From Endurance to Dressage
With winter firmly unpacked and having taken up residence, lessons have been a bit sporadic. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was finally able to make it into town for a lesson this week. Since I do the daily riding, she usually leaves it to me to let her know what we need to work on. I had a list.
The Half Pass
Okay, but when isn't that going to be on my list? Probably never. I feel about half pass like I did about the stretchy trot circle - hate it. Of course, stretching down is all he wants to do now. Maybe once Speedy is a Grand Prix horse, the half pass will seem easy. For now, it's our nemesis, especially the half pass right.
The half pass right is our harder direction because Speedy resists bending so completely. You put him in a straight line, and that boy is s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t. And when I rev him up correctly in the corner, he can really push through. That's why his mediums and extensions are pretty good.
Bend to the right AND push? Um, let me think about it. That'll be a nope. Says Speedy all day every day. No matter what he thinks about it, he still has to do it though, so Chemaine had me approach it a little differently. As we approached the corner, she had me work on half halting him while flexed. He can half halt when he's straight, but getting a half halt while bent around my leg is a new idea. For both of us I think.
If I got him bending before the corner at A, it was easier to bend him toward the letter, H or M, as we started the half pass. It was also important to have him in front of my leg, with energy. That's the solution to everything though, isn't it?
The thing that really resonated with me was that Chemaine separated the half pass into several moments: bending with the outside hand open and back in the half halt phase and then let him carry himself forward. The second he wanted to fall in on the shoulder, half halt with an open outside rein to draw the shoulders in front of his hips and bring the rein back to sit him on his haunches so he can carry himself. That was pretty much the one thing she repeated all day: LET HIM CARRY HIMSELF.
Curb Rein or Snaffle Rein?
Now that I (mostly) have control of both reins, I am learning when to use each one. Sometimes it's obvious, like in a flying change that has gone wild. The curb rein is really helpful.
For the most part, I've been relying on the snaffle rein except for when I really need him to sit and push. Like in the medium trot. The curb really helps me set him up to collect, but near the end of the diagonal, Chemaine pointed out that he was over-flexing in the front, like this.
As soon as I switched to the snaffle, his nose shot forward, and we finished the medium looking like this.
We spent the rest of the lesson on this. For Third Level and beyond, Speedy has to be in self-carriage ALL. OF. THE. TIME. It's hard, and I've let him rest on my hands for too long. It wasn't on purpose though. It's hard to know what light feels like until you really feel it. So we did a lot of half halting with taps of the whip when my leg didn't work.
With a horse like Speedy, one who likes to fake you out by curling behind the vertical, it's challenging to keep pushing him up to the bit without letting him dive onto my hands. It's a lot like riding a teeter totter. Or as Chemaine described it, towing a trailer: if the trailer's not connected (the hind end), it gets left behind. Keeping the "trailer" attached requires Speedy to really lift his back, drop his croup, and PUSH.
Our hey, that's nice! moments are getting longer and closer together. The show season starts in March, so we have two more months to improve his self-carriage, my control of the reins, and that bleeping, bleep half pass.
For today, I'll just focus on this particularly nice moment.
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%: