From Endurance to Dressage
Best friend and I drove down to Moorpark this past weekend to ride in yet another Christian Schacht clinic. As usual, I walked away with a big hunk of WOW to try and digest at home.
Although we had a hiccup to start with, the clinic went super well. When I loaded Izzy to head to the clinic, I groaned in frustration when I saw his shoeless front foot. Best friend and I did a frantic search for the shoe, finally finding it buried in the dirt. I threw it in the trailer and called my trainer, who was also riding in the clinic. Within an hour, a farrier called me back and agreed to meet me at White Birch to tack it back on. Many thanks to Roger Bishop for saving the weekend.
Izzy did all of the traveling and over-nighting almost as well as Speedy. He loaded and unloaded like a champ, and stabled like a pro. He ended up sleeping in the show barn all alone, and while I doubt he was celebrating his solitary confinement, he handled it without a peep. He ate and drank well, and seemed much more confident about the whole experience.
My plan for the clinic was to figure out how to correctly ride this horse forward. I've been struggling with that. Christian does all of his lessons the same way: he asks you a few questions about your horse (how old is he? what's his breeding? and so on), and then he might ask you what you'd like to work on. It doesn't mean you'll get to work on what you want, but at least it's out there. After introductions, he simply sends you on your way.
I've ridden with him so many times now that I just ride the best I can and wait for him to start talking to me. For this lesson, I got a huge surprise. Christian's first words to me were to ask if I could recite the names of all the presidents. I laughed and said that I could name some of them but certainly not all of them. What the hell? was my first thought. What does that have to do with dressage?
As I trotted and cantered the circle at E/B, he asked me to just name the ones that I could. I opened my mouth and nothing came out. I mean nothing. I teach US history for Pete's sake. And then all of a sudden I remembered George Washington and then slowly, a few others began popping into my head. After I got to Clinton, Christian started peppering me with basic math problems. What's 22 times 3? Double it. Multiply it by 6. Divide it by 4. And so on. I was still trotting and cantering.
As before, my answers were slow and quite often wrong. I felt like someone with a brain injury. I knew I knew the answers, I teach fifth grade after all, but I just couldn't get my brain to work the answers out. I felt like a drunk trying to tie my shoes.
Finally, Christian asked me to name what was in my refrigerator. I was so relieved. I had just gone shopping that morning so I knew I would get the answers right! And then I didn't. I couldn't think of anything that was in my refrigerator. "Lettuce!" I said. But then I realized that I hadn't bought lettuce. Holy hell. What was going on?!
After some more prodding and coaxing, I was able to come up with a few items that truly were in my refrigerator. It was then that Christian asked me how my horse was going. What horse? OH MY GOD! You mean the compliant school master I've been jogging around for the past 15 minutes?!?!?!?
Okay, school master might be an exaggeration, but not by much. Izzy had settled into a workmanlike trot that was rhythmic and forward. He hadn't squealed, bolted, bucked, or misbehaved. In fact, Christian had me ride Izzy on the buckle as he crackled a plastic cup and dropped a sheet of paper as we walked by. I had seen none of it.
So what had happened? Christian explained it like this: my seat is fine and my aids are correct. I just need to get out of my own head and let my horse do his thing. According to Christian, and I don't doubt him for a moment, I am ALWAYS wondering what Izzy is going to do wrong, or I am wondering what needs fixing. ALL OF THE TIME.
That's what's been holding me back. Christian got me riding my horse without thinking about riding my horse. As soon as I just let my body do the work, Izzy was able to do his job. Christian went on to explain that I am riding a horse who is extremely sensitive to my every thought. If I am worried about how we're doing, Izzy is worried. If I am wondering if he's going to race around, Izzy is wondering why we're going so fast.
So. My take away from Day 1 is to quit thinking so much about riding while I am riding. To help myself do that, I need to be thinking about something else - like what is in my refrigerator. Getting out of my own head seems to be a key to our success!
Tomorrow - a few exercises that really helped.
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%: