From Endurance to Dressage
When I ride Izzy, I am generally always prepared for the worst because for so, so long that's what he's given me. I have ridden through more spooks than anyone could ever count. And his spooks aren't little twitches either; they're full on Oh, Sh*t! moments. Since I started riding with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, the oh, crap moments have drastically decreased in frequency. Without me really noticing, Izzy has finally become a dressage horse. No more green bean here.
When Sean joined me on Saturday morning, It took a few minutes before he started teaching. Most of his comments were of the I really like what I am seeing here variety. Even I was a little surprised by Izzy's compliance. Izzy was trucking along like a been there, done that lesson horse. It was really nice to ride a horse that could bend through his body and hear a half halt.
Once Izzy was warmed up, we moved on to the canter work. Sean suddenly had a lot more to say. To sum up the entire lesson, I need to move Izzy's body instead of focusing on getting him to lower his head. We've done so much work to diffuse Izzy's tension that it's now time to change our focus. Izzy still tucks his butt and scoots, but he's far less interested in running away from me than he used to be. This means I can put my leg on and use it to mean go or bend or both.
Our trot work has really improved, but now it is in the canter that Izzy is so braced. Sean had me do anything but a 20-meter circle. Instead, He wanted me to leg yield back and forth and ride smaller circles. Instead of trying to get Izzy's head down and relaxed, if I focus on moving his body around instead, he'll have to soften on his own.
Sean has shown me lots of suppling exercises that I haven't really thought to put together before. I feel a little like the Karate Kid: wax on, wax off. Paint fence up and down, paint house side to side. Suddenly, I am seeing how to put all of the exercises together. Izzy wants to lock his his poll and neck, but by moving his ribcage and shoulders around in leg yields, small circles, and counter flexion, his head comes down on its own.
We are definitely summiting a pretty big mountain right now, but I can see the top from here. What I can't see is how many more peaks, if any, we have left to climb. Sean says all we can do is go to another show and see how Izzy does. He'll either be over the worst of his tension, or he'll need a few more shows to realize that I am not going to change anything. I am going to ride him the same way I do at home, or try to anyway. Until that first show, I am going to be here moving this horse's body around.
If it is looks a bit like a tango, just toss me a rose and crank up the music.
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%: