From Endurance to Dressage
And on to less philosophical stuff …
The best part of the riding aspect of the clinic was the lack of fear. Mostly mine, but Sydney seemed less stressed as well. He never gave me those feelings of, Oh, sh@t! They were down-graded to lots of, oh man!, oh man!, oh man! and most of that was me thinking, hold on, you can do it as I carried 500 pounds of his front end with my core and arms.
Unlike the last two clinics with Sydney, this time we were actually able to walk and do changes of direction that didn't feel like this ...
Both riding days went pretty much the same. We came in at a walk that was tense and hurried, but at least it was a walk. On the second day, I was actually able to walk and ask Sydney to bend his neck and do some shoulder fore. We didn't do a lot of walking though as Christian knows that Sydney needs to keep moving forward.
When we did pick up the trot, I liked how Christian told me not to worry about where Sydney's head was. That's the exact approach we've been taking with JL, my regular trainer. Instead, Christian had me work on Sydney's body.
One of my favorite exercises he had me do was one I actually do at home, but he refined it a bit. Tracking left, he had me make the circle smaller with just the outside thigh and rein. This counter bends the horse and asks him to lighten his front end so that he can pick up his shoulders.
The refinement part came when Christian had me switch back and forth from making the circle smaller to making it bigger by flexing with the inside rein and pushing with the inside leg. The exercise has the rider use outside aids to inside aids to outside aids which really asks the horse to repeatedly change the bend. This is a great suppling exercise.
Besides suppling, this exercise also help get the horse on the outside rein. It feels a lot like tossing a tennis ball from one hand to the other, but for the horse, you're asking him to move from the outside rein to the inside rein to the outside rein. Making the circle small is hard work, so when you change the bend with the inside rein and move the horse out with the inside leg, he wants to do it because it's easier.
A second exercise that we did helped Sydney bend to the right. Christian has shown me this technique before, but this time, I was able to begin using it more effectively on my own. When the horse won't bend to the inside, to the right in Sydney's case, it does no good to keep sponging the inside rein. He just hangs on it all the more. Christian likes to get them to let go immediately so that you can break that cycle of resistance.
As you track right (in my case), bring the inside hand across the withers and up to your left shoulder. Christian pointed out that this breaks several cardinal rules, but the 10 seconds of ugly is worth the softness that it achieves. As soon as the horse softens for even a moment, release the hold and lower your hand. As in any technique we utilize, giving the release at the correct moment is the challenge.
We also spent quite a lot of time on balancing the canter. Sydney has a lovely, uphill canter on his own, but when he's stressed, he rushes which sends him onto his forehand. Christian helped me work on getting him back uphill. Although we wanted to work on the trot, Sydney wanted to canter so in Christian's words, we made the canter my idea.
Thanks to JL, galloping madly is no longer frightening. Even though Sydney gave quite a few yeehaw bucks, I just sat back and rode. We've done so much practice with sending him forward into a gallop and bringing him back to a medium canter that as long as I was remembering to ride my horse, there was no fear.
During some of the canter work I did forget to ride my horse and Sydney would get heavy and rush. It was when I was letting Christian do all of the riding for me that I forgot to do my part. He can't do everything for Heaven's sake! As I felt Sydney begin to get heavy, I would start riding again. This means holding him to the canter rhythm that I want with my seat. It also means half halts to say come back and sit deeper. As soon as I did this, I would hear Christian's approving si, si, ja, ja, more.
While I didn't have any profound AHA moments like I've had in past clinics with Christian, I did take away one deeper understanding. Getting that inside hind leg to step deeply under is the root of everything. I watched a lot of other rides and it didn't matter if the horse was schooling the canter zig zag (amazing to watch that lesson) or the half pass. Getting that inside leg to carry more weight is crucial for all other movements. You can be sure that I'll be doing more tear drops, leg yields, and serpentines.
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%: