From Endurance to Dressage
Man, I feel like that's where my life is constantly headed, sideways. I try to meet problems head on, but things have a tendency to go sideways, don't they. In this case, sideways is deliberate.
Saturday's lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, went just as well as they all do. In the days leading up to the lesson, Izzy had been a rockstar, so I was really looking forward to doing a bit of showing off. Not that I can fool Sean; he sees me every week, so even a decent renvers is going to come with a yes, much improved, now get more power.
Izzy though, had other plans. He wasn't horrible, but his panties were in a bit of a twist over something. There were more than a few grunts and sassy moments. Some of them were legit. The sprinklers that water the grass just past the C end of the arena came on, but one is broken so water erupted straight up much like having a personal Old Faithful. After that, a row of Rainbirds came to life in the small pasture just past the A end of the arena. With all of the phhht ... phhht ... sounds, it was no wonder Izzy was a bit on edge. Sean's comment to all of the shenanigans was a wry, but does he have to react so excessively?
Even with some spooking and awkward moments, Sean was able to talk to me about what he's looking for. More power is one thing, but that still eludes us, and it can't come until Izzy stops bracing. Not that eliminating the bracing is a new concept. Every once in a while, Sean will say, "I would still like to see him less braced." Uh, yeah, me too! The other thing Sean is looking for me to do more often is more transitions (definitely working on those already), more counter flexion (yep!) and more moving Izzy sideways.
We've been doing leg yields from the centerline to the rail, from the rail to the center line, out on the circle, and in on the circle. Sometimes we leg yield to the center line and then leg yield out on a circle. And all of that is at the trot. Now Sean is asking me to do more and more of it at the canter. When Izzy gets stuck, cantering a 20-meter circle with a braced neck and stiff back doesn't achieve anything.
Sean explained that leg yielding in the canter gets Izzy to focus more on what his body is doing rather than the imagined stuff happening outside of the arena. On Saturday, we played around with canter leg yields out of the corner. It's not a half pass because the neck is slightly counter bent and the body is straight. It's hard y'all. One way I like to do it is to leg yield to the quarter line (or centerline), and then do a half circle, still canter bent, to the rail and back to the same corner to do it again.
Another variation is to leg yield out of the corner, do a full circle at the quarter line, and then go straight ahead on the first quarter line to C and leg yield out of the next corner. Basically, Sean just wants me to get Izzy going sideways whether it is at the trot or canter. Adding in changes of direction are also good. Anything that gets his body bending and crossing his legs is a good thing.
While all of this seems tedious, it is anything but. I don't mind grinding out the "boring" stuff anymore. Instead of feeling like I am stuck at Training Level, I now see the basics as an avenue for helping Izzy instead of holding me back. Who cares where I am in the training if Izzy is struggling. As he gets softer, more balanced, and more powerful, things will only get more fun.
The basics are now my favorite thing to do.
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%: