From Endurance to Dressage
With the weekend's rain, the arena was just a tad bit too wet for a ride on Saturday. No worries! I saddled Speedy and rode the neighborhood thinking that a change of scenery would be good for his brain anyway.
Not more than a hundred yards from the barn, the neighbor's horse saw his chance to show off. He gave a good snort, bucked, and galloped across his small paddock. Speedy flipped his tail over his back, as only Arabs can do, and gave an answering snort. Well crap ... there went any kind of relaxing trail ride that I might have been planning.
It was all good though as I took the opportunity to work on my sitting trot (which is really weak). I also worked on moving his haunches around a little and did some serious pulley halts. As we neared the go home or go on point, I decided that Speedy's shenanigans had earned him a few more minutes on the trail so we turned left.
He was stiff to the left, as usual, so I used the trail to work on counter bending; I tipped his nose left but pushed him forward. As the dirt road widened, I planted my left hand on my knee and pushed him out, out, out around in a circle until I felt some give in his neck. We continued on down the trail.
The neighbors have kindly given me permission to ride through their 10 acres (?) which leads to the Kern River. Down where we are, the river is fairly quiet with lots of sandy beaches. This particular stretch of beach is quite large and flat. It's large enough that I realized I could easily put together several 20 meter circles.
Since the footing is sandy, the wet sand actually provided the best footing that nature can provide; it was perfect. We set to work.
Since he was still resistant to the left (someday he won't be; I just know it), I planted my hand and asked him to move his haunches. I could feel his energy building so I knew he really needed to just burn off some steam. With our recent weather, it had been several days since he'd been turned out.
So we cantered ... a lot. The whole time I focused on maintaing that left bend while pushing his rib cage out. I also focused on lifting his shoulders with the outside rein and leg. My feel in that department has really improved. I can now feel how the outside knee can almost pick up the shoulder.
After our work to the left, I changed directions and picked up the right lead canter. The first thing that I caught myself thinking was, wow, we're cantering with no bucking! Our canter departures have improved at least 100%.
Speedy was still quite excited about the cantering on the beach thing so he was pretty strong in my hand. Instead of asking for a bend, of which he has plenty tracking right, I worked on keeping him straight, almost riding the circle with straight lines. This really helped me get control of the outside shoulder. Tracking right with a "racey" horse really helped me feel when I needed to rock that outside rein and "lift" his shoulder with my knee.
By the time we were finished, I had developed quite a lovely track on the beach. No one came out of the house to shoo me away, but I wonder what they were thinking as I ripped around that circle on their smooth, sandy beach. As an aside, the weeds grow fast on that section which requires mowing all summer so I like to think I was helping with weed control!
We had worked on the beach for at least 20 minutes. It was quite humid and Speedy's coat is still thick. I decided we'd both had enough. The next section of the trail is a spooky one for Speedy as the sprinklers have popped up on us more than once. Now, whenever we travel through there, he's on high alert listening for the phssst of the sprinkler. I used his energy to leg yield him to the property edge.
By the time we made it back to the dirt road, Speedy was thrilled to take a small break and graze the winter grass that has finally exploded out of nowhere. I rode the last quarter mile home on a horse who seemed happily tired.
That truly was Dressage on the Trail!
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%: