From Endurance to Dressage
When I woke up on Sunday morning, my fingers were crossed that Izzy would be a bit tired and hopefully more relaxed. That did not happen. Not only was he not tired, he was wide awake and vibrating with nervous energy. Back in my endurance days, we used to say that the problem with a fit horse is that you have a fit horse. Izzy is a machine when it comes to working. He never gets tired.
I took him down to the warm up and was immediately discouraged. He was high as a kite and nearly unrideable. He wasn't trying to ditch me, but there was no dressage happening. His back was super tight, and his neck and poll were rigid. I did my absolute best to work him down, and there were moments when he would soften and let go through his back, but they didn't last long.
As I was heading towards the ring for my first test, Hilda Gurney joked that she wished there was a relaxation aid like there is for the canter, and then she told me to have a good ride; she had been watching my warmup. I laughed and agreed with her. Hilda is always friendly to me. She either remembers me from previous shows, or she's just chatty with everyone.
As we entered at A, Izzy was tense, but even so, I managed to push him through the test. There were no spooks or big errors. He did everything that he was supposed to except for losing the canter in the 10-meter circle and picking up the wrong lead at A. Both of those are more my fault than his.
My second test was 40 minutes later. Even though I was tempted to take him back to the warm up and try to work some of the tension out, I decided that Izzy probably needed a mental break more than he needed to be worked. As I sat on my quivering, ready-to-explode horse, Morgan, who had videoed the test, agreed with me. I took him back to his stall and pulled his bridle. He immediately got a drink and dove into his hay.
He didn't ever relax, but he did eat and drink the whole time. Back when I was still endurance racing, a horse's interest in food and water told us a lot about their physical and mental state. A tired or worried horse will frequently refuse to eat or drink, so when a horse does eat or drink, it's a good sign that they're doing better than appearances might suggest.
As my second ride time approached, I bridled Izzy and led him down to the ring. I let the warm up ring steward know that I wouldn't be warming up. Morgan held Izzy while I got on. I haven't needed help like that since Speedy was a youngster. Izzy was so high though that I didn't want to risk him exploding as I swung my leg over.
Instead of taking him to the warm up ring where I knew he would just get more and more nervous. I started walking him in the area in front of the rings. I felt myself succumbing to Izzy's anxiety. I doubted that I could ride him through the test, and I thought really hard about just scratching. Instead, I sent a silent prayer asking God to keep us both safe. Just taking that moment to ask for help relieved much of my worry. I dug a little deeper and decided that we simply had to get through this. If the test was nothing more than an expensive opportunity to school the big brown horse, then so be it. I headed toward the ring.
When the rider before us exited the ring, I walked in and approached the judge. I quickly explained that Izzy was extremely tense, and there was a strong likelihood that I wouldn't be able to manage him well enough to complete the test. I told her that if I felt as though a melt down were imminent, I would just raise my hand which would indicate I was excusing myself. She agreed that that would be wise.
As we trotted around the arena waiting for the whistle, a remarkable thing happened. Music suddenly began blaring in the ring beside us. My first reaction was to laugh at the poor timing. Are you kidding me? I thought. A freestyle, now??? I seriously considered waving at the judge and just walking out. But then something unexpected happened. My quivering bowl of jelly cocked an ear at the music and the tiniest bit of tension left his body. Instead of bouncing around nearly out of control, Izzy started listening to me.
With the help of someone else's freestyle, Izzy and I made it around the ring. We didn't do quite as well as the day before, but the test was much improved over our first test of the day. After we halted at X and were leaving the ring, another freestyle started, but this one had disco type music. Izzy immediately began to piaffe and jig his way out of the ring. I sent a silent thank you to God for sending us the right music at just the right time.
Stay tuned for one more post about the show...
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%