From Endurance to Dressage
I know I am a yoyo - up one day, down the next. But lately, let me tell you about lately. We're not ready to throw down a 70% test, but we're definitely getting a lot closer to that goal than we've ever been before. The last couple of lessons that I've taken with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, have shifted some pretty heft pieces of the puzzle into place.
There have been three major shifts in my thinking. In a nutshell:
That brings me to point number two. What is it that I want? Well, frankly, I am just two Fourth Level scores away from a CDS Sapphire Gem Award. That's what's next on my list of goals. Speedy and I were on track to get there when he was diagnosed with arthritis in his hock back in 2020. I could have tried some pain management strategies or more hock injections to see if I could get just a little bit further, but that wouldn't have been fair to Speedy.
Speedy was so forgiving that even though I didn't - and maybe still don't, ride like a Third Level rider, he winked at the world and said, "I gotcha!" Without him to pick up my slack, I am finding that I am not as educated as I thought I was. Between Sean's coaching and Izzy's feedback, the two of them are doing their best to help me get where I want to go. Over the past year, and I can't believe it's been that long since I started working with Sean, he has slowly reshaped how I ride. He has a lot of work left to do, but suddenly I am seeing my riding through a whole new lens.
I had all of last week off, so I was able to ride each day without feeling rushed to get home to cook dinner or stressed out from a day of trying to answer five bazillion questions. As I rode, I took my time. I spent as much time as it took to get Izzy supple through his neck and back. I moved him around in his neck and body until I felt that he was truly ready to start working.
Throughout every ride, I kept two things in the forefront of my thinking. One, I couldn't let him brace his neck; I had to keep moving him. And two, I needed to feel him evenly on both reins. The right lead canter has been such a struggle lately because he wants to fall in on his inside shoulder. Understanding how to ask him to fill out the left rein has been such a struggle for me. Over the past few weeks though, Sean has coached me to a much better understanding of how to accomplish that.
On Friday, I actually laughed out loud from the sheer joy of having accomplished what I've struggled so long to figure out. Izzy was balanced between both reins, and he was truly trying to work with me instead of fighting against me. We'll have more frustrating days ahead of us, I am sure, but now that I am learning how to better communicate with him, I can actually see our progress.
We're still a good ways from Fourth Level. In fact, we're still a good way from showing at Second Level. I trust Sean when he says that once I get control of Izzy and show him that he can trust me to make good decisions, we won't have any trouble moving up through the levels. Sean is confident that Izzy can already do the movements. I just need to get myself caught up to where my horse is.
Seeing real progress is so motivating!
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%