From Endurance to Dressage
I am sure you can guess for who. If you said Izzy, you'd be right. Everything I do with him these days is to help him stretch over his back. If you've been following our little journey, I am sure you've rolled you eyes at least a million times wondering why I haven't done this or that to help him stretch down. Believe me. We've tried this and we've tried that. This horse just wasn't ready or willing to trust what we had to say.
Not long ago, an acquaintance said something like oh, he's got your number. I am too polite for an audible WTF?, but inside, it was accompanied by a very arched eyebrow. Whatever - it wasn't worth my time to clear up her confusion.
When I mentioned the comment to my trainer, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she laughed. It might look that way to someone on the outside, but that isn't what's going on at all. Even when Chemaine has ridden him, he's given her a hard time. Anyone who has actually seen me ride him through the jackassery knows that I am not afraid of him. This horse has just been a tough nut to crack. I like to call him my Verdades.
I am not saying that a more knowledgeable rider (maybe Laura Graves has some free time?) couldn't have gotten him squared away a lot quicker than I have because that would be a lie. He and I have had to do a lot of learning on the fly. Even though he has demonstrated that he can be a real jackass, I've learned something new each time I've been in the saddle.
After more than two years of trying this and that, we finally tried something that made the stretch down clear to him. It ruffled the feathers of some, but it worked like a charm for Izzy. It was the over flexion exercise, and I still use it (bend him to the inside and then use the outside rein for vertical flexion until he asks to stretch down). Most of the time, simply getting the inside flexion is all I need to do before he asks to stretch down.
But that's not the exercise I wanted to share. He's learned that stretching down feels good. Now we're working on suppling his back even more so that he can take a longer, deeper stride. Here's how it goes.
On a 20-meter circle, we do a shoulder in. At first, I go around two or three times. it depends how quickly he lets go. Then, we do a haunches in on the same circle, again going around several times. As he gets looser through his back, I might do half the circle in shoulder in and the second half in haunches in.
For the next part of the exercise, I ask for a counter shoulder in which is shoulder in to the outside of the circle. Like before, I go around a couple of times until I feel him relaxing. Then we do renvers (haunches out) for a few circles. Like before, I gradually switch back and forth from counter shoulder in to renvers.
And then it's time to check. I straighten him and ask for a stretch down while also asking for a longer stride. If he'll give it to me, great. If not, we repeat the shoulder in/travers and counter shoulder in/renvers until he finally asks to stretch down.
After just a week or two of doing this exercise, Izzy's back is getting looser and his stride is steadily getting longer. There was no magic bullet. It wasn't just this or just that. It was this and that over and over and over again for several years. I am so glad I stuck it out. I am having a blast riding this horse, and I know he's much happier now that he knows how to stretch down and relax.
The real trick is just time. Good thing we have a lot of it.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%