From Endurance to Dressage
I like to run, but I don't really like to exercise. When school gets out each June, I am ready to return to running, but the heat usually keeps me indoors. Not this summer, I swore. On my way home from work on the last Friday of the school year, I stopped by the gym for a three month membership.
I've managed to go for a run about five days a week. I am even considering extending my membership through the end of the year. It's not that I am lazy, but when I work full time, I am busy! I leave for work by 6:30 a.m. and get home at 3:45 where I promptly change and head to the barn by 4:00. I ride and turn out both horses as well as clean my stalls and help with feeding. I get home around 6:00 and cook dinner. By the time dinner is cooked and the dishes done, it's 7:30 and the bed is gently calling my name. When will I have time to get to the gym? I might be able to make it work if I get up at 4:30 a.m.
This is horse-related, I promise. I've learned a lot while spending those 30 minutes each day on the treadmill. Who would have thought a treadmill would work for dressage?
Rhythm: oh! When the speed is set at 5.5 mph, you have to go 5.5 mph. There's no speeding up or slowing down, or you might fly off the back. Speedy likes to speed up and slow down; that's not maintaining a rhythm.
Lengthening: I've played around with this on the treadmill. I can go 5.5 mph with a longer stride or a shorter stride. I discovered that I do this when the music changes on my iPod. Instead of running faster, I just lengthen my stride and stay in the air longer.
Balance: mine stinks! I can definitely feel how uneven my own lateral balance is. I hit the ground much harder on my right side than I do on my left. Both my ponies have a more unbalanced side, too.
The Walk: my maximum, sustainable walk is 4.5 mph, and it's hard to do. After that I need to break into a jog. With more practice and training I might be able to maintain a faster pace. I can walk out really big and loose at 4 mph. That's when I can get my best free walk. My stride is long and swinging. Speedy has a lazy free walk and doesn't want to lengthen his stride. Maybe he needs to get on the treadmill!
Looseness: I am always searching for this quality. USDF defines looseness as, Freedom from, or release from, negative physical and mental tension. Relaxation. This is when I get in the zone. Chunks of time can pass where I am not even aware of the work that I am doing. I feel powerful and empowered. I know this is referred to as a runner's high. I wish I could feel it more often.
Running is mental for me. The muscle fatigue and shortness of breath are nothing compared to the difficulty of just DOING IT! When I feel like stopping short of my time, I repeat a favorite line from The Matrix, is that air that you're breathing? Morpheus asks this of Neo while training. The point is that Neo is experiencing a mental fatigue since his body is safely tucked away on the ship while his mind is in a computer program. I know I can continue; it's all about convincing your body of what your mind believes.
How do I get my horses to be loose? This is a biggie for Sydney. The last few months have been spent teaching Sydney that he can trust my hands to be gentle and giving.
The last thing that has occurred to me while running is that the treadmill is the perfect place to practice my dressage tests. I have them memorized, but when I feel stressed, it's easy to forget them. When I start to feel fatigued and my breath is getting short, I demand the recitation of a test. It's hard to do! But I dig deeper, and I do it. It serves two purposes: it gets me back in the zone, and it shows me that I can remember the tests under pressure.
For $24.99 a month, I am getting a lot of dressage schooling done.
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%: