From Endurance to Dressage
Over the past couple of weeks, I missed two lessons in a row. For the first one, we were in Nashville, and for the second weekend, I had a nasty cold that I picked up while we were there. Since I have been riding every week for more than a year with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I occasionally wonder if I actually need weekly lessons. I am doing just fine on my own, she says. Isn't he just telling me what I already know, she says.
Uh-huh. Guess who broke her horse in the two weeks that she went lesson-less. This girl. Somehow, over the past two weeks - despite the fact that we had two weeks filled with divine weather, 60s at night, high 70s in the daytime, I managed to break Izzy's go forward button so decisively that I had to snap off a branch from the over-hanging tree to threaten him with a beating if he didn't get his arse moving. The branch was more of a twig with flapping leaves, but it was the only thing I could reach and break off while riding. Despite motivating the big brown horse, beating him with a twig is probably not a long term strategy for creating a forward thinking horse.
So when Sean's voice met my brain on Saturday morning through the magic of Pivo, I prostrated myself before him and begged him to forgive my hubris - metaphorically. I didn't actually get down on the ground. I swear Izzy can hear Sean through my wireless ear buds. And I KNOW he knows that the Pivo is tracking his every movement much like Orwell's Big Brother is Watching You. And wouldn't you know it? Suddenly, I had a forward thinking horse again.
In any case, my entire agenda for the lesson was to fix Izzy's behind my leg attitude, but since that happened as soon as I heard Sean's voice, we had to work on body control instead. Renvers is my new best friend. Shoulder-in to Renvers back to shoulder-in on the quarter line is now in the running for second bff.
That those words are even coming out of MY pie hole just goes to prove how wonderfully demonic is Sean Cunningham, the trainer I most love to hate. Kidding. Mostly. Fine. I love the torture and gladly come back for more but don't tell him that or he'll have me doing who knows what next Saturday.
During the previous lesson, Sean left me with the idea of riding shoulder-in down the centerline which is NOT as easy as it sounds, especially if you're me. But because I am nothing if not gritty, I worked hard on the idea, even slowing it down to the walk so that I could isolate which aids were most effective in getting Izzy's shoulders to move off the track instead of positioning him by moving his haunches out. That's cheating.
With Sean watching my progress and refining my aids, I finally figured it out - kind of. Sean's strategy is to become an octopus because riding shoulder-in correctly down center line or quarter line requires the use of more legs than I currently have, biped that I am.
First, the horse needs to bend around the inside leg so that leg can drive the horse forward. Use the outside rein and outside THIGH to move the shoulders in while positioning the LOWER outside leg to keep the haunches from stepping out. See? You'll need to grow another leg or two, or simply get control of your body's parts.
And when I could do that acceptably, Sean said to turn that hard won shoulder-in into a renvers and then back to shoulder-in. HAHAHAHAHA. No, really. That's what he said. But you know what? I was able to put that monstrosity of a series of movements together and not look totally stupid while doing it.
Oh, yeah. And then he made me do it on the other rein. Jerk. LOL
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%: