From Endurance to Dressage
Yep, had another lesson with JL on Tuesday. She was on vacation for 10 days so that's why Sydney and Speedy had those field trips to Cha Ching's place last week. And good news for me: we will now take a lesson every Wednesday after work with occasional Saturday lessons when I have time. Of course winter will probably have something to say about the every Wednesday idea, but this will be the first winter I've been able to do weekly lessons. Woo hoo for me!
But I digress ... this was a brilliant lesson as JL rode for the first half of the time while I was able to watch, listen, and video. With JL aboard, she helped me discover a few things: yes, his neck is stiff, especially to the left; yes, he is heavy, but only because he really hasn't been asked to go lightly; and his whoa! is woefully inadequate. I watched her school through some of these issues, and then I hopped on (after switching out her saddle for mine - she's a hunter/jumper, not a dressage trainer) and went to work.
One of the first mistakes JL helped me to correct was what to do when Sydney's nose popped into the air to evade the bit. Before, I had been alternately rocking and squeezing the rein to ask him to lower his head. Nope. Instead, she had me pull both elbows back, hold the rein steady to create a "fence board" and add leg to push him forward. He either ran into the "board," or learned that the release came from softening and lowering his head. I had to learn to be patient and stick with the firm hold. It took about half the circle before I felt Sydney start to soften and lower. Once I felt him start to give, that's when I started to gently rock or pulse the rein. Somehow that conveyed to him that yes, lowering your head is the right answer! And because you did, I am now going to soften my hands.
Fortunately, Sydney gave me several opportunities to practice this new way of asking for softening. Much like I've done with Speedy G over the last month or two, our focus now is on asking for soft with a light contact. Eventually we'll move to a firmer contact, but for now, it seems as though both of my horses need to trust that I can be softer than they are. I think I'll call it the "Who Can be Softer?" game.
Here's the video of JL schooling Sydney. If you don't have a regular trainer, you'll probably enjoy watching her work. Remember that she's a hunter/jumper trainer so her riding style is going to be quite different than what you might be used to. Softness doesn't come from the saddle in which you ride. I am learning that instead, it comes from how you use your seat, legs, and hands. Enjoy!
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%: