From Endurance to Dressage
As you probably know, California is the warmest (and driest) place in the country right now. We've had a winter of freakishly warm weather, even for us. A small storm did roll through in the latter half of last week bringing a trace of desperately needed rain. We also had high winds and "low" temperatures. So when Saturday dawned bright and clear again with good air quality, I was eager to ride.
I hacked Speedy around the neighborhood, he's not 100% sound yet, but he's looking better and better each day. After messing with him, I eagerly saddled Sydney, hoping to reinforce the work we've done on the right lead canter. Unfortunately, our immediate neighbor was having his MANY trees pruned with clanking extension ladders and roaring chainsaws.
The noise had stopped so I felt like it was probably safe to put in a ride on Sydney. As we were doing our walk warm-up, I heard the ladder being shuffled into place. I felt the adrenaline begin to course through my body. On Speedy, that stuff doesn't even phase me; he could care less. On Sydney, it's a different story. Sometimes he's indifferent, but at other random times, the noises cause explosions.
I sighed in frustration. I was mostly irritated with myself. Sydney was fine with the initial noises until I got tense. As I worried about the chainsaw and clanking ladder, his trot rhythm got faster and faster and he dove into my hands. I wanted to simply quit for the day, but the weather was just so nice that I knew I couldn't waste the schooling opportunity.
I knew that JL's arena was open so I hopped off and walked over to her place. Several of the ladies had just finished their rides so I had the arena to myself. As I walked over to the mounting block, my stomach felt sick with anxiety. I could still hear the chainsaw, although it wasn't as loud, and I knew Sydney would pick up on my fear and anxiousness.
I really, really didn't want to get on a horse who was going to wig out. JL's arena is filled with jumps and poles, and I always worry that Sydney is going to crash into something during those moments when he loses it. I just felt certain that this ride was going to have one of those moments. I got on anyway and demanded that I pull myself together and ride my horse the way I know I can.
Sydney started out a little tense and tried to rush the trot, but I insisted he slow down and wait for me. And all of a sudden I was riding in the moment and was oblivious to what was happening around me. We worked on the right lead canter with downward transitions to the trot. The transitions weren't great, but Sydney was listening to my half halts and maintaining a fairly steady rhythm, something we've been schooling to the right.
There were a few times where he tried to find an escape door, but I was right there and slammed the door before he was able to use it. At one point in our ride, I finally felt him just relax and trust me to do the thinking. We went around a few more times, I asked for a square halt, and hoped off him. I had a huge grin plastered across my face. Success is ever so sweet when it follows fear and self-doubt.
Sydney was so good, that for the first time ever, I turned left from JL's (home is to the right) and rode him around the neighborhood. He was a little surprised as we've never ridden the neighborhood from her place before. He did get a little high as we climbed the scary dog hill and passed by the geese, but after that, he settled into a nice swinging walk and seemed to enjoy himself.
When we deal with our fear, the confidence that replaces it is priceless!
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%: