From Endurance to Dressage
I am asking, not telling. "J" has been riding Speedy weekly since last winter. There was a lot she needed to learn, so I was able to avoid working on the leg yield until now.
Last Saturday, after she warmed Speedy up, I stepped in and helped her understand why he was so heavy in her hand. It is amazing how much someone on the ground can see. When I ride, I try a variety of fixes for whatever the issue is, but without mirrors or someone telling me what they see, it really can be a guessing game.
As clear as day, I could see that J was asking Speedy to be rounder in front, but since his back was hollow and his legs were nowhere in the picture, he simply couldn't carry himself. To fix it, I had her do a dozen or more walk to trot transitions where she kept his hind end marching smartly from the walk to the trot to the walk again. In just minutes, Speedy was stepping under with his hind legs, and as a result he got light in J's hand. I only wish I could "fix" all of Izzy's problems so easily.
With Speedy thinking "forward" and traveling well balanced in J's hand, I told her it was time to try the leg yields. In education, we use a technique called "front loading." It's one of those seeing the forest so you can later see the trees type of ideas. When a student gets a sense of the overall plan, sometimes that helps her see the purpose. With that in mind, I explained the aids of the leg yield and demonstrated the movement while walking on the ground.
To make it easier, I had J leg yield from the quarter line to the rail at B. She and Speedy did it perfectly on the first try. Then I asked for a leg yield from the quarter line to P. Again, Speedy made it to the rail without any fuss. Since that went so well, I instructed her to leg yield from the centerline to M, and that's when the wheels fell off the bus.
The leg yield is the first thing I have tried to teach that just didn't go well. It doesn't help that Speedy hates lateral work. And when I say hates it, I mean he really hates it. No matter how many ways I tried to explain that the leg yield is a movement that goes more sideways than forward, J just couldn't get Speedy's hind end to move. Each time she tried, Speedy just rode the line diagonally with his haunches trailing.
We tried it from the walk. We tried it with me walking alongside tapping with the whip when Speedy didn't respond to her leg. We tried doing turns on the forehand so that J could see how much outside rein she needed to prevent Speedy from plowing forward instead of sideways. I even tried walking alongside using the outside rein for her. I yelled MORE LEG. MORE REIN. NOPE NOPE NOPE. START AGAIN. Nothing helped.
In the end, me yelling it more loudly was about as effective as speaking loudly to someone who doesn't speak your language. They can HEAR you, they just don't understand, and saying it more loudly isn't going to change that. We finally called it a day, both of us determined to figure it out next time.
Fortunately, J took it in stride and never got frustrated with me and my yelling. I got frustrated with my inability to come up with a solution though and will be doing some research. How do you teach someone a feeling if they can't ever put the horse in the right position to get the feeling? A conundrum for sure.
I see some leg yields on the circle in our next lesson. At least I won't have to yell from so far away.
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%