From Endurance to Dressage
Using the Long Sides
Now that Sydney and I can walk, trot, and canter with rhythm and relaxation, my trainer started us on a new exercise that includes some work down the long sides.
I am sure you're horrified to think that we've been stuck at A, but the truth is, we sort of have been. In my own arena, I utilize the whole "court." I do a walk warm up around the outside and then do a variety of figures that include circles at A or C, serpentines, shallow loops, and changes across the diagonal.
Over the last three years, I've used all of the space in JL's arena too, but at different times. Her arena is a large oval with room to do flat work at either end. The middle portion is filled with an array of fences. For the most part, we work at the end closest to the barn. It's set back from the road, and other horses are comfortably close. It's also wider than a 20 x 60 dressage court which means that I can do figure eights (two, 15-meter circles?) with an opportunity to also ride some straight lines.
For Wednesday's lesson, we decided that I had the necessary skills to start working on longer lines into a turn, like you would do in a full length court. The exercise doesn't focus on a specific gait, but rather on maintaining control of the outside shoulder so that the horse makes the turn without a loss of rhythm.
On an OTTB who doesn't like any lapses in my application of the rules, this turned out to be quite the challenge. We tried it twice at the canter, but since I wasn't quite prepared, Sydney was allowed to get too fast which made him think that everything was going to hell in a hand basket. We ended up doing it at the trot for this lesson so that I understood the purpose more clearly.
Here's how it went: we picked up the trot and did a 20-meter circle at the barn end of the arena. Tracking left, I then made the turn down the long side through a narrow "chute" that had jumps to our left and the rail to our right. As we approached the other working end of the arena, we were to make a left turn (not using the rail) and come back down the other long side through another narrow chute created by fences and the rail.
JL told me to be prepared for a horse that was going to race through the chute and then lose the ability to make the left turn at the end. She was right. The exercise showed how heavy he can be on the outside rein and how much I have to work to get him to lighten up.
This exercise really worried Sydney. JL explained that he knew we were doing something different and wasn't sure that the rules were going to be the same. Our number one rule is no rushing. Slow and thoughtful is what we're trying to teach him. So when we started down the long side and I let him pick up speed, it freaked him out. JL had me stop him with the outside rein to remind him that nothing had changed.
We worked for a while on halting in the chute at both the walk and trot to remind Sydney that none of this work required rushing. By the end of the lesson, his ears were once again Eeyore floppy and his stride opened back up. We rode the open ends in a nice rhythmic trot that we were able to hold and carry through the chute. Sydney was so light on the outside rein that I was able to send him sideways so that he could bend around my inside leg as he made the turns.
It seems silly to be excited about using the long sides, but even Christian Schacht, the German clinician with whom I've been riding this last year or so, would recognize how difficult this exercise was for Sydney. I hope that we'll be doing it at the canter next week, but I won't be disappointed if we have to do it at the trot for a while. To ride it successfully, Sydney needs to be able to trust that I will be able to help him stay balanced and safe. That means I better get it together ASAP so that I can actually do that!
7/10/2014 06:17:27 am
We're getting there. I am so lucky to have found a trainer who understands TBs. Everything we do now is focused on his mind. It is only when my aids are crystal clear that he is happy. JL focuses a LOT of time and energy on explaining things to the horse in a way that they can understand.
7/10/2014 04:52:25 am
'an OTTB who doesn't like any lapses in my application of the rules'
7/10/2014 06:22:05 am
Thanks, CFS. I wish I had known about "following the rules" three years ago! :0)
7/10/2014 06:24:44 am
It is nice, isn't it? We work hard to keep it that way though. It gets watered every day (we drag the sprinklers around) and my BO drags it as needed to keep the little whoop-de-dos level. It's also REALLY big, at least 40-meters wide (enough for two dressage courts). It's not quite long enough, but I have enough space to set up a 20 x 50 court with a lot of room around the outside for lunging, etc.
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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
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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