From Endurance to Dressage
It can be hard to see progress. Last weekend's show in Santa Barbara was proof of that. Saturday's rides were truly disastrous, but with a better strategy on Sunday, we at least got back into the 50s. At the show two weeks earlier, we scored in the high 50s and even managed to eke out a 60%, so I am not sure low 50s was any progress. Even so, I learned a few things and so did Izzy.
I gave Izzy (and myself) Monday and Tuesday off. I was exhausted, so I figured he probably was too. On Wednesday, my friend Wendy drove over from the desert to do another trail ride and picnic lunch. The weather was spectacular and the air was finally free of smoke and haze after the weekend storm that blew through California. Wendy rode her three and a half year old baby, Beanie. That little mare has sure grown up since I last saw her in the spring. Wendy does all sorts of things with her. They take dressage lessons, but they also do a bunch of gymkhana type events, including running barrels. Wendy even has her popping over small jumps. Beanie has done a lot of things for a girl her age.
Of course, "T" also came with us to ride Speedy. As usual, Speedy was his perfectly behaved self. If horses could smile, there would have been a huge one plastered on his face. He loves getting out on the trail, especially if he has a few buddies along with him. T hadn't ridden Speedy off the property yet, so I laid down the ground rules. Riders are responsible for expressing their needs. If the pace is too fast or too slow, speak up. If you need to stop for a minute, or if your horse needs something, say so. That doesn't mean we don't check in with one another, but each rider needs to assume responsibility for her own safety, and that includes monitoring your comfort level. Since we were on my home turf, I led most of the way, but before trotting or cantered, I always asked if everyone was up to it. There was never a no. These ladies were game for anything.
Towards the end of the ride, I asked if everyone wanted to do a gallop. Both girls were up for it, so I let Izzy out a bit and urged him forward. I glanced back and saw that Speedy was right on Izzy's shoulder, ears perked forward, stride long and loose. Beanie was just behind us, happily galloping. She's fast, so even with Izzy's long stride, she had no trouble keeping up. When we pulled up and came back down to a walk, T sheepishly informed me that that had been her first time to ever gallop a horse! She was pretty delighted about it.
We did the same loop that I always do. We started in Hart Park along the river and rode a figure eight that goes around the lake and comes back in front of the California Living Museum (CALM). The loop is just a bit under eight miles. To my utter amazement, Izzy started out in the lead with a huge, swinging stride. His neck swung back and forth, and I was on the buckle for nearly the entire ride. At one point, Speedy got in front of us which caused more than a bit of tension, but once the order was reestablished, Izzy was flat out perfect. His stride was so loose and long that I frequently had to stop and wait for the other horses to catch up. My smile was even bigger than Speedy's.
Over the years, Izzy has shown steady progress on the trail. In the beginning, he was containable, but not relaxed. Each time I take him out, he gains just a bit more confidence. This was the first time that he was completely relaxed at the walk with absolutely no jigging. It was only in the trot and canter that he showed some tension. At one point, when Speedy was too far ahead - Izzy's words, not mine, he actually cantered in place. If I can someday tame his tension, the FEI levels will be a piece of cake!
We finished the ride in a little over two hours. After getting the horses untacked and settled in at the trailers, we dragged out the coolers stuffed with food. While I love going to shows, this kind of ride is so much more relaxing and rejuvenating. We laughed, traded stories, and simply enjoyed our horses, the fine weather, and the good company.
I didn't know how much I needed a non-stressful horse day. I think Izzy needed it, too.
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%: