From Endurance to Dressage
Compress, Compress, Compress
Over the weekend, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here for a Saturday clinic. We had some new riders, and this time, Chemaine was able to do a yoga ball clinic in the middle of the day. With the yoga ball, she explained seat aides and rider position. She also showed us a series of stretches to do before we ride. The yoga ball portion of a clinic is a fun and relaxing way to work on your position.
I rode Speedy in the morning before everyone else arrived. I put Izzy last on the schedule because he can be a bit of a handful, and I didn't want him spooking the rest of the horses. He was a little nervous, but nothing like in the past.
The truth is, it would have been a boring lesson for anyone to audit. In fact, it was so repetitive that Chemaine finally sat down and just kept repeating herself - more, MORE, COMPRESS, more, more, compress, COMPRESS ... you get the idea. Weird as it sounds, it was a great lesson.
Izzy is finally to the point where I am not trying to keep control. His steering is good, the spooking is nominal, and he knows I am up there. The next great hurdle is getting him to unlock the base of his neck so that his back can swing so that he can take a bigger stride.
When he's tense, which is less and less, he locks his neck and tightens his back. If I ask for a longer stride, his short, choppy stride just gets faster and faster. No amount of leg will lengthen that stride.
For the past month, Chemaine has had me compress him instead. When he won't stretch his neck, I flex his neck, add leg, and hold the half halt as long as I need to until he offers to stretch his neck. As soon as he softens, I release by moving my hands forward and sending him forward at the same time. And like magic, his stride lengthens.
Since the stretchy stride only lasts for a few moments, I compress repeatedly, achieving a longer neck each time. Unless he relaxes his neck, he can't build up a bigger trot. So every time he rushes or gets short and choppy, I compress him and slow him down until he softens his neck. Sometimes that means he evens comes back to a walk.
I rode him on Sunday, and all of Saturday's tension was gone. Of course it was as we were alone as usual. Even so, I was delighted with how quickly he wanted to stretch down when I compressed him.
Now that he's getting broker, he's a lot more fun to ride. When he's not worried, he's a great listener with a huge work ethic. He loves to get the right answer. I am eager to see how far we can get before Chemaine comes back in February.
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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
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Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: