent telling CC what had happened. Izzy was actually in great shape, he needed just a bit of work at his C7 and one or two ribs, but those are his regular spots, so we weren't concerned. Considering he whacked his head squarely in the middle of his forehead while bolting, I am grateful that he's no worse for wear.
If you wanted to hear bells ringing, horse, you could have just asked.
Back in 2020, I sent a sample of Izzy's mane to UC Davis's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory to see if he carried the cream dilution gene. The report came back negative, which really wasn't a surprise, but I wanted to know for sure. I've written about this tons of times before, but Izzy has a wildly varied coat throughout the year. In early winter he is nearly black, but by summer he's what many might call a buckskin.
We are in full summer here in the Central Valley, and Izzy's coat has already started its summer change. Interestingly, this year his coat is fading very quickly in the areas underneath his tack. This is a new system of fading. Normally, he fades all over his body at the same time. In the photo below, you can see that he is fading under his saddle pad and girth.
I have been hosing him off after every ride whether he sweats or not. Salt will definitely cause fading of the coat, but it is even more pronounced this year than I have ever seen it. He's even going " tan" under his headstall. In the photo below, the lighter coat is really obvious behind his ears where his headstall rests.
A few people have expressed concern that Izzy is experiencing a vitamin and mineral deficiency, but my vet doesn't think so. Izzy is fed high quality grass hay, beet pulp, rice bran, milled flax seed, a quality vitamin and mineral supplement, and he has access to a salt block (which he ignores). He also grazes most days for 30 to 45 minutes on fresh grass. I am not worried about any deficiencies.
Each summer, his coat changes to a color that was different from the year before. Sometimes he goes very light, other times, he has developed what I think are Bend Or spots (named after the stallion, Bend Or). I can't wait to see what his coat does this summer.
All I care about is that he not scratch holes in himself as he itches away the gnats and flies.
So besides what was going on with my truck's glow plugs and my checkbook, the past two weeks threw me a few other curve balls. The first falls under the category of TMI, and actually, so does the other.
A month or so ago I started having those little moments where when you laugh too hard you think, OMG, I almost peed myself. Then I started having the same issue when I picked up something heavy or even tried to pry the lid off a jar. And once, I think I did pee myself if only just a little bit. Finally, I realized that almost peeing yourself is not necessarily a sign of old age, so I went to the doctor. If you have two X chromosomes, you know that no girl has time for a UTI, but she has even less time to see a doctor for a UTI. Anyhoo, no amount of crossing my legs and squeezing them tight was making things right, so cranberry juice and antibiotics joined my daily list of things to do or take.
So yeah, I had that going on, but then because things run in 56s - 3 would just be way, way too simple, I had this weird bump on my lower back that the doctor insisted required surgery. Oh, for the love of all that's holy. After numerous phone calls and visits to a surgeon, the date was set - a week ago last Monday. If life is going to suck, you might as just have all of the sucky moments piled into one week so that you get it all over faster.
Of course, during the consultation with the surgeon the week before surgery, I asked if I would be able to return to work the day of the surgery. He gave me an is she stupid? look and replied that I would be going under general anesthesia and wouldn't be allowed to drive a car much less go back to work. Oh. When I asked if I could at least resume my "normal" activity the day after, he said of course. HAHAHA. Seriously, doctors should be required to ask each patient if she rides horses because my normal and his normal were probably not the same thing.
Surgery was supposed to be in the morning, but then it got moved to the afternoon which really stunk because I had to fast for eight hours. That's easy to do when your fasting hours are during the middle of night. With a 1:00 p.m. surgery, I had to fast through breakfast and lunch which also meant no liquids including water. Since I couldn't be near food or water, what else was there to do but ride right before my surgery? I see you all nodding your heads. Made sense to me too.
The joke was on me though. My surgery ran late which meant I sat naked in an open backed gown in a plastic chair for more than four hours waiting my turn. By the time I came out of surgery and got home, it was well past dinner time. I realized there was no way I was going to be recovered enough to drive to work the next day, much less ride. It's not like I am a cry baby or anything, but even though I only have three stitches, they're huge and even bending over to put my shoes on feels like my skin is about to pop open.
By Friday afternoon, I was determined to ride. My inside parts seemed to be keeping it together, and since I had a lesson on the next morning, I figured I had better make sure I could make it through a short ride before tackling a lesson. When I got to the ranch, I saw a cloud of dust hovering over my boys' paddocks. I looked over to see what the commotion was and laughed at their antics. Both boys were galloping around, rearing, bucking, and generally having one heck of a good time.
I decided to piddle around a few minutes to let them get their wiggles out, and before I knew it, an hour had passed. They just did not let up. Both of them were a gross sweaty mess. I have no idea what had gotten into them, but I wisely decided to skip the ride. If Izzy had that much energy, I thought it safer for the longevity of my stitches to not get tossed around like a rag doll. Fortunately, I felt even better the next morning, and never gave the stitches another thought. I don't go in to get them removed until a week from Friday.
Hopefully, they stay in.
Between peeing every five minutes and trying to keep my skin sutured closed, I feel like a water balloon that has sprung a leak.
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 the lower levels. 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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: