From Endurance to Dressage
A Lesson in Lengthening Your Leg
Speedy's ladies continue to show up no matter how many times I try to convince them that I am not a great rider. As I was telling that story to my friend Valerie, we giggled uncontrollably at the many ways we're terrible riders.Uh, have you seen me in the warm up ring? quipped Valerie. Had I been drinking milk, it would have shot straight out of my nose. By the way, Valerie owns the Dressage Pony Store, a fantastic online shop for all things for the smaller equine athlete (as well as stuff for the big guys, too).
"T" came out on Saturday and watched me ride Izzy as she took notes. I keep telling her to do what I say, not what I do. If I really could do it right, my lessons wouldn't be free, and I'd have all kind of medals on my wall. None-the-less, she keeps coming back. As I rode, I showed her the different ways that our seat position can influence how effective we are (or aren't!) in the saddle.
After her last lesson, T was a bit frustrated by her turned out toes. I told her that I used to have the exact same problem, so we discussed a fix. One reason her toes were turning out was because she still wants to press her heels down. Again, a heel lower than your toe is great except when it isn't. By forcing her heels down it was drawing her thigh away from the saddle. Once she was up in the saddle herself, I encouraged her to lift her legs up and away from the saddle. Before putting her legs back down, I asked her to roll her thighs inward.
Several things happened. By rolling her thighs inward and allowing them to rest against the saddle's thigh blocks, it enabled her to open her hip angle which dropped her thigh straight down. This in turn lengthened her leg. We lowered her stirrups two holes, and she never complained about her stirrups being too long.
The second thing that it did was free up her lower leg so that it wasn't so rigid. And while the fix won't be instantaneous, her toes finally pointed forward when she remembered to keep her thighs pressed softly against the saddle. A third thing happened that I wasn't exactly expecting. With just a bit of coaching, she was able to follow Speedy's back in the canter without being popped out of the saddle. She was able to "sit" the canter because she had increased her feeling of being plugged into the saddle.
Whenever I am able to think of the answer to a question, provide a solution to an issue, or just show her an exercise that gets her using her aids more effectively, I shake my head and wonder where this "new" knowledge is coming from. It's not new of course, but learning to explain it to someone else is. I love having AHA moments, I just never expected to have them while showing someone else what to do.
Wherever those little epiphanies come from, whether I am in the saddle or coaching from the ground, I'll take them.
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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.
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%: