From Endurance to Dressage
I hate to even say it for fear that the Jinx Monster will rear its ugly head. But here goes: riding Speedy is FUN!
I am genuinely enjoying schooling him in the dressage court. I don't think I've ever felt like it was fun before. Tootling down the trail is fun; showing him is usually fun; camping with him was always fun; but schooling? It has felt more like a constant struggle.
On Sunday, I saddled him up and laughed at his goofiness. Yes, he fussed when I tightened the girth, but I just walked off and left him to think about it. When I asked him to step closer to the mounting block, he took one of those teeny tiny baby steps that doesn't actually accomplish anything. Uh, well, I guess you did step somewhat closer. How 'bout we try that again? Again, no big deal.
Once we were walking around, I started right away with asking for flexion to the inside while sending his shoulder here and there, and then I changed the flexion while still moving his shoulders around. I am discovering that Speedy likes to be limbered up before he begins any trot or canter work. Flexing his neck and moving his shoulders around is guaranteed to get some happy-happy snorts and sneezes.
All along, our trot work to the right has been a struggle. I am finally realizing that it is because he doesn't want to be on the outside rein. Or probably, he doesn't want to really step under with his inside right leg. That's the leg that has the smaller butt cheek. This photo is from September 2009; I really need to do a new one to see if the right cheek is getting bigger or stronger.
He shows his resistance in the corner by flinging his head up, hollowing out his back, and hopping in a not-quite-canter stride. In the past, I would have fought with him and repeated the corner over and over. Now, I know that it's better to prepare him for the corner by not riding it too deeply. I also make sure he is flexed to the inside as we approach, and I send his inside hind leg deeper as we approach the corner, supporting him with the outside rein.
If I really focus on the quality of the bend, he can do the 20-meter circle so much more balanced and happy. Again, by focusing on the how, we get where we want to go in a much happier frame.
My rides now consist of a variety of exercises. On Sunday we did a lot of work down the centerline as making the ten meter turn helps Speedy be better balanced for the right lead canter. I also asked for more left leg yields as those seem to help him balance for the left lead canter.
And best of all, we worked on counter canter both ways. My court is a bit short so the loop is even harder to get because I don't have much distance in which to make a gradual loop. Instead, I have been making the loop very shallow, maybe just to the quarter line instead of to X. If I ride it like the test shows, my loops are deep which are harder for Speedy to do. I am fine with baby steps.
What I am loving about his canter right now is that he is definitely much, much lighter in front. I don't feel like I am riding a bull dozer anymore. He is listening to my half halts which makes turning a million times easier.
I definitely can't wait for the Christian Schacht Clinic in December.
After our ride, I was hosing Speedy off and noticed that the gray pony is getting a bit wide through the middle. Can we just call it a well-sprung ribcage?
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%: