From Endurance to Dressage
Due primarily to wet weather, Brooke hadn't been out to ride Speedy in a few weeks. We fixed that on Sunday. On the weeks that no one comes to ride Speedy, I try to turn him out - he lives on an eighth of an acre though so it's not like he needs it. I do the turn out so that he gets a change of scenery. On Friday afternoon, along with the turnout, I groomed him and gave him lots of love.
It rained on Saturday night, but it was plenty dry enough for a ride on Sunday morning. While I free lunged Izzy in the round pen, Brooke groomed and tacked up Speedy. As Brooke and I walked Speedy up to the arena, I told her that I had a good exercise in mind. It's one that I use regularly when riding Izzy. I told her she would ride 20-meter circles at the four main letters of the dressage court: tracking right, C, B, A, and E. Tracking left, C, E, A, and B.
While it sounds like a simple exercise, I knew that Brooke would struggle. I did when I was first starting my own dressage journey. What makes this exercise so challenging is that the rider has to maintain her own balance, keep the horse balanced and steady in the tempo, and watch where she's going. For a rider who is still learning the basic geometry of the court, it is really hard to ride a correct 20-meter circle. Harder still to ride four of them when they're each in a new place.
While Speedy is a fantastic schoolmaster, he is not a robot. He went where Brooke pointed, so frequently, I had to yell, TURN as she forgot where she was going. When riding a single 20-meter circle, the rider has time to rebalance herself because a horse like Speedy will stay on the circle for you. When the rider begins stringing movements together, it becomes obvious who has been doing the steering. And often times it isn't the rider.
I had Brooke repeat the exercise several times in each direction. Finally, she began to see the pattern of where to go. I also helped her out by drawing it in the sand and then running down centerline to stand in the center of each circle to give her a frame of reference. Once she had the pattern a bit more memorized, I suggested she do it at the canter which she was excited to try.
For the canter, I called out the directions while running from the center of one circle to the center of the next. Brooke had a hard time remembering where she was on the circle. I've done the same thing at a show before. More than once actually. There have been times when I've panicked, asking myself just how many times I had gone around the circle. The judge never rang me off course for doing a circle too many times, but I knew how Brooke felt.
Giving these lessons affords me an opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation for how much I've learned during my own dressage journey. As I look back, I can see from a new vantage point how hard this sport really is. Riding a horse in such a way as to exert total control while making it seem as though the horse does it on his own is a true testament to the difficulty of dressage. This sport requires total control of one's own body as well as control of your partner's.
I regularly struggle with feelings of ineptitude and general suckiness. I think I need to give myself a lot more credit, and if you're reading about my experiences, you probably feel the same way. Give yourself some credit too. You deserve it. We all do! Not one of us would feel discouraged by the length of a flight to Europe. The trip takes as long as it takes. Why then do we, and by that I really mean me, feel discouraged about how long it takes to get "somewhere" in dressage? It too takes as long as it takes.
Let's enjoy the ride, admire the view, and realize that we'll get there when we get there.
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%: