From Endurance to Dressage
When a Bad Ride is a Good One
It's hard to imagine a bad ride being anything but, well, bad. When my barn owner commented that it looked like Izzy was having some trouble during our ride, I smiled and replied, He sure did, and it was great!
I am sure she thought I was suffering from heat stroke or stupidity, or maybe both, but it was the truth. It finally felt like Izzy was actually thinking rather than just reacting. Hallelujah!
I try really hard not to focus on the negative or frustrating parts in my life which means that I don't write much about those things that suck, at least not in detail. So when I say that Izzy has been a frustrating half-ton of green bean, what I mean is this:
And all of this is to avoid trotting forward in a large circle. I guess I should point out that there were a few days were he did all of this to avoid walking in a large circle.
While KG and I were trail riding the other day, I boo-hooed about the fact that Izzy couldn't just trot in a circle without being a giraffe. KG cut me off and said something to the effect, Well there's your problem. You're asking him to trot AND do something else. She pointed out that while on the trail, I was simply asking him to walk. Not walk with contact, not with his head lowered, nothing. The only thing I was asking for was a forward walk.
That really got me thinking. So when I rode on Wednesday (the first time), I mapped out an easy to follow "trail" in the arena: the fence-line to the edge of the sprinklers, down to the edge of the hose, and then we circled back to the fence-line. We walked this "trail" tracking right four times. Then I asked him to cross from the sprinkler back to the fence-line where we did it in reverse four or five times.
In all, we spent ten minutes just walking. He tried to bolt and giraffe and do his Tasmanian Devil routine, but I acted exactly like I do out on the trail. I dropped the reins down to the buckle and let him gawk and geek out, but when he was naughty, I sucked those reins back in and said no. It really only took him a few minutes before he dropped his head and just moseyed around. Aha! Gotcha, Dude!
Like I've done for the past two weeks, I put him away and rode Speedy. When Izzy had had at least an hour to relax and eat, I saddled him up again. This time, my goal was to trot without any other expectation as KG had suggested. Of course, he had to behave, but I was okay with some gawking as long as he went where I pointed.
I started him off at a walk. I used the other half of the arena and once again picked out a "trail." When he was following my "path" to both the left and right without any tension, I asked him to pick up the trot. First, he bolted, but I pulled him around into a stop, patted his neck and pointed him back down the "trail."
When I asked for the trot again, he giraffed his neck and tried to get away from me that way. I again pulled his head around but kept asking for the trot. He tried a few more of his tricks, but I just sat there redirecting and asking. His back stayed loose, and the hump of tension that he usually gets never showed up. But then I felt a change in him. Instead of getting "humpy," he got very flat.
When I next asked for a trot, he slammed on the breaks. Ooh .. this is new, I thought. New and actually better! I simply gave my seat a little bounce bounce bounce, and when he didn't move forward, I kicked kicked kicked. When he finally lurched into a trot, I praised him enthusiastically, let him trot five or six strides, and then asked him to stop.
In all, I spent a solid fifteen minutes kicking him into a trot and asking him to stop. He's pretty stubborn. You would think that after getting your ribs thumped on you would hurry up into the next gear, but not Izzy. Not only did he think forward was a bad idea, he thought he could get me to QUIT IT by backing up.
I actually laughed. I even told him that his "back up" was a bit pathetic. It was pretty slow and careful - perfect for a rein back, but not so good when you're trying to intimidate your rider. He eventually gave up on backing up and decided that simply waiting out the kicks to his side was preferable. I just kept kicking.
Each time he would pick up the trot, I made a big deal out of it and only trot five to ten strides. I was hoping that he wouldn't see the trot as just being loads of work. Eventually, he started thinking that he would pick the spot to trot. The first time he volunteered, I actually praised him and patted his neck. After that, I just pulled him back to a walk and ignored his voluntary efforts. This isn't the Red Cross; we don't need volunteers.
Eventually, he picked up a semi-prompt trot twice in a row which seemed like a good place to wrap it up. I again gave him lots of atta boys with neck pats. The look on his face was pretty funny. I don't know that this lesson will stick, but he definitely got a dose of "hey, someone else seems to be in charge here."
So what made a seemingly bad ride feel so good? Izzy tried something else! I am okay with him trying new ways to get out of doing something that he views as hard, especially if he's abandoning things that didn't work out the way he envisioned. Hopefully, he'll run out of ideas and get on board.
We're trailering down to Moorpark today to meet with the always awesome Chemaine Hurtado (dressage trainer extraordinaire). I am hoping she can give me some insights into his decision-making process as well as give me a road map for how I should proceed.
I'll be share to share how it all goes.
7/16/2015 12:35:10 am
I'm glad you feel better now . I kinda thought you were asking for too much. When I started my girl, all I asked for was the trot . nothing else. Not even a circle . just a plain trot along the long wall. Have to make building blocks . best wishes! Happy trails
7/16/2015 01:05:58 am
That it great news.
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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
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Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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