From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy and I finally had another lesson with JL. It's been more than six weeks since he's seen her, and after yesterday, I am sure he is ever so grateful. She helped me see that I was once again being the weak link.
I started the lesson by explaining that Speedy has been heavy in my hand and basically running through my aids. Since he's been out of work for the better part of five weeks, I just chalked it up to loss of fitness on his part and a glitch in communication on my part.
JL reminded me to swing him off the heavy rein and to remember to work only one rein at a time. I nodded my head, yes, yes, yes. I remember all of this, but it hasn't been working. I am the first one to admit that when something is wrong it's probably my fault, but I can't fix it if I don't know what I am doing wrong.
So while I am was working on softening Speedy to the inside, left rein, JL asked me to leg yield to the rail. I could practically see the light bulb flashing over her head. I don't know if she's more aware of my position since we've been working with Austin in the jump saddle, but all of a sudden she felt that I was really hunching my shoulders and bracing my arms.
I didn't doubt it for a second. Of course I am bracing and hunching. That's what struggling ammies do!
To help me develop a better upper body position, she picked up a whip with an eye to slipping it through my elbows, behind my back. Uh ... no. I know it's a technique that many trainers employ, but I didn't trust Speedy to keep it together for me to ride around with my arms locked behind my back. Instead, I just imagined the whip holding my elbows back.
When I questioned the purpose of the exercise, (I was really worried that she wanted me to always ride with my elbows that far back) she explained that it is simply an exercise to teach riders to sit up and move their elbows.
Holy heck, people. I LOVE this exercise. Once my chest was open and elbows were bent, Speedy miraculously softened and was even in both hands. Gone was the tension in the left rein and the constant tipping of the nose to the outside. If that wasn't a huge indicator that I am once again (or continue to be) the problem, someone needs glasses.
With my elbows pushed behind my back and my hands up near my boobs (sorry), my whole body started moving. All of a sudden, the tension simply melted out of me. The best part for me was to feel the suppleness in my wrists. Normally, I find myself pressing my hands down to "soften" my horse. With my elbows bent and my chest open, my wrists got soft and giving.
The next thing I found happening was that my legs also got longer. No longer was I reaching for the stirrups like I do when I hunch over. I felt stronger through my core and really well balanced. Even at the canter I was able to stay soft and supple though my body.
But best of all was Speedy's reaction. With almost no encouragement from me, he got loose and elastic. His trot got bigger and he started really carrying himself without expecting me to hold him up. As we circled and added in changes of direction, I felt my hands come down to a more "regular" position and my elbows came forward, but I didn't lose the openness in my chest or the suppleness in my wrists.
JL remarked that I presented a much lovelier picture. She said that my posting was actually elegant (no way!) and pleasant to watch. And of course Speedy looked like he was enjoying himself. I can't wait to add this new exercise to my warm up. JL joked (but was actually serious) that I need to walk around with a whip or crop tucked behind my back through my elbows just before I ride so that I can develop some muscle memory.
Where's that crop?
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%