From Endurance to Dressage
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to ride in the CDS Adult Amateur Clinic at W Farms in Chino Hills. Check out their website; that place is amazing, and their arena is the nicest one I have ever ridden in to be sure. The staff at W Farms is as awesome as their facility. They helped each rider unload their horses and tack, and then helped us park, all the while smiling and chatting. Many thanks to that crew!
The CDS AA Clinics all follow the same format, but Nicole Bahthal, the Southern Region's organizer, did a particularly nice job. We had a Friday evening meet and greet with Mexican food and margaritas in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Each day, there was coffee and pastries in the morning with boxed lunches from Panera in the afternoon. On Saturday, there was a pause in the clinic for a Kentucky Derby party with wine, mint juleps, and roses. Everything was presented in such a way as to make the riders feel welcomed and relaxed. Thank you, Nicole!
For the clinic itself, Hilda Gurney was the clinician. The one thing that I can say about Hilda's style of teaching is that she is all business and doesn't pull any punches. If you want to see where your weaknesses truly are, schedule a lesson. Apparently, I have many.
Hilda had each rider start out just riding as they normally would so that she could get a feel for our needs. I've ridden with a number of different trainers, so I wasn't nervous riding for Hilda, but I was eager for some constructive feedback. During the first five minutes of the lesson, I heard a lot of positive comments. Hilda really liked Speedy G and said he was a nice mover, well balanced, and happy in his work. She thought we had a solid relationship and that we made a good team.
For the next 30 minutes, I heard a whole lot of criticism that was hard to hear. I twist my body, my aids are unclear, I don't react fast enough, I over react, I am too big for my horse, I am unbalanced, I am not fit enough, and my sitting trot is horrible. This was nothing new, but it was humiliating to hear it over the PA system. Not only did I get to hear it, but so did half of Chino Hills.
As we worked on my shortcomings, Speedy came together quite nicely. The work he gave me was ever so lovely, so Hilda's pokes and prods and jabs must have helped me as Speedy just got better and better. The one thing that I really took home from Saturday's lesson was about my hand position. Speedy loves to be behind the vertical, so Hilda helped me and many other riders address that issue.
She called it "fluffing." When the horse drops his head too low, we should raise our hands and put them closer to together to lift the head back up. When the head gets too high, do the opposite: widen the hands and place them lower. It's the rider's job to monitor where their horse's head is and adjust their hands as needed.
Hilda is a tough instructor, and if your skin is at all thin, it would be better to audit than to ride. Even today, my morale is still pretty low, and I haven't even described Sunday's lesson. Thankfully, my best friend had joined me on the trip, so after the lesson I got an earful of how great we looked and how proud of myself I should be.
And best friends never lie. Right?! More to come ...
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%: