From Endurance to Dressage
Using the Cold to My Advantage
I've said this before, a lot of times, but Izzy is not the easiest horse to ride. And truthfully, he never will be, at least not for me. A better rider would be able to do better; I am not that rider. While I am not thrilled with this situation, it is what it is, so I continue to get the best work from him that I can.
Winter is always hard for him. I've always ascribed his winter behavior to the cold. He's a big horse, so he doesn't cool down easily. In the summer, it takes a lot to get his engine revved. When it's nice and crisp and the air crackles, so does he.
Since I know this about him, it no longer upsets me. I just roll with it. When I rode yesterday, he was his regular winter self - on fire. When we first got to work, I felt myself thinking, just trot like a normal horse, please. Then I realized I was only asking for him to trot on the rail, all the while hoping and wishing to the Blue Fairy for something magical to happen. Suddenly, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was in my ear telling me to start asking Izzy questions. He reminded me that if I don't take charge, Izzy will.
Just so we're clear, I wasn't in a lesson, but after doing close to 100 lessons with Sean, all of them with ear buds, I am used to him speaking directly to my brain. Recalling his voice while I ride is simply muscle memory. I immediately moved Izzy off the rail into a leg yield, and then another and another.
It shouldn't be a surprise because Sean has been helping me to get there, but those leg yields felt pretty fantastic. Rather than leaving my outside rein empty as has been the issue lately, I very clearly felt that I was riding Izzy into both reins evenly. Once I felt that I had his attention, I started to switch up the leg yields. As we reached the diagonal, I asked for a half halt, and later, a full halt. Then we picked up the trot and leg yielded in the other direction. Eventually, we were zig zagging across the dressage court.
I realized that Izzy had shifted from braced and distracted, to focused with power. He wasn't as supple as I would have liked, but for him, it was a big step forward. In the canter work, I remembered to ask him questions as well. We did some leg yields, counter canter, and haunches in on a circle. Since it is in the canter work that he can really push back against me, I focused on getting him to bend through his body by asking his haunches to move around.
The more I asked him to move away from my leg into my outside rein, the more willing he was to start reaching instead of pushing. One of the things that Sean and I have talked about is using these cold months to focus on a good foundation of training so that when the weather warms back up, Izzy will be that much farther along in his training. When the basics are better established, it should allow us to do better at shows.
For now, shows are many months away, so I am riding the horse I have today.
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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%: