From Endurance to Dressage
Lois, the dressage trainer with whom I have recently begun working, is fond of saying that the horse is the strong partner while the rider is the smart partner. I have been trying to be both partners when I ride Sydney. Giving up the responsibility for carrying us both has been difficult; it gives me the feeling of being out of control.
When I rode Sydney on Saturday, my plan was to put into practice Lois's tips from the last lesson and return some of the responsibility.
We moved right into the icky circle where I spur his inside hindquarter to move, move, move. I wanted to give myself a standing ovation when he finally took a deep breath and gave me an ALRIGHT ALREADY drop of the head. We were back in business.
Somewhere near the end of the ride, I realized that I really liked not having to be responsible for holding him up. I work too damn hard in other parts of my life to also be doing his job in the arena. Giving him back the responsibility of maintaining the pace that I set without running off was truly liberating. When he forgot to bend, I gave him a one stride correction that said flex your neck. When he tried to speed up, I gave him a half halt that said no, stay right here.
The more consistent I was with my corrections, the more he started assuming responsibility for being the strong partner. It was a good ride that left me feeling like I had done less work. I hope Sydney felt a bit empowered afterwards; I finally gave him the chance to do his job.
And then I whacked off his mane!
I usually pull it every few days, but I got a bit behind. The quickest thing was to just put scissors to mane. I'll start evening it out over the next few weeks by pulling.
Such a hard thing to internalize, not doing the horse's work for them. My trainer spent all day Sunday reminding me that it's not my job to trot for my horse, it's his job to trot and my job to tell him where to put his hind legs and shoulders. I think you did a great job!
9/9/2013 11:03:04 am
I am happy to give up Sydney's job. Let's just hope I can keep giving it up!
9/9/2013 03:26:07 am
i think we riders spend so much time getting a horse to stretch down, we forget that the horse has to take responsibility to carry himself. this is obviously cuz i'be been paying attention to philippe karl: )
9/9/2013 11:13:03 am
Lytha - I feel for you. I hope you find a good trainer soon. No matter how much you read or watch videos, nothing is as helpful as a trainer who can watch you ride right now.
9/16/2013 03:38:42 am
ok i took your advice and gave him a back massage - in the shower: ) we just had a shower built "for two" and have to take advantage of that. sorry if that's TMI. it was just a back massage, nothing more! i think i'm blushing typing this.
9/9/2013 11:09:04 am
I didn't realize that's what I had been doing. Knowing that I have a partner capable of his share of the work is actually very encouraging!
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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.
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