From Endurance to Dressage
Getting Closer ...
Izzy is now being worked in the bridle and saddle. Whew! It's taken almost four months to get to this place, but it's been worth it! Do I wish he hadn't been injured? Of course, but a lot of good has come from it. Izzy really likes and trusts me which makes the work under saddle so much easier.
I didn't wake up on Sunday planning to put him in the bridle and saddle, but when I got to the barn, it just seemed like the right choice. We've been lunging with the surcingle and rope halter for weeks now, and he has started to find it all rather ho hum. I've been riding him bareback after the lunging and that too has become easy with no worries. The bridle and saddle seemed the next obvious choice.
The first day didn't go quite like I expected, but it all worked itself out.
I started bridling him in the cross ties a week or so ago just to make sure that bridling was a non-issue. In December, he was difficult to bridle as he refused to lower his head. It's a non-issue now. In fact, he happily slurps up the bit with no assistance from me. I am sure it helps that I've been coating the bit with a swipe of molasses.
Sunday however, was the first day that he worked in the bridle. Someone suggested I hang the rope halter over his bridle and attach the lunge line to the rope halter. That was a brilliant suggestion and one that fit in perfectly with my plan. I wanted him to figure the bit out on his own without me tugging or pulling on it.
As it turns out, it wasn't the bit that gave him a scare but rather the saddle. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was wrong. As we walked out to our lunging area, he kept humping up his back and scooting his hind legs underneath himself. At one point he whirled and tried to bolt with a big old hump in his back. This was before I had even asked him to move out.
At first, I thought he'd been stung by a bee. He had this wild look to his eyes, and he acted as though his butt hurt. I got him to stand still and rubbed my hands all over his body. Nothing seemed wrong so I asked for a quiet walk. When he seemed okay, I asked for a trot. The hump returned, but I decided to let him work it out himself. When I asked for the canter, all hell broke loose.
The hump in his back turned into a full on bucking fit with his hind legs camped under his belly. He couldn't buck very well since he couldn't get his hind legs to work. I let him bumble around a few times before bringing him back to a halt. I had him change direction which improved things slightly.
When we were finished, I brought him back to the barn and gave my saddle's fit a good looking over. From what I could see, it's a little wide on him, but other than that, it looks like a good enough fit. While not a perfect fit, the riser pad does help it sit level, and there's certainly no bridging or rocking.
After thinking it over, I realized that the stiffness of the saddle had surprised him. Even though he was started under saddle two years ago and ridden a few times by the trainer in December, it's still been several months since he's felt a saddle on his back. The surcingle and half pad that I was using were very soft and flexible, totally unlike the saddle.
I changed my game plan for the second day. I saddled him like before with the bridle and rope halter, but when we got to the arena, I hand walked him for a few minutes and spent lots of time having him yield his hindquarters and backing up. He didn't want to do any of these things, but I insisted. I also wiggled the saddled, lifted the flaps and smacked them around a bit, and tugged on the girth.
Little by little I saw him start to relax. By the time we got to the lunging, he was much less surprised by the saddle. I asked him for a walk and was happy (relieved) to see him walk out without the hump in his back. I eventually asked for a trot and finally a canter. For the first few canter strides, he humped up his back again, but he quickly stretched out.
When I felt that he had had enough time to feel the saddle on his back at the canter, I walked him back to the mounting block like I've done every day for the past few weeks. With no fussing or worry, I climbed on and rode around just like we've been doing bareback. He was very quiet and willing. We did some bending exercises and then rode a few figure eights. There was no hump in his back and he seemed eager to please me.
I know he could feel my smile. The whole neighborhood could see my smile; it was that huge. I've worked him every day since Sunday, and he's only gotten better and better. We're just about ready to start trotting.
4/3/2015 04:01:21 am
We ALL wish he hadn't gotten hurt, but I can't help but admire how you've used this time to your advantage. By the time he's cleared for riding 100%, he's going to be such a solid citizen with all the work you've done, riding will be a non-issue!
4/3/2015 09:59:28 am
He's cleared for riding right now, but I am still going slow. Yesterday and today we played the walk the fence game (a blog post coming). Basically, you give them their head with no steering unless they come off the fence or pick up speed. I am using the outside rein to bring him back to the fence or to slow him down. Day two is under our belt. Once he can do that without fussing we'll play trot the fence. :0)
4/3/2015 10:00:25 am
He IS a neat horse - just a regular horse, but I am really enjoying him! :0)
4/6/2015 11:16:10 am
You pegged him EXACTLY - he is ver transparent and has no hidden agenda. He WANTS to do the right thing. :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)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: