From Endurance to Dressage
The Wild Card
I have written about Dessa Hockley's book, Is Your Horse a Rock Star? more times than I can count. No matter how many times I've read it, I come back to it time and time again. In fact, if you Google the book title and then search for images, a picture of Speedy shows up. Speedy truly is a Rock Star.
According to Hockley, there are sixteen personality types, all of which are determined by figuring out which four of the eight personality traits your horse possesses. The eight personality traits are:
I didn't get so lucky with Izzy; or, maybe I did. Izzy is DEAF - dominant, energetic, afraid, and friendly. Dessa calls this personality combination The Wild Card. Getting a wild card in a game is usually a good thing, but at times, the wild card costs you big points.
Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, and I have been working hard over the past year to figure Izzy out. After having made a great deal of progress, I remembered Hockley's book and took it out this weekend to see if it might offer any new insights. I didn't discover anything I hadn't already read, but things that Sean has said were echoed in the book.
The Wild Card is dominant and strong-minded with lots of energy. They want to be the boss, but since they have the fear gene running through, they aren't brave enough to be a leader which means they are prone to "checking out." The DEAF horse needs the rider to take control, but his dominant side does not appreciate that and will happily fight with you if you push too hard. And since he's also energetic, he has the energy and attitude to fight long and hard.
The Wild Card horse is also very friendly. Hockley describes them as generous with a desire to please. In her final words describing the DEAF horse, she says, "Once the DEAF horse is working for you, he has ample energy and expression that he will freely give to any situation or sport. You will truly feel that you are blessed to have a Wild Card in your hand."
As Sean and I work to figure Izzy out, we are seeing moments where he truly relaxes and allows me to lead. Sean commented the other day that the fear is receding, but Izzy doesn't want to give up control. That's where we are now. The spooking doesn't appear to be fear based anymore. Instead, it seems calculated to avoid giving up control. Hockley's book really supports this idea. Izzy has both fear and dominant personality traits. We're calming the fear, and now we need Izzy to give up control.
I believe that we're on the right track though. Sean is teaching me to quietly and calmly tell Izzy that this IS the way we are doing it without letting Izzy bait me into a fight. Hockley stresses that you "Do not fight with them - they have a lot of energy and attitude if you want to go there." Sean has said the same thing.
Wild Card or Goddess, Rock Star or Macho Man, Worker Bee or Accountant, by understanding our horses' personalities, maybe we can see their quirks as part of their personalities rather than something that needs to be fixed.
Buy the book; you won't be disappointed.
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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%: