From Endurance to Dressage
Saturday's lesson on Speedy was about three things: sitting trot, canter lengthenings, and trot lengthenings. We also did some interesting changes of bend to get Speedy more even on both reins, but the bulk of the lesson was about me and the lengthenings.
If you can sit the trot with ease, screw you and the horse you rode in on. That crap is hard. If you're struggling like me, you're in for a treat as the following video will make you feel GREAT about your own attempts to sit the damn trot.
It is MUCH easier to sit the trot on Izzy since his stride is longer which gives my pelvis more time to come back to neutral. Speedy's trot is so much quicker that the motion is much more difficult to follow. And don't get me wrong, I can't sit sit Izzy's bigger trot yet either. I am just saying it is slightly easier on him.
There are many ways to sit the trot: you can pedal backwards, move the buttons on your coat up and down, and so on. Chemaine's technique for teaching how to sit the trot is more of a front to back motion rather than a side to side one. She had me think about tucking my pelvis and pulling my belly button to my spine.
To feel the movement, perch on the edge of a kitchen chair and suck your belly button toward your spine while also tucking your pelvis. You will feel the back legs of the chair lift off of the ground. This is the motion for the sitting trot. The reason Chemaine prefers this tuck/neutral/tuck/neutral position as opposed to the side to side motion is because tucking your pelvis is a driving aid which enables the rider to shorten and lengthen the horses's stride.
To help me feel the motion, Chemaine had me put Speedy in a canter. By "scooping" my seat more quickly, I could drive him forward into a longer stride. By slowing the scooping motion, I could collect his stride. Once I had a good feel for that motion, we returned to the sitting trot.
The sound isn't great on the video and my videographer and pals were doing a lot of chatting, but if you listen closely, you will hear Chemaine talk me through the exercise. Oh, and please ignore my comments as I am trying to describe to her what what I am feeling.
We've been working on this for a while. This is not Speedy's easiest movement. His shoulder is a little straighter than in some horses and he's a little lazy. He's also not a huge fan of doing stuff that's hard, so lengthening his stride in the trot is something we'll probably always struggle with.
Over the past few months, Chemaine has helped Speedy develop better thrust and impulsion, key ingredients to being successful at First Level. Getting that thrust to appear in the trot lengthening has been tricky for me. Chemaine helped me pull more of the picture together on Saturday.
All along, Chemaine has instructed me to compress Speedy in the corners and along the short side and then think, big, bigger, biggest as we cross the diagonal. This has been working, but we were still missing a piece of the puzzle.
When we were at Expo, something sort of clicked. All of a sudden I was able to instantly feel when Speedy's hind end is not coming under him with the same energy as in the front. In other words, the front end is dragging the hind end along for the ride as opposed to his hind end pushing him forward.
I am feeling it particularly well at the medium walk. When he tries to root the reins from me, and I resist through my core, I am feeling that I need to add a boatload of leg to keep his butt going. This is a huge new "feel" for me as this is what I've been missing when I compress him before the lengthening.
Essentially, I've been slowing down his front end and losing all of the energy that I've built up so that when I ask for big, bigger, biggest, he's just been clawing his way forward. Doh.
Chemaine had me use my new sense of feel to almost make him feel claustrophobic. I am practically cramming his hind end up to his nose so that when I finally release him into that big, bigger, biggest stride, the thrust and energy are there, ready to shoot him forward.
Of course, this is all seen much more subtly in real life, but that's the feeling I am shooting for. Here's another video. Again, the sound isn't great and my pals are still chatting away, but you'll see some of what I am talking about.
The last thing we schooled was the canter lengthening. I have to say that I was the most proud of this work because for once, Chemaine didn't have to harp at me about increasing the bend. I learned that lesson at Expo.
For so long, I have let Speedy take the bend away, especially at the canter. Now that I know what a good bend feels like, I've been really working on changing the bend at all three gaits. When we worked on lengthening the canter stride, I was actually able to maintain the inside bend down the long side which meant I was able to come back to a working canter without running into the fence.
By maintaining the inside bend, I was able to keep Speedy firmly on my outside rein which meant that we could return to a working canter with a firm half halt. And finally, I was able to capitalize on the power that Speedy can generate with that generous badonkadonk we've been developing.
The great thing about these mini clinics is that I get to do a follow up lesson the next day. I went home and watched the videos and thought about the adjustments that I need to make. On Sunday, we were able to continue the work.
To be continued.
I am sure everyone is sick to death of hearing what an incredible trainer I have, but she proved her worth yet again yesterday.
Since late summer, I've been able to host a "mini" clinic almost every month. Our turnout is usually pretty small, 4 to 6 horses, but all of the riders have an incredible amount of fun and can't wait to come back for more. Chemaine's style of teaching is so encouraging that even the most inexperienced rider feels confident and successful when the lesson is over.
I started the day off on Speedy, more about that tomorrow, but Wendy followed me on her horse, Bloo. Bloo is not your typical dressage horse. She's not a warmblood, and she doesn't even hit 15 hands. Even so, she and Wendy had a great lesson as they schooled the trot lengthening and walk to canter transitions.
I rode Izzy next, more on that in the days to come, but our last rider was Kat on her Tehachapi Wild Horse. He was rounded up this past June where he was found with a small band of mares and foals. He was worked under saddle for 120 days and then put up for sale. Kat was brand new to horses having only been riding a leased horse for a few months. She bought him in October and has been learning to ride over the winter. Wendy has been helping her along over the past six months, but yesterday was her first "official" lesson.
I am sure that Chemaine finds teaching riders to do tempi changes or canter pirouettes more stimulating, but even so she gives the same quality of lesson to a rider struggling to find the correct diagonal for posting or the rider trying to learn to sit the trot (me!).
When she finished with us, Chemaine went to the second barn where she gave a second round of lessons. She'll be back at my barn this afternoon to give me two more lessons. Feel free to stop by!
Yep! Chemaine will be here for two days of lessons. Boy do I need it. Speedy saw her two weeks ago at Horse Expo, but Izzy hasn't had a Chemaine Butt Kicking since the middle of January. We both need it. I am hoping to get some more help with the right lead canter.
Nothing with horses, especially mine, is ever easy. Last night during turnout, Izzy tossed a shoe. He's only shod in the front, so right now he's closer to being a barefoot horse than a shod horse. I made several calls last night, but none of the farriers I left messages with have called back.
I have a bunch of Speedy-sized Easy Boots that are in good working order, but my single size 2 boot, which fits a barefoot Izzy, has a broken heel strap. My plan is to is do a double wrap of the cable - this gets it really tight, and then use duct tape to try to keep it on.
My barn owner is wonderful. She was out until nearly dark dragging the arena so that our footing would be extra nice this morning. We had some heavy rain a few weeks ago followed by some rather toasty days that baked the footing into cement. It looks great now, so even if Izzy's jerry-rigged boot comes off, the footing won't do a bit of damage to his hoof.
Look for some Chemaine bits of wisdom over the next few days.
We all know it's really just called a "selfie," and according to Wikipedia, the term first came into use as early as 2005. Selfies themselves have been around since before a camera could be held in one hand. Again, according to Wikipedia, the first known selfie was taken in 1839.
I've mentioned a time or two that my husband and I enjoy traveling. While in Portugal this past summer, we saw something that I immediately dubbed a selfie stick. I truly thought I was being extraordinarily clever in coming up with such a creative moniker for the pole holding the cell phones. I was a bit disappointed when I realized that someone else had already coined the phrase.
For Valentine's Day, my husband bought us a selfie stick (along with the liners for my Juke and a dozen roses - he's really sweet when it comes to gift giving!). I haven't looked into selfie sticks myself, but this one kicks some serious butt. He bought us the Fugetek FT-568 which telescopes, is bluetooth enabled, and works with multiple devices.
After goofing around with it on the couch, I suddenly realized that a selfie stick could have more more than one application. Sure, it's going to be great when we're in Italy this summer, but then I realized that I COULD USE IT AT THE BARN! When I excitedly voiced my realization out loud, my husband rolled his eyes and said he had already figured that's where it would get most of its use. Oh.
For it's first foray out to the barn, I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that it wasn't until I had the selfie stick fully extended and ready to go that I realized I had left the re-chargeable remote button plugged in at home. Talk about a selfie fail. I was slightly more successful on day two. The photos are only somewhat unflattering, but it was fun to finally get most of my horse's head in the frame.
Who would have thought that a selfie stick would be my next favorite barn gizmo? Let me know if you use one at the barn.
Not that this will come as a shock to any of you, but I am (sadly) not rich, wealthy, or moneyed. That means that I do the very best I can for my horses, but things are usually done on an as needed basis rather than just 'cause I feel like it. And having two horses to care for means that's especially true.
Chiropractic body work tends to fall in the as needed category even though I would love to make it a quarterly thing. It had been at least a year since Speedy had had any work done even though Izzy has been worked on three times this year.
When Speedy was Izzy's age, he also went through a needs adjusting constantly phase. When he was five, he needed three adjustments within 6 months. For the next several years, he generally needed at least one adjustment a year and usually two. As he's gotten older, he hurts himself a lot less, and he's just stronger in his back and loins thanks to the good dressage work we're doing.
Everybody needs some work now and then though, no matter how healthy your muscular-skeletal system may be. So, after the chiropractor got Izzy's parts working better, I asked him to have a look at the gray pony. Speedy tends to get hung up in his poll, so I wasn't surprised to find that he needed a little work in that area.
Unlike Izzy, Speedy was fine throughout the rest of his body. His neck and ribs were in great shape as were his withers and back. He did need a little work in his pelvic region, but the chiropractor did the adjustment so easily that I missed it.
It would be great if this adjustment holds for another year, but if not, I am happy to have the chiropractor back out. As long as Izzy doesn't continue trying to kill himself, yearly visits would make my bank account quite happy.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read