From Endurance to Dressage
Putting it All to Practice
I know that the work I did with Lois Quinn on Tuesday was spot on. It was just what I needed to rebuild some confidence and get my horse working well for the rest of the world to see. I also know that working in the arena isn't going to give me an opportunity to practice what I need for our upcoming show.
I've been saying that I need to hit the trail more frequently, but I haven't done it. I'll admit it; I just didn't want to deal with the drama. The days of maybe next week are over. Working outside of my arena is the only way I am going to replicate show exuberance.
So on Wednesday, I saddled Speedy first and gave him a quick work out, more on that in a day or so, but it's all good. Sydney was next. There is no doubt in my mind that the Divine was watching me on Wednesday because as soon as I put Speedy back in his stall, a long line of pick up trucks pulled up parked alongside our fence line. Hmm .. Interesting, I thought. Shortly after they settled in, a very large, very orange tree trimming truck with a crane took its spot in the line. That vehicle's presence took me past interesting to the land of Oh Crap.
Well, of course I couldn't possibly hit the trail now. That would just be asking too much of my frightened ... oh, wait. He's not scared, I am. (said with a deep sigh accompanied by a sense of resignation and even some foreboding.) I saddled, but all the while I kept trying to justify staying in the arena.
I should explain what my "trail" looks like. It's a neighborhood of mostly horse properties with a private, single paved road and a small dirt shoulder. There are two rectangular streets that form a figure eight. I can turn up the first street and circle home, or ride to the next turn and circle home. I can also head the other direction where I can access the river and some dirt road. The neighborhood loop is maybe a mile or so, while the dirt road loop is another mile. I ride the whole thing on Speedy in about 45 minutes.
My plan for Sydney was to ride the first "circle" of the paved figure eight, which would bring us back by my trainer's place as we finished up. In a last ditch effort to find a reason why I shouldn't still continue on, I approached the guys in the big orange truck and asked what was going on. They had been hired to trim the trees of the property two doors down, along the dirt road loop. I hadn't planned on riding the dirt loop as we've done that a handful of times with little hoopla. I took a deep breath, and maybe even said a little prayer, and decided to go for it.
I popped up into the tack with no issue. I walked around the side of the barn with no issue. I passed by the house on my way out the drive, and all Hell broke loose. Sydney's head shot straight into the air and his body flat out said, no way José, ain't gonna leave. I put him into a circle. His geometry must be a bit weak as that circle was nowhere near 10 meters. It was 3-meters at best.
What followed was at least 10 minutes of a world class temper tantrum. Even I could tell there was no fear in his calculated bolts and sideway crab sprints. Both my car and truck were parked along the dirt driveway. I had a few Oh Shit! moments as he careened toward one or the other, but I got the sense right off the bat that he knew exactly where he was heading.
I changed the bend, I kept a loop on the inside rein, and I used my inside spur for all it was worth. You should have heard his bawling and screaming. I almost laughed at the theatrics. Lois was right; that wasn't a fearful horse. He just didn't want to leave the barn, and he was convinced he had my number.
All of this was happening right next to the row of parked trucks, and even though we were separated by our fence and trees, I am certain those workers got a great show. Once Sydney settled back into a walk, I left the property and made it to the road.
Now we were on (coarse) black top without the safety of the dirt shoulder. The fight started again. Please do not think that I took an un-calculated risk as I would never encourage anyone to school their horse over blacktop. But I knew that I had to win this fight. After the first few turns, I realized that Sydney was being very careful as he threw his tantrum. He never once lost his footing or even slipped in the slightest. Throughout the next hour, he never bumped us into anything, or even came close.
And yeah, it took about an hour to make that half mile loop. Every single time his ears were anywhere but flicking to me, we circled. And even when he was relatively relaxed but I saw dirt, we circled. At one point we walked right down the middle of the road as LARGE dogs lunged at the fence from both sides of the road at the same time. He hustled through that section, but it was the most awesome, marching walk you've ever seen.
Within the first 20 minutes he was completely soaked in sweat, but I felt no pity for him. I kept working him. He would relax for a few minutes, and then his head would shoot up and he'd threaten to jig and prance. Without holding the rein, I would flex that neck into a small circle and boot him over with my spur. Eventually, I would just remind him what was coming with a small eh-eh with the rein.
We made it to my trainer's house, but he was still thinking I would give up. We used her dirt drive way to circle for quite a few more minutes. By that time, I could put him in a counter bend circle and switch back to a regular bend and then change directions. He finally gave up. We walked back out to the road and I let him grab a few bites of grass from our regular spot since a lowered head creates a more relaxed horse.
From my trainer's driveway, we walked straight down the middle of the road doing small flexions to the left and right which he did willingly and happily. By the time we walked through our own driveway, he was relaxed, calm, and very supple. He was soaking wet, but he wasn't at all resentful, and even snuggled me as I untacked him.
We've worked the arena to death. I am not sure that we can improve on our work there in the next week. Instead, the best thing I can do for the next week is to practice riding him through his I don't wanna tantrums around the neighborhood. And to tell you the truth, while I was a wee bit apprehensive as he flung himself violently around our yard at the barn, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to come off him, and he wasn't going to hurt himself. It gave me a big shot of confidence.
I'll let you know how our next few rides go. Have a great weekend!
8/15/2013 11:53:19 pm
Love your assertiveness! If that behavior gets out of hand, it can quickly become dangerous. The ride you gave him will get him back in line pretty fast. :) What a good note to end the week on.
what an inspirational post! I have a horse very similar to Sydney, except that he is a big chicken. That said, there are times when something that has never ever bothered him has become a monster.
8/16/2013 01:21:12 am
I can relate in a small way with the horse I rode as a teenager. It took someone pointing out that I was encouraging her "fearful" antics by avoiding everything she over reacted to because of my own fear of being tossed (I always rode bareback) to the ground. Amazingly, just a few times of a smack on her rump and insisting that I was in charge...the drama was over! Joke was on me.....
8/16/2013 02:46:07 am
I "giggled" this entire post! That was EXACTLY my first trail ride with Varro! He even started his tantrum IN the arena that day! That was the longest 45 min of my life and we only went around the property! (A 10 acre "block") GOOD FOR YOU! I have been hitting the trail regularly with Varro for the last year and can now take him anywhere! I took a year off from arena work (I was not allowed to ride but took Varro out on trails anyway) due to some back injuries (The Marine Corps caused the injuries NOT Varro LOL) so now I need to even out with more arena work. I LOVE your blog and thank you for sharing!
8/16/2013 04:26:15 am
could it be...we are going thru the same thing...at the same time? amazing. i appreciate so much you writing this out.
8/16/2013 10:43:31 am
I am so amazed by how supportive all of you have been. Thank you. Reading your comments has really helped me stick to the path I've chosen. For those of you with similar issues, I hope you feel as though you at least have company as you make your own journeys. :0)
8/16/2013 11:44:11 pm
It takes a ton of confidence and some velcro breeches to call a horse on his antics and ride it out. This is certainly going to make a big POSITIVE difference in your work with Sydney.
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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)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: