From Endurance to Dressage
There is a lot I love about riding at STC Dressage. First, it's a beautiful place to school your horse. Second, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer, keeps the barn immaculate with deeply bedded stalls that are cleaned twice daily. Besides the amenities, the company is exceptional. On Saturday afternoon, one of Sean's other clients came out and we laughed and visited while she rode her adorable pony, Laddie. I so wish I had taken a photo; he is FANCY. Later that evening, Sean and I set up a table and chairs in the barn aisle and ate dinner and sipped his very fine whiskey all while taking in the view.
With real life beckoning, I forced myself out of bed early on Sunday morning and had Izzy saddled and ready for a second lesson at 8:45. With the previous day's ideas rattling around in my head, I put Izzy right to work focusing on getting the bend with my inside leg. That's when Sean dropped big idea number two on me: now that he's not filled with anxiety, take control and put him to work.
That seems like such a basic idea, but it has only been fairly recently that Sean has helped me begin to reduce Izzy's tension. That has revealed a secondary issue: Izzy's reluctance to give up control. At times, I am so relieved that Izzy isn't tense and spooking that I am afraid to ask for anything out fear of upsetting his apple cart. Sean caught that right away. Sean explained that when Izzy relaxes, it doesn't him take him long to figure out that I am not in control, and if I am not calling the shots, Izzy is going to. Izzy isn't known for making good decisions.
My job as Izzy's rider is being made more and more clear. My first task is to reduce the tension by not over-reacting. Moving Izzy's body around with changes of direction and flexing his neck from true bend to counter bend will also encourage relaxation. And of course, I am now learning how to better utilize my inside leg to encourage the inside hind to step through. This has the added bonus of keeping control when Izzy spooks. My second task is to recognize when Izzy is willing to let me be in control and then take it. I need to ask him questions before he thinks about taking control himself.
There is a lot to be said for mini-boot camps. Riding three to five times a week in a trainer-led program must be amazing. Just being able to take a weekly lesson over the past year has helped me so much. Riding two days in a row with Sean's coaching was a much needed treat. Traveling to STC Dressage is doable, but it's expensive and takes a full day. When you work full time, that's hard to do. Since Monday was a school holiday, I took advantage of the extra day.
Sean has put together a proposed show schedule for 2022 and asked me which shows I might be interested in doing. Just a week or two ago I had given up on doing any shows this season. What's the point? Now, I am seeing more progress than ever before. It wouldn't hurt to give it another go, would it?
Maybe 2022 is our year.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: