From Endurance to Dressage
I blogged about this book two years ago. You really should go back and read that post before continuing with this one. I'll wait for you ...
Were you able to figure out who your horse is? Back then, I wasn't quite sure who Speedy was. His sassiness led me to believe that he might be a Rock Star, but all doubt has since been removed. Speedy is the Goddess with strong leanings toward the Rock Star.
I had forgotten about the book, but working with Izzy so closely over the past few months got me thinking about it again. I know why Speedy does the things he does, but I found myself asking my trainer why Izzy does this or that. That was when I remembered that Dessa Hockley, author of Is Your Horse A Rock Star? tries to answer those very questions.
I spent quite a bit of time over the past week reading through the book again trying to determine which personality type most closely matches my big brown horse. The author suggests first determining whether your horse is lazy (L) or energetic (E). That's easy; Izzy is an E for sure. One look at all of the toys he's destroyed leaves no doubt.
He's also friendly (F) rather than aloof (A), but now that I've re-read the book, I can see how that can be tricky to choose. Speedy is friendly for sure, but with Izzy, I had to really think about it. Does he like me just because I dole out treats, or does he really want to hang out even if nothing is forthcoming?
As soon as I pull into the barn's drive-way, Speedy calls for me and waits at the fence. Izzy does the same thing even if he's not quite as vocal about it. He loves to come out and play with me and relishes being groomed. He loves to nip at my sleeve and lip my hair. He watches me work and loves to "help" clean stalls. He's one of those that is always in your space. So even though his brand of friendly isn't quite as sweet as Speedy's, I feel comfortable labeling him as Friendly (F).
Is Izzy curious (C) or afraid (A)? I think that right now he has more A running through him than C, but I am pretty certain that as he gains life experience his A will become a strong C. In his stall, where he feels comfortable, he's all about curiosity. When I introduce a new toy, he doesn't hesitate; he can't wait to explore it.
Outside of his stall is a different story. When we go somewhere new, which is not as frequently as I'd like, he definitely clings to me and worries. He loses all of his confidence when he doesn't know where he is. The thing that leads me to believe this lack of confidence will change is that once we've been somewhere before, he's less nervous about it on our second visit. For now, he gets the Afraid (A) label.
The last thing to determine is whether your horse is dominant (D) or submissive (S). Izzy is hands down dominant. He takes great joy in muscling me around and like Hockley says, "You may see it as just friendly until they push it to the next stage, and you move back and give ground in some way and they smugly say, 'Gotcha.' " Yup. That's Izzy.
So. What personality type does Izzy have? He's DEAF - Dominant, Energetic, Afraid, Friendly - otherwise known as The Wild Card. Hockley says that "DEAF" fits them perfectly as it can be difficult for the rider to be heard over their fear.
Here's what Hockley has to say about the Wild Card ...
Strong minded but insecure, this personality needs an equally strong rider to help them feel safe. Be loving and affectionate, but don’t give up your leadership. Once you have them on your page, they are very friendly and have a strong desire to please. They can be highly competitive and will give you their all. Not a horse for a junior or amateur until much later in life.
As I read through the pages describing the Wild card, I found myself nodding over and over again. I find that I can never lose my temper with Izzy, and strangely enough, I don't ever feel the need. His shenanigans are clearly his way of voicing his opinion and more often than not, those opinions come from his fear and insecurity. How can you get mad at that?
During my lessons with Chemaine, she has stressed that I be methodical and firm. THIS is the way we are going to do it, and that's that. Hockley echoes that same idea when she says, "This IS the way we are doing it."
Hockley also stresses that groundwork is an excellent way to establish boundaries with the Wild Card. I have found this to be very true with Izzy. When he starts to get a bit too pushy, I pull out a dressage whip and my 12 foot lead rope and get to work. Within a session or two, he once again respects my space.
I've also found that he really enjoys being lunged in the sliding side reins. He finds it very safe and relaxing. He seems happy to circle me all day long at whatever gait I've asked for. In her book, Hockley confirms my experience by stating, "Ground driving or long lining is also an excellent exercise to establish dominance ... He learns that you are there for him and can help keep him safe."
Knowing that there are reasons for Izzy's rebellious moments makes it much easier to avoid triggering them and easier to deal with them when they happen. Since re-reading Hockley's book, I've been much more vocal in my praise, especially while lunging. I can practically see his (not-so-little) chest swell with pride when he knows he's doing it right.
I've also been more careful about acknowledging his dominant side. He doesn't like to be nit-picked or over-loaded. He likes to be good at what he's doing and nothing will trigger a temper tantrum faster than pushing him past his comfort level. While I can't let him decide what we're doing, I've been focusing on keeping firm boundaries so that he knows what is expected. It's his choice to play along. I think he appreciates a sense of control.
Hockley provides a list of DOs and DON'Ts for each personality type. Even before reading her book, I found the things on the list to be true for Izzy:
Protect them - every day.
Repeat lessons often - good thing he doesn't get bored because we do a LOT of repeating!
Be their boss - I do tend to be an in-charge kind of person.
Honor their energy - perfect for me because I have a ton of energy too!
Keep a steady training program - I am not a once-a-week rider so permission to ride a LOT is great!
Overload them - recipe for a temper tantrum.
Skip steps in training - not a chance.
Show weakness or fear - not my style.
Have huge expectations - I do for the future, but I'm pretty patient.
Jump into new territory - not interested in jumping, and I've already moved on from endurance. I think it's safe to say that I'm sticking with dressage for a while.
I've said this already: if you haven't bought this book. Get it. It's totally worth the $15.
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%