From Endurance to Dressage
I keep saying this, but man is Izzy really starting to figure things out. I know it's more interesting to read about train wrecks and disasters, but we just aren't having any. That doesn't mean that we don't have stuff to work on because we do, but it's all starting to be fun rather than just holding on for dear life.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, says lots of things during a lesson, but sometimes I don't really get it until later. A few weeks ago, I heard her say outside leg and rein ask for the canter. In the moment, I did what she directed, and sure enough, the canter departure was much smoother. I was riding Izzy.
A few days later, I was trying to get a decent trot to canter transition and those words came back to me. I bent Izzy to the inside to put him on the outside rein (another thing she says to me over and over that I finally understand) and then I put my outside leg back, used my outside rein to get a half halt, and scooped a bit with my seat. And there was our canter.
Holy smokes. How can something so simple make such a big impact? I've been riding the canter transition as though it comes only from my inside leg while essentially ignoring my outside aids.
It's amazing what can happen when your aids get better.
I've written about Izzy's hair color a few times, but I can't find the posts I wanted to share about how much his coat fades in the summer. Suffice it to say that since we left our last barn a year and a half ago, his chocolatey coat filled with dapples is long gone.
I have lots of photos like the one above. And the shine is just good health as I am not much of a groomer. At our old barn, Izzy had a large, two-sided covered space in which to hang out. His water and feed were positioned there, so he spent a lot of time inside.
Izzy now lives in a huge dry "pasture" that has trees for shelter, but no actual roof. He loves it and doesn't seem to mind standing outside during the occasional rainy day.
While I love being able to let my boys be real horses, our 350 days of sunshine are hard on hair. Last summer, Izzy turned into a buckskin.
He won't wear a flysheet for longer than eight minutes, and he refuses to stand in the shade even though I've begged. So this year, I am trying something different.
In the past, I've stuck with Pyranha Fly Spray as it was the most effective on our fly population. Since it's oil-based though, I think it contributed to the burned hair that Izzy gets. So for this year's fly season (all nine months of it), I've switched to Equiderma Neem and Aloe Fly Spray. I can't say yet whether it works as well as Pyranha, but it does smell good and since it's water based, I am hoping it will be kinder to his hair. I ordered two new bottles over the weekend to take advantage of Riding Warehouse's gift card promotion.
Another product I am trying is Knotty Horse Apricot Reconstructing Conditioner. I've been using it for nearly a month. First of all, it smells really, really good. At $28.95 though, it has to do more than just smell good. So far, I am spraying it pretty liberally all over Izzy's body each time I groom or ride.
According to the directions, you can even use it under the saddle which is great because that's the part of Izzy's coat that suffers the most from sweat and sun. Even though I hose him off, the salt in his sweat is still pretty harsh. The product claims that it repairs damaged ends and softens the hair.
It's too early to tell how effective my new protocol will be. I like the Knotty Horse Conditioner though. It leaves Izzy's coat looking pretty shiny and feeling smooth. It's too soon to say how long the effect lasts though. Just in case it is working, I ordered a second bottle to have as soon as the first one runs out.
I'll keep you posted.
I have to first say that my feelings toward Second Level have changed completely. My initial frustration with the level has turned into anticipation. No, I am not joking, and no, you're not being punked. Once I figured out that the purpose of Second Level is not actually to torture lower level riders and discourage them from ever entering another dressage show, I realized that it's actually, sort of, kind of, almost ... fun(?).
There are a lot of neat pieces to Second Level, and I know it sounds like I speak from long time experience, but I don't. If you're looking for that kind of experience, you'll have to read someone else's blog. If you want to know what to expect when you get to Second Level, I am happy to share what I am learning. Riders hate Second Level for a reason. It's not easy because it's loaded with all kinds of bricks to build a solid foundation for the upper levels. But, if you stick it out, Third Level should be MUCH easier. I'll let you know when I get there.
Back to why I am enjoying Second Level. There's just so much more to do. At First Level, it was just leg yielding and lengthening of stride. At Second, there are at least nine new things to work on. I pick one or two or maybe even three for each ride. It's never boring, that for's sure.
So far, Speedy and I have been chipping away at the simple change - it's getting better quickly. I've also been riding the shoulder in a little better now that my aids are more correct. Our newest project is the haunches in, also known as travers.
When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here last Tuesday, we spent most of the lesson on this deceptively (not so) easy movement. She helped me finally see that the haunches in is a precursor to the half-pass. Understanding the purpose of the movement and seeing what it leads to gave me a whole new appreciation for why it needs to be right.
While I could get Speedy's haunches to move off the track, what I wasn't able to do was keep an inside bend at the same time. And even now, a week later, we're still struggling with the suppleness needed to move that way. Speedy doesn't think he can bend that way, and he's positive that he can't do it at the trot. Just wait until I tell him he has to eventually do it at the canter!
What Chemaine had me do was to bring it all down to the walk to start. She had me get the inside bend (more than I think I need) and then ask for the haunches in with my outside leg and outside rein. If I could also get good forward, that was great, but keeping Speedy soft in the bridle was more important than the forward.
Once I understood the aids, we moved on to a slow trot which we did like this: bend, haunches, GO ... adjust ... Go ... adjust ... Go. In fact, she wanted me to surprise Speedy in the GO so that he learned that being soft also means that he has to be in front of my leg. There was a lot more adjusting than going.
Besides leading to the half-pass, travers is also an excellent way to supple your horse for the collected canter and the simple change though walk. And now that I am maintaining the inside bend (better anyway), everything else is improving at the same time.
Our next CDS show is in two weeks. I feel like it should go better, but we might still be in the ugly part of it takes a lot of ugly before it gets better thing. We'll see what happens at today's lesson.
In case you haven't seen it yet on social media, Riding Warehouse is offering two different kinds of gift cards if you buy fly stuff. The website doesn't say how long the sale is going to last, so I placed my order over the weekend.
I took advantage of this offer before, and if I remember correctly, they sent the gift card as long as you bought something fly related. This year, you have to actually purchase a full $50 or $100 worth of fly stuff. I know because I checked. I had a fly mask and fly spray in my cart along with one or two other items that brought my total to just over $50. No gift card was listed. Hmmm ...
Knowing that I go through fly spray like it's water, I updated my cart to include a second bottle of fly spray. That bumped my total of fly products to $52. Suddenly a $10 gift card was applied to my cart.
You can't blame a girl for trying!
Oh, how quickly they forget, and when I say "they" I mean me. Endurance riders learn early on that all tack and gear must serve a very real purpose. Nothing is worn simply because it looks good. The distances traveled - 50 to 100 miles in a single day, are just too long to have unnecessary tack or gear weighing you down.
Last weekend, I did an hour and a half trail ride with a group of friends. As I was packing my gear into the trailer, I grabbed everything that I normally use: saddle, pad, girth, bridle, helmet, gloves, and leg boots. And that's where I made my mistake.
When I untacked Speedy at the end of the ride, I groaned. His fleece boots were completely covered with embedded foxtails. That's when I remembered that endurance riders don't use fleece below the belly; no fleece on bell boots and no fleece on leg boots.
I spent a solid 30 minutes picking those little boogers out muttering under my breath the entire time.
And since I am so out of practice, I'll probably make the same rookie mistake next year!
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.
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 …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 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