From Endurance to Dressage
One for the Road
Izzy's summer field trips are just about at an end, but we did squeeze in one last trip on Friday. KG and I met up once again at the barn in Hart Park. I arrived before she did, so Izzy got a chance to look around on his own. He was a looky-loo, but quite well behaved and manageable. Of course, he was very happy to see KG's rig pulling up the drive!
For each trail ride we've taken, the amount of tension that Izzy started with has been less and less. The first day we went out, he was a ball of tension that took more than an hour to unwind. The next trip took 45 minutes. The one after that, a half an hour. For this trip, he was pretty even keeled, but then he would get a burst of adrenaline that he didn't know what to do with.
We would be walking along fine, but then he would hop into the air with a shake of his head. Each time, I sat back and gave a sharp jerk of the reins. His little tantrums were so obviously from inexperience that it was hard not to just laugh at him.
No matter how hard he spooked or slammed on the brakes, I had no fear. There is not a mean bone in this horse's body. He is just searching for the correct answer when he doesn't know how to deal with what's in front of him, and for this ride, I did a lot more schooling and a lot less babying.
Once the adrenaline spikes smoothed out, Izzy was very brave. For the most part, he marched forward without the need to tuck in behind Taz. As we got closer to the overgrown section behind the lake though, Izzy started to show some hesitation at going forward. He obviously remembered that spot.
KG and I had decided beforehand that we were going to dismount and lead through that section, but I needed Izzy to see the stopping as my decision, not his. When we could see the thicker bushes ahead, Izzy stopped and tried to dodge left and right. I kicked him forward until he had committed to going on, and then I asked for him to stop. I slid off and led him without any trouble through the overgrowth.
The first time we went to the park, I wrote about a steep descent that I opted to dismount for. This time, I suggested that KG get farther down the hill before we followed after her. The narrowness of the trail still made Izzy a bit nervous, me too, but this time I was able to ride him down it. He did rush a little bit, but KG helped us out by having Taz do a little trot to stay in front of us.
It's when a horse has nowhere to go that they panic. So instead of having to hold Izzy back for fear of rear-ending Taz, I was able to ask for a whoa to slow him down, but then I gave him his head again since he had room in front of him.
I let out a big laughing breath of relief when we finally got to the bottom. KG laughed with me, but she also recognized how nerve wracking it can be to ride a green bean down a trail that is narrow and steep. I know Izzy felt my nervousness as well, but it's risky to ride down stuff like that. We made it safely and even though we were both a bit anxious, I think making it down together gave Izzy some confidence.
As we headed back towards the trailers, we found several long stretches that were good for trotting. Izzy took the lead both times and happily motored along. The last time we trotted down the trail, he kept his neck high and stiff. This time, I was able to get his head down and his neck soft. he popped it back up again, but each time he was willing to stretch down and relax, I gave him lots of pats and good boys.
In the last half mile, Izzy started to get a bit naughty. The trail gets a little narrower there with some deadfall off to the side. There's also a cage covering some kind of pump that he thinks is quite scary. All of this gave me a wonderful chance to work through softening the inside rein and moving him laterally away from my leg.
He wanted to tuck in behind Taz, but in doing so, he was avoiding my aids all together. At this point in our trail experience, I knew he needed to start listening to me, so I took hold of the rein he was resisting and crossed it in front of me toward the opposite shoulder. This forces them to let go through their neck and jaw. As soon as he let go, I asked for a slight leg yield.
After just a minute of work, he started giving through his poll and jaw without the need for me to be so heavy handed. As we finished walking along that section, I shifted my weight from one seat bone to the other as I asked for a change of bend. The switched flipped, and suddenly he was soft and bending.
We passed by one or two other little spots that he remembered as being spooky from our first trip, but we stopped at each one and let him explore until he was relaxed. Then I turned around and rode him back toward the scary things until they were a non-issue.
Once we arrived back at the barn, we tied the horses up and let them have a snack. Izzy got a little worried when Taz went to use the wash rack, but it was more of an I don't like this tantrum rather than an OH MY GOD I'M ALONE tantrum.
Izzy will go south to Ventura on Tuesday for a lesson with Chemaine, but starting Wednesday, my vacation is over. I tried to cram in as many days under saddle as possible this summer. I hope it was enough because now I am left with short rides after work and whatever I can get done on the weekends.
I hope to hit the trail with KG at least once a month, but it's hard to do when there are only two weekend days a week. We're looking at Labor Day for our next ride. I am also hoping to get a dressage lesson from Chemaine each month. Which leads to me to ask, how many weekends are there each month?
8/9/2015 10:57:35 pm
I wish horses really did smile. Dogs do of course, but it's cute when the horses look like they're doing it. :0)
8/9/2015 01:59:13 am
I admire how dedicated you are Karen. You deserve your success. Love the smile picture - great capture! :D
8/9/2015 11:01:22 pm
That's really kind of you to say, CFS, but I don't feel any more dedicated (or successful) than any other rider. I WISH I could walk around thinking I was a badass, but I'm far too much of a self-critic to see anything but "needs improvement." I could probably ride Grand Prix and STILL think I suck. :0)
I think the week needs to be reworked so it has two weekends each week... wait, we can't do that? Shoot.
8/10/2015 10:28:46 pm
I wish I could have done more this summer. I feel like someone "better" could have got him further along. But then KG will remind me that he's only been under saddle for a few months. He was started as a four year old (60 days) and ridden a few times by his previous owner but then he was turned out to pasture for nearly two years.
8/10/2015 10:29:25 pm
A little bit! :0)
8/10/2015 10:30:55 pm
I just need longer arms - he does kind of fill up the view finder. :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%: