From Endurance to Dressage
I stole that title straight out of the March 2018 issue of USDF Connection. It came from an article entitled, "Valegro: The Making of a Champion." I am not saying I have a Valegro in my barn, but if something worked for Charlotte Dujardin, I am going to look at it closely.
There's a section in the article where Dujardin talked about head shaking (something that bothers Izzy every spring) and putting Valegro in the double bridle as a five-year old because "the curb chain definitely made a difference: it lies on an acupuncture point."
When I read that passage in the article, my heart gave a little pitter-patter of excitement. Dujardin continued with this gem, "What's more it gave me more control over him, which in turn made him less nervous - Blueberry was the kind of horse who, if he didn't feel as if his rider was in charge, would start to worry."
As Sheldon Cooper would say, BAZINGA! The rest of the article focused on how Dujardin was able to soothe Valegro's tension so that he could relax. As I read line after line, I found myself nodding and saying, yes, yes, yes! to everything. Izzy is my Valegro.
I've ridden Izzy in the ported curb bit with a chain for nearly a year with excellent results. He loves the bit, and has finally learned to relax and listen to me. The time to move him into a legal dressage bit has come however, which means I have my work cut out for me.
Since we began Operation Legal Bit Every Time, things have gone from are you freaking kidding me? to that's more like it. It feels like we're going through all the same stuff from last year, but we're doing it in fast forward. There was a day or two of very nervous, a day of complete jackassery, and yesterday, a day of oh, you mean carry my own head without plowing through the bit? All of that took a year in the last bit. I'll be delighted if we can get it done in a week or two.
As I was tacking up yesterday, something caught Izzy's eye and really spooked him, like head straight up with flared nostrils spooking. I finished tightening his girth and then led him over to what had caused so much consternation - a bucket filled with dog food that isn't normally there.
Izzy gave it one look and said no. Just no. I lunged him lightly for a few moments and pointed him at the bucket. With front legs splayed out every which way, he arched his neck to the bucket and gave it a tentative snort. Once he wasn't dancing on his tiptoes, I finished bridling and walked up to the arena.
With Dujardin's words still swirling around in my brain, I reminded myself that my focus was achieving relaxation and building Izzy's confidence in the legal bit. We spent a long time just walking with his head hanging comfortably. We worked on leg yields, renvers, travers, and even baby half pass ... all at the walk.
When he seemed genuinely relaxed, we did it all over again at the trot, including the half pass. To my surprise, he was much better behaved than he's been the past few days. And after the eye-roll worthy antics that we started with, I had been pretty sure I was in for another day of jackassery. Nope. He was actually quite delightful. That half pass that I've been playing around with? Super nice - for two rookies anyway.
Speedy and I are headed to Moorpark for a two-day USDF show today. Best Friend is tagging along for moral support as I continue to struggle through Second Level (go, Team Speedy!). This means that Izzy will get the next three days off. I am hoping he spends his time off contemplating the benefits of a dressage legal bit.
Wouldn't that be nice?
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%: