From Endurance to Dressage
But Why? I Always Ask
I think the answer is always the same: he's a "young" horse and he can.
Why won't he just relax? See above.
Why won't he soften? See above.
Why won't he do any of the things that I want him to do? See above.
Before you start to worry, I am not mad, upset, frustrated (well, maybe a little), or threatening to sell my big brown horse. Instead, I am trying to find solutions. Knowing why he makes the choices he does helps me understand him better.
I've been doing a lot of thinking the past month or so and have landed on a few "explanations" (for lack of a better word) that seem to put Izzy's life choices in perspective.
First - I think the dude is slow to mature. At eight years old, he still acts an awful lot like a youngster. He's willful, brave one moment and terrified the next, and generally an all around dork. Compared to Speedy, who at one time was all of those things too, it's easy to see the lack of maturity. I've brought along quite a few young horses in my life, but Izzy has been the slowest of the bunch to "grow up."
Second - he's only been working under saddle for about 16 months. While he was started as a 4 year old, he had 60 days with a trainer and than a few months with his first owner. He was then in pasture or a paddock for the next two years. Essentially, Izzy has had to start over. While some horses can go from unbroke to the show ring in just six months, Izzy isn't one of them.
In just under a year and a half, we can now walk, trot, and canter pretty much when and where I want to. I can ride him out in the open without worrying about losing him. He trailers, stands tied to the trailer, and can be counted on not to rip the trailer apart. These are all small things, but I think he's learned a fair amount in a short amount of time. I need to remember that he has had to learn how to be a riding horse AND learn how to be a show pony all at the same time.
I've read some great comments from you all, and I really appreciate it. One comment that I really liked was from a rider whose horse would go through her bag of tricks in the same order. That really hit the nail on the head. Every time that Izzy and I get to a new place, we start all over with the theatrics. It wasn't until I read that comment that I realized that's what's been happening.
Other comments that have helped have been of the "who cares if it takes three years, go at the speed he needs" variety. That's been helpful to hear because it takes some of the pressure off my need to advance yearly.
Barring some unforeseen issue, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables should be here in town this weekend for lessons. I really need her eyes on the ground and solutions. It feels like Izzy's throttle is simply stuck, and I've been chipping away at the problem, but I'd sure love to hear what she thinks.
With his motor running at such high RPM's Izzy can't get off his forehand and let go of the bit. I've been addressing it, but I am certain that Chemaine will have some new and creative exercises to get him to slow down a bit so that he can lighten his front end and get off my hands.
I always look forward to the weekend, but now I have an even bigger reason to welcome those two days of freedom. And to make it even better, I get Veteran's Day off too!
11/8/2016 06:18:25 am
Have you ever considered going the Natural Horsemanship route with Izzy? Starting with some groundwork and getting him more focused on you and pleasing you? It might be a way to get him to want to work with you instead of battling against you at every opportunity. I know NH is not super popular with the "real" dressage crowd but there is a lot of value with the more sensitive, opinionated horse. I really like Karen Rohlf's Dressage Naturally and her website has tons of info for free about how her system works. Also, Tristan Tucker's TRT Method is great for fear issues and changing the fear response. Just some thoughts to widen your net of ideas and training possibilities. Izzy is really a nice, quality horse, but he seems like one of those that takes some out of the box thinking training wise, and he won't be pushed into anything because his resentment will just pop out later. Keep your head up, you are a very competent rider and you will find a way to harmony eventually!
11/8/2016 09:20:35 am
I actually have a favorite natural horsemanship trainer that I like - Clinton Anderson. I use a lot of his strategies with both of my horses. Speedy is so respectful (most of the time) that I use the exercises for play. He loves them. With Izzy, I use them still to gain his respect. He's pretty quick to respond, and it doesn't take long to remind him of where he's supposed to be. I really don't think Izzy's issues are fear related. He lacks some confidence at times, but he's not afraid. He's just opinionated. :0)
11/8/2016 09:55:19 am
Clinton Anderson was not around when I trained three of my horses But John Lyons and Ray Hunt plus Monty Roberts were. I was so interested in all and found many things that were useful. Clinton Anderson almost is not a "Natural Horseman" in that he pushes a bit too much for my methods from what I have read and seen and I may be wrong.. I have used the Parelli seven games and found them very useful especially making a horse go back by wiggling a rope. All in all it is all about respect and I think respect of the horse and what he can tolerate is what it is all about. However respect of the rider and handler is there as well. To me it is a balance of reading the horse and being the boss horse with out creating anger and withdrawal in the horse. Also the understanding of how horses learn and get grooved in certain behavior patterns. Sorry or the rant.
11/8/2016 09:21:20 am
Very true. Thank you - I don't know about wonderful, but at least we're both still alive. :0)
11/8/2016 08:21:30 am
In looking and reading I am almost wondering if he would like an even milder bit such as a happy mouth D. or another un metal bit. It seems that he will not go forward as opposed to horses that are too forward. Just a thought. It is amazing how far you have come and what a good rider you are in staying with all the spooks and shenanigans. PS I have a happy mouth D that I am not using.
11/8/2016 09:23:24 am
I've thought about changing out his bit, but the German trainer I ride with and my regular trainer both think it's fine for him. I showed epic fail photos, but he truly does go forward ... at mach 10. And when he grabs that bit, he grabs it for all he's worth. He doesn't suck back, but I still was planning on asking Chemaine about it again when I see her this weekend. :0)
11/8/2016 09:41:24 am
Thanks for replying and explaining !!
11/11/2016 10:05:43 am
I love reading your posts, Elinor. Thank you for the feedback. I look at the photos and scores that you post and am a bit green with envy. You have a lovely mare!!!
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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%: