From Endurance to Dressage
Izzy is officially being worked under saddle. Since I am not a "trainer," our progress will be much slower than if he was being worked by someone with their name engraved on a shingle. That's okay though. I've brought along a couple of horses from scratch who turned out quite well.
I've been going back and watching some of Clinton Anderson's stuff that I have DVRed. He'd be the first one to say that he has a method but that it's not the only method. I don't have his DVDs, and I am not following his program step-by-step, but he does have some really good ideas.
The first thing that I've been working on with Izzy is reminding him that I have PERSONAL SPACE. Clinton Anderson refers to it as your hula-hoop, and he makes that circle really big. Insisting that Izzy respect my space is a lesson that is still in progress. My mistake is that I let him "snuggle" me while I am in his stall. I really need to enforce the personal space bubble at all times.
Personal space is important because it's the first way to teach your horse to move his feet. Clinton Anderson insists that you should be able to quickly and easily move your horse's feet right, left, forward, and backward. If your horse is sticky (like Izzy), then you don't have his respect.
Izzy's been getting daily work to unstick his feet, especially when going backwards. Clinton Anderson has several methods for teaching a horse to back up, and I have been using most of them. The techniques use four cues, each of which gets progressively louder and firmer. Essentially, you ask, you tell, (I can't remember the third one), and then you say I told you so.
One method for teaching the horse to back is to wiggle the rope, wag the rope, wave the stick, and whack the shoulder with the stick. If you're doing it correctly, the horse learns that the whack is coming (I told you so) and starts to back up before that. And when he really believes you, he'll start backing up as soon as you wiggle the rope.
The whack with the stick is never done in anger, and once the horse unsticks his feet, the pressure is released. When you next ask the horse to do something, you ask with the mildest aid first. Izzy is getting it; he does not like getting whacked with the stick. Clinton Anderson reminds his students to alternate a sensitizing exercise (like backing up) with a desensitizing exercise (stand quietly while I rub you with my stick) so that the horse doesn't grow fearful or resentful of the stick.
Other than the ground work exercises, I also started doing his "follow the fence" exercise. I love this game because it teaches the horse to be responsible for maintaining the pace that I establish. I am doing it at the walk right now because Izzy doesn't have reliable brakes installed yet, and like I said, I am not a professional (which means I want to feel safe).
The exercise goes like this: send your horse forward on a fence line, but then do NOTHING once he's moving forward. If the horse turns off the fence line, you wait until he has committed the error completely (no babysitting/nagging), and then you use the outside rein to steer him back to the fence line. If the horse breaks into a trot, you use the outside rein to slow him back to a walk.
Izzy can't do the exercise perfectly yet (it's only been a few days), but he's catching on. When we change directions, he has to rethink the exercise, but again, he gets it. What I love about this exercise is that it's safe (turn into the fence if things go south), and it teaches the horse to maintain the forward without the rider micro-managing every step. As long as he is marching forward and following the fence line, I'll leave him alone. This allows him to find his balance on a loose rein. Once I feel safe at the walk, we'll play the game at the trot, and ultimately at the canter.
My approach to Izzy's training is to teach him to maintain his forwardness, develop some balance, turn right and left, and stop when asked. When he can do all of this confidently, then we'll start woking on accepting the contact and framing up a little.
It's going to be a productive summer!
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%: