From Endurance to Dressage
Like I said yesterday, I had a great lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. For the first part of the lesson, we used the leg yield to position Speedy's haunches for the half pass. For the second part of the lesson, we used the half pass to set Speedy's haunches in position for a flying change. If you had told me two months ago that I would be writing those two sentences at the beginning of 2019, I would have laughed. Hard. Go us, I guess.
I am not sure how I got so lucky - good breeding?, but Speedy's changes have been clean from the very beginning. We've only been working on them since September. They're still a bit hard to control, and he has already reached the point of tossing them in any time he's not sure what I am asking for. I think this is a good problem to have though.
The main trouble I am having with the flying change is that he thinks that when we're cantering and I touch the outside rein, it means CHANGE. Sorry to disappoint, dude, but it doesn't. This is where Chemaine used the haunches in exercise to help him out.
As we cantered down the long side, Chemaine wanted me to put him in a haunches in position so that when we made the ten-meter half circle at the end of the long side, his haunches would be in place for the half pass. Speedy felt me pick up that outside rein and then leaped into the air ready to change. When I kept my outside leg back AND maintained the bend, he hit the ground with a disappointed thud. He might have also called me a bad name.
To combat this, Chemaine showed me yet another new exercise. As we cantered down the long side, she instructed me to ask for a ten-meter circle if he even thought about changing when I touched the outside rein. We did a lot of ten-meter circles.
While we still have a lot to work on, we were able to get the flying change after a version of a canter half pass.
I just love this horse. there is no end to his try. He might express his opinions occasionally, and he can get sassy about things, but he always tries.
Today is the last day of my Christmas break. On Monday it's back to the grind, but I feel as though I got a lot done with the boys over the holiday. Enjoy your weekend. I know I will.
Now that the holidays are past us, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been able to come out weekly again. After analyzing what we need at the bare minimum for Third Level, Chemaine agreed that tackling the lateral work was the game plan for the foreseeable future.
Speedy has never been a fan of moving his haunches to the side AND stepping forward. I get it; it's hard. Even so, he has to learn. To present it in a way that he could understand and that I could enforce, Chemaine had us start the half pass in a leg yield. She also had me move the whip to the outside hand every time we changed direction. See the part about enforcing.
Chemaine had us begin at the walk. We started in the corner From A to K where we prepared for a leg yield right. The purpose was to get the haunches leading which is not how you'd typically ride a leg yield. This does two things. First, it gets your horse moving off your outside leg, and it allows you to set up the haunches for the half pass. By getting the haunches to lead, they will ultimately be in the correct position as you change the bend for the half pass.
Once Speedy's haunches were leading, I changed the bend. I had to keep my outside leg on and ask for forward with the inside leg. Chemaine had to remind me numerous times to keep the inside leg on. I always want to pull it off thinking I am giving him space into which to move. This is wrong. Don't do that. It's important to keep the inside leg on and use both legs to ask for forward. Anytime I lost the haunches or when Speedy got too heavy on the outside rein, I changed the bend and turned it back into a leg yield.
After we crossed the diagonal (I was always short as my arena is really wide), we then turned left and did the same thing through the corner at C and H. I had to remember to change the whip, and then we did a leg yield H to F, changing to half pass once I had Speedy's haunches leading.
Once Speedy and I had it mostly figured out, we moved to the trot and started the half pass without doing the leg yield first. To help me set it up correctly - after I had started it as a hot mess, Chemaine reminded me to ride into the corner thinking shoulder in. This put Speedy on the outside rein so that I could then use the rein to send his haunches over. I'll let Chemaine explain it better:
We definitely made a ton of improvement with her nuts and bolts explanation, but we clearly need more practice. That's okay as I have plenty of time for that. Here's one more go at the trot half pass:
Chemaine is definitely able to get Speedy and me to places that I never thought possible. We're no Grand Prix pair (yet), but this horse has really developed into a fancy little mover. Check out this medium trot. He actually has a moment of suspension!
After I felt like I had my homework for the trot half pass figured out, we worked on canter half pass to the flying change. I'll try to get to that tomorrow.
I had a lesson on Tuesday which renewed my faith in Speedy's ability to do Third Level. I need to quit being such a doubter. But you know how it goes, sometimes you do great in a lesson under your trainer's watchful eye only to crash and burn the next day.
I am thrilled to report that when I rode Speedy yesterday afternoon sans trainer, I got an easy flying change at the end of the canter half pass! Not that our half pass is recognizable as such. It looks more like a beginner's attempt at a leg yield - more diagonal than straight, but who cares about that?
The thrilling part was that we got it on the first try with minimal effort on my part. Truth be told, I think he offered it before I had completely finished asking! Which leads me to hope that he might be ready to start offering changes at random moments during the canter as I lose my balance or shift my weight. Wouldn't that be awesome?
This video was during Tuesday's lesson, but it shows how well he can do a flying change.
As I rode yesterday afternoon, I reminded myself that if I am going to cram him into "the box," I need to at least occasionally "let him go" to see if he can stay there. We were both a lot happier. Self-carriage is a thing afterall; I need to let him do it.
My whole complaint this past of couple of weeks was that he wasn't sitting enough and softening. I think the photo above is proof that he can sit. If I can just get out of his way just a little bit and trust him to do his job, I think we might actually make it to Third Level.
Well that answers the can he or can't he question from the other day. If you don't have a trainer, and if you go through periods of huge self doubt, you really need to get one. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, really knows how to bring out the best in a horse and rider team without giving the rider false expectations.
She never came right out and said Speedy will be brilliant at Third Level, so quit worrying because in all likelihood he won't be. Instead, she helped me tackle the lateral work problem. The first issue was that Speedy was stuck on my inside rein and leg. As I started the trot half pass, Chemaine instructed me to ride a 10-meter circle while pushing him away from my leg. Then I went back to half pass, but every time I felt him heavy on my inside rein and leg, I repeated the 10-meter circle. We did a lot of 10-meter circles, but the exercise worked.
The next thing Chemaine helped me address was lightness. Speedy has been so heavy primarily because I am driving him to the bit. She laughed when she said that I've crammed him so far into the box that he can't get anymore into the box. She said I now need to let him go and see if he'll hold himself where he needs to be.
The exercise went a little like this: half pass, let him go, collect him, let him go. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And of course, the exercise worked. While the half pass didn't look brilliant, Speedy was finally soft in the bridle and moving laterally. I am sure he felt as relieved as I did.
Since my arena is short and wide, riding the half pass can be tricky as I run out of room. Chemaine gave me yet another new exercise that helps with the geometry while continuing the lateral work. It goes more or less like this:
The last thing we worked on was the flying change. Surprisingly, the change wasn't the thing I felt we needed to work on; I've had those more or less under control. In fact, we got them without too much fuss. Chemaine, never one to leave me without something new to work on, suggested we put the canter half pass and flying changes together.
Guess what happened? Yup. Speedy and I got the flying change out of canter half pass the first time. I am not sure who was more surprised, me, or Chemaine!
Speedy wasn't a bit surprised. He knew exactly what he was doing.
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 …
3/27-28 SCEC (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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 (***)
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