From Endurance to Dressage
Counter Canter and Simple Changes
With our debut at Second Level fast approaching, there are a ton of movements that are still not show worthy. Forget getting a 7, right now, I am trying not to get any 4s! The one movement that we've been more stuck on than anything else is the counter canter to walk.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, came to my rescue on Saturday. When I saw that she had brought the Comtek with her, I threw Speedy's reins her direction and asked her to warm him up while I went back to the car for my earbuds.
Like I said the other day, having your trainer warm your horse up is a luxury I could really get used to. Speedy has been a bit of a stinker lately. He's really feeling the pressure of Second Level, and he's letting me know that it's hard. I get it, pony, but toughen up!
Chemaine worked him through a small tantrum, and by the time I got on him, he was much softer and more forward. Right away I suggested we tackle the simple changes and the counter canter work.
Chemaine gave me so many excellent pointers that I can't even begin to share them all. The most important one though was this: quit accepting good enough. Good enough is no longer good enough. Speedy has to give me what I am asking for, and he has to do it well. Right now, that's the walk to canter.
When he gives me a soft and unresisting canter departure from the walk, his canter is immediately improved which means the canter to walk is much easier.
The second tip she shared was how to better ride the counter canter. The first thing is to use renvers so that my half halts go through. The second was to slightly change the bend to straight I as prepare for the canter counter to walk transition.
The tips kept coming. As I straightened him and asked for the walk, Chemaine had me finish changing the bend into a shoulder in for the simple change of lead. It's a lot of aids to coordinate - renvers to shoulder in, but it set Speedy up perfectly for the counter canter to walk to simple change of lead.
To really help put it all together, we spent a good amount of time picking up the counter canter from the walk even though that's not a movement in Second Level. Having this "button" on Speedy helps with the walk to canter and with the simple change.
I am feeling a little better about how we'll do at our first show of the year, but I am still not expecting anything great. If we can at least perform each movement, I'll be happy. We can work on improving it all as we head into summer.
Trainer Ride and a Lesson
On Saturday, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, made the trek yet again to Bakersfield. Even though I feel really good about the work I've been doing on Izzy, I asked her to hop on him first. I wanted to hear what she thought about our recent progress.
Let's just say, she was pretty happy! He wasn't Gumby or anything, but the bolting and spooking that plagued us for so long are distant memories. Sure, he still gets his panties in a wad, but now, he deals with the correction and moves on.
After Chemaine warmed him up, I hopped on. I will say, having a trainer warm your horse up is a luxury that I could get used to. The only problem with it was that right away his stride was longer and his back was more accessible. Weird problem to have, I know, but I felt like I was simply managing what she had given me rather than creating the energy myself.
It took me a while to start actually riding my own horse without worrying about "messing up" what she had created. Once I started riding him like I always do, I became much more effective.
As I worked him, we both agreed that he has loads of potential. The one and only thing holding him back now is getting him to stretch across his top line. This isn't going to happen over-night. He's lived with a tight back for many years. It's going to be a long and slow process to elasticize and reshape his musculature.
The good thing is that someday, I will have a very lovely horse to show for it.
The use of the plural might not be accurate; there's really just one. I hate to even say it out loud because saying it makes it even more real. But here goes:
I really hate being a hack.
The Urban Dictionary defines a hack as a mediocre or second-rate practitioner. Sucking at home, in private, is no big deal. I can do that all day long and not feel bad about it. At home, I can laugh it off and come back tomorrow for another go. Doing it in public is another story.
Making my debut at Second Level at a show where everyone knows me is my worst nightmare. We're going to be mediocre at best. Sure, we might have a few good moments here and there (I can only hope), but the reality is that I am likely looking at a mid-50 score.
Over the years, Speedy has racked up a pretty fair number of fans, and they want to see him do well. New friends have asked whether they can attend the show. My vet is coming. Local friends who only see my carefully selected screen shots will be there.
I am pretty sure they're all going to be wondering just what in the hell I think I am doing up there. Hopefully, most of them will feel sorry for Speedy, secure in the knowledge that he is far more talented than his dumbass rider who can't even get her proverbial crap together.
In three weeks, we make our debut at Second. You're going to see me smiling and laughing and having a good time. But when our simple changes aren't clean and our 10-meter canter circles look more like ovals, don't blame Speedy (or my trainer). Simply roll your eyes and elbow the guy next to you as you quip, "that's our local hack."
I can only hope that I won't be a hack forever ...
Dragging His Nose on the Ground
We have maybe created a new and better problem - sometimes, I can't get Izzy's nose OFF the ground. He is now DIGGING this long and low neck thing.
Since Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at, Symphony Dressage Stables, showed me a new exercise for helping Izzy to get a longer neck, he has been eating it up. Over the past year, Chemaine has helped me show Izzy where his happy place is. As he has gotten broker and broker, his happy place has continued to change.
Right now, flexing him to the inside while asking for vertical flexion at the same time has become his new happy place. As soon as he gets choppy, I ask for it. If his head flies up, I ask for it. If he gets quick, I ask for it. Rather than feel irritated or pressured, he seems to find relief in being shown a way to stretch down. It's as though I am finally asking for the stretch down in language that he can understand.
Another step forward!
CDS Championship Show
With more than 2,300 on its roster, CDS's membership makes up a hunk of USDF's membership. When the California Dressage Society makes big changes, they get noticed. A few weeks ago, I wrote about some changes that the CDS Board had made to the annual championship show. Those changes riled up enough of the membership that the CDS Executive Board held a meeting on February 7 and amended several of the changes.
Talk about democracy in action. The people spoke, their elected leaders listened. Here's a link to the survey results. While I wasn't upset by any of the changes, a lot of other people were. In the end, a few things remained the same:
1) CDS will not apply to host the USDF Breeders Championships West Coast Final. Not enough people seemed to care about that.
2) The CDS 4, 5, and 6 year old futurity classes will still be combined with Open and Adult Amateurs competing together with a concurrent Adult Amateur Futurity Challenge division. Again, this one didn't cause much of a fuss.
3) Horse of the Year (HOY) Classes will once again consist of a warm up ride and two HOY classes with two judges for Adult Amateurs and Juniors. Open riders will also get a warm up ride but they will only get one HOY class with two judges. Apparently the Open riders were split on whether to have two HOY classes or not. The Adult Amateurs were firm on the three ride format.
4) The increase in prize money was deleted. Prize money wasn't as important as the board thought.
5) Qualifying scores for freestyles will still be bumped up from 62% to 64%. I guess the people were okay with that.
6) The added $25 nominating fee for CDS and JR/YR Championships will now only apply to horse and rider teams participating in the CDS Championship show, and those fees will be used to fund the show. I always thought that sounded fair. I guess everyone else saw the logic as well.
So there you have it. Modifications will be made to the Championship Show, but it sounds as though they are being applied in a way that will keep a lot more riders happy, particularly the adult amateurs. And really, I think that's a good thing as we write more checks than anyone else.
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%: