From Endurance to Dressage
Sydney and I went for our regular Monday afternoon lesson, but none of us, trainer included, were super excited about it. Summer has hit California's central valley hard and simply refuses to leave. It was 97 ℉. Not only was it hot for me in my tank top, but poor Sydney has the first growth of his winter coat. Who can blame the guy for being behind the leg?
Not wanting Sydney to over-heat, I hosed him off throughly before I even put him in the cross ties. By the time we walked down to the ring, he was nearly dry, but he also felt cool to the touch. A slight breeze had picked up and cooled him off nicely.
I told JL that I wanted to work on long and low, but she suggested we mix it up since when I am at a show (HAHAHAHA), I am not going to get long and low. Instead I get a short neck, choppy stride, and zero impulsion. She's helping me develop a strategy to unlock his neck so that he can lengthen his stride and move forward, particularly when we're a show.
We did our regular warm-up walk where I flexed his neck to both sides and moved him laterally. He's getting really happy about this work. Then I shortened the reins and asked for a trot. Of course, he worked quite nicely in both directions which made it tough to work on tension. That's okay, I was happy for the good work and praised him enthusiastically. We took a short walk break and moved on to the canter.
He knows when the trot work is just trot work and when the trot work is going to lead to the canter. He immediately tensed up, which was good for me because we finally got to mix it up. Mixing it up means trying to supple him for a few strides, but if he doesn't let go, I have to move on to something totally different to get him to let go through his neck and poll.
As soon as he got tense, JL hand me plant my inside hand on my thigh and use my inside leg to push him out. With my inside hand planted, he can't fight the inside bend. He tried to, but I am pretty solid in my hold so he usually gives up quickly. Once he soften even a little bit, I can ask for a longer stride while keeping my inside hand planted.
Once I can get the longer stride and he feels soft on the inside rein, I can go back to using both reins. From there, I can ask for the canter. On Monday, he tense again and shortened his stride so my hand went back down to my thigh and I pushed him out with my inside leg.
What I LOVED about this exercise is that Sydney can now do a stretchy canter circle without falling on to his forehand. Just as in the trot work, once he quit fighting the inside rein, I asked for a longer stride while my hand was still firmly planted on my thigh. We got some nice and lofty canter work with really good stretch. When he felt forward and soft on the inside rein, I picked up both reins and started to work on collecting his stride.
After picking up both reins, when I felt him get heavy on the inside rein, I gave a big swing to the inside to say let go. It is amazing how that usually tells him to quit hanging on it. After a big swing, I only need to sponge or vibrate the inside rein to say let it go.
To collect his stride, I sent him forward with lots of energy, and then I half halted with lots of leg to bring him back on his haunches a bit. He didn't rock back completely of course, but it is wonderful to feel his croup dip even the slightest as he shifts his weight back.
So, to mix it up, I can do one of these things:
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%: