From Endurance to Dressage
I am a glass half full kind of person. I always look for the good in a situation, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the same kind of frustrations and disappointments that everyone else deals with. Lately, I've been feeling as though I am going to be stuck at Intro Level with Izzy forever.
This is actually quite humorous as I said those exact same words several years ago in regards to Speedy G. I said those same words again at Training Level, and I feel the same way at First Level as we're trying to move on to Second.
It's hard to feel progress when it's slow or when you're starting yet another horse. This idea of "spinning my wheels" and "getting nowhere" made me think about my years as an endurance rider...
If you don't know much about endurance racing, the first thing you should know is that it is probably the hardest thing you can do with a horse. Not only does the horse need to be super fit, but so does the rider. Once the horse is fit, keeping her sound and healthy is truly the hardest part.
You've probably heard people say, "My horse would have been great at endurance racing. He has so much energy; he never gets tired." Don't believe it. Being energetic is only a small part of an endurance horse's job. Endurance racing takes a very special kind of horse, and they're really hard to come by. Finding a great endurance horse is like trying to find your next Grand Prix horse. How do you know you have one until you put in years of hard work?
What generally happens in the sport of endurance is that you start out with whatever horse you have. I was lucky. I had an Arab already when I first started out in the mid-90s. But like most everyone else, after ten or so 50-milers, it turned out that the sport was a bit too tough for her, so I moved her on as a solid family horse.
Most riders share this experience. A lot of horses get started in the sport, but not many make it. Sometimes it's because of their brains - they can't cope with vet checks, horses passing them, leaving their buddies, or being on the trail for 24 hours. Just as often, it's because their bodies can't do it. Endurance racing/riding is hard on joints and soft tissue.
When Sassy couldn't make it, I started over with another horse. This time, I picked an Arabian that had been scouted out by a local endurance trainer as one with potential. I got really lucky. I ended up with a "Grand Prix" horse, but it took a lot of time to get her there. She had been started as a youngster and then put out to pasture until I bought her as a nine year old. Sounds a bit like Izzy's start, huh?
I first worked on helping her become a riding horse. Then she had to learn how to travel, stand tied over-night at the trailer, go through vet checks, and on and on. All the while, I also had to build her fitness level. Ultimately, she competed in hundred mile races and multi-days (50 miles a day for days in a row).
As my super-star began to age, I bought another horse as a back up. Once again, I started over. Mickey wasn't broke to ride at all. In fact, he was barely halter broke. I had to teach him everything. I competed on him for six years until he too started to have soundness issues. Montoya just kept going.
So I started over, again. I bought Speedy G, another Arab who had also been scouted out by an endurance trainer. Each time I started a new horse, I had to go through all of the same steps. They each had to become safe trail horses, learn to deal with the pressure of hauling and standing over-night at the trailer, and then they had to become fit enough for at least 50 miles in a single day. The process took years.
Why was I so incredibly patient as an endurance rider, yet as a dressage rider, I am expecting a Grand Prix horse in just a year? Pretty unrealistic when you think about it. I really need to cut Izzy some slack, Speedy too.
Starting a barely green broke horse in the sport of dressage is pretty similar to starting an endurance horse. It's going to take years to get Izzy where I want him, and that really should be okay. Like I said the other day, it's all about perspective, mine in particular.
I keep reminding myself that we are making progress. It's just slow and steady, just like it would be if I was building my next 100-mile horse. From endurance to dressage - it all takes time.
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%: