From Endurance to Dressage
We got the first dog that I remember when I was five or six years old. We named her Boo-boo. She was a rather ugly little mutt, think Toto from the Wizard of Oz, but she was very loyal and never wandered off. She even rode in front of my dad on the motorcycle, sometimes with me perched on the back! I don't think we even had a leash. We had Boo-boo until I was in college.
After graduating, hubby and I bought our own little puppy. I was delighted with Kirby and loved taking her for walks on the leash. Hubby also took her for walks, but early on he complained that she behaved terribly on the leash. I was puzzled because she heeled smartly beside me whenever I took her out. After a short Q & A, it was revealed that I was walking Kirby like a horse, on my right side. Oops!
Apparently, dogs are taught to heel on the person's LEFT side.
Little Tobias, not so little anymore, is also learning to heel and walk on the leash. Thanks to a tip from Hubby's parents, we are teaching him with the Gentle Leader instead of the old choke chain that we used on our other dogs. It might look a little mean, but Dr. Thurman assured me that it does no harm to their face and is actually safer and more humane than a traditional choke chain.
How is this in any way horse related? While teaching Tobias to heel, it occurred to me that it's a like like teaching our horses to walk quietly beside us. Like you, I have numerous halters for different purposes.
While endurance riding, I used rope halters exclusively. We were frequently camped in places where a runaway horse could mean death. On occasion, horses at endurance rides get loose and run away from camp. They occasionally run toward traffic. I would rather my horse bang a leg on the trailer than get loose. That's why I used rope halters; they don't break.
Now that I am just in the barn or on show grounds, Speedy goes in a nearly regular halter. It's configured like a regular halter, but it's made out of Biothane, a synthetic material. Biothane washes very easily and dries almost instantly.
Sydney's old halter.
Sydney, on the hand, doesn't get a regular halter anymore. He has one, but I had to quit using it when he started to try and push me around. Flat, web halters, like the one to the left, don't give you much control. Horses can easily pull or push against the flat webbing with no consequences.
Sydney now gets the rope halter. His behavior improved immediately with its use. Now when he drops his head to graze when I am leading to the arena, a quick tug gets his immediate attention. The thinner strands of the rope halter can be sharp on a thinned-skinned face. Even though there are no side rings, I clip the cross-ties to the single strand of rope that sits behind the cheek knot. It works like a charm.
I know there are many other kinds of halters, but these are the two that work for me. And just like for dogs (harnesses, choke chains, Gentle Leaders), you have to find what works best for your own horse.
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%: