From Endurance to Dressage
The other day I shared a ground pole lesson that I did with my trainer. On Monday, we returned to the collected canter but used the poles for trot work. Normally, I come home from my lessons with the feeling of having had a grand old time. Occasionally, like after this lesson I just took, I come home with a foggy head, feeling like I have a ton of homework.
I trust my trainer implicitly, but it can be very hard to work through an issue when I suspect that we're not really "dressaging" it. That means we're not working it out like my "dressage" trainers would do. Whenever I've doubted JL's approach, Chemaine or Christian will later describe an exercise much like the one she'll have had me do. I've learned not to question JL's approach.
With that said, this newest work we're doing is HARD and uncomfortable. She knows that I need a more collected canter from Speedy. Unfortunately for me, he is quite lazy and strongly resists working his hind end which is a necessary part of collection. His go-to evasion is to overly round his neck so that he avoids contact with the bit and thus can let his hind end trail out behind like the tail of a kite.
To help me teach Speedy that he must use his hind end, JL has had me shorten his reins AND NOT GIVE HIM AN INCH. It takes an absolute ton of rein to keep his butt moving without letting him run off on the front end.
We worked on the canter just like before: slow motion trot, sit, quietly ask for a canter and then half halt as strongly as necessary to get him to quit leaning on my hands. And when I say a half halt, that's probably not correct because it's coming completely from my outside hand and not from my seat. At all.
To the left, I can get him cantering really lightly and carrying his own front end, although he doesn't look pretty doing it. To the right, I finally got that light canter, but it took some serious work with the outside rein and inside leg.
Once Speedy was finally listening to my outside rein, JL had me do a very collected, slow-motion trot. The purpose was to show me how to not throw away the contact and let him dive forward. Once we started working on the poles, all of my lack of control showed up clearly. When we approached the poles, I gave with my hands so that he dove over the poles instead of lifting and reaching.
Once I kept the contact, without letting him dive forward, he started falling to the left in anticipation of going left. When he falls in, his shoulders go in and his hind end shoots out. JL had me correct this by slowing down the inside shoulder (left) while pushing his ribcage left which served to set his right hind back underneath himself.
It was only when I had slowed the inside shoulder and set the outside hind underneath him that we could trot the poles with a lifted stride that was also straight. Once we cleared the poles and had a few straight strides, I could use my inside leg to push his inside leg to reach deeper and make the corner.
This probably looks and sounds stupid easy, but Speedy didn't want to engage his hind end and push up and over those poles with the floatier stride that we need. He really wanted to dive over the poles on his forehand. And once he was there on his forehand, he quit using his outside hind leg and simply fell in to the left.
JL is of course an excellent teacher so we eventually got the green line. And in fact, once I had him straight, I was even able to do the exercise with more stride length instead of the tiny baby jog we were doing.
When I look at the pyramid of training, I can see how there is no collection without straightness. So while we're not attempting any FEI level work, we are addressing Speedy's tendency to fall in or out with his haunches. We did all of our work tracking left, which is the side that I can control more easily. Tracking right, he will probably stay straighter, but I will no doubt have trouble making the turn because he will want to drift left to the outside because I struggle with controlling that left shoulder. Same problem - different direction!
I have lots of homework this week!
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%: