From Endurance to Dressage
Facing the Dragon
Sunday morning dawned foggy and dreary, weather that is pretty typical for California's Central Valley. While typical, it is not weather that Izzy enjoys. It makes him jumpy and nervous. So does windy and rainy weather. The only weather he seems to like are blistering hot days. Good thing we have six months of those. I waited until mid-morning before heading out to the ranch. I was hoping the fog would lift. When that didn't appear to be happening, I pulled on my big girl panties and saddled up anyway.
Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, has given me so many tools to use with Izzy that even though I knew he was going to be a dragon, I wasn't worried about it. As it turned out, he either felt my confidence, or he just wasn't in the mood to unleash all of his evil powers. He wasn't an easy, relaxed ride, but we did some really good work anyway.
The whole focus of my ride was to show him that I believed in him, and that he had every reason to trust me. If only he spoke English, or I spoke better horse. We could get through all of this a lot faster. Since he can't and I don't, we communicate the best we can. I decided that we would take all of our walk breaks at the C end of the arena - the place where his inner dragon really comes to life, and do our work in the middle of the arena. It was a strategy that proved very effective. He never once spooked or bolted at the C end. Go, me!
The other strategy I employed was to do lots of spiral in and out with baby transitions. When he's tense and anxious like that, his canter is nearly impossible to ride. It is so tense and braced that it is physically uncomfortable. Rather than subject either one of us to that mess, I decided to get a good trot to canter transition but then only allow him to canter for two or three strides before asking him to come back down to the walk. He was surprised by the change in tactic, but to the right, his canter transition improved immediately.
To the left, it's still a work in progress. The good news is that his tension never escalated, and I think I made a deposit in his trust bank. By the time we were finished, nearly forty minutes later, he was still tense, but his ears were soft, and his last canter transition was a good one.
Mission accomplished. At least for that day.
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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%: