From Endurance to Dressage
We Didn't Die
Like always, I woke just before dawn. I dressed quickly, and headed out to get Izzy. After talking to Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, I had a better plan for day two. Phase one included lunging the heck out of Izzy so that he could get rid of his nervous energy. Doing that under saddle in the warm up ring would have likely interfered with everyone else's warm up. There's no reason every one else should have to suffer.
The lunge line I take to shows is a super long cotton rope. It's a good twenty-five feet long - long enough to really let Izzy run, and it's easy to keep a solid grip on the line. I started the timer on my watch, and sent him forward. He giraffed his neck at a huge trot for five solid minutes. I stopped him, sent him the other way, and watched him do the same thing for another five minutes. I stopped him again and repeated the process at the canter for another five minutes each way. By then, he was pretty sweaty and huffing, but he wasn't ready to stop. For the last ten minutes, I had him trot, canter, trot, walk, changing directions several times.When my timer read thirty minutes, I took him down to the wash rack and hosed off as much of the sweat as I could; it was still pretty cold and windy. Then I left him to think about life.
Again, I had to ride Second Level Test 2 first. I did a short warm up - he was much less tense than the day before, but I knew we weren't going to get a 60%. My friend Jen had gone home, so I didn't have a groom to video the ride, and I have misplaced the score sheet, but before losing it, I saw that we earned 50%. Not what I was hoping for, but it was a 6% better than the day before. That's not worth getting excited about, but I was relatively "happier."
Phase two of the plan also involved spurs. It's really hard to use a spur on a horse that only wants to shoot forward, but the judge from day one had commented that I needed to make a connection from the hind end to the bit. I knew that, but again, I was riding a rocket. I put the spurs on anyway. During the fifteen minutes between tests, I took Izzy to the warm up ring and cantered. That's all we did - canter left lead, canter right lead. Counter canter, true canter. And I did all of it with the spur on. Every time he tried to suck back, evade, or lean away from something, I put the spur on and gave a huge half halt.
For Second Level Test 1, the final test of the show, we earned a 55% and change - that score sheet is lost as well. Now, that doesn't sound very good, and it's silly to think that I was excited about such a not-quite-mediocre score, but it was more than 10% better than the day before. Not only was the score higher, but I truly felt him begin to relax. I really wish I had video from that ride because there were many moments when I felt like we were actually "dressage-ing." His neck stretched forward from his withers, and I was able to lift my hands out of my lap and truly ride him forward.
This show was a hot mess. It was disappointing, expensive, and exhausting. Even so, I walked away with a lot of good information about how to better mange Izzy at shows. Until he learns to be less anxious at shows, there will be a lot of lunging - something I really hate, a lot of cantering in the warm up, and I'll use spurs.
I don't want to do it, but I am also searching for a quick-acting, legal, calming supplement. I used magnesium for over a year and didn't see any changes, but maybe now it might work. I am also going to include some ulcer medication for the weekend of the show. And lastly, I am looking for a bonnet with fabric over the ears that is thick enough to muffle some of the noise while still being legal (DR121.7). I think I've found one that will work; the ear covering is made from high-density drilled cotton.
Dressage is hard. Showing is hard. But it is only through adversity that we reveal our true character. I am not sure that Malcom X said it exactly this way, and I doubt he had dressage in mind when he said it, but this quote has been credited to him ...
"There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time."
Isn't that truth?
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%: