From Endurance to Dressage
I think she has that backwards. Isn't it inside leg to outside hand?
Well, yeah, that's how you ride a horse who doesn't try to turn himself into a pretzel. Sydney is a two-for-one deal; I got two horses for the price of one. I have a normal, decently balanced horse to the left. To the right, I have a totally different horse. That horse can barely walk straight when he's tracking right, and cantering? Aye yay yay!
This is what's been holding up our right lead canter. It takes a lot of coordination on my part to get him to straighten himself up to actually canter. He wants to carry his haunches out while dropping his inside shoulder. Sit hard on your outside seat bone and collapse your right side. That's what it feels like I am riding.
To fix this, as I've shared many times already, JL has had me "crab" Sydney into the circle by pushing his haunches in so that they track behind his shoulders. This gets him on the outside rein and lifts the inside shoulder. Put more weight on your own inside seat bone; it's hard to collapse your right side while weighting your inside seat bone.
Some days I can ask for a little bend by holding his haunches with my outside leg and gently sponging the inside rein. This kind of pushes him up to my inside leg. It's almost like doing a half pass (but totally not).
We had a rodeo of a ride on Monday. He just would not soften. That right lead canter just had him so tense and stiff that I went back to straight and crabbing with no inside bend. Eventually, we got a right lead canter that was acceptable, and I called it a day. He had the next day off.
When I rode him on Wednesday, I decided to try a new strategy. It has been hot as blazes and ridiculously humid so getting any forward energy has been really hard. So to wake him up, I skipped most of my regular warm up stuff and went straight to the left lead canter. But instead of staying in my dressage court (made with poles), I cantered the entire perimeter of my arena. He thought that was fun and within no time, I had him in front of my leg, relaxed and happy.
We walked for just a moment, and then we changed direction. Before giving him time to think about it, I asked Sydney for a trot while keeping his neck very straight and asked him to crab in as he picked up the trot. Again, without giving him time to think about it, I cued for a right lead canter. He gave it right away but instead of working on the 20-meter circle, I cantered around the outside of my dressage court.
At the end of my court, there isn't much room between the poles and the fence, so this is really a test of whether I can make the turn without losing the canter. To do this, I have to have my outside leg firmly on with a solid feel on the outside rein, while I ask for some flexion with the inside rein. When I feel him start to get long (which means he's going to trot), I have to add some firm inside leg to let him know to KEEP cantering.
We made two complete laps around the arena and started a third, but instead of continuing along the rail, I came back into the court and did a 20-meter circle. And then before he could get tense about that, we came back out of the court and cantered another section along the rail before cutting across the court and then doing another circle.
In all, I spent a solid five to ten minutes cantering on the right lead doing 20-meter circles in various places in my court while returning to the bigger long side of the arena's fence. He did fall back into the trot a time or two, but since we weren't stuck in a 20-meter circle, I just re-cued the canter and kept going.
He only got tense and quick for a stride or two, but then for the rest of the work he was uphill, light in my hands, and very relaxed.
I only had one lesson last week because of our trip to Vegas, and my trainer has been on vacation this whole week so I've been working on this right lead canter thing on my own. Before my trainer left for vacation though, she sent me this text.
When I knew I was going to miss three lessons in a row, I kind of panicked. I was just starting to get a feel of what aids I need to employ to get this right lead canter consistently so I worried about what I'd do on my own for essentially two weeks. JL's text gave me a much needed boost of confidence.
At my last lesson, JL made the comment that she could clearly see that I had a great feel for when Sydney's haunches weren't behind his shoulders. She followed that up in the text by stating that I had a "good handle on it." Since she felt I could do it alone, I just assumed she was right!
I did have a ride or two that didn't go so well, but I really appreciated having the time to work on improving my feel for the right lead canter. I get it. I know what I have to do to help Sydney get it and keep it. It's not perfect of course, and I will certainly be glad to have JL back, but it's been a confidence booster to work through this on my own.
With that said, I am definitely looking forward to Monday's lesson!
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%: