From Endurance to Dressage
Fluphenazine or Fear?
This is a follow up to yesterday's post in which I admit a few things to myself. Thank you all for commenting. You were right in many respects. Sydney was not being respectful. I spent several days working on that from the ground and it helped me understand some of his anxiety. How can you be relaxed when you have a leader who isn't leading?
When I first brought Sydney home, his ground manners left quite a bit to be desired. He wasn't a stinker, but he was used to just pushing his weight around. I fixed that immediately as I am too small of a person to tolerate being shoved around by any horse. He now has impeccable ground manners. Under saddle was a different story, I was so afraid of "messing him up." I tried to be gentle with him from the saddle and acknowledged that he was a different breed from which I am used to working. While he learned to be respectful on the ground, he didn't trust me on board. He scared me several times in the beginning which started a pretty vicious cycle of behaviors.
I gave this situation a lot of thought. I realized that if I wanted to continue riding this horse, something had to change. I asked myself seriously what I could do about it.
There were several answers. The first one was that I admitted that I was afraid. Whew .. got that off my chest. And when I admitted that, I was pretty pissed at myself. When did I become afraid of riding? I've ridden my whole life and have been nearly fearless. I was afraid after Speedy threw me into a fence and cracked the back of my helmet, but I got over that. What was there to be afraid of here? That admission was liberating and empowering.
Here's the second admission. I started letting a trainer, whom I admire tremendously, take over for me. I started to doubt my own judgement and abilities. And when I admitted that, I was really pissed at myself! I may not have certain particular riding skills, but I reminded myself that I can ride and have a rather large toolbox of riding tricks. I can stay on a horse, dammit! I may be new to dressage, but I am not new to riding.
So on the day I set out to video Sydney's antics, I "cowgirled up." I told myself to get my ass out there and ride that horse. I didn't need to be afraid. What I needed to do was stop being afraid of looking right, and do whatever was needed to get control of my horse. Sydney needed a leader, and I hadn't been providing that for him. I knew how how to do it. I've done it many, many times. And that's what I did. If you've seen the video, you'll know things didn't go perfectly. He was still gravitating toward the gate, and he kept trying to duck out from under me to get to the gate, but he eventually started to work with me. And while being the leader, I kicked that fat-assed elephant named Fear, OUT THE DOOR!
I've ridden Sydney several times since that video, and each ride has gotten better. I am able to use the whole arena and he moves forward. When he gets too forward, I simply bend him around my leg until he relaxes. We've had one or two little squirty spooks, but they weren't any big deal. On Tuesday afternoon we had one of the better rides we've had. We did lots of changes of directions, and with a gentle scoop of my seat and a squeeze with my legs, he jumped neatly into an awesome canter. I squealed with delight! We spiraled in, and I slowed him to a lovely pace. He was "light" in my hand and responded quickly to my whoa. Woohoo! That was the first time I've cantered on him since July. Before Tuesday, I was terrified to canter on him because I didn't know if I would be able to stop him.
So ... Fluphenazine, or fear conquered? I don't know if the Fluphenazine just took his edge off which made it easier for him to hear me, or if my attitude adjustment has given him the leader he needed. And I am not saying this whole anxiety issue is conquered, but at least I am on the right track. I am no longer afraid of him from the saddle, and that is a huge relief!
1/12/2012 01:39:53 am
karen, I am so proud of you! It is so hard to face our fears and inadequacies. We don't need to be perfect just contented with who we are. You seem happy and free to be just you. It takes a lot of courage to share what you just wrote for all to read. You have a lot of spunk to hang i n there and a willingness to improve what you need to. By golly you are an excellent horse rider and you should be proud of that. It's great that you didn't let Sydney get the best of you. Just treat him like your students then you'll be fine. I know your kids love you and so do your horses. Take care! Love Mom
1/12/2012 02:29:32 am
I would like to second Mom's comment. ;)
1/12/2012 04:41:26 am
Bravo!!!! You tell that pony who pays his bills and what you expect from him in return.
1/12/2012 10:55:19 am
I love your diagnosis! Quit worrying about what you look like and what breed of horse you're riding, and just do what you do best RIDE that horse!! He only knows that you're little and can be pushed around if you "tell" him that reality. If you tell him confidently you're in charge, he'll believe you. And I'll bet that will boost his confidence as well. I've seen you work miracles on horses that you couldn't have hired me to ride, I know you are up to this challenge. You go girl!!
1/12/2012 11:56:53 am
I have been really busy since I started back to work so I am sorry for not replying to comments. Thank you all for your kind and supportive words. We're working hard and I KNOW it's making a difference. Had a GREAT ride this evening. :0)
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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)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: