From Endurance to Dressage
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.
I have some new thoughts brewing about "bad days," but I'll get to that next week. In the meantime, here's a look at what Izzy looks like these days when he's tense.
This last screenshot? I remember this exact moment in time, and it felt as lovely as it looks. Izzy had just let out a deep breath, and his whole body turned to butter. It might not have lasted forever, but after jarring me in the canter for several minutes before this, those next few strides were magical.
Isn't that why we keep going back for more?
Here in the next week or two, I am pretty certain I'll be once again threatening to sell my big brown horse or even slapping a free to so-so home on his big brown butt. When that happens, will you remind me of the great rides this horse gave me over the past two weeks?
I don't even have anything articulate to say today other than Izzy was a joy to ride. Without even needing to cherry pick the best moments, I was able to screenshot more than two dozen moments from Sunday's ride that showed how pleasant he was to ride. I did limit myself to ten photos for this space though as no one wants to look at that much fluff unless there is at least one train wreck in the mix. You're welcome. I genuinely tried to find some awkward moments, but there weren't any really good blooper moments to share. How can I be disappointed by that?
Anyway, enjoy the view. :0)
Don't forget to talk me off the ledge the next time I get too close!
When I received the email letting me know that there would be a photographer at the show on Saturday, I laughed and gave him my money. I double dog dared him to get at least one somewhat decent shot. He didn't get one, he got more than twenty. Of the forty-one proofs that Steve Michael Photography sent me, I bought five. I would have liked to buy more, but funds aren't unlimited.
I was so excited when I opened Steve's email informing me that my proofs were ready. That I had choices made me ecstatic. You've all seen the videos, so you know he didn't have a lot to work with. That there was even one that showed how beautiful Izzy is made my heart just melt with gratitude. Izzy and I have worked for so long to finally be able to show, and while our scores are pretty sucky right now, at least he looks happy and well cared for.
That maroon jack and helmet were a ginormous departure from my typical conservative look, but seeing it in living color makes me glad that I took the chance on it. Now that I am looking at our turnout, I think I need a white pad with maroon trim. Wouldn't that really set it all off?
The Gastro Elm has made such a huge difference for Izzy. Now that his tummy is feeling better, he's starting to develop a bloom that I haven't seen for several years. His coat is once again brilliant, and he's put on enough weight to cover up his angles. While he looks lovely right now, I think a few more pounds would do him some good.
The first five photos are from the the first day of the show. They were purchased from Steve Michael Photography and used with permission. Steve is based in Pasadena.
I didn't know there was a photographer on Sunday, so when I received another email with proofs after the show, I thought there was no way that I would be lucky enough to get a second set of beautiful photos. Was I wrong! Tess Michelle's photos were stunning.
The photos from Tess Michelle Photography were quite expensive, so I was only able to order just one digital print, and is it ever a stunner! The prints were much cheaper, so I did order a handful of those, but due to copyright issues, I can't share them. This last photo, purchased from Tess Michelle Photography, was also used with permission. Have a look at it.
Thank goodness for show photographers. I know it is a challenging business made up of long hot days without the guarantee of any sales and people ripping off your photos and publishing them without permission. I am sure I wasn't the only one to purchase these photographers' photos as they're just so beautiful. Hopefully, both photographers made enough to make the day profitable.
I am thrilled with the photos I was able to buy, so thank you to both Steve Michael Photography and Tess Michelle Photography!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: