From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy has always had a large circle of friends; everyone likes him. I am always recognized as Speedy's girl, never the other way around. He now has a new friend, "S." A few weeks back, S reached out to me wanting to give dressage a try. Once things tried to calm down a bit - first Speedy needed a few days to recover from his annual vaccinations, then it POURED rain, and even though he is still fighting an abscess, S came out yesterday for a bonding session.
We knew a real riding lesson wasn't going to be possible because Speedy's not yet sound at the trot, but it seemed like a good opportunity to teach S all about Speedy's little foibles and preferences. Things like how he prefers to be girthed (ack, it's squeezing me!) and bridled (go ahead and try). So many of Speedy's little eccentricities were caused by me, I am sure, but I've always tried to honor his personality.
Other things are just my way of doing things. Once my horses know what I expect, I treat them as though they'll make good life choices. For instance, when I lead either horse with a halter or bridle, I lead them long. I don't hold the reins near the bit, nor do I hold the lead by the shank. I expect them to walk near my shoulder, and they do. There are other things; how long I like them tied, how I like them untied to be bridled, and the general order of how things are to be done.
S, like Speedy's other ladies, has a riding history, just not in a dressage saddle. It has also been a hot minute since she's been handling horses regularly. Sometimes our movements are rusty, and all good riders have a desire to do things the way a horse prefers, grooming for instance. S used very gentle strokes with the stiff brushes out of concern for Speedy's delicate face and legs. As she groomed, I talked about Speedy, what he likes, how he thinks, what he might do. By the time she had him groomed and tacked up, they had worked out the beginning of their relationship. When Speedy knows that his rider is respectful and willing to learn, he'll do anything she asks.
Even though Speedy is still sporting a poultice on his left front, he's sound at the walk, so we headed up to the arena for a walking lesson. Now that I've "started" two other ladies on their dressage journeys, I have a somewhat better idea of what they need to get started. I've realized that I've skipped a lot of steps. Since Speedy is still too sore to trot, it forced to me to be more thorough by sticking to things to learn from the walk. We all know what a neglected gait it is, but I was shocked at how long we worked at just the walk.
Unlike with "T" and "J," I decided to tackle position right off the bat. We worked on lengthening S's leg - she doesn't have the jumper seat already, so her heals weren't a problem. Once we got a stirrup length that seemed right, she sent Speedy off at the walk. As they circled, I had her make adjustments to how she held the reins, and then how to use or NOT use them.
Many riders from other disciplines use the reins to turn whereas dressage riders know that some flexion indicates the direction of turn, but so much of the aid actually comes from the riders legs, seat, and shoulders. Within no time, S was doing lots of little turns without using the reins. I also had S work on adjusting Speedy's walk by asking him to get rounder and then sending him forward into a more marching walk and then relaxing into a longer walk.
I continue to be amazed by Speedy's generosity. He is such a willing partner, and happy to be working. Even though he's still dealing with an abscess, his walk up to the arena was perky and his face was alight with happiness. S just met him and even she could see it. When we had finished with the lesson, S seemed quite pleased by how much we were able to do. She even felt as though she and Speedy had developed an immediate connection. She liked him, and he liked her. The bag of carrots she brought probably didn't hurt either.
T's husband's job will likely have them moving away by early summer, but for the next few months, Speedy will now be doing two to three lessons per week, once his abscess finally heals. I could not ask for a better arrangement. He'll continue getting regular exercise, and he'll get to feel useful and successful, which is the most I could ever want for him.
Retirement suits my gray pony.
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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%: