From Endurance to Dressage
17 Hands of Wonderful
I just lucked into the best situation!
Our barn neighbor, L, recently acquired the loveliest Oldenburg gelding. He's a bit of a senior (late teens), but he is trained to a T, and a lot of fun to ride.
L had been looking for a horse for a while; her old man is more than 30 years old. She recently found Austin, a jumper who needed a much easier job. L isn't interested in jumping big things so it was a perfect fit.
Austin is BIG, like 17 hands big, but he's so well trained that he doesn't use his powers for evil. And even though he is a bit of senior citizen, he still has a ton of spunk and personality. He's cranky in the cross ties - grooming, no thanks. That girth, it's too tight. He's also opinionated in the arena - There's a shadow over there, and since I feel good today, I will do a little buck.
L has been really busy right now and doesn't see an end to her crazy schedule anytime soon. She co-owns a very popular restaurant which means the holiday season is a busy time for her. We were chatting about it the other day, and I volunteered to help her out with the horses if she needed it. Since I am only riding one right now, I have some free time.
Before I knew it, we had hatched out a plan where I was to ride Austin for the next few weeks when I had free time. He doesn't need any schooling, he just needs to move to keep his joints lubricated and his soft tissue pliable and elastic. Those older guys get stiff pretty quickly, especially in the cold.
L ran me through his grooming and saddling preferences while I watched her tack him up. He hadn't been ridden in a week or so, but L assured me no lunging was necessary. I pulled the mounting block over and peered up at Mt. Everest. There would be no way I could mount this guy from the ground!
The first time I rode him, I felt so bad that I couldn't give him a good ride. I used a ton of leg, but I just couldn't get him to soften or move out. And when we tried to get a canter, he lurched into the gait with me pony club kicking him the whole way. L wasn't deterred by my poor riding. She told me to ride him as often as I had time for.
The next day, I saddled him and walked him back over to my arena. We did the same warm up as the day before, but for this ride, he was much perkier and almost immediately started offering a trot. I realized that the day before he had just been really stiff; it wasn't my riding that was problem.
I insisted that he walk however; there was no way he was going to tweak something on my watch! I wanted him to be thoroughly warmed up before we did too much trotting.
Once we did trot, I realized I was on a totally different horse. I didn't have to use any leg; he was already nicely forward. As we neared the shadowy corner, he sucked back and got a little light up in front. For a moment, I felt that sickening feeling in my stomach that I was about to be a passenger on a very large runaway freight train.
I did the only thing I knew, I rode him forward and protected the left side (he wanted to shoot left). All of a sudden, he shook his neck a little as if to say, yeah, I still got it, baby! and then he totted forward. Each time we came around to that spot, he tried to get a little uppity and bossy, but I kept my leg on and rode him forward. We circled through that spot a few times until he got bored with the show.
After the first oh crap! moment, I just laughed at his silliness. Riding this horse, even if only a few times, has already done a lot to boost my confidence. Every big horse is not set on my death or destruction. Riding him is certainly different from riding Speedy, who is fairly close to the ground. And even Sydney's 16 hand height doesn't compare to this dude's stature. Izzy is a solid 16' 3 (I used a measuring stick on him), so building some confidence on this sky scraper is just what I need!
Oh wow. This is so PERFECT for you! And what a sweet face!! After Sydney, and then only riding Speedy, I bet the prospect of riding another horse was pretty intimidating. Fabulous opportunity! Riding different horses has changed a lot about my riding, as I've been able to realize what works across the board with horses of all different types, and add those tools to my riding toolbox. I feel pretty comfortable on strange horses now, not something I always felt! :)
1/6/2015 01:18:33 am
CS suggests the seniors go from bends and yields at the walk directly to canter work. Much better for their joints.....if you just wanna take it under advisement...trot work will be better after canter warm up..
1/6/2015 09:24:29 pm
For the first days we only did a minute of cantering. He's really out of shape. I talked to my trainer on Monday, the same trainer L that uses, and she gave me a fitness schedule for him. Now that he's moving a little bit, she does want him to do more canter work - twice around my large arena in each direction as long as he's light in the bridle and not leaning on me. She also said it's fine that he picked the pace as long as he's soft and not falling on his forehand.
1/6/2015 01:59:55 am
How awesome for you!! This sounds like it's going to be a very fun (and useful) adventure for both you and L. And he's adorable too!!
1/6/2015 02:59:20 am
Aww, what a great situation! And love that cute cookie face!
1/6/2015 10:20:53 am
have fun! I just got my 5 year old home today/ He learned a lot but of cours, there is much more to do!!!!
1/7/2015 08:31:41 am
That is good luck!
1/8/2015 06:11:59 am
What a cutie he is!! And such a great situation for you both. :)
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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%: