From Endurance to Dressage
I know I've been writing a lot about Sydney this week, but I'm a bit irritated with the speedy pony right now and don't want to write about it. Instead, I'd like to share the positive things that are happening with my Thoroughbred.
I shared my tests with my trainer on Monday before we started to ride. For the last few weeks, we've been trying to turn up the volume a bit so that Sydney can learn how to better deal with his anxiety when we're at a show. I was proud to tell JL what exercises I had used at the show to turn a score of 51% into a 63%.
Sydney is very comfortable working at the end of the arena closest to JL's barn which means he now gets to work at the away end. We started out walking with his neck like a giraffe's. I was glad for the anxiety as it's hard to work on reducing tension when there isn't any!
When Sydney's head goes sky high at a show, I keep my hands low. JL suggested I actually brings my hands up a bit and try to stay better connected. As my hands come up, I should also lengthen my spine and sit back while adding some leg. Once he figures out that he can't get away by cranking his head up in the air, he'll bring his head back down to a more normal position.
So that's what we did. My hands weren't exactly high, but I tried to follow him wherever he went, and sure enough, he eventually settled down and found comfort in the contact.
When we're showing, the trick will be to know how much I can insist on. For example: he always gets a few minutes to gawk. After that though, no more. Once he's had a chance to look around, I will insist that he keep his nose pointed in the direction that I am asking for. The same goes for the head in the air: I can't force his head down, but I can stay with him and encourage him to lower it.
Even though he was a bit anxious working in the away end of the arena, I was able to encourage him to lower his head and accept the contact. After he lowers his head, his second evasive maneuver is to bounce the bit in my hands. JL picked up on it right away and said that means I need to change something. Since he hasn't done that in awhile, I had kind of forgotten about it, but I now see it as a display of anxiety.
When he's bouncing the bit, it means several things. First, I am not being steady in my hands, and second, he's anxious. There are two things I can do to resolve this. The first is to either hook my pinky around my bucking strap to stabilize my hand or just visualize that I've done so. Once I've steadied my hand, the best way to ask him to stop bouncing is to open the outside rein slightly, pulse the inside rein, let it go, and add inside leg. It might take several efforts, but this usually gets him on my outside rein solidly. Which then makes him feel safe.
My homework for the next few weeks is to try and find moments when he's tense and resistant and work through them by being very, very consistent. If he always knows what I am going to do, then he will learn to trust me even when he's anxious, like at a show.
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%: