From Endurance to Dressage
Over the past month or so, my lessons with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage have been about fine tuning my aids to get better results. Everything we did last Saturday was about helping me keep Izzy in better balance.
When Izzy feels confident, it's because he has let me be in control, and that only happens when I enforce my aids fairly. When I am in control, Sean can help fine tune my position so that my aids are more effective. Some horses join your team easily and readily; Speedy's like that. In some ways, Izzy is a lot like me; it takes a lot to earn his trust. Izzy is more of a bolt first and ask questions later kind of guy. It is easy to let him suck you into a fight, especially if you don't even know that's what he's done. Not taking the bait is one of the most important things that Sean has taught me.
All of that was a long winded way of saying that with Sean's coaching, I now have ways to avoid the fight which helps me keep control which makes Izzy feel confident and relaxed.
One things Sean caught last Saturday was our shoulder-in right. Sean has taught me that riding the shoulder-in correctly means the shoulders come IN rather than the haunches swinging OUT. Both will get you in position when you shoulder-in down the long side, but as soon as you use the center line or quarter line, the "cheat" will become obvious. Izzy bends around my leg and brings his shoulders in neatly to the left, but to the right is/was a different story.
This week I've been working on corralling that wayward hind end. My outside leg has to support his haunches as we come through the corner without using too much leg which sends them in. I've been able to do that by riding the shoulder-in much more slowly so that Izzy has time to balance himself as he wraps around my inside leg.
Fine tuning my position has been fun to do. Seeing the difference that I can make by sitting a bit more to the inside or moving my hand to the left a few inches is motivating. Seeing how even tiny changes makes Izzy move better makes me want to continue to tweak the little things. I doubt I'll wow Sean with my masterfully ridden shoulder-in tomorrow, but it will be fun to give it a try!
Sean recognizes that it's a journey, so if it is only a slightly less bad shoulder-in, I'll be happy.
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%: