From Endurance to Dressage
We had a mini-clinic with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, over this past weekend. Speedy had been out of commission for 3 months or so while his hoof grew back, and then I was too sick to ride Izzy when Chemaine was here last. But finally, BOTH horses got ridden!
Before riding, I gave Chemaine a quick rundown on where we are struggling. With Izzy, that means improving the connection (nothing new there) and keeping the left lead canter. I can get a left lead when he's supple and relaxed, but when he's anxious and zoomy, he'll do an immediate flying change to the right lead.
Chemaine showed me two new exercises that I am excited to add to my tool box. The first is about over-bending, and the second is about compressing until he gives.
In this exercise, Chemaine had me over-bend Izzy to the inside. And when she said over-bend, she was being literal. Bend until you see the eyeball is not even close. She wanted him very, very bent. As soon as he relaxed in the bend with a stretch, I could release the bend, reestablishing it every single time he popped his head up or got heavy in my hand.
Chemaine explained that Izzy is stiff, of course, and by over-bending him, we're simply asking him to stretch all the way through his ribcage. If you compare the photo above with the one above that, you can see that in the lower photo he is bending all the way through his body so that his hind leg is stepping under.
As Izzy became more supple, we moved on to the canter exercise. The main issue I am having is that I can't get an inside bend to the left. When I ask for it, he pops his shoulder out and does the flying change. To help with this issue, Chemaine had me pick up the left lead like I always do, but when he threw in a change, she had me ignore it.
She felt that he was having several problems. First, of course, is that he's stiff, but hopefully we have fixed that with the over-bending exercise. The second issue is that he is off balance and scrambles while he reorganizes. To help him, she had me do a full body half halt while still driving him forward with my seat and legs. And then she had me HOLD IT!
As I compressed his frame, I held him tightly packaged until he softened. As soon as I felt him give, I let his frame back out a little. As we repeated the exercise over and over, Chemaine had me gradually lengthen my reins so that he was able to do a bigger stretch down.
What I could feel during this exercise was that Izzy was using the compression phase to reorganize himself. Even if he had done a flying change, he still tried to fix things. As he got his legs under him, he was able to carry himself without scrambling and running off in the front end. Without Chemaine's eyes on the ground, I would never have held the compression phase so long. Now I know how he'll respond.
Then we combined the two exercises! At the trot, Chemaine had me compress his body again. Then I over-bent him. As soon as he gave. I let him stretch down. When he started to lose his balance. I compressed him again, but then bent him in the other direction, and when he let go, I let him stretch down. In this exercise, we went from over-bending to the inside to over-bending to the outside with a stretch down.
Here's video of the end of the canter exercise which lead into combining the compression and over-bending.
The exercise goes like this: on a 20-meter circle, compress, over-bend, stretch down; compress, over-bend the other way, stretch down; compress, new bend, stretch down.
When I felt like Izzy had had enough, I glanced at my watch to see how we were on time. We had done all of that in just 30 minutes. There were no hissy fits, no bolting, just down to earth schooling. I smiled and said I was done but invited Chemaine to get on him for the remainder of the lesson. That is always money well spent!
Tomorrow - my ride on Speedy.
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%: