From Endurance to Dressage
The finally ...
I've been a wee bit worried about Speedy's lack of shedding. One symptom of Cushing's Disease is delayed coat shedding or an inability to shed at all. Speedy has been on Prascend since late January, so I wasn't really sure why he wasn't following his normal shedding routine. By now, he should have been at least halfway done shedding his annual polar bear coat.
Someone suggested that horses who aren't sweating - also known as working, might hold on to their hair longer. That may well be the cause. When I saw some loose hairs this weekend, I dragged out every shedding tool I have to help him get rid of as much hair as possible.
And now the AHA!
I've been following a series in USDF Connection that was written by Hilda Gurney in 1978/79. Every month I snag at least one nugget of wisdom from the articles and usually more. As luck would have it, this month's topic was the flying change.
Hilda does an excellent job of discussing what the horse will do instead of changing the lead, all of which Speedy has tried. She also gives a variety of ways to teach the change; just before a corner, on a counter canter circle, after a change of rein across a short diagonal, or for the horse who "diligently retains the counter lead regardless of your efforts to the contrary, congratulate yourself on your fine job of schooling obedience at the counter-canter and go set up a low ... jump."
The one thing that Hilda wrote that really resonated with me was this, "The tendency to change late behind is the most difficult problem to correct. In most cases it is caused by the horse changing from rein aids rather than leg aids." Speedy's changes are clean and have been from the beginning, but he does want to rush them when he knows one is coming. And he always knows when it's coming.
It occurred to me that Speedy has probably learned to change more from the rein aid rather than from my seat aid. As I prepare for the change, I maintain my seat position - inside leg at the girth, outside leg back, but I change the bend. As soon as I change the bend, Speedy starts skipping with his hind legs offering changes with every stride.
I realized that it might be really helpful to show Speedy that just because I ask for a new bend, it doesn't mean that I want a flying change. I started out at the walk asking for a change of bend, and then I asked for a traverse or renvers. For both, he jumped into a canter. Yah for being sensitive to my leg, but that only reinforced the idea that Speedy is not cantering from my seat.
It only took a minute, but he quickly realized that I was just moving his parts around: first his shoulders, then his haunches. Counter shoulder in, regular shoulder in. Travers, renvers. When he accepted my aids at the walk, I repeated the exercise at the trot.
Speedy's a very smart dude, so once he realized he wasn't making a mistake, he focused on his job and moved his shoulders and haunches where I asked him to. He was nicely in front of my leg so that when I asked for the canter, he stepped right into it. Almost immediately he started skipping in back as he asked how about now? what about now? and ... now?
Each time I answered with a no, but he started to take offense. He likes to help make decisions, and when he feels as though his voice isn't being heard, he gets a bit grouchy. I changed things up by cantering down the centerline, asking for changes of bend to the right and left all the way to C.
He was still rushing the change, so I put him on a circle making sure to keep my seat and legs on the lead I wanted him to stay on. And then we cantered the circle while I asked for small changes of bend. I had to work really hard to make sure that my seat and legs insisted that he hold the lead, but he did it.
One thing this winter has shown me is that if I want Speedy to help me earn a bronze medal, I am going to have to listen to him and help him more than I've ever needed to in the past. Frankly, he's done most of the work in this partnership. Third Level isn't easy, so we'll take it slowly and do our best.
I think that's all Speedy wants from me anyway.
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%: