From Endurance to Dressage
Working with a new trainer has been a little bit like the difference between shopping in a small business and then shopping on Amazon. When you go to a small store with which you're very familiar, say your local tack shop, you like what you see, and it's all recognizable. When you visit Amazon's webpage, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the massive amount of choices that you have available to you.
For quite a few years I worked with the same trainer, occasionally working with someone new while at a clinic. It was comfortable, safe, and I always knew what to expect. Working with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, isn't yet "comfortable," and truthfully, I don't want it to be. As hard as it may be on my ego, I want to be challenged and picked at.
During the few months that we've worked together, Sean has helped fill in some foundational gaps. We started with moderating the tempo. While that isn't 100%, it's much better. Sean has also had me work on asking for more, but only a little bit more. If Izzy shows me more, it only needs to be for a few strides, not necessarily the entire diagonal. For our most recent lesson, Sean had me concentrate on two need to fix ideas; they're not new, but they are my new focus. Rounder, rounder, rounder is what I heard for the entire lesson. Now that I can regulate the tempo, I need to keep Izzy round. Along with that is to be ELASTIC in my arms.
At one point during the lesson, Sean paused and asked me what I was thinking. I swear that man can read my mind because before he asked, I was considering whether to burst into tears or cuss him out. I hadn't yet decided. When I responded that I was feeling pretty grouchy, Sean acted quite surprised and asked why. If he's anything like my husband, he was probably worried that the waterworks were imminent. You know how men are when a girl starts to blubber.
Since I am not a total crybaby, I opted for making a joke out of my frustration without completely ignoring it. I explained that I was feeling over-faced. I simply didn't feel like I could do what Sean was asking for, and it was making me feel anxious and frustrated. Sean paused for a moment and then took away the pressure I was putting on myself by saying that he didn't expect me to get it all done on that day.
I keep forgetting that Sean is a long haul kind of guy. He's not expecting Izzy to wow anybody any time soon, and he doesn't expect that of me either. I am not saying he never expects us to improve, otherwise why would he bother, but he doesn't seem to have a timeline for it either. I feel like it will take the time that it takes, and Sean is okay with that. And not just okay, I think it's his plan.
Sean definitely has a way with difficult horses, and he seems to get me as well. I don't need someone to hold my hand, but I do need someone who won't let me beat myself up too badly. Sean is okay with my self-deprecating jabs, but I think he'll only allow so much. He wants to make sure there's room for genuine acknowledgement of progress, too. Little did Sean know what a challenge we'd be.
Too late to change your mind now, Sean!
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%: