From Endurance to Dressage
I knew it was of course. Whenever there's a glitch in our forward progress, I know it's most likely my fault. I wrote about the last glitch a few weeks ago and have since been working to resolve it. Christian Schacht, the clinician with whom I rode last weekend, gave me a few more tools to help me work on the problem, and they turned out to be magical.
For most of last week, I was either tired from the clinic, or working on something (it's a biggie) that took priority over riding. I didn't ride Izzy (or Speedy, for that matter) again until Friday afternoon. I wasn't worried that he was going to be a monster or anything, but I wondered if I could get the same quality of throughness that Christian had helped me achieve at the clinic.
Spoiler alert: I did. We did. It was awesome.
As soon as I got on, I started listing the 50 states in alphabetical order. I kept my eyes off of my horse and didn't think bout riding. Izzy tried to lurch into a trot, but I refused to follow him with my seat. He walked. And then he walked a lot more. When he a took a deep breath and exhaled, I knew I was on the right track.
The rides we've had since the clinic have been amazing. Some of the mental exercises that Christian gave me didn't work while riding by myself, so I changed them up or found some that worked better for me. Right now, the one that is working the best is counting.
I discovered that Izzy's tension had to be coming from me. While I ride, I focus on every single thing that he is doing wrong, and I try to correct all of it at once. I don't pay nearly as much attention to what I am doing wrong. By counting, I am not working on Izzy. I am only establishing a very consistent tempo. It also forces me to ride better.
When I am counting, I have to think about myself. Is my rhythm steady? Am I pugging my butt into the saddle on the sit moment of the rising trot? Am I holding the rhythm when he tries to speed up?
If I feel my attention start to wander, I change my counting pattern. Instead of counting to 20, I'll count to 16 and try to get back to 1 without missing a beat. Then I'll start over and count to 12, 18, and back to 20.
I count silently, and I don't work on anything else except maintaining a steady tempo. If Izzy throws his head up, I just keep my hands steady without asking for anything. As long as my riding rhythm is steady, he settles back down immediately.
I also hear Christian telling me to let my arms be soft. I can now feel when I am bracing. By maintaining the rhythm with my seat, I don't need to hold him back with my arms. It's much easier to be soft in your shoulders and arms when your seat and core are engaged.
I also keep my eyes in the middle of the circle. I don't look at what he's looking at, and I don't look for what might spook him. He's been a lot less looky when I am not looking around.
Christian also gave me some help with out canter work. I have difficulty getting Izzy ready for the canter. He knows this and so anticipates the departure. Quite often the cycle spirals out of control until I have to just stop and reboot. Christian's method for picking up the canter is a simple one: just canter.
I found that Izzy once again tried to anticipate the departure and quickened his tempo in response. Rather than allow it, I simply resisted his movement and held the tempo I wanted. When he was once again trotting nicely, I simply gave a little scoop with my seat and we were cantering. And it was fabulous!
The first time we cantered, I could feel that it was about to get a bit wild, but Christian once again saved me: Sit back, point your belly into the circle. As soon as I sat back and pointed my belly, Izzy rocked back and got softer. Once my position was better, I could milk the reins and help him keep his balance.
That clinic with Christian has definitely helped my riding. It wasn't so much about not thinking about riding, but more about not thinking about EVERYTHING while riding. I feel like Christian has helped me to soften my laser like intensity. Didn't Sally Swift advocate riding with "soft eyes?" I feel like I am now riding softer throughout my whole body, not just my mind's eye.
I can't wait to see where this all goes!
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%