From Endurance to Dressage
Stuff is getting real. Real real. Like can't fake it real. Last Tuesday, I had a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. Someone needs to remind her that I'm still a lower level rider because she's somehow gotten the idea that Speedy and I have made it to the mid-level ranks. During our lesson she kept saying things like he already knows how to do that, that's what he used to do, we fixed that already, and her favorite, MORE BEND.
This lesson rocked my newly minted, mid-level rider butt. Speedy's too. It was one of those lessons where you keep saying things like, wait. Wait, what? We did? Is that a good thing? You want me to do what? And my favorite, if you say so which means I'm not feeling what you're seeing.
Somewhere along the way, I must have said something about Fourth Level, and I KNOW it wasn't about wanting, or even needing, to be there, but Chemaine is suddenly busting my chops, Speedy's too, to get us heading in that direction. All of a sudden it's MORE BEND, push him to the bit, keep him in the box, don't let him escape that way, nor that way, QUIT LETTING HIM ESCAPE! And it's all coming at me at Mach 10.
The thing is, I trust Chemaine. If she thinks we're ready, we're ready. The last few lessons have been about getting more power, more suspension, and more bounce in the movements. Chemaine's visual for me has been about cramming Speedy into a box. Picture shoving a pissed off kitty into a shoe box. Every time I get the front end there, a hind leg pops out. Just when I think I've got those hind legs where they need to be, a head pops up. Speedy's not as annoyed as a cat of course, but he's just as agile.
Each ride now begins with flexions to the left and right to supple his neck and poll. We then move on to a go, half halt, GO exercise to get him in front of my leg. That quickly becomes a use that energy to go UP exercise. By the time we get through all of that, we're ready for the real work to begin.
Knowing that our half passes are our weakest movement right now, Chemaine planned out an exercise to address the problem(s). This exercise will help me get Speedy's shoulders out of the way as we begin to think about the canter pirouettes which will only help improve the half pass. It went something like this: counter canter a 20-meter circle at B/E. At each "corner" of the circle, do a ten-meter circle on the true canter lead with haunches in. Here's a quick video of our struggle.
It's definitely not an easy exercise, but there were a few strides where I could feel the pirouettes trying to happen. "A few strides" might be over-stating it, but the idea was there.
Canter pirouettes aside, my job right now is to insist that he stay round in front while also sitting and pushing from behind without losing the impulsion. In other words, staying in that box. In the past, he escaped the work by getting behind the vertical. That's mostly a thing of the past. Now, his "escape" is to come above the bridle, a much easier thing to fix.
Thank goodness we have another lesson this afternoon because I need to hear all of it again. Especially the MORE BEND part.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%