From Endurance to Dressage
Our typical summertime heat has finally arrived. It's two or three weeks late, but no one is complaining. Our highs have been near or over a hundred degrees for at least a month, but our lows had held steady in the 70s. This past weekend, our lows climbed to 80. On Sunday, it was 90 degrees by 9:00 a.m. and forecasted to be 111.
I had a lesson on Saturday, but on Sundays, I like to record my ride to see how things are progressing. It was just too dang hot to mess with my Pivo and all of the crap that goes with it. We didn't even canter. All of that means I have no new media to go along with my lesson recap. You'll have to be content with old stuff.
Now that we're back on schedule without missing lessons, I didn't have as many opportunities to break my horse. When Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, joined me in a Pivo Meet, I was prepared with two main objectives: schooling the simple changes and working on using my outside thigh for the half halt. Because it's horses, things didn't go exactly to plan.
After taking a few minutes to warm up, I put Izzy into a canter. He has a lovely flying change, and every once in a while he'll throw one in, but I just haven't been able to get it on my aids. I rarely even ask for one because it causes him so much anxiety. Instead, my strategy has been to focus on refining how we do a change of lead whether it be through the trot or a simple change through the walk.
The way I learned to ask for the flying change of lead is to change the bend by applying the new inside leg while straightening the horse in preparation for the new lead. I use this same series of aids whether asking for a change of lead through trot or the simple change. Even though I am not asking for a flying change, I want to set Izzy up the same way so that once I do ask for the flying change, he'll know what I am asking for. Another strategy that I am using is slowly reducing the number of trot and walk steps in between changing the canter lead.
As I was crossing the diagonal at the canter asking for the change of lead through trot, Sean recognized the difficulty I am having. The moment I straighten Izzy, he braces against me. Sean offered a suggestion to help reduce the bracing. Instead of crossing the diagonal on a straight line, he suggested I make more of an arc so that Izzy stays on the true bend as I ask for the trot. Once he has the trot, I can can change the bend and then pick up the new canter lead.
While that is not the traditional way to do changes of lead across the diagonal, it does help keep Izzy soft and teaches him that there isn't a need to brace for the new lead. We played around with the variation a few times, and Sean felt confident that after just a few rides, Izzy should feel more comfortable allowing me to change the bend. Finding ways to both support Izzy and make things easier for him is a regular theme of our journey.
Since it was hot, we moved away from the canter back to the trot work. While I wanted to work more on the half halt at the canter in order to get better softness for the change of lead, there was plenty we needed to do at the trot. The week before, we had schooled the shoulder-in to renvers to shoulder-in down centerline and quarterline. I worked on it pretty consistently all last week and was definitely able to get the first two parts of the sequence pretty solid.
One of the things I most like about not being in full training (says every poor adult ammie) is the opportunity to work on things by myself. Getting the shoulder-in down the quarter line without the support of the rail is tough. After analyzing my aids down the rail, I finally felt "it" and was able to apply the same aids down quarterline. Surprisingly, moving into the renvers is fairly easy now that I understand the aids. Being able to work on it by myself as homework helps me figure out what I need to do. And when I can't quite get it, I can ask Sean the very next week.
What's turning out to be a bit tricky is the last phase of that 1-2-3 series. Sean's feedback was really illuminating; he explained that this sequence shows how much control over the shoulder the rider really has. For the final shoulder-in, I lose a bit of control so it feels like Izzy drifts back towards the rail. it almost feels like we're going in reverse or doing the Moon Walk. While it's a tricky set of movements, it's definitely fun to work on.
I have gone through the I love this horse/I hate this horse cycle so, so, SO many times. While we're not showing, which is my heart really wants, I am very much enjoying the progress that we've been making all summer long. Because of this horse, I am riding better than I ever have, and I am learning so much. I have a lot planned for the next few weeks.
We're going to a CDS-rated show on Sunday, but I only entered one class, Training Level Test 1. I have no idea whether we'll actually make it in front of a judge or not. If all we do is have a another good warm up, I'll consider that progress. And then at the end of the month, Izzy and I are heading to STC Dressage for a three-day boot camp. I go back to work that next week. I have a lot of riding to get done in these next two weeks because August and September are my busiest months at work with means I won't get much riding done.
As we used to say when I was endurance riding, you can rest when you die. Truth!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%