From Endurance to Dressage
Saturday's lesson on Speedy was about three things: sitting trot, canter lengthenings, and trot lengthenings. We also did some interesting changes of bend to get Speedy more even on both reins, but the bulk of the lesson was about me and the lengthenings.
If you can sit the trot with ease, screw you and the horse you rode in on. That crap is hard. If you're struggling like me, you're in for a treat as the following video will make you feel GREAT about your own attempts to sit the damn trot.
It is MUCH easier to sit the trot on Izzy since his stride is longer which gives my pelvis more time to come back to neutral. Speedy's trot is so much quicker that the motion is much more difficult to follow. And don't get me wrong, I can't sit sit Izzy's bigger trot yet either. I am just saying it is slightly easier on him.
There are many ways to sit the trot: you can pedal backwards, move the buttons on your coat up and down, and so on. Chemaine's technique for teaching how to sit the trot is more of a front to back motion rather than a side to side one. She had me think about tucking my pelvis and pulling my belly button to my spine.
To feel the movement, perch on the edge of a kitchen chair and suck your belly button toward your spine while also tucking your pelvis. You will feel the back legs of the chair lift off of the ground. This is the motion for the sitting trot. The reason Chemaine prefers this tuck/neutral/tuck/neutral position as opposed to the side to side motion is because tucking your pelvis is a driving aid which enables the rider to shorten and lengthen the horses's stride.
To help me feel the motion, Chemaine had me put Speedy in a canter. By "scooping" my seat more quickly, I could drive him forward into a longer stride. By slowing the scooping motion, I could collect his stride. Once I had a good feel for that motion, we returned to the sitting trot.
The sound isn't great on the video and my videographer and pals were doing a lot of chatting, but if you listen closely, you will hear Chemaine talk me through the exercise. Oh, and please ignore my comments as I am trying to describe to her what what I am feeling.
We've been working on this for a while. This is not Speedy's easiest movement. His shoulder is a little straighter than in some horses and he's a little lazy. He's also not a huge fan of doing stuff that's hard, so lengthening his stride in the trot is something we'll probably always struggle with.
Over the past few months, Chemaine has helped Speedy develop better thrust and impulsion, key ingredients to being successful at First Level. Getting that thrust to appear in the trot lengthening has been tricky for me. Chemaine helped me pull more of the picture together on Saturday.
All along, Chemaine has instructed me to compress Speedy in the corners and along the short side and then think, big, bigger, biggest as we cross the diagonal. This has been working, but we were still missing a piece of the puzzle.
When we were at Expo, something sort of clicked. All of a sudden I was able to instantly feel when Speedy's hind end is not coming under him with the same energy as in the front. In other words, the front end is dragging the hind end along for the ride as opposed to his hind end pushing him forward.
I am feeling it particularly well at the medium walk. When he tries to root the reins from me, and I resist through my core, I am feeling that I need to add a boatload of leg to keep his butt going. This is a huge new "feel" for me as this is what I've been missing when I compress him before the lengthening.
Essentially, I've been slowing down his front end and losing all of the energy that I've built up so that when I ask for big, bigger, biggest, he's just been clawing his way forward. Doh.
Chemaine had me use my new sense of feel to almost make him feel claustrophobic. I am practically cramming his hind end up to his nose so that when I finally release him into that big, bigger, biggest stride, the thrust and energy are there, ready to shoot him forward.
Of course, this is all seen much more subtly in real life, but that's the feeling I am shooting for. Here's another video. Again, the sound isn't great and my pals are still chatting away, but you'll see some of what I am talking about.
The last thing we schooled was the canter lengthening. I have to say that I was the most proud of this work because for once, Chemaine didn't have to harp at me about increasing the bend. I learned that lesson at Expo.
For so long, I have let Speedy take the bend away, especially at the canter. Now that I know what a good bend feels like, I've been really working on changing the bend at all three gaits. When we worked on lengthening the canter stride, I was actually able to maintain the inside bend down the long side which meant I was able to come back to a working canter without running into the fence.
By maintaining the inside bend, I was able to keep Speedy firmly on my outside rein which meant that we could return to a working canter with a firm half halt. And finally, I was able to capitalize on the power that Speedy can generate with that generous badonkadonk we've been developing.
The great thing about these mini clinics is that I get to do a follow up lesson the next day. I went home and watched the videos and thought about the adjustments that I need to make. On Sunday, we were able to continue the work.
To be continued.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%