From Endurance to Dressage
It has been months since I've had an AHA! while riding. During Tuesday night's lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, only the third since the beginning of June, I had a big one!
With Sean watching and offering feedback here and there, I warmed Izzy up and then moved on to some canter work. Compared to just a week ago, Izzy's canter is much improved. He was already so much more balanced that I was able to leg yield in the canter and do a few transitions without him running through my aids. Sean thought Izzy looked balanced enough for me to ask for a flying change. I didn't then, but we did school it later.
Then we move on to the lateral work. As always, the shoulder in needed more ... more inside bend, more forward, more sitting to the inside. We then moved onto the travers which was made better after some coaching from Sean. I sometimes like to pull on the inside rein; even through the video Sean can can call me out on it. After riding travers on the long side, I turned it into a half pass by riding the travers across the diagonal. It wasn't much of a travers, or half pass, as Izzy's haunches were trailing.
This was a problem I had with Speedy. The lateral work is much easier for Izzy, but even so, I just couldn't get his haunches in the conversation. That's when Sean suggested I use my inside leg to do a bit of leg yield. I don't know about you, but I could not wrap my brain around how to do that.
When riding a half pass, the horse is bent in a slight banana-shape and then travels toward the direction of the bend. In half pass left, for example, the horse is bent left with haunches bent left. The rider sits on her left seat bone, inside leg at the girth and outside leg swept back. The inside rein indicates the bend while the outside hand comes back to help move the outside leg in. With the horse in position, you trot across a diagonal with the end point between the horse's ears. According to Sean, the half pass is really just a travers ridden on a diagonal instead of the long side.
Sean wanted me to use my inside leg to leg yield instead of do the half pass, but only for a moment. Once I over exaggerated the moment by actually leg yielding two strides, that big aha lightbulb popped over my head. I felt what Sean needed me to feel, but I didn't understand what to do with it. Sean never leaves me hanging though.
He explained that at the moment, Izzy's shoulders are falling in on the half pass which sends his haunches out, or trailing. By doing a moment of leg yield, I am standing Izzy back up on his shoulders so that his hind end can come around and join the party rather than being left trailing out behind. With Sean's explanation, the AHA! was much bigger. One aha! a year makes it all worth it; one a week is a game changer!
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%: