From Endurance to Dressage
I Love to Canter
... and so does Sydney. Who would have ever thought I'd utter those words? Not me, that's for sure.
Every time that I ride, his left lead canter just gets better and better. So does the right lead canter, but it's much farther behind. I know I should probably spend more time on it, but working to the left calms Sydney and makes him happy. I can literally feel the endorphins flowing through his body as he gets nice and balanced as we canter left. He gives these adorable little snorts and sighs as he works.
Right now, I am much more interested in helping him feel happy and successful while he works than I am in getting that right lead canter solid.
We had such a nice ride on Saturday morning. I started out on the lunge line with the reins over the saddle and under my stirrups; the side rein thing. He bucked a little and shook his head, but then he quickly got to work. I hopped on and planted my hands in my thigh, but he was feeling fresh and wanted to move out so I shortened the reins and asked for a trot. I could tell that he was bunching up, so I asked for the left lead canter.
I can't believe that I am using the canter to relax this horse, but that's what I am doing. His first few strides tried to be wild ones, but I gave a solid half halt and suggested that he swing his neck instead. When he knew I was there to help him balance, he took a deep sigh and got focused. We worked on canter spirals which help him balance and soften in a way that truly surprises me.
For the first time, I really felt how I could lift his shoulders with the outside rein. I rocked the outside rein at every stride and was delighted with how I could feel his withers coming up to me. With my outside leg also asking him to turn and lift, we developed a very nice left lead canter.
We spiraled in and out, cantered down the long sides, and came back to a nicely balanced trot. When he felt more relaxed, I changed direction and began tracking right. He is so incredibly stiff this way. Again, I let the geometry do the explaining as I made the circle smaller and smaller. It is amazing how effective this exercise is for him.
In no time, we were ready to pick up the canter. It was ugly, but not dangerous. I tried to bring him back to a trot, but Sydney knew what I was trying to do; he insisted that we continue with the canter. I focused on pushing his hind end away and weighting my outside stirrup. Eventually, his right side softened and he gave me a really nice bend as he lifted his back and reached forward.
And that was our Saturday ride. Sydney is a really nicely moving horse once you get past his tension and worry. I am having a lot of fun riding him this past few months and see some good stuff coming our way. Maybe we'll even make into the show ring!
I really like this post! Guinness as a tendency towards worry, and it can create a lot of tension, frustration and just plain awful rides. I think you are really on track here with aiming for calm and relaxed, instead of aiming towards a goal. I think you might be surprised at how far you get towards your goal by keeping training second and relaxation first.
2/25/2013 10:35:02 am
I am glad it resonated with you, Austen. My trainer has said much the same thing. She says that TBs get "lulled" by the repetition. When we work on softening circles, she says they become mesmerized by the rhythm. If I tried that with my Arab, he would kill us both from boredom. I am learning a lot about different breeds by riding a non-Arab. :0)
2/25/2013 10:36:23 am
We're getting there. It is much nicer to write about being relaxed and smiling than it is to write about fear and self doubt, maybe not as entertaining to read, but much easier to live! :0)
2/25/2013 10:36:45 am
We're working on it! :0)
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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.
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
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Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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