From Endurance to Dressage
This post is really for my good friend, Jill, who has a few broken things of her own. Good thing her brother is an orthopedic surgeon. And yes, a horse did it. Her toes have been straightened, and she's now sporting a pretty hefty cast, but she'll be good as new in no time (or, I am fine to ride right now! if you ask any couch bound equestrian).
My broken things are much easier to fix than Jill's toes, so I've been asking myself why they are still broken. Specimen number one has been missing a tine for years. I refuse to replace it because I'd just break the new one, and it would probably be in the same spot!
The next broken item, my dressage whip, did get replaced, but then it wore out, too. The only reason I bought a new one to replace it was because I was too embarrassed to take either one of those crappy things to the Hilda Gurney Clinic that I did in May. The one on the right is Izzy's. Speedy got the new one. I keep the one on the left in case I am ever in need of a crop.
I need to find a new style of dressage boots for Izzy. While not exactly broken, these boots have certainly seen better days. I need a pair that can be hosed off daily, but I want them to still look like dressage boots, not endurance boots. Anyone have a suggestion?
As much as it pained me, I did replace my Roeckls. In fact, they're sitting on my desk right next to me as I type. Did they just arrive last night? Why no, they did not. So why are they still sitting on my desk instead of being shoved into my helmet ready to be worn? They're just so pretty and clean that I hate to get them dirty. I am waiting for at least one more hole to appear in my old pair. It would be even better if I could get a finger blow out.
And finally, I present my fifth and last broken thing (not that I don't have more used up stuff crammed into bins and totes in my tack room, but these are the five that I use most often). It's silly, but I just can't part with this blue hoof pick. It has been my favorite for a very long time. Years and years.
It was only recently that I started pondering it's inefficiency. I was puzzled as to why it wouldn't dig down into the frog groove very well. I finally stopped and looked at it and realized that I've had it for so long that I have literally worn it down to a nub! I dug out a new one that I've had stored, but I don't like how the brush rubs me while I use it. I am now on the hunt for more like the blue one.
It's funny how I'll pay almost any amount of money to keep my horses in good health, but I balk at replacing stuff that is still serviceable. I am pretty sure I'm not the only one that hangs on to stuff that has seen better days. My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, shared this over the weekend.
She was at a show, too. She held them together with her spur strap and the snap at the top. Since Jill has already had her broken things fixed, maybe some of us need to have a Replace Our Broken Stuff Day!
I already mentioned that my last lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was a marathon of a day. Getting two lessons in a single day is such a luxury though. I was able to work on one thing with Speedy, and then carry it over to my work with Izzy. And as luck would have it, we worked on the same issue with both boys: a drifting shoulder.
Speedy's a well broke pony these days. He knows what he's supposed to be doing and offers very little complaint. It's nice to actually work on the quality of a movement rather than just trying to stay on and in the ring!
Over the past few months, Speedy has learned that he has a rear engine and can push - yah! for some impulsion. Using his engine is also fixing the curling problem. When I get his butt in gear, he keeps his poll up.
For this lesson, we were able to tackle new and different things, primarily getting better bend by controlling his shoulders. Speedy loves to fall out on his right shoulder. It's not such a big deal when we're tracking left, but when I want to do a change of lead or track right, it's a different story.
I have a confession. Usually I take great mental notes and am able to convey what Chemaine taught in the lesson. This time, I was feeling pretty puny from a stomach flu. I am bummed that I can't really articulate what we did because the feeling that she helped me achieve was pretty awesome.
I have another round of lessons in a few weeks, so I am not too worried about not being able to remember every detail of this lesson. The one big take away I had was to not focus on getting him to let go of the rein, but to think instead of how to get him on the other rein.
When we track right, especially at the canter, Speedy gets really heavy on the inside right rein. Instead of thinking, LET GO, DAMMIT!, which hasn't been too effective, Chemaine had me flex him to the inside while at the same time opening the outside left rein to draw his shoulder out.
To the left, I kind of did the opposite. I took that outside rein and pushed his shoulder in by counter flexing him slightly. By moving his shoulders around, I was able to get a much better outside rein connection. Once he was more solidly on my outside rein, he was able to sit. Almost immediately, the walk to canter to walk transitions improved.
We have a show before our next lesson, but I think even the parts I can remember about this lesson will help our scores improve.
On Wednesday, best friend and I loaded both horses at 7:00 a.m. for the two and a half hour journey to Moorpark for lessons with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables. It was the first time I've taken both horses to somewhere other than the vet.
They trailer together just fine and are amazing buddies while tied to the trailer. That's the reason I don't like to take both of them at the same time; they're too friendly. Best friend came along to run interference. I saddled Speedy first while she led Izzy to a nearby stall. He screamed. Speedy screamed. They all screamed. When I switched horses, the screaming began anew even though the horses could see each other the entire time.
While it was frustrating to deal with the separation anxiety, both boys ultimately worked fabulously. It was a long day though. Between all the hosing off, driving five hours, tacking up, removing tack, and eating lunch, it took twelve hours. For two lessons. I don't think I could have done it all without best friend.
Since I see Chemaine only about once a month, I always arrive with an agenda. For the lesson on Speedy, I really needed to address my position, especially at the sitting trot.
I explained to Chemaine that I could sit the trot as long as Speedy kept to a pretty slow tempo. The problem I am having is when Speedy does a lengthening. There is no way I can sit the bigger stride. As always, Chemaine had some very constructive ideas for helping me figure it out.
First, she had me look up. Doesn't that fix a whole lot of stuff? The reason is that you need to rotate your pelvis and tuck, tuck, tuck with your seat. If you're looking down though, you're stomach muscles are already somewhat engaged, so you have less room in which to move your pelvis.
The next thing we talked about was not following Speedy's motion. What? I thought that's what I was supposed to do - follow him. Chemaine pointed out that that is the reason I get left behind in the longer stride. Rather than follow him, I need to dictate the tempo with my seat. Boy, did that solve a lot of issues!
Chemine explained that for a more collected trot, I'll tuck my seat bone and kind of pull my pubic bone towards my belly button, kind of like doing a mini crunch. To get a longer stride, I'll drive with my butt muscles by engaging them along with tucking my seat bone.
It's hard, but I have a good start, and I truly am working on it each day. The lesson included way more than just the sitting trot though. And, I also rode Izzy. I'll sort through the rest of the video and share more on Monday. I will say though that Izzy was REALLY good!
I don't get to see Izzy's RPSI (Rheinland Pfalz-Saar International) brand very often. But lately, his summer coat has gotten so thin that it's finally peeking through.
My Arabian mare, Montoya, was freeze branded. I knew how to read that brand. Sydney, an OTTB that I had before Izzy, was also branded; he was imported from New Zealand. HIs brand was also interesting, and once I knew the code, it was easy to read.
Since I only get to see Izzy's brand for a few weeks in the summer, I always forget how to read it. I know that the bridge represents the Zweibrücker bridge of the RPSI which tells us that he is registered with the RPSI in Germany. That means that the beginning of his registration number is 51.
The numbers below the bridge, a 36 (hard to read, I know), are the final two digits of his personal identification number. His full registration number is DE 451516723608.
I think it's a pretty interesting system. I only wish that I could see his brand all year long.
I have a ton of respect for my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado. She's an excellent trainer who helps her students feel successful, empowered, and ready to do it all again tomorrow. Under her leadership, Team Symphony is a fun group where everyone gets to shine and be a star.
Sometimes though, this rising tide lifts all boats mentality means that her accomplishments and talents as a trainer get overlooked. She's the first one to brag on someone across Facebook, but she never self-promotes or points out that it was her training that helped the rider get to that successful moment.
Every member of Team Symphony gives her the credit for their wins, but we're preaching to the choir. For a trainer to grow her business, it's important for her to toot her own horn a little so people who don't already know her, can well, get to know her!
A few weeks ago, I asked her if she'd let me help promote her a little bit since she really stinks at it. I think she was a little wary of what I intended, but I think we're both really proud of the result!
I spent the better part of a week digging through her Facebook pages, business and personal, and redesigned her web page and blog. It's easy to "self-promote" when you're doing it for someone else! I guess it's not really called self-promotion then, is it?
So with that, I am super proud to introduce Chemaine Hurtado's updated web site! You can find it at www.symphonydressage.com. I hope you'll check it out and let me know what you think. It's not often that a student gets to have her trainer as a client!
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%: