From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy G and Our Pal, Contact
Poor Speedy G - he seems to be the good child who never gets any attention. I may not write about his under-saddle work very often, but it is happening; I swear it.
The latest thing we've been working on has been to keep his nose in front of the vertical. To do this, I have to keep my hands higher than what feels comfortable. The purpose is not to establish a head set. I so finally get that. Instead, we are asking (insisting) that he accept the contact and not hide from it.
Speedy has a lovely neck that arches beautifully. This is a problem because he can "fake" the connection quiet well. The arch has not been coming from a lifted back and withers. Instead he is breaking at that vertebra below the poll.
By shortening my reins (a lot) and holding my hands up in the air, Speedy can't hide from the contact. The second aspect to this is getting more activity from his hind end. I suppose you might say we're cramming him up to the bit. It might seem like that, but I know that's not what we're doing. When I feel Speedy try to duck under, I lift the left rein (outside when we're tracking right, and inside when we're tracking left), which is where his evasion seems to come from. At the same time, I sit back and add LEG.
Saturday's ride was a bit of a struggle. He wouldn't lighten up, and I just couldn't get my aids together to coordinate a true correction. No problem, by Sunday, we had it worked out. I now know the feeling that we're trying to achieve by shortening the reins and holding my hands higher. It is truly a feeling of being pulled along.
We had it in spades on Sunday. As I was riding and thinking, it occurred to me that the difference between being heavy and being taken by the hand could be described like this: imagine holding a bucket filled with rocks. That's heavy. To imagine a solid connection that isn't heavy, imagine holding a helium filled balloon that's tugging ever so gently on your hand. That's very light. Speedy's not there yet.
Instead of imaging the balloon, which is just too light for us, I imagine that I am on roller skates and holding the hand of a friend who is pulling me along. If I lean forward and allow slack in our connection, I am likely to fall flat on my face. If she speeds up, I need to lean back. When she slows, I assume a more neutral position. But when she stops, I've lost the connection unless my butt is underneath me and the "line" maintains tautness. When she begins to move, she won't pull me off my feet because my legs are underneath me. All I need to do is keep my weight back and allow her to pull me forward.
Speedy and I had a wonderful connection on Sunday. I added leg and he "pulled" me around. When I felt the reins get light, I leaned back and added leg. The more forward he got, the more I leaned back. It created a wonderful sense of riding a teeter totter: he and I pulled on each other evenly. Imagine it like this: do you remember the game where you grabbed a friend's hands and you both leaned back? When you were sure you had a good connection, you could twirl around faster and faster without falling. It took a lot of trust because if one of you let go, the other other would fall.
When I asked Speedy to canter, I got a pretty good departure and an even better downward transition. A few more months of this kind of work, and I know we'll be much more competitive at training level in the spring!
10/30/2012 09:20:29 pm
Have you read Centered Riding by Sally Swift? Your descriptions and images for comparison would most certainly make the late author proud. It is fun to read your about your learning process.
10/30/2012 10:48:12 pm
Yep. Read it and loved it! I let a friend borrow my copy a few years ago and haven't seen it since. I need to just buy a new copy.
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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%: