From Endurance to Dressage
Until I go back to work in mid-August, best friend in the world has offered to go trail riding with me twice a week. Our ride last week went really well. Tuesday's ride had some bumpy moments, but Izzy finished the ride super relaxed and happy.
For the next few rides, we'll continue to park at the staging area for the Panorama Preserve. It's well off the main road, mostly fenced, and has plenty of room for parking and lunging.
Izzy loaded into the trailer very politely, and then stood in the trailer quietly once I pulled in. Since KG hadn't arrived yet and he was being so good, I left him standing inside so that he could build up some hey, this is okay kind of feelings.
Once KG pulled in, just five minutes later, Izzy backed out happily. He was pretty excited, but he was keeping it together. I put him on the lunge line for a few minutes so that he could walk around again and get an eye-full. I eventually asked him to trot, but he didn't need to.
In reality, I don't want to create a horse that needs to be lunged every time I get on him. For now, I am using the lunge line to give him a chance to loosen up his back and reduce his tension. I am really only asking him to walk. If he wants to trot, that's okay. I'd rather he fight with himself than with me. So far, he doesn't really want to trot or canter; he just wants to look around.
As we had the week before, we saddled both horses and headed out onto the trail without much hanging around. For the first 45 minutes, Izzy was a total bear to ride. KG tried to keep the conversation light and pleasant, but it was hard to focus while riding a loaded canon.
It wasn't that Izzy was scared or worried about any one thing. It seemed that he was just completely over-stimulated. He couldn't decided what to look at, so his head swung quickly back and forth. His head was so high that it dropped his back down near his knees. He back was super tight which gave me no place to sit. His stride behind was super short so that while his legs were going a mile a minutes, we didn't get very far.
He didn't do anything too naughty, but that was probably because I maintained a very steady contact. It was a light contact, but anytime he tried to leap forward, spin to the side, or root the reins loose, I was right there to catch him. He gave a few small rears, and tried to shake my hands loose, but I never let him have his way.
After 45 minutes, we made the turn back toward the trailers. Suddenly, the tension began to fizzle and dissipate. I am not sure if he knew we were going home, I doubt it, but something clicked in his brain. Little by little his neck and back began to soften and he finally stretched over his top line. His back started to swing and his stride opened up.
For the last 30 minutes, he quit flinching at little noises and started to really enjoy himself. While he had been in the lead for most of the ride, he now strode forward with confidence. That was the goal - for him to know what it feels like to move forward with a swinging back and long stride. He was certainly much happier when he let go of his tension.
Once we were back at the trailers, Izzy was more relaxed than the week before. He sipped some water, looked in the hay bag, and asked for a treat. When we were still doing endurance races, we taught the horses to LOVE standing at the trailer. Standing at the trailer means food, water, rest, and usually a companion. So rather than just load up and head home, we gave Izzy the chance to stand and feel good.
I was delighted that he kept his eyes on me while I puttered around putting up my tack; that's an excellent sign of trust. Looking for me to provide security and leadership is a step in the right direction. Trail riding can help develop that trust faster than almost any other thing.
Izzy loaded up without the need for a butt rope. When we got home, he got a bath, a chance to eat some lunch, and then I took him into the arena for some games at liberty. We did some lunging without a line, some scratching, and then hung out together at the water trough.
While we took a few steps back last week, we seem to be taking some forward steps again. We're heading back out to the river trail this morning, so hopefully he relaxes more quickly and once again enjoys himself.
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%: