From Endurance to Dressage
Flying Changes and Getting a Walk
I've made a few changes in my riding routine that are making me so much happier. I really hate complaining about a First World problem - having too many horses, but when we live a life that is so dependent on a clock, time becomes as valuable as any other resource.
For most of my adult life, and even as a teenager, I've had two horses. While it was difficult to keep two endurance horses fit at the same time, it was more about choosing who to ride each day and for how long. It was rare to ride both in a single day.
When I made the switch to dressage, it seemed silly to ride for 45 minutes and go home. I was used to riding 4 - 5 hours at a time. That's when I started riding two horses a day. I've been doing that pretty regularly for four years. I am finally tired of it.
I realized that I was rushing through my rides to get them done along with all of my other chores: feeding, cleaning stalls, caring for tack, doctoring, and so on. For the past month, I've given myself permission to ride only one horse each day without feeling guilty about it. Riding is once again fun and the chores seem like a lot less work.
Speaking of fun, I had some really interesting rides on both boys over the weekend. Speedy and I are chipping away at a few things we're going to need for Second Level. For me, that's the sitting trot. I am working on it, and I had some really good moments this weekend, but I have a long to go if I want to sit a trot lengthening.
For Speedy, I need to get a canter to walk transition. The walk to canter is there. It might not get a 7 or an 8, but at least I can get it every time on both leads. Chemaine had me doing some great exercises to teach Speedy to sit so that he can go from canter to walk. This weekend, he gave me several clear canter to walk transitions. They definitely need to be straighter, but they were round and clean. Chalk one up for Team Speedy.
With Izzy, I've been working on the canter: getting it, maintaining it, and steering it. Over the weekend, his left lead was pretty spot on, and he did it without the usual tantrum, although he thought about it. I counted that as definite progress.
To the right, the rodeo continued, but there was a difference. After the work that we had done with Chemaine, I had much better control of the outside shoulder and was able to keep him tracking right without ever losing him to the left. With control of the shoulder, I also started to get control of his haunches.
Each time his haunches fall out, he does a flying change to get on the left lead. Instead of bringing him back to trot and reorganizing, I have been able to counter flex him and push his haunches in. The result is that I get a flying lead change back onto the right lead.
So as we cantered a 30-meter circle tracking right, he could hold the right lead until we came to the gate side of the arena. If I wasn't careful enough, I would lose his haunches to the outside and he would swap to a left lead. Without missing a beat, I counter-flexed him, pushed my inside seat bone forward, pushed my outside leg back, and asked for the right lead canter. He got the flying change every time.
Ideally, I'd rather catch his haunches before I lose them, but I love that he is slowly figuring out my aids and that he is really trying. And if nothing else, it's kind of cool to feel how easy the flying change is for him!
Of course, that was this weekend, last night was a hot mess to the right. One step forward ... two steps back.
1/5/2016 06:49:04 am
I'd feel sorry for you about getting flying changes accidentally on purpose, but... nope. It's still a flying change and I'm still jealous. ;)
1/5/2016 05:43:54 pm
Thanks, but riding a horse with wildly swapping leads is a bit of a challenge! And don't get the impression that these are lovely lead changes - they are all over the place, but I guess you're right. At least he CAN change leads. :0)
Yea... I'm with jenj, I'd feel bad for you getting all those prompt changes accidently on purpose... but nope. I've got some jealous going on too. He's going to really be something though! "Let me evade you by doing a flying change." Haha, I know it's not very funny, and I'm sure it will get old quickly, but it's neat to know it is that easy for him. BTW Speedy look soooo different in that picture above!!
1/5/2016 05:46:25 pm
Oh my gosh - you've made me feel SOOOO much better, Jan. I am actually quite discouraged about that stupid right lead. Looking at it with a different perspective, as in - Oh WOW, look at those great changes! has made me feel better. Yes, it might be a serious pain in the butt right now, but you are right. Knowing how effortless it is for him to make the change is actually a good thing.
1/5/2016 05:47:50 pm
EXACTLY!!!!!! It does take a lot of time. And you're right, it's not the time in the saddle, it's all of the time before and after.
1/5/2016 05:49:28 pm
Um ... yeah I am thrilled?!?! Right now, I need a few good moments to get me through this one. That right lead is wearing me out. Like you say, I keep focusing on how "decent" the left has gotten as it used to be nearly as bad.
1/5/2016 05:51:13 pm
Speedy adored her. She wasn't so infatuated with him, but she tolerated him. I guess I should have been specific when I asked the "big guy" for lead changes. Next time I'll be a lot more clear in my request. How about changes ONLY when I ask for them?!?!?
Take a note from my book of life lessons, DON'T GET FLUSTERED WITH THOSE CHANGES! That'll just bite you in the butt later. Take them, don't react AT ALL, canter forward. Then bring him down to a trot/walk after a minute or two and really work on him understanding your canter depart aids ("this means left lead" vs "this means right lead") and apply the canter depart aid during the canter. It'll take time, but not as much time as dealing with possible emotional issues stemming from being unsure about the change. Take the change. Love the change. The canter aids can be taught soooo much easier. :)
1/11/2016 12:39:03 pm
No worries here. We've been working on the canter for a couple of months and he's showing good improvement. He now understands the cue for left lead (most of the time), but bending right is a challenge so he wants to always use the left lead.
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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.
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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