From Endurance to Dressage
I am a better rider than most of the nearly seven billion people that call Earth home. I should feel awesome about that, but the reality is that when compared to actual riders, not just all of humanity, I am rather mediocre. Riding in a clinic, even with friends and people who I know are rooting for me, only serves to highlight my weaknesses. So while riding with Dr. Christian Schacht always inspires me, it also leaves me feeling somewhat dejected. I have a long way to go.
But, enough of that. Yes, I'll never reach the end of the road, but I am glad because the journey is so very fulfilling.
I took Izzy to his first over-night event this past weekend and was really pleased with how he handled himself. First, I loaded him at 6:30 a.m. -before he'd even had time to see his breakfast. He hopped right in, and then rode for the next two and a half hours with barely a peep. He unloaded a bit wide-eyed, but he wasn't freaking out.
I popped him into a pipe stall between several other horses, and while he wasn't thrilled, his behavior wasn't too bad. He paced back and forth and tried to hook up with the pretty mare next door, but I've seen horses behave worse.
He spent several hours in that stall and then to keep a friend's horse from having to sleep in the show barn alone, I moved Izzy to barn #2 for the night. The next morning, my friend's horse left, so I moved Izzy back to barn #1 where he fretted and worried for a bit but ultimately relaxed. I would say that he behaved remarkably well considering that he spent time in different stalls on his first over-night event.
For this clinic, my goal was to get as much ring time as possible to show Izzy that working away from home is no big deal. The one thing that I hoped to conquer was the ring itself. There are large mirrors along one side and in two corners. It's also covered which makes it a bit dark. At the C end, the ground drops away immediately, so it looks as though you're going to trot right off a precipice. If Izzy could relax in this ring, he could work anywhere.
The mounting block is just outside A. I got on and pointed Izzy toward the opening and asked him to walk forward. He didn't even blink as he walked under the roof. I don't even think he knew he was in a covered arena. He glanced at the mirrors for a moment, but then he never looked at them again. Neither did I for that matter. Well okay then ... covered arena conquered.
When you ride with Christian, he first asks what you want to work on, and then he tells you to just start riding. After watching for several minutes, he'll start to murmur instructions into the ear piece: lower your right hand ... more inside leg ... MORE INSIDE LEG ... turn with your outside thigh.
He doesn't explain the reason for his instructions. There's no lecture. He essentially rides the horse through you which gives the rider the sensation of what correct work feels like. I am not always sure how we got there, but I always savor the feel that he helps me achieve.
As I knew he would, Izzy came to work very tense with a hollow back. That's his thing. Speedy always starts out flat. Getting him put together is also a challenge, but in a very different way. Izzy gets very short across his top line, almost in a U shape. His head flies up and his stride is super short. We've been working on it, but Christian finally helped me crack the code.
In a lesson with Chemaine a month or so ago, we started tackling the issue of Izzy's lack of throughness. She had me focus on holding the outside aids firmly while using my inside leg to push him to the outside rein. I've been working on it, but Izzy has been super resistant and often refuses to give. Christian challenged me to PUSH him to a shorter outside rein WITHOUT backing down.
It took many circles for Izzy to figure out that life is so much better when he yields to my inside leg and relaxes into the outside rein. Without Christian forcing me to hold it, I would never have had the guts to ask for something for that long. Essentially, Christian had me kick him repeatedly over and over into that shortened outside rein. I don't know how long it took for Izzy to soften the first time, but it was a while.
Once he finally gave to my inside leg and agreed to engage his hind end, I got the magical feeling that I've been struggling with for so long. Every time his head popped up, I shortened the outside rein and pushed him into it with my inside leg. Over. And over. And over. Relentlessly.
Izzy had a few little moments - he balked pretty good at the scary precipice end, but other than that, he didn't do anything naughty. Our work simply focused on showing him that he has to yield to my inside leg. Period. In some ways the ride was pretty boring as we stuck to a 20-meter circle at E/B, but I appreciated having the opportunity to "practice" getting him to soften.
Besides riding, the other reason that I enjoy this clinic so much is that I get to spend time with some of my very favorite people. Jen, the event organizer, always keeps things so friendly and positive. No snarky people are allowed to participate. I don't know how she weeds them out, but everyone who comes to this clinic is always super supportive and encouraging.
After the clinic, Jen drove me back to her barn so she could gather some more feed for her horse who ended up over-nighting at White Birch with Izzy. While we were there, we hung out with some of her barn mates. Every one of them is funny, witty, and just plain fun to be around. Several ladies insisted that Jen introduce me to Stanley, the barn's head squirrel. There are too many squirrels to count, but Stanley is so large that they all know him on sight.
Of course, the best part of every clinic is Saturday's dinner. This time, our group was smaller than usual, but we had a pretty good time. And like happens every time I ride with Team Symphony, I always meet someone new. This time, a new-to-us rider joined our little group. I hope to see John at future events. Anyone that can make internet failures as funny as he can is always welcome!
Day two tomorrow ...
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%: