From Endurance to Dressage
We go on vacation for two weeks almost every summer. It's hard to leave my horses for that long, but the upside is that being gone for so long reminds me of how much I truly enjoy riding. Saddling up that first time after so many weeks out of the saddle is like coming home. When we ride day after day, we get used to the smell of hay, the warm muscles rippling under your hand, and the feel of smooth leather in your fingers. It all comes alive when you've been gone for a while.
My first ride on Izzy was a bit awkward for both of us. He was pretty tight-backed even though I had lunged him first, and when I asked for a trot, I was reminded of how big he really is. The ground looked a lot farther away than I remembered. I didn't ask for much. We trotted a few 20-meter circles, and then did a few changes of rein across the diagonal. That was it.
The second ride went much better. I lunged him again in the sliding side reins, and he definitely started to relax more than he had the day before. My riding legs returned, and I remembered where we had left off. On the lunge line, I've been asking him to spiral in to me so that he's doing a small volte around me at the trot. When he's soft on the line, I slowly send him back out on the circle letting him stretch down and lengthen his stride.
This is a fun exercise because it really asks him to step deeply with his hind leg while maintaining a good inside bend. Once I am in the saddle, I can repeat the exercise, and I always get a good response from him.
After I leg yielded out from the volte, I quietly asked for a canter. I am learning that he needs to me to sit very lightly and be prepared to go into two-point for the first few canter strides. And as counter-intuitive as it may seem, I also have to be ready to add leg when he humps up his back and starts to buck. We went though a few bucking strides before he finally relaxed his back and cantered forward.
Once I felt him let go through his back, I was able to take a light seat and ride him forward. I was grinning ear to ear. After a few reminders of how to pick up the correct lead, we cantered both directions. I know this seems like baby stuff, but I am really pleased that after almost three weeks of no work - just turn out, I was able to hop on and get right back to work.
I was so pleased with him that I scheduled a lesson for this coming Tuesday, and I mailed off two entries for schooling shows in July. I signed up for Intro A and B because right now, he just needs more exposure. Once he can handle the atmosphere and can pick up the canter a little more reliably, we'll move up to Training Level.
But what of Speedy? Speedy officially can go back to work. For the month of July, we can do walk and trot, and in August we can start to canter. Before leaving for vacation, the vet had given the okay for walking rides on firm ground. Several times a week, I hopped up on Speedy bareback with a halter and rode around the neighborhood for 30 minutes.
While the walking rides gave him some level of fitness, he's still out of shape. I decided to begin his trot work on the lunge line. This is the second day on the line, right as I asked for the trot.
While he looks sluggish and totally on his forehand, I love that he is sound. As we worked, he developed a bit more impulsion, but he spent the entire time trying to stretch down. I worked him for 10 minutes the first day and 15 the next. I let him walk 1 - 2 minutes to warm up followed by 2 minutes of trotting. I then asked him to walk another minute and then trot again for 2 minutes. Then we changed directions and did the same the other way. I use the timer on my watch to make that we don't over do it.
I think I'll lunge him for a week, adding my saddle in a day or two. After that, it's just a matter of building his fitness back up slowly over the month. I worked hard to keep his weight low over the four months he was off, so that part shouldn't be an issue. The thing I want to watch is that he stretches and strengthens the tendon gradually.
It's good to be back home!
By the way, I have to run up to the cabin for the night to take care of some tree removal (bark beetles plus four years of drought have devastated California's forests), so I won't be around to post tomorrow morning.
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%: