From Endurance to Dressage
During my week long spring break, I had a little more time than I usually do to spend at the barn, so I hopped up on Speedy. It's been months and months since I last rode him, and since the end of October, he's only had a rider up on him two or three times. Even so, I rode bareback with a halter. Speedy is that dependable.
As we headed out into the neighborhood, I settled in for what I assumed was going to be a lengthy ride. I wasn't sure we were even going forward. Speedy's walk was so slow that time was traveling faster than we were. Since the ride was about changing Speedy's view, I figured he could do it as slowly as he wanted to. And then we got to the Haner Family Farm.
Mr. Haner is a very nice guy, as is his wife and now very grown up children. When I first moved my boys to this neighborhood more than ten years ago, I would often see the Haner kids playing outside. I always stopped to let them pet whichever horse I was riding. I don't think they are kids anymore. When I rode by last week, the Haner dog came streaking across the yard straight for Speedy's hind legs. On the other side of the road, Mr. Haner's neighbor's two horses came charging up from across their pasture. Speedy tucked his hind end deep underneath himself and prepared to launch.
Since I was bareback, I slipped right and then left but managed to hang on. I got control and promised Speedy that it was all okay. Mr. Haner called off the dog and apologized profusely. I laughed. "He's just doing what dogs do." I replied. And it was true. Mr. Haner always keeps some kind of herding dog because he has a farm full of animals. He keeps pigs, geese, turkeys, ducks, sometimes bees, and anything else that can be butchered or harvested.
By the time we left the Haner's place and made the turn toward home, Speedy was on fire. As quiet as the stretch was going up the neighborhood, the long side coming back was bustling. There was a pack of loose dogs, workers pouring cement in a driveway, horses working in an arena, and flowers blooming. At one point, I almost jumped off to walk back on foot. While there's no traffic, we do walk on the asphalt, and I was worried about Speedy spooking hard enough to slip and fall.
Instead, I sat squarely on both seat bones and collected Speedy into a little prancing ball. One neighbor we passed gasped in delight. "He's beautiful!" she shouted. I waved and laughed. If she only knew that riding that kind of "beautiful" comes with a Lord, don't let me die prayer. While Speedy was a handful, I never doubted that he would be mostly sensible. He was just super excited to be out, not stupid.
When we got back, I unclipped Speedy's reins and let him go. He's so sassy; he gave me a look and then marched himself back over to the mares. Apparently, they are more interesting than I am.
You're welcome, Speedy!
Happy birthday, Speedy G! Yep, today is Speedy's 18th birthday. He's now able to vote and be charged as an adult. Just kidding of course.
As each year passes, I appreciate more and more how very lucky I have been to be this horse's partner. I don't think I was ever grateful enough in the moment. While dressage is challenging in and of itself, having such a willing partner who never minded the atmosphere or stress of showing was a gift I never valued as much as I should have. Izzy is teaching me that lesson.
Over the past year and a half, since Speedy retired from showing, I have been able to finally appreciate what a rock star I have had in him. While he won't live as long as I want him to, I can promise that he will have whatever he needs to be happy and healthy.
I love you, Speedy G! Mwah!
I don't spend as much time with Speedy as I once did, but I make sure that he gets to be the star of the show at least once a week. I pick his feet, curry his coat, and turn him out into the yard. This weekend I also took him up to the arena for a short lunge.
While it doesn't matter if he's sound or not, I like to check just to make sure there isn't more that I should be doing for him. I see him charging around in his field with Izzy alongside, the fence between them, but with adrenalin coursing through his veins, he'll always look sound. I also watch him as he plays out in the yard. He frequently gets a wild hair and trots around gaily or even charges along the fence as he races to visit his lady friends. He always looks sound, but still. I like to put him on the lunge at least occasionally to really evaluate his way of moving.
Over the winter there were a few days when he came up quite lame. I couldn't find an abscess and there was no heat or swelling, but it passed within a week or so. Since then, I haven't seen him take a wrong step. Speedy is always very well behaved on the lunge line, but he has never let me take video. The instant I point my phone at him, he sees it as the cue to stop and come in. Before I took my phone out, he was doing very nice transitions within the gate at the trot, all on my aids. I wasn't able to catch any of them on video though. Even so, I was quite happy with how he was moving. He looks as sound as can be.
I am throwing it out to the universe again; if someone wants some time in the saddle, even a junior, please reach out to me. Speedy would love a job. He's feeling good, and he's sound. He's definitely out of shape and lacking some muscle tone, but that wouldn't take long to rebuild. He's very sweet and eager to please. And while he probably doesn't want to do much collected work, he's happy to pack someone around in a working trot or canter.
Who could resist that face?
I didn't know how much I had missed giving lessons until I gave one last week. All of Speedy's regular ladies have either moved on or are dealing with life. For a while there, he had more than a few lady friends. One rode for a month or so, and then she just stopped calling me, no offense taken.
Another, a junior, only made it out once and realized that dressage wasn't as much fun as group H/J lessons. "T" moved to another part of the state and has since bought her own young mustang, and I couldn't be happier for her!
The last of Speedy's ladies still sends texts to let me know she's thinking of us and desperately wants to come back. We want her to come back, too!
Besides the ladies who have come out to ride regularly, Speedy has made a lot of other friends. "K," who has done something spectacularly awesome for me - I can't WAIT to show you, has ridden Speedy and spent time out here at the ranch riding one of the ranch horses.
Speedy has also carried both old and new friends on trail rides, particularly E, the immigration attorney for whom I have done some writing. She had a great time riding him.
Out of the blue, another horse friend reached out to see if Speedy had room on his calendar for yet another friend. "L" is horseless at the moment and was feeling the need for some horsey time. Of course I told her to come out.
While L has owned her own horse, he was a senior citizen and not likely to throw in a buck and a bolt. She has also been in a lesson program doing some jumping. Even so, unless I've known someone and seen them ride myself, I am not likely to just toss someone up on Speedy and let her have her way. If someone is going to ride my unicorn, I like to explain his buttons.
Speedy is not at all complicated to ride, but if given a tour, I find that riders appreciate all of his bells and whistles. In L's case, she's been riding lesson horses who aren't as sensitive to their riders as is Speedy. L has also been riding in a jumper saddle, so helping her adjust her position for a dressage saddle seemed only polite.
I guess all of that is my round-about way of saying I gave L a lesson of sorts. When I had asked her what she was expecting from the day, she had said that she was open to whatever I was up for. In my book, that means game on! She spent most of the time just walking as she hasn't had a lot of saddle time this year, but Speedy is a confidence builder, so before she had finished, I talked her into a small trot.
When riding Speedy, you really only need to think trot or whoa, and he's happy to deliver. I've taught Speedy that a deep sigh is a cue to either come back to the trot from a canter, walk, or halt depending on what you were doing before hand. I think L appreciated how well educated Speedy is.
I LOVE teaching, and as much as I've always said that barn time is my break from teaching, I've discovered over the past year and a half that I actually really dig giving lessons. I am good at it, and I have the perfect lesson horse. L will be relocating to the coast in June, but until then, I hope she'll come around at least once a week.
It's fun for me, and I know Speedy LOVES to show off for his ladies.
I hadn't ridden Speedy in ages. And when I say ages, I mean at least a year, maybe more. It's not that I dislike riding him, it's just that he can't do the work that I want to do, and he's been happy doing lower level stuff with his ladies. "J," the rider who rode him through most of 2021, hasn't been able to come down since October. She's had some health concerns as well as work commitments.
I've lunged Speedy a few times over the past couple of months, but no one has ridden him since October. He lives in a very large, sandy paddock, so he has plenty of opportunity to move around. He and Izzy play pretty hard throughout the week, so I don't worry about him getting stiff and sore. Besides living turned out, he also gets "turned out" into the yard to graze and visit with the other horses. Speedy is very respectful of the rules, most of the time anyway - on Sunday he came 90% of the way into the feed room before I could herd him out.
A friend who I've introduced to a few other horse friends is now horseless. She recently reached out to me asking if Speedy needed a new lady. I was thrilled to hear from her as I have made it very clear to the Universe that Speedy could use a girl who needs some horse time. She's coming out on Thursday afternoon to see if she and Speedy connect.
Since it had been at least four months since he'd been ridden, I figured I had better check on his level of "brokenness" before tossing someone else up on him. I consider him a schoolmaster, but before he can start doing real work again, he needs to knock some of the feral off. No matter how long it's been since anyone has been on him, I know that I can hop on without any fear. I can't expect anyone else to ride through those threats to buck though.
I gave him a thorough grooming which he very much appreciated. After saddling. I decided to ride in his riding rope halter. I had cleaned Speedy's bridle a few weeks ago and put it in storage, so I didn't want to get it dirty. He's perfectly manageable in a rope halter. He was spicy though. Even getting on took a bit of growling on my part. He threatened to buck when I got on, but it was just excitement. He's too well schooled for any real nonsense. He just likes to let me know that he could if he wanted to.
He pranced his way around the ranch chomping at his imaginary bit. When I suggested we just walk without the jigging, he tossed his head saucily. It was all in fun though. Speedy doesn't have a mean bone in his body.
The ranch covers ten or eleven acres, and there are all sorts of little paths and roads to cover. After we made the first loop around the ranch, his brain re-engaged, and he remembered his job. He also saw how much grass had grown over the winter. Suddenly, the jigging and prancing were replaced by diving head first into the lush grass.
Before too long, the grass will turn yellow and the foxtails will make things miserable. For now though, the ranch is as pretty as it gets. By the second loop, Speedy had settled down enough for me to hold the reins in one hand and my phone in the other. I couldn't resist shooting a minute a two of video. At 0:01:42, you can see one of our regular avian buddies, the egret. The first time I went by, he would not get out of the road. On our second lap, he was perched on the fence prepared to give Speedy a heart attack.
As much as I love this horse. I love sharing him even more. I hope he and "L" make a connection. While he needs to move, it's the interaction that he loves the most. I told the Universe to find a girl for him, or maybe three. I am going to trust that the right ones will show up.
How lucky am I? Pretty lucky, I think.
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%: