From Endurance to Dressage
While it might seem as though the gray pony has become the center of my world, he hasn't; much to his dismay, I am sure. Sydney is being worked and ridden just as much as ever. As proof, here's what we worked on last week.
When we got home from the show on Sunday night, I made sure to unload everything carefully and completely as I had a lesson on Sydney on Monday morning. Our goal has been to stretch Sydney's comfort level enough to get a bit of a rise from him. We're not trying to irritate him, but we do need to challenge him enough so that he learns to work under pressure; Last Monday's lesson accomplished that.
It felt like a simple concept.
After working at the exercise for a while, it became clear that Sydney was becoming frustrated, no doubt caused by my inability to correctly coordinate the aids. We moved on to the trot, but he was tense and stiff. In many ways, this is what we were hoping for. This gave me an opportunity to work on softening and suppling when he's tense and rigid. Within a few minutes, we had a rhythmical trot that was quiet and balanced.
The next morning, I started our ride with the same lift the front end exercise. We worked at it for 10 or so minutes and then moved on to our trot work. Each minute that I rode him, his energy level rose until he was nearly frantic. I spent the next 40 minutes trying to get some level of relaxation from him. I used every exercise I know: canter, swing/rock the rein, a quick halt, transitions, etc. Finally, he just sort of gave in and let loose of the tension. I called it a day and quit.
I gave him Wednesday off to think things over, and then did a very quick and stress free ride on Thursday doing only some basic walk, trot, canter with no tricks. On Friday, we went back for another lesson. I explained to JL what had happened, especially while trying to pick up a right lead canter: so much resistance that he just wouldn't/couldn't get the lead until the very, very end when he had "given up."
After a bit of a trot warm-up, she told me to pick up the right lead canter. As I knew he would, he went back to his old trick of collapsing his body and pivoting to the right. I straightened him out and tried again. He got the lead, but it was ugly. Right away JL could see where the problem was.
To the left, Sydney is "easy" to ride because he's stiff. I can push him out with my inside leg, use the outside rein to lift and half halt, and pulse with my inside rein to ask for some softness. To the right, I've been using the same aids which work if he's relaxed and balanced, but when he's tense, it feels as though I am riding a rolling log (we roll right and left).
Since he's very limp to the right, JL suggested little or no inside leg; I already have more bend than I know what to do with. Instead, I need to help rebalance him with lots of outside rein and outside leg. The outside rein holds him up so he doesn't fall off the balance beam (since he wants to fall off to the right). My outside leg keeps his haunches from falling out and helps make the turn. When he's feeling more balanced, I can start asking him to let go through his neck with a small amount of inside rein. To the right, it becomes inside rein to outside leg.
Within a very short time of riding with little to no inside leg, I finally got a relatively uphill, right lead canter. He was so light that I could drop one rein at a time and he was able to maintain the bend and carry himself. What a lovely feeling!
We have a follow up lesson this morning.
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%: