From Endurance to Dressage
A Round Peg in a Square Hole
Yeah, I know that's not quite how it's supposed to go, but that's what I've got - a square where I need a circle.
Let me back up a bit. On Saturday, I took Speedy on the first of what will become many hand walks. If you missed that post, find it here. Izzy cried and cried and then cried some more. He cried for thirty solid minutes. A little boohooing is okay, but after that it's just a 1,200 pound six-year old throwing a temper tantrum.
Izzy has been with me for than a month now, and he has seen Speedy come and go. I am okay with a few tears as we walk away, but after thirty minutes, it's just rude. I don't do rude; my boys are expected to behave themselves, so I walked Speedy over to the trailer and left him tied up while I went and dealt with my fussing Zweibrücker.
I armed myself with my NH "stick and string" (mine is a generic model that cost me around $10.00 a few years ago) and the patience to stand there all day using it. I sent Izzy out of his stall and into the paddock and then closed the gate. My barn owner had the foresight to include a gate so that the inside could be separated from the outside - good thinking on her part.
With the gate closed, I effectively created a square "round pen." It's not very big at 24 feet by 24 feet, but the footing is good, and there's nowhere to run. I planted myself in the middle and sent Izzy forward.
Since he's on a diet of reduced exercise due to a healing wound, I could only ask for a walk, but that was fine as my purpose was just to get his attention and put him to work when I lost it. I was actually quite pleased at his response; this horse has some knowledge of how to behave in a round pen, even when it's a square.
When he tried to trot off, I stepped in front of his shoulder, raised my stick off the ground just slightly in front of him, and told him to walk. And surprisingly, he did. When he was walking, I kept my body language quiet and my stick lowered to the ground. The instant he whinnied, I got loud with my body and snapped the string to ask for a quick change of direction, and then another and another. And then I got soft and quiet and asked him to walk on.
As long as he was walking and not whinnying, I was quiet and simply kept him walking forward. After two or three quiet laps, I stepped in front of his shoulder, pointed in the opposite direction, and tapped my stick as firmly as needed for a change of direction.
I worked him for about twenty minutes. He had to do a few rapid changes of direction, but he definitely started thinking about what was happening to him. It didn't take long for him to start licking and chewing and lowering his head. Even so, he was pretty sweaty and foamy before we were through.
Several times during our work, I was able to get him to stop and face me. I used the stick to scratch him and flick the rope end over his neck and back. He never totally gave up on longing for Speedy's return, but it was only day one of this exercise, and frankly, I was really impressed with how sensible he was.
Tying Izzy to the trailer didn't turn out to be much of a stretch for him. Taking Speedy away is definitely more worrisome, so that's where my schooling work will now be focused. I may not have a round pen, but I am pretty good at fitting mismatched pieces together. Round or not, my "square" pen will get the job done!
2/18/2015 08:30:50 am
It turns out that he really likes round pen games. I've already started getting on and off of him bareback with a halter. :0)
I get lulled into a sense of security when I only ride or work Dassah in the safe confines of her "safety bubble" - it's so easy not to want to stress her and have a "nice" ride when instead, in order to make any true progress and growth, I have to address stressors. Those are: working outside when the neighbors are flying their model airplanes, leaving her pasture-mates, continuing to work when other horses leave the arena, etc... Time to get out my handy stick and help us grow up. :)
2/18/2015 08:33:29 am
I don't follow the natural horsemanship thing exactly, but I do have a lot of respect for Clinton Anderson's exercises. He advocates finding a horse's sensitive areas and then going for it. If they don't want to be touched on the ears, touch them like crazy. If they don't like to be separated, separate them. I have a pretty OCD type of personality so when I find a sensitive area, I am COMPELLED to pick at it. Poor Izzy is going to get left alone A LOT! :0)
2/18/2015 08:34:06 am
Thanks, I am a bit of a Macgyver at heart. ;0)
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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%: