From Endurance to Dressage
I didn't know he had it in him. He's been nothing but tractable and simple since he arrived. On Saturday, Izzy showed that he is a typical, six year old with some confidence issues.
I started my barn day by taking Izzy for a walk. He's been great; he doesn't call for Speedy, and for the most part, he's been pretty relaxed. So, I decided to add the next street to our loop.
It's a "busy" street in that the two or three house along the street have barking dogs, galloping horses, and bleating goats. Too bad. I gave him plenty of time to think and look, but ultimately, life is going to be filled with unexpected things. When Izzy started to really crowd me, I had to get tough.
The trick I use to get a horse off my heels and shoulder is to use the lead rope (mine are 12 feet long and heavy) like a helicopter blade tipped up. I briskly swirl the rope in front of me. If the horse's nose comes in front of me, he gets whacked on the muzzle. I've used this strategy for a long time so my timing and aim are very fine tuned. Izzy got whacked on the muzzle many, many times.
Once they figure it out, they quit crowding into my space. I mix up the whacks by also giving them a whoa cue immediately followed by a few backwards steps. I walk forward briskly, say whoa, and then back up. If they don't rock back immediately on their haunches and step back, they get a sharp tug on the face with the rope halter and my rope starts swinging. Sometimes I have to get pretty "loud" to encourage those sticky feet to MOVE backwards.
Izzy knows what to do; we've practiced in the arena. He doesn't like his muzzle whacked, and he knows to move backwards those few steps, but on Saturday, Speedy started calling for him and Izzy forgot that I was there. His head shot up and he started screaming back. This is behavior that I find to be incredibly rude. It also means that my horse is not listening to me, something I never want to happen.
Every time Izzy called out, I sent him in a small circle as I made him yield his hindquarters away from me. I pushed that inside hind leg deep by whacking him on the hip with the tail end of my lead rope. When he refocused on me, we walked forward. It took us at least ten minutes to walk the last hundred yards.
When we finally got back to the barn, I tossed him rather unceremoniously back into his stall and saddled Speedy. Before Izzy knew what was happening, Speedy and I left the barn to walk around the neighborhood. Izzy called and called, but Speedy knows the rules and never called back. Good boy, Speedy G!
When we got back, I parked Speedy just out of easy eyesight in the grass so that he could graze and Izzy could holler and fuss. And he did. He whinnied and whirled, BUT he never crashed into anything. After a few minutes, I took Speedy into the arena and rode for another thirty minutes. Izzy finally gave up hollering, but I definitely need to work on separating them more often.
After Izzy had time to cool off, I re-bandaged his leg. At the same time, JL was giving a little girl a beginner lesson in our arena on Bailey, the other boarder's horse. This seemed like a perfect schooling opportunity for Izzy. I brought him into the arena and sat to the side on the mounting block. For a half hour, I asked him to stand quietly while the little girl rode. Izzy was perfect. He never even looked at Bailey. He just stood dozing in the sun while the little girl had her lesson.
I took the time to practice putting the "reins" over Izzy's head, something he was really worried about when I first got him. By the end of the lesson, I was popping the rope over his head and back again while he kept his nose low. He's definitely more comfortable in the arena than he is out on the trail, but we'll keep doing the hand walks. It's good for him to see so many distracting things at once.
I have a plan for dealing with the hollering and crying. I am pretty sure Mr. Sassy-Pants is about to get tied up somewhere and left to stand on his own for a while (within sight of course!).
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%: