From Endurance to Dressage
Did you know it has finally started raining here in drought ridden California? Of course, I've probably just jinxed us. In any case, it actually rained three days in a row this week. It hasn't done that in at least 4 years. No. I am not kidding.
The rain has made it a wee bit difficult to ride, but I managed to saddle up this past week anyway. On Thursday, it looked pretty threatening, but I decided to chance it. While the arena was probably okay to ride in, I decided it wasn't worth tearing up my footing, so Izzy and I hit the neighborhood loop.
Chemaine has urged me to start treating him like a grown up which means a lot less babying and a lot more insisting that he man up. He doesn't get to rubber neck, and he now has some responsibility for keeping his stuff together. With that in mind, I decided to ride the loop backwards. What?! Crazy, I know.
We headed out of the driveway like we always do, but instead of turning right, I turned left and headed immediately past Laurel's barking dogs. I kick BUTT on the trail. I have zero fear or anxiety about goosing a reluctant horse to move it down the trail. In fact, the naughtier he got, the bigger my smile was. I LOVE that surge of adrenaline that rips through their bodies as they're thinking about exploding. Oh my freaking hell! How can that possibly be fun? If he felt like that in the arena, I'd be looking for the quickest place to dismount.
But trail work is my strength. I figured if Izzy had that much energy, he could just piaffe/passage his way around the loop. We didn't of course, but that's how I rode him. His stride was about six inches long, but it had to be at least two feet high.
I kept two things in mind: straightness and a feeling of being light in the bridle. If he grabbed at the bit, tried to lean on me, or tried to carry his head higher than mine, I sponged the reins until he let go and carried his own head. Sometimes he had too much arch in his neck, but I preferred that to being a giraffe with an even hollower back. I wasn't asking him to carry himself in a frame, and in fact I would have been delighted with a long, level neck, but his head had to be at least lower than mine.
Since wildly swinging haunches are a problem at the canter, particularly to the right, I insisted that he keep them right behind his shoulders. Because he wanted to race through the ride and I wasn't letting him run off in the front end, he kept fishtailing his hind. Each time it popped out to the side, I used my leg or the whip to put it back in place, effectively asking him to push forward with his hind end.
After the first few minutes, he really did settle down enough to listen. There was still a lot of jigging and looking for something to spook at, but he did listen. It was also cool and blustery as a storm was moving in, so I think he did an excellent job. I chose to ride a new direction on such a questionable day because I need him to know how to trust me once we finally make it to a show. He'll need to deal with the distractions and still focus on me.
By the time we made it back to the barn, he was finally relaxed with a level top line. I always make sure he knows what a good boy he is for achieving that level of relaxation, so I gave him lots of pats and praise, but I didn't put him away. Instead, I decided he needed to do a bit more work.
Once we're at a show, he'll have to do a test after what will probably be a tense warm up. So that's what I did. We only trot a 15-meter circle, but I focused on lots of half halts and mini transitions within the gait. Since the arena was still questionable, I actually worked in a small area of the driveway between my car, horse trailer, and the barn.
We started out to the right, the direction he struggles with. I couldn't have been more pleased with him. He didn't round up and float or anything, but he got pretty steady in the bridle which wasn't easy to do in such a funky space. I had to avoid the grassy patch as he sank in a couple of times so that's where I really half halted and turned my circle into a square.
I also had to make sure I got a good half halt as we approached my car which is off to the left. And of course, the opening in the fence is very much like the opening at A which is a natural invitation to leave!
I kept the trot pretty slow and simply asked him to bend. I had to use the whip a few times on his outside shoulder, but he knew I meant business, so he gave it up pretty easily. We worked both directions until he was very relaxed and genuinely pushing from behind.
How could I not be happy? We rode the neighborhood loop in a new direction on a blustery day and then schooled in an awkward area that didn't have a fence. And through it all, Izzy really kept it together (mostly). I am counting this as a big step forward!
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%: