From Endurance to Dressage
Almost every movement from our last show included some form of the comment needs more energy. Sometimes the comment read needs more over-stride. There was also slightly lazy, needs quicker walk, and needs more ground cover. Basically, Speedy needs to get his speed on.
Since the judge from our last show will be one of the two judges at this weekend's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), I thought I'd better see what I can do to get Speedy to pick 'em up and set 'em down, even if it's just at the walk.
As it so happens, I caught an article in the August edition of Dressage Today by Lehua Custer entitled, "Prepare for Third Level with Precision." Boy, did that article catch my eye!
If you get the magazine, take a look at the article. It literally hit on everything that I am currently working on. In the second paragraph, Lehua states, "Moving from Second to Third Level is a huge step in the big picture of your horse becoming an upper-level competitor." Thank you, Lehua, for recognizing how challenging Second Level truly is.
She goes on to say, "How do I do all that? By practicing correct repetitions and by tackling each movement individually, breaking it down into little chunks that are more manageable to deal with." That's exactly how I've been addressing the movements at Second Level, so I am glad that I am on the right track. She then goes on to offer tips for the turn on the haunches and the flying change (the horse first needs a good simple change through walk).
Lehua offered another suggestion that I've been using this week to great success. It's nothing new or mind blowing, but it's something that has helped give Speedy some added hustle to his walk. The tip is designed to improve precision by getting the horse more in front of your leg. Well, duh, we all know that. I know, but sometimes we hear things at just the right time.
Lehua breaks down the steps to encourage the horse to listen for a whisper aid as opposed to a shout. Here is her list of aids:
Having just two weeks between shows isn't really enough time to fix anything big, so I decided to apply Lehua's tip to our medium and free walk. Speedy wants to lose the rhythm in the medium walk, and he thinks that the free walk is for catching his breath and taking it easy, my fault of course.
I've never asked for more energy in the free walk (at a show) because if I do, he'll break into a trot. I don't know why it never occurred to me to deal with this problem before now.
I took a page from Chemaine Hurtado's book for "ramping him up" for the medium trot. As I prepare for the medium trot, I half halt and add leg, in effect, getting his hind end prepared to motor. I figured I could do the same thing from the medium walk to the free walk.
At first, Speedy was convinced that when I let the reins slide through my fingers for the free walk, what I really meant was now trot with zero connection or balance. I fixed that ASAP. Once he remembered that we were walking, I applied Lehua's tip for teaching him to listen for a whispered aid.
As soon as I felt his energy go splat, I pressed with my calf. When that got no response - why would it as I've accepted a pokey walk until now? - I popped him with my leg (I don't wear a spur anymore). When he still refused to get a more energetic walk, I tapped him with the whip. Well hello there, smarter and quicker walk. Nice of you to join us!
All of a sudden, Speedy has a much nicer free walk! This has now become the first part of our warm up. On the short sides, I ride a medium walk, but as we turn the corner, I start "ramping him up" for the free walk. We build some energy, and as soon as I let those reins slide through my fingers, he's hustling across the diagonal. As we approach the other short side, I gather him up into a medium walk while telling him to maintain the activity. We then repeat the whole thing on the next diagonal.
The good thing about this exercise is he knows the whip is coming if he doesn't respond to my leg banging into his side. I've even been careful about insisting on an energetic walk while we're "resting" between more difficult movements. I want him to be thinking that a free walk is not the time to take a break. A test only lasts for six minutes. He can rest when we're done.
For Saturday's show, we're riding Second Level Tests 1 and 3. On Sunday, we ride only Test 3 for the RAAC class. Fingers crossed that we can improve our score for the free walk. For both Test 1 and 3, the free walk has a double coefficient. What an easy way to rack up a couple more points.
Better get your hustle on, 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 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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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