From Endurance to Dressage
Izzy's first ever USDF show is just six weeks away. Of course, telling the universe that I am going to a show is practically a guarantee that something is going to go haywire between now and then. Even so, I like to plan ahead. Universe, please don't hold this against me.
Getting ready to show on Speedy was a liner process. I studied the directives for the level. I practiced the movements for the level. When I felt we were in the ballpark, we went and showed. Usually our scores weren't great. We went home and practiced some more. We scored better the next time. We practiced some more again. Eventually, our scores rose, we won some things, and we started on the next level.
Izzy does not learn that way. His learning path looks more like a kindergartner practicing cursive. There is some up, some down, and a lot of sideways. We go forward five steps, only to reverse ten. We march forward for a few months, and then all hell breaks loose, and I threaten to sell him. All the while though, our scribble moves in a generally upward direction. I frequently forget to stop and think how far we've come.
Right now we're schooling the simple changes, particularly the canter to walk. During our last lesson, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, said something really interesting. When something catches Izzy's attention, he likes to snap his head up, stop moving his feet, and get a good look. It's a been a problem since the beginning. While Izzy has a pretty decent bolt in his toolbox, his preferred tool is the balk, and he's quite good at it. So when he tried to quit moving his feet, Chemaine said that he is welcome to think about it, but he has to still move his feet.
It's not like I've just been letting him stop to think about things. No. I've tried a lot of different ways to convince him that he still has to go forward. I've used spurs. I've used bigger spurs. I've used the whip. I've tried kicking until I've left dents in his side. None of it has cured that tendency to slam on the brakes, but it's gotten us through.
Izzy is not the same horse he was six years ago or even one year ago. He has learned a lot and grown up some. Now that he is more mature and walking around with a bit more confidence - by comparison, Speedy is flat out arrogant next to Izzy, the balking is something that I need to begin to address again. I put my baby spurs back on.
Outside of the arena we have some of those ubiquitous plastic chairs. I think one of them had fallen over, but I am not sure. Izzy was. Not only had it fallen over, but it was crawling with horse-eating bacteria. He gave that chair some serious stink eye, went into slow-motion, and then pedaled backwards. I goosed him forward with my baby spurs, and he hopped straight up in the air in total shock. Hello, naughty horse, meet my heel.
I've ridden with those baby spurs for the the last fews days, and the desire to balk has steadily decreased. I bring that back to the simple change because it is a movement that requires that the brakes and the gas pedal be pressed simultaneously. In order to go from a canter to a walk, the horse has to be pretty collected with his hind legs active and carrying.
In Second Level Test 2, the simple changes are done in a three-loop serpentine as you cross the centerline. When I was riding those tests on Speedy, I hated that movement because it was so hard. I now see how doing it on the serpentine helps set the horse up for success. As you leave the rail, the horse should be put in a haunches in so that his haunches are already stepping under while the rider collects the horse down to the walk. To do so the rider's legs say keep going while the hand and seat say whoa. My legs aren't strong enough to convince Izzy to keep stepping under, but now that he knows the baby spur is there, he's been much more willing to get that bit of a piaffe feeling in his hind legs.
Over the weekend, we were finally able to ride the three-loop serpentine with actual canter to walk transitions close to the centerline. The walk to canter part is not a problem. Izzy's got Speedy beat there. Every time I finish a ride, I ask if it's good enough and reliable enough yet to take to a show. A week ago, I would have said no. This weekend, I felt like the simple changes were weak, but they are there. My entry for the October show is filled out. The only thing missing is which tests we'll do. We have until the beginning of October to decide.
Will it be First or Second?
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%: