From Endurance to Dressage
On Sunday, Speedy was once again the star of the show. Have I ever said how much I adore that horse? I have? Well, let me say it again; Speedy is a rockstar. The Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS has been doing shows and clinics all summer long. This event was a two-day clinic instead of a show/clinic combo. I felt that one day was plenty for Speedy, so on Sunday morning, we made the drive to Tehachapi.
The clinic was with Cassandra Rabini, co-owner and trainer at First Gem Dressage. Cassandra helped me with a few blog posts earlier in the year when I wrote about grooming and braiding. I know her to be a very friendly trainer, but I hadn't yet seen her at a clinic or a show. Given her extensive experience, I knew she'd be a great clinician. I didn't ride however, "J" did. It was her first clinic experience, and she and Speedy did great together.
Since J lives in the Tehachapi area, she met me at the equestrian center where we tacked Speedy up and then walked up to the arena to meet Cassandra. While J walked over to the mounting block, I re-introduced myself to Cassandra; we've really only communicated through emails and Facebook. I gave her a quick recap of what J and I have been working on as well as Speedy's general limitations - no real collected work. I knew that Cassandra would see immediately where J was in her riding after a quick observation, but I knew some feedback wouldn't hurt.
Cassandra immediately put J to work. The first thing they tackled was getting Speedy round and on the bit. It was great to see a professional working with J because Cassandra was watching with fresh eyes. I am always careful to not pick on everything because you can't overwhelm a student with too much or they're likely to quit. Cassandra was able to hone in on new things, so I watched with my own "trainer's eye" to see how I can better help J the next time she rides.
Most often with Speedy, the thing we work on first is getting him in front of the leg. Cassandra tackled softness first. She had J flex Speedy to one side or the other until he released through his jaw. When he was a little sticky, Cassandra had J flex and then leg yield Speedy out onto the outside rein. She also had J do some counter flexing and then they repeated the exercise in the opposite direction. Ultimately they moved to the trot and then finished up with a bit of canter.
As I watched the lesson progress, I kept thinking how I would love to take a lesson from Cassandra. For every attempt, she gave J a lot of verbal praise, but it was always constructive, Yes! That was 50% better. Now, let's add a little more. Next time, try to ... Besides being very supportive in her verbal feedback, Cassandra also focused on J's position. As a rider, I always love it when a clinician addresses my position; it isn't only about my horse. So much of how our horses go is caused by how we ride, so fixing the rider will invariably fix the horse. Cassandra obviously knows that.
Besides some takeaways for how to better teach J, I noted a few things that Cassandra said that I could use in my own riding. My favorite was this: sponge the half halting rein in time to the tempo that you want your horse to travel. Speedy likes to quicken his pace, so Cassandra had J think about sponging in time to an internal metronome. Besides regulating the tempo with her seat, she could time her half halts to slow the tempo as well. While using a half halt to regulate the tempo isn't a new idea for me, the way in which Cassandra said it caught my ear.
I took video clips of most of the lesson, but I haven't yet had time to process them or share them with J. You can be sure that I'll be watching them myself to see what other nuggets I can clean from Cassandra's teaching. If you're in the San Diego area and are looking for a clinician or trainer, give Cassandra a call. She is a really supportive and encouraging trainer. I know J wants to ride with her again.
J said to me in our "debrief" afterwards, she said everything you say and more! Gotta love that!
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%: