From Endurance to Dressage
I wrote a post the other day which generated some not-so-constructive criticism. In the post, I shared an exercise that my trainer thought would be helpful. In essence, she suggested I over-flex Izzy to the inside and then use a firm half halt to flex him vertically. The purpose of the exercise was to slow him down, bring his shoulder in, get him round, and help him focus. I said to think rollkur. Here's a photo from that lesson.
Here's how Izzy wants to carry himself...
I am very honest on my blog. While I don't share every disappointment, frustration, shortcoming, or ineffective moment, I don't sugarcoat things either. When we're successful, I share it. When we suck, I share that too. I get lessons as often as I can, which for a long time has been about once a month. Lately, it's been twice a month. My trainer is based more than two hours away, so I don't get a lot of trainer rides either.
While I am not a trainer, and I've never even hinted that I could be, I am in essence training my own horses. Poor things. Little do they how good their lives could have been.
With that said, I have to rely on the help that I do get. And while it isn't weekly, I know in my heart of hearts that the training I get is good training. It's correct training. My scores on Speedy offer proof. We've finished each level (Intro, Training, and First) with scores in the high 60s and 70s.
I trust my trainer. She doesn't use shortcuts. She doesn't use gadgets. She wants horses to progress with a solid foundation. She treats each horse as an individual which means not every horse learns in the same way. When she suggests an exercise, I know she is trying to get through to the horse to teach him how to move more correctly.
So what is Rollkur exactly? Basically, it is the practice of forcefully pulling a horse's head into an extreme low, deep and round position, often for an extended period of time. That's not what I am doing. And anyone who has ever seen me ride in person knows that.
Instead, what my trainer suggested I do was create a situation where Izzy wants to stretch down. When I flex him to the inside, there is no force. He flexes easily. What he doesn't know how to do is to lengthen his neck. By over-flexing him to the inside, and then flexing him vertically, it is showing him that there is a more comfortable position that he can choose.
Within moments of putting him in this "hyper-flexed" frame, he immediately lowers his head and asks to stretch down. I am NOT holding him in hyper flexion. I let him stretch down, and if he'll take it, I'll give him all the rein.
When I rode him on Friday afternoon, I "felt" how the exercise can do even more for him. As I over-flexed him to the inside and then half halted to flex him vertically, I realized that this straightened him so that I could then push my hands forward and ask for a longer stride.
In no time at all, he started snorting and swinging over his back. I don't think that's what rollkur does.
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%: