From Endurance to Dressage
After more than a month, I finally got to do a lesson this week with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. I don't know if the literal stars aligned, but the metaphorical ones sure did. For the first time in months my arena footing was dry and firm which gave me the entire space in which to work. Even though it was quite chilly - high 30s, it was a bright blue day with warm sunshine. My Pivo connection worked well which meant I could actually hear what Sean was saying. And as if all of that were not enough already, Izzy was focused and trying his heart out for me.
In fact, at the end of the ride, Sean actually used the word fabulous to describe both Izzy's work and my riding. I realize that might be a bit of a generous description, but I am going to take it. Izzy was nearly foot perfect for the entire ride. He had one or two spook into a canter moments, but being fabulous, I laughed as I added leg and rode the canter as though I had asked for it.
One of those brain fart moments came as I was asking for shoulder-in on the centerline. For those who might not know, the shoulder-in on the centerline shows up in Fourth Level from X to G. Sean asked me to ride it the entire length of the centerline. This isn't new for us, but it has been a month or two since I've been able to ride a shoulder-in at all with my rain shortened, 20x25-meter court. After easily riding the shoulder-in down the entire long side in both directions, Sean saw that we were more than ready.
For the shoulder-in left, Izzy did it quite well, but for the shoulder-in right, we had a few issues. The first being that he swung his haunches out rather than allowing me to move his shoulders off the centerline. After a quick chat with Sean, he helped me see that my outside leg wasn't holding the haunches in place. For the next try, I put my outside leg on and back which Izzy rightly read as GALLOP. I let him canter on for a bit before quietly bringing him back to trot and then walk; I didn't want him to think he had done anything wrong. I apologized to him, owning the mistake completely. Before we tried it again, I reassured him that the mistake was all mine and gave him a minute to settle. When we did it again, it became obvious that I need to work on my outside leg aid in the shoulder-in right. That's okay; I love homework.
Besides that little blooper, Izzy was perfect. We did some nice quality leg yields, we cantered, we rode some trot half passes that weren't terrible, I remembered to circle when he braced, and even the travers was more or less correct. As we were walking in the initial warm up, I told Sean that I was feeling anxious about the lesson - why? I don't know, but my need to not suck is pretty big. I asked if I could just ride like I have been while he gave me feedback, which he did. As we finished, he said that he was more than pleased with what he had seen. And that's when he threw out the word fabulous. Twice!
I am not one to let a compliment go to my head, but damn, we were fabulous, and I knew it. All of the work I've put in over the past month or two, along with Sean's coaching over the past two years, is really showing. Izzy's ears have never been this focused on me. He's reaching for the bit, and he's allowing me to move his body around as I ask more and more difficult questions. As we finished up with the lesson, I thanked Sean for all of his feedback and advice. And then without realizing what a profound statement it was, I rather cavalierly stated, I quit trying to succeed and rode my horse instead.
I could practically hear the smack as Sean did a facepalm. That's what I've been telling you! Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make his rider drink. What can I say? I am a slow learner!
And that's why this is Not-So-Speedy-Dressage ...
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%: