From Endurance to Dressage
Yeah ... I talk big, but occasionally, I'm a weenie, too! Christmas day dawned beautiful. The temperatures were in the high 50s early, and the air was calm. Hubby and I made the family rounds and came home to play: him cycling, me riding. He knows my barn trips usually take four hours, especially on a weekend, so our plan was to meet up several hours later.
RM, barn owner, had asked me to take over some of the barn chores for the holiday weekend in a deal that was mutually beneficial, so I hurried out to the barn to clean stalls, feed, turn out, and make sure the place was still standing. I started cleaning stalls with gusto, rotating the horses through their turnout as I moved from stall to stall. However ... By the time I brought the last horse in, Sydney, I was moving rather slowly. I think I just ran out of steam.
After a busy work week, a lesson, cleaning stalls, riding both horses on Friday and Saturday, cooking for Christmas Eve, visiting with friends and family, and doing all of my regular life stuff like laundry, I simply hung up Sydney's halter, locked up the barn, and blew all the horses kisses. An afternoon at home, with nothing really important to do but hold down the sofa, seemed like a very good idea.
Monday is soon enough to be back in the saddle. One ride-free day won't ruin anyone's current training level.
It has been so much fun writing about about my many equine (mis)adventures, and knowing that there are friends out there laughing with me has made it even more enjoyable. I hope that you spend the day with people who love you and make you laugh.
Hubby filled a chunk of my Christmas wish list by procuring several pairs of bell boots and a new show shirt. There were other non-horsey items as well as he thinks my life should include some non-equine elements. And as I wished for you, he has already made me laugh many times this morning, and the day has only just begun.
After a morning visit with family, I'll be headed to the barn to see my ponies. The sky is bright blue, the temperatures should reach the mid-60s, and my arena just got smoothed yesterday. What a lovely day!
I gave that big ol' elephant named Fear the boot! At least for Friday.
Since Friday was a minimum day at school, we were able to leave two hours early. Two hours is plenty of extra time to really work both horses and still get stalls cleaned, horses groomed, and other barn chores completed.
I took JL's advice and dug out my lunge line and side reins. I am not a huge fan of lunging, and I use the side reins judiciously. After Friday, my view on lunging and side reins has taken a gigantic leap to the land of Oh my God, what a brilliant idea! Let me explain. JL suggested lunging with side reins as a way to let Sydney argue with himself without putting me in the oh-so-scary-seat.
I saddled Sydney up, clipped the side reins to his bit, and asked for a nice working trot. What I got was a pissed-off squeal, a wringing of the head and neck, and a bolt forward. Lovely, I told him. Just what I meant to get! I dug my heels in, braced a bit, and let him whirl around me. During Wednesday's lesson, JL pointed out that while I needed Sydney to think that forward was just what I wanted to do, I also had to avoid pushing him forward. He was doing that enough on his own. So as he hustled around me on the lunge line, I kept the whip on the ground and just made soothing good boy sounds whiles he had a lengthy argument with himself.
Eventually his frantic gallop to trot to gallop became just a steady trot and with a few walk, nows, he came to a quiet halt. I patted his neck, told him what a good boy he was, and let him stand and blow. Then I moved him around and we repeated the work to the right. This argument didn't last as long, but he was still soaked and blowing hard when he was finished. I took off the lunge line and side reins, walked him to the water trough for a drink, and then pushed him over to the mounting block. No way was he finished. He needed to learn that it is much simpler to just do his job without all of the drama.
He was steady as I got on, but as soon as I asked for a nice, working trot, he took off with a stiff neck and tried to bully his way around the circle. Knowing this was not because he had energy to burn, I gave him a hard HALT that got his attention. After that, he decided that maybe it was better to just get to work. He wasn't completely soft and on the bit, but it was vastly improved. He tried leaning on my inside leg a bit and then tried popping his outside shoulder at the top of the arena, but a few bumps with my inside leg, and a few whacks with my outside leg got him moving around the circle in a pretty respectable fashion.
I think that Sydney is going to see that lunge line and those side reins a few more times over the next two weeks. Thank goodness for Christmas vacation!
Oh, and the HUGE elephant named Fear? Nowhere to be seen!
But it's more than that. Today marks the beginning of Christmas Vacation. I don't go back to work until January 9th - two weeks of fun, relaxing, hanging with hubby, visits to the cabin, and more time for the ponies. Oh, and my forty-first birthday. How did I get so old when I still feel seventeen?
Sorry to disappoint, but there's nothing fancy or articulate about this post. Just thankfulness for some time away from the grind of work. The best part of the break is being able to get to the barn to ride and do my chores without the ever lurking darkness. Merry Christmas!
But first, here was Sydney during his turnout on Sunday. It's relevant to the lesson ...
There's an elephant in the room. It's my own personal elephant, but he's still in the room. The elephant's name is Fear. Yup. I have some fear issues when it comes to Sydney. He's big, he's stiff to bend, and he's fast. I had BIG fear issues with Speedy for a while. That elephant's name was What If? After Speedy threw me pretty violently two years ago, every time I got on him I got a case of the what ifs? It took about six months to kick that elephant to the curb. God must think I'm running a circus down here. I am trying to convince him that I am not. So this elephant needs to go.
What does this have to do with Wednesday? As soon as I got on, I knew that Sydney was not going to work well for the lesson. The fear started to build. When he's tense like that, he wants to explode. We started with lots of walking as I tried to lengthen his neck and get him to relax. After Sunday's wild turnout, I had hoped that the energy building in Sydney had dissipated somewhat. Nope. He was wound up tight and ready for an explosion. I made a huge effort to keep my fear at bay, but elephants are large and cumbersome and difficult to hide.
JL quickly saw that we were not going to be working a relaxed horse, so her lesson plans changed. Alright, she said, let's just work on letting him move forward without worrying where his head is. She had me keep enough control in that event that he bolted, but I wasn't to ask for anything more. In fact, she encouraged me to think, yeah, forward, that's what I want, too! So instead of slowing him down, which is what I desperately wanted to do, I asked him to trot forward boldly. And I mean BOLDLY. We hustled around that arena. For more than forty minutes.
And little by little, the elephant got bumped and jostled until he squeezed his fat, old frame through the gate. I am sure he was lurking in the bushes somewhere, and he'll no doubt be back, but for that night, I managed to get rid of him. Allowing my can-go-crazy thoroughbred to go a little crazy, gave me some confidence. It wasn't an easy ride, but we made it to the end. And you know how these things go: once Sydney had burned off more than thirty minutes of some serious steam, he finally got down to business. He finally went round and soft, he moved off my inside leg, and we even worked on outside leg to inside rein.
As always, what a great lesson!
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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