From Endurance to Dressage
I could kick myself for not bringing a piece of note paper and a pencil with me on Saturday morning while I watched the earlier riders being coached by Dr. Christian Schacht. That man continues to amaze me. I do remember a few things from the day however that really resonated with me.
There isn't usually a theme to his visits; he just works with each rider as he sees fit, but this weekend, several items seemed to crop up again and again. One was the rider's seat and pelvis, especially in the sitting trot.
Christian said two things about the sitting trot that really stuck with me. The first was this: "the sitting trot is a three-dimensional movement, not a two-dimensional movement, which is how many riders try to perform it." He explained that it is a back and forth movement that also goes up and down. I immediately pictured a red rubber ball where my pelvis is.
The second thing he said was to imagine watching the back of a rider as she trots in a show coat. There are two buttons on the back of the jacket. As the rider is sitting the trot, the buttons on the coat should move up down. As we rode, he instructed many of us to "move the buttons on your coat up and down."
As he was coaching me through the sitting trot, he asked me to close my eyes and feel the movement in all directions, not just the back and forth. The sitting trot is not so much about your seat bones, but more about releasing through your back allowing the horse to lift and rock you. He also had me stretch tall so that each vertebrae could move and absorb the motion.
For several riders, he pulled over a plastic garden chair, a demonstration I've seen him do many times. He turned the chair backwards and leaned/sat on the chair's back illustrating how if the your back is hollowed your seat bones can't rotate around. When your pelvis is tucked beneath you, you can rock around on your seat bones, weighting each side independently. I don't have the problem of a hollow back. If anything, I slouch a bit and roll my shoulders in.
Which brings me to the next interesting part of the clinic. Christian nearly always uses my body like a puppeteer might to ride Speedy through me. When he's finished with you, your horse is moving brilliantly while you feel as though every muscle in your body has been stretched and pulled in ways that you didn't know it could bend.
This time however, Christian used most of my first lesson time to work on me. While this was great, the side effect was that I finished the ride feeling as though I had ridden like crap. I simply couldn't fix Speedy and myself at the same time.
I needn't have worried. Christian always has a plan. When I later looked at the many photos that my pal Jen had taken, the majority showed a pair working through some some stiffness, both equine and human, but none of the pictures showed the wild tasmanian devil that I felt like I had been trying to wrangle.
Ultimately, Christian had me wrap my stirrups over the front of my saddle's pommel. From there we worked on lengthening my leg, stretching my spine, and keeping my seat bones in contact with the saddle.
While I don't get to work with Christian weekly, or even monthly for that matter, we have developed enough of a relationship over the past few years that he knows he can work me pretty hard. I did the sitting trot with no stirrups for what seemed like a really. Long. Time. It probably wasn't that long, but for however long it was, my body was on fire. I almost asked for a break, but them decided that if Christian thought I could sit the trot all damn day, then that is what I was going to do. In that moment, I let my body go. I just quit trying to sit the trot. The moment that I quit trying, it became easy.
In between sitting the trot, Christian had me work on canter to trot transitions. The canter work with no stirrups is easy for me, maybe it is for everyone. I am a very balanced rider, and since I already tuck my pelvis, Christian just had to remind me to keep my inside hip positioned forward. What was most challenging was the canter to trot downward transition. That was a bit rough. He reminded me to think about beginning the trot rather than ending the canter.
While I don't have any photos from Sunday's ride, I still want to share the exercises we did as well as a few others that I saw that looked really interesting. Stay tuned for more tomorrow ...
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%: