From Endurance to Dressage
El Sueno - Wrap Up
Some final thoughts … (finally)
I have learned that taking the time to watch other riders do their tests is an excellent way to learn. At one-day shows, I simply don’t have time to hang around and watch because I usually have a two-hour drive back home. Sitting around for several hours means getting home after dinner. At two-day shows however, I have nothing but time to sit around and watch, and I did!
Here are a few things that I noticed, realized, or decided:
Observing from A offers a completely different perspective. You can really check for straightness and accuracy. Straightness and forwardness is hard for all horses, not just the low level ones.
The best riders have a really solid core. Their posture is strong and straight. They ride very uphill themselves with bent elbows and straight backs. You can quite easily tell that they are riding from a deep seat that is maintained by excellent core strength.
On the other hand, there are many struggling riders out there, and they aren't necessarily the Intro or Training Level riders. I don’t point this out to be catty, only to illustrate that you don’t have to be perfect to move on. I also realized that I don’t look out of place out there. While I am certainly not the perfect rider, I do have a decent seat that is getting better and better.
Everyone else worries just as much as I do about failing and having a bad day. I also noticed that even the very best riders appreciate an encouraging word and positive feedback when they finish. I enjoyed calling out, have a good ride, and telling a rider they had ridden a really nice test. It was fun to see them genuinely smile and say thanks.
Which brings me to this: I am no longer star struck. Really watching horse and rider teams ride all the levels from Introductory through the Grand Prix has shown me that it’s all about relaxation, rhythm, contact, and the rest of the training pyramid. Twice I watched Grand Prix teams put in pretty dismal rides. I felt really bad for the riders because I know both were expecting more, but even I could see their horses were struggling with rhythm and collection. The piaffe and passage just weren’t happening that day.
I also noticed that all of the upper level movements are related to what horses at the lowest levels are learning. I can see how mastery at each level prepares the horse for the next level. Those upper level movements no longer look like magic tricks to me because really, all of the horses are just walking, trotting, and cantering. There’s no magic involved. Looking behind the curtain reveals that you don’t have to be a wizard to ride Grand Prix. What a liberating concept: anyone who works hard enough can get there. Even me!
After watching a number of First Level tests, I decided that First Level is looking really doable. I don’t think we ought to run off and start showing at that level quite yet, but I can see that if we start adding a few elements to our daily work, Speedy and I might think about showing First Level, Test 1 at a schooling show in February.
If you don’t show dressage (yet), but really would like to, I urge you to get out there and go watch some shows. I hear about Dressage Queens all the time, but to be honest, I haven’t met any while out showing. What I have met is a lot of nice women (and a few men) who are journeying along the same road that I am. Come and join us!
What wonderful insights! I have found these to be true in pretty much all disciplines across the board. Time and practice is the biggest thing that separates the top riders from those just starting out. We are such a hurry up and wait culture but when you take a step back and realize that the biggest thing you need is simply time it is a lot less intimidating to think about riding and the next level up.
7/21/2013 05:39:23 am
Very well said, Amanda. :0)
I love this post. This is exactly the feeling I get after ring stewarding at a big show. Watching advanced riders struggle with the same issues I struggle with is heartening, as is seeing the differences in riding styles. I bet you're feeling inspired to keep at it!
7/21/2013 09:38:16 am
It seems so rude to put it that way, but it really does encourage me to see upper level riders struggling. It's not easy for anyone. :0)
I'll add that I think you guys are spot on to start working at First Level. I'm still slogging through putting First all together, but I certainly think you'll find the work beneficial and it will test the work you've been putting in to be successful at Training. It's certainly all a progression!
7/21/2013 09:40:24 am
I think we're ready. This morning I worked on leg yields and the other day we did some counter canter. I have a lot of time between now and February to get something that is somewhat presentable. And I know we can do it because CHristian Schacht had us doing some great work this past June. If only I could have him in my ear coaching ALL the time!
7/21/2013 10:06:47 am
What a great post! Sometimes I can get frustrated. I really enjoyed and FELT the motivation in the post!
7/21/2013 02:04:48 pm
Glad you feel inspired, Sandra! We ALL get frustrated. The trick is to let it go and keep on trying. :0)
7/21/2013 11:30:55 pm
Thanks, Karley! I don't ride Hunters, but I love to read what everyone writes anyway. Riding is riding and many of the lessons are the same from one discipline to another.
7/24/2013 03:09:07 am
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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
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