From Endurance to Dressage
Tension Versus Relaxation
I had a few formal riding lessons with my grandma when I was a kid, but nothing after that until I was nearly 40. I started my dressage journey in the summer of 2010, the same year I hung up my endurance gear. In those four and a half years, I have definitely learned a lot. I've also learned that I will never learn it all, not even close. So when I learn something new, or get one of those AHA moments, it is particularly gratifying.
Since finishing up with Training Level at the CDS Championship show this fall, Speedy and I have seen some excellent progress at First Level. We're getting ready for another visit with Christian Schacht, and our first show of the year will be in March. I doubt we'll be getting scores in the high 60s, but I know it's the right level for us.
The thing that I am enjoying the most right now is that I can immediately feel when Speedy is working correctly over his back and when he isn't. In the past, most of my efforts were in getting him forward. Now that I can get forward, I can get him more and more connected with the bridle, lifting his back and withers. There are days however, when this takes a long time to achieve, days like Saturday.
In the past, my reaction to tension would have been, why won't you do it? Now my response is, what can I do to help you? I find that I no longer get frustrated, unless it's at myself for not being able to figure out the source of the resistance or tension.
When I rode Speedy on Saturday, there was a large piece of farm equipment rattling around in the cherry orchard behind the arena. It's not a piece of equipment that gets used very often, and it even bothers me. I am not sure what it's actually doing, but it sounds as though it's vacuuming up gravel. It's a tension causing machine for sure.
Speedy reacted to the noise by being very heavy on the forehand, ignoring my half halts, and resisting my seat. I tried all of my exercises to help him relax: a big, bold hand gallop, leg yields, long and low trotting, and my new favorite, trotting a figure eight while on a counter bend.
None of the exercises did the trick individually, but when used collectively, Speedy finally began to come through and over his back. He never gave me the really good work that I know he can do, but it was gratifying to feel him finally begin to soften and swing.
My point, however deeply obscured, is that I am grateful for the new level of feel that I have developed over the winter. I am feeling tension that I couldn't feel before, and I am better able to help him work out of it. It's my puny version of we're kicking some butt around here.
Let the butt-kicking continue!
2/4/2015 09:24:55 am
Exactly! I try not to think about how much more I'll know next year which only makes me feel stupid THIS year. I relish every bit of feel that I develop, whenever it happens. :0)
2/4/2015 09:27:00 am
I genuinely don't get mad or frustrated. That doesn't help anything. Thinking about ways to help him is the most productive thing to do, and really, trying to help makes you realize that it's not personal. Speedy is not TRYING to piss me off. He just doesn't want to work that hard on that day. So ... I think of ways to help him do his job. :0)
2/5/2015 10:36:14 am
My poor boys ... I am definitely a fixer! I try very hard not to try and fix EVERYTHING, but being a perfectionist who isn't perfect means I want everything just so. :0)
2/4/2015 11:48:43 pm
Question for you.. what brand dressage saddle do you have for Speedy? I have an Arab also, & I'm currently on the search for a new saddle. I used to have a Laser & that worked well for our first year until he really started to develop "dressage" muscles rather than WP/Hunter muscles (which is what he was started in).
2/5/2015 10:34:57 am
Short answer: Custom Saddlery is the maker, Revolution is the model. They run about $4,000 new. http://www.mysaddle.com/RevolutionBuffalo.html
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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%: