From Endurance to Dressage
It's far from perfect, but what I love about it is the very steady rhythm that Sydney has finally agreed to (albeit a slow one). He's also definitely relaxed, which means that collection is up next. JL has just had us start working on collecting the canter.
From the video, I can see that I do need to shorten my reins. That's been a progressive issue with this horse (and me). Sydney was very resistant to contact even a few short months ago (rearing/whirling/bolting), but I can see now that he wouldn't fuss if I took them up another six inches.
I also need to BEND MY ELBOWS. Holy crap. When am I ever going to get that? At least I am keeping my left fist closed; that's something. Bending my elbows will do a lot to improve the whole picture that we make.
Showing a video is hard on one's ego. No criticism needed - I am REALLY good at doing that for myself. And on the flip side, no false atta girls either. Yes, there is huge improvement, but we still have a long way to go.
Sorry we're so tiny, but putting my camera on a mounting block means I don't get to use the zoom feature, and it definitely affects the levelness. If you watch it on YouTube, you'll be able to see it better, but the cockeyed angle will still be present!
I was recently contacted by the author P.J. O'Dwyer and asked if I would host her on my blog. Since I love to write myself, not to mention that I am a voracious reader, I eagerly agreed.
Part of P.J.'s book tour includes a giveaway, so yah for free stuff! I know that she is offering 10 copies of her book, jewelry, and steep discounts on her other books. To be eligible, you just need to leave a comment on the day that she stops by my blog, July 1st. Claimed will be available in eBook form from Amazon for only 99¢ during the blog tour!
To sweeten the deal a bit, P.J. sent me an autographed copy of her book, Relentless, and a lovely pair of earrings from her store.
The book was a perfect summer time read. I read virtually all of it in one afternoon of couch potato laziness. The story includes several mysteries, a few steamy love scenes, and a lot of quick action. The main character, Bren, is a determined, self-sufficient gal who doesn't take any crap. I like strong female characters, especially when they also get the guy in the end!
You can check out P.J.'s website at www.pjodwyer.com. Be sure to check back on July 1st so that you can read a small excerpt from her newest book and maybe even get a free copy!
But honestly, Sydney just continues to amaze all of us! I had my second lesson for the week on Wednesday, our new usual. JL watched me warm up a bit and liked how mellow he was to the left, also our new usual, and decided that it was a great day to work on collecting the left lead canter.
Now that Sydney can reliably pick up the left lead canter without any drama, she wants him to be rounder and more collected. For a horse who used to bolt as his one and only gait, it is rather surprising how much leg I have to use to collect his canter. I was gasping for breath the entire time!
As we cantered left, JL had me really rock the outside rein while adding leg that said forward. As he came up in the front end and got lighter, she instructed me to begin working on the inside rein for bend. I thought tracking right was hard; while Sydney is very agreeable to the left, he is quite stiff! My homework for the week is to get him as uphill as I can to the left even if we aren't covering much ground. Right now, accepting the contact is more important than lengthening his stride.
We also worked on improving Sydney's right lead canter. As it turned out, JL didn't have a lot to say about it. When we were finished with the ride, she just shook her head in amazement and asked my big brown horse who he was and what had he done with Sydney. She said it was so nice to simply be able to watch us go around without needing to fix anything. His right lead canter has gotten that good.
When Sydney knew he was finished working, he quietly inched himself closer and closer to her so that he could nuzzle her sleeve. It was only a few weeks ago that he even began looking at her. Now, he not only sees her, but he wants to visit with her. As we were leaving, we caught up to C, one of JL's other students. For the the first time since I've owned him, he reached out and nuzzled someone else's neck! When she turned around, he stuck his nose into her barn bag and rooted around for treats.
This is not the horse that I bought three years ago. This is not even the horse I owned three months ago. JL and I discussed his new found happiness. She thinks it might be that he finally feels as though we've heard his plea for safety. He hasn't wanted to make the decisions, and to his utter relief, I am now directing his feet and telling him what to do.
Before we walked home, C said something like, aren't you so glad you stuck it out with him? Yes, yes I am!
When I started my warm-up on day two, I could feel that Speedy was already more forward. I can't believe how much more aware of my riding I was after just 30 minutes with Marisa. She really got into my head, which I love!
I felt no pressure when I started my second ride. Marisa is so kind and supportive that I was ready to just let it all hang out. As we were schooling the sitting trot to canter (the latter half of the video), I gave up worrying what anyone thought about my horrible position. I just dug in and kept at it. It never got good, but I didn't let that discourage me. I used all of my 30 minutes to grab onto every good feeling that I could so that I could take them home with me.
After I watched day two's video (down below), I was somewhat disappointed. I had wanted it to reveal that all my goofs had miraculously fixed themselves over a good night's sleep. Instead, I got to see what I need to work on.
I am over the moon happy.
Sydney is just too awesome for words. Just six months ago, we could usually get a left lead canter that wasn't an explosion, but not always. To the right, I could maybe get one, but it always surprised both of us. After the first right lead canter, Sydney was a run-away freight train. I would spend the rest of the ride trying to re-establish some sort of rhythm.
My one and only goal for Sydney this summer is to develop a sane, right lead canter departure. I am just over three weeks into my summer vacation, and while I hate to jinx myself, we have very nearly accomplished that goal.
JL is such a great teacher. Once I made the connection with Christian Schacht about how much weight I might need to take in the outside, left rein, everything started to come together. For Sydney to be able to do a right lead canter, we had to fix his roll-over to the right and show him that not only was I able to make a decision, but that he never has to.
So, here are the 10 steps we took to get Sydney's right lead canter.
When I rode him yesterday, I put all of this together and got multiple trot to canter transitions that were calm and happy. I was even able to hold the right lead canter while we turned down centerline and then turned back to the rail at B. Rather than make a 20-meter or 10-meter circle, I worked on making the 10-meter bend into a few straight strides followed by another 10-meter bend coming back. We made a long, narrow oval.
After making the 10-meter turns, I asked him to stay on the long side and was THRILLED that he did it with no rhythm change. That was the first time he's come out of the corner on a right lead canter and gone straight without panicking.
I don't know that all of this progress will be easy to access once we leave our home arena, but I now have some excellent tools in my belt that will help him stay with me. Our next attempt at a show might be in August. Until then, we'll just keep polishing that right lead canter!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%