From Endurance to Dressage
I've written this so many times, but Izzy is a very complicated horse. Over the years, I've been mostly able to figure out what he's thinking and feeling. I might not always know what to do, but I always try to figure it out. When I find myself asking, what's wrong with you? I know he needs some body work.
Over the past few weeks, he has been a dragon both under saddle and in hand. I chalked it up to the cold weather and my inability to ride on a regular schedule. It was pouring as I wrote this. Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer st STC Dressage, and I have been working through the recent spooks and heightened anxiety with a new strategy, but I just wasn't making as much progress as I thought I should have, but I wasn't getting that What's wrong with you? feeling.
In late October, I had the equine chiropractor out to check Izzy before I went to the show over Halloween weekend. Izzy didn't need any work which was great news. After the show, I got sick, so Izzy didn't get ridden for nearly three weeks. Once I started riding him again in late November, he felt fantastic; I even shared video. At the beginning of December, the wheels fell off our bus. Sean and I discussed whether it was a body issue or not, but it seemed so unlikely as Izzy had been checked in October and really hadn't done much for the past month.
On Wednesday, I finally realized that Izzy was uncomfortable. When I find myself super exasperated, I know he's hurting. My chiropractor, CC, has given me a couple of other things to look for to help me identify body soreness. One of those is increased aggressiveness. Izzy had started to get pushier than usual. The other thing CC reminded me of is that the broker a horse gets, the more he'll work through pain since he knows it's his job. This can make it more difficult to see that Izzy is sore as he has learned to "suck it up."
CC is not just an equine chiropractor. He's also a trainer and cattle rancher which means he's pretty busy. After a disaster of a ride on Wednesday morning, I called CC while Izzy was still saddled. With the recent rain we've been having, CC has the same problems we all do - fresh horses and wet, muddy arenas which meant he wasn't as busy as normal. This worked out in my favor as he was free to come to town right then. He showed up 45 minutes later.
CC and I have been working together for a lot of years now. He used to work silently while I watched. At the end, I would tentatively ask a few questions. Now, we chat the entire time he's working while he shows me how to feel for certain things. As he moves over Izzy's body, I now ask questions and CC answers them. He explains how the sore places might have gotten that way and how what he's doing will relieve the discomfort.
Every now and again, usually in July on the hottest day of the year, Izzy will need an hour of work because he's out in so many areas. This was one of those times. Izzy's C7 was the main culprit, but he was also uncomfortable in his poll, scapula, ribs, and hips. Izzy's C7 has caused problems before, but it takes a lot of force to cause a problem there.
After thinking about it for a minute, I remembered that a few weeks back, two of the ranch mares had gotten out in the middle of the night; the gate must not have been latched. Izzy tore up the dirt in his paddock that night, so much so that the ranch owner texted me to explain the churned up footing. CC agreed that "fighting" over the fence all night could definitely have caused the C7 issue.
CC worked for at least an hour. First he tackled the C7, and then he moved on to the poll. Then back to the C7, and then on to the ribs, and back to the poll. On and on it went. CC would get the reaction he was searching for, but then Izzy would show us something else. CC patiently chased the blockages and resistances, working them out as much as Izzy could take. CC takes his time and lets the horses rest if the work becomes too much. You can't force the relaxation.
By the time CC had finished, Izzy was feeling better, but because it took so long, he wasn't nearly as chummy with CC as he usually is. Nobody took offense though, and we let Izzy wander off as we continued chatting. When I rode the next morning, I was very relieved to have my normal horse back under me. I kept the ride short as all I wanted to do was show him that he didn't hurt anymore. After a few minutes of walk, trot, and canter, I asked for a halt, and that was it.
My list of things to look for when I am not sure whether Izzy is sore or not is growing. It used to simply be what's wrong with you?, but now I can add unexplained spooking, aggressiveness, balking, and fearful behavior while being groomed and led. With a complicated horse like Izzy, all of those things can happen at any given time and mean nothing. Figuring out whether they're from I'm a complicated horse or from I am hurting will continue to be the challenge.
As always, I can only say, bring it!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%