From Endurance to Dressage
When I rode with Chemaine last month, those were almost her parting words to me. I actually think I heard her say, "half halt, half halt, half halt!"
I've kept that idea in my mind over the past month. When things seem to be going haywire, and I can't figure out how to get back on track, it will occur to me that I should probably half halt. Of course, I'm usually about 45 seconds too late, but at least it is now occurring to me to half halt as a solution. I got a great reminder of that last night when I rode Izzy.
Before I go on, I should point out that Izzy is not easy to ride. He is not scary like Sydney was, although when people watch me ride him, I know they are thinking thank goodness she's on him and I am not.
I might be frustrated at how hard he's making things, but I am not scared of him. In fact, after he nearly flipped me over his back twice last night after scooting forward - at the walk, I just laughed at how silly he is.
Every day that I see him, I marvel at the things that he now takes in stride: he is a doll in the cross ties, he can go through the gate without bolting past me, he leads quietly, he lowers his giraffe neck to the ground with a simple touch to his poll, and he even lifts his 12,000,000 pound feet up for picking out. But ...
Each ride is a painstaking ordeal. I know we're making progress, but he questions the need to frame up every single day. Are you sure I can't run around with my nose sticking waaaay up here? And when my answer is no, dude, you can't, he squeals, grunts, shakes his head, and looks for a way around me.
Every. Single. Time.
Right now, I am doing the same exercises for each ride. I start out on a circle at the walk and bring him to a halt and ask his him to soften before walking on again. We do this about 400 times. As we're walking and halting around the circle, I am slowly spiraling down to the other end of the arena by leg yielding into the open end of the circle. Before he knows it, we're at the scary end. As we leg yield, I do lots of halt halts to encourage him to step over instead of forward.
When we've done that spiral down to the end while half halting to both directions, I do it at the trot. Of course, he questions that as well: are you sure that's what you want me to do because it feels really hard, and I would rather buck, squeal, or run off somewhere else. My answer is always the same, a hard jerk with the outside rein to say no, stay right here.
It's tedious, and it's frustrating that he is such a slow learner, but little by little he is figuring it out. After several firm jerks, he quits trying to run off. And after about 30 minutes, just as I am losing daylight, I feel his brain engage, and he asks: wait, you mean you just want me to trot around with this bit carried softly in my mouth? Why didn't you say so?!
And then we're done. Last night, I had to be a Nazi about the half halts. Every single time he poked his nose into the air or tried to run through my aids, I half halted hard until little by little, the half halts came more from my core than my hands. My response was always the same - an audible nope, accompanied by a tightening of my core, and rein if I needed it.
We're getting there - it's slow, but it's happening. And the exciting thing is that when he finally relaxes through his neck and lets his back swing, he is so fancy and uphill. Like Chemaine told me last month, the great scores come from riding that knife edge of "almost out of control." Izzy's got it in spades!
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%: