From Endurance to Dressage
I know you are bored with hearing about Izzy and his toys, but I feel as though I am now on one of King Arthur's quests: find the perfect toy.
At this point, Izzy now owns two jolly balls, a feed pan, a traffic cone, a giant ball, a feed sack, and a rolling treat dispenser. He also repurposes his feed bin and water trough into toys on an as needed basis.
When I got to the barn on Thursday afternoon, Izzy revealed that he can now fling a 30 inch ball up and over a five foot fence.
Matilda suggested I try one of those treat dispenser toys, so I ordered one of those recently. He doesn't find it as entertaining as the giant ball, but it was empty of the hay cubes and rice bran I had shoved in there the night before.
It was at least fun for me to watch him figure the thing out. The horse is smart. He knew there was food in there so he kept rolling the ball and snuffling along in the dirt behind it picking up what fell out. I don't know how he figured it out so quickly, but he did.
Why this particular horse has such an active mind is a mystery to me. Maybe all horses sit around thinking of stuff to do but aren't creative enough to turn their stall into a playpen. I watch Speedy who seems perfectly content to stand in the shade swishing his tail at flies. He wouldn't come near any of the things that I've given Izzy over the last few weeks.
Izzy is only seven, a teenager in equine years. Hopefully he'll start to settle down as he reaches the maturity that comes with full adulthood. If not, my barn owner is not going to be too happy when the barn comes tumbling down around our ears!
I ride nearly seven days a week. Both boys get ridden on the weekend days, and then I alternate who gets ridden after work. Speedy only needs three or four days of under saddle work each week, so most afternoons, Izzy is the one called to the batter's box.
Wednesday was Speedy's day though. I don't know why it is, but I seem to have my best rides on him when I don't have all the time in the world. And as our daylight hours continue to wane, our weekday rides will naturally get shorter and shorter.
During the weekend, I often feel compelled to Get a Lot Done. I wonder if Speedy is aware of my sense of urgency and replies with tension? When I ride during the weekdays, my attitude is more relaxed as I know I probably won't get to accomplish much. Yesterday was one of those days.
For once, we had a break in the weather so rather than ride when it was 100 and climbing, it was in the lower 90s with a refreshing breeze. That was enough to leave me feeling relaxed. I slowly worked Speedy at the walk asking him to soften his poll and move his shoulders. We did some stretchy trot, and when I felt he had warmed up enough, we moved on to the leg yields.
To my surprise, he did a fairly decent leg yield in each direction. Given how much we've fought over that in the past few weeks, I patted him on the shoulder and moved on to to the 10-meter trot circles. I like doing those before the trot lengthenings. I think they get Speedy a bit more connected and working from his hind end.
I like to do a series of three, 10-meter circles down my (short court) long side and then come out of the second corner into a trot lengthening. I think he's just so happy to really stretch after those little circles.
Again, he got a pat on the shoulder and we moved on to the canter work. I've been really mixing up the canter work: canter lengthenings, 15-meter canter circles, counter canter, and so on. On Wednesday, I did lengthenings and some 15-meter circles, but then for fun I decided to work on the walk to canter transition.
Walk to canter appears in Test 1 of Second Level. Sydney found it super easy to do, when he was focused and relaxed, but Speedy has found it to be a challenge. It's not that it's mentally difficult for him, but he's a smart little fart, so he knows that he has to sit deep and really push off, and that's hard work.
I don't play around with it too often, but on the days when I feel that he is in front of my leg, I use it to work the canter without drilling the canter. It's a little like working walk to trot to walk - I feel like it sharpens him to my aids.
I worked the walk to canter just like Chemaine had me ride her horse, Belle, at the piaffe: think trot, but don't. As I rode Speedy, I thought, canter ... but don't. I could feel Speedy's engine getting revved ever so slightly. When I was pretty sure he had enough impulsion, I slid my hip forward and pressed my inside leg.
From the first request, he lifted rather neatly into a canter. After two or three strides, I asked for a downward to trot and then walk. We played around with the exercise to both the left and the right. He got better and better at the transition until he was anticipating the canter, beating me to the aid. I was okay with that. I really appreciated his willingness to try.
So, my best rides seem to come when my agenda is non-existent and the daylight hours short. I think I might need a weekend attitude adjustment. When do you have your best rides?
Everything is a toy in Izzy Zweibrücker's eyes, even the water hose! If it wiggles, moves, clangs, bangs, splashes, bounces, clunks, or thunks, he finds it uproariously entertaining.
He dumped over his massive water trough the other day and then dragged it at least 15 feet to the far side of his paddock. That thing is heavy. Even empty, I can't pick it up, yet he dragged it across his paddock for fun.
I had to drag it outside of his stall to scrub and hose it out, it was full of dirt, and then drag it back inside. How he did it with just his teeth is a mystery to me.
To fill it up, I shoved the hose down into the bottom and tried to walk away. Before I had even turned my back, Izzy had the hose in his mouth, shooting water everywhere. No matter how I positioned the hose, he managed to grab it from me.
I finally pulled the hose through the fence and simply let it spray into the trough. Even that was fun. For at least twenty minutes, he licked the water bubbles or let the hose splash him in the face.
While I don't want a dullard for a horse, I do sort of wish he'd grow up a little. It seems as though the more toys I find for him, the more toys he wants! At least filling the trough is a freebie!
It is terrible to struggle with PTSD, and I swear I am not poking fun or making light of the condition. Three years with Sydney was enough to really rock my ability to trust big brown horses. The ride I had on Izzy a week ago really gave me some unpleasant flashbacks. I just don't want to be in that kind of equine relationship ever again.
I didn't realize how often Sydney forced me to walk on eggshells until I was riding a different horse. I had to be so careful with every request while riding him for fear that he would have a melt down and try to kill to me. I don't feel that fear at all with Speedy, but I continue to have moments where I worry that Izzy is moving to the dark side. Last Monday was one of those days.
When he was nearly unrideable that day, I didn't know what to hope for. I didn't want it to be because of the weather as winter is coming and he needs to work whatever the weather. But on the flip side, I didn't want it to be him being a jackass either.
Izzy has now twice shown me that when he is a real jerk, something is hurting. Izzy's pain tolerance is probably pretty low, especially when it comes to his back and neck. Even the chiropractor called him a baby. That's okay. Now that I know what to look for, I won't panic and worry that he's turning into another Sydney. As soon as he gets cranky, I'll know to call the chiropractor.
Izzy got some body work done on Friday afternoon, and Saturday was spent resting and recovering. I saddled him up on Sunday morning hoping and praying that my it's too much work to be a total jerk horse was back under my saddle. To my delight, Izzy was his regular old self. His expression was again playful and curious, and he happily canoodled the back of my neck, elbows, and hair while I was dropping my stirrups.
I didn't ask much of him for his first time under saddle since the adjustment. We spent nearly ten minutes walking while I asked him to flex his neck and poll and move his shoulders from side to side.
Once I knew I had my horse back, I asked him to pick up an easy trot. I didn't ask for any type of real connection, but I did ask him to keep his head out of the clouds. We spent 15 minutes trotting the long sides and crossing the diagonal.
My only goal for the day was to establish a rhythmic trot so that I could evaluate his comfort level. While he wasn't lame anywhere, it did feel as though he needed to re-establish his sea legs. He wanted to carry his head to the right, but when I worked the left rein, he could give me some inside flexion. He might still be a bit sore in the poll.
After working him at the trot long enough to really get him warmed up, I decided that he felt sound enough to return to a regular workload this week. He's still on some Bute, but I'll probably eliminate even that over the next few days if he looks comfortable.
It feels as though he's lost a bit of ground in his training over the past two weeks, but I think he'll get back up to speed in no time. I am just glad his personality is back to normal!
I am grateful that Speedy has fabulous days. It's on those days that he shows me his potential. We had one of those days last week, and I even wrote about it. Unfortunately, they're not the normal. Most days find us struggling with something.
This weekend, Speedy decided that dressage was a lot of work. As such, he further determined that it would be better for me to hold him up with the left rein. He was adamant that he certainly couldn't sit back on his own butt as that might wear him out. And really, he has better things to do with his hind end than carry me around.
When you look at this next picture, you have to ask why he can't happily rock back on his tush. I mean look at him. There is plenty of butt there upon which to sit. I know, I know. It's hard work, but at least I know he's got the butt to do it!
One of the great things about leaving Training Level is that the levels that follow offer so much more to work on. That doesn't mean we do them brilliantly, but at least when we get stuck somewhere, we can change the exercises and move on to a new topic.
Right now it's all about our struggle with the leg yield, improving the trot lengthenings, and getting a more and more collected canter. While the trot lenghtenings are fun, the leg yield is not. I really need some eyes on the ground.
I have a feeling I am asking for too much straightness in the shoulder, but Speedy wants to lead with the outside shoulder and trail his butt along behind. If I really dig my spur in, I can get a deeper step with the inside hind, but he gets really annoyed with me when I do it. If I don't poke him with the spur, he refuses to cross over with that inside hind leg.
The canter work is improving, slowly, but he is able to collect more than he could at the beginning of the summer. It took both weekend days to get him to let go of the left rein, but the instant he did, his canter got light and soft.
We've also been working on the canter lengthening. He's starting to get more up and forward in the stride rather than just forward. When he gets flat, it's very difficult to return to working canter. If I canter him forward with more of a scoop in my seat combined with small half halts, his stride has more bounce and suspension. It feels like a good thing, but what do I know?
We have a lesson with Chemaine this coming Saturday, so I am trying to hone in on the areas where the most growth is needed. There are just so many things to fix that it's hard to focus on just a few!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read