From Endurance to Dressage
I have so many good things to say about the last three weeks and our move to the double bridle that I don't even know where to begin.
First of all, if you are riding a difficult horse, get a trainer. I consider myself to be a pretty decent rider. I problem solve, and I work out a lot of the issues on my own, but sometimes, a professional can come up with a solution that you just might not think of on your own.
Chemaine's suggestion that I bring Speedy up to the arena as a companion for Izzy solved so much of Izzy's tension that he is a completley different horse. Her further suggestion that I try a different bit has given me the horse that I knew was in there. Having a bit with control has helped me regain my status as the top dog. I already had Izzy's attention on the ground, but I simply couldn't get it in the saddle. With the correction bit, and now the double, he is putty in my hands.
When I got on Izzy on Sunday, our little clinic was really starting to roll. Speedy was tied at the far end of the arena like usual, but the rider before me was loading up her horse to leave - right next to the arena, two other riders were just pulling in and parking, and a small group of people were milling around near the gate. My normally silent arena was bustling with energy.
I walked Izzy around, and he gave one or two pretty hard spooks, but I simply sat there and held my hands steady. Chemaine asked how quickly I felt I was able to get him back in line compared to using the correction bit. It was a great question, and one I am glad she thought to ask. What I realized was that with the double bridle, it took no upper body strength to get him back in order, and it didn't affect my balance at all.
In fact, he got super quiet and submissive almost immediately. It was as though he had checked to see if someone was in charge because he sure as hell didn't really want to be but was willing to do it if that was his only choice. Once he realized that I had things under control, he let out a deep sigh and let his ears flop happily.
For the rest of the ride, he was 100% committed to me - focused, relaxed, and very happy to be working. The only "naughty" thing he did was to play around with the weymouth, trying to grab the bit's shanks. The longer we worked though, the less he thought about it until it became a non-issue. But really, I'll take a playful horse over a tense one any day!
Chemaine started us off by having me focus on keeping Izzy soft without speeding up. Every stride I asked him to go deeper without speeding up. Unfortunately, the double didn't turn him into a Third Level horse. We still have plenty of work to do, but now he can hear me and concentrate.
With Speedy, the half halt means get soft because now we're going to GO. With Izzy, the half halt means slow down and get your balance. Over and over and over I asked him to slow down and rebalance, slow down and rebalance. Unlike Speedy, Izzy is a very forward thinking horse.
Before long, he was trotting along with a lovely tempo and the swingingiest back he has ever had. He was so different to ride that I had to ask Chemaine about how ligh in the bridle he was. He has been so heavy for so long that I wasn't sure if the lightness that I was feeling was a hesitancy to take the bit, or a horse that was truly light.
She had me think about it like this: Instead of thinking about it as contact, think about a connection. As soon as she said that, slot machine bells went off in my head. YES! A connection brings to mind an intimate conversation while contact sounds heavier.
With the double bridle, I felt that I was able to be far more relaxed through my arms, back, and core. With the snaffle, Izzy plowed through the bit so hard that I had to brace against him bracing against me. With the double, Izzy let go of the bit allowing me to have a quieter, softer conversation with him. So yeah, it does feel more like a connection than contact.
After some trot work, we moved onto the canter where the instructions were the same: half halt to slow down and rebalance. For right now, that's our job - learn how to maintain a steady tempo without rushing.
The thing that I kept remarking on during the entire lesson was Izzy's ears. They flopped around, or he kept them flicking back and forth at me without stop. It was as though he finally heard me up there. It was such a joy to see him so happy and relaxed in his work.
Since buying him two years ago, I've fluctuated between happiness and excitement with how he's doing to flat out disappointment and thoughts of selling him. But this breakthrough, this is a biggie. I finally feel like I am riding a dressage horse.
Our next clinic with Chemaine is in early January. I have a lot of homework, but I am feeling super confident that we are on an excellent path right now. Let me know if you'd like to ride with Chemaine, or if you'd like to just drop by and audit. She's worth the drive!
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%