From Endurance to Dressage
Even with a CDS/USDF/USEF show, I managed to cut my expenses way back for the month of May. Whew! And since the show was local, I didn't need to put any gas in my truck. Last month I spent more than $175 just in gas for the guzzler. I also worked hard not to buy any tack or gear this month. I wasn't completely successful, but at least I kept that spending under a hundred bucks.
One last comment - my coworkers brought up the Romney thing. They know I ride and asked if I wasn't shocked at what Mrs. Romney spends. My answer was this: I expect to spend $25,000 this year. Does that make me a bad person?
Some hobbies are more expensive than others. Some people make more money than others. I don't think it's appropriate to pick on people just because they have more money than I do.
This is a continuing series of photos that illustrate the differences between an endurance seat and a dressage seat.
In this photo, Montoya and I have just left a one hour vet check and are traveling down an 8 mile long dirt road. These long, flat stretches can be difficult for the horses because it's easy to over-ride them over such easy terrain. A typical strategy on stretches like this (for those aiming to complete, not win) is to trot for 5 minutes and walk 2 minutes. The lighter hair along the underside of her neck is where I clipped off her winter coat. A small clip like this can help reveal the veins to the cooler air which aids in cooling. We finished the 100 miles in 22nd place out of 49 riders with a ride time of 16 hours and 15 minutes.
I don't ride on the trail very often anymore, and the "trail" that I do ride is just the dirt shoulder of the neighborhood where my boys are stabled. There are a few short sections of dirt road, enough to canter a bit, but the whole thing is not really trail. I could toss Speedy into the trailer and drive the five minutes it would take to get to a decent amount of trail, but I just don't. In fact, Speedy hasn't done a real trail ride in at least six months. I often wonder if he misses it.
I moved to this barn at the end of August just as school was getting back into gear. One reason, among many, that I haven't done much trail riding is that my long time trail riding pal, Taz's Mom, has been MIA for quite some time. She's expecting some grand babies this summer so her focus has been on the mommy-to-be. Now that summer vacation is nearly here, I plan to head out on the trail more.
Saturday's lesson was a pretty rigorous one. I knew Speedy would have a follow up on Monday, so it seemed only right to do our version of a trail ride on Sunday. I am pretty sure Speedy appreciated it. He was more than happy to amble along snatching mouthfuls of green grass here and there. Most of you are probably horrified at the graze and ride strategy, but it's a well-honed skill for endurance horses. And once taught, it seems a bit mean to change the rules.
As we ambled however, Saturday's lesson kept coming to mind, and I realized that even while plodding along I could practice some of the skills JL was teaching me. When I felt Speedy plod along too slowly, I gave him a wake up! squeeze and was quite pleased with how well he sharpened up. Hmm, Saturday's lesson must have been remembered.
As we made the turn that takes us back toward home, Speedy's pace quickened. What I felt was that he was running on the forehand (in less polite terms, ass over teakettle) and his hind end didn't match the hustle of the front. Aha! Just like in the previous day's lesson, I slowed the front end and squeezed to engage his hind end. It worked like a charm. All of a sudden we were covering the ground, and I could feel that he was matched front to back. Success!
If you live anywhere in California, you already know how fabulous Sunday's weather was. I spent several hours out at the barn riding and doing barn chores. I tried to snap a few photos, but neither boy was being very cooperative. As soon as Sydney saw me coming, he would race up to me. I jogged out into the middle of the arena only to find him just a stride behind me. Most of my photos had to be deleted since they all pictured his noggin up close and personal!
Speedy on the other hand was feeling a bit lazy and wouldn't get his crazy on. I did "force" him to jog a few steps so that I could get a shot of him stretching at the shot. I am a terrible photographer and my subjects weren't very helpful so this is bunch of crummy photos taken on a very nice day. Enjoy (or just skip 'em and head someplace else!)
With all the stuff happening in my life, my lesson schedule has gone completely wonky. That doesn't mean I am not riding or that we're not doing lessons, it just means that they're happening on a weird schedule. This week's lesson took place on Saturday (instead of Wednesday) and next week's lesson will happen on Memorial Day. I am actually glad for the lessons in quick succession since Saturday's lesson was a doozy, and I need more support with the skills JL is trying to teach me.
Over the past six months or so, the comments on my score sheets have really changed quite a bit. I am glad for that since I saw lots of braced, hollow, and needs to be steadier in the contact. My last several tests have earned comments more like needs more bend and more energy from behind. I am not discouraged by this at all. Clearly Speedy is less braced and hollow and much steadier in the bridle. It's not perfect of course, but at least the judges have found something else for us to work on!
The last few lessons have focused on the bend, and specifically getting Speedy to unlock his jaw to the inside. When he locks his jaw, I lift up on the inside rein and push him out, out, out. He's getting quicker and quicker to give and is much more willing to let me push his ribcage out.
We did more of that at Saturday's lesson, but then we worked really hard on getting his hind end more active. JL had me slow his front end down to the slowest trot possible and then send him forward with a squeeze. When he was a bit sluggish to my leg, we played what she calls, Racehorse. For Speedy to win the game, he has to nearly bolt forward when I squeeze. The purpose is to teach him to MOVE IT when I put my leg on. When he shoots forward, I praise him enthusiastically without worrying about any kind of frame. It's a bit scary encouraging such explosive forward energy, but with a lazy horse like Speedy G, it really works. After a bit of the Racehorse game, Speedy G learned that it was a lot less work if he simply moved forward when I put my leg on.
From there, JL had me slow down the front end until I could feel him about to stall. Once we reached that point, I squeezed with the expectation that the hind end would engage and push us forward. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Things didn't go completely perfectly however. At some point, Speedy got tired of working and decided that spooking would get him out of work. When he spooked, JL had me ride him fast and hard while tipping his nose to the inside and pushing him out, out, out with my inside leg. Essentially, we worked his little hinny off. At some point he decided that the extra work was harder than the original work.
When I first started riding with JL, I simply couldn't feel when Speedy was "running" on the forehand. I can now feel when he gets too heavy up front and can mostly re-balance him, but now that he's working in a more balanced frame, I can't quite feel when he has sped up that last little bit in the front. I need eyes on the ground telling me, There! He's speeding up. Slow the front end down and squeeze him forward from behind. I am hoping that with a follow up ride on Monday, I'll get better at feeling when he's about to lose the even connection.
Our next show, a two-day event, is just two short weeks away. We should be able to get two more lessons in before the show. I am actually beginning to get excited about it and think we can do a good job. If we can continue with the better bend and a more active hind end, the stretchy trot might improve!
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%: