From Endurance to Dressage
A Quiet Conversation, Part 3
As I write this I have had two rides on Sydney since our lesson with JL. Her suggestions have worked beautifully.
The second time I rode, I focused really hard on being as quiet with my arms as possible. JL said it might take more strides than I want to get the response that I am asking for; I finally see what she meant. Following her advice meant that my corrections took longer to work, but once I got the desired response, I was able to repeat the request more and more quietly while still getting a positive result. Aha!
When I ride Speedy, I am on the second "button" on the reins. That's what I call the rein grips. When we're working on the canter, I am between the first and second button; in other words, my reins are short!
For quite some time, I've been trying to get past the fourth "button" on Sydney. If I shortened the reins beyond that point, he got stiff and tense. And while Sydney is a bigger horse, Speedy has a very long neck, maybe even longer than Sydney's. Even so, Sydney just wasn't happy with a shorter rein.
While riding on Friday, I looked down and realized that I was holding the reins between the second and third button. Huh?! This means that I had shortened my reins by a good six inches, and Sydney was perfectly happy.
I worked him to the left like I always do, but I was very conscious of riding with my core and quieter arms. I asked for a canter and was rewarded with a soft and quiet response. Instead of rocking the inside rein to get some bend, I tried just squeezing my fingers instead. Success! When Sydney transitioned back to trot, he was soft and round and very relaxed.
Tracking right wasn't perfect, but it was much better. I strove for a solid feel in my outside rein while lifting with the inside. Every time he lifted and braced his neck, I lifted the inside rein and made the circle smaller. The work wasn't perfect, but he seemed much happier and he felt much more upright. We picked up a clunky right lead canter, and I tried to apply the same aids: steady outside hand, lifting inside hand. It was far from perfect, but I felt a lot more try on Sydney's part.
Since things were going so well, I decided to try and put some of it together in test-like patterns. This is not something I've done with Sydney as he loses his balance when I do too many changes of direction. I could tell that now we were ready. I did a 20-meter circle at A while tracking left. We then crossed the diagonal to H for a 20-meter circle at C, tracking right. He fell apart in the corner so I repeated the circle, making it smaller and larger as necessary. When he felt balanced, I repeated the pattern: circle at A, change rein, circle at C.
When I felt like he was between all four aids and balanced, I crossed the diagonal coming from M and picked up the left lead canter at K for the circle at A. It was AWESOME!
Here's to intimate conversations between friends!
That sounds a lot like what my dressage trainer has me work on with Simon. Using my seat to initiate everything, which takes forever because he doesn't understand it. We're starting to get better, but I know the progress would be faster if I pretty much just chopped my hands off when I have the desire to pull and hold too much.
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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%: