From Endurance to Dressage
As I consider how to categorize this post, I realize that it fits in many areas: California Barn Life, it was 82 degrees with a low of 36 - unusual even for here. The national high, 88 degrees, was in Riverside, just three hours south; Trailering, although the post didn't intentionally go that way; or simply Training. Wherever it fits, thanks for reading!
Now that I board within walking distance of my trainer (and no longer condition/compete in endurance races), I am finding that I rarely need to trailer out anywhere. Super convenient of course, but not great for teaching horses to be dependable travelers. Speedy is already a pretty good traveler. Oh, he dances around in the trailer at the lights, but he hops right in every time, and he'll stand tied all day long. Sydney has traveled in my trailer maybe a half-a-dozen times. I brought him home in July, he went to the vet later that week, he trailered out for a handful of lessons, and then he went to the Ride-a-Test in October. And that's the last time he's been anywhere.
I have been remiss in this area of his schooling. I am fairly confident that in his previous life as racehorse and hunter/jumper he was trailered quite a lot. But it has been my experience that not every one trailers their horses like endurance riders do. We (or I should now say, they) have very high expectations as to how horses should approach trailering. We (they) insist that horses should load quietly. So quietly in fact that they should want to get in even when you haven't completely opened the door. They should try to open the door themselves to save you the trouble. In fact, they should attempt to close the door behind themselves.
And that's not all. Once you've arrived at base camp, oops, I mean your destination, they should come off the trailer in exactly the opposite way that they loaded. They should look over their shoulder and really study where they are. They should ask at least three times, are you really sure that you want me to get off? And once you've convinced them that, yes, you do want them off, they should do it very, very slowly and immediately upon exiting they should drop their heads and look for something to eat.
And that's still not all. (I told you that endurance riders have tremendous expectations!) Once everyone is unloaded, your horse should be delighted to stand at the trailer all day long. He shouldn't mind that his buddy has walked away. He shouldn't mind that other horses are calling to him. He should have his head so far into his hay bag that he has completely forgotten about anything else. And when he pops his head out of the hay bag to get a breath of fresh air, he should look around for YOU, his trusted partner, and whicker at you softly when he makes eye contact. His whicker will say, Oh! There you are. I love you and trust you to take very good care of me. I will not run away, even if my rope becomes loose because I love standing by this trailer.
And when it's time to go home, your horse should nudge the door open and load himself while you're struggling with the hay bag that you refilled and are now trying to cram past his big butt.
That's how endurance riders trailer their horses.
I don't think that has been Sydney's experience, and I have been a bit remiss in his education. So I decided that I had better get to work. Fortunately he does have some pretty good experience already, and I have already done quite a bit of load and unload practice to help him navigate my pretty tall step-up. While I haven't driven him around, I have spent some time asking him to load quietly and unload just as quietly. My work must have paid off because he did both things very well on Monday's field trip.
Cha Ching's Mom boards less than ten miles away. It's an easy drive with two stop lights and three left turns. It seemed like the perfect destination for Sydney's first trip of 2012. He loaded up without a single bit of hesitation and unloaded even quieter. When I got in position to unload him, he looked over his shoulder and out the door for several seconds. He took a couple of short steps and listened for my cue that the step was coming. Just as he got to the edge of the floor, I reminded him to steeeeep, which he did. One foot hit the ground, the other foot hit the ground, he paused for a moment, Good boy, and quietly shuffled the rest of the way out. He didn't look for anything to eat, but I did have a horse treat in my hand that he took happily, if not completely focused on me.
I led him around the barn area for a few minutes waiting for his head to come down and for that deep breath to escape his body. Within just minutes I could see the tension slipping away. He was still quite curious and a bit of a lookey-lou, but I was okay with that. I saddled him up, put him on the lunge line for just a few minutes, and then did as quiet of a ride as I could. My goal for the trip was for him to never get excited. (There's a post coming about that in a day or so.)
After riding, I unsaddled, groomed, offered more hay and water, and then went to visit with Cha Ching's Mom for just a moment to give Sydney an opportunity to show how he would behave once I was out of sight. He didn't disappoint me. I gave him a few minutes alone, and then I stepped into his line of sight and called his name. He turned to look at me and seemed relieved to finally have found me. There were no theatrics though and he remained calm and happy.
We loaded up and made the short drive home. He stepped off quietly and was happy to be turned out for a few minutes to roll and amble in the warm California sunshine. It was a very successful day.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: