From Endurance to Dressage
I had a lesson on Monday. I shared my hallway and closed doors analogy with my trainer, and she loved the images. She was very encouraging and explained that we just have this one last little door to shut, and then we'll really be ready to rock and roll.
I had a few rides in the week before the lesson that were real doozies. Our homework had been simple: travel a round circle. Instead of nice round circles, I got whirling to the inside with a humped back or running straight through my outside rein while launching into a rear. Sydney can throw a serious temper tantrum when he wants to.
The good thing that came out of those "homework rides" was that my feel got ratcheted up a few notches. All of Sydney's antics started to happen in slow motion. Not really, of course, but I started to feel what was going to happen before it actually happened. Any last bits of fear that I've had just melted away as I countered all of his shenanigans. It really felt like shutting doors.
Nope, not this one. Oops, try the next door. Oh, darn; that one's closed, too.
So for the lesson, JL broke the circle exercise down into smaller chunks. We were still to stay on that prescribed circle, but we were going to teach Sydney to be more respectful of my outside aids without allowing him to escape through an "inside" door.
We picked up the trot tracking right, and halted with the outside rein. But, not only did he have to halt RIGHT NOW, he wasn't allowed to drift to the right or left, and his haunches had to stay right underneath him. And not only did he need to halt RIGHT NOW, he also needed to rock back slightly onto his hocks. And then, when he walked forward, he had to take a step to the outside by moving his shoulders over; no sagging into the circle.
We did this quite a few times until Sydney started to look for a doorway that led to OUT OF HERE. I was almost glad he did because I got to work on preventing a rear or whirl to the inside.
When he started to whirl, JL had me think, YAH! I love teeny tiny circles. Let's do it for three minutes straight! And we did. I bent his nose to my knee and sent him into the spin with my outside leg. We only had to do it twice. Slammed that door closed.
The next evasion he offered was the rear. Sometimes he simply threatens, other times he launches straight up. It used to terrify me, but I've learned that he's well-balanced, and that he doesn't really intend to lose me. Even so, it's not a behavior in which he gets to indulge. I've learned to NOT PULL BACK. Instead, I keep my weight forward and get his neck bent as quickly as possible and send him in a little circle once his feet are back on the ground.
JL helped me identify why he's rearing and how to prevent it from happening. Once I get an inside bend, the inside rein doesn't do anything, which means I need to take hold of the outside rein to do a halt. Sydney will then rush through it and ignore my half halts, which forces me to really haul back on that outside rein. THAT'S when I know I am going to get a rear.
So the solution is to get a halt before he can rush. As soon as I feel the tension forming in his back, he follows it up with these teeny tiny mincing little steps. As soon as I feel that, I am to tell him to halt RIGHT NOW!
It was a short lesson, maybe 30 minutes long. JL's plan was to teach Sydney to love to halt RIGHT NOW. So once he figured out that all of the doors were closed, he halted RIGHT NOW, and even quite trying to fall in, fall out, fall over. He just gave a sigh of resignation, with a little exasperation thrown in for good measure, and simply stopped square. I hopped off and that was it.
It was a GREAT lesson because it was one of the first times that I really saw Sydney trying to think his way through it. He was actually trying the knobs of different doors: is this one open? How about this one? When he couldn't find a doorway to get through, he simply gave up.
I hope this piece of the puzzle falls into place as quickly as JL thinks it will. I know this is a big step for both of us, and I know I am more than ready to get it behind us.
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%: