From Endurance to Dressage
Thank the Almighty that I got late ride times. I have been getting up at 4:45 a.m. each morning to head for work by 5:45 a.m. It has been a truly long week.
I was genuinely dreading an early ride time and even considered scratching if the times were anything like last month's pre 8:00 a.m ride time. No need to scratch. I can now drag my butt to the barn in the daylight to bathe, load up, and make the hour and fifteen minute drive.
Wish us a successful day. This is our last opportunity to get in a good ride before next weekend's 2-day regional show.
At this stage of Speedy's and my training, we've been focusing on tracking left. That's where the largest problems have come from. Like many riders, I had to learn how to control that wayward outside shoulder. In Speedy's case, bending left is harder than bending right so that's the shoulder I had to control. He's a limp noodle to the right.
JL finally liked what she saw to the left and ordered me to track right. I think that counts as a promotion! Tracking right is when we have most of our spooking problems. If he spooks, it's almost almost to the inside on the right bend. He probably gets away from me because we've worked so much to the left that I have better control in that direction. My right side is much stronger than my left so it is easier for me to get a halt when my right hand is on the outside rein. Plant with the left hand, whoa with the right. Easy peasey lemon squeezy.
Tracking right means that I have to have a strong left side. I don't. So when Speedy dives inside, it's because I don't have a firm enough hold of the outside left rein. He gave us an excellent chance to work on it during Wednesday's lesson. Outside of the arena, JL has a cement stairway that winds up to her house. Someone had left a plastic bag filled with some empty plastic containers. It was a windy day (thankfully) so the bag kept snapping in the breeze and occasionally bouncing with the stronger gusts. Speedy eyeballed that thing like it was a fire breathing dragon.
Each time we came around, he tried to scoot inside, blowing through his inside shoulder. I am sure there is a more appropriate description of this maneuver, but that's the best I can do. After several attempts at making him stay out on the circle, JL had me increase the inside bend and add LOTS of inside leg as we approached the "spot." I also alternated sponging the reins in this sequence: right hand, right leg, left hand. The message was you will bend, you will move over, you will not speed up. It worked!
In fact, it worked so well that I had to add a fourth aid, the outside leg, to say now that you're bent and moving away, make the turn! My homework for dealing with the inside spook is to increase the bend, add leg, and remember to alternately sponge the reins so that he hears bend and slow down.
JL seemed quite pleased with how deeply we were able to ride that particular corner and asked to see it at the canter. To say it didn't go too well would be an understatement. Holy Toledo, Batman, was Speedy ever a S-T-I-N-K-E-R! As soon I put my leg on for the canter, he started bucking and kicking to the outside. And I don't mean little eh bucks. I mean HOLY SH*T bucks. I finally had to ask for the canter with his head cranked to the inside so that he couldn't do a bronc-style, airs above the ground buck.
No, this isn't us, but this is totally what it felt like!
After watching me lose my stirrup one too many time, JL finally caught my mistake and Speedy's trick. Since we were tracking right, his super bendy side, he was essentially saying, you want me to bend? Oh, I'll bend. I'll bend right into a little pretzel with a kick!
It took a few "meet Jesus" moments, but eventually I took away the inside bend, took away most of the inside leg, and put my outside leg way back to keep him from kicking, and then I worked the hell out of that outside rein. My weaker side. Like I said, we had some words with the Almighty, but after just a few SERIOUS shut downs with the outside rein, Speedy decided to play ball. What was happening was that Speedy found an open door - the outside rein and leg. Once I kept that firmly closed, he had no where to go but forward.
We never got a really nice canter transition to the right, but it was a huge, huge improvement over what we started with. I have a show on Sunday so I hope I can get that right lead canter without all of the theatrics. Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) is the following weekend, and I would hate to look the guy up above!
Here's to a buck free weekend!
It would seem that Speedy is even smarter than I think he is, and I give him a lot of credit for intelligence. JL has referred to him as a smart fart on far more than one occasion. On Wednesday he proved her point.
I was saddling quickly for my after work lesson. I picked out Speedy's feet and was getting ready to just sweep the brush across his back and call him clean. With such fine hair, he hardly needs brushing most days anyway. When I got to his face, I noticed that his right eye was filled with bedding; I use pine pellets which turn into a finer version of shavings. I tried to rub the debris out with just my fingers, but there was too much, and it was too deeply embedded. Yuck!
I hurried him over to the cross ties so that I could just hose him off instead of brushing. With the heat, I knew he would feel perkier for the lesson anyway. I am very respectful when I hose my horses. They are such sensitive, drama llamas anyway, that if I start squirting in the wrong place, they do the ew, ew, it huuuurts dance. Big wusses!
No matter how funky his eye was, there was no way Speedy would let me soak it if I went straight for his face. Instead, I did the usual toes first, front legs, up the neck, belly, hind legs, up to the back and down over the rump. With his whole body soaked, I returned to his face which always earns a plaintive you're killing me reaction.
Speedy has to keep up appearances, so as soon as the water hit his cheek, he threw his head sky high as though I'd hit him with an acid spray. I ignored the theatrics, as I always do, and told him that I was going to spray his forehead, but that today, unlike usual, I had to actually spray him in the eye. I soaked his forehead, stopped, and then rubbed water all over his eyes like I always do. This, he is always happy to allow. I repeated the forehead soaking and then told him to prepare for an eye wash.
I moved the shower to his eye, and he stood still. Good boy! I moved the water up and told him to blink. I repeated the wash, moved the water, told him to blink, and did it all again. I was shocked at how cooperative Speedy was. Once I rinsed a few times, I scraped gunk out of his lashes and tried to open his eye to get out more. He was very tolerant of my fingers poking around, but he just couldn't open his eye. I am sure it's the same reflex that keeps us from opening our own eyes when there's stuff floating across the eye ball.
Speedy definitely knew that I was helping him. He hates having his face washed and will throw his head as high as possible while back-peddling to the rear of the cross ties all the while grunting and stamping his hooves. None of that happened this day. He stood very obediently for the eye shower, blink, repeat process.
He's a pretty smart boy. If he would only use his powers for good, we'd be golden!
Let the craziness begin, again. I can't believe how tired and burnt out I already am from work. I've been getting to school 2 HOURS early each morning just to try and stay caught up. Out of necessity, this post has to to be quick.
I rode Sydney in the afternoon on Tuesday for the first time since May. I fed him right away so that his food alert alarm wouldn't be activated. I took the lunge line out to the arena just so I would be prepared. It was 100 degrees. I hoped all of that would enable me to have an easy, relaxed 15 minute ride. Nope.
I hopped on and as soon as I tried to shorten my reins he got tense. I sent him forward and rocked the rein to remind him that I wouldn't hold on. He set his jaw and refused to bend to the left.
I immediately hopped off, grabbed the lunge line, and sent him around. And around. And around. Each time he tried to look to the outside, I swung his nose back to me. This started a round of bucking, rearing, squealing, and general disrespect. Each time he "shenaniganed," I jerked him back towards me. It took some time and a lot of sweat, but his expression began to change. I could see him trying to figure out just how in the hell he got in this predicament, and more importantly, how could he make it stop.
I gave him a chance to walk and praised him. I stepped closer and started pushing his hind end over while sending him forward. He finally, finally gave in. He was pretty sweaty, but not blowing hard, and I didn't care. This was his choice.
I hopped back on but felt the same tension. I planted my inside hand and just kept sending him around my inside leg. A couple turns around, and then I changed the bend. I again asked for a nice circle. Every time he fussed or got tense, I repeated the small circles.
Again, it took some time, but I finally outlasted his tantrum. He gave up. He didn't work as nicely as he has been doing in the mornings, but the melt down was far, far less dramatic, and the recovery was much quicker. Once he went to the left for a circle or two without being tense, we walked a bit and then worked to the right. He started out tense this way, too, but quickly gave up. I asked for several circles where he moved off my inside leg, and then we were done.
I was ticked that we were back to this fussy way of going, but I was thrilled that I called his bluff and made him work anyway. I never got mad or scared. I just kept bending, bending, bending. Hopefully I am on to something here. It's going to get cool before too long, and it will be a lot harder to convince him that my way is easier if he's not soaked in sweat!
During my summer break, I had the luxury of feeling like a true student of dressage. I rode both horses at least five days per week and was never on a time schedule. I could school each horse as long as necessary without the guilt of neglecting my home life as Hubby was safely at work. When a ride didn't go as well as I was hoping, it wasn't a big deal as we easily picked up on the concept the next day. It was a very productive ten weeks.
That feeling of patience, created by all the time in the world, has already left. Sadly, it's been replaced by a well-known acquaintance named Intensity. Frankly, Intensity is a real pain in the butt. When she's around, Fear and Frustration, equally unfriendly twins, are always close behind.
I went back to work on Thursday and Friday and wasn't able to ride in the afternoon due to the heat. I zipped out to the barn on Saturday and Sunday mornings only to find that Intensity was waiting for my arrival. She was leaning smugly against the gate and smiled in a knowing way at all of the dust hanging in the air.
The arena and barn aisle hadn't been watered sufficiently so Speedy started to cough immediately in the cross ties. There are usually two coughs as we warm up, but on Saturday, he coughed for ten minutes. I got off feeling an overwhelming sense of anger. I only had two days to ride and now nothing was going to be accomplished. I was genuinely pissed.
My ride on Sydney wan't all that much better. The neighbors were preparing for a large afternoon party so there were a lot of spooky and distracting happenings coming from the other side of the fence. I finally got off and walked over to JL's. He didn't work as relaxed as he will at home, but he did work through a few tense moments as one of the riders schooled her horse over some jumps.
Intensity just hung out in the shade watching me. She was still there on Sunday.
I brought a book to the barn on Sunday. Take that Intensity! I am glad I did because when I got there, the sprinklers weren't going, and I knew that I couldn't ride Speedy with so much dust. I turned the water on in the arena and then dragged the hose through the barn watering my two stalls and the barn aisle. I puttered around with a few other chores as everything got a good soaking. I was still feeling angry at being "cheated" out of my only good riding days so I sat down in the shade for a few moments with my book and let the tension and anger drift away. See you later, Intensity; keep on walking.
Who was I mad at? I don't know. I finally came to realize that we are not going to perfect anything else in the next two weeks. I have two important shows coming up, but we've learned what we can learn. Getting out of the arena for a few days is probably a good thing for Speedy. With that thought in mind, I threw on my trail bridle and decided to confront all of the regular "scaries" that we meet in the neighborhood. I figured it would be an excellent way to school the pulley rein and for me to really get some good practice maintaining the inside bend.
I was right. Speedy and I had lots of chances for some dressage on the trail. We were able to do a little bit of trotting (there was still a bit of coughing, but it disappeared) and a lot of inside rein work. I simply let him know that he doesn't get to evade me to the right or left and he will maintain the bend.
By the time Speedy and I were finished, the arena was well soaked for Sydney. Just to make sure that I rode him with Patience, and not Intensity, I turned Sydney out while I pulled up a chair to the arena fence and read for 15 minutes. We had a very productive ride.
My homework will now be to keep that sense of "cram it all in" far, far away. I need to remember that sense of patience I got from having all the time in the world, even when I don't have time on my side.
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%: