From Endurance to Dressage
One of my favorite things about Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, is his patience. Patience is a virtue I definitely do not have, I am impatient by nature. Not Sean. In contrast to how I do most things, hurrying and rushing, Sean takes his time.
He's deliberate and systematic. When I "help" him clean stalls, I start in the middle and haphazardly fling the shavings here and there, searching for the pee spots and road apples. Sean starts in one corner and methodically works his way through leaving not a single stray poop. Guess who finishes more quickly with a better result? If you said me, thank you, but you'd be wrong.
Sean doesn't post a lot of his thoughts on social media - unlike me who can't stop jabbering, but what he does share is always full of insight and meaning. Earlier in the week I came across this gem and asked him If I could share it.
“You’ll Get There Faster by Taking Your Time”
by Sean Cunningham
This seems counterintuitive. It would make more sense to go faster if you want to get somewhere faster. If we were talking about drag racing, that would certainly be the case; but we’re talking about training horses.
The essence of this quote is that the horse will set the schedule for how quickly they progress, not you. They will decide when they’re ready to move on to the next task, not you. They will decide when they need a break, not you. If you try to push them through any of those places when they’re not ready for it, you’re bound to get into trouble.
That’s not to say that you should never challenge your horse. Quite the contrary. They will never get stronger, build muscle, or progress in their training if you don’t push them outside their comfort zone systematically. What does this mean then?
It means you listen to them. If you’re paying attention, they’ll let you know when they’re ready for a challenge. If you listen closely, they’ll tell you they need a break. If you’re focused on your horse and not on your cell phone, you’ll see where they are instead of where you think they should be.
Listening to your horse allows you to put the right pressure on them at the right time. As a result, there will be fewer setbacks in your training. With fewer setbacks, you’ll progress faster.
Thus, by taking your time, you’ll get there faster.
Thanks, Sean, Izzy is definitely benefitting by following your lead.
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%: