From Endurance to Dressage
While Izzy is getting a day or three to rest up, I've been watching a Pivo video I shot on Sunday. There are a few things I saw that gave me pause - some good, and some not so good.
The first is that it does look as though I am at least occasionally restricting his neck. While I am riding though, it doesn't feel like it. If I give him more rein, his head shoots up or he runs off. When he's trying to run through my rein or be a giraffe, I flex him to the inside and push him sideways until he relaxes his neck and carries himself. It's easier to "talk" to him on a circle. It's much more difficult on the straight ahead moments, especially the medium trot. I am so eager to give him the rein that I hold them so lightly that he occasionally jerks them free. This is definitely something that I need to figure out: how to give him more room without riding a giraffe.
Besides the restricting thing, there are lots of things that I am really pleased with, and they all have to do with the walk. It was in the walk that we lost a lot of points at our last show. When Izzy is tense and bouncing off the walls, he jigs. Riding him is so different from riding Speedy who LOVES to walk. He always saw the free and extended walks as an opportunity to stretch his neck and catch his breath. Izzy hasn't quite figured that out yet.
Over the past week, I've been focusing on the walk. When he jigs, I compress the walk until he almost halts, and then I let him back out. Collect and lengthen, collect and lengthen ... just like you would do at the trot or canter. I am also focusing on the cues for the free walk. I want him to know that the free walk is a "thing." As we come through the corner, I straighten him by aligning his hips and shoulders, and then I purposefully send him forward with a squeeze from both legs as I let the reins slide through my fingers. We'll see if it helps this weekend.
Another movement that is hugely improved is the rein-back. Two months ago, he couldn't do one. He would scramble backwards with his head in the air and his back hollow. It took a few rides, but he quickly learned what I wanted. I started with asking for only one step and then praising him hugely when he gave it. We did that for several days until he would take one crisp step backwards and halt squarely. Then I added a second step and a third and a fourth. He now backs very purposefully, but his back has been tight. This past week, I worked on getting him really soft and round and then maintaining that during the rein-back. I am learning that with Izzy, the smaller my cue, the happier he is, so now I am asking for the rein-back with the littlest bit of rein possible.
Along with the free walk and rein-back, his turns on the haunches are also getting so much better. For a while, he was just stuck and couldn't move. During that clinic I did with Amelia Newcomb, I showed her what I meant by getting stuck, and she "fixed" the problem in less than 30 seconds. I had been focusing on the hind end, when what I should have been doing was bringing his shoulders around. With Speedy, I had to really keep control of his haunches, or I lost them as they would shoot out to the side. So that's how I learned to ride a turn on the haunches.
Izzy doesn't have the problem of wayward haunches in this movement, so I was unintentionally planting his feet so he couldn't move. Amelia had me think about bringing the shoulders around with an open inside rein. Immediately, he swung around his haunches like a pro. Over the past week, I've been building on that new learning and helping him to bring his shoulders around with a soft neck and loose back.
I just keep reminding myself that we only need to make everything just one point better. It doesn't have to be perfect.
One point is all we need.
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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%: