From Endurance to Dressage
"J," Speedy's current lady - everyone else has found better things to do, came down for a lesson on Saturday. I was running late, a week from hell will do that to your ability to get out of bed to do anything. Normally I am finished by the time she gets there, so J asked if she could watch me ride instead of getting Speedy ready. Since she wanted to see a few specific things, I agreed that we could make the time.
She has been struggling with keeping Speedy "out" on the circle. She explained that no matter how hard she pressed with her inside leg, he was still falling in. That led to a conversation about asking and then taking your leg off to allow the horse to do what you've asked. This is something I've struggled with too, especially with Speedy.
Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, has really worked with me on getting Izzy in position and then getting out of his way to let him do the movement. When he stops leg yielding or comes off the rail in shoulder-in, then I ask again, but it's vital to ride the movement without planting your leg against their side. When we do that, the horse just leans on the leg and won't carry himself in the movement.
As I was riding, I rode a 20-meter circle at A so J could see how I was able to hit the rail without getting stuck on it or falling in. I showed her that when we ride, we need to see our "line" in the sand. To ride a figure - whether it's a 10-meter circle, 20-meter circle, leg yield, or half pass, the rider needs to look where she's going and visualize that line on the ground and then follow it with her body. I showed her, by over exaggerating, how my body has to stay on the line even if the horse deviates. By moving my seat to where I wanted to go, she could see Izzy trying to follow me. Of course he was a bit confused by my theatrics, but it helped J to see what I meant.
The other thing I explained was that we have to keep our horses round and supple while also adhering to the geometry of a movement. Once she was aboard Speedy, we spent a few minutes with me "barking out orders" as she tried to do both things at the same time: keep Speedy round while also keeping the circle round.
As we started the lesson, J explained that she just didn't feel "ready" for Sunday's show. I asked what she meant. She explained that she hasn't been able to ride as much as she would have liked over the past few weeks. That brought up a good question. When are we ready, and how ready do we need to be? This is an idea that everyone struggles with.
The way I look at it is this: if I were to wait until we were "ready," I'd never show. Speedy was never finished, and Izzy certainly isn't either. Even so, Speedy and I won or earned lots of neck ribbons, certificates, patches, and even a Bronze Medal. For me, showing is not really about "showing off my horse" even though that's why many other people show. I like to show to see where I am. Are we making progress? Are we better than the show before? While my trainers have all been wonderful, I want a licensed judge's feedback. That's what I told J.
During the lesson, we worked on the geometry of the circle - how to find the reference points when the cones were gone, how to cut the corner so the circle isn't a square, and how to make small corrections with the seat and legs. We also worked on the trot to canter transition. During the last lesson, I showed J how to prepare for the transition by doing a 3-2-1 countdown. Instead of just saying CANTER NOW, we worked on controlling the transition.
By the time we were finished, all of J's self-doubt was gone. She felt like she had some new tools for improving her accuracy in both geometry and the transitions. I could see that she felt empowered by the work we had done. I am pretty sure she's feeling like we should go to the show. Readiness is a funny thing. I am good with feeling only slightly ready, but then I am not preparing for the Olympics. Each rider has to choose for herself whether she and her partner are ready for the ring.
My fingers are crossed that we get to go to the show. I know J is ready.
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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%: