From Endurance to Dressage
It's not that big of a deal, but I was pretty pleased by it. This past weekend, I decided to get Sydney back out of the arena and onto the trail. I bought him at the end of June in 2011. I tried some small around-the-barn trail rides, but he was so anxious about it that I abandoned the idea. I didn't have a trail buddy so it just didn't feel safe.
Once I moved to where we are now, I tried a few more times, but he was always so tense that it made me tense which was just a bad combination. This summer, I am committed to getting him on the trail. I know that it would build his confidence for showing, and it will help his body develop in other ways.
I decided to get working on it this past weekend. I did my regular arena ride, and before either of us could change our minds, I hauled the mounting block out of the arena and got back on. We only did a small loop around the three properties closest to the barn, but that "loop" involves losing sight of the barn and all other horses.
The first part of the loop involves walking by the neighbor's two yellow labs. Whenever I pass by, I call out their names, Blue and Dallas, to give them a heads up that we're coming. They like to bark and charge up to the fence so I prefer they do it before I get there rather than behind me as I am walking off. They behaved as expected which gave Sydney a small jolt of fear. I could tell that he wanted to spin and go, but I planted my inside hand into his neck and asked him to go forward. I was so pleased that he trusted me enough to do as I asked.
The rest of the loop is pretty simple: a stretch of wide open dirt road, a shady tree area, and then we return to the backside of our property. Since things had gone so well on loop one, I decided to go again. I didn't even come back through the gate; I just kept right on walking. When we got to the dogs, Sydney was looking, but he didn't spook.
By this point, he was so relaxed that I decided to trot the long dirt road. It might seem silly that this felt risky, but never before have I felt like asking for a quicker gate was at all safe, especially with nothing but a long straight road in front of us. That sort of seems to invite a RUN! mentality. But not on Saturday. When I asked for the trot, he flicked an ear at me as if to ask, "are you sure?" but then he moved off at a very relaxed pace.
Near the end of the road, he did get a wee bit strong and ignored my request for a walk so I planted my inside hand and gave a strong WHOA! He jammed his nose out and resisted momentarily, but then he came back to the walk. Even better, he actually walked with no jigging. I was grinning from ear to ear. We repeated the same ride the next day with just as much success.
You don't know how embarrassing this situation is to me. Endurance riders are not afraid to hit the trail. When we have a tense or nervous horse, we know that all will be well as long as you keep them moving forward. When I was starting my endurance horses, four of them, I always had an equine trail buddy for the first few rides. Once my horse had a basic understanding of being on the trail, I was able to become the "trail buddy" and my horse got his confidence from me. I was able to ride alone with no fear.
I haven't had the chance to ride Sydney with another horse so we've never developed that first bit of confidence. I have a plan, however. On Saturday, a local college student who is looking for saddle time is coming over for a demo ride. She's going to ride Speedy while I ride Sydney. We're staying in the neighborhood, but if it works out, I may have found a way to get the boys together pretty regularly (at least through the summer) for trail rides away from the barn.
Keep your fingers crossed for me!
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%: