From Endurance to Dressage
February Lessons Day 1 (Izzy)
Day one with Izzy was all about one thing - changing the bend. With a willing change of bend, I will be able to do anything with this horse.
Right now, he is happy to bend left, but he struggles with bending to the right. It's not that he's stiff, he just feels insecure about his balance, and this horse is all about confidence. If he doesn't feel it, he assumes he can't do it. So, everything we did was about helping him to feel balanced so that he feels confident. The dude's got a fragile ego.
For both days of lessons, Izzy was a really good boy. That doesn't mean we didn't struggle, but he was completely rideable. He threw a couple of fits that involved some squealing and kicking out, but I never lost control of him, and he never did more than get sassy. On Saturday, he did try to run through my outside rein, but before he could take the tantrum too far, I asked for a whip and reminded him that he did have to listen to my outside aids.
I was able to use the whole arena without the worry of riding a run away rocket. Instead of riding a green-broke horse, I felt like I was finally schooling a young horse in the basics of dressage. In fact, I never once though of him as a green bean.
We started out with some simple trot work and moved immediately into the left lead canter. None of our work is perfect of course, but Chemaine had nothing to criticize. His left lead canter is coming along really nicely. It's adjustable, fairly balanced, and easy for him to do. I didn't want to use our time schooling what I can already work on by myself.
We moved on to the right lead canter which is where our current trouble lies. I haven't touched the right lead since our lesson in January. We had too much missing for me to tackle it. The first thing I needed to establish was a right bend without losing the haunches to the outside. I am really proud of how I was able to work through that.
Now that we can track right at the trot while keeping the haunches in the same hemisphere, I felt good about attempting the right lead canter with Chemaine's help. Izzy can pick it up, but within just a handful of strides, he either loses the lead in the back and cross canters, or he cross canters and then tries to fix the problem by swapping leads in the front.
Chemaine's fix is proving to be brilliant. It doesn't punish the left lead canter, which he feels quite proud of, while at the same time insists that Izzy work harder than he would if he just maintained the right lead canter. Essentially it works like this:
You can see it all happen in the video. At exactly 20 seconds, you'll see the first lead change and hear me growl. As we continue to work, you'll see him get softer and softer to the inside rein. Cantering him on the left lead while tracking right is really hard work, so while we're fixing this right lead thing, we're also building a lovely counter canter (Second level stuff - go figure!).
At about 2:28 minutes, you'll see the smoothest lead change ever. At about 3:07 you'll see him easily swap in the back and a few seconds later he follows that up by switching in the front. The boy loves his left lead canter.
After schooling the canter departure and softening to the inside rein thing, we moved on to trying to get and KEEP the right lead canter. We started the work on Saturday and then built on it the next day.
Chemaine's next fix involved changing the bend - what else?! Once I got the right lead canter, I immediately changed the bend and rode the true canter in a counter bend. And rather than stick to a 20 or 30-meter circle, I used the entire arena. By cantering longer lines and making the turns more gradual, I had better control of his haunches. Once I was able to get and keep the canter, we wrapped up the day in order to revisit the exercise the next day.
To be continued.
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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
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CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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