From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy was pretty busy this weekend which meant I was to. We had extremely windy and wet weather for the entire week, so none of us - us being Izzy, Speedy, and me, did anything but hunker down and wait for the three systems to pass us by. This being California, a few stormy days led to three days of gloriously beautiful days of bright blue skies with temperatures in the mid 60s. It's predicted to be 70 for the next two days. It's okay to hate me just a little bit.
With the rain dissipating early Friday morning, I headed out in the afternoon to see how wet everything was. I also gave both boys a good grooming. Izzy had mud from ears to tail, but in true Speedy form, my polar bear was clean and fluffy.
Once I had the mud knocked off the big brown horse, we went for a walk so that I could check out the arena footing. Being on a sandy river bottom means most of the water drains through, but we still had a good sized puddle at K. By Saturday morning, the puddle was gone, and thought still wet, the DG footing was solid for riding.
The day before, "T" and I had worked out a riding schedule that we hoped would work out. I was on by 9:00 a.m. and was delighted with how good the footing really was. With a good base and DG on top, the footing was solid with no slippery spots. Halfway through my ride, T showed up and got Speedy out. By the time I was finished riding and had Izzy untacked and put away, Speedy was ready to go.
As I drove out to the barn earlier that morning, I started wondering what I could teach T next. It took Speedy and I years to get through Introductory and Training Levels, but T seemed to have most of the stuff down. I recalled a tricky little leg yield from Training or First Level that I thought T might like, so I tucked it in my pocket, planning to pull it out for her lesson.
Since it had been a few weeks since T had been out to ride, it took her a bit to get her body to relax. I had her kick her feet out of the stirrups for a minute or two so her thigh could hang loosely. Her hunter roots still tell her to get those heels down. With her heels forced down, her leg gets shoved forward, putting her in a chair seat. Kicking her feet out of the stirrups at a walk reminded her to let her legs just hang in a neutral position without forcing her heels down.
Once her position was bit better, T put Speedy to work. He's a smart one that horse, so when I asked for a smarter trot, T adjusted her posting rhythm so that she rose higher and quicker, but Speedy cocked an ear my way as if to say, aw that's nice. Look at her doing all the work. Smart aleck. As T had Speedy trot a 20-meter circle, I asked her to go low and slow in her posting so that at C she could send Speedy forward into a more energetic trot. When nothing happened other than her posting getting higher and quicker, I suggested we play the race horse game. Speedy hates that game, but it works every time.
I instructed T to ask for a slow trot, but at C, I told her to ask for more with a big kick. Speedy shot forward into a canter. Aha. Much better. I had T repeat the pattern, each time asking for a bigger trot with an exaggerated aid. The third time she asked, he saluted with a crisp yes, ma'am. The fourth time, all T had to do was ask with a change to her posting rhythm. Good man, Speedy G, good man.
With Speedy sharper off her leg, we moved on to a leg yield. T had done a little work in the leg yield a lesson or two back, but this time I had her ride from the rail to the center line and then leg yield to the opposite rail. Since it's been so long since I learned to ride a leg yield, I had forgotten how many things have to happen to make a good leg yield. The first is getting a good 10-meter half circle that doesn't have a bulging shoulder or trailing haunches.
I keep saying this but only because it keeps being true: teaching someone else helps me learn even more. It's like watching a dressage test from A. Things you don't see at E or B are much easier to spot when you stand on the centerline. By watching from the ground, I can see all of the many ways a movement goes both wrong and right.
The first thing T needed to fix was the turn down the centerline. Rather than overshoot the centerline, she was turning too early. Both mistakes affect the quality of the leg yield. I laid a pole perpendicular, but just to the left of C. This gave T a reference point. Suddenly, her turns were spot on.
We never did get to the tricky little leg yield that I had tucked into my pocket, but I don't think T minded. Instead, we worked on getting a leg yield that wasn't a diagonal line but rather, a sideways movement where Speedy actually had to cross his hind leg. We started with a leg yield to the left which was easy, Speedy hit the rail at B. T had a big smile. Well that was easy! And then I had her leg yield to the right where the wheels promptly fell off and rolled away.
I was actually glad because unless there is a bit of a struggle, you don't really learn. What T had to learn to feel was that Speedy was traveling a diagonal line, but he wasn't stepping under and over. Never really having had mirrors, I know how hard it can be to fix something when you can't see it. Now that I am taking on the role of teacher, I appreciate even more my own trainer's constant feedback.
It's so easy to think that my trainer's feedback - the yes! and good riding and good correction, is offered in an effort to simply make me feel better. Now though, I know that she actually can see the correctness (and incorrectness) of the movements. And like my own trainer (Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables), I am choosing to focus on what's going well with my own yes! and good riding and good correction. As a classroom teacher, I know that students don't learn well when nothing but errors are pointed out.
Like Chemaine does, I am watching T's riding and looking for ways to offer constructive feedback so that T can get the correct response from Speedy. And like Chemaine, I am also helping T change her aids when they're not being effective. On Saturday, T was having trouble with coordinating her inside and outside hand. When she lost the bend, her outside half halting rein was not doing anything. I had her plant her inside hand so that when she asked for a big half halt, Speedy actually stepped over rather than just ploughing through her aids.
I know I am not a trainer, and T is eventually going to need someone who can help her advance more quickly, but I am very much appreciating the opportunity to learn by teaching. Assuming the role of teacher has already helped me value (even more) the feedback that I get from my own trainer. Chemaine isn't in the business to make me feel better. She genuinely wants me to "get it" (dear God let it be soon) and progress.
I know I bug Chemaine constantly asking for help with this and that, but I fear I am going to be texting/calling/phoning even more often than I currently do to ask for help with teaching. What exercise can I show her next? How do I teach ... ? What do I do if ... ?
Somehow, I don't think Chemaine will mind.
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%