From Endurance to Dressage
Hands down, this is the best clinic in which I've ever participated. Now, I realize I haven't been to a million clinics or anything, but I've done quite a few. I've even ridden with Hilda Gurney and Susanne von Dietze (of Dressage Today fame). This one, a cavaletti clinic with Erika Jansson, was actually fun in the sense that I was laughing out loud. My whole group was having so much fun that we clapped and cheered for each other, especially as the line of poles got longer and longer.
Erika Jansson is originally from Sweden. She has worked in her home country of Sweden as well as in numerous places around the world including Australia, Germany, and the US. She currently lives in Santa Rosa, California and is the dressage trainer at Santa Rosa Equestrian Center. According to Erika's website, the clinic helps the rider create a sport horse that is highly responsive, maneuverable, can rapidly and smoothly collect or extend the gaits, stop, turn, and remain balanced.
We generally rode in small groups of four, although a group of juniors made a group of five, and in another one or two groups there weren't enough to make a full group. Four was the perfect number. With a small group, we were able to watch other riders pass through the "tunnel" and by watching, our horses were able to take a break. By the end, Erika assured us that our four-legged partners were going to have sore booties. We passed through the tunnel at least twenty times.
To start each group, Erika gave a short talk that included some basic instructions. We were put into an order so that we simply followed the horse in front, always paying attention as some horses might not make it through or a rider might need to circle before entering the line of poles. I was assigned the first position which meant I also had to remember to turn left or right at the end of each pass through. We alternated turning left or right after each pass.
The poles were laid in an alternating left side up, right side up configuration. Erika started with just three poles which we walked through the first time. Since the poles were set to a trotting distance, around four feet apart, she expected the horses to whack them a bit. This gave them all a chance to see everything and to build a little trust. After that, we trotted through each time. Once each horse had developed a good tempo, she started adding poles, one at a time.
One thing that Erika stressed was this was not a dressage show nor did she want to see a dressage seat. She was looking for the rider to sit deeply so that we could drive our horses forward while at the same time getting them long and low in the neck so that they could balance themselves over the poles. She called it a cavaletti seat. This was HARD! As we approached the line, she encouraged every rider to get their horse as supple as possible because at some point down the line, particularly when we had five or more poles, the horse was going to need help. If he was braced at the first pole, his back was going to be too tight to allow him to lift himself over so many poles.
It took us probably ten pass throughs before Izzy and I started to figure it out. For every attempt, he tried his heart out, never once spooking, balking, or acting anything but brave. After each line, he swung his head around and asked if he was still a good boy. No matter how many poles he hit, I gave him huge pats and hugs. I could see on his face how proud of himself he was. He truly enjoyed the work. I think all of the horses did. It was just a big game for them, and us too!
Each time we went through,Izzy got a little better educated, as did I. The hardest thing was to get him really round and deep for the first pole. If I did that, while keeping my chest up and my seat back, I could drive forward while also half halting when he started to rush or lose his balance. Jumping looks so easy - point them at a fence, leap over it, and away you go. Except we all know it's not easy or we'd all be doing it.
Erika was so supportive, always offering just a little bit more feedback to apply the next time around. I never felt overwhelmed or discouraged. She made sure that we knew that every horse and rider team was trying, and this was only their first time ever doing this kind of work. I literally ate it up. In the next video, we did nine poles with only one small whack in the beginning. I was so proud of him!
Eleven poles with a big cheer from me at the end.
After those first few poles in the beginning, he rarely missed big, and when he did whack something, it was only once or twice. Of the approximate twenty video clips that T shot for me (OMG THANK YOU), I didn't pick just the best ones; I picked subsequent videos to show how quickly Izzy improved in just thirty-five minutes, and it wasn't just him. All of the horses showed tremendous improvement. Here's our final go with fourteen poles.
I can't say that I learned anything concrete from the clinic to take back into the dressage court, but it was still a hugely worthwhile experience. Izzy got to work in an arena with other horses, he got to do something that challenged both his mind and his body, and he was presented with an opportunity to use his body in a whole new way.
There's some talk about bringing Erika back this fall. If you live anywhere in Kern County, follow and like our Facebook page if you'd like in on the next event. I will totally be 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 Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read