From Endurance to Dressage
Don't laugh. It was fun, and I am going to add, hard. Since Speedy is out of commission for a while and Izzy has not yet been commissioned, I asked JL if I could take a h/j lesson on Austin. She loved the idea. I don't know for how much longer I'll get to ride Austin, it might be only another couple of weeks, but I am going to take advantage of the opportunity.
My reasons are many: First, it helps out Austin's owner by keeping him in shape. Second, I want to be learning something, even it's not dressage. And finally, I have been thinking about trying a little jumping with Izzy when the time is right. It would be a lot easier to pop over little stuff with a green bean if I'm not such a green bean too.
When I ride Austin, I use his owner's Pessoa jumping saddle. I didn't even bother to adjust the stirrup length. I've pretty much just ridden him with a dressage leg, although it's not been easy in a saddle that wants to put me in a more forward seat. The first thing JL did was to raise my stirrups a hole.
JL pointed out that since I ride regularly, I already have good riding muscles, but I was going to use some new ones when she adjusted my position. Boy, was she right! The first thing she did was have me get in 2-point. She adjusted my lower leg so that it was on the horse. ALL THE TIME? I asked. Yep.
The next thing she did was to close my hip angle. In a dressage saddle, the rider sits up tall with a much more open hip angle. It felt really wrong to close that angle. She demonstrated by doing squats. The deeper you squat, the farther behind you your lower leg must go if you don't want to have your bum sticking up in the air. Try it.
Squat down just slightly, maybe four inches. If you keep your back straight, your feet will be underneath you. Go down deeper, as deep as you can. If you don't want want your bum sticking straight out, you have to close your hip angle and put more weight on the ball of your feet. Plus, the angle of the knee must also close to keep your lower leg under your seat.
The biggest chunk of work came in keeping my lower leg back so that it was under my new seat position created by closing my hip angle. When I closed my hip angle, my lower leg stayed hanging straight down, right where it would be in a dressage saddle.
Try this: Squat down slightly with your knees lightly bent. Now squat as deep as you can without adjusting the angle of your knees. That was me!!! Bum sticking out without my legs underneath me.
To help me get the feel, she had me imagine I was riding with just my thigh, no lower leg. She had me exaggerate this feeling by pointing my knee down and lifting my lower leg as high up behind me as I could and then pushing off of my stirrups with the ball of my foot.
WHAT THE HELL.
Basically, that was my response, but I did it. I did it horribly, but I laughed about it and kept working at it until JL was at least somewhat satisfied. Thankfully, there are no pictures to illustrate all of this horribleness, but I do understand what she was teaching me, and I will diligently practice as I ride Austin during the week.
A good dressage seat is much more about an open hip angle and a long relaxed leg. The h/j seat seems to be the exact opposite. JL feels that this work will actually strengthen my lower leg when I get back in my dressage saddle. Even if it does nothing, it's sure a lot of fun to mess around with other riding muscles.
I know you all like photos, so I dug up a couple to show you open hip and knee angles angles versus closed hip and knee angles. The first photo is Charlotte Dujardin, even the H/J riders have heard of Charlotte. Look at how open her hip and knee angles are. She's almost standing straight up and down. I tried to find a picture of George Morris riding, but alas, my search didn't reveal what I was looking for. Instead, we get an image of Beezie Madden. Even I know who she is.
In the photo of Beezie, her hip angle is really tight, as is her knee angle. If her leg looked like Charlotte's, her bum would be stuck up in the air, and I imagine that the landing would hurt like hell.
As a side note, I did much better at keeping my lower leg back in the canter. Since I really wanted to get off of Austin's back, I found a natural balance which included a fairly correct lower leg.
Okay. So my take away from this lesson was that the more you close your hip angle, the more you must close your knee angle which puts your leg farther and farther back. So ... for the dressage riders out there. the opposite must be true. When we open our hip angle, we must open our knee angle.
I'll keep you posted!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read