From Endurance to Dressage
I have no rhythm. I can barely clap and stomp to Queen's "We Will Rock You." Really. (And this is pretty much my favorite song to listen to when I run, which anymore, is hardly ever.)
Who can't keep that beat? I fall more in the Elaine camp. This isn't too far off ...
Embarrassing, I know.
So when I told JL that I was now trotting three whole poles in succession, she suggested I set up four poles in a circle to both trot and canter. She loves this exercise because it presents the horse with repeated opportunities to get heavy and fall on the forehand or to stay light in the rider's hand and maintain the rhythm.
I was pretty cocky when I set up my circle. I had every intention of cantering the poles on day one. I walked Speedy over the poles during our warm up and then went and worked on my three poles in a row for a few minutes.
When that went pretty well, we ambled over to the circle of stupidity and gave it a quick look. I realized that it might be awkward to begin cantering outside of the circle and then try to kind of jump in. It reminded me of jumping rope where you can jump in. I realized that wasn't going to work. Huh. (That was a Mr. Obvious type of Huh, by the way. Bob and Tom listeners will get the reference).
I actually did the smart thing and asked Speedy for a trot. Holy Hell. When he got to the first pole, I swear to all that's holy he screamed, "Mother Forklift! Where did that thing come from?" as he leaped ten feet into the air. Just about the time we landed, he noticed the next pole and tried valiantly to save my life (and his) by torquing his body into a pretzel to miss the thing completely. As we approached pole number three, it occurred to me that I should start half halting or something. We clunked our way over that one which meant that pole number four was staring us in the face. I asked for a halt.
I realized that there was no way we'd be cantering those poles today. In fact, we probably shouldn't even trot them. Rather than give up, I shortened my reins and asked for a very slow motion trot - the very thing we'd worked on when the poles were in a line.
The first few circles were a bit chaotic, but little by little I started realizing that I had to ride every single stride. And if maintaining a rhythm over three poles in quick succession is important, it is even more so when the trot poles never end!
When we first started trotting, I didn't throw away my reins, good girl! Instead, I found another way to screw up. Since I didn't know how much room Speedy needed to clear the pole, I started hovering over the saddle as we got close to the pole so Speedy could get quicker or slow down as needed. ERRRRRR - wrong answer!
It took me only a few moments to realize that was totally wrong. When I had that little AHA, which turned out to be a bigger 'doh moment than I realized, I made the connection that the exercise is about developing length of stride while maintaining the rhythm. My rising trot was determining the RHYTHM. If I quit posting, Speedy was going to get quick or slow down. You can't develop a longer stride that way.
When I figured that out, I focused really hard on keeping a steady rhythm, which meant that I had to keep my rising rhythm no matter where Speedy was in relation to the pole. When I kept the rhythm, he lengthened his stride to clear the pole. Woot woot!
Once we got the rhythm down, he started focusing on the poles and adjusted his stride as needed. It was the most awesome ride. We tracked left for a few more minutes and then changed direction. He got it much quicker tracking right.
I can't wait to try this exercise again!
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%: