From Endurance to Dressage
The canter. Is there a more complicated gait? I have been working to improve Speedy's canter departure for several years; you'd think we'd have it by now. It's not that hard! Sheesh.
I am poking fun, of course. His departures have improved tremendously as has the overall quality of his canter work. Even so, that's what we worked on with JL during my Monday lesson.
Speedy is a bit of a lazy sort which means he is happy to school around on his forehand and camp his hind end back in yesterday. A lazy rear end does not make for a nice canter departure. JL's technique for getting his butt in gear is to essentially stop the front end from moving (if needs be) to allow the hind end to catch up.
To do this, I shorten the reins, a lot. This isn't about creating an elastic connection and a rounded top line. Instead, it's about proving to Speedy that his hind end must go the same speed as his front end. It feels a lot like revving up his motor. He gets to where he is practically bursting to launch into space.
Once I get his hind end engaged and active, the trick is for me to NOT throw away his front end in the canter transition by either leaning forward (ack!) or opening my elbows. It's frustrating to get all of that hind end engagement just to throw it all away in the transition.
I know I am maintaining a very solid contact when I find myself leaning back in the transition. This means my seat is pushing him forward, and I am following the up and over movement as his hind legs push up and lift into the canter. When I DON'T throw away the contact, he doesn't fall forward into the canter but lifts UP and over instead. Glorious!
So that's my homework for the next couple of weeks. I am to shorten the heck out of my reins, it doesn't need to be pretty, in order to convince Speedy that his hind end must stay connected to his front end. If his hind end doesn't move along, I add my spur (HARD). As soon as Speedy is thinking FORWARD, I can begin to use a more appropriate rein length; one that encourages a softer connection. Until then, it's all about the short rein and a ready spur!
I love you, Speedy G, but I'll love you more when you're moving!
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%: