From Endurance to Dressage
I haven't written much about the big brown horse lately, but that's because things have been sailing along quite smoothly. I put in a lot of rides over the summer that must have finally done the job. Over the fall, things clicked into place for him. This spring, our rides have been about improving the connection and working toward getting a longer stride.
I am tackling the stride thing two ways. First, before I even start grooming, I do some "body work" with Izzy. I flex his neck towards his rib cage, stretching only as far as he wants to go. As he loosens up, he usually starts reaching further and further so that I have to back up. His incentive, no, it's not a carrot, is getting to grab some part of my clothing. He'll stretch a mile if he thinks he can nip my t-shirt.
I follow that stretch with a jaw/poll wiggle with his head hanging straight down. I nearly always get a variety of pops and cracks from his poll when we do that. He seems to enjoy it. I also cross a hind leg in front of the other to get a hamstring stretch. He'll hold the stretch by himself, but not for long. That stretch is boring without any opportunity for playing with me.
The second thing I am doing to increase stride length is actively riding with a long and low frame in mind. Everything we do now MUST be done with a longer neck. When we leg yield, I am focusing on doing it with a long neck and then a big step from behind. If his neck isn't long, I half halt until he'll stretch down.
And that's where the half halt to the hind leg comes in. Since Izzy wants to keep his neck so short, my half halts weren't doing anything. With a short neck, his stride just gets shorter and quicker. To remedy that, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, had me think about half halting all the way through to his hind leg.
She's been saying that for however long, but I finally got it. Simply tugging with the outside rein isn't enough. When he actually transfers more weight to the hind, he can slow his front end which allows him to stretch down without falling on his face. If I don't feel a difference in how he's going, we didn't achieve a half halt. Another palm to face moment.
Over the weekend I got a really good feel for it at the canter. I half halted until I felt his hind leg through the rein. It was as though that outside rein was actually connected to his leg. I don't think I've ever had that sensation before.
The work we're doing now is fun; it's not about just trying to stay on. We're actually working together as a team to build something exciting. We may actually make it to Training Level someday!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%