From Endurance to Dressage
Now That's How You Do It!
Not long ago, I wrote that I'll have a great lesson on Saturday, a really nice ride on Sunday, and then throughout the week I manage to be total shite and F^&* it all up by Friday afternoon. Not this week. Woot woot!
The interesting thing is that Izzy had a million reasons to spook and/or flee the country, but he didn't. He wanted to, but I kept control and reminded myself not to force anything but to make sure I gave him a choice. One choice was my inside leg and outside rein applied firmly, and the other choice was no pressure; just go forward. Holy smokes, people, it worked brilliantly!
On Thursday, a puzzling Tower of Terror appeared under the tractor carport. I do not know the purpose, but there are now thirty or forty empty file boxes stacked precariously on our route to the arena. They even gave me pause. As I hand walked Izzy toward the arena, he saw them from twenty yards away and slammed on the brakes. My first instinct was to insist on obedience, but then I remembered about letting Izzy have a choice.
Instead of forcing him by pulling him from side to side to unstick his feet, I just gave mini come on tugs on the rein. I faced forward, breathed deeply, and tugged. Izzy took a step, I took away the pressure. In less than a minute, he chose to walk with me, really closely, but whatever. Once past the tower, I stopped just yards away in our regular pre-ride grazing spot. Izzy kept a watchful eye on the tower, but he lowered his head to chomp the grass. Point one for the rider.
The next day, he gave the tower a wide berth, but he followed along obediently. By Saturday, he had forgotten it was there. The day after the tower first appeared, we had yet another distraction. The neighbors had a large gardening truck parked just a bit away from the C end of the arena. There were lots of machine noises and people creeping back and forth behind the trees and bushes. Once the gardeners left, the property owners stood around chatting, as they surveyed the completed job. Scary as hell, insisted the big brown horse.
That doesn't seem like much of a distraction, but for Izzy, every time there is something different at that end of the arena, it just confirms for him that the corners at the C end really do pose a risk of death. And then, as if the Tower of (diminishing)Terror, the Monster Machines, and Mr. and Mrs. Grim Reaper weren't enough, the ranch's caretaker brought the riding mower up near the arena. The mower isn't so much of a problem, it's the sticks and gravel that it grinds that create the most worry for the big brown horse.
Through all of those scary distractions, Izzy kept his marbles in the bag. He was tense and worried, but his ears flicked towards me constantly, and I gave him the chance to look at it all before beginning to enforce my aids. We didn't get a ton of "dressage" work done, but it didn't matter because without the trust, I can't get the work done anyway. Rather than controlling a rocket on a string, Izzy handed me the metaphorical reins and let me that know that as long as I gave him a choice, he would do his best to stay with me.
This was the first time in a very long while that I ended up feeling as though I had made progress during the week. Normally, I feel like that guy pushing that boulder up the hill only to tumble back down just as we near the top. Over the past week in particular, Izzy has been even friendlier than normal. I know that some of it is because his body soreness issues have been addressed, but the other part is because he really likes me right now. It's been challenging to learn Izzy's particular dialect of Equine, but I think my vocabulary is finally growing.
Someday, I might even be fluent.
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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%: