From Endurance to Dressage
I've written about the purpose and movements introduced at First level before, but that was before I was actually putting them together in a test. The words themselves are easy to understand: develop the thrust needed to achieve improved balance and throughness and maintain a more consistent contact.
Now that Speedy and I are putting it all together in a test format, the words have taken on a whole new level of meaning. Those 10-meter circles can't be done without a certain degree of balance. The same can be said for all of the movements at First Level, especially those in test 3.
For our next show, we're doing tests 2 and 3 which has meant that I've needed to start putting the test 3 movements into my daily ride rather than doing them only occasionally. Some of the movements have proven easier than others, but there were a few that were trickier than they look on paper.
1. K-X Leg yield right, X-H Leg Yield Left:
What makes this leg yield tricky is that when you come from A, you should be on a right bend, but to leg yield right, you need to have a left bend. Chemaine and I schooled this leg yield when I lessoned with her a week or so ago. Just before you get to K, you need to change the bend, the posting diagonal, and weight your new inside leg (the left).
The leg yield right is the hardest one for Speedy to do because he doesn't want to be on the right rein. The counter flexing exercise that Chemaine had us do has helped with getting the new bend.
Just before we reach centerline, I start thinking about doing one or two straight strides before I weight my new inside leg and go back to the right bend. Speedy struggles with his balance switching from one leg yield to the other, but doing what I call a zig zag leg yield a few times first, gets him better balanced.
2. R Circle right 10-meters; B Turn right; X Halt, Proceed working trot; E Turn left; V Circle left 10-meters:
Because Speedy is relatively small, the 10-meter circles are pretty easy for him. It means that I have to ride him correctly though. If I let him get too heavy, he loses his balance and either falls wide, or he stumbles. The really tricky part is the halt at X. When he can't halt easily, that tells me he is on his forehand and not balanced.
Instead of putting this whole movement together all at once, I've been doing 10-meter circles in random places followed by a halt. We then trot forward, but not necessarily into the turn. When I feel some good adjustability, that's when I'll link both circles.
I also discovered that when I do a trot lengthening after the second circle (from F to H), Speedy really gives me some good, long strides. When we return to working trot at H, that has been a good way to half halt through the corners to set Speedy up to repeat the 10-meter half circles. It feels like he wants to stretch and lengthen after sitting for those two circles.
MXK Change Rein; X Change of lead through trot:
I really wish this movement started with the left lead canter. It's Speedy's heavier direction, but my half halts go through better this way. As it is, it's much harder to get a downward transition from the right lead canter. Surprisingly, picking up the new lead hasn't been an issue at all. Knock on wood here, but he's picking up the correct lead every time; it's the canter to trot that's been a little rough.
In order to show him what I want, I've been doing lots of canter to trot transitions on a circle. My aid for the downward transition is to give a little half halt with my outside rein while I step into my outside stirrup. When I get a prompt downward transition, picking up the left lead is easy. If I have to get really strong with my hands, he hollows his back and flings his head up.
Right now, I'm riding this movement on a short court which means we come out of the canter needing to do a quick canter to trot before picking up the new lead. I am hoping that by practicing in such a small area, I'll have a lot more time to prepare for the downward when we actually show. In the meantime, Speedy's getting better at the change of lead through trot.
The Whole Test:
There's a lot more to test 3, of course, but the rest of the movements, other than the counter counter, are ones that we've already ridden in a show environment. Surprisingly, Speedy can hold the counter counter (movements15 and 20) pretty well. To the right takes a lot more effort on my part, but this movement isn't tricky. As long as I don't let him get heavy or long, things go pretty well.
A friend who started First Level last year told me that I'd enjoy this level. She was right, there is so much more to school than at Training Level that my rides are jam packed with too much to work on. I know Speedy is thoroughly enjoying the variety in his work. While we warm up with 20-meter trot circles, it's nice to be able to do something else.
If you're still at Training Level yourself, get good at it, because First Level starts to be fun when those boring basics are pretty solid. I keep telling Izzy the same thing. I hope he's listening!
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%: