From Endurance to Dressage
After Izzy had some body work, his whole attitude changed immediately. I wish I could say he turned into a rock star, but he didn't. Instead, the dragon was gone and my Big Brown Horse was back with all of his quirkiness. On New Year's Day, I set up my Pivo Pod to record some video.
As much as I hate to watch video of myself riding, I forced myself to watch it as soon as I got home from the barn. With the ride still fresh in my mind, I wanted to see how bad it really was. As I watched though, I kept rewinding while asking myself, Is that where he ... ? Where's that spot where he ...? At each pause/rewind moment of the ride, I realized that while I could feel the tension and resistance, it was barely visible on camera.
I didn't cherry pick "good moments" of video. Instead, I found a spot where we were trotting, snipped it and uploaded. When I went back to watch it, you can see Izzy being distracted and then coughing and losing his balance. What I love about the video is that I didn't react at all. It looks as though I completely ignored all of it, and then he regrouped and we trotted off.
I did the same thing for a video of some canter work. I fast forwarded until I saw him cantering. I went back a few seconds to catch the transition, and I uploaded another 30 or 40 seconds of video. I didn't try to find anything that looked better than any other moment, so what you see is a few typical moments of what we're doing these days.
Truthfully, it's all pretty boring stuff. Each day, my plan is to work on my balance and elasticity. The better I ride, the happier Izzy is. My goals for him are that he reaches for the bit and that he finds his own balance. I'm learning that I've been doing more than my fair share; I've been holding him up rather than asking him to hold himself up. He's finding it to be quite a challenge now that I am not giving him something to push against.
While I found some really great moments that I was able to capture on screenshots, one of my favorite moments of the video was the one where I used the puddle at the A end to reset his brain. When he needed a mental break, I walked down to the wet end and let him splash through the puddles. Big Brown Horse is afraid of his own shadow, but he loves puddles.
Since I started riding with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I've seen my riding improve a lot. I am far less reactive. Sean says that I am much more pro-active, but I don't feel that way yet. Instead, I spend most of the time just trying to figure out how to keep Izzy working with me so that I don't have to react. When things go south, I might get exasperated, but I don't take it personally anymore - at least not as much as I used to. I just work on the problem, reminding myself that the goal is to keep Izzy from checking out.
Being less reactive means my body is more relaxed overall, although Sean still needs to remind me occasionally about bracing or stiffening my body. As I gain more confidence in my decisions, I relax even more, which Izzy can feel. Hopefully, his confidence in me will grow as a result.
And when we're working together, we get moments like the one above.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%