From Endurance to Dressage
While KG doesn't say it in exactly those words, that's usually her meaning. Best friends are such an invaluable resource, especially if they call you on on any BS, which she does without hesitation.
I tend to get pretty down on our progress, or lack thereof, with Izzy. I have so much Sydney-baggage on my shoulders that it's a miracle that poor Izzy can even walk forward. It's got to weigh like a million pounds.
When I hear myself sounding like a Negative Nancy, I try to pipe in some KG elevator music which sounds a lot like this: He's 7 years old with less 6 TOTAL months of training. What do you expect? He can walk, trot, and canter, and he's getting better every single day. Take that and run with it. She's right of course, but this is certainly not an easy journey.
When I showed up to ride on Saturday, my plans got smashed to holy heck. The neighbors were setting up for their annual August birthday party. The one with balloons lining their driveway and a HUMONGOUS blow up water slide - the ones that are like 20 feet tall and spookier than a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex. Okay, so there is no picture of that, but it was real - I promise, but there is a photo of some of the balloons.
When do plans ever go right, anyway? That's where the proverbial expression the best laid plans of mice and men always go awry comes from - idiots like me who think thy can control the universe. I had been hoping to get in a solid schooling ride without any distractions. Um ... nope.
When I found myself starting to grumble and gripe about the noise, I pulled the brake on that freight train and decided to embrace the chaos. How will Izzy ever learn to deal with distractions if there are never any distractions?
The truth is that he wasn't actually freaked out by any of the party preparations. Instead, he was tense about the energy that was created by the pre-party activity. I walked him over to the fence expecting him to stare at the massive and brightly colored water slide ... he wouldn't even look at it. I walked him over to the fluttering balloons, but he simply nibbled the grass beneath them. He looked at them, but only to see if they were edible or fun.
None of the activity caused him to be naughty until I was on him. And maybe that tension was from me, but I don't think so. Yeah ... I was frustrated by the change to my weekend rhythm, but I let it go and was eager to see what he could show me.
For a few weeks, our rides started out super mellow and quiet and then slowly built to tension accompanied by trying to run through my aids. We're past the easing into the tension stage. Izzy has figured out that the arena does not mean trail rides; instead, it means he has to listen and work. He's decided that he's not a fan of work.
So now, our rides start with him trying to wiggle out of any connection. That's really just a nice way of saying he throws himself a little hissy-fit which includes squealing, fish tailing, jerking his head, bolting (he doesn't get more than a few steps - usually), and sucking back. Saturday was no exception.
All of that lasted about ten minutes. He eventually figured out that I was still there. We worked on trotting with a rhythm and moving out onto the outside rein. We then worked on getting the correct canter lead. Can I just pat myself on the back for a moment? The canter departures are quite ugly at this point, but by God, we're getting the correct lead, and once he is cantering, it's a lot of fun.
We then moved on to some suppling exercises to encourage him to let go of that right rein. Chemaine showed me an exercise with Speedy where you start on the counter bend and reward a softening by allowing the horse back on the true bend.
In all, I schooled him about 50 minutes, which is much longer than I ever work Speedy. The last 20 minutes were spent mostly walking as we worked on halts that didn't involve any resemblance to a giraffe. Since he still had energy to burn, and the morning hadn't yet reached 90 degrees, I decided to hack him around the neighborhood.
The next time I moan and groan about how he's not making any progress, remind me of this post.
We rode around the neighborhood by ourselves for the first time a week or two ago. He was pretty good, but there was a fair amount of tension and balking in a few places. For this outing, he was fussy in one spot, but that resolved itself within a minute. He did spook a bit as we passed by the Haner Family Farm, but the pigs sort of freaked me out too, so I didn't blame Izzy for that lapse in bravery. Fat pigs are loud and kind of ferocious when they're ... pigging.
In all, I was on him for almost an hour and a half. He didn't dump me - huge points for that and technically, he had a lot to contend with which would have made an involuntary dismount excusable. He picked up the correct canter lead in both directions, and he did it several times. He did some decent trot work while counter bent which might have been the first time I tried that. And even after working for nearly an hour, he willingly walked around the neighborhood with a good attitude.
I am pretty much an idiot for feeling like we're not making any progress. Progress IS being made; I am just a little slow to recognize it.
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%: