From Endurance to Dressage
No, not that kind, although it would be nice. The kind of firsts I am talking about have to do with the big brown horse, but they have nothing to do with competition.
When I first started riding with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, he used to say that we would eventually crack through Izzy's tough veneer. I was skeptical, but every once in a while we would see a new crack. I haven't heard Sean use that expression in at least six months, probably more. While Izzy is still a challenge, I think Sean has finally delivered. Izzy is a completely different horse these days.
First of all, there was the poop pile incident where Izzy calmly took off on his own to go exploring. In the more than six years that he has lived at the ranch he has always been way too nervous to leave the safety of the other horses. It was a long time before he was willing to graze the lawn right in front of the other horses without bolting to stand as close to Speedy as possible. In the last few months, I've seen him wandering farther and farther without worrying that he's alone. And then last week, he did two brand new things that Speedy learned long ago.
The first thing Izzy did that seemed to come from out of the blue was that he put himself away as I was finishing up for the day. For a long time I have turned Speedy out in the yard knowing that once he was finished grazing and visiting, he would find his own way back into his paddock. Speedy learned early on that going back inside meant that his lunch bucket was on the way, so he frequently put himself away early in hopes that doing so might bring forth his goodies sooner. It often worked.
In an effort to train Izzy to do the same thing, I started to turn him loose but made a lot of noise emptying his lunch into his feeder. When it is time to put him away, I make sure that his lunch is always waiting for him. To my surprise, he finally took the bait last week. As I was finishing up with Speedy, I glanced over to Izzy's paddock and saw him happily slurping up his lunch.
After lots of treats and candies, Speedy long ago learned that the tack room/feed room was a very good place to be. He has learned the trick so well that I have to be very careful to shut the door when I am not around, or I'll find him nosing his way through bags of feed and treats. Speedy is still a pretty sensitive horse though so I don't trust him completely. It wouldn't take much to spook him while he is nosing through things, and that could be disastrous if he panicked. The rule used to be no front feet across the threshold. Eventually he blew past that so the rule was changed to keep at least one foot outside. He no longer follows that rule as he now crosses the threshold with all four hooves. Tail OUT is the new rule.
Last week I forgot to change from my muck books to my tall boots for riding, so like I've done many times before, I parked Izzy in front of the door while I raced in to grab my boots. Every time I do that, I always come out with treats or peppermint candies to reward him for not running off. On Friday, after having turned him loose while I did my chores, I glanced up to see him looking at me expectantly at the door. I was shocked but very happy to see him. We've been playing a lot of games together in the arena in an attempt to teach him to come looking for me. I think the games are finally working.
These might seem like minor firsts, but for Izzy, they are huge signs of a willingness to work with me. They're not blue firsts, but they're just as beautiful.
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%: