From Endurance to Dressage
12th Lesson with Christian Schacht
After the lessons were done for the day, everyone bedded their horses down for the evening and then met up at a local sushi restaurant for dinner. Each time I participate in this clinic, I look forward to dinner. I don't know that all clinicians are as social and funny as Christian is, but getting to share a glass of wine with him and hear about his life as an international judge and trainer really helps to build a relationship. Knowing him outside of the ring makes what happens inside the ring a lot more interactive.
My lesson on Sunday was in the morning. I was glad for this as I would be able to leave and head for home whenever I was ready. As it worked out, I ended up staying until late afternoon so that I could watch my pal, Sarah (of Eventing in Color fame), ride. She also rides an OTTB so it was great to see how Christian helped her deal with Hemie's tension.
After breakfast, but before anyone was ready to ride, I turned Sydney out in White Birch's rather large round pen. He trotted around briskly while eyeballing everything. I could see that he thought he should be anxious, but it was as though he couldn't muster up the energy to go totally wild and crazy. It was an interesting moment. I actually kissed him into a canter, but he never even approached gallop speed. I had him change direction with the same result.
Mostly, he just trotted around looking for a soft spot to roll. When I was ready to continue some in hand work up in the arena, he gave me a sassy flip of his hind end when I asked him to come over. I shook the lead rope at him and did some quick changes of directions, which were obviously too much work for a Sunday morning. Sydney stopped and turned to face me with a much more submissive attitude.
I hand walked the big brown OTTB around the perimeter of the arena, pausing at the C end where some large guinea fowl (?) live just below in a small pasture. He stared at them for some time, but then shrugged his shoulders (metaphorically) and walked on. We strolled around the inside of the arena pausing every so often so that I could send his inside hind leg under him as Christian had done with the lunge line. I was pleasantly surprised at how supple he was during the exercise.
Once I noticed that White Birch's ground crew wanted to water and drag the arena, I waved a quick apology and headed back to the barn. I gave Sydney a good grooming, rewrapped his legs, and checked in with the clinic's organizer. As Christian and the other riders and spectators began to arrive, I began to feel a bit nervous. What the hell?
I realized that I was feeling some pressure to be better than we were on Saturday. I felt as though everyone, including Christian, was expecting me to just get it already. Once I recognized from where my anxiety was coming, I was able to joke about it a little bit and let it start to dissipate. Because really, who would expect me to better over-night?
I saddled up and moved into the arena. I told Christian that I was anxious, and he just laughed it off and told me to track right immediately. What? was my response. I was really hoping to warm up in our easier direction, especially since I was clearly feeling anxious and needed to settle my nerves. Christian's response was that his job wasn't to make me feel comfortable at the beginning of a ride, but rather at the end, SO TRACK RIGHT!
Oy vey. So we tracked right.
I can't say this enough: Christian is a rock star instructor. Knowing how I was feeling, he had me head immediately toward C at a walk. We were going to avoid the A end of the arena. We started by leg yielding from the quarter line to H followed by a leg yield to C followed by a leg yield from the next quarter line; all at a walk.
My tension from the last hour disappeared completely as I realized that for the first time, I was actually schooling real exercises in an arena that wasn't our home field. I started to relax. About that time, Christian asked for a trot while doing the same leg yield pattern. Sydney began to barrel through my aids again.
I wasn't able to hold his rhythm with my seat, so he picked up speed until we were pretty much just careening around. Christian didn't give the melodramatic sigh of frustration that I felt as I pulled Sydney back down to a walk, but when Christian asked what had happened, I replied that I didn't have any control. But he's not running off right now, which means you have enough control, start again at a very slow jog, came his reply. And so we did.
Somehow that little reprimand reminded me of how much outside rein I was allowed to use to to help Sydney balance. From that moment, I felt confident in holding all the weight I needed to while moving that inside hind leg over. We were finally leg yielding!
The next exercise Christian had us do was to leg yield across the diagonal, an exercise that took me a few tries to understand.
As you leg yield to the left (for example), the horse is bent right as you track from F to H (black line, yellow bend). As you go through the corner at H, you have to start preparing to change the bend at M so that you can now leg yield from M to K (red line, green bend). You also have to change your posting diagonal.
This exercise was a lot of fun, but more importantly, Sydney seemed to enjoy it. And for me, the best part was that we were actually schooling the entire arena; the first time we've been able to really do that away from home.
VCC of CDS is already trying to schedule Christian's next visit. I am so excited about it already as I know we'll be prepared to learn even more exercises. This week's rides have already been unbelievable. Imagine how I'll feel after 13, 14, 15, … 20 lessons with Christian Schacht!
And that's it … mostly. We're heading to the cabin for the weekend, again, so I'll see you all on Monday!
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%: