From Endurance to Dressage
I mentioned something yesterday about JL, my trainer, moving Sydney and me on to other stuff. It's not earth-shattering, but it's subtle which is hard to write about. Basically, she wants Sydney's frame to be a lot shorter so that he can start carrying more weight on his haunches. Right now, while he may be round and quiet, he's got a lot of weight on his forehand.
Since Sydney holds so much of his tension at the base of his neck, he really can't shorten his neck, nor draw it in and up. To release the tension, JL has had me stretching Sydney's neck from the saddle like you would do in carrot stretches.
The first time I asked for the stretch, I got zero movement. JL explained that it's a lot like stretching yourself; you start small, and then you keep going, one chunk at a time. Now, several days later, I can almost get Sydney to reach my toe. I give a rocking pull, hold it for a stride, and then I give another rocking pull, hold it, and then another. By the fourth pull, Sydney will let go of his neck enough to let it come all the way around.
We've done this on the ground a million times, and he can easily touch his sides with his nose, but with me on his back, there is a level of tension that he just doesn't feel while he's naked and looking at a carrot.
Once I felt that Sydney was comfortable with the stretching at the walk, we moved on to the same stretch, but at the trot. By the fourth day, Sydney was offering a stretch with the first pull, not to my knee, but at least he was giving immediately.
After we went through the stretches, I tried another exercise that I saw in Dressage Today. The exercise was designed to help horses with too much uncontrolled power. As I read through the article, I kept thinking, uh … yep, that's my horse. In Sydney's case, the too much power comes when we transition from trot to canter; he's completely balls to the wall.
It goes like this: do about a million walk to trot transitions (yeah … got that), but as you transition from the trot to walk, leg yield into the walk as you ask for the downward transition. This helps put the horse on the outside rein so that you can ask for a quieter transition. Sydney LOVED the exercise. We've been doing lots of tiny trots that end in a leg yield to walk. This sends his inside hind leg deeper while also asking for some inside bend, which is what we really need to the left.
So when I combine the carrot stretches while mounted with the leg yield into the walk exercise, I am finding that Sydney is freer through his neck and back. When I ask for the canter departures, they have been quieter, and he's slightly more uphill in his balance. When I feel him stiffen his neck, I can now rock the rein and get some release from him, which allows me to shorten his frame a bit. With a shorter fame, I can also add more leg to get him to take off more like an airplane rather than a wheelbarrow nosing into the dirt.
Believe it or not, all of this has been a lot of fun. I feel my skills getting better and better each day, and my confidence is growing. While Sydney still bounces around and tries to rear, he never gets away from me. I can quickly and efficiently diffuse his tension and continue on.
I finally feel as though we are matched in our ability. For so long I felt out-horsed. Not any more!
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%: