From Endurance to Dressage
Building Back Up What Was Torn Down
I've recently suffered a crisis in faith. Faith in myself that is. The clinic that I attended a few weekends back really rocked my little world, and not in a good way. I left the clinic feeling like the world's worst rider. Worse than that, how could it get worse?, I felt like I had no business even being on a horse.
I muddled around on both ponies for a few days, but nothing I was doing was effective. Speedy felt picked on and Izzy lost all of the confidence that I had helped him develop. I had more than one good cry and finally called my trainer.
She tried to convince me that I am a good rider with a lot of accomplishments under my belt. She shared stories of trainers telling her the same things I had heard: quit now, you're not good enough, you're ruining your horse, and so on. I wanted so much to believe her, but negative comments are so much easier to believe than are positive ones.
The one thing that she has repeatedly told me that I believe without hesitation is that I am a thinking rider. Not an over-thinker, but a rider who works out the puzzle. Since I ride alone all the time and can only get a lesson about once a month, I am forced to either commit the same mistake over and over, or I have to figure out the solution for myself.
Our chat by phone has certainly helped, but I am still struggling to regain my enthusiasm and confidence. I've had a string of bad rides on Izzy, but last night, I finally took matters into my own hands and worked through the puzzle. To my astonishment, I was able to get some positive work from him again.
I left the barn feeling more upbeat than I have in weeks. I may not be a great rider, or even a good one for that matter, but I am an excellent problem solver which is a strength in itself. Izzy appreciated my leadership which in turn helped to restore some of his confidence.
I guess the point of all of this is that we all bring different strengths to what we do, and it's important to recognize them. I let someone convince me that I don't have any, and that's simply not true.
5/23/2017 06:47:17 am
I think we all have these moments as riders whether it be in a clinic, in test comments, or during a lesson. Someone can be totally accurate in all their criticisms of you but at the same time not offer any way to fix the problem. This can make you think you will never ever get it. I think though, the key is finding someone or some system of training that points out your weaknesses and flaws but ALSO gives you support, a framework, and exercises to fix your problems. Don't give up. I am almost 50 and can finally ride a really correct Training Level test. It took a ton of experimenting, lessons, reading, yoga and stretches off the horse, and finally finding a system that works for me in Karen Rohlf's Dressage Naturally. Good luck!
5/23/2017 12:53:41 pm
EDB - thank you for taking the time to offer some encouragement. It's tough to be so committed to a sport that is impossible to perform to perfection even by the greats. :0/
5/23/2017 06:57:30 am
You inspire me daily!!
5/23/2017 12:54:07 pm
5/23/2017 07:14:46 am
I don't know how to say this without sounding fake, but I mean every word... you impress the hell out of me. You were an endurance rider just a few short years ago. You've shot up to training Second level dressage movements on ordinary horses with less than ideal conformation in less time than most do on purpose bred horses in full training. Your horses are not easy horses. Syndey was a horse the majority of us couldn't have done half as well with as you did. Izzy is a very complicated and challenging horse to ride. And Speedy has conformational challenges that are always going to mean both of you can't fudge even the tinniest detail (whereas you can fudge a bit on the riding if your horse is already an uphill, conformational embodiment of a dressage horse).
5/23/2017 12:57:28 pm
You brought me to tears, Mia. Thank you.
5/23/2017 08:50:48 am
I agree with ExploringDressage... it happens to all of us, over and over again. You think things are going great and then you get feedback in some form that makes you think you'll never, ever get it. It's cyclical, but it means that you've pushed yourself past previous limits and are now working out of your comfort zone. It means you and your pony need to be stronger, both mentally and physically, faster and more accurate with the aids, more balanced, and more expressive. It's HARD to make all of that second nature and it takes so. much. time. to build all the pieces, for BOTH of you. The wheels fall off the bus regularly and you have to find a way to put them back on. Its sucks tons and it feels super shitty but it seems to be the way to progress. You and Speedy make a great pair and you've done great things together... and you'll do more great things in the future! Hang in there and it will get better. :)
5/23/2017 12:58:17 pm
Thanks, jenj. I hope you're right. :0)
5/23/2017 10:32:59 am
I hate those moments. I think they happen to anyone self-aware enough to know that they could always be better at something, even if they're already pretty good at it. Have you tried reading back through your last few months of blog posts? It's pretty clear to me, as one of your readers, that you're an insightful, thoughtful rider making progress on horses who aren't the easiest dressage rides around. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and progress with us, whether it's in a good moment or an uncertain one!
5/23/2017 01:19:17 pm
Thank you, Dana, I do go back and read old posts. Sometimes I am amazed at how far we've come, but other times I read about the same problem and get discouraged. But you're right, there is definitely more progress than not. :0)
5/23/2017 02:21:03 pm
Several years ago a friend of mine attended a clinic locally by a Tom Dorrance wanna be. She insulted my friend in so many ways, a mother of 9 children, works on a tight budget and she ripped her into tears. I had her bring her horse to my farm for several months and we worked thru her problems and her confidence. It can come back! Just don't give up easily. That same "JUNK HORSE" has since been a rodeo queen horse carrying the flag, hauled them thru the national park and taken her to all the places she wanted to go. Truly, it is the heart of the rider that finds the heart of the horse.
5/24/2017 08:52:05 am
What a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing that. I KNOW hard work and perseverance will get the job done, but it's hard not to get discouraged. I obviously needed a reminder. :0)
5/23/2017 09:41:38 pm
5/24/2017 08:57:03 am
Hi Kim. Welcome to my corner of the world. :0)
Negativity Bias is real and can be devastating to our confidence in ourselves, and then be immediately reflected in our performance (whether riding or doing any other activity). We put more weight behind negative feedback than we do positive and can be so hard to overcome. However, Chemaine is right!! You are an AMAZING rider and horsewoman and those ponies are lucky to have you! You give them a great life, and meanwhile you continue to impress me (and many others) with your ability to learn and improve all the time. You rock, and you need to drop the outlier feedback (ie, that clinician).
5/24/2017 08:59:35 am
Thanks, Sarah. I know you know how hard it is to keep a positive outlook. :0)
I am so sorry that you were feeling this way. It's so annoying that ANYONE in this day and age would feel that they were an effective teacher if it left someone feeling that they shouldn't ride anymore. I just don't even understand why. It would be like you telling one of your students who is struggling that s/he is stupid.
5/24/2017 09:02:59 am
Exactly, Teresa. I think that is why the clinic affected me so strongly. As a teacher myself, it bothered me so much that an instructor would let her student walk away feeling unmotivated to keep trying.
5/24/2017 07:33:26 am
Been there. I think it is too easy to get trapped inside your own head/inside our own heads. In recent years I've had to accept that I have limitations as a rider, but really, RUINING your horse? What does that even mean? They are cared for, loved, and ridden only minutes a day. In a game of inches, we need to also look at the big picture. Also, the comments are from one person, in a moment, versus what you hear from people who see you ride every day. I don't care who the clinician was, their words should not carry this much weight. Kudos to you for sharing.
5/24/2017 09:04:53 am
Thanks, Stacey. Her criticism shouldn't have meant so much, but she hit the right nerve in the right spot. :0)
Comments are closed.
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%: