From Endurance to Dressage
Schooling What You Don't Show
I've had a couple of kicked my butt weeks. The switch from having the summer off to going back to work full time is always a bitter pill to swallow. It's not that I don't like working, I do. Teaching is very rewarding - usually. It's the fact that August and September afternoons are still flipping hot, 100 degrees hot, and I just can't do that to myself or my boys. After not having ridden mid-week for two straight weeks though, Friday's heat was finally tolerable enough to ride.
Somewhere along the way, Izzy has grown up. I think it happened last March. Of course, once fall and winter hit, I expect some of his jackassery to return, but until then, I am having the most rewarding rides.
As I continue up the levels with Speedy, I occasionally think of the adage show a level below what you school. I've always found that idea to be arrogant. If I knew how to do the movements above where we are, I'd be schooling them. But since I am learning right along with Speedy, we show right where we are schooling.
It's different with Izzy. Now I know what a leg yield should feel like. The same for a shoulder in. I know how much bend I should look for in the half pass, and I know that a change of lead through trot is setting him up for flying changes. As I was schooling him on Friday afternoon, I laughed when I realized that the only "movement" from training level that we were schooling was the stretchy trot. I now finish my rides on both boys with long and deep stretches.
Since it was 100 degrees, I kept the ride pretty short. We did a quick walking warm up, focusing on being really round and deep with lateral flexion. From there, we did a few 20-meter trot circles with changes of bend across the diagonal. I also asked him to lengthen his stride. We did a few leg yields followed by some trot half pass to get a change of direction. That took care of the trot work.
I followed the trot work up with a few trot to canter transitions and then did some changes of lead through trot. Next was the canter half pass to check on his suppleness. And since we don't have a flying change yet, I rode the counter canter along the short side and then did a few more changes of lead through trot.
So now, I can actually show several levels below what we school. Our 21-minute ride had movements from First, Second, and Third Levels. It's a lot easier when you already "know" what you're doing.
Here are a few clips of what we worked on over the weekend.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we went to another show on Sunday! More on that tomorrow.
Schooling a level above where you're showing is common in all disciplines. I don't find it 100% necessary in dressage and don't judge people for not doing it because usually the only thing you're going to bruise by moving up too early is your ego (vs in eventing, say, where you could put you or your horse in danger moving up too soon). But everyone has their own goals, some riders like to know that they will ride a clean test when they go in, others are happy to go in when they're sure they can make it to the end of the test without being eliminated. Some people's end goal at a level is to break 60% and are happy to spend half the show season scoring in in the 50s before doing it, others don't want to start unless they're going to hit 65% their first ride out and only move up when they've scored in the 70s.
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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%: