From Endurance to Dressage
That's what I told a friend the other day. She had posted something on Facebook about how great a recent lesson had been. She was excited about her learning, and I agreed with her which is why I described lessons as being better than tacos. If you live anywhere ranging from the Pacific Southwest to Texas, you know how good tacos are. The rest of you might be thinking anything is better than a taco, but that's because you might not be eating TACOS.
New England has its clam chowder, the south has gumbo and grits, but it is the southwest that makes tacos - carne asada, pollo, shrimp, or my favorite, carnitas. Not much beats a street taco filled with carnitas, diced onions, cilantro, and a quirt of lime served in a steaming hot tortilla. Not much except a dressage lesson.
I had to work on Saturday - I am doing all I can to generate funds to support a summer show season, so I had my weekly lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage on Sunday instead. For once, we worked on "stuff" instead of trying to soothe Izzy's delicate sensibilities. Sean would say that I was simply enjoying the fruits of my labor. I wouldn't disagree.
Over the past several months, we have been working really hard to figure out where Izzy's tension is coming from. We haven't won the war yet, but I am winning battles week after week. After my last big DOH! moment, riding Izzy has been a lot more fun.
For this lesson, Sean commented that he wanted to see more energy. I'll admit that I've been sacrificing energy for softness. Sean agreed that that strategy was something we had needed over the past year, but now, Izzy is ready to handle a sharper leg that says let's go. To get that added energy though, I am going to have to sacrifice the softness again. Sean explained that it's okay because we're now in a place where I can get that softness back within just a moment or two.
One thing we've been struggling with is holding the canter, especially if I ask for a turn up the quarter line. Izzy has been dropping the canter because it's just too sluggish. He doesn't have enough activity to carry his own weight through the corner. It feels a lot like driving a car too slowly in too high of a gear; he just stalls out and falls flat. Sean directed me to give him a kick to send him forward, and once I did, Izzy started to generate a bit more energy that helped carry him through the tighter turn up centerline.
My new homework, or at least part of it, is to start asking for more energy in both the trot and canter while also getting the softness back. Over the past few months, I've developed a new feel for when Izzy is feeling off balance which is why I've let the energy sort of wane. It's hard to balance yourself when you feel as though you're being run off your feet.
I was also able to show Sean my progress with asking Izzy questions. Riding with the idea of asking whether he can do this or do that has helped me keep control without making Izzy feel as though I've yanked it from him. As we were beginning our canter work to the left, Sean had to watch me go round and round as Izzy and I "talked" about it. I could feel that we were not going to get a balanced canter departure, so there was no sense in asking for it. Instead, we trotted a 20-meter circle with me asking if he could flex left and then right.
I simply kept asking the question. I could feel that he didn't want to take the inside left rein, so I kept asking for some counter flexion to see if I could move him off the right rein so that he could balance between both reins. Sure enough, with no theatrics, Izzy finally gave me control, and we had a quiet canter transition. I was grinning from ear to ear. I did that. I made that happen. I couldn't have done it without Sean's coaching, but I did it! Sean's lessons are starting to fit together to create a clearer picture of what he sees we can become.
Like I said, better than a taco. Well, all except that renvers part we've started working on.
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%