From Endurance to Dressage
My first show of the season opened with a lesson from Chemaine Hurtado. Riding with Chemaine makes me so hungry for more traditional dressage lessons. Don't get me wrong, I so appreciate what my own trainer is helping me do, but she'd be the first to tell you that she's not a dressage trainer.
The hunter/jumpers don't use their seats or other aids in nearly the same way as dressage riders do, so that is one area of my training that I am missing out on completely. Chemaine worked with me on weighting my inside seat bone and stirrup, especially as we approached the corners. We also worked on opening the outside rein to encourage Sydney to move his shoulders out.
Chemained tried to keep the lesson focused, but I still felt a bit overwhelmed by all the new information that she gave me. I have so much to learn. Sigh … There was one exercise though that I really grabbed onto and was able to apply immediately, however awkwardly.
The exercise was a suppling exercise, something that Sydney really benefitted from. As I crossed the diagonal at the walk, I asked for a bend but rode straight toward the letter (a shoulder fore). In more technical terms, "The inside leg remains active at the girth. The outside leg is slightly behind the girth to prevent the haunches from swinging out. Maintain the bend and proceed down the long side bringing the forehand off the track. Once the shoulders and forelegs have left the track, increase the outside rein aid to prevent the horse from over-bending to the inside."
We did the exercise in several different places in the arena. We did it down the long sides, of course, across the diagonal as I mentioned, and even down centerline. Once I understood the exercise, I was able to use it during Sunday's tests to keep Sydney focused on me as well as to help us make the 20-meter circles at B and E.
I've known what a shoulder fore and shoulder in are, but this is the first time that someone has shown me how to use them while schooling my horse. Now that I see how to use a shoulder fore, I can see how this will help loosen Sydney up and help me have better control.
Chemaine also showed me how to use this exercise to make crossing the diagonal easier. As I approached the corner, she had me change my weight aids (switch to the inside seat bone) and then change the bend. Tracking right, she also instructed me to open my outside rein while still maintaining contact to encourage Sydney to step into the left rein rather than cutting the corner.
I just realized that I kind of forgot to share a few details that will help explain why working with Chemaine on Saturday afternoon felt so successful. I first took Sydney to White Birch in December. He was so nervous that I wasn't able to leave the A end of the arena (pretty much where I stood to shoot this photo). When we went back in late February, we were able to school more of the arena, but it took Dr. Schacht holding us in place with the lunge line. For this visit, Sydney walked right in and was happy to school wherever I asked him. In fact, we did most of our work way down there at C in front of the judge's booth!
It could simply be a result of familiarity or me being more relaxed. I hope it's actually because I am becoming a better rider. And that's where my frustration comes from. Chemaine is a great instructor, but even she couldn't fix all of my problems in one lesson. It's clear that I have several areas that need some quick improvement.
While we were working on opening the outside rein, Sydney started rushing and running off. Chemaine was very patient, but I told her that when he is that strong in my hand, I simply don't have the skill to use both reins at the same time while weighting the inside seat bone. I need to use the bucking strap to hold myself in balance while I either soften with the inside rein, or ask him to slow down with the outside rein.
As Sydney started careening around the circle at C, Chemaine needed me to open the outside rein, flex the inside rein, and weight my inside seat bone. I just couldn't do it well enough to get a nice turn. She agreed that Sydney needs me to be a better rider, but she wasn't trying to discourage me. She was just pointing out what he needs.
I asked her to hop on him so that I could see what he can look like as well as watch how she handled his nervousness. Of course, he didn't look at all nervous with her aboard, nor did he get heavy in her hand. In some ways this helped me feel better as most of the work lies with me, not with him.
I got back on, and Chemaine asked me to really focus on two things: I need to sit much deeper, kind of like a sack of potatoes; and I need to not lean forward. By sitting heavy, she didn't mean to dig into his back, but rather encouraged me to lower my center of gravity. If I can keep myself from leaning forward, I'll help Sydney to lighten his front end so that he isn't struggling with my weight and his.
Sorry for all of the rambling. This stuff bores me to read, but right now, I am writing to help process what I learned. I was able to put into practice some of Chemaine's tips the next day at the show. I know you're dying to know how that went, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow!
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%