From Endurance to Dressage
Kids, Swings, and a Birthday Party
The birthday party!
My plan for Sunday was to try and focus on Sydney's right lead canter, but you know how it goes with best laid plans ...
Things started well; I cleaned my stalls, tacked up Sydney, and started to lead him into the arena. As I passed by Speedy's stall and turn out, I noticed that Speedy was quite focused on something in the distance. He's not a faker; if he says something is out there, it's something worth checking out. So instead of mounting up, I started leading Sydney down to the far end of the arena to figure out what had caught Speedy's eye.
I saw it before Sydney did. Just outside of the arena fence, the neighbors had placed a bunch of mylar birthday balloons to mark the turn down their road. I am glad I saw them before Sydney did. I kept on waking towards the balloons curious as to how Sydney would react. Within a moment, Sydney caught site of them, and his head shot straight up as his eyes opened wide. I gave him a minute to look, but then I continued walking. It took a bit to get to the far end of the arena because Sydney had to stop every couple of feet to check out the balloons.
By the time we got to the end, Sydney was in full flight mode. He did a wild spin and threatened to rear. I pat his neck and asked him to walk quietly beside me as we walked back to the barn. I was pleased that once we started heading back to the barn, Sydney relaxed and took a deep breath. I know the hardier riders out there would have taken the opportunity to school through the situation, but I just didn't have the energy. Instead, I walked back to the barn, put Sydney back in the cross ties, and walked over to the neighbor's.
I discovered that there was to be a BIG birthday party that afternoon beginning in the next hour and a half. The neighbors, the nicest people in the world, insisted on moving the balloons into their driveway so that they were completely out of site. I thanked them profusely and want back to re-bridle Sydney.
The neighbors' kindergarten son had friends and cousins over before the party started, and they were busy on the slide and swing structure that sits next to the arena. I grabbed my lunge line as I knew that Sydney's flight mode was still activated. Th kids moved over to a plastic roller coaster thing they have that is quite loud as they slide down it. I actually encouraged them to ride it faster so that it would be as noisy as possible while I was lunging.
Sydney was not thrilled with the sound, but he was able to keep his focus mostly on me as he cantered first to the left and then to the right. When he was breathing pretty heavily, I asked him to walk and pat his neck. I walked him over to the mounting block determined to get my ride done.
He was still tense, but he was willing to work. I spent some time just walking and asking him to relax and soften. I decided that finishing with a quiet walk would be good enough. But then Sydney asked to trot, and I figured I might as well go for it. We ended up having a very productive ride. Our left lead canter work was very solid although I decided not to use the long sides as I knew approaching the balloon end was going to cause trouble even though the balloons were gone.
I was even able to work on his right lead canter. It never was perfect, but he threw a little temper tantrum that I was able to school him through. Overall, I was glad for the birthday party shenanigans as it gave me a chance to work on the kinds of distractions that will be present when we finally start showing (ever the optimist!).
Once I felt that I had accomplished something sound, I asked Sydney for a relaxed walk and was happy with what he offered. The balloon end of the arena beckoned. When Sydney realized where we headed, he balked and tried to whirl. I have worked too hard on making that end of the arena a place where we can work comfortably to just give it up over a bunch of balloons that were no longer there.
I stuck to my guns and insisted that he walk in the corner. We made at least a dozen circles each direction until he finally gave up. When he relaxed, I pat his neck and made a big deal over his relaxed frame. We passed through the corner one more time and then continued on through the next corner and down the long side toward home. We ended the day on a very happy note.
And so begins another week!
2/25/2013 11:15:14 pm
Optimistic and Assiduous! A winning combination.
2/27/2013 09:10:48 pm
I try, not always successful ESPECIALLY at work, but I try! :0)
Our youngest showed out OTTB, Cheers, a couple of years at the local 4-H fair. Cheers loved the crowds that passed by his stall, would let little kids pet him that were holding balloons - none of that fazed him. But daughter riding him around in circles in an arena full of horses passing him...did not ever go over well. Several times, she had to excuse herself from the ring.
2/27/2013 09:12:28 pm
Sydney has been great with anything in the barn: plastic bags, wheelbarrows, clanking stuff, etc. I kind of thought the balloons would be okay. Nope. It's hard to figure out what will bother them and what won't!
2/27/2013 09:15:07 pm
I knew I couldn't ignore the corner, but I wanted to get some real work done and he needed to burn off some energy before we even attempted that. I know the natural horsemanship group would say desensitize etc., but in this case, what for? When we were done, we went back to the corner and worked it out. The next day, I took Speedy to a lesson while Sydney was turned out. He didn't follow me all the way to the corner, but close to it. When I rode Sydney on Tuesday, the issue in teh corner was forgotten. Desensitized! :0)
2/26/2013 10:33:42 am
I laughed LOUDLY when I read this post! Varro is Sweedish Warmblood x Arabian. He is big bodiied and stands a solid 17H but his brain is all Arabian! He snorts and carries on at any and all unusual activities! I have worked for a solid year to get him to not spin/rear when he spooks....just freeze snort and check out what bothers him! This was a wonderful post!
2/27/2013 09:19:52 pm
Sandra, I keep telling my my husband that my next horse is going to be an Arab x Warmblood cross, but I don't want the warmblood size! Whoo, that's a powerful combination you have!
3/2/2013 12:54:42 am
If you want the smaller size of a warmblood/arab cross - what about a welsh/arab cross? That's what I'm looking to get out of Queenie. She looks like a warmblood (and was approved as a warmblood pony broodmare through the ISR/oldenburg registry), moves like a warmblood, and is a pony! The Walera is a GREAT cross. I've never seen a well-bred one that I did not like!!!
3/3/2013 04:49:36 am
Let me know when Queenie has another one ready! :0)
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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%: