From Endurance to Dressage
Hitting the Trail
Over the weekend, I wondered why I hadn't taken Izzy back out to Hart Park. It's not like my work schedule is jam packed or anything, and the weather is suddenly gorgeous. We've been working hard to prepare for this show season, but with that on hold, I realized I still needed to get him out and about. Hart Park was the perfect destination.
The drive from the ranch to Hart Park with a trailer is 15 minutes if you drive conservatively, less if you step on it. There isn't even a stop sign. I always park at Horseman's Barn which has hitching posts, a wash rack, and pipe corrals. There are also picnic tables, shade trees, and very nice views.
I didn't even warn Izzy that we were going. I showed up, hooked up my trailer, and threw my tack in the back. I gave him a spritz of fly spray and told him to load up. He didn't bat an eye; he self-loaded, and once I was parked, he backed out quietly, albeit with a bit of a confused look. There were plenty of people at the park, so there were a lot of bodiless voices. Izzy craned his neck for a few minutes trying to figure out where everyone was, but there were no theatrics. I saddled up and was on the trail within 15 minutes.
I thought Izzy was good the last time we did this loop. Just two months later, he was even better. At the walk, he was immediately on the buckle. He wasn't bored, but he was happy to listen and let me make the decisions. I did the loop the same way as we had done it in February.
At 15 minutes into the ride, I remembered that I had my phone and that I had recently downloaded an activity app. I turned it on where the map is marked with a green dot. The red dot is where we finished which was an extra mile.
Any time the trail was free of gravel, we trotted. Back when I was endurance training, I would have trotted and cantered nearly the entire thing and then added another 10 miles by heading out into the foothills. Izzy's not an endurance horse though, and his fear-meter has a much higher setting than that of my endurance horses. Sometimes, it was just prudent to walk.
We passed by one freakishly weird object that deserved a much bigger spook than Izzy offered. Right next to the trail there was a pipe about 18 inches in diameter that rose around 8 feet into the air. I have no idea what it was for, but it sounded as if it were breathing. Moaning even. It might have even been a death rattle. In fact, I am sure of it. Izzy gave it a very, very long stare and contorted his body in such a way as to put as much distance between it and himself.
I couldn't blame him. Even I didn't know what it was, and of course, it was on the section of the trail that we had to repeat. It sounded no more friendly on the way back. I have to give Izzy lots of credit; he walked by it even though he was certain it was a harbinger of the apocalypse.
Since the park and trail system are still open to the public, there were quite a few other visitors. We saw a smattering of cyclists - one who was the most polite cyclist I've ever come across, and I've seen plenty. He cheerfully warned us, "I am on your right on a bicycle." I'll share the trail with that dude any day. There were also plenty of fishermen, hikers, and families out for a stroll. Everyone was courteous and practicing social distancing.
Izzy was really happy to walk, but for the trotting I had to work to keep him soft and forward. The first time I asked for a canter, he just couldn't. His back was simply too tight. After three or four miles, we came to a slight downhill that was wide open. He agreed to canter. A few minutes later, we came to a narrower stretch of trail, so I asked for the other lead. I got in two-point and rode him with LEG ON, so he managed to keep it together through some trail that had bushes over our heads.
I wasn't just pleased with Izzy because we didn't die. He was as solid as most "arena" horses could be. He hasn't had nearly the experience that Speedy has, but even so, I felt perfectly safe on him. Even when he was nervous, he slowed down or simply stopped. He never actually spooked. Now that the park loop is back on my radar, I'm going to have to try getting out there a little more frequently. It's nice to have a dressage horse who can also do trails.
Now I have two of them.
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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%: