From Endurance to Dressage
As my summer vacation winds down, I am using every second to get as many miles on Izzy Zweibrücker that I can.
On Thursday, KG and I drove up Rancheria Road, which quickly turns to dirt as it climbs into the southern Sierra Nevada. It's a FANTASTIC ride for a green bean: it's almost two car widths, there's very little traffic, it climbs relatively slowly at the bottom, there are cows, and the footing is excellent.
Izzy has just gotten better and better on the trail rides. This time, he stood nice and still for me to get on, and he moved right on out at the walk with zero jigging.
When we got to the first gate and cattle guard, Izzy tried to dodge left or right. He wanted nothing to do with the cattle guard, which was great. On the flip side, he did a funny little dance as I tried to walk through the gate that KG opened. He was certain I was going to ask him to step close to that cattle guard. (click photos to enlarge)
There is one section of the road that climbs up steeply, so it's paved. We've never ridden the paved part as the cattle have carved some trails into the hillside. From Izzy's back, the trail looked much steeper than I remembered, but Taz plodded up so Izzy followed.
I was grinning wildly on the way back down because Izzy felt unbelievably sure-footed, especially for a horse who has never carried a rider up and down that kind of terrain. And I know what sure-footed does and doesn't feel like. Izzy wasn't at all worried about the unevenness of the footing, but more importantly, he paid attention to where he put his feet and packed me up and down that hill like he'd done it a thousand times. And he was on the buckle!
Once we got to our turn around spot, KG gave both boys some treats. I got off and stood in the shade to visit with Izzy. The goal was to find a little burm and climb back on. It was risky because he's pretty tall, and I wasn't sure he'd stand still. I shouldn't have worried. He sidled right up to the side of the hill and let me clamber on. I couldn't have asked him to do it better.
On the way back down, Taz went into endurance horse mode and started picking at the tall grass growing alongside the road. Many owners don't appreciate a horse who grazes along the trail, but for endurance horses, it's an essential skill. It sometimes take a long time to teach a horse to relax enough to go from a canter to a graze (ahem, Montoya, I am looking at YOU!).
I was woot wooting my greenie as he tucked in right beside Taz and started munching away. He hadn't shown much of an interest on our earlier rides, even though Taz has been grabbing grass all along.
As good as Izzy was for the two-hour tour, the thing that made me most proud was that he drank at the water trough. I've used this trough many, many times, and it ALWAYS scares the horses. And not just this trough, but most of the cattle troughs we come across are scary for horses.
They're usually really big, surrounded by ditches and holes created by the cattle themselves, and they just look weird. Our endurance horses learn to navigate the clumsy footing and dodge the various floats, covers, partitions, and hardware.
When I pointed Izzy toward the trough, he marched along smartly until he got to within about ten feet of the water, and then he slammed on the brakes. I could hear him clearly exclaim, Holy shizola! What the heck is THAT thing?
He swerved left and right totally intent on avoiding the pool of death. KG gave Izzy a moment to think about it, but then Taz walked up slowly and began to drink. It took Izzy another moment to evaluate the situation, but then he stretched his neck as long he could and touched the concrete sides with his lips.
And then very cautiously, he scooted closer and closer until he could drink. And that was it. He tanked up, took a deep breath, and then drank some more. We stood at the trough for several minutes letting both boys get their fill.
As is our routine, we let both boys hang out at their trailers with a snack while we sat in the shade having a cool drink ourselves. Izzy was a stinker about loading up to go home, but a quick lunge session with the dressage whip reminded him that his job is to load up with a yes, ma'am attitude. Other than that little blip, I couldn't have asked for a nicer trail horse.
And guess what? We're heading to a new trail and staging area today!
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%: