From Endurance to Dressage
Tryna Bring Out the Fabulous
That's a Lizzo reference for all you cool kids.
In case you haven't heard me say this before: riding Izzy is hard. It's also frustrating, demoralizing, and occasionally, rewarding. He wasn't his best self this weekend for Saturday's lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. I think he had a legitimate reason, but the problem with having a reason every single time you get ridden is that your rider stops taking your reasons seriously.
We have tons of lush, green grass everywhere except in the horses' paddocks and pastures. I know, it's a California thing to have grass where the horses aren't. This is winter grass. As soon as it warms up, it turns to foxtails and dies off. Izzy has been getting bites of it here and there for the past few weeks, but I am super careful to control how much he gets as it is very rich.
While I was tacking up on Saturday morning, he pooped some really foul and stinky stuff. It also came with a wet squirt or two which is not normal. I pulled out my stethoscope, but his gut sounds were normal. Besides getting some of that lush new grass, we have started in on our new grass hay which he really likes. It looks the same as our previous load, but I am wondering if it is just bit richer than the old stuff. Either way, it was clear that he wasn't feeling quite himself.
When Izzy is uncomfortable, he's a real ass. And it doesn't have to be my leg is broken uncomfortable. If the sun is in his eyes, he feels that is all the cause he needs to check out. Knowing that, I have to be judicious in how I handle his I don't really wanna days. As we warmed up, I explained all of this to Sean who agreed we would work Izzy until he gave us tangible evidence that supported his claim to be broken.
Izzy turned out to be fine enough, but his version of pouting is to say no to every little request. He gave one or two really dirty spooks, but I simply insisted that we would continue working. Of course, the thing that bothered me most was how boring the lesson was for Sean. As soon as I had that thought, I immediately stopped in my metaphorical tracks. What the hell, Sweaney? He works for YOU! And suddenly, I saw some of the reason for why I had been so unhappy with my riding in November and December. Once again I had let myself believe that it was my job to perform for my trainer.
If I don't show major progress from one week to the next, I always feel as though I've let my trainer down. I feel like such a failure to be working on the same issue week after week. In his own riding, Sean is driven to succeed. He has big goals, and he pushes himself hard. I, too have goals - maybe not as big, but I also push myself too hard. Sometimes, I think that mixing a driven personality with an even more driven personality is a recipe for disaster.
It finally occurred to me that Sean works for me. And you know what I mean; he doesn't actually work for me, but I pay him to help me ride my horse better. When you think about it like that, what does it matter if the progress is slow? If that's where I am in my riding, then that's where he will support me. I don't stop working with my fifth graders just because they have a low reading level. No, I meet them where they are by providing scaffolded lessons to support them as they learn. Why should I worry if Sean is bored with the lesson I am having? I am certainly not bored. While we both care about my progress, I think I have been a lot more worried about the slowness of my progress than he has.
When I told him what I was thinking, I could hear the exasperation in his voice when he said the lesson was not boring. He was interested in the choices I was making as I worked Izzy through his little episode, and rather than feeling bored, he was engaged as he evaluated my riding and thought about what he could do to help me.
As I look ahead at the rest of 2023, I have decided to do some schooling shows to see if I can make this fun again. I don't want to care about how we look. I want to take all of the pressure of succeeding off the table and just ride for the fun of it. I'm looking at a schooling show in February and another one in March.
I think Lizzo is right; it's about damn time!
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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%: