From Endurance to Dressage
With all that's happening on the Speedy front, I haven't had time for a Sydney update, so here it is
I've spent these last two weeks schooling Sydney out of the rear. I am cautiously optimistic, although still very watchful. So far, the plan is "working" as there has only been one small rear at the very beginning for which I WHACKED the heck out of him. He hasn't reared while in his stall or in the arena, at least while I am at the barn. He has certainly thought about it, but he has kept himself in check.
I actually saw him rock back on his haunches during turnout, but then he thought better of it and whirled away in a gallop instead. During our rides, I started by schooling him at the walk while tapping his neck with crop per my trainer's instructions and was quite pleased with how respectful he was of the crop's "power."
I took my lesson on Sunday last week. Sydney hadn't been risen or turned out in two days so I made sure he had plenty of turn out time before I rode. He ended up galloping and racing around for a solid 45 minutes which was probably why the lesson went so well. He was so sweaty from his run that I ended up giving him a full soap bath before my lesson (California is good for a few things).
JL and I spent at least 15 minutes debriefing before I got on. It is really great to have a trainer who is willing to discuss what's happening in between lesson rides. I shared how our previous rides had gone as well as my ground work technique for moving him away from the crop. She liked everything she saw and then added a new element to the exercises.
We've mastered the send him into a right spin with the outside leg exercise. If he wants to dive to the right to avoid working, he now knows that we'll spin to the right forever as it is my favorite thing to do. He's still going forward, but it's not as easy as just moving out on a 15 or 20-meter circle.
His neck trick was to avoid the outside rein's action by rearing. Getting him to bend his neck so I can get him back to the ground seems to have been fixed by the spin to the right. JL had a new exercise to avoid even getting into the fight with the outside rein.
As soon as I feel him ignoring my half halts with the left rein, I am now sending him into a left spin with the new outside leg driving him forward. He was very resistant to this exercise. He actually tried to rear to avoid the outside rein, but I was quicker than he was and jerked his head to the left and drove him into the spin with my new outside leg. You should have seen the surprise on his face!
He has learned to give up very quickly to the right, but to the left, he was a bit of a slow learner! Once he did soften to the left rein, I bent him back to the right and repeated the 20-meter circle. When he tried to rush the rhythm, I asked him with my core and seat to slow down. When he did, I relaxed and continued on, but when he didn't, I hauled his head around to the left and dug in with my new outside leg.
Eventually, he slowed down in the trouble spot on his own, and it was clear that he had given up the fight for that day. I patted his neck and hopped off. Both JL and I felt that it was a successful schooling ride. He never got away from me and he never reared. He tested me a bit, but when no escape seemed available, right, left, or up, he became submissive and went to work.
After that lesson, I went to town with that outside rein. The instant I felt him grab it, I sent him left with the left rein planted. I used my right leg to send him forward into the turn. He grunted and oofed and tried to crab his cranky self anywhere but forward. Once he softened to the left rein, I released the pressure and ask him to track right.
We've done this exercise three days in a row. He hasn't reared, but he has thrown some hissy fits about it. Yesterday was tough. I finally just rode him in a hand gallop to the left as I couldn't get any forward movement at the trot. Everything was simply an attempt to bolt. The gallop did a lot of good as he finally started to focus. Eventually, we were able to work on a 20-meter circle to both the left and right, but it's so frustrating that after two-and a half years, we're back to this spot.
Before I was working on the canter, we had the 20-meter circle down pat. Once I started on the canter, things started to fall apart again. I am hoping we're just caught in a pendulum cycle that is winding down: he over-reacts to the left, then to the right, but eventually his over-reactions get smaller and smaller until he's on a more even keel. I hope so anyway.
Our discussion has been about two things: has Sydney just never learned to truly behave, or is something "wrong" with him? After watching him for these past two and a half years, my trainer seems to think that it is more and more likely that no one ever really stuck with him long enough to work this spoiled/resistant/fearful/anxious streak out of him.
Can I do it? I don't know, but I am willing to try for a bit longer. As long as we continue to take some steps forward without too many backward steps, I'm game.
And besides, with Wonder Woman Boots on, I can't fail!
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%: