From Endurance to Dressage
For day two, I was the first rider to go, so I had plenty of time to warm up in the early morning peace and quite. Surprisingly, Speedy was pretty hot to trot and as a consequence was being a bit of a stinker at C. At that end of the arena, there is a farm down below with a flock of guinea fowl. On this morning they were being fed so there was a lot of activity that he could sense and hear but couldn't really see.
Not that any of that has anything to do with the clinic, but I did spend some time getting Speedy's attention back on me. Christian likes to tell riders who have a horse who is distracted (screaming at a barn mate, being a looky loo, etc.) to make whatever the rider is doing more interesting than what the horse is trying to look at. So I worked Speedy's butt, sending him sideways (at a walk) without letting his shoulders leave the party.
From Day 1, but this was an example. Speedy DID NOT want to trot by Christian who was sitting on the opposite side of the arena from where he normally sits. By crossing the inside rein up to the opposite shoulder, it forces the horse to let go through the withers and disengages the hind end, forcing it to step over. Christian insists that we do SOMETHING to redirect the horse's attention back to us as quickly and efficiently as possible. Get a response, NOW!
When Christian made it down to the arena, he noted that Speedy was in a bit of a fake frame. While I totally agreed with him, I didn't want to explain that I wasn't trying to get him forward and round. I was really just trying to keep him from bolting sideways in the corner at C which is what he wanted to do to avoid hearing the birds.
That wouldn't have flown with Christian. He's all about big and forward. He also loves to make things the rider's idea, so when Speedy was being really reactive in that same corner later in the lesson, he had me use the corner for voltes and teardrops as we came down the long side. When Speedy didn't want to stay on the outside rein, we did a volte. When he was willing to stay on the outside rein, we did a teardrop back to B.
But all of that came later.
To begin, Christian asked for a 20-mete circle at B/E. This is how he starts most lessons. And like always, getting the horse forward and stepping deeply under with the inside hind leg is always the goal. Christian is all about using the inside leg to push the horse into the outside rein.
While asking that inside leg to step under, Christian had me ask for more and more inside flexion without pulling back on the rein. Instead, he wanted me to open the inside rein to get that flexion while keeping my hands low. After so many lessons with Christian, I have learned to love planting my hands on my thighs to steady the contact or to maintain a bend.
After a few minutes of this exercise, Christian gleefully explained that THIS was a proper warm up!
Once Speedy was working over his back and using his body well, Christian had me do lots of adjusting by shortening the reins and thinking about lifting Speedy's withers. Christian tries to teach riders that it isn't where the head is that matters. It's all about lifting the withers and getting that hind leg to step deeper.
So we went from lifting the withers with a shorter rein and slower trot to working long and low with a longer rein and bigger trot, and then back again. I've worked with Speedy a lot this past six weeks on listening more to my seat, so this exercise was pretty easy for both of us, and Christian seemed to like our work as well. We then moved on to canter transitions, up and down. The work there was fairly solid as well.
Lastly, we worked on getting quality halts, another thing we've been working on diligently at home. For all of these exercises, the thing that Christian stressed was for me to really prepare before asking. Speedy's halts got more and more square the more I prepared. Keeping my seat bones in contact with the saddle also improved everything.
There were a couple of other exercises that I wanted to share, but those will have to wait a day or so. More to come ...
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%: