From Endurance to Dressage
Dressage is a daunting sport. First of all, we're all aiming for a level of perfection that can never be achieved. Two or three of the world's very best are getting close, but for the rest of us mere mortals, a 70% is our lifelong dream. Just when you do start to feel as though you "know" something, you move up a level and essentially start over, or you get a new horse and you start over. Either way, there's a whole lot of what feels like starting over.
For so long I've felt like a complete know nothing. I know just enough to mostly not look like a total moron, but that's about it. Recently, like this past week recently, I discovered that I actually know more than I've given myself credit for. That doesn't mean I know much, mind you, but I think it's important to own what we do know and understand. Dressage is a sport where confidence can really help you.
As "J" and "T" continue riding with me, they are testing me like crazy. J in particular asks very specific questions. She and I are a lot alike. We both like to talk through what we're learning, and we want confirmation that we're feeling the right things. When J asks me those questions, I have to listen hard to make sure that I understand what she's thinking, so that I can give her correct feedback. Most of the time her understanding is right in line with mine which is either great, or we're both wrong, and that would be my fault only.
Acting in the role of "trainer" is giving me a whole new way of looking at dressage; a new perspective if you will. Teaching J has been especially interesting because she approaches her learning very analytically. She seems to respond well to what we educators call front loading, the pre-teaching of any background knowledge that students need in order to engage in a successful first-attempt.
As a classroom teacher, I am very accustomed to creating lesson plans and assessments, except we typically do those in the reverse order. First we create the assessment, and then we design lessons that lead to mastery of the concept. We call this backwards mapping; know your destination before you start the journey. If we visualize the end goal, we can figure out how to get our students there.
Fortunately for me, the "assessment" portion of a dressage lesson has already been created. That's what a dressage test is, an assessment of what skills have been mastered and which have not. Each level's Purpose serves as a backwards map, and each test shows what is Introduced; that's the front loading part. The lessons that the student works on are in the test's Directives. I only wish every textbook's teacher's edition came as well crafted as a dressage test.
Switching back and forth between being a student or a teacher is giving me a peek at both sides of the coin. I imagine that this is why so many riders participate in USDF's L Education Program. The insight those participants gain must certainly help them with their own riding. When we know the why, our understanding can only deepen and broaden. That's how I am beginning to feel about teaching. It's as though I finally realized there is a door number two, and I've pulled back the curtain to see what is behind it. imagine my surprise to discover there is even more to learn.
J gave me the best compliment this weekend. She said that she'll move on to a real dressage trainer when I thinks she ready, but until then, she feels really comfortable learning with me and hopes she can stay a while. While that was really kind, I keep thinking, you get what you pay for. But there I go again, feeling like a know nothing. While I still have so much to learn, I need to remember how far I've come. Forgetting to acknowledge that only robs my own trainer of the credit she deserves for teaching so well.
So thank you, Chemaine, for being such a great teacher! I'm doing my best to pay it forward.
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%: