From Endurance to Dressage
A little admission: I have been feeling like the world's worst rider this past week. I even had the thought that I should sell Izzy as he would be better off in the hands of a more capable rider. Dressage will do that to you. Riding a big, powerful horse will do that to you. He keeps me humble, that's for sure.
When I start feeling that way, I know that I am in need of a lesson and not because Chemaine will stroke my ego with fake compliments and feel good chit-chat. Instead, I know that she will have the solution for getting me unstuck. Yesterday, she waved her magic wand, cast a few spells, and pulled a pretty decent dressage horse and rider from her top hat.
Best friend and I loaded Izzy at 6:00 a.m. for the the two and a half hour trip to Moorpark. He hopped on the trailer in the near dark at his brand new barn like he's been doing it every day of his life. He rode quietly, and backed off the trailer calmly. He immediately started nibbling at the hay that I hung for him, and then he cocked a leg and stood there looking around.
There was no screaming, whirling, or obnoxious behavior. Best friend said he looked like a good old quarter horse. I tacked him up without any issues, and we ambled up to the ring. I got on, and then we did a walk warm up with almost zero jigging. I was ready to pack him up and head back home right then, no lesson needed - mission accomplished.
I didn't of course, but I was super happy with how well he did. Unlike all of our previous lessons, Chemaine didn't have to talk me through a "get control" stage. This alone shows massive growth in Izzy's confidence.
The last time we met, we worked on packaging Izzy up by thinking "Piaffe." The idea was to get him super round and soft while still making him work. That has worked like a charm. He now knows that with super deep and round comes stretching down. We were able to get right to work without needing to get his attention first.
This short video was shot right as we started our trot work. From the very beginning you can see how much improved his steadiness in the bridle has become over the past month or two.
Now that he is staying more or less put together, Chemaine suggested that I hold that outside rein just a bit longer before giving it to him when he releases. It's great that he's softening to it, but he needs to learn to stay on it. Having a firm outside rein connection is not a punishment, but he still needs to learn that.
The biggest learning moment came during the canter work. In our last few lessons, Chemaine has had me lock down the outside rein so that Izzy can't escape it. I worked on the outside rein steadiness so thoroughly that I created a new problem: he's become too heavy on it!
What I've been doing is holding the outside rein firmly while sponging or rocking the inside rein. Chemaine encouraged me to instead play wth the outside rein while holding the inside rein steady. And of course it worked! I had a much more supple horse.
It wasn't that a steady rein was wrong. Chemaine explained that I need to think about suppling his jaw by playing with whichever rein he is leaning on. For a while it was the inside rein, now it's the outside rein.
As soon as I focused on playing with the outside rein, he got much softer. I hadn't realized how heavy I had let him get on that rein.
Chemaine also had me use a lot more counter flexion. For so long, I was losing Izzy's haunches to the outside. I fixed that, but by getting him so much onto the outside rein, I started losing his shoulders. By counter flexing even a little bit, I am now moving his shoulders back into the circle so that they are in front of his hind end, keeping him straight(er).
Once I had him straighter, Chemaine suggested that I alternate which rein I squeeze, much like how you would milk a cow. I got an immediate response from Izzy. He felt fantastic in my hands, nice and even.
When we finished the canter work. I stopped him in front of where Chemaine and best friend were sitting in the shade. He immediately took a big breath and cocked a hind leg. I shook my head in surprise. He really is starting to grow up.
Each time I take him somewhere, he learns something new and his confidence grows. We have two shows coming up this month, and I can't wait to see what we accomplish. Before long, I am going to have a horse who can handle the show environment with courage and poise.
When he takes one of these huge steps forward, I have to pinch myself and ask: "Izzy" really mine? How did I get so lucky?
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%