From Endurance to Dressage
I had a fantastic lesson on Izzy. For the first time in quite a while, he wasn't jerking the reins from my hands. That big brown horse is ... BIG and STRONG. Unfortunately, I think he also knows how big and strong he is. With the correction bit though, I didn't really have to do anything except sit there chill and quiet. He fought with himself (once or twice) instead of with me.
Per our earlier plan, I brought Speedy up to the arena with Izzy and tied him to the fence. Speedy has become such a solid citizen that he stood there patiently never even fussing when Izzy and I tried to run him over. Izzy's fear response was nearly non-existent with Speedy and the rest of the ladies hanging out near the gate. In fact, it seemed as though he forgot about being worried.
When my lesson was over, I sat on the bottom rung of the fence with Izzy standing by Speedy. We watched the next rider for a while just so that Izzy could have some non-working time to stand in the arena without feeling any pressure. Little by little he relaxed and even got a sleepy look in his eye.
When I take a lesson with Chemaine, I can usually get someone to take video (thank you, Morgan!). When I watch the video later, I usually have a hard time finding even one or two decent moments to share as screen shots. The last few times I've had a lesson though, there have been more and more moments from which to choose. For this lesson, Izzy was so good that I was able to grab moments based on the scenery rather than hunting and picking for that one moment of decentness.
The gist of this lesson involved three things: slowing him down, leg yielding, and controlling his haunches and shoulders. Slowing him down was easy. I was able to be pretty effective with my seat aids by simply slowing my posting rhythm and tightening my core. With the snaffle, he was so heavy on the bit that he couldn't hear any of my aids which turned slowing down into a tug of war. Go even slower is my new mantra.
Leg yielding is a way to help loosen Izzy's back and get him more supple through his body - the reason any horse needs to leg yield. At this point, Chemaine didn't really care about the quality of the leg yield itself. She really just wanted me to get him crossing over and for him to stay with me mentally. We did the leg yields from center line to the rail, not really worrying about how long or quick it took to get there.
With this new bit, controlling Izzy's haunches and shoulders has now become a possibility. Tracking left, he wants to carry his haunches left. That's easy to manage. I do have to keep control of a his drifting shoulder however by thinking shoulder in.
Tracking right is more complicated. Since Izzy wants to carry his haunches to the left, which would be out, I have to be vigilant about keeping his haunches in without pushing them too far in. He also wants to fall in with his shoulders which means I have to open the outside rein to draw his shoulders out.
It was during this haunches in but shoulder out work that I got a brand new feel. I don't get those very often, but when I do, I am always grateful. When Chemaine told me to draw his shoulder out, I asked, "with my leg?" and she replied, "no, draw it out by opening your outside rein."
Like always, my thought was okay - that's not doing anything. And then out of nowhere I pushed my right seat bone down and to the left. All of a sudden, I felt Izzy move his shoulders into my open, outside rein. D'oh! Chemaine has told me what to do so, so many times, but until my body has a visceral connection with the words, I don't truly get it.
That idea of using my seat bone to push him into my outside rein really helped in the right lead canter where he has all of the same problems: haunches swinging out/shoulder falling in ... lose the lead.
We didn't get to work on it as much as I wanted to, but I have enough information to continue on my own. To help maintain the right lead canter, I'll need to do three things: pick up the lead slightly counter bent to make sure the shoulder stays in. Once he's cantering comfortably and relaxed, I can slowing straighten him while "guarding" his haunches from falling out. As he relaxes into the straiter position, I can then ask for some inside bend by opening my outside rein and pushing his shoulder out with my inside seat bone.
Izzy wouldn't have earned a 10 for submissiveness during the lesson, but he was hugely improved over the last few weeks. The bit didn't turn him into a polished dressage horse of course, but it finally allowed us to have a conversation where he could actually hear me. I knew Chemaine would have some tools to share with me, and I wasn't disappointed.
Our next lesson is tentatively scheduled for early December. I am already looking forward to what Chemaine can teach us next!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%