From Endurance to Dressage
I finally had another great lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. Don't get me wrong; it isn't his fault. Izzy just doesn't always cooperate. When he's a willing partner, we get to actually dressage. When he's being a jerk, all I can do is work on ways to get his hamsters back on their wheel. On Saturday, I could tell we were going to have a good day. Sean saw it too and immediately reminded me that these are the days we ask the harder questions. Sean knows I like to ride without upsetting the apple cart, but, as he pointed out, if we don't take advantage of Izzy's quiet days, we lose an opportunity to teach him. I started asking questions.
Izzy warmed up really well without a single spook or brain fart. We worked through our usual routine of leg yield, shoulder in, and renvers. My goal for the day was to tackle the foundation of the flying change. Even if Izzy got naughty, I wanted that to remain our focus because when I ride alone and he gets really belligerent about it, I don't feel confident in my understanding of why he's resisting. With Sean there, I know he can see what's happening, so I feel much more confident about poking the bear.
When we finally got to the canter, Sean reminded me about moving Izzy's body around. On the right lead, that is getting easier and easier to do. I rode small circles, spiraled out to large circles, and leg yielded in the canter. As I leg yielded toward the rail, I realized that I had three choices: do a transition to trot, counter canter through the corner, or ask for the change on the rail. Without over thinking it, I ask for the change and got it. Izzy popped right over like we've been doing it for month. I brought him back to walk and gave him a ton of praise and a good walk break. Of the three of us, Sean, Izzy, and me, it was hard to tell who was happier. The video is from the next morning.
The right to left change, the one we had just done, is the easier of the two. The left to to right change is a whole other story. I did the same canter exercises, less successfully, and got a no way José when I asked for the change. I brought Izzy back to the walk and asked Sean what my plan of attack should be. We tried working on a right lead circle with a simple change to the counter lead, but Izzy quickly realized what was happening and refused to pick up the left lead on the circle tracking right.
Despite my strategy not working, it helped Sean get a good idea of where we are stuck. Essentially, Izzy doesn't want to fill up my right rein which means I can't straighten him in preparation for the change to the right. Sean's strategy was to go back to a true bend for the left lead canter, but he suggested I really wrap Izzy around my inside leg and over-flex him to unlock his neck. Izzy will get "round" but it's from shortening his neck, not actually being soft. As he gave on the smaller circle, I was able to straighten his neck, and like magic I could feel him on my outside rein.
For the next however long it takes, I've got some new homework. Leg yield into the flying lead change for the right to left, but focus on getting him on my right rein before I ask for the left to right change.
I love having goals, so this is good progress.
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%: