From Endurance to Dressage
Son of a bee-biscuit! This thing just will not heal. Izzy is sound, but the wound just will not epithelialize.
It started to show a bit of proud flesh, so over the weekend I scrubbed it good and hard and then re-bandaged it.
Close up already, dammit!
Before starting Tuesday's lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I told him about Izzy's rear and how I had worked through it all. I was a little surprised by the follow up questions Sean asked. In my mind, I had closed the case. I had worked worked through it, and that was the end of it. Not to Sean; he wanted to probe a bit deeper, and after answering all of his questions, he suspected that we have been packaging Izzy up too much, too soon. Remember, he had most of the summer off as he recovered from two different injuries.
To test his hypothesis, Sean had me work Izzy in a forward thinking canter. He also had me work to lower Izzy's neck from the withers, something I've never thought about in the canter before. I usually work to get him rounder to lift his back, but letting him lower his neck from the withers encourages more swing.
Nothing miraculous happened, but Izzy did stretch down and open his stride a bit. Cantering with an "open frame" did give me a very new feeling though. I could feel Izzy struggling to hold his balance in this new, longer frame, but he struggled in a good way. He didn't feel so "balled up." Sean warned me about doing too much of this work though as it would eventually dump Izzy onto his forehand.
The entire lesson went very well. When I first started riding with Sean two and a half years ago, we had about a 15 minute window where we could work on something new before Izzy's timer went off. These days, we can work for a solid 45 minutes without Izzy checking out or having a melt down. Instead of working on Izzy, Sean is able to work on me. Once he fixes what I am doing wrong, Izzy responds instantly. It's very motivating to know that I am the problem because that can be fixed.
Izzy might be complicated, but Sean has figured both him and me out.
For the past month or so, the ranch owner and I have fallen into a weekend trail riding routine. She's rebuilding some confidence, and I am finding it good motivation to take Speedy out for some fun. For the past two weeks, he had been an absolute stinker, and it seemed like it was a behavior pattern that was getting worse, not better. I decided that a third week of sassy bucking, kicking out, and flat out running through the bridle was not going to be acceptable. I pulled out his old Mikmar bit and dusted off my endurance headstall.
Speedy loved this bit the very first time I rode in it. It looks like a torture device, I know, but it has many great features. The mouthpiece is double jointed so it lays across the tongue without poking his palate. The mouthpiece is also shaped to allow his lips to rest comfortably on the bit. The roller keeps a busy horse busy, and with the three rein attachment options, you can use leverage, direct pull, or nose pressure. Despite not having worn the bit in at least 10 years, Speedy packed it around quite happily.
Before heading out on the trail, I decided to make him work a little in the arena first to remind him of the aids for steering and brakes. I didn't pussy foot around either. When he ignored my leg, I borrowed the ranch owner's whip and and tapped him a few times until he was smartly stepping away from my leg in both the walk and trot. My aid for a downward transition is a deep exhale. When Speedy trotted on like he hadn't heard me, I gave a quick jerk and release of the rein and sat him on his butt. It only took 2 or 3 reminders before I got quiet and prompt downward transitions. As a schoolmaster, Speedy's job is to take care of both beginners and riders looking to refine their aids. He doesn't get to ignore his rider.
After our quick lesson in manners, we headed out to the old golf course and cherry orchard. Speedy was much better behaved. We ended up circling around several different times making a sort of figure eight. As we were nearing the end of the ride. Speedy got a little sassy. Before he could do more than dance a little jig, I told the ranch owner that I needed a moment. She and Alli were perfectly happy to stand and watch Speedy get worked. Despite my annoyance that I needed to remind him again, it was actually pretty fun.
We were out on the old golf course which is mowed regularly and kept pretty green. While there are occasional holes, they're pretty easy to spot, so I like to use the little hills and woop-de-doos for cantering. Since Speedy was feeling so sassy, I did a half dozen or so flying changes which was great fun. I think it was the first time I had ever asked for changes outside of an arena setting. With so much room, I could circle and straighten anywhere without running out of space. After the changes, we did some simple changes through walk, and then I asked for another set of flying changes. By the time we were done, Speedy was breathing a bit and his neck was damp with sweat.
He walked home mostly well behaved. We might need to that again real soon!
I haven't done an update on Izzy's heel wound in a few weeks, so I thought it was time. It has been 59 days since he sliced himself open on who knows what. I quit wrapping it a couple of week ago, and I only took the bell boot off on Saturday. It seemed like the bell boot was keeping it kind of sweaty - it was a very thick bell boot, so I decided it should come off. A day or two later, the wound looked freshly oozy, so I put the darn thing back on.
It hasn't completely epithelialized yet, but I don't think there is anything else I can do for it other than keep it clean and as free of flies as possible. He has been sound for at least a month, and it doesn't seem to bother him in the least. He lets me scrub and pick at it pretty vigorously without complaint, so I am not worried.
When he de-gloved his hind leg the first week I got him - it's a very long story, and you can read about it here (you'll have to hit previous a bunch of times to get to the beginning.), I learned the meaning of the word patience. That wound got to the same point this one is at, and stayed there. That last little bit just. Would. Not. Close. My vet said there was probably the tiniest piece of something in there - a bit of bone, and it just took the time it took. This thing on his foot is doing the same thing.
Last week, one of my students sent me an email with words that I had sent her the year before, "Patience, grasshopper." I about died laughing when I read her message to me. She's got a great sense of humor and knew I needed a taste of my own medicine.
All I can say is patience, indeed.
Now that we're back to schooling flying changes, or at least the moments before the flying change, Izzy is once again feeling a good deal of anxiety. On Saturday morning, as I put him into a regular working canter during the warm up, he blew through my outside rein because he thought I was going to set him up for a change. When I put him back in position and asked for a right lead canter, he jumped up and then reared. I am not going to lie; I had a definite oh, crap! moment because he felt very close to falling backwards.
He hasn't reared in a number of years, so I took this expression of frustration very seriously. I spent 45 minutes exaggerating the bend - the "take-away" from last Tuesday's lesson. We did lots of 10- and 15-meter circles. When I could feel that he was ready for it, I gently straightened him and rode him forward into both reins. This is the moment that worries him because straightness is the step before the flying change.
Surprisingly, the rear and anxiety didn't bother me at all. In fact, I embraced the opportunity to work on our relationship. The whole time we worked, Izzy kept flicking his ears back at me asking me if everything was going to be okay. I reminded him that I got you, and that I was in control. He didn't need to worry about it. We finished the ride without further incident, but we still have work to do.
Which is perfectly okay because I have nothing but time.
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%: