From Endurance to Dressage
Until she disappeared, I followed The Dressage Curmudgeon pretty closely. She's definitely curmudgeonly, which, if you're not familiar with the word, means bad tempered and negative. I like to think that in real life she's friendly and not so caustic, but who knows? In any case, I remember one part of one blog post she wrote because I was terrified that she was talking about me. I can't remember anything about the post other than her writing something about talentless, middle-aged adult amateurs who persist in sticking to their safe little 20-meter circles. Ouch.
Why that bothered me, I'll never know, but it did. The stupid thing is that 20-meter circles are a fact of life, and while you should probably do more than just ride around and around, there is nothing in fact wrong with a 20-meter circle. Her post inspired me to seek out ways to vary the 20-meter circle such as doing them at different letters and including frequent changes of directions. The title of this post is Circles because that's what I wanted to talk about. Not just 20-meter circles though, but 15-meter, 10-meter, and even half circles.
On Monday afternoon, "T" came over to ride Speedy. The last time she had ridden, we worked on riding squares which are certainly more challenging than circles, but both are very useful. Squares are helpful for learning to ride smaller circles. Squares require the rider to utilize the outside rein, and the horse to collect for just a stride or two. In a smaller circle, the rider needs better control of the outside aids which can be learned by riding a square.
As T warmed up, I had her think about turning Speedy with her outside leg. Could she use her inside seat bone and inside leg to get some bend while turning from the outside leg? Could she affect a change of direction? Could she do it all rein-free? The point wasn't to ride bridleless, but the better you are with your seat and legs, the less rein you need. (I've always been a fan of Julie Goodnight; she's thoughtful and down to earth in her advice.)
After a warm up at both the walk and trot, I explained how riding the square can be connected to riding smaller circles. An exercise that I like to do is to ride 20-meter circles at A, B, C, and E with a change of direction across the diagonal with another set of 20-meter circles at A, E, C, and B. Alternately, I like to do 15-meter circles at those four points. That's what I had T do, and once she had Speedy moving in a very consistent tempo, I had her ride 10-meter circles at A, P, R, C, S and V with a change of direction to do it on the other rein.
After a short walk break, I had her pick up a canter and do 20-meter circles at A, E, C, and B with a change of lead through trot across the diagonal so that she could repeat the exercise on the opposite lead. While this might sound boring, for a rider exploring the dressage basics, it's a lot to keep track of. By the time T had ridden each of the patterns, she was sweaty and breathing hard. For an anxious horse or tense horse like Izzy, I find that the repetition of the pattern soothes him a bit and keeps him from getting stuck or hanging on one rein.
For a horse like Speedy, these exercises are relaxing and make him feel quite successful. Never once did he do anything except go where T pointed him. His complete confidence in his own ability to do his job makes it so much easier for his rider to adjust her own position and aids without worrying about upsetting him.
I continue to be grateful to Speedy's ladies. He is living his best life right now because of them. He gets to stay active and engaged without having to do the harder work from Third and Fourth Level. He feels loved, successful, and valued. I think I may love him more in his semi-retirement than I did when he was my main ride.
Speaking of circles, I don't think Speedy minds circling back to the beginning...
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%: