From Endurance to Dressage
Yesterday was supposed to be a turn out day for Izzy, but I really wanted to ride. I saddled up anyway and tooled around our neighborhood. Before doing that though, I braided Izzy's mane. It's a bit of a long story, and I promise to tell it in the next day or so.
Again, long story, but it was the first time I've ever ridden him with braids. The view was very different, and it was actually quite fun to ride around on such a fancy hunk of horse flesh. When we rode by the Haner Family Farm, they were having some kind of happy hour on the porch and gave us the equine version of a cat call. Instead of the quintessential whistle, we got lots of "ooh what a pretty horse!" Doesn't hurt my feelings.
I stopped to give them an eyeful as I waved. I always let their kids come up and pet whomever I am riding, so I thought they would appreciate the view. What do they say? Hate to see them go, but love to watch them walk away. Yeah. Izzy's some good eye candy.
Since Izzy has been such a jerk the last few days, I decided to use the trail ride as an opportunity to work on relaxation and softening to the outside rein at the walk. Overall, he did pretty well. He was tense as all get out - he's not a fan of being ridden alone, but he kept it together.
On the backstretch, the stretch of road that leads back to the barn, he got so tense that his stride was literally six inches long, if that. It's extremely frustrating, but I've yet to find a successful way to encourage him to relax his back and step forward other than persistence. He was in such a tight ball, that my rein was actually slack as he got rounder and rounder. It was almost a piaffe.
Once we passed the barn, his stride did get longer, but then he tried to rush forward. On the far side of the neighbor's property, there's a dirt road adjacent to a former private "golf course" (three-hole course?). I used that field many times with Sydney. When Izzy got really bunched up and was refusing to go forward, I put him to work in the field. Each time we circled past the way home, he shoved (or tried to) his shoulders out and threw a temper tantrum.
We worked that area for a good 20 minutes, both directions, until he quit fussing and actually trotted in a circle without trying to rear or bolt. Little stinker. So while my plan was to just take it easy, Izzy ended up getting a workout after all. By the end though, we walked home with me having won the discussion.
Boy howdy. I think Chemaine opened up a big ol' can of worms when we addressed Izzy's lack of throughness at our last lesson. The last three rides have tested my sticky butt and my patience. At several points during each ride, I gave an exasperated, DUDE!
Rather than just TRY, he has decided to refuse to go forward, bolt forward, rear, kick out at my leg, balk, squeal, or whirl and bolt toward the gate. It took me all the way until last night to figure out where the resistance might be coming from.
Since the naughtiness was so sudden, I chalked it up to nervousness since we did our last two rides in the neighbor's arena. He gets turned out there several times a week, but it was the first time I've ridden him there. I really didn't think it was that big of a deal though.
The refusing to go forward unless it was in a rear got so bad that I got off and grabbed a discarded riding crop. Miraculously, the rearing disappeared completely. But when I next rode in my own arena and he threatened to rear as soon as I asked for a trot, I realized we had a problem.
Before I continue, I should mention that when I first started asking Izzy to do more than just walk or trot on a loose rein, meaning I started increasing the contact, he went through all of this same stuff. Last summer, the balking got so bad I had to really get after him with the whip. When that worked, he tried rearing to get me to quit. More use of the whip and he gave up on that as well. He's just kind of an opinionated jerk who is not afraid to let me know what he thinks.
So when all of the rearing and kicking and balking happened in my own arena, a place where he has been happily working for many months, I knew something had changed. At my last lesson, Chemaine had me address his lack of throughness by straightening Izzy's shoulders to put him on the outside rein. To achieve this, she had me compress his stride with the outside rein, put my inside leg on, and keep his shoulders from popping out with my outside leg. As soon as he softened to the outside rein, I could give a little and ask for more stride.
That sounds fantastically easy, but Izzy has decided that it's hard and different, and he doesn't do hard ... or different. Rather than soften to the outside rein, he's figured that it would be a brilliant idea to just get away from it. Balking would do it. If you don't go forward, you don't have to hold the bit. If you rear, the same thing - no bit. and even better, you might dislodge your rider and then you're home free. Kicking out should cure the whole inside leg on his girth thing, and bolting is an easy go-to when things aren't going your way.
While Izzy doesn't scare me, rearing and bolting, especially when done together, are rather unnerving. Even so, the best solution with this horse is first LOTS of praise for a good try or a correct decision. But when he makes a naughty choice, a solid thwack with the whip on his flank or shoulder or a smack with my hand on his cheek/neck send a clear message.
We finally got to canter last night after 20 minutes of Straighten up, Mister! He never got nice and round over his back at the trot, but he did finally agree to just go forward. Our pace was a snail's crawl, but at least he tolerated the outside rein and agreed to soften to it as long as we just poked along.
But really, that's all I wanted in the fist place. He just figured I wanted the whole shebang on Day 1. Dork. Today is just a turn out day and Thursday we'll try again. I have tentatively scheduled another lesson down in Simi Valley on Saturday, so hopefully Chemaine can convince him that he can do this.
I've written about CDS many times, but in case you're kind of new here, CDS is my GMO. The California Dressage Society is the USDF's largest GMO with more than 2,800 recorded members.
Like most GMOs, CDS has a number of awards programs. One of my favorites is the engraved plates that are mounted on personalized plaques. In order to receive the first plate, a rider must score 60% or higher five times in a single season at Introductory C or above. Thereafter, riders receive their plates no matter how many scores are earned in a single season. The scores must be earned at CDS rated shows.
Speedy finally received his fourth plate this week. Level 1 of course refers to First Level and the 8 Rosettes means he earned 8 scores of 60% or higher in the 2015 season.
Even though Speedy is currently side-lined, he will also get a plate in 2016 as we already have four scores over 60% for a show we did in October. I hope he has the opportunity to add to that number.
I would certainly love it if Izzy could earn some scores in 2016, but we need to get through a schooling show first and maybe get our canter departure a little more under control. Once we get that organized, my goal will be to try for those five scores this summer. The plaque will fill up a lot more quickly if two horses are getting plates!
What does your GMO offer to encourage or motivate its riders?
I love having my own trailer, but the thing is, it isn't your typical park it 'til you need it vehicle. Having a horse trailer with living quarters is a lot like having two vehicles. Just like any horse trailer, this one needs new tires now and then, its wiring looked at, and the mats removed so the interior can be scrubbed clean.
Unlike your average trailer though, this one has a people compartment that always seems to need something as well. Just a few weeks ago I replaced both RV batteries (not for the first time). I've also replaced the propane tank (numerous times), and the water pump. And not too long ago, I had the bathroom door rehung.
The latest repair involved the roof. Some time ago, like maybe 5 years, the latches on my wind up vent lids broke. I didn't want to get them fixed, so I zip-tied them closed. This has worked remarkably well for a number of years. Each time the zip-ties wore out, I just climbed back up there and added new ones.
That was going well until last week. I climbed up to replace the broken zip ties and noticed that the vent covers were actually cracked and broken. This was a problem that a zip tie could not fix, so I whipped out a roll of duct tape. It all held together well enough for the drive down to Simi Valley for a lesson, but I knew I had to actually get them fixed right. I don't know how I made it through this winter with three cracked and broken roof vents.
I called my local RV repair shop and got a quote that seemed ridiculous for the amount of work involved, $500. My husband insisted we could do the job ourselves for a lot less money. I went to YouTube and watched a how to video that really did make the job look fairly amateur friendly. I drove down to Pensingers RV Parts and Service where they sold me exactly what I needed and then gave me 10% off my purchase when I asked if they could do a little better on the pricing. My bill was $167.
We dragged all of our supplies up to the roof of the trailer and started scraping off the old caulking. That was the only part of the job that was even remotely difficult.
Once we had the first vent mostly free of caulking, my husband started removing the screws while I went to work scraping off the old caulking from the other two vents.
Once all of the caulking was scraped away and the screws removed, we lifted the vent out of the roof. I was really worried that we might see some water damage in the wood, but the frame was in excellent shape.
When the vents were removed, we finished scraping away all of the left over caulking and putty. My husband then went inside and removed the interior flange that covers up the exposed wood.
While my husband was busy bringing up materials and opening boxes, I applied the putty tape to the underside of the new vent and slid it gently into place. It's great when things fit the first time.
Once we got the first vent more or less clean of old caulking and got it pulled out, the other two were quite easy to do. While my husband replaced screws in the first vent, I scraped away old caulking and pulled out the other vents. With both of us working together, the job took less than the three hours the RV company was going to charge me.
My husband had a tee time at one of our local golf courses so he ended up leaving once all of the vents were screwed in tightly. He helped me get the caulking gun working, but from there, I finished the job myself.
While I could have technically done the job myself, I was really grateful that my husband came out to do it with me. I am a little afraid of heights so it was reassuring to have someone else up there with me. We work well together and recognize each other's strengths, so there's rarely any arguing. Now that this part of the job is done, I am going to try and get roof vent covers installed some time this summer.
I've already watched the installation video and think that I might be able to tackle this job on my own. I don't like using a drill though, so I may have to get my husband back up on the roof to help me. I'll definitely owe him a lunch for that one!
I am ready for a month free of repairing or replacing stuff though, so new vent covers are going to have to wait a few months!
We don't usually do anything special for Easter Sunday. I'm riding of course, and my husband will probably get the dogs out for a quick run in the hills. After that, we'll probably make our way over to the home of some friends for an afternoon of food and wine.
I spent some time yesterday pondering the meaning of the day. While Peeps and chocolate bunnies are hard to beat, I realized that the day should be more than that. Of all of the days of the year, this one in particular is the most likely to inspire us to become our very best selves.
Even though it undoubtedly comes at a price, I am rooting for eternal life. Being a crappy person is probably not enough to get you there. So today, I'm taking at least a few moments to look for ways to demonstrate more patience and be a little bit softer with my words and actions. I don't expect to achieve perfection, but it can't hurt to try.
Whether you're spending the day at a sunrise service or hunting for the prize-winning Easter egg, I hope you have a very Happy Easter.
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%: