From Endurance to Dressage
It's not like he actually left and came back; Speedy's been around, but "J's" work schedule just hasn't aligned with mine. Speedy's been here the whole time, but he hasn't done much besides eat and beg for treats. Since J hadn't been able to ride for the better part of a month, I actually hopped up on him last week and checked in with his soundness and fitness. Living turned out keeps him fit enough for weekend rides while also keeping him sound. While he was a stinker for me - I rode him bareback in a halter, he was an absolute saint for J on Sunday.
While J hasn't been down to ride Speedy lately, she has been able to get in the saddle here and there over the past month. When she arrived on Sunday, she explained that one of the horses she rides is now in training here in Bakersfield, and she was able to take a lesson from the trainer. Rather than feel as though she had been "cheating on me," I was thrilled that she was getting an opportunity to ride other horses with a "real" trainer.
I immediately asked how it had gone and if there was something she wanted to work on with Speedy. The other horses she rides are well trained but not as schoolmaster-like as is Speedy. He is so reliable that she can use him to work on her position and aids as he never puts a foot wrong. She explained that on the other horse she rides, she has a lot of trouble keeping him on a round circle. So while circles are incredibly boring, we tackled why she was having trouble. As is normally the case, she discovered that her aids needed some tweaking.
Every time I write about J and Speedy I have to remind anyone new that I am not a trainer. After other ladies started riding Speedy, I discovered that I actually know more than I thought I did and that peer tutoring helps the "teacher" just as much (or more!) than it helps the learner. In education circles it is often said that to teach is to learn twice. I can attest to the truth of that statement. While I am coaching J, I often stand back and ask myself, Where the hell did THAT come from? when I've said something rather astute.
Lately, in my own lessons with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, he has helped me adjust my position such that I find I am riding more effectively. Having the opportunity to do the same for J is clarifying a lot of what Sean and I have been discussing. In J's case, I quickly saw that she was having trouble with the roundness of her circles because her weight aids were shifted to her outside seat bone.
While I don't always know how to fix an issue J may be experiencing, I can at least offer a suggestion that has worked for me. One thing I've been doing is riding "bowlegged" to check that I am not gripping with my thighs. The instant that I pull my thighs and calf off my horse, I feel my seat bones plug in and my weight sink back in my feet. To help J feel that same sensation, I had her get out of the saddle and lean into her inside stirrup. She immediately felt how her weight had been to the outside. As soon as she sat back in the saddle and dropped her weight onto her inside seat bone and into her inside leg, Speedy got rounder and his stride lengthened.
Even though the other trainer had had J stay on a circle which J said was a bit boring, we laughed because that's all we did on Sunday - trot and canter the 20-meter circle at E/B. It was almost a lunge line lesson but without the lunge. Speedy is so well educated that he doesn't fuss as J works on adjusting her weight aids and position. He simply motored around the circle rewarding her with more thrust and energy as she sat to the inside and quit "nagging" with her inside leg.
Eventually, we moved on to some canter work with the same ideas in mind. J instantly felt that her weight aids had been on her outside seat bone. When she sat on her inside seat bone, she realized that she could use her inside leg as an aid to tell Speedy to wrap around her leg and stay bent. Suddenly, she was turning with her outside thigh and holding the bend with her inside leg, not the reins.
Peer tutoring gives me the opportunity to articulate what I have learned or am in the process of learning. If I can't explain a concept well, I clearly don't understand it myself ... yet. Fortunately, J hasn't stumped me with a question I can't answer, but that day will come. Even when she asks more challenging questions, I relish the opportunity to stretch myself as I struggle to explain a concept that might not be "confirmed" in my own understanding. J knows that I'll never fake an answer. I am perfectly comfortable saying that I don't know something.
I tell my 5th grade students that all the time. They know that when I say I don't know, it means we had all better consult Google. Just this past week we were doing Google searches on iguanas and pythons. Did you know that iguanas have a large, circular scale on their heads called a subtympanic shield? They don't really have a known purpose, but it is believed that the shield fools predators into thinking that iguanas have a large eye staring back at them. Now we all know a new fact.
Iguanas and pythons aside, I do enjoy teaching whether it be 5th graders or my own peers. Peer tutoring definitely gives me an opportunity to learn twice. And since I have such a fabulous schoolmaster in Speedy, teaching someone else is definitely a win-win-win situation for all of us. I throw this out to the universe every few months, but if you know of someone who would like to give dressage a try, I might know of a horse and "coach" who would like to meet that person.
How did I get so lucky in finding a horse as special as Speedy? Sometimes, it's best not to ask.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%