From Endurance to Dressage
You know how you know something, and it's just right there, at the tip of your tongue? That's how I am feeling about my balance right now. Except of course the idea is not at the tip of my tongue but rather just on the edge of my thinking. I can feel a puzzle piece shifting back and forth trying to snap into place.
The trouble (well, just one of many) I am having right now is being able to converse with Sydney with the inside and outside reins at the same time. When he's running on his forehand, my balance is just not good enough to give a half halt with the outside rein while then asking for some flexion with the inside rein all while either catching his outside shoulder or moving over his inside shoulder.
But something Chemaine said at our lesson a week or so ago has taken root and is trying to blossom into understanding. She reminded me that I have a very nice saddle that is both deep and grippy. She encouraged me to use my saddle to sit deeply and not lean forward. I've been keeping that idea in my mind as I ride. What I've noticed is that when Sydney does get quick on his forehand, I do lean forward, if only slightly, which makes it impossible to ask him to rock backwards onto his haunches.
As I lean forward, I've also noticed that I hold my breath, lift my shoulders, and round my back. When I lower my center of gravity, I exhale, lower my shoulders, and lean back. While riding this past week, I reminded myself to sit up tall and thought about lowering my center of gravity. When I did this, my balance was better which allowed me to use the inside and outside reins at the same time. I was amazed at how quickly Sydney quit running off on his forehand. Well duh.
Each ride this past week has tightened up this idea of sitting deeper and more relaxed. Once I develop a feel for something, it's in place, and I wonder how I couldn't feel it before. That's how this is. I am starting to truly understand why I can be more effective if I quit leaning forward.
Let the puzzle be complete!
I have made many wonderful friends since I started riding and showing dressage. I've also met some really cool people by blogging; that's how I met Sarah. She writes Eventing in Color, a blog about being an AA Eventer.
Whenever I am in the Ventura area, Sarah does her best to come see me ride or ferry me to dinner somewhere.
This time, we got to actually show in the same classes. And as you'd expect from friends, there was no sense of "competition," only a genuine desire to see the other ride well.
When we were at the Christian Schacht Clinic in February, I walked alongside Hemie as a steadying hand on the ground (not that he really needed it) while Sarah waited for her ride to begin. She and Hemie repaid the favor at this show when Sydney needed a calming presence as we waited for our ride time.
Sarah shared these photos from the White Birch Show with me. I don't know the photographer's name, but she certainly captured a genuine air of friendship and camaraderie. I especially love this first shot.
Time is simply flying by me. I am never caught up and feel as though I am just barely hanging on. For Speedy, that is a GREAT thing. I haven't worried about his recovery for one second. In fact, most of the time I forget that he's on the disabled list at all.
When I show up at the barn, I toss Sydney his flake of hay and then Speedy gets my full attention for the next thirty minutes. The small bit of thrush he was developing is well under control, largely due to the fact I have started picking out his feet before we take our walk. I am pretty thorough about it, too. Once his toes are freshly picked out, he usually gets a quick groom, and then we're off.
Last Tuesday was day 36, 20% of the way through the recover/re-hab timeline. I meant to do an update then, but as I mentioned, time got away from me. We've hand walked every day (except one) for more than 40 days. By this next weekend, we can begin under saddle work, at the walk only, for the next 6 weeks. I am not really looking forward to that as he is going to be really bored, and probably naughty. At least right now he gets to graze and sniff and paw at whatever catches his fancy. A couple of days in a row he even rolled in some sand along the road that had been freshly drug by the tractor.
I have several routes that I follow for our daily walk. On Thursday we walked down to the river because it was fairly warm (low 80s), and I thought he might enjoy playing in the water; take a look.
Have you all seen this yet? It's really quite amazing, especially if you've seen War Horse in person. We saw it in Los Angeles in July 2012 and loved every minute.
We're heading to the cabin this weekend, so you won't hear from me again until Monday. Enjoy your own weekend!
But first … Visit She Moved To Texas and give us a vote! It's quick and easy; scroll down a bit, click the button that says Bakersfield Dressage, and cross your fingers for us!
Our second test of the show was definitely better. The score says so and it felt better. For Training Level Test 2 we earned a 61.79%.
I am not sure about Megan's "no placing" thing. I think she just didn't want her score to be public, and Barbara, who boards at White Birch, wanted to ride later in the day. I don't know what their scores were so I am not sure if we "beat them" or not which is a bummer because 4th place out of 8 sounds a lot better than 4th out of 6. Not that it matters though.
This whole ride was better than the one before. The main reason is that I was a lot looser in my body and made a serious effort at being relaxed. I also focused on sitting more deeply. As I started the test, I reminded myself to not over-ride my horse. Instead, I relaxed and trusted him to do his part without micro-managing him.
We ended up scoring a slew of 7s (5 of them to be exact) and a pile of 6s and 6.5s. We only had two 5s (for the right lead canter and downward transition). Those were bumpy, but we recovered nicely for our finish down centerline. As we made that last turn at A, Sydney stopped at A, and I was a little worried that he was going to excuse himself before we could get to X. I gave him a squeeze, and he picked the trot back up for our final halt and salute.
I think the judge was very generous with his score for that movement. We made the turn, but I don't think it's supposed to be done at the walk! Our final halt felt very square, so maybe the judge weighted that part of the movement more heavily than the turn itself. He gave us a 6.5.
I know the test is hard to read, but check out those 7s! If we can keep this kind of riding up, I will be a very happy rider indeed! Here are the judge's collective marks and further remarks.
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%: