From Endurance to Dressage
And I am doing it on both horses!
Last week, I mentioned that Izzy is due to have his hocks injected on Friday. With that in mind, I've kept his rides really simple with just walk and trot. Since I need to work on my sitting trot anyway, and I can't sit if the trot is big, Izzy's rides have been about trotting slowly while he stretches his topline.
It would seem counterintuitive to sit on a horse whose back is slightly sore because his hocks are sore, but we have had several really productive rides. It took a few days to see it, but over the weekend, Izzy's back was finally loose and swinging, thanks to his recent chiropractic adjustment.
Now that I am able to sit the trot for longer and longer, I am finding that I am a better rider all of a sudden. I can help Izzy maintain a more consistent tempo, and I can "catch" him more quickly when he goes to hollow his back. He even seems to prefer that I sit. He doesn't feel as out of balance, and he's been spook free.
An interesting side note is that I ride Speedy one hole lower on my stirrup leathers than I do with Izzy. Over the past week, I've had to go down a hole for both boys. I am guessing that means that I am sitting deeper with a longer leg.
Since I still can't ride a lengthening while sitting, I've been riding Speedy in a more collected trot. If he gets to go slowly, he has to do it with good hind leg activity. I am finding that by sitting the trot, I feel like I have more influence over his back and withers.
I don't think he's as much of a fan of the sitting trot as is Izzy, but he's starting to listen to my seat, and honestly, the dude is really just a saint. He would definitely prefer that I let him fall on his forehand while letting his hind end trail out behind us, but he's a team player, and he wants to please me, so he's been working as hard as I have.
Over the past two weeks, I haven't done any rising trot! Hopefully I'll be able to sit Speedy's medium trot by the end of October when we make our Second Level debut (fingers crossed!).
If you're looking for help with your sitting trot, you won't find it here. Sorry. How is it that sitting can be so difficult? I mean really, we're all experts at sitting on our butts. We do it all day long!
When I decided that my time at First Level was rapidly drawing to a close, I started working on my sitting trot for real. That meant I actually looked at my watch and started timing the length of time I could keep my butt in the tack without switching to a rising trot.
Some days, I can sit for 5 to 10 minutes, but then I get frustrated and move on to "real work." I have discovered a few things that help though. 1) I sit better in the afternoons when I've been walking for hours. 2) I sit better in the mornings if I do some stretches first. 3) I sit better when I am focused on a specific movement like shoulder in or leg yielding.
It was pretty hot when I rode Speedy on Tuesday. My arena has some really large trees that will throw great shade in the early evening, but I ride a bit too early for it. Instead, I get a couple of areas that shade maybe a 15-meter circle. I decided that sitting trot in the shade was the focus for the day.
I am happy to report that I rode for 23 minutes and didn't post once! We spent the time working on Speedy's collected trot, shoulder in, turns on the haunches, and walk to canter to walk. And you know what? My sitting trot is getting better!
I can sit the trot when the work is slow or collected. I am even finding that we do some movements better when I am sitting, like the leg yield. The real hurdle is figuring out how to sit Speedy's lengthened trot. Since Speedy is smaller than most dressage horses, there's less "hang time" from one stride to the next. This means my pelvis needs to move much quickly than it would on a larger moving horse.
My Second Level debut is in 10 weeks. It might be a bit ugly, but we're going for it!
I truly have the World's Best Horse. I know everyone thinks their horse is the best, but they'd be wrong. Sorry. While Speedy can irritate me like no other, when it comes right down to it, the boy is an absolute saint.
Last week, when I shared that we were really focusing on the sitting trot, The Fabled Christmas Pony suggested I ride Speedy bareback - if he'd let me. I ride Speedy bareback now and then, mostly when we just want to tool around without any real focus. I thought about it though and realized that now that I have a different feel for the sitting trot, it might be worthwhile to try it out bareback.
I've been riding Speedy bareback for a long time. In the beginning, he would not trot when I rode bareback. It didn't matter if I used the whip or my spurs - no way was his response. Early on, I suspected that it made him uneasy that I wasn't perfectly balanced. I don't know if he thought he was going to get in trouble if I fell off, but he refused to trot.
As I got more and more balanced, I could coax him into a trot, but it was always just a jog. I always appreciated this about him though as I knew he was never going to bolt and dump me.
Both time I got on him bareback this week, we started with some suppling exercises at the walk, including stepping over a line of poles. After we were both warmed up, I asked for a trot. I followed Chemaine's image of tucking my seatbone and pulling my belly button to my spine. Thank you, Fabled Christmas Pony! I can't believe how much easier it was to sit his trot now that I have the motion.
Rather than just trot in a circle, I rode the ten-meter trot circles from First Level, Test 3. We repeated the exercise at least five times, stopping for a quick walk break each time. After working that exercise, Speedy started to offer some trot lengthenings on his own, something he normally does when I school in a saddle. The difference was that he never offers a bigger trot when I am bareback. I am certain that he felt more confident in my ability to stick with him and not unbalance him!
After working on the sitting trot, I decided to give the canter a try. If he hates toting around an unbalanced rider at the trot, imagine his dread at being asked to carry the same rider at the canter. Except this time, he picked up the canter with hardly a question.
Chemaine had me use the canter as a way to loosen my hips by letting my legs swing (or pump) during the canter stride. I was thrilled with how easy it was to do bareback. To the right was much easier as Speedy is happy to balance on the left/outside rein. To the left was more of a challenge as he doesn't want to bend left. It took me a few tries to get him to let go of the left rein, but once he did, I was able to swing my legs to the rhythm of the canter without gripping.
Speedy was such a saint to let me work on ME. I never worried that he was going to take advantage of the situation and duck out from under me. He went where I pointed, and we even got some truly lovely halts between the two 10-meter trot circles. That halt has a double co-efficient on the test.
I had the most fun riding him bareback this week. I laughed during the canter work and enjoyed the feeling of looseness that I was able to achieve. Speedy is truly an awesome boy to just go along with the program. I am lucky to have him.
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%: