From Endurance to Dressage
This is turning out to be the most productive Thanksgiving ever; thank you Squanto and those seeking religious freedom. Who knew that the Pilgrims could help improve your contact and canter departures? As they say, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
If you'll remember, Speedy and I had a frustrating lesson last Monday night. Our left lead canter has shown steady progress, but that right lead take off is crooked and crazy. If we were an airplane, we'd be veering all over the runway scattering ground crew and luggage.
My homework for the week was to straighten Speedy up by getting him off my outside leg so that he can support his weight on his own outside leg. The added benefit is that when he carries his own weight on that outside leg, he can't let it fly in an I-don't-wanna-shot-to-the-moon.
We worked on the canter departure on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, something clicked. Speedy finally did a quiet right lead canter that was fairly straight and buck free. Even better was his downward transition - smooth as silk!
For Saturday's ride, I focused completely on his right side. After warming up, I asked him to trot while tracking right, but I put him in a slight counter bend around a 20-meter circle. Once he did that pretty willingly, I maintained the bend, but let him track left for a 10 meter circle on the correct bend. As he finished the 20-meter circle, we went back on the larger circle, still counter bent.
I've "drawn" a little sketch in hopes that you can see what I mean.
We worked this pattern for a few minutes until I was sure that he was off my outside leg and listening to my outside rein. As a test, I asked for a halt with the outside rein and bumped him with my outside leg; he halted squarely and away from my outside leg. Okay - now we're getting somewhere!
I again asked for the counter bend trot and told him to get ready for the canter. When we trot, JL has me "help" him (when needed) by alternately pulsing both reins to remind him not to pop up but rather to lift his back. I tried to achieve that same feeling at the canter: as I sat and moved my outside leg back, I started rocking the outside rein just a little to remind him to get back on his own outside leg. The first departure wasn't beautiful, but there was no bucking and the quality of the canter got really nice within a stride or two. We repeated the departure three or four more times, and each time was better than the one before.
It might not have looked great to the casual observer, but I felt that we had nailed it. Just to let Speedy know how much I appreciated his effort, we took a small trail ride around the neighborhood where he got to eat all the winter grass that he wanted. He looked pretty happy when we got back home.
Atta boy, Speedy G!
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%: