From Endurance to Dressage
Change of Bend
While I loved riding twice a week with JL, the one little fly in the ointment was that she isn't a dressage trainer. And that's not to say that hunter trainers aren't effective at flatwork, but dressage trainers have totally different tools in their tool box.
One exercise that Chemaine is having me do is to change the bend at every gait, even the canter. Especially at the canter. Speedy loves his left rein. He loves it so much that he has a hard time letting it go. No matter how many times I promise that he'll get it back quickly, he still likes to keep a tight hold on it.
Being heavy on one rein is of course very much against the dressage rules. Our horses need to be even on both reins. To help Speedy let go of that left rein, Chemaine instructed me to think of changing the bend a lot. I really didn't know you could do that. I mean, I know how to use a counter bend to help a horse lift his shoulders and to let go of the rein, but I had never thought of doing tiny changes of bend. Now that I know it's a "thing," I find myself using it all the time, especially coming out of a corner.
For the leg yield and trot lengthenings across the diagonal, Speedy wants to fall out on his left shoulder as we come through the corner. To help me keep him up, Chemaine had me think of coming through the corner on a counter bend so that I don't lose his shoulder and fall towards the rail. It's amazing how much better he can work when his shoulders are straight in front of his hips.
Over the weekend, I worked on changing the bend at the canter in preparation for the change of lead through trot. The exercise goes like this:
Switching from the right bend to the left bend while on the right lead canter is a whole different thing. The problem is that it takes me a lot longer to get the new bend which means the downward transition is a bit rough and we both have to scramble to get the left lead before we run out of room - I ride in a short court.
On Sunday though, Speedy got better and better. I run through this pattern at least three or four times without circling at A or C. The more we do it, the more he anticipates the change in bend, and the softer he gets on the left rein. When I see Chemaine this next weekend for lessons, I know this is one thing I want her to help us improve.
10/13/2015 06:12:11 am
Oooh, love this! Last night I was working on canter corners and thinking about doing a "square" corner - e.g., pushing his shoulder around in the corner instead of dragging him around the corner on the inside rein (which is not effective, in case you were wondering). He ends up a tiiiny bit counter-flexed which is basically exactly what you're saying, and kept him way more balanced for whatever was next. Great tip, thanks!
Mikey always responded wonderfully to counter bend or even thinking counter bend in canter. It lined him back up and got that uphill solid 3 beat gait going (sometimes I was guilty of shutting him down into a 4 beat when trying to make him do things....). Penn responded to the same idea quite well when he would hit canter and zoom off! I'm putting this exercise in my pocket for when Penn is ready for simple changes!
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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.
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