From Endurance to Dressage
I am certain that every profession has its share of jargon and acronyms, but educators have to reign supreme in that contest. We have a name or list of letters for everything. Most of the time, the letters just get rearranged - English as a Second Language (ESL) became English Language Development (ELD) which then became English Language Learners (ELL). Student Study Teams (SST) became Student Success Teams (SST) - the letters never even changed. Often times ideas just get rebranded. I've been a teacher for so many decades that what I learned in college just keeps getting recycled and spit out as something new.
Occasionally, a new buzzword will actually resonate and convey an idea that maybe didn't already have a name. One word we've been using in recent years is Backward Mapping. In backward mapping, we look at what we want our students to achieve, and then we plan the steps necessary to achieve that goal. Backward mapping is always applied to the entire year, but we also use it for specific units, like those lasting for several weeks. We also use the idea in a single lesson: I want my kiddos to understand the Order of Operations, so what do I need to teach today to make that happen?
This is related to horses and riding, I swear. While it's not only applicable to dressage, it's certainly a core process in developing a dressage horse. Think about the Pyramid of Training: we know what we ultimately want - a horse that can do the movements at the Grand Prix. In order to achieve piaffe, passage, and one-tempis, we know we must first start with the basics.
I've been spending so much time in the half passes lately that I had left the flying changes alone. Speedy's changes are confirmed. He can do them. He knows the aid, and he knows when he should and should not change the lead. But since I hadn't done them in a while, I decided to throw some in the other day. The right to left change was still there, but the left to right change was really sticky.
For our next ride, I did some backward mapping. My sole goal for the ride was to clean up the change from left to right. I called Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, for some quick advice, but she was in the middle of a lesson. Instead of hearing what she might suggest, I thought about what she would probably have told me to do: get him on your new outside rein.
Changing the rein means getting more bend to the right, something Speedy and I have struggled with since the very beginning. So that was "the lesson" that I intended to teach that day. My "test" to see if he had learned what I taught was a flying change from left to right. But what could I do to achieve a more supple bend to the right?
Actually, it was all pretty simple. I started with flexing left to right at the walk. We then moved on to shoulder in, walk pirouettes, and half passes that were super collected and bent. By the time I asked for the flying change, Speedy was dying to give it to me. The lesson took all of twenty minutes, and I got a crisp, correct change the first time I asked.
Backward mapping as it was meant to be used - developing dressage horses!
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%: