From Endurance to Dressage
A Lesson in Taking Your Time
Wednesdays have become "S's" lesson day. It works out for me since by the middle of the week I am usually ready to give Izzy a day off. Last week was tough though as I had to solve a week-long crisis which meant I didn't get to ride. Teaching S helped me forget about life for a minute, so it was worth it.
So far, we've been working on building S's leg and core strength. Sustained trotting is still hard work for her, but I've seen tremendous progress in the month or so that she's been riding Speedy. She has also been able to canter on both leads. Each time she comes out to ride, I appreciate Speedy even more. That horse has the most generous nature. He never gives her more than she can handle.
In true schoolmaster fashion, he doesn't do anything that she hasn't asked for. He doesn't spook or bolt, and he will only trot if she really wants it. For this lesson, I had S work on her mental commitment. I think she has had a small amount of fear which Speedy has obviously picked up on. She has to really insist that he trot or canter, or he simply won't. For this lesson, I encouraged her to ask for the trot by simply shouting in her head, TROT!
I knew that Speedy would feel that intensity, and I hoped that her body would sense the empowerment that comes from a strong shout. It worked. The power that it takes to shout, if only internally, gave S's body the confidence that she needed. As we all know, success breeds success. I had her do trot to walk to trot transitions over and over so that she could begin to feel a sense of confidence.
Throughout the lesson, S kept worrying that the lesson was boring for me, and she expressed her gratitude for my patience. My response was always the same. I don't care if she walks or trots or does passage. It's not about me; it's about her journey. Who cares how long it takes?
Knowing that her confidence is just beginning to build,I wanted to make sure she cantered again for this lesson. As in the trot, she continued to have trouble getting Speedy to lift into the canter. Instead of cantering, he just began to trot faster and faster. Since I wasn't sure why, we came back to walk and discussed it. S explained that it was making her tired trying to ride through that faster trot. Oh! That explained a lot.
What I had not thought to say was take your time. How many times has a trainer said that to me? Getting the transition is not important. What really matters is getting a good transition which means not rushing into it. When we started again, I made sure to watch and tell S to slow back down when Speedy started to get quicker. We don't want to chase him into the canter. I told her to take her time, slow him down, rebalance, and ask again. I also reminded her to use the outside rein.
I've taught Speedy to canter with my inside leg at the girth, outside leg back, a scoop with my seat, and a little outside rein that says sit and push with your outside leg. Once S knew that she could take her time, Speedy transitioned into a lovely, collected canter that S was able to ride. As they cantered, I encouraged her to try to go with Speedy's movement and enjoy the moment. Cantering a forward thinking horse can feel like flying, especially when the horse is as well behaved as Speedy.
It was a great lesson for me because I was reminded that taking your time gets you much farther in the end.
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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)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: