From Endurance to Dressage
How many times do I need to hear inside leg to outside hand before I finally get it? Apparently, I need to hear it at least 1,000,000 times more as that seemed to be the theme for Monday's lesson.
Right now, I am really focusing on improving the canter transition, lengthening the canter, and most importantly, returning to working canter without losing balance. That happens when Speedy ignores my half halts and barrels through the turn.
I really like the canter lengthen change that was made in First Level, Test 1. In the old test, you had to lengthen for most of the long side and then develop working canter while still on the long side headed into the corner. It was really hard to get Speedy back on his butt, a clear indicator that he was rushing on his forehand.
The new tests make that canter lengthen so much easier. Now we need to lengthen only twenty-four meters (from S to V or R to P) and at V or P we circle for a 15-meter circle developing a working canter in the first half of the circle.
For the lesson, JL asked me to show her our return to working canter; it wasn't bad, but she pointed out that we lost the bend in the 15-meter circle (too much outside rein and not enough inside rein). We tried it again, focusing on maintaining the bend, but Speedy got speedy and started ignoring my outside (right) rein (too much inside rein and not enough outside rein).
JL had me do a couple of pulley halts to remind him what the outside rein means. That's when all holy hell broke loose. Speedy got naughty ... rearing and running off naughty. I've been riding him so long that none of this phases me as his bark is far worse than his bite. And actually, he has a very nice little rear that is quite balanced and deep in the hocks. Even so, it's not a behavior we tolerate.
To help him better understand what I wanted, JL had me improve my pulley halt by using more inside leg than outside hand. Insert palm to forehead smack here. Of course!
From the walk, it went like this: outside hand (slow down), inside leg to move him more sideways than just halting hard. And he had to move parallel, not haunches leading or shoulders leading. Basically, we leg yielded to a halt.
We did this modified pulley halt at both the walk and trot until Speedy was responding with a yes ma'am to the pulley halt, which ultimately will be a simple half halt. That's one of things I love about this trainer - she gives immediate fixes for right now kinds of problems. We'll make it more "dressagey" later.
Once I had a solid feel for pushing him into the outside rein, we picked up a left lead canter, did a short lengthen, and then spiraled down to a working canter. I kept my inside hand fixed to maintain the bend, and then I pulley halted (half halted) with the outside rein while pushing him sideways with my inside leg.
It seems counterintuitive to push your horse sideways when you're trying to make a 15-meter circle, but if you push the inside leg in to a halting outside rein, it asks the horse to sit more and slow down. The explanation may not be quite right, but that's the effect we achieved.
Tracking right, of course, was a totally different thing. Since Speedy has trouble filling up the outside left rein, I had to actually push his haunches in to to get them behind his shoulders. Once he was a bit straighter, I actually had to ride him inside rein to outside leg. Getting him to let go of that right rein is always a challenge.
My biggest take away for improving the canter departure and the return to working canter from a canter lengthen is that it all comes down to what his hind end is doing. And of course that makes perfect sense if we ride our horses from back to front.
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%: