From Endurance to Dressage
Dealing with a Lot of Information
On Sunday, Speedy's newest friend "J" stayed for a lesson after watching my own lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. More on that in a day or two. Even though I am teacher - and maybe because I am a teacher, I make sure to participate as often as possible as a student. If we don't know what it feels like to be a learner ourselves, how can we ever empathize with the struggle of being a student?
Because she's eager to learn, J arrived early enough to watch the lesson. We didn't talk much about it afterwards, or at least not specifically, but I made numerous references to my own lesson as I worked with her and Speedy. I wanted her to know that trying to process a lot of information at once is something all riders cope with especially if they're learning something new or difficult. My own lesson was filled with a steady stream of "new" stuff, and by the end, my brain felt like someone had just tried to make a pretzel out of it.
Even though my lessons are free, I feel an obligation to teach something new each time. And if not completely new, I want the lesson to at the very least move past the last one. No one wants to repeat the same thing again and again. For the first lesson, we mostly focused on the basic aids. This time, I had J apply those aids to movements outside of a 20-meter circle. If a rider never leaves the safety of the 20-meter circle, how can she know if her aids are even effective?
Teaching on a circle is pretty easy though. For the most part, you're just going to keep saying a little more bend, add weight to your inside seat bone, post quicker and higher, half halt! Add in a change of direction, and forty-five minutes later you're done. When the student leave the 20-meter circle though, the teacher's job is suddenly made a lot more difficult. And the more complicated the movement, the quicker the teacher has to think and speak.
As the "teacher," I am finding this task to be a challenge. It's forcing me to really dissect each movement to both explain it to someone else and then coach that rider through the movement without overwhelming or discouraging her. It's not easy though, and it's giving me yet another reason to appreciate how difficult a good trainer's job is.
I had J test her previously acquired skills in two ways. First we did a change of direction from one 20-meter circle to another. Later, I had her canter the long sides to E/B, and later S/R, and then make the half circle back to the long side for the half circle at A. There are a lot more aids to those simple patterns than you would think.
For the change of direction, the rider has to begin the change of bend long before those two strides of straightness you get where the circles touch. It doesn't take long to trot a 20-meter circle though especially when you have a whole bunch of things that need to happen. I found it incredibly challenging to coach J through the beginning of the change to the end.
Essentially, to ride a change of bend, the rider has to first initiate the change with what will become the new inside leg. The rider must move the horse off the new inside leg to the new outside rein, add inside flexion, catch the outside shoulder, look in the new direction of travel, change the posting diagonal, and it all needs to happen within about ten seconds. I can't even say all of that in ten seconds.
The canter down the long side was actually easier as I finally resorted to shouting half halt! just before the half circle followed by about ten more HALF HALTs! during the half circle, which was followed by the very simple let him out if you feel comfortable along the long side. The long side was never long enough though so within moments I was once again insisting on a HALF HALT!
Why do "they" never actually get a half halt? And by "they" I mean me. Sheesh. I am sure Chemaine is constantly wondering what the hell I am doing up there while she's screeching at me to half halt. Now I know why she's yelling. As riders, we may be trying to get a half halt, and we may think we're actually doing a half halt, but it's never enough.
I know J thinks that I am doing her an incredible favor by letting her ride Speedy and giving her lessons. The truth is, I am probably getting more from the experience than she is. My dressage knowledge has obviously grown tremendously over the past decade, but knowing how to sit the trot and ride a flying change of lead isn't all there is to learn. I said this a week or so ago, but being able to show someone else how to do it can really help you identify where your own learning is strong, but it can also help you see the gaps.
While I love taking lessons, I am also learning a ton by giving them.
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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
(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%: