From Endurance to Dressage
I am totally over the moon happy right now as I sit and think about Monday afternoon's lesson. Isn't it funny how we always struggle and suffer the most right before we make a breakthrough?
I am not sure it was a big breakthrough by most people's standards, but for me, it has been a game changer. That lesson I took a week or so ago with JL where she finally helped me see (and feel!!) the need for bent elbows has completely changed the way I ride. I can feel your eye rolls from here, and I know you're saying riiiight ... but it's true. I have moved on to a new level of understanding (where numerous other problems will now reveal themselves, I am sure).
By keeping my elbows back, I am no longer pushing my hands down to get a frame. In fact, when Speedy is resisting the contact, I simply raise my hands a little and gently bump whichever rein he is hanging on to tell him to let go. It works like a charm.
That is not the purpose for today's post however. I really want to talk about the lesson I had on Monday. I already shared with you how I realized that there is a huge difference between connection and collection. I am sure most of you are shaking your heads in frustration at my slow-wittedness, but I can assure you that JL is thrilled. It's taken a while, but I am finally getting it!
Before the lesson started, we had a lengthy discussion about my new found understanding. While I was warming up, I showed JL my adjusted body position and how that allowed me to develop a much better connection with Speedy and how receptive he was to the contact ... in a Training Level frame. But since I don't need a Training Level Frame anymore. I want to start to develop the collection needed for a Second Level frame. JL was totally on board.
So here was the lesson ... JL wanted Speedy working from his butt without me worrying where his head was (how many times have I heard THAT lately?!?!?). I shortened my reins considerably, but didn't ask Speedy to lower his head. I asked for a canter and then immediately asked him to collect with the outside rein. With my elbows bent and my arms at my side, it was effortless to get him off my left rein. Every time he tried to get heavy and dive forward, I simply put my leg on him, sat up tall, and bumped him with the outside rein.
I was okay that we cantered around with his head pretty high because I could feel him sitting down on that inside hind leg. Hallelujah!
Once he was light in my hands, and oh my gosh was he ever light, JL wanted me to test his maneuverability by riding around the various jumps in the arena as slowly as possible. It only took me one failed attempt on the left lead canter to realize that I need to look where I am going so that I can use my seat and legs for steering.
Once Speedy was cantering around the jumps wherever I asked, JL set out a pole. Once Speedy realized that yes, the pole was meant to be cantered over, he popped right over it and maintained the lightness that I was asking for. To the right was another story!
We had to spend a few minutes working on keeping Speedy' haunches from falling out as we made the 10-meter turn around one of the jumps. If I am not vigilant, he swings his haunches out and swaps leads. Once we moved on to cantering the pole, my (in)effective use of the aids was quite easy to judge.
At first, he swapped leads as we approached the pole. As I figured out how to be more and more vigilant with the outside leg and rein, he swapped leads over the pole (fixed that), and then after the pole. That problem took the longest to correct.
The reason we worked on this exercise is that at First Level, I have to be able to spiral in to a 15-meter canter circle after a canter lengthening, and Speedy needs to be able to come out of the corner and cross the diagonal without swapping the lead. Plus, at Second Level, we'll need to do a 10-meter circle. We can do these movements now, but I want to do them really well.
Cantering over the pole really helped me get a feel for the aids that I need to use to keep him really on his butt. I don't care about his head and neck anymore. I can totally feel what needs to happen to keep him rocked back on his haunches. At the canter. Collecting him (well) at the trot is going to take a bit more time.
We'll work on that at next week'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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%