From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy was busy this weekend. "J" took a lesson on Friday afternoon, and then "T" came out on Saturday morning. I don't know what J said to him, but Speedy came out rip roarin' on Saturday. He. Would. Not. Trot. I finally told T to just let him get it out, so instead of trotting, she let him canter big on the long sides while collecting him on the half circle at either end. She didn't use the whole length of the arena because I didn't want Speedy to get any ideas, but after a few minutes of that, he started to rethink his life choices. After blowing off a little steam, he was back to his schoolmaster self.
Since it had been a few weeks since T's last lesson, and since my repertoire of material is rather limited, I figured what was good for one lady was good for the other. We spent a few minutes working on some of T's body mechanics for good measure. She's still trying to feel Speedy's motion, so I draped his stirrups over his withers and had her ride at the walk with no stirrups. I wanted her to have a chance to focus on the way his belly sways back and forth. I also wanted her to feel whether or not she was allowing her arms to follow at the walk.
Since Speedy was feeling really fresh, I decided to try a new exercise with T that would make Speedy work hard so he could focus. It's something Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, showed me years ago. She called it the butterfly, and there are a lot of variations, but I had T ride it like this: From the long side, she trotted to C on a left bend, rode a tear drop back to the rail where she changed the bend and then made another half circle and tear drop at A back to the rail. It rides like a flat figure eight. Once she had the pattern down, we made it a little harder by throwing in a 10-meter circle at B each time she came back to the rail. In no time at all, Speedy's brain was re-engaged. It's a fun exercise that gets both rider and horse thinking.
The last time T had ridden Speedy, we worked on some leg yields. To the left, he was easy, but to the right he just wouldn't go sideways. When J was out a week or two back we worked on turns on the forehand, so I had T give it a go. Of course Speedy remembered me jabbing him in the ribs with the butt end of the whip when he started to ignore J's leg, so he was nice and respectful when T asked him to step over with his hind leg. Speedy being so responsive helped T feel what she needed to do with her outside rein to get the sideways movement we were looking for. The leg yields are still a work in progress, but progress is being made. Teaching someone else really helps reveal how challenging even the most beginning dressage movements really are.
I keep saying this, but "teaching" both T and J is also teaching me. Showing someone else how to do it really gives me a chance to articulate my own learning. I don't know everything, but I do know something. As a classroom teacher, kids will ask questions that I simply don't understand, but other kids do. I will frequently ask another student to explain what the first student was asking. Kids will quite frequently "get" the question because they're much closer to the learning than I am. It's not that a "real" trainer wouldn't understand the question, but I wonder if the ladies riding Speedy get a more digestible answer from me because I understand their question better. Or, if I don't understand it better, I might be able to better translate it because I've had that same question myself.
I know both T and J think I am doing them a huge favor, but the reality is that Speedy and I are getting far more from these lessons than they know. He needs the exercise, and he needs to feel useful. When they finish their rides, both ladies are so appreciative of his efforts, and he feels that. The frequent doling out of treats doesn't hurt either. Keeping Speedy happy and healthy is my number one priority, but if I also get something out of the lessons then they're even more beneficial. Finding something that makes all four us feel good is a win/win/win/win!
I am going to take advantage while it lasts!
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%: