From Endurance to Dressage
Back in 2013 - how can so much time have passed?, I participated in a two-day clinic with Susanne von Dietze. I loved watching her work with the other riders, but I didn't have such a great time myself. I wrote quite a few pieces about my experience which you can dig through here. While I was frustrated for most of my lessons, I did learn that relaxing my own body can positively affect my horse.
After that clinic, I used a lot of the exercises that von Dietze shared, but after time, it didn't seem that my horses needed them so much. The truth is that I eventually forgot about those exercises until the other day.
Lately, Izzy starts out flat and behind my leg. If you've ever ridden a horse that plods, you'll know what I mean. If I get after him with a tap of the whip or a poke with the spur, he feels as though I've beaten him and his marbles dribble right out of his head.
As we slowly dragged around the arena, I dug through my mental list of tools trying to think of an exercise to wake him up without turning him into the Incredible Hulk - "You wouldn't like me when I am angry." (See video below). I've tried lots of transitions within the gait - which helps. I've tried doing all of the movements at the walk first to really stretch out his body - that also helps. But some days, it takes a long time to get him in front of my leg so that he has enough energy to rock back a little so that he's not falling on his face.
Out of the blue, I remembered some of the rider-loosening exercises that SVD showed me, and I started using them. I asked Izzy to pick up a trot, but immediately I let my body go super loose. Instead of trying to "put him together," I thought about loosening every muscle in my own body first. I alternated rocking my shoulders back and forth, back and forth. I swung my hips, I flexed my toes, I bobbled my head, flexed my fingers, and so on until I was riding like a bowlful of Jello.
I am sure you can guess what happened. Izzy's stride got longer, his back got loose, and he started making all of those happy snorting sounds. His neck got long and round, and he begged me to let him stretch. For the rest of that ride, I schooled the trot and canter work from 1-3. Anytime he started to get tense, I refocused on letting go of any tension I was holding.
Each time I ride this horse, he and I put a few more pieces together in our puzzle. I can see the picture that we're trying to create; we just need to fill in a few more pieces ...
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%: