From Endurance to Dressage
My motto is Saddle Up Anyway. For most of my life, I have been the type who just sucks it up and gets things done. Now that I'm past a certain age <cough, cough>, I am finding it a little more challenging to find the energy (and time) to still do all of the things. Last week really kicked my butt. Besides working all day every day, I loaded stuff for Pioneer Day, met my husband at the vet with the dogs, volunteered at MARE, and went to the doctor to get some stitches removed from my lower back. Without trying to make excuses, I simply didn't have the time or energy to ride during the week. It didn't help that our temperatures jumped from mid-60s to mid-90s in two days. But because that's who I am, I had a lesson on Saturday anyway with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage.
To my surprise, Izzy was FANTASTIC! Just because I was busy last week doesn't mean I didn't do things with my horses though. Izzy and I played games with his brand new but now demolished fly mask, Speedy got a shower, and Izzy got to graze in the yard. I made sure to engage with Izzy because not doing so leaves him feeling hurt and resentful and, yes, I am anthropomorphizing, but it is still true. So when I climbed into the saddle on Saturday morning, I even asked out loud who I was riding and where had my big brown (obnoxious) horse gone. Izzy was forward-thinking, swinging through his back, and willing to try everything that I asked.
When Izzy feels safe and confident, he gives me the opportunity to improve my own riding which in turn allows me to ride him more correctly which makes him feel more confident. Since Izzy was doing exactly what I told him to do, Sean was able to diagnose a few riding mistakes on my part. The first thing we tackled was the leg yield left. Over the past few weeks Sean has been able to help me ride it more and more correctly by helping me feel where I am losing control. For this iteration, I had the haunches under control, but by moving Izzy's shoulders to the left just an inch or so, I was finally able to get a leg yield left that was much smoother.
The next thing we tackled was the shoulder-in left. Are you sensing a theme here?When we come through the corner between C and H, Izzy braces, so the shoulder-in left is a struggle. Sean suggested I tackle it the same way I had with the leg yield left by getting control of the right shoulder. I had been so focused on getting him soft and bent to the left that I was allowing his right shoulder to bulge out. As soon as I quit worrying about the inside bend and focused on the outside shoulder, I suddenly felt a connection from my inside leg to my outside hand. The shoulder-in wasn't suddenly perfect, but I now have a new feeling and a way to work towards replicating it.
Besides working on a few other little things like the flying changes, we went back to the haunches in on a circle in the canter. For the right lead, Izzy was much, MUCH better. Once I started taking my left leg off, he was able to balance in the canter and maintain the lead as I brought his haunches in and then took my leg aid off. Funny how my horse can do the exercise when I ask for it correctly. To the left, Sean gave me more homework - control the right shoulder.
To the left, Izzy already wants to carry his haunches in. I knew I was in trouble when Sean said "Yes! Haunches are in!" before I had even asked for haunches in. Whoops! Instead of moving the haunches in, Sean had me work on straightening Izzy's right shoulder so that it was in line with his body. Suddenly, Izzy had trouble holding the canter left. When I rode him straight on the circle - with his shoulders not bulging out, he let me know that it was much harder to do. But, as he straightened, I was able to then ask for haunches in and he gave me an entirely different ride. The small moment of time where he cantered haunches in gave me a bit of half pass feeling. I was able to control the shoulders and the haunches both.
So now I have homework: get control over the right shoulder without over doing it. I told Sean that before long he'll have to help me fix shoulders that will soon bulge to the left because that's how I roll - give me the chance, and I'll over-correct everything.
I have a week to work on it. Let's see if I can just keep from screwing anything else up.
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%: