From Endurance to Dressage
What with Speedy having a summer sore on his man parts and my husband and I leaving town for a week right before our next show, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to manage my horses. Speedy needed daily medication, and Izzy really needed to be ridden during the week to be even somewhat ready for the show, so I called Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, and asked if I could bring my boys to him for two weeks. Even though Sean was already stretched thin, he agreed to take both horses - Izzy in full training, and Speedy as a boarded horse. In general, Sean doesn't board horses unless they're in training, but he made an exception for Speedy.
Packing for a show is always complicated, but packing for two horses to spend two weeks somewhere else takes a lot of checklists. Not only did I have to pack all of my show stuff, I had to organize two weeks of Speedy's various medications which included syringes, pills, ointments, and sprays. On top of that, I had to mix all of Izzy's various supplements which consist of an ounce of this, an ounce of that, a cup of this, and a scoop of that. On Monday, two days before we were drive to Los Angeles to catch our flight to Nashville, I packed all of it in the trailer, along with both horses, and drove the three hours to Moorpark.
Izzy has been to STC Dressage more than a few times by now, so when he unloaded, he was pretty bored with the whole thing until Speedy got out to join him. Suddenly, it was as if he had never seen the place. Speedy, who LOVES to show and is always a complete rock star when he goes somewhere new, fell apart. Neither horse could tolerate having the other leave their sight. The separation anxiety got so bad after I left that Sean had to rearrange a few horses so that Speedy could have Izzy right in front of him. Every time Sean opened Izzy's stall to clean or feed, Speedy lost his mind thinking that Izzy was going to leave.
Before the screaming got too bad, I packed both boys into their stalls and unloaded all of their stuff. Sean had suggested I leave my trailer while I was gone which meant my drive home and back again would be quicker. I parked it and then went to tack up Izzy. Lessons are still not worry free, but with both horses screaming their heads off, Izzy was a tougher ride than normal. At first, my frustration almost got the better of me. How much more of this could I stand? Then I thought about Sean's plan for us. He's in no hurry, and in fact, he wants us to take our time, slowly chipping away at Izzy's anxiety. Right then and there I gave up on the idea of a pleasing ride. By the time Sean was ready for us, I was focused on riding the horse I had at that moment rather than the one I wish I had.
I won't say I was sorry to finish the ride and hand the literal reins over to Sean. Other than the month I left Izzy with the trainer up north who was responsible for the massive wound he sustained while under her care, I've never before sent a horse for training. My previous experience had left me feeling quite reticent to do that again. Without having anyone else to care for him (and Speedy) while I was gone, I sort of had to do it, but I am glad I did. Sean's daily regimen is meticulous, and the horses really thrive under his watchful eye.
At Sean's place, horses in full training get ridden five days a week. The client either rides in a lesson or Sean schools the horse. I rode on Monday, and then when I came back ten days later, I took another lesson on Thursday. On Friday, we trailered over to SCEC for a schooling ride, and then Sean coached me through the show on both Saturday and Sunday. Sean rode on the days in between which didn't leave him much time to work any miracles. Even so, I knew that if Sean rode Izzy even just a few times, it couldn't do anything but help me.
While I was gone, Sean was able to work Izzy without any interruptions by me. He was able to focus solely on training my horse rather than training ME to ride my horse. He also introduced Izzy to to the vacuum - coolest grooming aid EVER, and Speedy and Izzy enjoyed several hours of turnout each day. Izzy wasn't an entirely new horse when I rode him again, but Sean was indeed able to give me some very helpful feedback. Probably more important was hearing Sean confirm that Izzy can do this, and with a bit more time, we'll be earning scores that are more than just squeaking by.
The lesson I took on Thursday and the schooling ride we did at SCEC on Friday weren't great. In fact, Izzy was a holy terror at SCEC, screaming his head off the entire time. Again, Sean drilled it into me that it didn't matter. Not reacting to Izzy's anxiety and instead showing Izzy that I was in control of the situation were what Sean wanted from me. Well, that and not snatching at the reins every time the big brown horse over-reacted or tried to do the thinking on his own. It is so hard to stay calm and loose through the elbows and hips while riding an aircraft carrier through a storm.
Spoiler alert: we did not get any great scores at the show, but even though my big brown horse was FOR SALE by Saturday afternoon, Sean insisted on an attitude adjustment that really helped turn things around on Sunday.
To be continued ...
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%: