From Endurance to Dressage
Can I get a Woot, Woot?
The weather has finally turned winter-like here in Central California. When I rode on Wednesday it was only 47℉. I know that's balmy for most of you, but that's pretty cool for us, especially since it was 25 degrees warmer just the day before.
I share this because I was pretty sure Mr. Hyde was going to be waiting for me in the barn when I arrived. Late afternoons are also enough to change my normally willing Dr. Jekyll into his alter ego. Cold weather combined with the waning daylight and two days off should have given me a danger, Will Robinson! pause. But it didn't.
Instead of worrying, I tossed Sydney his dinner and tacked him up in his stall. Rather than being fussy, he seemed eager to get to work. We walked out to the arena with him tugging on the reins as he nibbled on fallen leaves and winter grass. I mounted up and headed out to do our regular walk loop. At the far end (aka the scary end), he did get a bit looky, but I put my leg on and asked for some inside flexion.
By the time we got back to A, he was ready to work. I squeezed him forward into a trot, asking him to swing and relax his neck. He decided to brace and hurry so I kept JL's words in mind, more inside rein and think about getting a bend.
I shortened my reins, flexed him to the inside, and pushed him out away from my inside leg. I focused on keeping a solid contact on both reins, especially the inside, without letting there be gaps in the conversation. And all of a sudden I knew we should canter. I asked, and he lurched to the inside, but I straightened him back up and repackaged him. I asked again, and he stepped into the right lead canter without any problems. I gave a huge cheer and rode a few 20-meter circles before asking for a downward transition.
That was really huge for us. I could feel that he was put together enough to make the upward transition, and I put him there!
I let him walk for a moment as we changed direction. Then we picked up a trot, but I could feel that he was heavy on that outside rein so I started in on the hard halt. I asked for a left lead canter, and halted hard. We picked up the trot and then the canter and then halted hard. Within just a minute or two, Sydney knew that he needed to let go of that outside rein.
The next time I asked for a halt, I just sat deeply and he slammed on the breaks. Yah! We took a couple of walk steps forward, and I cued for the canter. He gave the most awesome hop into the canter from that one or two walk steps.
The best part of the exercise was that his neck and head were way in the air, but I didn't care! I wasn't working on a rounded top line, I was asking him to lighten up off that outside rein, which he did beautifully! A few more days of that and he'll be lowering his head and neck where they need to be because I won't need to hard halt him. Seriously, I was ecstatic over the work he did for me.
I know this isn't very dressagy, but it's working for us. Once he's a bit better schooled to my aids, I can get more subtle with their use. JL calls these kind of aids crude, but sometimes it's what needs to be done. Either way, I was VERY happy with what he did for me. Santa might be ready to deliver that right lead canter before Christmas!
12/8/2013 09:45:31 am
Good for you! AND WOOT WOOT! I love trainable moments! You are awesome!
12/8/2013 10:06:48 am
Thank you, thank you very much! We have our moments. :0)
I wouldn't say that what you're working on isn't "dressagy." It's just at the beginning stages. At the start of training anything, the directives and aids are a bit crude. As the horse figures out what you want, you both start to finesse your conversation, and it starts to look effortless. Don't be hard on yourself, the level of feel you are learning is awesome and way above the level you're working!
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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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