From Endurance to Dressage
I am doing the happy dance today. Izzy was actually a normal horse for Saturday's ride with Chemaine Hurtado. There was no rearing, no bolting, no melt downs. This didn't happen overnight. He and I have been working our butts off. For years. Years! Saturday was the result of a lot of persistence.
Chemaine's daughter shot more than 30 minutes of video, and I could hardly find a moment where he put a foot out of place. Here's a short clip of what he looked like for most of the lesson.
Of course there is a ton to work on. This horse is far, far from being finished, but man, oh, man are we on the right track!
As we started the lesson, I told Chemaine that I felt we were ready to tackle our connection. Yes, that should always be what we work on, but for so long, it's been more about getting this horse to not bolt through my aids. At the end of the lesson, we actually had a long talk about that issue.
Many people have asked why I don't ride this horse more forward. The truth is, he just doesn't have the balance to do that. If I let him go faster, he has to run to keep from falling on his nose. He doesn't know how to sit and lengthen his stride. You would think that when he felt unbalanced, he would slow himself down, but his answer has always been to go faster. Convincing him that slower is a better choice has been hard, hard work. He's one of those who thinks his answer is always right, but finally, he seems to be rethinking things.
Essentially, the lesson went like this. Slow, slower, SLOWER ... stretch down. Repeat, repeat, repeat. As we worked, Chemaine decreed that our word for the day (week, month, year) is establish. It is my job to establish a rhythm in which Izzy is able to maintain his balance. She explained it like this.
So he just has to say, "This is my happy place right here. If I come back to this happy, relaxed place every time I lose my balance, then I am going to be okay."
Once he accepted the bit, Chemaine had me work on getting his body organized. To begin with, she instructed me to put more weight in my inside stirrup while thinking about pushing him toward the outside rein.
Every time his head popped up though, Chemaine instructed me to re-establish that safe, balanced rhythm. She described it like this.
So maybe a little bit slower and deeper again because he keeps asking, "Oh, can I come up now? Oh, can I come up now?" You have to convince him that no, that is not the right answer. Those are not the right questions to ask. When he starts to ask "the question" again, you need to re-establish that rhythm.
As he started to move into the outside rein, Chemaine encouraged me to ask for a longer and straighter stride by closing my outside leg a bit while thinking about his toes going under his nose. Let me say that again. Think about his toes going under his nose. Wow! That gave me a totally different feel for straightness! While we didn't get a lengthening, Izzy did straighten up and get a wee bit of a loftier stride.
For the canter work, we worked on the same ideas. The trot work has been harder for me to establish than the canter, so when we got to the canter, there was less tweaking. One thing in particular stood out though. Chemaine had me think about a full body half halt. That was something I was already doing in practice, but putting a name to it helped me visualize it better.
On half halting, both at the canter and trot, Chemaine had a few more interesting things to say.
I want him to shorten up to the point where he recognizes you. He's still thinking about everything else.
She felt like he actually forgets I am up there. She wanted me to keep half halting and shortening his stride until he acknowledged me in some way - licking his lips, cocking an ear ... something. Essentially it was all about this...
You need to re-establish his mental connection as much as the feeling in your hand.
Isn't that the truth? More tomorrow.
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%: