From Endurance to Dressage
"J" came down on Sunday this weekend instead of her regular Saturday. Like always, I tried to think of something to work on that we haven't necessarily tried before. It occurred to me that J was probably ready to play around with a bit of lengthening in the trot.
I love working with J. She's a very receptive student, and she trusts me implicitly. I am not sure I deserve quite that much trust, but since I have it, I treat it with incredible respect. I want to challenge her while never causing her to feel inept or inadequate. As we neared the end of the lesson, my heart just about burst with happiness when I saw a huge grin plastered across her face. She had felt what I was hoping she'd feel. Getting those new feelings is like a drug, and once you've had a bit of it, you're hooked and always looking for your next fix.
Over the past eight or nine months, J has learned a lot. Early on, her center of gravity was too high as she fought her hunter roots, and her aids weren't "dressage" aids. In a lot of ways, she was a "beginner." Most of us know what that feels like. Even though I could ride a horse 100 miles in a single day, riding for 30 minutes in a dressage saddle seemed like a task I'd never be able to do. I was a beginner in every way.
Over the summer, J's skills as a dressage rider have grown tremendously. She is sitting up and back in the saddle - goodbye hunter seat, her legs have lengthened, and she's beginning to self-monitor and correct herself when she feels her position becoming unbalanced. I thought it was time she learn to ride Speedy's bigger trot.
Explaining to someone else how to get Speedy to sit and really push off into a medium trot took a lot more words than I thought. After a not-so-short explanation of what the extended gaits are, I told J that we would just work on feeling a bit of a lengthened trot. I describe what feeling she was looking for: a bouncy trot that goes up that becomes a bouncy trot that goes forward. I explained that it will feel a bit floaty but not quicker.
Speedy hasn't done any extended work in more than a year. He really hasn't done anything from First Level either. All of the work that he's done has been from intro or Training Level. He's pretty well educated though, so I knew he'd give her the right feeling if she put him together correctly. To do that, I had her do a lot of transitions within the gait first.
It didn't take Speedy long to figure out what he was being asked to do. Powering across the diagonal was always one of his strengths, and in a test, I knew that was one place we could make up points. To help J feel the difference in Speedy's length of stride, I had her stay on the circle so that she could use the circle for balance and control. Once she was able to feel Speedy bounce in the trot, I had her ride the corner with the idea that she was coiling him up for a launch. Their first attempt was a bit crooked and braced, but Speedy gave her a sense of being up in the air.
After that first try, J told me what she was going to do; she wanted to cross the diagonal K-X-M and then come back down the other diagonal H-X-F. That has never happened before. I am usually the one suggesting that she circle at B or canter at C. She had it in her mind exactly what she wanted to do. I told her to go for it but to remember to circle if he wasn't put together enough because he wouldn't be able to balance otherwise.
Go for it she did. I haven't seen Speedy look that happy in a while. Finally, he got to do something that he really likes that he also finds easy. It wasn't like Speedy gave her an extended or medium trot, but he did give her a lengthening which gave J the opportunity to feel a bigger gait. I can't say it enough: I LOVE this horse!
By the time she was finished, J was grinning from ear to ear. She's been hooked for a while, but I think that sealed the deal.
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%: