From Endurance to Dressage
Back when I was still riding with JL, the hunter/jumper trainer in my neighborhood, I had a lesson twice a week. I knew I had it good. Her barn is walking distance, her lessons are relatively cheap, and she rarely reschedules.
These days? I have to drive two and a half hours to get a lesson. By dressage standards, the lessons are moderately priced, but I also have to add in the price of gas and the haul-in fee. I am pretty much down to a lesson once a month. They're great lessons though, so the cost and effort are worth it.
Today, I have two issues that I want to address. First, I want a specific exercise (more would be good) to pull out when Izzy has lost his cookies and just can't concentrate. I want something that I can use to unlock his tension and redirect his focus on me.
I am asking because I had two rides over the past week where he was so tense that his neck was ten inches shorter than normal and his back felt painfully uncomfortable to sit on. I tried everything in my arsenal, but I never did get relaxation. He behaved (eventually), but he never relaxed.
The second thing I want to check on is whether he is accepting the outside rein better than he had been. I know he is, but I want to see where we are in that department. Of course, if we can't work through the tension issue, the lack of throughness is really hard to address.
I better hit the road. See you tomorrow!
7/5/2016 07:58:27 am
This may or may not help, I've had great luck with it so far with my guy. I've been taking lessons from this guy who taught me a "relax" command for my guy. He was also bunching up through his neck & back with tension.
7/8/2016 06:21:59 am
Thanks, Jamie. That's not quite what Chemaine had me do, but it's along the same idea. She had me hold the half halt until he relaxed. It's hard to do because a half halt feels like it should be quick, not a long hold. She explained that once he gets the idea, I'll be able to release more quickly which is similar to what your trainer was saying. :0)
7/8/2016 06:23:22 am
Don't you love it? It's like the wheels never even get a chance to fall off the bus! It seemed like the steps forward were smaller and closer together, but there weren't many backwards steps!
7/5/2016 02:20:59 pm
My Arabian mare gets super tense and literally do teeny tiny serpentines until she relaxed. Like make the turn, one straight step, turn and so on up and down my arena. Learned this one from a Monty Roberts clinic I attended. Once I did that until she released was the first time I've ever gotten a lipstick mouth out of her!
7/5/2016 02:23:21 pm
Wow, that first sentence was tragic... it should read "my Arabian mare gets super tense and we literally do teeny tiny serpentines until she relaxes"
7/8/2016 06:32:42 am
I love serpentines, especially the teeny tiny ones! In fact, that's my number one go-to. As we do them I vocalize how much I LOVE THEM to Izzy. I say ... "Oh, goodie! We get to do my favorite teeny tiny circles. Don't you just LOVE them?!!?! And then I smile and relax my body and act like it is the funnest thing ever. It doesn't always work, but it works better than most things. :0)
7/6/2016 10:34:32 am
I'm looking forward to your lesson report! I have a similar issue with tension/focus and am definitely on the lookout for new tools! :)
7/8/2016 06:24:27 am
I am not sure that thinking/riding for a piaffe is helpful to most horses (Speedy wold have a melt down), but it certainly worked for Izzy!
7/8/2016 05:15:54 am
I found turn on forehand (whatever one is where you make he haunches move around) is helpful. It takes a few of them, and isn't a magic bullet, but decreases the level of tension quite effectively.
7/8/2016 06:27:55 am
Those are all very helpful exercises, and I do them with Izzy too, especially the changes of direction. When he is jacked up and his heck is really short though, nothing was really doing the trick. The piaffe idea really did the trick with him. :0)
7/8/2016 10:17:10 am
He's going to be a tough nut to crack, but once you figure this guy out you'll be leaps and bounds ahead (learning wise) on training all other horses. What a great learning experience!
My horse isn't tense really, but something I found helpful was that my trainer hummed a tune whenever he did downward transitions with him, so whenever I hum, my horse slows, though he isn't to break gait unless I give other cues as well. I think it helps me breathe, thus relax, thus he relaxes as well. :)
7/8/2016 06:29:49 am
I have tried that before, but mostly for myself! Like many riders, I hold my breath when things get tense. Humming or singing forces me to breathe. Me breathing certainly helps reduce tension, especially my own! :0)
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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)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: