From Endurance to Dressage
Our weather has been unseasonably pleasant for the better part of a month. We normally battle the heat all the way through Halloween, but not this year. It's been warm still, but only into the mid-80s. Both my boys got baths this weekend.
My regular lessons are on Monday afternoons, but most of you know that already. Guess which ONE day of the week was supposed to have an early rain. Yep. Monday.
Even though the rain was not likely, it never rains much this early in the year, high winds were a definite possibility. As storms move through California's Central Valley, they are always preceded by strong winds that lead the storms in. Sure enough, by the time I got to the barn, the wind was howling and the sky was filling up with ominous, black clouds. Not exactly like this, but since I was saddling Sydney, it's what my mind saw ...
The whole time I was saddling, I kept trying to talk myself out of the lesson. The wind was really gusting, leaves were skittering across the ground, metal was banging, and I knew it might pour at any second. But then I took a deep, resigned breath. Isn't this what I've been preparing for? Situations where my horse is anxious? What better place to school him through it than in my own back yard.
As we walked down to JL's arena, I could feel the tension coursing through my arms and legs. Sydney, on the other hand, looked like he could care less. The gusts of winds never fazed him. I started to relax and felt my core loosen up a bit. By the time we got to JL's I was feeling pretty good about riding him through the nasty weather.
The lesson started out with a discussion of my most recent video: what I liked, and what I saw needed improving. The thing I most wanted to work on was the landing moment of my rising trot. I could see in the video, as well as feel, that I land too firmly and get a bit left behind, which causes me to struggle a bit in the rising phase of my posting.
JL's solution was so simple that I felt an immediate improvement. (She's a really good trainer.) Just like we had discussed in the canter, I needed to concentrate on not over-opening my hip angle in the rising moment of the post. By over-opening my hip angle, my shoulders fall behind my pelvis, and I lose balance. As soon as I focused on keeping my hip angle a bit more closed, my balance improved immediately, and my seat got so much softer.
Which was all great news because Sydney chose that moment to duck hard to the inside. He did one of those duck and turn maneuvers that leave you hanging over empty air with the certainty that you are about to eat dirt in a serious way.
I do not want to jinx myself here, but I am about to. In all of the many, many times that he has reared, bucked, bolted, launched, cavorted, ducked, or spun, he has not dumped me. I do not say this to boast about my stickability, but rather to speak to his kind soul. I do not think that he ever intends to actually lose me. He always stops whatever it was he was doing in order to give me time to reposition myself.
With that said, it's not all thanks to his kindness that I haven't eaten dirt. I do have a pretty good seat when it comes to shenanigans. All I am saying is that if he really wanted to shake me loose, all he would need to do is take just one more step forward, backward, or to the side to finish the job. But he hasn't.
So after he left me hanging in mid-air, he was UP. Excellent timing, Sydney. Once he spooked that first time, he started looking for other scary monsters. With the gusting wind and the scattering leaves and banging metal, he didn't have to try very hard to get a bit wild. He spooked himself into a right lead canter, BUT ... he got the correct lead. JL later attributed that little success to my careful and correct riding.
The rest of the lesson, short as it was, was about keeping my hip angle more closed in order to keep a quieter and softer seat. We worked on getting that inside bend to the right, as well as keeping him balanced without letting him fall into the circle; the reason we had so much trouble at the last clinic.
JL doesn't give a lot of compliments. She's just not the kind of trainer who needs to placate her students or stroke their egos. She doesn't criticize or pick on you either. She gives you feedback and lets you do with it what you want. During this particular lesson though, her compliments were numerous. I didn't really need them though, to know that I was riding much better than I was just a week ago. Her suggestion to resist opening my hip angle so wide filled in a big gap in my riding. It seemed to just tie a bunch of things together.
Even though Sydney was high and bouncing around, I felt perfectly balanced and in control. By the time I asked for a downward transition, I was grinning from ear to ear. And to make the lesson feel even more successful, Sydney offered a lovely downward transition that was soft and relaxed. We quit the lesson right there.
My takeaway from the lesson? Focus on my hip angle at both the trot and canter in order to keep my seat softer and quieter. This will improve my balance. Also, continue with the up, up, down exercise as that is really helping my leg position and helping me land more softly.
Lessons with a great trainer simply can't be beat!
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%