From Endurance to Dressage
There were a few more things I wanted to add about yesterday's post. Things CC said that made a lot of sense about Izzy's frequent need for body work. As cool of a horse as CC thinks Izzy is, he has said from the beginning that dressage is hard for Izzy and not just mentally. CC thinks Izzy has some conformational issues that make the sport harder for him, things like being able to stretch forward and down. I never argue with him because I don't have the training experience that he has, but I do disagree a little. Every horse can do dressage, and Izzy is built better for it than a lot of other horses.
On the other hand though, he is right though: dressage is hard for Izzy, but I don't believe it's for the reasons he thinks. I think CC's under the impression that I ask for a lot more than I do. I think he assumes we're passaging and piaffing in between all the canter half passes and extended trot that we're doing. We're obviously not doing all of those things; we're just trying to walk, trot, and canter without bracing and sticking our nose up in the air like a giraffe. Every horse can do the work we're doing, even his quarter horses.
Whether the work should come naturally to Izzy or not, whether he is built for it not, we're still doing it. Since Izzy is hard on himself, doing it means frequent body work. One of the things CC and I talked about yet again - we have this conversation several times a year, was how to keep Izzy from tweaking himself so frequently.
CC has made suggestions in the past, all of which have been spot on. One in particular was to be super vigilant about not letting Izzy get away from me by jerking the reins out of my hand. Every time he gives that hard jerk to the side, usually to the right, he runs the risk of tweaking the C7, the base of the neck. I have taken that advice to heart. Izzy rarely makes that move anymore.
CC's newest piece of advice was about riding deliberately with tension. I immediately thought of positive tension. CC didn't quite know what to do with that, but I think that is what he meant. He explained that when I get Izzy nice and supple and stretching forward, that is exactly when he is most likely to tweak something. If he spooks while being so relaxed and loose through his frame, he has no tension to protect against something going "out."
Instead, if I ride with some tension, and I understood that to mean with collection, there will be some rigidity in his muscles and tendons to hold everything in place. This is an idea that I will have to work on carefully because when I push Izzy up to the bit and ask for more collection and thrust than he is ready to give, he becomes overly tense and stiff which defeats the purpose. It is something that Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, and I have been working on lately.
I am grateful to have such a knowledgable team of professionals helping me. I don't think anyone can do this completely on their own. Between my trainer, CC, my vet, my farrier, the ranch owner, and Reggie - who takes care of the property, I am surrounded by a lot of help and support.
I hope your own team is just as great as mine - better even!
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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%: