From Endurance to Dressage
I went back through my photo library and realized that I have now been to at least seven clinics with Dr. Christian Schacht, maybe more. I rode both days each time except for once, and for one clinic I rode four times (two horses a day). I think I’ve now had fifteen lessons with him. Each time I ride with him, I am amazed at how perceptive and intuitive he is.
Within just a few minutes of watching each horse and rider team, he can formulate a lesson plan to address the needs of both horse and rider for that particular day. Even though he has seen me ride more than a dozen times, he still likes to see me warm up so that he can figure out what Speedy and I need right then. While I might want to work on this or that, Christian can see whether I have a horse (or rider) ready for that skill that day.
For this clinic, I had some goals in mind, address our leg yields, counter canter, and trot lengthenings, but I hesitated to share that with Christian as I know he usually stretches me to try exercises that I would never do at home on my own. Even so, on the first day of the clinic, I did ask to do some leg yields.
Having ridden with Christian so many times before, I knew that we wouldn’t start with the leg yield; we would start with exercises to get Speedy’s hind end engaged. I was right. When Speedy and I started our work, he was in a rush to get somewhere. Where, I do not know, but he was intent on getting there as quickly as possible. In the past, when I’ve tried to rein in Speedy’s woohoos, Christian has admonished me to use the forward energy and make it my own idea.
So rather than try to slow Speedy down, I just let him go forward, but I did try to channel the energy by doing changes of direction. Before long, I could hear Christian’s voice directing me to bring Speedy to a 20-meter circle at BE. His next command was to slow my rising post and to only rise just a bit out of the saddle. Speedy responded almost immediately. His rhythm improved and he quit racing around.
We worked on the circle for a few minutes with a slower and shallower rising post and then rising higher and quicker. Before long, Speedy was really listening to my seat. Once we established a rhythm that was more clear and less “racey,” Christian had me make the circle smaller and smaller with my outside thigh.
As a side note, Christian had most every rider do some sort of suppling exercise that involved a counter bend. While I was making the circle smaller and smaller, he had me flex Speedy to the outside and then back to a correct bend.
Once our circle was small enough, Christian had me leg yield back to the rail. I really liked this exercise, as it was a leg yield that Speedy wanted to do. While leg yielding across the diagonal, Speedy can run out of forward energy and resist stepping under. Leg yielding out to the rail from a circle is easy for him because he already has that inside hind deep underneath and it’s a shorter distance to carry himself.
Once we leg yielded to the rail, Christian had me spiral back in, and then leg yield back to the rail. All the while though he reminded me to use the outside leg to spiral in while keeping my inside leg active to keep Speedy’s inside leg active. Christian yelled at me incessantly, where’s your inside leg?! Did you forget about it?! Keep riding! This was a mistake a lot of the other riders made as well. We focus on our other aids but forget to ride with the inside leg.
In the leg yield, the horse moves sideways and forward from the inside leg, but while staying on the circle, the inside leg pushes the horse to the outside rein, but the horse doesn’t actually move out. While I “know” this, this exercise, with Christian’s frequent admonishments to keep using my inside leg, helped me understand that I don’t keep Speedy’s inside hind as active as I need to.
Christian also helped me to visualize that smaller and smaller circle by imagining a laser show in the dirt. I need to “see” the path that I am riding by looking forward at the dirt and “follow” that laser line. That was really helpful because it helped me to refine my aids. If I know exactly where I want Speedy to be (that clump of dirt, that hoof print), I can “ride” him to get there.
Later in the lesson, we rode the counter canter. I’ve been working on this at home, so Christian didn’t have to do too much work except that Speedy decided to show off his flying lead change. When we canter the left lead and then do a change of direction, Speedy can hold the lead fairly easily. On the right lead canter however, I often get a flying lead change.
To my chagrin, Christian was delighted with Speedy’s change! When I groaned at the swap and brought Speedy back to the trot, Christian cheered the change and admonished me to never discourage Speedy for making the change. He said that Speedy’s changes were very clear and done quite well. Instead, I need to think canter right to hold him on the right lead in the counter canter.
Christian had me pick up a right lead canter again and really feel the rhythm of the canter with my inside seat bone forward. We rode the 20-meter circle and then turned left. During that one or two straight strides of the figure eight, I had to focus really hard on not switching my position and in keeping my outside (left) leg back. If I let my left leg come forward, I lose Speedy’s haunches and he does a change. It only took one or two attempts for Speedy to hold the right lead canter on a 20-meter circle to the left.
One of the most important things I learned from the first day of the clinic was to pay attention to what I am feeling. Speedy tries very hard, but he can only do what I make clear. I need to keep his inside hind leg active, pay attention to my seat aids, and remember to smile.
Day 2 coming soon ...
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: