From Endurance to Dressage
In Real Life
It must happen to everyone. I am sure of it. Do we all eventually see through the smoke and mirrors of dressage? I think I am finally there. It looks easy, effortless almost, but dressage is hard. Really hard. Most of the adult amateurs that I see are struggling. Very few of us are out there hitting balls out of the park. In fact, most adult amateurs are still stuck at home waiting, trying to get good enough to show.
I have never appreciated Speedy G more than I did this weekend. That dude's brain and temperament are worth their weight in gold. If I ever sell him, his price is going up. Way up. We may not be riding at the top level, but he is certainly doing his part to get me going somewhere. The problem with dressage is that having a strong to desire to be good is not enough. To be good, it takes a rider who knows what she's doing, a horse with the right temperament, and the financial means to get where you want to go.
Sydney helped me see three things at Sunday's show: 1) I am actually a pretty decent rider, 2) I have a solid horse in Speedy G and not so much in Sydney (yet), and 3) for the most part, money is not what's keeping us from going to shows. I am guessing that you're guessing that things weren't all rainbows and unicorns for Sydney and I this weekend. It wasn't a total disaster, but I am starting to feel a bit like quitting with him. I enjoy this horse, truly I do, but I don't know if showing is what he wants to do.
He did many great things, but he was a total ball of tension in the ring. Let me count how many times the judge used the word tension in our first test: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - five times. I am sure there would have been more, but to change it up, she used words like needs more stretch, needs more forward, wavering, spooking, and sashaying (really, she used that word!).
The problem is. I don't give up. Ever. I can't think of one single time that I have ever given up on something that I actually cared about. Okay. In college, I did sign up for a ballet class, went one time, and promptly quit. But that was just a whim. I didn't really care about ballet, and who starts ballet when they're nineteen? See. Justified quitting.
In reality, the show wasn't a deal breaker, but man! Sydney's progress away from home is really, really slow. He was better than last time, but only marginally. We started out with a lesson on Saturday afternoon with Chemaine Hurtado, my away-from-home trainer.
Basically, she schooled me through the walk and trot in various parts of the arena. We talked about what JL and I have been doing, and then Chemaine worked to try and fill in some of the gaps. I need to weight my inside hip to knee, and I need to open my outside rein to encourage Sydney to fill it up. We did some suppling exercises such as shoulder in and counter flexing with haunches in and haunches out.
There were some oh, crap! moments during the lesson, none of which caused me to even blink, and there were also some nice moments where Sydney was connected, balanced, and doing what he was supposed to be doing. Just nine months ago, he wouldn't even enter at A, and even when he did, he was a rocket that careened out of control.
For this lesson I worked wherever I wanted in the arena, with tension, but still, we worked. He never bolted. He never got away from me. He never made me feel afraid. Chemaine pointed out that if some of her other students had been riding him, they would have been quite terrified. He wasn't an easy ride. The difference is that now I know how to keep him under control. He bucked, hard, and he did some pretty impressive aerial maneuvers, but I never lost the contact, never tipped forward, and never panicked.
For me, this is important. The better rider than I can be, the more likely it is that I will be able to coax more from him. And honestly, I wasn't the reason for his tenseness. I just need to figure out how to show him that he doesn't need to be tense.
More tomorrow ...
8/10/2014 11:47:53 pm
Riding a tense horse is HARD. The tension can make them brilliant and very attuned to your aids, but only if you keep them focused and relaxed enough to do the job.
8/11/2014 10:27:44 pm
Thank you, jenj. I KNOW how hard he is to ride, but it's tough to convey that here. I heard someone say recently, "I am an amateur rider, not a beginner." It probably sounds like I am a really timid, newbie rider, but really, I am not. My trainer is amazed at the progress we've made, and I see it too, but it just feels like we should be over this melt down stage. Thank you for the encouragement. :0)
8/11/2014 10:30:04 pm
It's okay! :0) You know, other than jumping, Sydney is game for most anything, and it's because of his rider. He really wants to please me, but he just doesn't trust me enough yet away from home. I think the answer, really, is just more miles. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of choices for shows, especially schooling shows.
8/11/2014 02:48:15 am
You got this. Good days and bad, right? Isn't riding humbling? Well it is for me. Personally, I try not to categorize myself as a "good" rider or a "bad" rider. I am what I am....I'm on a learning journey and this is my hobby that I love. I try have underlying confidence that keeps pressing us forward, but man, some days it waivers. I'm chanting this mantra because I just finished a not-so-hot, two steps backwards sort of weekend myself :/ Oh well, another ride on another day.
8/11/2014 10:34:40 pm
Thank you, Amy. Sincerely. I think I need to stop trying to to classify myself in the "good rider" category. The problem with that way of thinking is that I view the good riders as people like Steffen Peters, Hilda Gurney, and Carl Hester. If that's what "good" is, I'll never get there. :0)
8/11/2014 10:39:55 pm
You know, Tracy, I haven't ever considered that Sydney is not an amateur-friendly horse. That is an excellent way of thinking. Wow. That changes all kinds of things for me. It actually takes a lot of pressure off because I have to have much different expectations for him than I do from Speedy.
8/11/2014 10:41:29 pm
Speedy does enjoy it, thank goodness. I've thought of selling him a bunch of times because I sometimes feel that i've outgrown him, but now I realize that's what makes amateur-friendly horses so valuable (see Tracy's comment above). I am grateful to have him!!!!! :0)
Oh, that sounds like a not fun ride on Sydney. You did well for sticking it out! I don't know if this is a helpful idea or not, but maybe it would be good for Sydney to go to some shows without showing? Is he calm and easy to ride during warmup? If he's not, maybe just taking him to a show, riding around and going home might help him get used to the idea of showing first.
8/11/2014 10:44:23 pm
Thanks, Bonita. If I had some choices of shows, I might try that, but this show was a bit of a test to see where we are. How nervous was he going to be, would he still pick up the canter when tense, etc. When I go back for my next lesson, I am going to report what happened, and then my trainer comes up with suggestions to deal with with where we are. Most recently, she helped me retch him that he can canter when tense, so yah! We can check that one off the list. Ever onward!
8/11/2014 02:38:09 pm
Gosh I feel your pain! It took 2 years just to feel comfy even riding Varro at home let alone at a show. At the year and a half mark I put him up for sale...I was just. over. it! He was on the market for 4 months. Everyone who came to see him was afraid of him. "He sure is pretty." They would say, then leave. So, I decided I had no other choice but to make it work with him! I am now the luckiest horsey mommy ever. We have a great partnership!
8/11/2014 10:45:52 pm
Now who's the inspiration? :0)
It's not something I've really talked about on my blog, but this is something I've thought about with Guinness some. He's not bad at shows (contrary, he's BETTER at shows!), but sometimes our fights at home can get so intense I wonder if we would be better off if I retired him to a trail-only home. He can be so difficult, and so particular.
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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%: