From Endurance to Dressage
After my lesson with STC Dressage on Monday, "T" came out on Tuesday for a lesson. Since I am not a "trainer," I'll probably keep repeating that for the rest of my life, I don't really have a plan. On the subject though, at what point does one call themselves a trainer? I would think you could officially call yourself a trainer the day someone offers you money. Taking money (or not, in my case case) doesn't mean one is a "good" trainer though. Anyway, without years of experience, my "training program" consists of whatever occurred to me last night. For T, that meant a lesson on the outside rein.
Since I wasn't quite sure how sound Speedy would be (he's just getting over an abscess), I decided that working on a square, even at the walk, would be plenty to tackle. As it turned out, Speedy was fit as a fiddle and even got his panties in a wad during the lesson. To finish things off, I told T to give him a good canter all the way around the arena so he could stretch after doing so much "sitting" work. After a few laps, I had her cross the diagonal with the intention of doing a change of lead through trot.
As I was shouting out, sit on your outside seat bone and then ..., Speedy beat me to the punchline. With zero sass, he gave a perfect little flying change of lead and was prepared to continue on in the new lead. Knowing that something had happened, T asked for a trot before I could say carry on! We both laughed at how easily Speedy had taken control of the situation. It didn't seem fair to ask for even more work after such a well behaved moment, so we finished on that note.
But I am getting ahead of myself. We were talking about riding the square. Often times, what I show Speedy's ladies are the things that I didn't understand when I was first starting out. For me, things were more difficult because neither Speedy nor I knew anything about dressage. We learned everything the hard way. Now that Speedy knows what he's doing, I am using his experience to show his ladies how important the basics are for the future. But what are the basics?
For now, I've been considering "the basics" to be seat, legs, heels, and rein aids. Knowing how to use each aid independently and in a coordinated fashion seems like pretty essential stuff. Even though no one is doing canter pirouettes, I think it's still important to understand that aids are given with a lot of different body parts. Enter "the square."
In retrospect, this exercise might have been too challenging for T, but she still learned a great deal about coordinating her aids, so in that respect, it was a win. I had T start out at the walk. I've learned that she likes to see each new exercise done at the walk so that she has time to process all of the aids more slowly. We all know that once you do something at the trot or canter, you have a lot less time to get it all together.
Riding a square means riding forward and then making a ninety degree turn where you then continue forward until the next ninety degree turn. At the walk, T felt Speedy shorten his stride behind as he lifted his shoulders up and around. She was able to maintain an inside bend and then ask for the turn with the outside rein. At the trot, things fell apart. As I heard myself saying more outside rein, more outside rein, more outside rein, I realized I sounded an awful lot like someone speaking more loudly to a person who doesn't speak English. Saying it louder and louder doesn't make it any more clear.
I felt myself start to get a little frustrated, not at T, but at my inability to help her understand. Not knowing what else to do, I asked her to stop and let me get on. That was the first time I've felt the need to do that. I never minded when Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, needed to get on Speedy. I never took it personally. I understood that she needed to see whether the problem was me or Speedy.
As soon I got on and asked Speedy for a turn on the haunches, I immediately realized it was him. He was being sticky. It might have been because T had asked one too many times "incorrectly," but as a schoolmaster, his job is to do it right once she finally asks correctly. He doesn't get to quit. So, I put him to work by riding the square at the canter which is much harder than at the walk or trot. Suddenly, Speedy remembered his job.
When T got back on, she was finally able to feel how using her outside rein could help Speedy turn. It might not have been perfect, but we now have something to work on in the future. Knowing how to use the outside rein helps in the leg yields, the half passes, and even in the flying changes. In fact, after watching the video of my lesson with STC Dressage, I saw where I could be using more outside rein to lift Izzy's outside shoulder to help him be straighter.
After the little hand gallop and unplanned flying change, we walked Speedy back and untacked him. T is preparing for her own horse, so we've also been doing mini-horse care lessons. I've shown her how to deal with an abscess, what she needs on hand for basic first aid, and how to use polo wraps and leg boots. On Tuesday, we worked on how to teach a horse to take a syringe and how to clean a gelding's sheath and a mare's udder. To her credit, T was able to dose Speedy with his tube of ivermectin, and she cleaned Izzy's sheath while I did Speedy's.
It wasn't what most girls think of when they have a "girls night out," but for a horse girl, it was the perfect way to spend a pleasant morning.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read