From Endurance to Dressage
I mean that not only in the obvious way but also in the figurative sense. Earlier last week, my friend Amy asked if I wanted to trailer Izzy over to her place for a change of scenery. I've been to Amy's place quite a few times over the past few years, and have found that it's an excellent place for testing out a horse's level of submission.
Amy's barn is beautiful, but it's a busy place. It's peaceful, but the property has a lot going on. At the C end of the arena, she has a large wooden wall to block out the neighbor's noisy goats and dogs. That's great but my horses find the wall itself to be a boogey man. There are also lots of horses being horses. Everything is much more densely packed than what we have out at the ranch.
In contrast, my arena is at the far end of the property in a fairly wide open place. There are some distractions, but they're mostly out of sight - which still makes them spooky. Working at Amy's is great practice for being at a show where horses have to stay focused even with a lot going on around them.
Like always, I parked out on the road, it's a little one lane job just for the neighborhood, so it's perfectly safe to tie to the trailer and do what you need to do. In fact, as I was grooming, someone rode by on a fancy little paint horse that Izzy found very interesting. With a water bottle in hand, I punched in Amy's gate code and made my way to the back of her property.
She was busy watering and dragging the arena, so I followed Izzy around as he grazed on the lawn. He was vibrating with nervous energy, but grazing was a good sign that he was relaxing. By the time Amy had finished, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, had pulled in.
I hopped up on Izzy tp warm him up, but within a few minutes, I knew he wasn't going to be as "submissive" as I had hoped, so I switched out his snaffle bridle for the one with the correction bit. I had brought it with me just in case. I was glad I did, because it gave me a lot more control. That's what the lesson really end up being about - controlling his shoulders, particularly the inside one.
We started with some shoulder in and ten-meter circles to try and unlock his back and loosen up his neck, but Izzy was pretty intent on holding it all in. Once I switched to trot half passes, he started to focus.
The one thing Chemaine asked for in all the movements we worked on was more leg, but she wanted BOTH legs. In the shoulder in, I kept him off the rail with the outside rein and, but I pushed him forward with the both legs. In the trot half passes, I rode them as a shoulder in, but again, I used both legs to push him forward.
With Speedy, I have to position his haunches. With Izzy, all I have to do to move his haunches is simply to think about it. So for the half passes, all I need to do is establish the correct bend in the corner and then ride it like a shoulder in while pushing him forward with BOTH legs.
The only naughty things that Izzy really did were spook at the wall - that's okay once or twice, but after that it was oh, no you don't, and flat out refuse to go forward like in an all out balk. We swapped out my baby spurs for a longer pair of Amy's, and when that didn't work, Chemaine used the whip from the ground to send him forward. Once we reestablished that yes, you have to do this, we got some really interesting work done.
We re-schooled the counter canter to true canter, and what I loved about it was that he can now pick up the counter canter on the circle, and usually from a walk. This is something new, so it was great to be able to bring that skill and apply it away from home.
We used the counter canter, now that it's much more balanced, to again tackle the flying changes. We never got a true flying change, but Izzy definitely started connecting the dots. I could tell that he was starting to figure out that a new aid was being applied. He wasn't sure what the right answer was, but at least he was trying to figure it out.
For now, Izzy isn't an "easy" horse to ride, and he may never be, but he is getting to be very rideable even with the tension. As long as I am firm with my aids and insistent, he gets to work. And he's even better when the work is complicated.
And then the next day, we went somewhere else. Like I said, goin' places!
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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%: