From Endurance to Dressage
After riding with Leslie Webb, I realized that while I have some theoretical dressage knowledge gained by reading, it is not enough. Cha Ching's mom and I were laughing over the correct pronunciation of renvers (haunches out) and travers, haunches in. There, we've both learned something today. Anyway ... I realized that dressage is not just having a good seat and hands, but it's also about accuracy. How can I ride a test accurately if I don't know what each figure should look like? I started web surfing and found this great Wikipedia article on riding the figures. By great, I mean simple and easy to understand.
So, here is part 1, straight from Wikipedia ...
Riding figures are figures performed in a riding arena, usually for training purposes. Figures may also be performed out in a field or other open area, but a riding arena provides markers that can help indicate the correctness in the size or shape of a figure.
The riding school, showing its centerline from A to C, and two quarterlines.
Ring figures are a valuable training aid, giving the rider feedback as to his horse's training and weaknesses. A poorly-executed ring figure may point out where the rider is lacking in control, and areas in which the horse needs additional training. For example, when riding down the diagonal, a rider may struggle to keep his horse on the correct path, suggesting issues with straightness. A poorly performed 20-meter circle may indicate that the horse is not truly between the aids, perhaps falling out through a shoulder, or that the rider is sitting crookedly.
Figures are required components of dressage tests, are used in reining competition, and may also be asked for in equitation classes. Additionally, jumping courses may often be broken up into riding figures.
It is important to work the horse on figures in both directions, to ensure an equal build of muscle on either side.
End of part 1 ... more to come.
This gives you an idea of the scale ...
These are probably "old school" for the majority of you, but they are new to me! Whinny Widgets Pocket Test Books - what a great ideaI Since I am still a beginner, I ordered the introductory level and training level books. I will admit that I was a little surprised at their size ... they're really small, but that's what makes them perfect for tucking in a pocket.
I can't even begin to list the many reasons why these are such a handy tool. I've had them bedside for the last few evenings so that I can study before I fall asleep. Since they're laminated, I'll be able to use a Clorox wipe on them once they've made their first trip to the barn.
The thing I like most about them is that all three tests for each level are together in one handy place. With all three tests from the same level right next to one another, it's easy to flip through them to see how the level of difficulty increases from one test to the next.
I bought my copies from VTO Saddlery for $28.99 which included $4.99 for shipping.
These are some pictures of the inside of the Introductory and Training Level test booklets. Click picture for a larger view.
This is the MDC Sport Classic Stirrup. I love these stirrups. If you've ever seen an endurance stirrup, you'll understand why. Endurance stirrups are wide, deep, and very padded. They're comfortable and they give you a "platform" on which to rest your feet.
When I first started riding in a dressage saddle, I really struggled with the shallow fillis-type irons. There was no place to rest my foot and the stirrup "drifted" to an angle under my boot. I also struggled with the lack of grip on the rubber pads.
The MDC has a pivoting eye that your leathers slide through. It can be adjusted to rest at a 90 degree angle so that it lies in an "open" position against the horse's side. With the eye set to the 90 degree angle, the stirrup doesn't try to drift back and lay flat against the horse. I also like the extra deep foot bed and the texture of the foot bed. It's not sharp like many of the cheese-grater pads are, but it does give more grip than the standard stirrup pad.
The main draw back to these stirrups is price. They run around $180 although I did find mine slightly cheaper. Even so, compared to $30 for standard irons, it's a lot to pay. But I sure like mine ...
I think this falls under my Weird, But True category. I think it's weird. I've had Speedy G for more than 3 years. He was three when he came to me and he just turned seven. In all that time I've never seen him use the salt lick. For most of the time I've owned him, the salt lick has been in one of those plastic holders that rests on the ground. Like everyone else, I'm just guessing here, when it got dusty I would spray it off with the hose, rub it smooth with a stiff brush, and wonder why he wasn't using it. Sometime last year I moved the salt lick up into his feeder since we feed our hay on the ground. (That's a whole 'nother story and has to do with natural grazing ideas, nasal drainage, and eye irritations.)
Anyhoo ... Speedy G gets his lunch as the last part of my barn time. He knows when he should get it, and the process works well for us both. He comes out of his stall willing for turn out, work, or grooming because he KNOWS that the instant he gets put back, his lunch is O N T H E W A Y. And it better be "pronto" or the gentle nickers get pretty whiney!
I say all of this because I never watch him actually eat his lunch. I stand there to make sure he starts eating his lunch, and I get tremendous satisfaction out of listening to those very happy, slurpy sounds, but then I head home for my own shower and lunch. A few weeks ago I got held up by something and didn't leave immediately. As I was walking back down the barn aisle toward Speedy G's stall, I noticed that he was eating something in his feeder. This struck me as odd since his beetpulp mash was in the bucket next to the feeder and nothing else had been added to the feeder. I peeked over the top of the feeder to discover that the salt lick was all gooey and covered with ... gooiness. Hmmmm ....
I hung out for a few minutes and saw Speedy G slurp up his lunch and then go to the salt lick for a few licks before returning to his lunch. Well, now... It seems as though Speedy G likes a bit of salt in his food!
I came back a few days later and perched myself on the rail with video camera in hand hoping to catch him add some salt to his lunch. Here's the video ...
I had a complete "lightening bolt" epiphany during Monday's ride ... By the way, I do have a full time job. Since we've been on Spring Break this week, I have crammed in as many lessons and schooling rides as possible. Speedy G will no doubt be grateful when I go back to work on Tuesday morning.
Leslie Webb ... again with her? ... asked me if I knew when the hind leg was in the air. I answered truthfully that I did not. I figured it was better to look dumb and learn something than to sound smart and prove myself otherwise. She pointed out that as the horse's barrel swings to the right, his left hind is coming up and a barrel swinging to the left means a right hind is coming up. Oh, okay, I feel that.
As I was riding Monday morning, with my newly placed poles from Home Depot, I focused on straightness across the diagonal. But instead of steering his front end, I focused on keeping his hind legs moving in the direction I wanted. I let my legs swing gently with Speedy's barrel in a side to side motion, almost pushing him forward. It felt a little like dribbling a soccer ball ... gentle nudges to keep it rolling forward. If he drifted right, I swung the right leg a little more firmly into his side ... bump, bump, until I felt him shift to the left where my left leg was ready to "catch" him and guide him forward.
I have heard it said a million times to ride a horse from back to front ... OH, that's what they mean!
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%: