- more bend in the corner to PREPARE for the shoulder-in
- shoulder-in to PREPARE for the trot half pass
- get him SOFT before the canter half pass
- get him SOFT before the release of the reins in the canter
- THINK shoulder-in for the extended canter
- HALF HALT before the extended trot and ride it UPHILL
- LEG ON at the end of the medium trot
If you would have told me back in the beginning that Speedy and I would make it to Third Level, I would have known that you were lying to me. How in the world could a rangy endurance horse and his grimy rider become a sleek and polished dressage team? That just doesn't happen.
I never had a formal lesson until I was an adult. I could post, but I didn't know how to change my posting diagonal. I could ride fearlessly over the toughest terrain, stick almost any buck or rear, but I had no idea how to put the finishing touches on a horse, the stuff that makes a horse truly beautiful.
And yet, here we are. Tomorrow morning we'll be showing Third Level at a two-day USDF-rated show. I should be more nervous, and maybe I will be tomorrow, but for now, I feel pretty confident. I don't expect to wow the judge, but I am still excited to get out there to find out just where we stand. What's good, what's great, and what needs more work? I am looking at this show as an opportunity to get an honest critique of our work so far.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, came out for a last, pre-show lesson on Saturday. This time, the lesson was all about tightening up everything in order to give us some kind of chance at getting a qualifying score.
At every moment she was shouting some kind of reminder:
Of course getting Speedy listening and willing to move his bootie can be a real challenge. These next pictures show a behind the scenes view of what has to happen before we look show ready. You have to admit that the dude is super athletic. It's just a matter of channeling it in the direction I want us to go.
Even with all of his No No Nos, I am still feeling confident. Speedy loves to show and always brings his "A" game. And like Chemaine pointed out on Saturday, If they're not being opinionated, you're not asking for anything new or hard. And the only way to get better is to ask for new and hard.
If you've got a few minutes, wish us luck. We could definitely use some. Have a great weekend!
When I had my last lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she showed me an exercise that I haven't yet shared. It came as we ended the lesson, kind of in response to a question I had about getting Speedy to MOVE his hind end over, particularly in the half pass. Be prepared for your brain to melt just a little bit.
Speedy is built to go forward in a pretty level frame. Moving sideways is hard for him. Sitting is equally difficult. Third Level is all about lateral movements with collection though, so we're always looking for ways to show him how to move his body over and stay balanced.
The exercise Chemaine showed us doesn't really have a name. On Facebook, someone called it a "counter canter leg yield." If that helps you visualize it, then the name suits. Essentially, it's a canter half pass with the wrong bend. How do you even ... and why would you? I know, smoke came out of my ears, too.
Here's how it goes: pick up a canter. For us, the more difficult half pass and flying change is the right to left canter, so we started with a right lead canter. As you come through the corner, cross the diagonal. Change the bend, BUT HOLD THE LEAD. Push the haunches to the right with the intention of getting them parallel to the shoulders. Once you arrive at the rail or corner, do the flying change.
The difficulty with this exercise, of the many actually, was keeping my inside leg forward to say hold the lead while at the same time pushing my outside hip into him to tell tell him to move his hips OVER.
We only did the exercise with Chemaine once or twice in each direction, enough so that I understood what I would be asking for. When I rode Speedy a day or two later, I tried it again near the beginning of the ride while he was still fresh. A battle of near epic proportions ensued.
Instead of moving his haunches and body, he barreled through my right rein with his shoulder, and gave me a huge middle finger. I jerked him to halt and then picked up the right lead canter again. And again he blew through my rein and again I halted him. We ran through the exercise until he finally started to respect my right rein, and suddenly, he could move laterally. He gave a very good flying change, and that was it.
The next time I rode him, there was no fight in the exercise, and he did it correctly in both directions. The flying changes were smooth and easy. This exercise is now my go-to for fixing a dragging hind end. Here's a quick video of riding it with Chemaine explaining.
If you've used this, share what it fixed, and if you try it, share how it helped. I am still trying to get the hang of it.
Yesterday, I mentioned something about that pesky shoulder-in to renvers that shows up in Third Level, Test 2. It's not easy, that's for sure.
Fortunately, I have an excellent trainer in Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. When I still don't get something after she's explained it ad nauseam and then shown me with her own body - always remembering that I need to see it from the back rather than with her facing me because seriously, that mirror image just confuses me even more, she goes out and finds a video for me.
As soon as I watched this ... okay, I had to watch it twice or maybe three times, I TOTALLY got it. In fact, a bunch of stuff clicked. When I went and rode the next day, Speedy suddenly had a shoulder-in WITH ANGLE.
Whatever level you're at, browse through Amelia Newcomb's other videos on her YouTube Channel. She has a great way of showing and explaining what the movements or ideas should look like. I found her videos a few months ago. You should also check out her website as it's chock full of great resources. Since she's based in the Northern Los Angeles area, I definitely plan on watching for her during this show season.
Speedy and I might just have a shoulder-in to renvers for the show next weekend!
On Monday afternoon, Speedy and I had a lesson. There is only one to go before we make our Third Level debut.
I know which movements are required at Third:
With Speedy tacked up and ready go, I dragged him over to a shady spot and quickly pulled up test 2 on my phone. My eyes raced through the movements but jerked to a halt when I read numbers 7 and 8, "K-E shoulder-in right" immediately followed by "E-H renvers left." Huh? I gave an audible uh-oh realizing that I needed to start hooking the movements together PDQ if I had any chance at earning that first 60%.
When Chemaine pulled in, I quickly filled her in on the reason for my sudden panic. I didn't know test 2 and needed some quick help. As I finished my warm up, Chemaine was quick to point out that our trot work had improved over the week and that our shoulder-in had a better angle. As I ride it, I hear her in my head shouting MORE ANGLE! I think it has helped.
While we have a better angle, and we can "do" a renvers (haunches out), I needed help riding them one after the other. Chemaine's advice was this: first, ride the shoulder-in. To develop the renvers, open the inside rein (which becomes the outside rein) to draw the shoulders into the arena. Change the bend, and then keep the haunches on the rail. And all of this happens in just a few strides.
The rest of the lesson was spent schooling the half pass, both at trot and canter, followed by the flying change. Speedy still wants to get charge-y after the change, so Chemaine showed me a new exercise that both gets him to sit and helps him wait for the flying change.
In test 1, there is a medium canter down the entire long side followed by a 10 meter circle at V. The flying change comes between X and R. To keep Speedy balanced, Chemaine had me do a walk-canter-walk transition anyplace I would do a half halt, so between the medium canter and the start of the 10-meter circle, I asked for a simple change but stayed on the same lead. Instead of a flying change, I asked for a simple change. We ran through this pattern a few times in hopes that Speedy would start to memorize the pattern of half halts.
Here's how the exercise went:
Our left to right change is getting pretty reliable. The other way is to still kind of wild and wooly.
We have just over a week to polish everything as much as we can.
But honestly, this horse is so much fun to ride that we'll have fun no matter how many movements I botch. It's a good thing that I have a trainer who embraces the idea that dressage is a long process where horses and riders develop over time.
Maybe I am not completely lame afterall; I did remember to bring my ipad home last night and even remembered to upload some video clips of my lesson with Chemaine Hurtado.
PSA - Chemaine is continuing to broaden her coverage area meaning she's willing to travel as a clinician. Did you know she rode with Robert Dover a few weeks ago? She happily works with all levels of riders from lntro Level to those in the international ranks, and she can do it all in the same day. If you are at all interested in putting together a clinic, contact her. You won't be disappointed.
None of the video clips are particularly fascinating. The audio is terrible and you might feel nauseous at times as the camera woman readjusts her position or simply forgets what she's doing. Even so, I thought you might like to see Izzy in action. Most of the time I write about what a jerk he is, but he is actually a lovely mover with a ton of talent. See for yourself.
First up, some baby leg yields. Watch it on YouTube here.
Left lead canter ... Watch it on YouTube here.
The right lead canter video is the most interesting. Chemaine asked me to canter the whole arena, but Izzy had other plans. He doesn't care for that far end, so as we approached it, he gave a hard spook, unseating me pretty good. I regrouped and sent him forward again. It took three tries to get through that spot, and even when he did agree to canter through, you can see his haunches swinging wildly. Watch it on YouTube here.
You can see why Chemaine's homework for me involved slowing him down, working on leg yielding to supple his body, and getting control of his haunches and shoulders. I've had very productive rides on him this week and have been able to finally school him rather than fight over the throttle. Having Speedy parked in the arena has reduced a great deal of tension and changing out the bit to something a bit tougher has given me some brakes.
I have the entire next week off, and I'm putting it to good use! Have a great weekend.
I've finally finished digging through the video clips from last weekend's lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. You've already seen the lovely screen shots that I was able to pick out, now you get to see the footage, raw and uncut!
While watching me bumble along is no doubt quite entertaining, the best part of the videos is listening to Chemaine's feedback; she is one heck of a trainer. If you've been following Izzy's journey, you already know that it was just one month ago that after a huge struggle we finally got a right lead canter. Just a few short weeks later, Izzy can now canter on the right lead and hold it!
For most of the videos, we're working to the left. Izzy is much stiffer to the left and doesn't want to stretch the right side of his body to take the right rein. Most of our work during this lesson was about keeping him between my aids and while maybe not on the outside rein yet, you can see that he's getting there.
Chemaine Says ...
"It's the beginning of asking him to be through... Bring him back, and when he's focused, add more energy."
"Stroke his ego ... You need to make him feel really successful."
"Don't give up the right rein... Let him learn to let it go... This is where it is, Izzy, and I'm not going to pull it back farther than that... But he has to figure out to give to it."
"Give him the opportunity to think it's a good idea ... Keep inviting him to stretch a little more."
Get the nice little stretch down before the canter... Steady on that right rein."
Once he gets the message, he gets the message... You've got to keep on keeping on!"
Our next lesson is scheduled for the end of April. I cannot wait to go back to show Chemaine what he's already learned just this week. When I rode on Thursday afternoon, he picked up a left lead canter correctly without blasting through my aids. And while it was a bit stuttery, he also got the right lead on the very first try!
Chemaine has tried to convince me all along that when he finally "gets it," he's going to be amazing. I am fast becoming a believer!
For me, one of the very best things about a two-day clinic is that I get a chance to think about what happened on the first day and ask follow up questions on the next day.
Speedy threw a big fit about the leg yields on Saturday. I started questioning whether I was causing the problem by asking for way too much cross over. I suspected that he was getting frustrated with me if he was crossing that hind leg as far as he could. Was I asking for more than he could give?
I warmed Speedy up, but then I asked Chemaine to school him through the leg yields before I had a chance to irritate him. When I saw how he behaved with her, I realized it wasn't me after all. The leg yield was just hard for him, and he was expressing his opinion about it. I got a quick screen shot with Chemaine asking for the leg yield left, the same one we struggled with the day before.
Chemaine rode him for a while, first at the walk and then at the trot. In the first video clip (00:32 seconds), she is showing him what she wants at the walk.
Then she moved on to the leg yield at the trot (1:01seconds).
As an adult amateur who doesn't have her horse in full training, I might be responsible for some lapses in my horse's training. Regular trainer rides would be awesome.
One of the things I am guilty of is not asking for enough forward. It's not because I don't want more forward, but it's more difficult to balance and be effective in my aids with a bigger, more powerful stride. As such, Speedy just gets pokier and pokier, and I just tootle around oblivious to the power of which he is capable.
After working on the leg yields for a few minutes, Chemaine worked on Speedy's go forward button. When I got back on him, he practically lost me when he shot forward into a much more powerful trot. All I can say is give me more of that please! Everything was so much easier with a horse who was truly in front of my leg!
We also reviewed some of the work from the day before by repeating the 10-meter circle to shoulder in exercise as well as some work on how to use the short side more strategically. I tend to let Speedy lose all of his impulsion on the short side as I prepare for the next corner.
Chemaine pointed out that judges really respect riders who can maintain that energy even along the short side, so she had me ride laps around the arena. I half halted in all four corners, but I tried to push Speedy into a more energetic trot on the short sides as well as the long sides.
Before we finished for the day, I wanted to show Chemaine some of the walk to canter work that I've been doing with Speedy. While none of it was perfect, Chemaine was pretty pleased with where we are. I know we were both remembering how just a year ago Speedy would kick out and buck at the canter transitions. Now, I can canter to trot to canter wherever and whenever I'd like with a very willing partner.
In this video (01:15 seconds), we're working on some canter transitions.
And in this one (1:01) we're focusing on lifting his withers and doing a walk to canter transition.
I am eagerly awaiting our next lesson!
Tomorrow, my second lesson with Izzy.
It's been a long hard week for me, so I need to just finish it up with a smile and a feel good minute. With that, here's your smile for the day,
This was not my intended post for today, but this video is so funny that I just had to share it. I thought I was the last one to see it, but apparently there are a few people out there who missed it. Enjoy!
Yesterday I posted a list of can you do this? items. It was a list of things that I want all of my horses to do. Trailer loading with no questions (just get in without hesitation) is really, really high on my list.
A horse that will just load right up is demonstrating complete and total faith in his handler's leadership (in my opinion anyway). And since I do so many things with my horses - trail rides, shows, clinics, vet visits ... loading without issue is really important to me.
I also trailer alone 99.9% of the time which means that I don't have someone who can do a bit of hazing with a dressage whip when one of my horses decides to hesitate or balk a bit. I need to be totally confident that my horse is going to walk onto that trailer no matter what the circumstance.
I could load Speedy in the middle of a we're-not-in-Kansas-anymore type of tornado; he's the very definition of reliable. Izzy is not quite there ... yet. He will be soon, but he needs a few more lessons.
Last weekend when I did a trailer loading session, he decided to put his weight into it and said NO. I brought out a dressage whip to tap him on the hip, but that didn't get his attention. I dragged out my handy stick, but that was a fail as well.
My trailer has a pretty narrow opening (the tack room is behind the other door), so it can be tricky to get a horse to load when you're alone. My preferred method of getting a horse to load takes two people: one person to direct and a second person to apply pressure behind with a dressage or lunging whip.
As mentioned before, I don't usually have a second person, so I went to method number two. I converted by cotton-rope lunge line into a "butt" rope. It doesn't work with every horse, but fortunately, Izzy was quite responsive.
It took a a couple of tugs on the "butt" rope line before he realized that I could get him from behind when he didn't want to move forward. After that, he was all about the when and where. This video is from yesterday afternoon, which was only our second trailer loading session. I hadn't worked with him at all on trailer loading since last weekend.
I was pretty pleased with his progress. I cut out the most boring parts, but the whole practice session lasted less than three minutes. Enjoy!