From Endurance to Dressage
Things have been going pretty well with Izzy. We're still not ready to show, but he's learning, and I am learning. That makes it a win in my book.
I mentioned a week or so ago that I had started experimenting with the Myler bit that is US Equestrian legal. Dale Myler suggested I try the bit out once a week. I popped the bit on and had a fantastic ride. I used it again the next day, but I had to put Izzy in the round pen for a while when he forgot that I was up there. We then had a pretty good ride. The third day I used the bit, all hell broke loose, and I realized I was on a version of Izzy that I didn't want to ride.
I took him back to the barn, swapped out the legal bit, and replaced it with the old one. It took about 25 minutes to remind him of the rules, and then we spent another 20 minutes working. I've decided that Mr. Myler's suggestion of once a week was probably a good idea. I got greedy. I am now going to try it every tenth ride. Once a week is too frequent.
For last week's lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, I opted to use the non-legal bit since I knew I would need more control away from home. She agreed.
My biggest issues with Izzy are now solely about relaxation and accepting the contact. This might sound like no progress, but it actually is. When Chemaine saw Izzy last March, we were still fighting the jackassery moments. My goal back then was to be through with all of that for our next lesson. Mission accomplished!
Izzy was still tense of course, and he craned his neck to keep an eye on Speedy, but he went where I told him without any shenanigans. Right away, Chemaine had two new exercises to help get him to soften off the rein. In the first, she had me do a turn on the forehand where he turned in the direction of the bend.
From a right bend, I pushed his haunches in to make a comma or banana shape. I firmed up my inside rein, and pushed his haunches into the bend while minimizing his forward steps. The purpose of the exercise is to push his haunches until he learns to soften and accept the inside rein.
The second exercise was a variation of the first. Once he was giving to the inside rein, we picked up a trot and asked for more or less the same thing. As I bent him to the outside, Chemaine directed me to turn my shoulders to the outside. Then I slowly turned my shoulders back to the inside. As I moved my shoulders, I directed Izzy to do the same thing.
In the final exercise, we put it all together. Starting from A, I rode Izzy in a shoulder in and then turned across the diagonal maintaining that bend. As we neared X, I started to straighten my shoulders while asking him to do the same. As we approached S, I asked for a new shoulder in while making sure my shoulders were also turned. We rode the short side in shoulder in and repeated the exercise across the other diagonal.
In no time at all, Izzy was concentrating very hard on his job and forgot that he was worried and anxious about Speedy's whereabouts. He started flicking his ears my way and never even thought about bolting or exiting the arena.
We ultimately moved on to the canter work which was the best he's ever given me. Sorry, no video as we ran out of storage. What the exercises showed me was that I really need to focus on where Izzy's shoulders are. It's the same issue I have with Speedy.
I've ridden him at home a few times now since the lesson. We're not "there" yet, but I am riding him with a different feel now. I can tell when he's falling in or out on his shoulders. I've noticed that I need to be careful not to get him too over-bent as well. Sometimes he's actually right between my aids, so I need to recognize that.
We definitely need a follow up lesson for sure. In the meantime, I'll keep chipping away at it and see where we end up.
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%