From Endurance to Dressage
I am constantly amazed by how well the USDF dressage tests build from one test to the next. When I am a little bit tempted to just skate by on one movement or another because it's hard, I give myself a stern mental shake. Each movement leads to another harder movement, so skating by now will only come back to bite you in the butt later.
The downward transition from canter to trot at X while crossing the diagonal is an excellent example. This movement first appears in Training Level at test 3. The movement is done on a left lead canter. In First Level, it shows up at test one and two, also on the left lead.
For test 3 at First Level, there's a big switch. The downward transition from canter to trot now comes on the right lead with a change to the left lead canter through trot. So yeah ... just getting by on the trot to canter transitions isn't going to work.
I have been schooling Speedy like crazy on the canter to trot. He can pick up the new lead just fine, but getting a nice downward transition while crossing the diagonal has been frustrating. He can do the transition quite well on a circle, and he can do it moderately well down the long side, but when sees the diagonal, he wants to lengthen instead of staying more collected. After working on it for a solid week, at least I know why and have been able to work on a fix.
The main problem is that Speedy is heavy on my outside rein. It doesn't matter which way I school it, left to right or right to left - he still wants to run through my outside reins as we cross the diagonal. Since he is so heavy on his forehand, he can't come back to the trot without hollowing his back and jerking his head up.
To help him get back on his hind end, I've been doing zillions of canter to trot to canter transitions on the circle. When I think he's getting it, I'll try the next canter to trot transition as I come out of the circle and across the diagonal. I have to do it a number of times, but eventually, he rocks back on his butt and gives me a good canter to trot transition.
I've discovered a few things that help. As I go into the corner, I have to give a really good half halt and pay close attention to the bend. If I let him get too straight as we cross the diagonal, he gets heavy. If I keep a bit of a bend, I can keep him more firmly on the outside rein.
The other thing that is helping is that instead of using the whole length of the arena, I am doing 15-meter canter circles with a downward transition just as I leave the circle. Then we pick up the new lead into another 15-meter canter circle. In all, we make a traditional figure eight that looks like two tear drops joined at the points.
By keeping the circles small and close together, Speedy doesn't get a chance to lengthen his frame and fall onto his forehand. It is taking a ton of upper body strength to half halt him and tons of leg to keep him in the canter. I know this movement is the beginning of the flying change, so I want to make sure that we get it right. Speedy has to learn to really sit as we make the transition from canter to trot.
On the days that he gets it really right, I can feel the flying changes just bursting to come out. I need him to be patient though as he needs to improve his trot to canter on the long diagonal first, which is really about taking more weight on his hind end. I don't want just one flying change, I'm going to want a whole string of them!
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%: