From Endurance to Dressage
More un-cohesive rambling …
I walked Sydney to the mounting block, got on and aimed him toward A. The last time we had tried this, he refused to enter the ring at all, and all manner of craziness ensued. This time, he strolled right on in and walked where I aimed him. His steps were slightly bouncy as he wasn't completely relaxed, but I was already thrilled with the improvement and could have just quit right there.
I explained to Christian that I wanted to warm up like I do at home with some up/up/downing (to which he cocked a doubtful eyebrow) followed by some just go wild trotting with my hands planted in his mane; if it came to that. Christian gave the okay, and I started our warm-up to the left.
As predicted, Sydney rushed a little bit, but within a moment or two, he settled right down with the up/up/down rhythm. I never had to deal with a just go wild trot; instead he settled into the trot work readily. Before I was quite ready, he volunteered a left lead canter so I went with it. We spiraled in and out a few times, and then I brought him to a halt in front of Christian.
Insert wild applause with a standing ovation ...
I don't remember Christian's exact words, but it went something like this: In 20 years of doing this, I have never seen such a big improvement in just two months [my last lesson with him was two months ago] especially from someone with an endurance background which has nothing to do with riding! If you had asked me how long it would take to achieve this degree of relaxation and suppleness from this horse, I would have said at least a minimum of 12 months. And then there was more that had to do with being stunned, shocked, and just generally speechless.
Oh, Christian, you make my heart sing. Thank you, kind sir!
Seriously. I wanted to just take a bow right there and exit stage right. We had impressed Christian. That's not easy to do. I had to offer a little sassiness to let him know that I appreciated the compliment, so I replied with something like, it's because I worked my ass off! He laughed and agreed.
Seeing how good our left trot and canter were, Christian had me change direction and track right. After a few wildly crazy spins to the right, Christian called for a lunge line and told me to hop off. Right away, sir!
I am sure you suspected that this whole thing wasn't going to run that smoothly. It didn't. Tracking right has been our largest weak spot since day one. We're getting it fixed though, and Christian was only too happy to help.
There was quite a bit of this ...
And a lot of this ...
Christian tied my outside rein to the girth to simulate a side rein and used the lunge line as the inside rein. After quite a few rounds, Sydney eventually got balanced and began to use his inside hind correctly, stepping underneath himself. Once Christian explained to Sydney what he wanted, he told me to get back on.
I took up control of the outside rein, but Christian continued to be my inside rein. From the walk, he pushed my leg in time to Sydney's inside hind leg while flexing him with the inside rein (lunge line). As I began to understand Christian's objective, we moved to the trot, and occasionally the canter. For the first time, I was able to feel how much weight I had to take in that outside rein. It took all of my strength to hold that outside rein, and I used my bucking strap for balance.
At a few points along the way, I rode the leaning canter (see the second photo) and begged Christian not to let go of the lunge line. I felt like I was on a rocket connected to a piece of thread, two items that should never go together!
Little by little, I began taking up the inside rein myself while Christian coached me. He helped me find a better rhythm for flexing with the inside rein and using my inside leg more assertively. Eventually, he removed the lunge line, but he stayed inside my little circle giving me instant feedback on when to release either the outside rein or the inside rein.
By the end of the lesson, Sydney was finally standing up on his inside shoulder and stepping over with his inside hind leg. We get this at home, but this was the first time we've been able to do that on the right side while away from home.
As we finished up, Christian was very generous in his compliments and kept repeating what good riding I had been doing. He is great about helping you fix what's wrong without blaming you as the rider. He also never blames the horse. And at the end of each ride, he always exclaims, What a lovely horse!
Day 2 tomorrow ...
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%