From Endurance to Dressage
On Monday, the day after the Mid-Summer dressage show, I gave Izzy the day off and played around with Speedy. Even after all of these years, especially after all these years, Speedy still makes me laugh. I love him more each day. I gave him a good grooming, doctored a few little owies, and then set him loose. Lord have mercy! Now that he and Izzy don't charge up and down the fence line every day, Speedy needs an outlet for all of his energy. He charged around the yard for a good fifteen minutes. There is nothing like seeing your dressage horse galloping around to both make you grin like an idiot and pray fervently that he doesn't kill himself.
He's still so handsome!
While it might seem like what I write is all me, me, me, my favorite posts to write are about other people. If you've been following along for any length of time, you can probably think of at least one post that was about someone else. A week or so back, I wrote about joining my friend, MC on a trail ride. Marci happened to see the post and gave me permission to use her real name.
Knowing that I would appreciate it, she recently sent me a photo of the cover of the July issue of AERC's monthly magazine, EnduranceNews. Guess who happens to be on the cover? Yep, Marci and Gem. How cool is that?
It's a little hard to read, but in the lower left, the caption reads, "Marci Cunningham and WP Aur Mystic Gem at the 2022 Huasna Ride in the Pacific Southwest Region." Isn't this a great shot?
Rubbing shoulders with a Who's Who, that's how I roll.
Many, many thanks to the amazing photographer, Bailey Crocoll, a good friend of my friend, Wendy, which makes us all friends. Even though Izzy and I didn't actually "show," Bailey was kind enough to catch some really pretty shots of the big brown horse. Be still my heart!
While we didn't actually make it into the dressage court, we at least looked good doing it.
A few years ago, I saw this great video that someone put together where moments from the horse and rider's career were strung together. In the beginning, the horse was at Introductory Level, but as the video progressed, the horse was shown advancing through the levels. The video played like one cohesive dressage test with clips showing the horse's transformation from a green bean to a finished dressage horse at grand prix.
Someone shared it with me and said I should do something similar. I've certainly videoed many, many rides, but I don't have the time or energy to string together eleven year's worth of video, so instead, I picked favorite photos of Speedy in the trot work to see if I could spot the changes in his way of going.
I am certainly not an elegant rider, but even I can see the improvement in my position over the eleven years that Speedy and I competed together. The change in Speedy's body is even more interesting. I like seeing how his balance slowly shifts as his thrust and power grow. Maybe someday I'll be able to see Izzy morph from big brown horse to Wow, what a horse!
I don't know how I got so lucky with Speedy, but I did. This horse allowed me to learn so much. Together, we journeyed from Introductory Level to Third Level and a Bronze Medal.
It's hard to ask for more.
Now that I realize that Izzy is not the one holding us back, I am studying my own riding through a completely different lens. When Izzy is good, it's a reflection of my riding. When Izzy resembles a camelephant, that too is a reflection of my riding. Instead of watching my weekly videos and focusing on what he is doing, I am now looking to see what I am doing.
There's a lot that I can be doing better, but I am also making sure that I acknowledge what I am doing well. For most of this week's video, Izzy looked more and more rideable. We still have our awkward moments for sure, but the spooks are slowly disappearing, and the off balance moments are getting less frequent. And when he does lose his balance, he's able to right the ship more quickly. That means that I am doing a better job of navigating.
So much has improved over the past year. His walk is looking much more relaxed, and his tail is even beginning to swing. His legs are also crossing farther and farther ...
His halts and reinback are so improved that I can't believe I am riding the same horse. He halts square almost every time. I can definitely thank Sean Cunningham, own and trainer and STC Dressage for that. In Sean's world, every single moment of the ride should be achieving something, even if it is just learning to stand square. I have adopted many of Sean's mini lessons into my daily riding.
It's always a work in progress, but Izzy is learning that he can carry his own head and doesn't need to push his underneck muscles against me.
We don't have a medium trot yet, but Izzy is now able to cross the diagonal without completely bracing his neck as he does so.
And if I really ride him well, he can actually reach a bit further and hold it for a few strides. Not always of course, but the jackhammer is nearly a thing of the past.
Now that the trot work has improved so much, we're trying to improve the canter. Sean is encouraging me to use more bending lines, counter flexion, and especially counter canter to help Izzy let go through his back in the canter. The better I can ride these movements, the better Izzy feels.
For a long time we had no right lead canter. Then we had a lovely right lead canter, so I worked hard on the left. Now the left lead is again better than the right.
I am definitely not a Fourth Level rider yet, and it was only because of Speedy's giving nature that I could call myself a Third Level rider. However, I firmly believe that where there's a will, there's a way.
I may never get back to Third, and Fourth might only be a pipe dream, but at least I am enjoying the ride.
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%: