From Endurance to Dressage
It has been a month since I've done an update on Speedy's junk, so here goes: On June 11th, Dr. Tolley wrapped Speedy's man parts in a sock in an effort to prevent flies from depositing habronema larvae in Speedy's urethra. You can read about it and see pictures here. That sock was the second attempt to thwart the flies. For the second go-round, Dr. Tolley also gave me a steroidal solution to swab over Speedy's urethra several times a day. That was five weeks ago today.
I am thrilled to report that Speedy's urethra is summer sore free. Some time during the two weeks that Speedy stayed at STC Dressage - Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer, took really good care of both boys, the summer sore cleared up and has stayed gone. And despite being completely gross and disgusting, the sock is still on!
I called the vet a week or two ago and asked if I should try to remove the sock or simply let it continue to ride around as is. Dr. Gonzalez, the other practicing vet at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital, advised me to let it be as it is still acting as a barrier against the flies. As gross as it is - it gets saturated with urine every time Speedy pees, the sock doesn't seem to bother Speedy at all. Sometimes I can see it hanging out, but most of the time, he retracts it within his sheath so that only a tiny portion of the sock is visible.
About every other day or so, I try to catch Speedy in a letting it all hang out moment so that I can check the condition of his urethra. Since it's tucked away in the sock, I have to roll the sock up so that I can get a clear view of things. He doesn't seem to mind the sock, but he does mind me poking around up in there. Thankfully, he is back to normal other than having his ding-a-ling wrapped up in a sweater.
I'll take a mare next time, please.
I had a lesson last Thursday with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. Taking lessons from a trainer who lives nearly three hours away has been a challenge, but it has been worth it. It might not look like we're making progress, but we are. In fact, on Thursday, the horse I had for the lesson was the same horse I ride at home. That is huge progress.
I wasn't the only one surprised by the horse who showed up; Izzy took Sean by surprise as well. In fact, Sean kept saying, "Nothing about this upsets me." Sure, Izzy had moments where he was hollow, braced, and reluctant to let his under-neck muscle go, but he wasn't running around like a crazy person either. Overall, he just motored around trying his best not to work too hard.
Since he was so rideable, Sean was able to work with us on more than just rounder, rounder, rounder. He had me steepen the leg yields, adjust my position in the half passes, and work on collecting Izzy in the canter for just a stride as we work to improve the simple changes. We also worked on the shoulder-in to renvers. That is definitely a work very much in progress.
Each time that I ride with Sean, he gives me little bits of homework like focussing on tempo and roundness. Over the past week, my homework was adjustability. Can I ask Izzy to sit for a just a stride or two? Can I ask for just a little more for a stride or two? Sean repeats over and over, "Ask him questions. Change the questions." And probably most importantly, he reminds me to trust Izzy and actually allow him to do the things I am asking for.
Izzy and I are on our way back down to STC Dressage this morning for another lesson and a show. Tomorrow we'll drive to El Sueño for a warm up ride, and on Saturday and Sunday we'll show tests 1 and 2 from Second Level. My goal is no 4.0s, but "J," one of Speedy's ladies, encouraged me to think about getting 7.0s instead.
Both strategies will raise my scores, so why not?
You might remember that I lost a bunch of a weight three years ago. You might have also noticed that I'm looking thicker around the middle lately. COVID was not kind to my waistline. Sitting at my computer for 10 -12 hours a day teaching via Google Meet and Zoom meant that I burned a lot fewer calories than I would have had I been up and about teaching in a traditional setting. Sitting wasn't the only culprit though; experiencing a higher degree of stress than normal provoked the desire to self-soothe with snacks. Lots of snacks.
The problem with losing and gaining weight is that it requires a whole new wardrobe. As I lost weight, various clothing items either went into storage or were donated. New items were then purchased. New breeches were something that I had to buy as most of mine wouldn't stay up the thinner I got. With this show season well under way, I had to admit that I needed a new pair of whites. My newest pair of show breeches are now two sizes too small, and no amount of sucking it in would make them fit.
Fortunately, I had saved all of my larger sized breeches, so I've been wearing those. One pair though is pretty old - I think I bought them in 2014. The other pair, the Ovation DX Celebrity Slim Secret Full Seat Breeches, are slightly newer and fit my thicker waistline. Even having been through several show seasons, they've held up well.
Besides white, I also own these breeches in gray and navy. I really like them. They're stretchy and quite comfortable. I liked them so well that last week I bought a new pair in white to replace the Horze breeches bought in 2014. Finding white breeches that are cool enough for our summer heat but not see-through is challenging enough, but when you also want them to be budget-friendly and easy to wash, you're almost asking the impossible.
The Ovation Celebrity breeches check all of my boxes: they fit, they're not see-through (unless you wear really dark colored undies), they're budget-friendly at $119.95 (less because I had a 15% off discount code), and they wash up pretty well. My old pair, the ones on the right, have been washed dozens of times.
Considering that the old pair has been worn and washed a bunch of times, they still look pretty good next to the brand new pair. While I am glad to have a new pair of breeches that look less dingy than my oldest pair, it still stings a bit to have to buy new ones just because the perfectly good ones are too small.
Thanks a lot, COVID. You're despicable for so many reasons.
I've written about this before, but since it's something I have to do about twice a year, I always figure someone new is reading who might benefit from the idea. I keep my horses at a private ranch, meaning it's not an actual boarding facility so there is no schedule for ring maintenance. That means if I want something done, I either ask if the handyman can do it, or I do it myself. Keeping up the arena falls to me.
We have firm footing in our arena which I like. It's loose enough that there is no pounding, but firm enough that we don't get deep spots. Reggie, the handyman, would be happy to drag it weekly for me, but I would have to dismantle my dressage court each week. Tearing it down isn't that hard, but setting it back up is a challenge, especially if I have to do it alone. This means the arena gets dragged about four times a year.
The court is comprised of PVC pipe, gardening poles, and various other wooden rails. I don't have the budget to buy a "real" dressage court, so I make my own letters. Since my court sits in the middle of the arena, I can't use letters that hang from the fence. Cones don't work either as it gets pretty windy here in the winter, and I've actually found my small cones hundreds of feet away - once they were actually down the block. I've always liked the letters that push into the ground with metal stakes, but I am afraid one of the horses will get a hoof stuck through the metal during a wild moment.
I don't own or rent the property either which means I need the ranch owner's approval before I build or leave something laying around that everyone is going to use. None of us liked the idea of using cinderblock for letters (see above), and no one wanted to build wooden boxes. Eventually, it was suggested that I use some kind of a jug filled with sand. That's how I ended up building a dressage court with water bottles. They don't blow over in the wind, they are cheap to buy and replace, and they're also very horse-friendly. No matter how many times they've been kicked, no horse has ever been injured.
At this point, with what water bottles cost and how frequently I need to replace them, I might have been able to purchase "real" letters had I done that from the beginning. The first time I made the letters, I spent about $15 on the bottles. Since then, I've had to redo them about every six months, but I use more than just a dozen $0.99 bottles. I also use a good amount of printer ink ($13.49 per cartridge) and a bunch of heavy duty packing tape ($8.04 a roll). I don't use the whole cartridge or roll of tape though, so maybe I am still ahead.
By now, I have the process down pat. I buy twelve, square, water bottles. I like this shape because it gives me four flat sides which I can position so they can be seen while coming down the long side or across the diagonal. I keep the packaging tape on hand for general use, and the letters themselves are saved as a PDF which I print as needed. After printing the letters, I cut them down to size so they fit on the water bottles.
I lay the bottles flat on their sides and then place the printed letters on top. I pull out a strip of tape and secure the center of the letter first, and then I continue adhering the tape to the bottles from the bottom to the top. We don't get much rain, so the worst of the damage is from the sun; the heat eventually dries out the tape which fails, and then the letters fall off.
The whole process takes me less than 30 minutes. Once I have all twelve finished and ready to go, I load them up and take them out to the arena. Every other time I've replaced the letters, I've carried them one or two at a time to their location. It was really hot when I did it last week, so I got smart and loaded the letters into a cart.
I even decided to work smarter by loading the letters in the order they would be placed so I wouldn't have to dig around to find the correct one. As I unloaded the new letter, I exchanged it for the old one, all of which were still full from the last time I changed them out. Usually, they've been kicked enough times that they've all sprung leaks so there isn't as much water in them. These were all full which made them heavy. In hindsight, I was glad I took the extra five minutes to get the cart to help me out.
These should last me until mid-winter. We're in yet another "exceptional" drought period, so they may last even longer. Maybe by then I'll spring for a fancier dressage court.
Anyone out there have an easier-to-maintain but just as cheap dressage court?
Back when I was endurance racing, I rarely wore gloves. When the weather was really cold or raining, then, and only then, did I wear gloves. Gloves were hot and tended to get very dirty. We frequently sponged the horses' necks with water from buckets, streams, or troughs, so gloves would have gotten dirty-wet which would have been very uncomfortable.
Besides being uncomfortable, gloves are something that are easy to drop and lose. As it was, I rode with so many other things attached to my saddle or myself that one more thing might have broken the camel's back.
My regular race day gear included (for the rider):
For the horse:
Those days are long past though, and today, I can't ride WITHOUT gloves. Even with gloves I fight callouses and rubs. At the last show we did, the skin on the ring finger on my left hand was throbbing. When Izzy gets locked in the neck and poll, I have to move the bit around in his mouth a lot which means a lot rein contact for me. Not only is there a lot of movement on my part, but Izzy jerks the rein, pulls, and generally tries to avoid contact. The skin and knuckle on my left hand pay the price.
With a new callous blistering and growing, I gave my beloved white Roeckl's a close examination and discovered they were looking much worse for wear than I had thought. They had gotten quite thin in places, especially between the pinky and ring finger. I school in a different pair of Roeckl gloves, but I replace my schooling gloves as needed. My show gloves had been on duty for more years than I can remember.
Last week, I ordered a new pair, but instead of Roeckls, I went with Noble Equestrian™ Ready-to-Ride Gloves because they have a reinforced area between both the pinky/ring finger and the thumb/pointer finger. They were cheaper than the Roeckl's which was a bonus, but I don't know if I will like them. They were supposed to be here last week, but they got lost somewhere in Chicago. Dover is sending another pair with the understanding that I'll return the first pair if they ever show up.
I am leaving for a show on Thursday, so the customer service rep said she would try to expedite the shipping. My fingers are crossed that they'll get here on time and that I like them. I am cringing at the thought of having to use my old pair again. My fingers are only just now recovering from the last show.
To say I have a hand in glove relationship with my gloves is true on several levels.
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