From Endurance to Dressage
Using my Imagination
Julie Goodnight with her "flag."
A reader recommended Erik Herbermann's Dressage Formula so I bought it. I am glad I did. It just arrived, so I have read only through chapter 2, but I've found a few things already that have helped. Here is something I read last night, "No one can learn without making mistakes. We all have had to learn at some time; there is no shame in that; and worthwhile things are seldom learned without experiencing some hardship. Suffering on both the horse's and rider's part is noble when mistakes are honest, and a continuous attempt is made to improve - especially on one's virtue of patience and self-control. If we are conscientious, beautiful roses can grow from the manure of our recognized and corrected mistakes."
I was so glad to have read that because that same day, I had a one-step back kind of day with Sydney. I only worked him on the long lines, but it didn't go very well. While asking for the canter, he returned to bolting to the outside. I had hoped we were past that. At one point during our work, his front legs got tangled and he fell to his knees as he tried to bolt to the outside. My heart sank. How could I make this easier for him? I knew we needed to finish on a positive note so we returned to walk and then did one trot circle followed by lots of praise and good boys. When he returned to his stall, he immediately pooped a very wet and loose pile. I also saw that my fleece-padded halter rubbed a tiny (but still visible) raw spot on his nose. I was discouraged.
I read Mr. Herbermann's words that night and felt comforted. He also said, "What can I do to help this horse at this moment?" I immediately thought about Sydney and vowed to do something better the next day. It occurred to me that what I really needed was a round pen to support him in the turn. Since I don't have a round pen, I needed to work as though I did have one.
I put Sydney in the long lines, and kept it in my mind that he was going to make the turn because the panels of my imaginary round pen would be there to support him. And since I had imaginary panels, I didn't need to worry about the outside rein as the panels would do that job. Instead, I needed to worry about keeping an inside bend and providing enough drive from behind to keep him going forward.
When I cued the canter, a little canter hop myself with a firm cluck, I kept the inside rein ready and imagined a "flag" in my outside hand. As Sydney began to balk at the canter, I slowed my own canter "hop" but exaggerated it and added a rhythmical CLUCK, CLUCK in time with the stride. When I felt him begin to stall out, I kept the inside rein bent, and I shook the outside rein hand as though I were snapping a flag. I also gave gave several hard kiss sounds and dropped back behind his hip in an effort to drive him through that turn. It worked!!!!
I don't know if I had been making that turn incorrectly before, but my new approach certainly helped this horse at this moment. Thank you Mr. Herbermann and Julie Goodnight!
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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%: