From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy really is a good boy. He's super friendly, travels well, has good manners, and is willing to try whatever I point him at.
He's kind of opinionated, and he can get lazy if he thinks what he's doing is w-o-r-k (a dirty word in his not-so-humble opinion).
For the most part, a little laziness means an easy ride. I don't have to be super vigilant when I ride Speedy. While he does buck, bolt, and kick out when he's pressed to work, he's relatively little, and I know him so well that his woo-hoo moments are but tiny blips on the radar.
I was just complaining the other day that we might not get to show at Second Level as soon as I was hoping. That didn't sit well with me. I have a very athletic and talented horse. I am a good rider. What's the problem?
That's when I got to thinking back on something Chemaine said to me recently: better scores will come when I can ride Speedy on the edge of just being out of control. Interestingly, lazy horses are not typically teetering on the brink of chaos. Huh.
With that in mind, I've changed up my riding routine a little bit. Instead of trying to ride both boys on every day that I don't work, I am riding one horse a day. This has solved all kinds of issues. First of all, I am not so worn out every weekend. It also gives me more time to focus on that day's one ride. I can spend longer warming up and cooling down.
Speedy isn't a fan of getting ridden day after day anyway. He's much happier with a workload of three to four days a week. He subscribes to the less is more philosophy of life. I also think Izzy is at a point in his training where a work day followed by a thinking/turnout day is doing good things for his brain.
I know I am taking forever to get to the point of A Little Ugly, but here it is. By only having one ride to focus on without the need to hurry up and get through it, I've been able to get Speedy's butt in gear. And let me tell you, there has been more than a little ugly to make it happen.
Since I have more time to spend on my rides, I've been taking longer in my warm-up. Speedy is feeling much more supple through his neck and poll, especially to the left. He likes the warm up phase. We do a lot of walking that includes flexing left and right combined with leg yields.
For the first minute of trot work, he's allowed to go as low as he wants. He gets two laps, once each direction, to drag his nose on the ground. This is not a stretchy trot - this is a fake stretch, but since he enjoys it and it gets him moving, I let him. When I feel like he's ready to shorten his frame and start to carry a little more weight behind, the ugly begins.
His go-to is to fling his head and hop forward into the trot as he tries to leave his hind end out of the conversation. With my new focus on MORE and trying to find that precipice of chaos, I've realized that by letting Speedy be lazy, I've let him think it is a-okay to let the hind end do whatever it wants. Now that I am changing the rules, Speedy is starting to get pissed off. I LOVE pissed off Speedy because that horse has ENERGY.
I have realized that I have legs with feet and spurs attached. When he starts to get funky in front - flinging his head and trying to run into the trot, rather than drop him per my usual, I now HALF HALT and USE MY SPUR. And the whip. The whip has become my new best friend, my precious if you will.
This weekend, Speedy and I had a fabulous battle over whether I get to use the whip. He kicked, and I whacked. He kicked again, and I double whacked. In fact, I just kept whacking (gently) until he quit kicking and started to do a turn on the forehand.
And you know what happened after that? I got an awesome, forward, uphill trot! Boom.
So. For right now, the trot doesn't have to be big, although we have been playing around quite successfully with lots of transitions within the gait. The trot does have to come from the hind end though, and I am finally seeing how to keep that energy from leaking out to the side or fizzling out in front of us. This is how we'll start to collect enough for Second Level.
Tough love might be ugly, but it is very effective! Today's a Speedy day by the way, and I am really looking forward to our ride!
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%: