From Endurance to Dressage
Half Halt to a Longer Neck
Taking two lessons a month rather than one every six weeks has really helped me tackle Izzy's special ... uh ... "needs". If Speedy and I see Chemaine for "marriage counseling," Izzy and I see her for behavioral therapy. His, not mine!
In a nut shell, we did one exercise for the entire session: bend for lateral flexion, half halt for vertical flexion, wait until he begs for a stretch down. Here's why we needed to do that.
It's such an ugly picture that I hate to even show it. As Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, explained it - the movements are easy for this horse. Stretching down is not. She's not kidding; he can do anything you ask. Lateral movements are cake for him. Collection is a walk in the park. Shoulder in, haunches in ... to where and for how long? However, letting that neck get long and low is not in his play book.
While I cringe when I do this exercise, lateral flexion with vertical flexion, it has become very easy to see why it works with this horse. I know it always looks as though I am jamming Izzy's nose into his chest, and you probably thinks that's why his stride is so short and choppy - let the horse move out! - but it's really him putting himself into that jammed up neck frame. I can drop my reins, flutter my reins, shake my reins, and he keeps his chin to his chest.
To get Izzy to want to stretch forward and down, Chemaine had me over-flex him to the inside while firmly half halting on the outside rein so that I created a boatload of vertical flexion. Think rollkur flexion. I know, ugly, right? Stay with me though.
The outside rein did four tasks: 1) it slowed him down, 2) brought his outside shoulder in, 3) it got him round over his back, and 4) it helped him focus. Stride after stride I asked him if he wanted to stretch forward. The moment he said yes, please let me stretch, I fed him as much rein as he would take.
Since Izzy is so powerful in his hind end, the canter work is much easier. We worked on much the same thing, but at that gait it's more about telling him that he doesn't get to "take me," - I'll let let him know what pace I want. Enter the outside rein. As in the trot work, I flex him to the inside, but then I take that outside rein to slow him down, tuck his shoulder back in line, get him round over his back, and redirect his attention back on me.
So that's my homework for the next week. Over bend, half halt, and ask him if he wants to stretch down. When I rode him on Monday, he gave the stretch down immediately. Now, we just need to get it when he's excited.
2/21/2018 04:58:03 am
Some of us, ahem - me!, have more than most. LOL
2/15/2018 03:39:05 pm
Could you explain how overflexion like this isn't rollkur? Because I didn't quite get that. My guy also has a major tendency to get short in the neck and tight in the back (also has a nasty bolt in him) and pulling on the reins is almost always a bad idea, especially in anything more than a fat snaffle. I'm a big believer of riding back to front so I'm struggling with the amount of pressure in these concepts. Maybe you can enlighten me.
2/21/2018 05:01:29 am
In my understanding the thing that sets rollkur apart from long, deep, and round is the application of force and the length of time the position is held. In the exercise that I am using, Izzy initiates nearly all of the over flexion himself, I am simply straightening him and showing him how to lower his neck. The flexion lasts only a stride or two as he quickly asks to stretch down, which I encourage and allow.
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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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