From Endurance to Dressage
A Lesson in Listening
More than one person has suggested that I move Izzy on to somewhere else. Someplace far, far away. It's been four years, and he's still not any closer to a show ring than he was back then. I get it; he's not everyone's flavor, and sometimes even I get sick of his shenanigans. But then I get a few moments of this.
Of course, this took 30 minutes to achieve and only after about a million half halts followed by a good hand gallop. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been infinitely patient and creative with team Izzy a Complete Lunatic? She shows up every time ready to school whichever horse I've got that day. Usually it's a horse with a very short attention span jacked up on Mountain Dew.
Sunday was no exception. Izzy was tense and spooky and generally just refusing to focus and do what was asked. The interesting thing was that Chemaine had watched him on the lunge line while he trotted around in a perfect circle never spooking once. I think it's the first time she'd seen him lunged. It gave her some ideas about how to deal with the spooking under saddle.
Since I had some cavalletti poles set up, Chemaine had me work on shortening and lengthening his stride over the poles. We also had a lot puddles that we used for the same idea. The purpose was to collect his stride, forcing him to step up and over - sort of like a manual half halt. The puddles and poles also forced him to keep an eye on where he was going. He hates stepping on the poles.
Collecting and lengthening one's stride will only get you so far though. The photo above illustrates that. I know it's long and it's not exciting, but Chemaine shot some video of that part of the lesson. Essentially, it was lengthen his stride, shorten his stride, repeat, repeat, repeat.
After this part of the video, we moved on to deal with his jackassery. He was quiet and listening on the lunge line, but somewhere during the first 15 minutes of the lesson, he decided that the far end of the arena was a very spooky place to be. And then he proceeded to do everything possible to avoid heading that direction.
Chemaine's advice was to over ride him. I know that sounds weird, but I knew exactly what she meant. I pushed his butt forward, and every time he got balky, silly, or heavy, I pushed him to a bigger stride. Pretty soon we were hustling around that arena. With poles here and there and big puddles scattered around, Izzy suddenly found himself needing to redirect his attention stat.
As we zoomed around, Chemaine encouraged me to be louder and more obnoxious with my aids in an effort to be more distracting than the distractions. In the past, I wasn't able to be so loud with my aids because that was a sure way to get a melt down. But as Izzy gets more educated, he is able to keep it together - mostly. And when he's truly in front of my leg, he can handle a lot more pressure because he's thinking forward.
Eventually, I bumped it up to a canter and let him get it all out. With my night classes, heavy rain, and needing to bandage Speedy, he hadn't been ridden in more than a week, so I was pleased with how much he let me try to put him together. In the next video, we've just finished a good hand gallop, but you can see that his back is looser and he's offering a more energetic stride.
This horse will never be a finished show horse, and he'll never be easy to ride, but if you can hang on, you can get some really good moments from him that are fun to ride.
Yeah. kind of like that.
I too (if I understand correctly) like the difficult horse with the glimmers of awesomeness scattered sporadically around. It's kinda cool to work so hard, for so long, on the same thing and to finally get to see the sparkle of the diamond that (may, hopefully, please God) exist underneath it all!
3/22/2019 05:30:23 am
I like a project for sure. There are frustrating days (weeks, months, years LOL), but when they get it, it's a lot of fun!
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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%: