From Endurance to Dressage
How Low Can You Go?
Well, pretty low is the answer. After the show we did in July, the one where we didn't score so well but Izzy felt much improved, both my trainer and I were certain things were headed in a very positive, upward direction. We were wrong.
Don't worry, it's not as bad as all that, but I won't lie; I was disappointed and frustrated. Like I had for several shows over the summer, I drove down to the show on Thursday for a lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. We were both really pleased with how well Izzy worked. He was the most "rideable" that Sean has seen so far. The next day, we headed over to Southern California Equestrian Center (SCEC) for a Friday schooling ride. Compared to every other Friday ride, Izzy was fantastic. I explained that Izzy's newest "evasion" was stopping and refusing to go forward. We saw some of that on Friday, but other than that, he was much more focused on me.
By Saturday, the hamsters in Izzy's brain were falling out of their little wheel. By Sunday, they had left the building. It was gut wrenching and demoralizing. Sean described the look on Izzy's face as one that said, I DON'T WANT TO BE HERE. Instead of being anxious, something that we've been working through, Izzy was belligerent and pissed. He couldn't bend left. He couldn't trot or canter without carrying his haunches in. He couldn't do anything but halt, and even that was questionable and often came without my asking for it. For 2-1 (52.297%), we did get a 7.0 for our rein back, and on 2-2 (56.098%) we earned another 7.0 for the travers left, but the rest of Saturday's scores were pretty dismal.
Frustrated, but knowing that progress isn't always perfectly linear, we reviewed the tests, gleaned from them what we could, and prepped for Sunday. The first test on Sunday, 2-1, was maybe one of the worst tests we've done. Izzy balked, refused to maintain the canter, swapped leads, and did everything he could to tell me to "F" off. We did score a 7.5 for the rein back though, so I guess that was one positive. We scored a 50.676%. His submission score was a 4.0; that's pretty low.
I didn't even upload the video, and frankly, I've only watched some of it. He's not overtly misbehaving, and to a casual observer, there's nothing dramatic to see, but you all would see the tension right away. His haunches were all over the places, I was all over the place (it's hard to sit on a plank of wood), and his back is clearly tight. When we walked out of the ring, I was fuming. What the hell, horse?
And then it hit me. When Izzy refuses to do something, it's because he needs body work. Sean agreed. In the week or two before the show, Izzy's first step under saddle would be a bit "hitchy," but there were no other red flags other than a bit of balking. Normally, when he needs work, his "tells" are much more obvious. I could see that Sean felt perplexed and was working out a way to help me. There wasn't a lot we could do, but Sean came up with a solution.
Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do. Sean's suggestion was to slow everything way down in the final warm up. We did a lot of walking and stretching, and when we did get back to work, Sean instructed me to work Izzy in the longest frame possible. It didn't turn my grouchy horse into a super star, but the more relaxed work told him that we were listening and wanted to support him. We earned a 7.0 for our first centerline, another 7.0 for the rein back, and a lot of 5.0s. We managed to eke out a slightly better 53.537%. Not anything like what we want, but at least we rebounded slightly.
Once Izzy was back at the trailer resting, Sean and I talked about our next steps. We both agreed that a call to my chiropractor was a priority - I did it that day, and then we discussed a plan for the next show. I know many of you have questioned our decision to show at Second Level this summer. Our scores pretty much scream, NOT READY FOR THE LEVEL. Sean and I both knew that Second was going to be a stretch, but we weren't necessarily looking for good scores.
I needed a test that would keep Izzy's brain engaged while I fought for some measure of control. Second Level has a lot going on with all of the changes of direction and transitions. Izzy can do all of the movements, but his tension prevents him from doing them well. Now that he is finally "rideable" on Friday and in the warm up, we're going to take away some of the pressure by going down to First Level in October. Even had we shown at Intro, his scores would have been the same. Tension is tension whether you're walking or pirouetting.
So what did the chiropractor say? Look for that in tomorrow's post.
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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%: