From Endurance to Dressage
Squares are awesome. I ride them with Izzy all the time. They get him sitting and help him balance. I don't ride them as often with Speedy because they're harder to do on him. If you didn't catch yesterday's post, here's yet another photo demonstrating how much he hates to sit. This one is BRILLIANT.
Although, if I ever try to sell Speedy, I'll have to delete these blooper posts as no one would even think of trying to ride this out. Honestly though, his bucks and kicks are super easy to sit, and usually I bust out laughing because they're all drama llama. If you'll notice, I'm always smack dab in the middle of his back without getting pitched forward, backward, or to either side. You've seen me ride. I am not particularly talented, so me staying centered isn't because of my fabulous riding. Speedy just likes to voice his opinion, but he's never trying to unseat me or buck me off. He would be mortified if that ever happened.
The lesson had one real purpose: get that inside leg to step under and over. To achieve that, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, had me ride a square. A lot of squares. In the corner of each square, she had me compress Speedy's frame while riding with his haunches in with activity.
We started in the walk. First, I bent him around my inside leg and then opened my outside rein and brought it back to send his inside hind under his belly. At the same time, she encouraged me to tap, tap, tap him with the whip to keep the hind leg very active. Once out of the corner, she instructed me to give him a big release. The point was to show him that he can bend and push at the same time.
Then we did it at the trot. All of the blooper photos from yesterday were taken when he refused to make the corner with his hind end underneath him. To the right, he desperately wants to "save" his inside hind by swinging his haunches out. Sorry, buddy, that's not going to work. That's okay, he nearly has it figured out. We used the same strategy, compress, compress, compress, followed by a release without letting him pop his head up.
After the trot came the canter. Since the canter is already a gait with more suspension, these corners were a lot easier, especially on the left bend.
Compressing the stride in the corner where he takes smaller, but active steps behind will help later in the canter pirouettes, but for now, it will help our half pass. You can see how much harder it is for him to the right.
Another way to do the exercise, especially when Speedy was feeling frazzled, is to walk the corner, and then either trot or canter out of the corner. When we did canter, walk, canter, his transitions got a lot crisper. I love this canter depart.
After getting him truly active behind, we did a few canter half passes. They still more or less suck, but at least they're improving. At the very end of the lesson, we took the energy that we had built and let it rip. Our very last medium/extended trot was heavenly!
Speedy can do this - Third Level, Fourth Level, the FEI Levels ... It's just up to me to figure out how to convince him that he can do it. And of course, I need to learn it first.
Over the weekend, Speedy and I got a long overdue lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. With our move to Third Level this past summer, Speedy and I have struggled with bend and forward. He can either bend, or he can go forward. What he can't do, or at least what he thinks he can't do, is go forward with bend.
The exercise Chemaine set up for us attacked both of those things, the bend and the forward. Because Speedy was so adamant that he COULD NOT DO IT, I have to show you a series of photos, all captured from one, 10-minute video, and truthfully, most of the photos were from a 5 minute stretch.
They are hilarious, and they are posted in order. I can't guarantee that the statements below were what Speedy was thinking, but I think it was pretty close. It all started with a gentle warning ... his to me.
Stay tuned for the actual lesson ...
Like I said on Monday, I am still learning about Newt. Every time I pull out my owner's manual, I discover some new option or feature that I didn't know Newt has. This weekend, I discovered some pretty good-to-know buttons.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley, Bakersfield is flat. It's hard to test out a tow mode that holds a lower gear when you're driving on flat ground. I live on the east side of town though where the valley butts up against the very southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My husband suggested I haul up to the top of Round Mountain Road. He assured me there was a good spot to turn around up near the top. As it turns out, that spot was too muddy and bumpy, so I went further on up the road.
While two vehicles will fit across the road, it's pretty narrow, and there is no shoulder. Or better said, there's no useable shoulder. As I wound my way up the road, I started eyeballing even that questionable shoulder because I wasn't finding any kind of spot suitable to turn my 27 foot long trailer around. Not only is the trailer long, but Newt adds another 14 feet minus the 2 feet where the trailer is hitched. It's a lot of rig to just "turn around."
I eventually came to a driveway. I stopped in the middle of the road, which you can do when there is zero traffic, especially since I had reached the end of any buildable land. From that point on, the hills are dotted with nothing but oil derricks. I gave that driveway the stink eye, and made an executive decision: I was going to make a three-point turn.
Let me paint you a picture: a road barely wide enough for two cars, no useable shoulder, and what shoulder there was, was muddy, a down-sloping gravel drive way, and a driver who had only driven this truck and trailer combo around the block. Once. Two months ago.
As I took stock of the situation, best friend's voice rang in my ear, she can back that thing up a gnat's ass. And I did. It took a few back and forths, but within five minutes, Newt and I were facing downhill. I smiled smugly to myself, I love girl power, and headed back home, tow mode engaged.
Rather than just park and unhitch, I decided to pull up near the hose and give my trailer a quick spray wash. I've done this a zillion times. Once most of the sitting around for two months gunk was gone, I backed up to my parking spot. Or at least I tried to. I realized that I was hitting the gas, but my truck wasn't moving. For a moment, I panicked, certain that I must have backed into the hedge. I jumped out to take a look and realized that both truck tires were planted deep in the marsh that had formed around the leaking spigot.
I shook my head and could only laugh. Just a few days before, I had asked my husband a question about engaging Newt's 4-wheel drive. Blue Truck had 4 wheel drive, and back in my endurance days, I used it with some frequency. It had been close to 10 years since I had used it though. While perusing my manual the day before, I had done a quick verification that Newt's 4 wheel drive worked the same as Blue Truck's.
With no shift on the fly, I hopped out and locked the hubs in place, clicked the knob to 4-low, and gave it some gas. Newt popped out of the mud with ease. Rather than press my luck, I drove around instead of backing up.
The moral of the story is that I can only back it up a gnat's ass. Any wider than that, and I am SOL.
Oops. This got published by mistake. Since I can only delete it, not un-publish it, you get Friday's post a few days early.
With the regular flow of rain this winter, not something we've seen much of over the past decade, our arena has taken a real beating. Thanks to the ranch owner, we have excellent footing. It's so nice that even after a heavy rain, I can ride without fear of slipping or sliding.
No matter how nice the footing though, it needs an occasional drag to smooth out the inevitable ridges that form in the corners and along the long sides. We had quite a trench forming. On Monday, we decided that it had finally dried out enough that the DG could actually be dragged around.
Reggie, the ranch's fixer of all things, is an excellent hand with the tractor. We had a good chat about where the problem areas were - the long sides and the short side at A, and with that, Reggie set to work. He used the tractor's bucket to slice off the high ridge, and then he dragged the DG down into the channel that Speedy and Izzy had made.
I can watch the tractor all day long. That thing is hypnotic. I was itching to get up there myself, not that I've ever driven a tractor, but it looks like such a zen thing to do. Like vacuuming.
Once Reggie was done, I dragged out my meter tape, cones, and t-squares. I first built this dressage court last summer, and I've redone it a few times since, but I kept forgetting to bring the t-squares out to the barn. Man, do those things ever help!
Once it quits raining, I am also going to have to replace my letters. The weather has definitely left mine in less than readable shape. Good thing they're cheap.
Building a dressage court definitely takes a lot of time, even if it is made of water bottles, orchard poles, and pvc tubes.
Now that I have one though, I can't go back to just guessing. Having those letters and square corners has really helped my riding. Imagine how much better I'll get with fresh letters. Hey, I can hope!
Equestrians are all about buttons. We want cute ones on our breeches, tricky ones installed on our horses, and if your truck's got some cool ones, all the better. Over the weekend, I learned how to use some of Newt's.
I haven't talked a lot about Newt since she joined our household, but I've sure been enjoying the heck out of her. So far, our adventures have been limited to making the trek to work to the barn, and back home again. Day after day, week after week.
One of my favorite things about the truck is the over-sized fuel tank. It holds a whopping 48 gallons. I only have to stop for diesel twice a month, and frankly, I could probably go three weeks on one tank. For convenience, I pop by the gas station every other weekend. So far, I generally put in about 35 gallons which costs me about $135.
I haven't hauled the horses anywhere yet, but over the long weekend, I thought it was high time to hook her up to my trailer again and learn how to use the manual shift option and the tow/haul button.
As I was finishing hooking up, I switch my dash screen to "towing" and got a nice little surprise.
After going through the checklist, which I found pretty cool, I took Newt for a longer drive up around our closest mountain. It was about a 40 minute round trip. When I got back, I got to try out one of Newt's other buttons. Stay tuned ...
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%: