From Endurance to Dressage
I gave Izzy most of last week off. He had done a show on Sunday and then the next few days were in the 106℉ - 108℉ range. It was just too hot to ride. When I finally got on him on Friday afternoon, I was more than pleasantly surprised. While not an upper level horse, he was not the same horse I had ridden the week before.
He was suddenly softer and more supple throughout his body. I kept the ride short, only 15 minutes, but in that time, we managed to both trot and canter quietly. Saturday was nearly the same. By Sunday, some of the wiggles had returned, but I schooled through them easily.
During the last few lessons with Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she had me think of compressing Izzy's stride to balance him and suppling his jaw and poll in the canter. Both of those ideas have really helped me put together a bunch of loose pieces, especially in the walk and canter.
I've never had a horse who wasn't naturally balanced in the walk, so it's not a gait that I've schooled a lot. Izzy is not balanced at the walk. With Chemaine's comments ringing in my ear, I've started to play around with the walk as an end in itself, not just as a way to rest my horse.
I can now feel that Izzy wants to fall forward and scramble at the walk. By using a firm half halt and compressing his frame, I can ask him to come off the bit and soften. When he does, I can soften in return and then ask for a longer stride. The more I practice this compress, soften, lengthen exercise, the more quickly he is starting to soften and as a result, his walk is getting longer and more relaxed - exactly what we've been missing at shows!
While still a long way from show worthy, Izzy's canter is also starting to come together. For so long, I thought I needed to sponge the inside rein almost exclusively. Chemaine helped me see that it's not only about suppling his neck; his jaw and poll are pretty stiff as well. She helped me see that I need to sponge whichever side he's holding. And in Izzy's case, more often than not, it's the right rein.
Tracking right means that I need to work the outside rein to keep his shoulders in line, but the inside rein needs work as well to get some bend. When we track left, it's almost all outside rein - the right. When I get him to let go of that rein, the bend comes more easily.
As we've been working the canter, I've paid much more attention to the idea of getting his poll and jaw to loosen rather than focusing on his neck. Once I can get his rhythm under control with a huge half halt, I then use a milking the cow image as I massage the reins in his mouth. His canter has gotten better and better over the past two weeks.
We're going to a California Dressage Society show on Sunday. CDS shows are normally judged more strictly than are schooling shows, but not usually as tough as the judging at a USDF show. With a only a few days until the show, my focus is to continue improving the walk. If I can get a relaxed walk in the ring, Izzy's level of relaxation will improve, which should help our overall score.
We were so close to a 60% at our last show. Maybe this will be it, and if not, it doesn't really matter as we'll keep working anyway.
Walk on, Dude, walk on!
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%