From Endurance to Dressage
After the butt-kicking from the day before, Izzy was amazing on Sunday. I didn't lunge him because I don't want him to think that he needs to be lunged before every ride. The horse is on a huge turnout 24 hours a day which means he keeps himself moving throughout the day. It's also a bit of a walk from where I tack up to the arena, so he gets to warm up a bit during that time.
I tied Speedy in a new spot and asked him to kindly keep his marbles in his head. I hopped aboard Izzy and set off. As soon as were were clear of the mounting block, I did a quick check, asking him for a turn on the forehand. Oh, my! Was he ever quick to respond.
We did a few more turns in both directions, but this time I was able to focus on holding that inside front foot in place without taking a step forward. It wasn't done perfectly, but at this point, I am using the exercise for control much like I would do if I was doing groundwork.
From there we moved on to the trot, but unlike a lot of days, I was able to use the whole arena right away. For the month leading up to our last lesson, the one in early February, Izzy just got more and more rideable. I could put him anywhere I wanted at the speed I wanted, which was not the mach 10 he prefers. During the lesson, he was a raging lunatic, and for two rides after that the behavior continued.
The butt-kicking seems to have got him back on track. On Sunday, I was able to leg yield off the rail and back again. Speedy helped with that as he was tied right in the middle of the long side. Izzy was being so adjustable that I was even able to do the same thing at the canter. We didn't get quite as deep as needed for the shallow loop at First, Test 3, but we weren't too far off either.
On Monday, we did all again, and he was even better than the two previous days. I know there are many folks out there who question why I "put up" with Izzy's shenanigans. The truth is, this horse is really fun to ride. When we get past all of this baby horse stuff, he's going to be impressive. When he's listening, he's a naturally fantastic mover. He's elevated, swingy, and has power for days. This weekend, he gave me a tantalizing peek at our future.
His future self is worth the wait. In the meantime, I see a lot more turns on the forehand in his immediate future!
The 2017 USEF Rulebook says The purpose of this exercise is to supple the horse and teach him obedience to the aids.
Don't I know it. That's EXACTLY what I've been using it for.
In this exercise, the inside of the horse is the side from which the horse yields, i.e. the horse is flexed at the poll to the right, which is the inside, when the haunches move to the left.
Theoretically anyway. In reality, there might be some hopping around, pinning of ears, and then a stagger that is mostly in a leftward direction.
The horse moves around the inside front leg. The outside front foot steps forward and around the inside forefoot, which remains active in the sequence of footfalls.
Haha ... I can't tell what that outside front is doing as I am 100% focused on moving the haunches. At this point, we're going for MOVE rather than move correctly.
The hind feet move on a curved line, with the inside hind foot striking the ground in front of the outside hind foot.
Is a zig-zag okay?
I am kidding of course. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here a few weeks ago, we did some interesting work with the turn on the forehand. It's not an element of any dressage test, but I am finding it to be a great exercise for willful, high energy ponies.
We all know that Izzy isn't the easiest horse to ride, but he's getting there. Before our last lesson, he was actually becoming quite the packer. I knew that wouldn't last, and I was right. With the recent weather, he's been ridden once a week. Of course he's being a jerk.
His sassiness has been coming through as balking and refusing to go forward. Once he does go forward, it's in a giant crow hop accompanied by a rear or a buck. Not exactly how I want to spend an afternoon.
During my last lesson with Chemaine, Izzy was being pretty cantankerous, so Chemaine encouraged me to make him do something, anything, as long as it was my idea. I am a pretty strong rider, but it's tough to let him go forward when he's getting ready to launch. Booting his butt to left or right solves so many problems; it's hard to buck or rear when your hind end is all crossed up.
On Saturday, I lunged him for 10 - 15 minutes because he'd been ridden only once in the past 10 days, and he hadn't been able to get his wiggles out because of the mud. He was a perfect gentleman on the lunge: walk, trot, canter with just the slightest of aids.
I hopped on board hoping for a quiet ride, but Speedy, who was tied to the fence, lost his marbles and starting blowing and waving his tail. I couldn't blame Izzy for going to DEFCON 1 without even a pause. Speedy was certain the Russians were coming, and he wanted Izzy to be prepared.
Izzy humped his back up and gave a slow motion whirl/buck/rear/spin that was worthy of a 10. Since it was so slow, I easily wrangled him back into line and then sent his butt twirling around his front end. It was the second time we've worked on the exercise, and to his credit, he knew what I wanted. In no time at all, he was doing circles around his own front end. Fifteen minutes later we had picked up a canter to the left and were rocking along pretty nicely.
We followed that up with a short walk break and then worked on the right lead canter. Last year at this time, we could not get a right lead canter. Six months ago, we couldn't hold a right lead canter. Now, we can get and hold the lead, but we're working on getting it soft and relaxed. We finished up with a loose inside rein and a big smile on my face.
I foresee a whole bunch more turning on the forehand!
I'm not Joanna Gaines or anything, but I can get domestic when I need to. I cook, I occasionally bake, and I correspond regularly with the folks over at Joss and Main. I also might have 1-click buying power with Amazon, but in my defense, you can buy anything at Amazon ... and I do. Did I mention that I also have a Platinum Pier 1 card? Yeah, that thing's awesome.
In late August, I called a realtor. Seven days later, our house was sold with a 30-day escrow. We flew into full house hunter/panic mode. Fortunately, the stars aligned, and we were able to move into our new house in mid-October.
I knew it was going to take a while to adjust and get comfortable in the house, and I was right. It's been almost 4 months, and I am just now starting to feel comfortable walking around in the dark. I still forget where things are though, and I often confuse one room for another, but it's finally home.
The house isn't "done" yet, and probably never will be, but we've made progress. Since it's raining cats and dogs here, and I can't ride or do much with the horses, I feel like doing some nesting. So with that, here's a tour of my favorite room in the house - my reading room.
This room could be considered a formal living room as it is immediately off the front entryway, but we don't have need for a second living room. As soon as I saw the space, I called dibs. Right away I knew I wanted two big comfy chairs facing the fireplace with a small table in between for a glass of wine or a hot tea.
I've spent more than a couple of Sunday afternoons sipping wine with a book in hand as I warm my toes by the fire. The chairs are also quite conducive for napping.
Behind the chairs we placed a large cabinet that I've filled with funky and eclectic items - an over-sized apothecary jar, an old baseball, a cement "K," and photos of us enjoying life. There's still room for a few more items, but I'm waiting to find things that speak to me, especially for above the cabinet.
On the other side of the room, I stuck to more of a travel theme. The photos on the wall are ones we shot while traveling. There's one of Michelangelo's David, my husband rappelling in Belize, and a cityscape of Florence. The cabinet is filled with travel guides, foreign language phrase books, photo albums, and books that we've read but can't part with. The globe was in my mother-in-law's bedroom when she was a kid.
There's a bit more that I want to do in there, but it's finished enough for now. Since heavy rain is predicted for the next several days, I know where I'll be spending them. Enjoy your weekend.
The 2017 USEF Rule Book has this to say about the simple change of lead: This is a movement in which, after a direct transition out of the canter into a walk, with three to five clearly defined steps, an immediate transition is made into the other canter lead.
It definitely sounds simple. I wish it was. Speedy and I have been working on it for a while. What I've found is that it doesn't happen if your horse is on the forehand, if your horse is using his momentum to drive the canter rather than using rear propulsion, or if you can't keep your horse's haunches under control.
Ask me how I know.
Speedy and I had a great not-so-great-ride the other day wherein we discussed each of these problem areas. In our last lesson, my trainer gave me several good exercises and at least one thing to think about: Can we half halt here? How about here? And now here? And what about here?
You get the idea. A bazillion half halts will get Speedy off of his forehand and driving from behind.
That wonderful turn on the forehand exercise, half pass style, is getting Speedy's haunches in line. He isn't thrilled about it, which tells me I am on the right track, but it sure is effective.
During a ride the other day, I finally made a connection: Speedy likes to carry his haunches to the left which makes getting that walk transition relatively easy that direction. Recognizing that helped me see why we struggle getting it to the right.
Once I had that picture in my head, I half halted my sassy pony about four billion times, shoved those haunches over in a turn on the forehand another four billion times plus two, and finished it off with a fairly clean canter to walk transition.
Take that, simple change. We're coming for you!
A hunter/jumper friend sent this to me a few weeks ago. I think it's pretty funny. I don't jump, but I do know what it means to SIT BACK OR DIE. The fetal position is just as "helpful" in dressage as it is over fences.
I don't use ear bonnets, but if I did, I know what I would embroider on mine: LET GO OF THE INSIDE REIN.
What would your message be?
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
3/6-7 El Sueño (***)
4/17-18 El Sueño (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read