From Endurance to Dressage
Something sort of clicked this weekend while I was riding Izzy. I've been looking over my show schedule wondering if he'll ever be ready to officially head down center line in front of a judge. All of a sudden, it hit me like a ton of bricks: he will never be ready if I continue to think of him as a green bean.
If I want to show Izzy, I need to get him ready for the level at which I want to show. I would prefer to start out at Training Level of course, but given how unconfirmed the canter is right now, I should probably aim for a few walk/trot classes first, and then ease him into the canter work at Intro C.
On Saturday, I continued to work on installing a right lead. He picks up the left lead fairly consistently, but it's still rushed and zoomy. It doesn't take too long before I can balance him though. I played around with spiraling in, spiraling out, and cantering the long sides. Straightness on the long side is still an issue, but I am thrilled that we can now canter in a somewhat organized fashion - to the left.
Getting the right lead is still troublesome, but in better news, he has a spectacular flying lead change. Izzy is not as bendy to the right which makes tracking right a challenge, especially at the canter. Once he can get an edge on me by shifting his hind quarters even slightly out, the shoulder starts to blow out and then he can't turn right. This is when he does a lead change to the left.
Dragging his head to the right does nothing but shoot his hindquarters even farther to the outside. Putting him in a counter bend works sometimes, but then he falls on his inside shoulder. The most effective tool I have right now is to try and catch his hindquarters before I lose them. When this fails, and he's already made the lead change, I simply counter bend him and asked for the flying change by re-asking for a right lead canter (outside leg back/inside hip forward).
The first time he lost the left lead and I asked for a change to the right, he blew me off completely and tried to bolt for the gate on the left lead. We had just ridden the neighborhood a day or so before so I was still feeling uber confident about riding out at any Oh, sh#t! moments. I sat up asked for the right lead while I smacked him in the outside shoulder with the whip. He gave a HUGE flying lead change along with some fancy airs above the ground. I laughed in complete delight - silly boy!
Don't misunderstand, he didn't get smacked because he wouldn't change leads. Instead, he had grabbed the rein and was ignoring all of my aids indicating he should either slow down or turn right. His number one evasion is to grab the right rein from me and bolt to the left. The whack on the shoulder comes after I have asked with my seat, legs, and rein aids. When all else fails, I whack his shoulder to say get off of my outside leg.
The next time he swapped to a left lead, I again asked for the right lead with a gentle reminder with the whip to not run through my outside aids. Before long, he was holding the right lead. It was wild and wooly and I had to ride it in two-point, but he held the lead and let me get some inside bend.
I rode him again on Sunday, but I decided to leave the canter for another day and focused on the movements at Introductory and Training Level: 20-meter circles and long trots across the diagonal. I had him trot down the long side with a 20-meter circle at B and then crossed the diagonal for another 20-meter trot circle at E. I did this a few times and then changed it up by not crossing the diagonal but doing another 20-meter circle at B/E.
Now that I am competing at First Level and schooling Second Level, I am so grateful for the thinking behind the Introductory and Training Level tests. The slow changes of direction, large circles, and long lines are just what green beans need.
I was really, really happy with how well he worked, I could put him anywhere I wanted without any shenanigans. I can now see what we need to work on. He needs to be steadier in the bridle, he needs to be better balanced in the corners with more effective half halts (quit running through my aids, Mister!), and we need a much better trot to walk to halt transition.
After running through the trot work, I finished up by doing a million walk to halt transitions followed by a few minutes of trot to walk. By the end of the ride, he was doing a much better job with the downward transitions.
If I am not careful, I may end up with a Training Level horse before I know 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%