From Endurance to Dressage
Chemaine said something at our lesson that got my attention. I didn't think much of it at the time, but later, I really had to stop and ponder what she meant. What she said was this: you buy into his tension.
When she said it, my first thought was well yeah ... he's tense! Even as that thought crossed my mind though, I had this vague feeling that she was telling me something I needed to reconsider. Have I let Izzy convince me that he is a tense, anxious horse? Am I seeing something that really isn't a "thing"? Because the reality is, he's not an anxious horse. He's a friendly dork that loves to play and goof off.
I am constantly amazed at the new games he creates for himself. He recently started climbing into his feed tub. When Laurel fed the other day, he refused to move so she was forced to dump his cubes practically on his head. That doesn't strike me as a "tense" horse.
He loves his barrel. He drags it around, stands it up, knocks it down, and gives it a kick now and then. IL, who was filling in for my vacationing barn owner, told me that he rolled the barrel over to her and then gave a look of pure joy when she rolled it back to him. That still doesn't seem like something an anxious horse would do.
Picking the short straw means you have to fill Izzy's sizable water trough. It takes forever because you have to stand there, holding the hose as far away from the fence as possible. If you walk away for even one second while it's filling, he'll have the hose by its throat as he flings it around. The best way to do it is to kick him out of his stall and paddock so that the hose can just do its job unmolested. Again, these are not the behaviors of a tense and anxious horse.
I've had two rides on Izzy since Tuesday's lesson. For the first, JL had to bring a student down to our arena to work. Normally, Izzy would have been driven to distraction by the company and would have been completely unfocused. The second time I rode, the gardener had arrived and was mowing and weed-whacking near the arena fence. This too is always a recipe for tension, bolting, and spooking.
For those two rides, I changed my thinking from I have a tense horse to I have an easily distracted horse. So instead of letting him gawk and look around, I shortened my reins and put him straight to work. I imagined that I was putting him into a small box as I compressed his frame and packed him up. He responded immediately, and his relief was almost palpable. He was more than happy to let me take over and make the decisions for him.
We enjoyed two very successful rides in situations that I normally would have considered "ride ruiners." By changing the way I looked at him, I realized that Izzy doesn't have a problem; I just need to ride him differently. And I did.
It's hard to ride with my reins so "short," but really, my reins aren't short. They just feel like they're "Rollkur short" because I've let them be too long in an effort to get Izzy to go long and low.
I don't have a tense horse. I have a horse who needs more frequent input and redirection. As I get more competent at keeping his mind engaged, we'll have better rides. Just this week he has already shown me that's how he needs to be ridden, and boy was it fun!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: