From Endurance to Dressage
More Dressage on the Trail
As hoped, Izzy and I hit the trail on Saturday with my friend Marci and her Arabian gelding Gem. I am over the moon happy with how much progress Izzy has made over the past few weeks. Just one month ago, I told my husband that I had had it with Izzy and that he was officially for sale. I just couldn't get through to him. We had great days, great months even, but then the jackassery would begin anew.
In desperation, I had a clandestine lesson in April with a trainer who I knew would be honest with me. I needed someone who had no personal relationship with me to critically evaluate my riding. I needed to know if I was the right rider for Izzy. Since that lesson, everything about our relationship has changed. A few things clicked into place giving me some new strategies for deescalating Izzy's tension.
One thing that Sean Cunningham, the trainer with whom I met, observed was that under saddle, Izzy wasn't really looking to me for security or guidance. While there are a lot of ways to gain your horse's trust, it happens best for me on the trail. With Sean's words fresh in my mind, I took Izzy to Summer Lane Farm's annual trail ride in early May. The next weekend I met up with Marci and Gem for a trail ride along the river bottom. And when Sunday's show got cancelled, I hastily emailed Marci and asked if she had plans for Saturday. Izzy has done more traveling in a month than he has over the past two years. I think I've been a little remiss.
We didn't take pictures, so it's hard to show you the kind of trail we rode, but it presented both of our horses with plenty of challenges. To my utter delight, Izzy tackled them like a seasoned pro. We started out by climbing the bluffs which look just like you would imagine - a mostly vertical wall with trails carved along its face.
When green horses are first asked to go downhill, they often lean forward, threatening to go ass over tea kettle. When we turned around to head back to the river bottom, I prepared for the ubiquitous nose dive that was sure to come. Instead, Izzy rocked back on his haunches, got light on his front end, and carefully picked his way down to level ground. I am not going to lie, my jaw might have hit the ground in total surprise. Who was this horse and where has he been hiding?
We rode for a solid two hours climbing whoop-dee-dos, stepping over logs, squeezing through narrow channels, crossing the bike bridges (again), and even splashing in the Kern River. Izzy never jigged, choosing instead to plod along (mostly) willing to go where I pointed him.
The only "issue" he had was staying focused on such a busy day. The trails were filled with hikers, runners, other horses, cyclists, and dogs. HIs head was on a swivel. I insisted he keep his poll loose though. That was the purpose of these trail rides: learning to stay relaxed even when things are distracting.
With school ending on Friday, I'll have a lot more free time to do more away-from-home things. On the agenda are more Saturday rides with Marci, at least one more lesson with STC Dressage, and maybe even another trail ride back at Summer Lane Farm. While my main goal for the summer is to get my Bronze Medal with Speedy, getting Izzy to a show is also on the list.
All we can do is try!
5/28/2019 10:42:00 am
Awesome that he can adapt to difficult high-user trails!
5/28/2019 10:51:34 am
Hills are definitely a challenge. Usually I have to show my horses how to navigate downhills, but they all eventually figure it out with miles. I am pleased that Izzy already knows how to use his body on hills. One less thing for me to show him. :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%: