From Endurance to Dressage
Refining the Aids
It's not often that I need to make notes before writing a blog post. Usually, I have a story to tell. Not fiction of course, but the kind you tell to a friend. The oh, my gosh, guess what I saw/found/felt/heard yesterday! kind of stories. For this post though, I had to jot down some notes because it's one of those posts filled with some big AHAs.
The Saturday before last, I didn't have a lesson, so I had two weeks to work on stuff on my own. I am a thinking rider, so the time alone was good for me. I realized two big things:
First of all, none of what I asked for worried Sean. In fact, he knew we would get to this point sooner or later. I am not sure if I just beat him to the punch, but recognizing that I need to fix something makes it easier for me to understand when I do get an explanation. Not surprisingly, all of my concerns were mostly addressed by one thing. Sean explained that I've done my job so well - getting Izzy to quit pushing against me, that it's time to encourage him to start carrying the bit with a heavier feel. By reaching for and holding the contact, he'll naturally fill up both reins and solve the too light issue.
For the first quarter of the lesson, I rode around like a complete beginner trying to feel what Sean was talking about. Since I've worked so hard to get Izzy to quit pushing against me, I too need to learn how to accept some weight in my hands as well. So, we trotted on a 20-meter circle while I felt around for how much weight I was comfortable carrying while Izzy tried to figure out how much he could comfortably hold.
There was definitely some trial and error. Izzy never spooked or bolted, but it was a bit of an awkward dance as we kept putting our figurative hands here there as we tried to find a new level of contact. While it is a contact issue, it's probably better to say that it's more about the connection. The more we worked on the connection, the more Izzy's neck lengthened. It was definitely a new feeling for me to take up that heavier contact, but as I continued to ask for that little bit of malleability, Izzy responded by allowing me to hold him and reposition him as we worked.
I was most excited to try this at the canter. To the left, Izzy has gotten to be pretty sassy, maybe even a bit rude. He shakes his head up and down or side to side as if to say, let me do it my own way. As we all know, he hasn't been one to make good life choices when left to his own devices. Sean suggested I get him even rounder than necessary for the transition to keep him where I want him in the canter. He also reminded me that now that Izzy can handle corrections, I need to show him very clearly what I expect. That meant asking for the canter from a very round frame, and then putting Izzy's nose into his shoulder if needed to clearly show him what I expect. Tossing his head around was not it.
It worked like a charm. All of a sudden, I had control, and Izzy was so balanced that he bounded forward into a much bigger and faster canter. It scared both of us just a little bit. I don't think Izzy knew he could move like that, and when he realized he could, he was all in! We will both need to develop better balance and feel before we use that canter everywhere.
To help with the bracing and spooking in the corners, Sean simply suggested I ride the shoulder-in before I even get to the corner. That way, I already had control coming out of the corner instead of reacting when I didn't. Sean has said again and again that I need to be proactive in my riding, but some of these easy fixes don't occur to me.
You should have seen the look on Izzy's face the first time I rode the shoulder-in that way. He very indignantly asked, what the what is going on around here? I laughed in complete delight. Oh, buddy, I got you that time! And I had. He shoulder-in'ed down that long side with a pretty pouty look on his face, but he did it. Of course, after that, he did throw a bit of a temper tantrum, but thanks to Sean's patient teaching, I know to put him to work doing something else and ignored what Izzy had to say about the whole thing.
We didn't get to work on the flying changes at all, but Sean gave me some good advice for when I do get to work on it. In his opinion, I need to make my aid a bit louder. I'll work on that slowly as I don't want a return to the anxiety Izzy was feeling about the changes. While he's not giving me a left to right change, he's also not anxious about it, so I'll need to tread carefully. What we did work on though filled in such a big piece of our puzzle that it can only help the changes.
In a nut shell, both Izzy and I now need to pick up the contact and carry it. For so long, when he let go, I let go. Now, I need to carry it and ask him to carry it as well without leaning or pushing. Throughout the whole lesson, Sean repeated over and over that it's about refining and enforcing the aids that Izzy knows. And when it all goes to hell, go right back to steps 1, 2, and 3 and build him back up.
Things are getting fun!
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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%: