From Endurance to Dressage
Each week that I've volunteered at M.A.R.E., I've both learned a new job and something about myself. Last week, I was a horse handler in a group lesson. I was assigned to work with the same sweetie pie of a rider as the week before, but this time her mom would be the side walker while I took charge of pony Haven.
Like every other week, I arrived well ahead of the next lesson time which meant that I looked around for a job to do. Last week I wrote about becoming fearless. Most people who know me know that I am a no nonsense, get out of my way kind of girl. I am a problem solver by nature, and I love tackling a job. What I am not great at is mingling with a group of strangers. When I arrived at MARE, all of the volunteers were laughing hysterically at Trainer 1 who had just been "bucked off" Bucky the vaulting barrel horse. T1 greeted me with a laugh as I walked in, but right away my affective filter went up.
I made a joking comment but then immediately scurried into the tack room to find a job to do. While I scrubbed away at last week's stack of uncleaned bridles, I listened in as the trainers and volunteers continued to chat and enjoy themselves. It was uncomfortable to be on the "outside," but it would have been equally uncomfortable to join in, especially if I wasn't in on the joke. I am quite certain that hiding out the tack room made me appear unfriendly and aloof, but my fear of rejection is a real thing.
Now I know that that feeling comes from a fear of judgement: what will they think of me? Acknowledging it doesn't make it easier to face though. However, once I articulate a shortcoming, whether it is in my riding or my character, it becomes less challenging to face and eliminate, either through repetition - in the case of riding, or smiling and at least remaining in the same room.
I was relieved when the clock finally indicated it was time to bring in the horses for grooming and tacking up. I walked out into Haven's pasture, grateful to interact with someone with whom I had no fear of judgement. Haven happily walked beside me with her ears flicking my direction as I chatted with her about nothing important. Once we made it into the barn, my feeling of inadequacy disappeared as my body settled into the familiar tasks of grooming and tacking up.
With all three girls waiting, we brought the horses one by one over to the newly installed mounting ramp. Haven, sweet as she is to the kids, was not very sweet to me. Last week, I watched the horse handler take a firm hold of Haven's head when she got a bit testy. Now I know why. As I stood with her, she kept trying to nip me which meant I had to watch where my fingers, hands, and arms were. All the while, she kept stepping away from the ramp which made it difficult for my little charge to get on. T1 finally had me circle back around so that I could get Haven closer and straighter. Ponies, man, they're not easy!
Once Haven's girl was safely mounted with mom as side walker, Haven settled into her job. This was the first lesson that I participated in that had multiple riders. We played a version of red light, green light and did lots of weaving around poles and cones. Some of the patterns T2 had us do left me feeling like I needed a caller for this "dressage test" of a lesson. Between mom and me, we were able to mostly stay on course. A few times I lined Haven up behind the wrong white thing - T1 meant the white bucket, I parked Haven at the white barrel.
When the time was up, each kiddo was helped to dismount by the trainer, and the side walkers escorted them out of the arena. As soon as Haven's rider was safely on the ground, Haven began fidgeting and nipping at me again. She knew her work day was over, and she was eager to get back to her stall and dinner. All three horses were led back to the barn where they were untacked, groomed, and in Haven's case, blanketed.
My feeling of not fitting in returned, so I headed out to the arena alone to bring in the buckets and cones. As I walked into the barn, everyone was gathered around Smoothie, the horse who had been up north receiving care. Smoothie had been dropped off during the lesson. Smoothie is T1's favorite horse, so she is particularly invested in his recovery. Not wanting to interrupt the homecoming, I grabbed the blower and cleaned out the piles of hair from both crossties. I saw Smoothie's traveling bandages were in a pile so I rerolled the bandages and put them away. (Don't forget to fill out the form for a chance to win a Riding Warehouse gift card - if you tried before and weren't able to access it, I have updated the form's settings.)
By that time, the crowd had thinned and T1 excitedly invited me over to hear about Smoothie's recovery plan. She and I had talked about it earlier, so she knew I would be interested in what the plan was. She chatted enthusiastically, and it seemed that she enjoyed my company. We walked around the barn together as she prepared Smoothie's syringe of SMZ and bute. I find it quite easy to relax and open up one on one. Being in a group is much harder until I get to know everyone individually. It's something I need to work on.
MARE is a therapeutic riding center. I didn't realize that by volunteering, I might make use of the therapy. Something tells me the Divine has had a hand in things.
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%: