From Endurance to Dressage
For my third morning at STC Dressage, I paid a lot more attention to the clock and didn't let myself get distracted. That alone gave me a firmer feeling of being in control and relaxed. And of course, there was no anxiety because I was on day 3 and a bit tired. Wet saddle blankets are useful for both horses and their riders.
While I've done boot camps with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage a few other other times, it still amazes me how much progress you can make when you work with your trainer on consecutive days. We didn't need to talk about how things had gone over the past week; I started riding and Sean started teaching.
After working through our regular stuff - a bit of canter, shoulder-in, leg yields, Sean threw out a brand new exercise designed to support a horse's balance in the changes of bend. To do the exercise, track right through a corner on the long side and immediately do a full 10-meter circle. At the quarterline, change the bend and track left and complete another full 10-meter circle. At the quarterline, again change the bend and track right to complete another 10-meter circle. By the time you get to the end, you should have completed six 10-meter circles, alternating tracking right and left. I think this is a link to a quick Loom video which shows how I drew it.
Of course, I tried the exercise by myself on Tuesday and found it much more difficult than I had with Sean watching. When we did it at STC Dressage, Izzy fairly danced through the changes of bend, flowing left then right. On my own, I didn't have him nearly supple enough to do the change of bend. He was stiff, braced, and resistant. I love the exercise though as it tells you right away how balanced your horse is.
Another exercise that Sean had me do following the 10-meter trot circles was 10-meter canter circles down the long side. Now, that is not a new exercise, and I love doing them already, but in the context that we had just created with the trot circles, the canter circles were an excellent segue from trot bend to canter bend. The difference between the two exercises is that there is no change of bend and no change in direction unless you want to do a super fast flying change at the quarterline. And if you can do that already, you're only here to watch the train wreck.
Besides feeling as though I had progressed from the world's worst rider to a not-so-bad rider, I also started feeling better about my sitting trot. In case you haven't noticed, I am not an elegant rider. I am a middle-aged, adult amateur with a fluffy bootie and a chunky belly. There is only so much room in a dressage saddle, so when you try to cram all of that into one square foot of space, the fluff and chunk get pushed upwards. I am pretty much a beige minion. When you do a rising trot, the fluff and chunk get redistributed stride after stride, not so in the sitting trot.
As I struggled to keep my butt in the saddle as Izzy worked himself into his sewing machine trot, I gasped, My sitting trot sucks! to which Sean replied, "no one can sit that thing and look good." Bless you, Sean Cunningham. Sean pointed out that as Izzy learns to swing through his back more and more, I will be able to sit so much more easily. I know that's true because when Izzy softens his back for me, especially in the shoulder-in, I have no trouble sitting. It's only when he's stabbing the ground with his front feet that I feel like I am in old pick up truck speeding along a dirt road filled with a continuous washboard.
I am sure it won't take long for the excitement from this weekend to wear off, but I am trying to hold the feeling of both confidence and competence. I don't mind looking frumpy and off balance in the saddle as long as things improve month after month. I have started back to work this week which means my daily rides will be a thing of the past for the next six weeks or so. Today is supposed to be one of the hottest days of the summer, and I don't get off until 4:00. I'll continue riding on the weekends and squeezing in short rides on the days where it is not 100 degrees. There aren't many of those until mid to late September though.
Other than when Speedy was injured, I've never spent a summer doing so little showing. It was disappointing at first, but now I see that I've been just as busy, and while not successful in the context of earning ribbons, I feel like a huge winner nonetheless. I have at least one more post coming about the weekend, maybe two, so stay tuned.
To be continued ...
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%: