From Endurance to Dressage
The thing about Izzy is that he truly can be a lovely horse. I also appreciate that he's fairly honest and consistent. It's not like he's an ass one day and brilliant the next. He's the same day after day. Once he learns something, he seems to get it.
Last year at this time, he didn't know how to canter with a rider on his back. If we got a canter, it was almost always accidental and on the incorrect lead. It was also rather wild and wooly. We can now get the correct lead, and he knows what I am asking for. The issue isn't getting a canter departure, it's getting a soft canter departure. There's a difference.
Last year at this time, we couldn't make a turn because he would crab or bolt sideways. He can turn now, and he definitely knows what I want, but now he won't turn softly.
He used to balk when he didn't want to work. So much so that I could whale on his sides with a full-on pony club kick, and he'd just pin his ears. The whip and spurs solved that. Now, he might think about it, but he goes forward.
Izzy is just not an easy horse. He's not submissive, and he doesn't appear to care if he pleases me or not. He wants to do what he wants to do and that's it. If it smacks of work, he's out. He's far more willing to play if he sees things as well, playful. Chew on the back of my t-shirt while I pick out his feet, dude's all over it. Dig a hole right next to me while I fill a previous hole, dude's the master. Trot a 20-meter circle without flinging his head wildly, not so much.
Yesterday, after a quick phone call to Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables, I tried a couple of things she suggested. First, I swapped out his bit for something a bit tougher, and then we hacked around the neighborhood until we got to the old golf course.
The bit is not legal for dressage of course, but I am hoping it will help solve a few problems. This particular model is a Myler that I bought for my endurance mare who loved to run through the bit. This bit uses kimberwick cheek pieces which work as either a direct action bit when the reins are attached to the top hook (loop) or as a leverage bit when the reins are attached to the bottom hook.
The mouth piece is a correctional ported barrel (MB41PB). Myler offers a few different versions of this mouthpiece, but they all serve the same purpose. Myler describes the function of this bit: ... allows the rider to isolate one side of the bit to lift a shoulder and also to reward the horse with a "comfort zone" when relaxed at the poll. A good bit for collection and stopping. Works well for spoiled horses, horses which run through the bit and those which drop a shoulder.
Yep. This is the right bit for now. Izzy does all of those things.
I've seen a lot of Myler demos, so I know how they like to introduce a horse to their bits. I let him just wear it for a few minutes and then I led him over to the grass and offered him a moment to lower his head and graze. When he seemed okay with the bit, I applied gentle pressure to each rein individually until he lowered his head. And that was his introduction.
Without making this too long, he definitely noticed he was in a different bit. He started out by bouncing his head, but I kept my hands low and fairly fixed against my saddle pad. Each time he giraffed his neck, he brought his head back down by himself. For the entire ride, I kept my hands super quiet and rode almost entirely with my seat and legs.
He got very tense and anxious in his regular spots, but the bit grabbing and head flinging were not an issue. When we got to the golf course, we walked for a few minutes and then picked up a lovely trot and rolled right into a happy and relaxed canter.
He was soft in my hands and willing to bend and turn. I am not sure the bit was the magic bullet, but the bit combined with some fun helped give me a pleasant ride. I know the good stuff is in there, I just need to convince Izzy that short, fun rides are much better than hour long rides that do nothing but torture us both.
Chemaine will be here both Saturday and Sunday, so I can't wait to hear what she thinks.
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 Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read