From Endurance to Dressage
Circles and Straight Ahead
"J" has been coming to me for lessons for nearly eight months. While she had ridden hunters in her past, dressage was brand new. I don't think she contacted me because of the dressage; I think she just wanted to ride. Had I been into barrel racing or trail riding, I think she would have bought herself some cowboy boots and jumped in with both feet.
As for, me, I don't ever really remembering asking J what her goals were. I don't think either one of us ever thought this partnership would last more than just a few months. My main concern has always been Speedy's health and soundness, but to my surprise, he has thrived as a lesson pony and seems to really enjoy it.
I can't say that I am the world's best dressage "trainer," - I constantly remind J that you get what you pay for, and I don't charge anything for the lessons, so there can be no complaining about the quality - or lack thereof. With that said, I am actually dumfounded at how effective a teacher I've turned out to be. If I am amazed by Speedy's willingness to be a lesson horse, I am even more surprised by my ability to teach someone else.
I've tried to make sure that I teach J something different each time she rides. For the last lesson, I had her ride twenty-meter circles at A, E, C, and B. This weekend, I had her start that pattern as a warm up. Since she was familiar with the pattern, i asked her to really think about the geometry of the circles as well as how effective her aids felt. Speedy wasn't bending as well as he should have been, and I noticed that J was pretty busy with her hands as she struggled to establish a good connection.
I don't know how I knew this, but it dawned on me that her weight was probably on her outside seat bone. I instructed her to stand on her inside stirrup. Suddenly, Speedy was moving better, and J's hands were quiet. I am not sure who was more surprised by the result, J, me, or Speedy!
With Speedy moving happier, I had J ride the half circle H-C-M to the long side where I had her do another half circle at B-centerline-E. She's been doing circles for long enough. Now she needs to figure out how to keep a horse flexed vertically while traveling straight. This is tough to do. On the half circles I had her use the bend of the corners to try to get Speedy as round as possible, so that when they came to the long sides, J would have more control. Like a lot of horses, Speedy can get strong on the long sides, so I had J make the half circle at E/B so that she was able to keep Speedy in control and balanced.
After doing it at the trot both directions, I had her do it at the canter. Considering that just two months ago J struggled to get a canter in the first quarter of the circle at A/C, she did a fantastic job of keeping Speedy put together as they cantered the long sides and then regrouped on the half circles. She was able to get him rounder in those half circles so that she could ride him forward into the contact on the long sides. I was really proud of how much progress she's made this summer.
From the photos, you can see how happy and willing Speedy is to work. I am grateful that he has a job that keeps him fit and happy. And if someone else gets to learn something along the way, a few hours out of my weekend makes it all worth it.
I should probably be paying her!
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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.
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%: