From Endurance to Dressage
I am not sure that I like how the USEF has structured the development of changes of lead in the tests. The first hint of lead changes comes at First Level. In the first two tests, the downward transition from canter to trot comes at X and then the horse picks up the new canter lead at C and later at F. In Test 3, there is a canter to trot transition at x, but the horse must pick up the new lead somewhere around V.
This makes sense. In each test, the horse picks up the new lead quicker and quicker. From those uncomplicated and easy transitions, the horse has to then go from walk to canter to walk at Second Level Test 1. Where's the gradual introduction to the canter from walk like at First Level?
At Second Level Test 1, the canter is picked up from the walk, and then the lead changes are simple ones (through the walk). So it goes walk to canter then a three loop serpentine with changes of lead through walk over the centerline. Yikes. That's a pretty big leap from change of lead through trot.
Everyone says that Second Level is where the rubber meets the road, but now that it's staring me in the face, I am seeing how important perfecting the work at First Level is going to be. And in reality, it doesn't really feel like mastery of First Level is any guarantee that Second Level will come any easier. There's a big jump from the First Level skills to those that are expected at Second.
It's not like we're ready for Second Level anyway, but I am finally at the place where I need to be schooling the next level while I show the current level. With Second Level at least kind of visible on the horizon, I've been asking Speedy to improve his walk to canter transitions, which are getting more and more reliable. I've also been working a few other exercises to help him be able to do the changes of lead at the walk. Here are two of them.
Change of Lead in the Serpentine: At second Level, we'll have to do simple changes of lead (walk to canter to walk) over the centerline. Since we're not ready for that, I am doing super quick changes of lead through trot at the centerline. What that means is that Speedy canters a 20-meter half circle, transitions to trot, and then with only one or two trot strides, picks up the next lead. When we can, I bring him down to a walk and then I ask for the new lead. Sometimes he can get to the walk quickly while still being balanced enough to pick up the new lead.
When he recognizes that we're doing the exercise, he knows that I am going to be asking for down transitions which helps him to rock back on his butt a little bit more.
Change of Rein Before the Change of Lead: This is an exercise that Chemaine showed me when she was here last week.
In the third test of First Level, we have to do the change of lead through trot somewhere around X. The trouble I've been having is getting Speedy on the new outside rein in time enough to get to K without falling in.
Chemaine had us canter a 20-meter half circle at C on the right lead . As we came through the circle heading towards K, Chemaine had me change the bend before asking for the downward transition to trot. By doing this, Speedy is on the new bend, which makes picking up the left lead easier.
It feels a bit like riding the counter counter though, so I have to really coordinate my aids to get the downward transition to trot. I still sit on my left seat bone, but it's now the the inside seat bone, and my half halting rein becomes the right rein instead of the left.
Right now, I am not being as effective with my seat aids as I need to be for the downward transitions. Speedy and I are both relying too much on my rein aids. For the upward transition to canter, he's getting better and better off my seat.
We have another set of lessons with Chemaine in two weeks followed by a USDF/USEF show the following weekend, so hopefully that gives us time to continue to refine the trot to canter transition.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read