From Endurance to Dressage
A Few of Christian Schacht's Exercises
Christian does a lot of really cool exercises with his students, and even though I've ridden with him at more than ten clinics, he keeps bringing new ones.
I tried this first exercise on Sunday morning while I was warming up alone. It was a little difficult but something even most lower level riders should be able to get through without much help. It was a simple figure eight done with circles less than 20-meters. I tried for 15-meter circles, but some of them ended up being closer to 10.
Just like in a regular figure eight, there is a stride or two of straightness where the two circles meet, but on the actual circle, you ride with a counter bend. During the stride of straightness, return the horse's neck to straight. As you make the turn for the next circle, change to the other counter bend. Straighten the neck where the circles meet, and counter bend the other way.
It sounds easier than it is. Doing this will really reveal how much your horse is on the forehand and how tight he might be through the withers and neck. I could feel Speedy's neck begin to soften, and he definitely started picking up his shoulders.
Here's another one ...
The second exercise was a four-eared Mickey Mouse: two ears on top of the circle, and two ears on the bottom of the circle. The "head" (large circle) is ridden on the counter canter. Each ear is a volte ridden on the correct canter lead. So, if you're in left lead canter circling right, you leave the larger circle for a volte (an ear) tracking left on the left lead. Come back to the circle for a stride or two, and leave the circle for a second volte, again tracking left on the left lead.
Return to the larger circle on the left lead but tracking right (counter canter). On the bottom of the circle repeat the two voltes (the other two ears) on the left lead, tracking left.
I watched several riders do this exercise. I don't think it's as physically challenging as it is mentally taxing. It looked a lot like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time. While it might be challenging for the horse, I think that the coordination of aids might be what makes this so hard to put together.
I am not sure that Speedy and I are balanced enough to do this at canter, but I am definitely going to try it at the trot.
Christian showed many other exercises, but the ones that I've shared over the last few days are the ones that I took away. Of course, the exercises that I found most interesting were those related to what Speedy and I are working on right now. Next time Christian comes, it will seem as though he is introducing brand new exercises, but it will only be because I hadn't paid attention before. I can't wait for his return!
I'm dying to try the 4-eared Mickey Mouse exercise. Seems like an excellent way to keep the counter canter balanced and true. I would go do it tonight except I'm still working on the flying changes so this would be rather confusing for Mikey. Doesn't mean I won't do it when it's time to start adding counter canter back into our work! Seems like an excellent test of if I can maintain the proper aids to continue on the same lead. I'll certainly do it in trot too. You can apply counter bend on the bigger circle there as well just like in the first exercise. It'll certainly make you pay attention to proper bend since you'd be holding the same bend in every circle!
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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.
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