From Endurance to Dressage
Bending and Counter Bending
There's a lot to be said for sandy soil and California sunshine. Even though we had torrential rains leading into the weekend, our arena was firm enough for a lesson on Sunday afternoon.
I hadn't seen my trainer since returning from the Christian Schacht clinic, so we spent a few minutes going over what I had taken away from the clinic, including a couple of exercises that I wanted to try. She thought all of the exercises sounded helpful and put me to work doing the figure eight on the counter bend at the trot.
A few things became obvious right away. Speedy wanted to rush on the outside shoulder (the shoulder closest to the circle) so it was really important to not sacrifice the bend for speed. I had to slow him way down so that we maintained the bend.
The second thing we saw was that my circle to the right (blue) was nice and round while my circle to the left (yellow) was tiny. Oops! Tracking right while bent to the left takes a lot of inside leg (left leg). When we made the turn and started to track left, Speedy made the circle much easier because he can bend easily this direction. After noticing that this circle was much smaller, I had to use a lot less inside leg, and in fact, I had to use just as much left leg to keep him out on the larger circle.
After just a few minutes at this exercise, Speedy felt much freer through the neck and withers.
We next worked on the canter departure. During my last lesson with JL, we had worked on finding that perfect spot where Speedy is truly using his hind end at the trot so that there is enough impulsion to lift him up and over into the canter. With too little impulsion, he simply goes up and then stalls out. I saw an excellent example of this at the clinic which helped clarify what JL had meant.
If Speedy is not truly in front of my leg, the canter departure goes up and then he scrambles forward for a few strides before he can really get the canter. To solve this, JL had me really kick him forward, disregarding any kind of frame. The point was to get him reacting to my leg. It only took one or two of those and suddenly, I had an energized horse.
The other thing we needed to work on was teaching Speedy that my leg means to move the hind end, not for the front end to go faster. To achieve this, we used the corners to almost leg yield Speedy sideways while sliding the reins to say no faster to the front end. I also had to be super vigilant about the outside rein. Within a short time, the canter departures got quite nice with the added benefit that Speedy was lighter and lighter in the front end.
When all of that was going nicely, JL instructed me to pick up a counter canter and show her the Mickey Mouse exercise that I described the other day. It took us a few tries to hold the counter canter through the circle, but once we got that sorted out, the exercise was FUN! We only did a few voltes, but Speedy seemed to really enjoy the work, and it definitely helped to lighten him up in the front end. I can't wait to work on more of those.
12/18/2014 09:21:36 am
I love them too!
12/16/2014 11:51:02 pm
I think I can play with that trot figure eight (what fun!), but no way my little dude is ready for the canter exercise yet. Looks like fun!
12/18/2014 09:28:40 am
The figure eight is helping Speedy to really loosen up. If Courage can hold the counter canter, just try one "ear" and go back to a counter canter. We can't do four ears (yet!), but we can do one on the top and one on the bottom. :0)
I tried the trot figure 8 and a 2 eared Mickey mouse version in trot last night with my guy- great results. He was a bit stiffer than usual and distracted and just a couple minutes working those exercises he was much softer and through. Every time he got stiff on me again, I'd repeat the figure 8 just once as a reminder. Had a lovely ride. Thank you for sharing the exercises with us!!!
12/18/2014 09:30:59 am
I am LOVING the figure eight. Speedy was a bit stiff tonight as well so I pulled that exercise out and lo and behold, he softened right up! I love learning new exercises. As soon as these get "old," I am definitely going to be looking for new ones. ;0)
12/18/2014 02:47:38 am
I had the same lesson earlier this week. "Leg means move haunches, not go faster". SO difficult!
12/18/2014 09:31:48 am
Can you see my eye roll? I am hearing that my new horse, Izzy, is learning the same thing!
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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%
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Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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