From Endurance to Dressage
Overall, the show went better than I expected, and it gave me a lot to think about. Speedy has been the only other horse I have ever taken to an over-night dressage show. Izzy has been to two-day clinics, but those were nothing like the hustle and bustle of a two-day USDF show. At this show, I got a glimpse into what it will take to manage his preferences.
He showed me that he's not thrilled with stabling that is close and crowded, but he'll deal with it. He showed me that his appetite stays strong, and he's happy to drink from a hanging bucket. Speedy doesn't like drinking from hanging buckets and prefers to drink from the ground. Izzy picked one neighbor that he really liked, and the rest he ignored. Was it just her, or did he just latch on to the closest thing?
Izzy also showed me that he isn't at all bothered by a million horses in the warm up ring, but all of that energy ramps him up. The warm up is something that he's going to need to get used to. The only way to do that is to go to more shows. He showed me that he needs to learn to ignore all of the activity which is going to be a challenge. I ride at home by myself. There is virtually no activity. A delivery truck or other car might drive by, or the neighbor's gate may swing open, but that's the extent of our hubbub.
We have another two-day show in a week, and it's turning out to be pretty big as well. There will be two rings which means another busy warm up. One issue is that I know he needs to be ridden at least 30 minutes to be effective in his work, but every minute we spend in a crowded warm up ring adds to his tension. So while I ride to achieve suppleness I fight the building tension at the same time. What do I do? Do I skip the warm up altogether? Do I ask for a quick walk, trot, canter and call it quits? I won't know until we have a few more shows under our belt.
I definitely think Izzy felt overwhelmed by the show environment, especially by Sunday. The longer we were there, the more tense he became. He already carries around a certain amount of tension in his every day life; he's the one whose head snaps up first over any little change at the ranch. He does relax though, and he loves to play. Lately, Reggie has been blowing all the leaves from the giant sycamore tree into Izzy's dry pasture, and he loves them. He crashes through the pile just because he likes the sound they make. He and Speedy gallop and play along the fence line, and each day I have to throw Izzy's toys back onto his side of the field. He loves to toss them over the fence.
And then there is the issue of Izzy's neck. It was very short and very tight. It's not like that's a brand new issue, but now I know I need to ride him at home with a neck that is as low as possible. If I can encourage him to carry it really long and deep, it might not shorten quite so much at the next show. To that end, I've been riding him this week with a no short neck policy. When he tries to suck it in, I bend him and push him sideways until he drop his neck from his withers.
I've spent most of this week reviewing the judge's comments and thinking about them as I ride. The angle of our shoulder-in varied; I've focused on keeping it more steady. Twice we lost the canter in the ten-meter circle to the right; we've been doing 10-meter circles at A, E, C, and B. Izzy jigged in the walk, so we've been walking and halting every time he take a hurried step.
For some riders, a show is about showing off what their horse can do. I would love to be able to do that, but I don't get enough regular lessons to get the kind of feedback needed to polish everything before the show. So for me, showing is about getting constructive feedback that I can use to guide my schooling rides. In teaching, we call that a formative assessment. The results of the assessment, in my case, the judge's scores, help "form" an impression of the demonstrated learning. Based on that impression, the teacher modifies future lessons to address the deficiencies. The assessment/test also serves as a summative assessment; a summary of what the student has learned.
Earning a 55% definitely forms an impression. I now know what I need to work on. As our scores rise, fingers crossed, I will know that I am correctly addressing our learning deficiencies. And if our scores don't improve, I'll need to approach the problem differently.
While it might not sound like it, I am truly enjoying this challenge. Izzy is a fun horse to ride. He's ridiculously affectionate, powerful under saddle, and naturally talented. Now that he's my primary focus, I already see lots of recent improvement in his work. We may crash and burn next weekend, but I am feeling confident that we'll do just that much better.
Here's to a weekend of good riding!
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%: