From Endurance to Dressage
Today marks the beginning of my winter break - two weeks to rest, relax, and ride my horses. Lots of vacation days are definitely one of the perks of being a teacher.
I didn't get to ride over the weekend as it poured rain on Friday night. Here in my neck of the woods, we got 1.55 inches, a record for that date. While the arena footing was still firm, everything else was so saturated that I just didn't feel like mincing around through the mud to get there.
I never did unwrap a box filled with patience, nor did I find it in the toe of my stocking. Instead, I took a deep breath and tried to see this all from Izzy's point of view. He's not trying to avoid being a dressage horse, he's just a young horse who's still trying to get comfortable with his job.
So instead of riding, I spent a few minutes each day working on taking the bridle with confidence. Last week, he got a little resistant about lowering his head and opening his mouth. Instead of getting frustrated, I turned the practice into a game with lots of praise and treats.
The kids in my class brought lots of candy canes for our Friday party. When I told them how much Speedy loves sweets, they all rushed my desk to donate to the cause. While Izzy doesn't snatch them up as quickly as Speedy, he still likes them well enough to look for a second one.
After sliding the bridle off, I gave Izzy a piece of candy cane and a short break. While he was still sucking at the pieces of candy cane stuck to his teeth, I asked him to take the bit(s) again. I only put the bridle all the way on twice, and after that it was just about encouraging him to open his mouth and take the bits with his head low. After doing that two or three times with a candy in between, I called it good.
We worked through this two years ago when I first got him. But it seems that after going in the snaffle that he didn't like and then switching to the double, he's lost some confidence about what's going in his mouth. He shows his tension with a tight back and a raised head, so getting him to keep his head low for bridling is an important step for him.
My husband came through with the double bridle, so today I am getting my bits moved from the temporary double to this one. I found the dressage legal bit that I want, and I'll order it in the next few weeks to put on my regular bridle. My plan is to alternate between the two bridles.
Totally off the subject here, but I've been watching my neighbors fish in our little lake. It looked like such a relaxing thing to do (which can only help give me patience) that I mentioned to my husband that I'd like a fishing pole of my own. Even though I've fished since I was a little kid, someone else always set the pole up for me. All I had to do was cast and reel it in.
He's an avid outdoorsman himself who enjoys hunting and fishing, so I knew he could set me up with a rig that I could handle. On Christmas morning, he showed me how to tie on a hook and then gave me some tips for casting and reeling in. Bass fishing is not the same as fishing from the beach, so I spent some time practicing.
Now that I have a new hobby, you might find me casting a line as I ponder the next training dilemma. I think that will be a lot healthier than worrying about why my dressage horse isn't at the Grand Prix (yet).
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%: