From Endurance to Dressage
I had two really productive lessons on Izzy this week, and to top it off, I was able to continue the work on my own for several rides after.
For the past two months, our work has mostly been about installing a few buttons: go, stop, trot, canter (that button's not working yet), move left and right off my leg, and so on. I worked him really regularly, like six days a week, leading up to my vacation knowing that he would sit around for two weeks with nothing to do but think and process.
I don't have any scientific proof that horses really do sit and think about stuff, but it always seems that my horses bounce back really well when they've had a week or two off. Izzy certainly did.
Even though he was tight through his back until the chiropractor adjusted him, his attitude about being worked had changed dramatically. Izzy has been much more focused and seems ... ready. He's less worried about his nose itching, the dust, the flies, my legs brushing his belly, and so on.
Seeing that he was so much more focused, JL put us to work on a large circle focusing on maintaining a very metronomic rhythm. Every single stride had to be in the exact cadence as the one before. I felt a little like I was picking on him when she had me correct every "quick step," but JL stressed that it is his job to maintain a steady rhythm and that he will be happier and more secure when the rhythm is steady.
If he quickened his pace, or if his nose popped up, it meant that he was losing his balance or focus. To help him, she instructed me to add leg (usually the inside), widen my hands, and stiffen my back. This combination of aids encourages him to step through with his hind end while slowing his front legs which shifts his balance to the rear. The instant he dropped his head, I relaxed my aids.
It didn't take long for Izzy to realize that the most comfortable place for him was just trotting around without being a giraffe. Widening my hands is not about forcing his head down. The instant he relaxed his neck, he got a really soft contact, but when he went too deep, I applied the same aids to get him off his forehand and back onto his hind end.
JL instructed me to ride him this way when I am schooling him alone, which I did. She stressed that it was important to keep my attention completely on him, no chatting with anyone hanging around, so that he learns that I am right there for him at every single stride. This will help him build confidence.
It might seem like trotting around in the same circle for fifteen minutes would be extremely boring, but it isn't. I found that by focusing so intently on every stride, I had too much to think about to be bored. I focused on keeping our circle very accurate while recognizing where he wanted to quicken his tempo, and where he wanted to drift out or fall in. Anticipating and correcting each of these little inaccuracies kept us both in a very intimate conversation.
I gave Izzy a day off yesterday, which was more for my sake than his. He'll get ridden today, but then we're heading to the cabin for a few days, so he'll get another day or two to think about his life. I hope this short break does as much for him as the last one did!
See you all in a few days!
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%: