From Endurance to Dressage
First of all, I have an outside rein! Why does it seem as though I have to relearn that every other week? For this particular go-round, I was riding Izzy when the realization hit. Last week, I had a great lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, but I've only just finished wading through the nearly hour-long video she shot. During the video, she said something that really made me think: "keep thinking about renvers; that's your steering!"
After working on the square with haunches in, we took that same idea to the counter canter. Izzy loves to throw in flying changes every time the work gets too hard. In his mind, it would all be so much easier on a true canter. As we crossed the diagonal heading into counter canter, Chemaine reminded me to keep his haunches where I wanted them. In this case, in renvers.
As it's been said before, there was a whole lot of ugly before it got pretty. Pretty might be too strong of a word, but at least I had more control. For a long while, I've focused almost exclusively on his shoulders. While this is super important on Izzy, it's meant that I've neglected his haunches. This has allowed them to start doing some really awkward things such as swinging wide on the turns and falling "out" during the counter canter, which allows him to drop the canter.
Here's a clip from that last lesson with Chemaine talking me through the counter canter and the outside rein.
Someday, when we can put it all together consistently, this horse might turn out to be pretty amazing. Until then, he's a great "teacher!"
A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my horse trailer's vent covers was broken. My husband and I replaced it, but during the process, we discovered that the other two vent lids needed replacing as well. If you've ever read any of Laura Numeroff's books about giving mice and moose cookies and muffins, you'll know exactly what I mean. Inevitably, one thing leads to another.
With rain predicted on Christmas Eve, I managed to persuade my husband to swing by the ranch after work to help me install that last two vent lids. By the time he arrived, I had both vent lids disassembled with only the roof part left to remove. We're now experts.
My husband climbed up on the roof to remove the broken lids, and then he slid the new lids onto their respective hinges. From inside, I screwed everything back together. Like I said, we're experts.
With a family Christmas Eve dinner awaiting us, my husband quickly left to get home and shower while I finished cleaning up. After he had left, I realized that the other job I wanted help with, installing a Symphony Dressage license plate cover, had been forgotten.
Irritated, but determined, I decided to tackle the job myself. I backed the truck up to the rear of my trailer to serve as scaffolding; my trailer is really tall, and the license plate is at the very top.
I am fairly handy, but sometimes that's not enough. The license plate was attached tightly. Who did they think was going to try and steal it, Hulk? I finally had to add a step stool to my tailgate so that I could precariously lean over the top of the door to hold one bolt while simultaneously trying to loosen the nut on the other side. And this was done while standing on tiptoe on the stool. What I lack in brute strength, I make up for with problem solving skills.
My car and truck already sport Chemaine Hurtado's logo, as do some saddle pads and a jacket. Now my trailer feels like part of Team Symphony, too.
Give a girl a screwdriver and a monkey wrench or two, and watch out!
I swear I write this exact same post year after year. Not that it's entitled Third Level Challenges. One year I am sure it was called something like Training Level Terrors or First Level Fraud. I know it was called Second Level Sucks last year. The point is that each year that I've made the decision for Speedy and I to move up, I've regretted it immediately.
Second Level will always be my reminder that that we can overcome. I started the season terrified to ride in a local show for fear of looking like the world's greatest hack. Scarier than that was the thought of not being able to earn at least one 60% for my CDS plaque. I was certain that we were way out of our league. Imagine my surprise when instead of earning just one qualifying score during the year, Speedy and I managed to earn 15 scores above 60%, our second best of any season so far! Take that, self doubt!
I've been riding Speedy all week even though he didn't start out perfectly sound; the abscess is/was still healing. He felt 100% sound yesterday though, so I finally started re-schooling the medium trot with an eye toward the extended trot. Uh-oh. We're in trouble.
Rather than let myself feel defeated, I decided to get to work studying the tests. There's a lot to learn for sure. I read the purpose of Third Level and gulped. The part that got me was engagement. The word is used twice, but then they throw in self-carriage which requires, you guessed it, engagement.
There are almost no changes for the 2019 Third Level tests, which tells me the tests must flow pretty well. There are a lot of double coefficients though, Including a new one for the flying change. On the other hand, there is also one for the rein back which we do well. I took a deep breath, and instead of panicking over what we can't do, I separated what we can already do from what we need to work on.
Here are the movements required for each test at the level and how I feel about it:
If I had to ride Third Level Test 1 tomorrow, I feel like we could at least do all of the movements. The extended gaits would come with the comment "need to show more". The half pass would read, "needs more bend and engagement". We might get lucky and get clean flying changes, but in all likelihood, the comment would read "tense and explosive".
It's a good thing I like to work hard because I see a lot of hard work in front of us. Don't tell Speedy though; he's not a fan of manual labor. Third Level? We got this (sort of, almost, probably).
Oh, boy, oh, boy did I have a great lesson over the weekend. Izzy hadn't seen Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables for several months. Up until recently, he had been so nice to ride that I wasn't having any problems. When Chemaine said she'd be here on Saturday, I waffled. As it turned out, I needed a lesson much more than I had thought.
With Izzy standing patiently by - I guess all of last week's do it or else riding really paid off, Chemaine and I talked about where I was with him. I know she doesn't show up with an agenda, so I am always amazed at the exercises she can pull out of her hat with only a moment's notice. What she decided we needed was to get Izzy better engaging his inside hind.
She had me ride a square, first at trot and then at the canter. As we approached the corner, Chemaine had me half halt the outside hind by opening my outside rein as I brought it back, like you would for a walk pirouette. Then I used my outside leg to push his haunches in to make a square turn. I kept my inside hand low and steady to maintain the bend. In between turns, I gave Izzy every opportunity to stretch down, but as we neared the next corner, I repeated the half-halt, haunches in, turn.
Here's a bit of video with Chemaine explaining.
I've ridden him every day since Saturday's lesson, and while he hasn't magically become Verdades - give us about 50 more years, he's definitely getting more and more buttons installed.
While riding this week, I realized something. After schooling some walk to canter to walk as well as turns on the haunches and counter canter, I realized that Izzy has a ton of really cool buttons, but they're only half-way installed. He can do a lot of movements from Training through Third Levels, but he can't do them well or consistently.
One of my goals for 2019 is to get him to a show, the level isn't important, with the knowledge that we should be able to earn at least 60%. I am not sure if my strategy of work movements regardless of the level will work, but I am going to continue playing around with the different movements. The instant he figures out that relaxing won't kill him, all of those half-way installed buttons will fall into place.
Let's hope it happens at the start of a test!
For most of December, both of my boys have had hoof abscess; one for Izzy and two for Speedy. It seems as though we are finally back to normal, or very nearly so.
Speedy's second abscess came immediately on the heels of the first one - and I am not kidding here. It started the very day after being deemed sound from the first one. Fortunately, that second abscess lasted only 3 or 4 days. As of yesterday, he was seen rodeo-style bucking in the morning before breakfast. I think he feels better.
Just to be sure, I pulled the hoof pack and picked out all four feet, examining them for any sort of hidden tenderness. When that all checked out, I took him up to the arena for a quick lunge. I gauged him to be 95% sound. There was an ever-so-slight hitch in his giddy-up, but that might have been due to several weeks of standing around.
I am not sure that Speedy will be sound enough for a ride this morning, but I may hop up on him bareback just to make him feel happy. He gets grouchy if he thinks he's being ignored.
I gave Izzy his last dose of UlcerGard on Saturday. Boy, am I glad that's over. I made it to the barn every single day for 28 days straight, and still counting! I say I go to the barn every day, but the reality is that it's more like 5 - 6 days a week. Try doing it for literally seven days a week for a month. It gets old, really old. Especially in the dead of winter when it's dark and freezing ass (California style) cold. You do what you have to do though, right?
After having an abscess that left him gimpy for nearly three weeks, Izzy finally went back to work last week. If you're a minor, cover your eyes for a moment as my language is about to get strong. For the entire first week back to work, Izzy flew past the land of jackassery in favor of straight up asshole. He was a dick just to be a dick. We had three or four rides that were filled with expletives on my part, and ginormous "F" Yous on his. Dude was a complete and total A-hole.
After a lot of free lunging and me jerking the crap out of his face, he finally turned his brain back on. And before some of you get all preachy on me, this horse is huge and he weighs about a billion pounds. His number one go-to is to lock his jaw and neck and run off. When he does that, I have no recourse but to halt the (bad word coming) shit out of him. I feel bad, I really do, but he simply can't hear me otherwise. By Friday afternoon, he was over it and ready to play ball. We had a lesson on Saturday that not only gave me some new tools, but also some new feel. More on that tomorrow.
Today is the first day of my Christmas break. I have two weeks off with dry weather predicted for all but one of those days, and I finally have two horses who are (knock on some wood here) sound and healthy and ready to get back to work.
I see a lot of flying changes and simple changes in our future!
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%: