From Endurance to Dressage
It's hard to believe, but last Wednesday I finished my first six-week session as a volunteer at M.A.R.E. When I first reached out to MARE's director, I committed to one session with an eye to a longer commitment. So far, I am finding the experience to be very rewarding. Tonight begins my second six-week session.
My volunteer schedule is 3:30 - 6:00 p.m., but most weeks I arrive just a few minutes after 3:00. I like to be there early not only because I hate to be late, but it gives me a chance to see what my assignment is for the day. Also, there is usually an extra job waiting for me. Last week, the only thing on the schedule for me was to be the horse handler at 5:00. I was disappointed, but I quickly found something to do. I grabbed the blower and realized that the barn aisle looked much messier than normal.
Before I could finish that task, Trainer 1 (T1) asked if I could weigh hay for dinner and breakfast. Every single hay meal is carefully weighed. There is a board above the scale that indicates the number of pounds of each type of hay, alfalfa or grass, that each horse is to receive. Hay is usually weighed earlier in the day, so I was happy to see the process so that in the future, I will be able to do it alone if needed. There are currently nine horses living at MARE; Paco moved on to a different job at a different facility. With eighteen buckets to fill, the job takes a while. Morey the mini is the smallest horse on the property, and Knightly, who stands over 18 hands, is the largest.
Just before finishing weighing the hay, I was asked to fill in as horse handler for the four o'clock lessons as the barn captain had to leave early. I quickly saddled Cricket the Haflinger, this time remembering how to place the pad and surcingle both. When the lesson was finished, I remembered to put Cricket away before cleaning tack, but by the time I came back to do it, another volunteer had already taken care of it.
The lesson with Cricket involved weaving around cones and stepping into a box made from poles on the ground. The students threw bean bags and asked the horses to whoa right where the bean bag landed. Again, I remembered to wait for the student to ask for the whoa before halting Cricket. I quickly discovered that Cricket is not the docile pony I thought her to be. As I began leading her around the cones, I realized that Cricket doesn't bend unless Cricket wants to. I had a moment of panic when I realized that Cricket was completely ignoring me and we were not going to weave around anything.
Not wanting to unseat my rider with too firm a correction, I growled at Cricket and shoved an elbow into her neck and told her in a very LOUD whisper, MOVE IT SISTER! It took two or three hard shoves, but Cricket eventually got the message. I later let T1 know that I had a bit of trouble, but she laughed it off saying that Cricket tests all of the new volunteers.
Because the 5:00 student will be switching trainers and days, both trainers handled that lesson which left me without a job. I needn't have worried. T1 asked if I would do the morning grain buckets. Of course I said yes, but I needed a quick tutorial. Similar to the hay, each horse's grain is meticulously measured out. The recipe for each horse's morning grain bucket is displayed on a large board which means anyone who understands the code can fill the buckets.
While both trainers worked with pony Haven and her rider, I set to work filling all of the grain buckets. As I worked, the barn got very quiet, and before long, I realized I was the last volunteer. With all of the buckets filled, I walked to the arena and watched the remainder of the lesson. Near the end, T2 served as a side walker, and T1 was the horse handler. Suddenly, peals of laughter floated across the arena as T1 trotted off with Haven in hand. If that little girl's joyous laughter could have been bottled, someone would be very rich indeed. I couldn't help smiling; her laughter was infectious.
At the end of the lesson, T1 handed Haven over to me to be untacked and put away. After a quick groom, I dressed her in her blanket, and then put Sadie's blanket and hock covers on her. While the two trainers finished their debrief, I schlepped all of the poles out of the arena and stacked them next to the barn. As I finished, both trainers joined me in returning the cones, and then it was time to feed. All but two of the horses sleep in the barn. The two biggies, Reina and Knightly, get turned out into two of the big pastures at night. I had already been shown how to open their gates for the night, so that was one task I already knew how to do.
By the time the last horse had been fed and all of the doors and lights checked and closed, it was past six o'clock. I was dirty and tired, but as I waved goodbye, we called out to each other, see you next week!
I'll be at it again tonight.
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%: