From Endurance to Dressage
Those three little words mean a lot when said by a 41 year old adult ammie. They mean, holy cow, why did this seem so hard before? And finally, finally we might start making some real progress!
I. Get. It. Steady contact is just that: contact that is even and consistent. Why was it so hard to feel before? Why has it taken me nearly three years to develop this feel? I can't be that stupid, can I?
If you're like me, riding something other than a school master and doing most of the training yourself, get yourself over to a dressage simulator pronto! Now I get why riding a school master is so encouraged. How else can you really feel it done correctly?
I was worried about forgetting the feel of connection that I felt while on the simulator. I needn't have worried. I think it's like knowing Santa's not real; once you know, you can't unknow it. Now don't get all worried. I didn't become this fantastic rider over the last week; I still suck most of the time. The key here is that I only suck most of the time now rather than all of the time. It's a great feeling!
Two "new" ideas also revealed themselves to me once I understood the feeling of connectedness. First was something that JL likes to say which finally makes sense: you bring the horse to you. I used to let Speedy jerk me around. Even when he wasn't actually jerking me, I allowed him to have his head and neck wherever he wanted them to be. Now, I think about bringing him to me and keeping him there. I am amazed at how much softer this had made him. I am able to do this by keeping my elbows bent and allowing them to move.
The second idea that finally clicked came from an article in Dressage Today by Jennifer Howard that addresses the horse who pulls (which is Speedy on occasion). "Instead of pulling, let the pull travel up your arms, down your back and sit on it. If a rider sits on that pull, he is using the core muscles of his whole body, which keeps your seat deep in the saddle, nullifying the pull."
I have ridden Speedy with these two "new" ideas in mind. Bringing him to me gives me permission to establish the bend and manage the pace. When he resists by speeding up or rooting his nose, I know that I can fix it by simply lengthening my spine and refusing to let him pull me forward. Instead, I focus on sitting on his pull. It works beautifully. When I rode on Saturday, we did some of the best loops and serpentines we've ever done! And as a bonus, our canter is really coming along.
I get it. I get it. I get it!
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%