From Endurance to Dressage
If you've ever watched the PBR, you'll have to admit that those bulls are super athletes and can move in phenomenal ways. I can't say I've ever seen one do a canter pirouette, but I bet they could do it.
In the last few months, Izzy has made the transition from the proverbial bull in the china shop to a fledgling bullerina. He is now slowly morphing into an actual dressage animal that more closely resembles an equine. Sort of like this ...
And a few strides later we had this ...
Chemaine gave me some new tools that have really helped change things over the past few days. My new focus is to shift Izzy over to the outside rein by using my inside leg and seat aid. It wasn't that I haven't been working with the outside rein, but I was more intent on getting some inside bend rather than pushing him to the outside rein. I think inside bend and being on the outside rein can be two totally different things.
Getting an inside bend with the inside rein can be an end in itself meaning there is no corresponding outside rein. I've done this with Speedy plenty as we school the shoulder in. Sometimes, he simply refuses to let go of (or soften) to the inside left rein, so I will drop the outside rein completely, and over bend him to the inside while driving him forward down the long side until he gives to that rein.
For the last few weeks I've done something similar with Izzy. I've bent him to the inside as we spiraled down to a smaller and smaller circle until he made the circle without any tension on the inside rein.
It's a subtle mental shift to leave the inside rein alone in order to focus on the outside rein. My job is now to be very firm and supportive with that outside rein without letting Izzy drift out or be counter bent. This is where my seat and legs come into play. If I use too much inside leg, I will push him out so it's important to keep my outside leg and rein there to say not out this door.
We had a bit of an argument yesterday that included the biggest rear he has offered. It all started because he didn't really want to work and was behind my leg. When I closed my outside aids and put my inside leg on to say bend around it, he went up instead of forward. While that was certainly not the right answer, I liked that he knew drifting sideways wasn't an option. The correct answer would have been to push forward with the inside hind and give to the outside rein.
A few moments after that discussion, he launched straight forward into a huge bolt. Again, that wasn't the right answer, but at least he went forward instead of up. And again, I know that he was just trying to figure out the easiest way, meaning least amount of work, to do what I was asking.
After getting told quite sternly that rearing up and bolting forward were not the correct choices, he finally got the answer right. There was still a fair amount of tension in his neck, but by using Chemaine's strategy of compressing his stride with the outside rein and asking him to soften to it with the inside leg really started working.
I held that outside rein firmly until he gave, and then I softened and asked for a slightly bigger stride. We did it over and over down the long sides, across the diagonal, and while doing 20-meter circles. While this softening exercise is about getting more throughness at the trot, the effects can also be seen in the canter. Izzy can now pick up the canter both directions without exploding. Mostly.
Chemaine suggested that I ask him to compress and soften right before the canter aid. He now understands the aid (mostly) and can pick up the canter more or less when I ask. I have to be very aware of keeping his shoulders even between my aids, and especially while tracking right, I have to make sure I keep even weight in both hands until he softens to the outside rein.
I think that in another couple of weeks, the canter departure buttons will be pretty firmly installed, and we can start finessing and improving the quality of the trot/canter transition. He's been an interesting horse to school because he's not nearly as linear in his development as Speedy. Izzy can already do some of the movements from Intro all the way to Second Level. I feel like we just need to continue building his foundation, and before I know it, he'll be wowing me with all he can do.
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%: