From Endurance to Dressage
Since my lessons have moved to Monday evenings, I am finding it hard to write about them while they're still fresh in my mind. Even though it's late as I write this, I really want to get something down on "paper" so that I won't forget the important points of the instruction.
Speedy likes to travel behind the bit. It has proven to be a difficult training issue. No matter how much leg I employ, he just gets rounder and rounder until I feel as though I am riding a headless horse. This prevents any throughness from happening.
Last week, JL had us working to the right. Speedy doesn't get as behind the bit in this direction, but when he does, the fix is fairly simple: if he comes behind the vertical, I simply give a tug on the outside rein with added leg until he engages behind and gets his nose back where it should be. I had to be very consistent, but in a short while, he understood the rules.
After that lesson, tracking right became much easier. I could feel better activity behind, and I had a visual reference for when he dropped behind the vertical. Tracking left proved to be a bigger challenge.
Jl had a solution: as we track left, I keep my hands ridiculously high. Not very "dressagey," I know, but it worked. Speedy hated the exercise at first. But as I insisted that he keep his head higher, his footfalls got quieter and he got softer in my hands. JL explained it like this: Speedy has to learn that he can't escape the contact. Dropping behind the vertical means that he doesn't have to use his hind end.
As we traveled to the left, Speedy tried everything he could to get his nose down to his chest. I just insisted that he keep his nose in front of the vertical. Sometimes I spread my hands wider, sometimes I had to give a tug on the inside rein, and sometimes I simply had to halt him with the outside rein.
After being seriously consistent and insisting that he stay in front of my leg, Speedy quit fighting and figured out that I wasn't going to let him escape the contact. Victory! It felt great to have a horse with activity behind who was actually really striding out.
As we repeated the circle, I finally started to feel when he was "stalling out" in the hind end. A little spur and a lift of the inside rein to remind him to get his head up got him working from behind again.
I know this all seems counter productive: who wants their horse to get his head up? But when Speedy's nose is so far behind the vertical, there is no way to ask for any kind of extension or collection. With a little more practice, I think Speedy will be happier with this change to our riding. I just have to work on being very, very consistent in not allowing him to drop behind the vertical.
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%