From Endurance to Dressage
El Sueno - Part 2 Friday's Warm Up
Before I get to the show, I need to tell you about the fantastic lesson I had with Chemaine on Friday evening.
After having some lunch and getting settled in, I saddled Speedy and head out to the warm-up ring. I started out with lots of walking and a suppling exercise that I had learned from Chemaine the month before.
Chemaine Hurtado, of Symphony Dressage Stables, is based at CastleRock Farms in Moorpark. She is an outstanding trainer. If you live anywhere near Ventura, and you're looking for dressage help, I suggest you give her a call at 805-340-3246.
The walk work and the trot work seemed to go okay. I wasn't as happy as I had been at the show two weeks prior, but it wasn't a total disaster until I asked for the canter. Crap. I knew I was in trouble.
The first summer I showed, back in 2010, I got lots of comments that read hollow, needs steadier contact, needs better energy, and above the bit. It took a while to start feeling what those things really meant. Now that I know what hollow feels like, I do everything to avoid riding it. Speedy's canter on Friday was so hollow that I felt as though I was riding a hammock with a head and a tail. His back couldn't have been any lower without his belly dragging on the ground.
When I asked for a canter, I got a buck and a kick followed by a leap and a rear that was followed by a dirty slam on the brakes. Repeatedly. I had told my mom that she chould sit in the shade along the arena's edge and relax for a moment as my warm-up would be quick and we could head back to the trailer.
After a half hour, I started to feel sorry for my mom, but I felt like I just had to get something that approached a canter transition or I was going to be in big, big trouble on Saturday. I never did get a good transition, but at least the bucking and kicking tapered off. To say I was discouraged, frustrated, and bummed out would be a classic understatement. I just didn't want my mom to have driven 650 miles to watch a 55% dressage test. I put Speedy away and sent Chemaine a frantic text: HELP!
The plan had already been for Chemaine to coach us through both tests each day as needed. She needed to be at El Sueno anyway later that evening so we planned to meet at 6:30 for an emergency pull us together lesson. Knowing that help was on the way, I was able to relax and visit with my mom.
When Chemaine arrived, my mom was quite impressed that I would be using the ear pieces to hear Chemaine's instructions. She thought Chemaine's whole approach was pretty classy and upscale. After listening to the lesson and watching me magically improve to become an actual dressage rider, Mom promoted Chemaine to Trainer Extraordinaire!
Chemaine's quick assessment was that Speedy was tight in the back so we worked on getting him to stretch over his top line. If you've been following any length of time, you already know that the stretchy trot is my nemesis. Chemaine was finally able to show me a way to effectively ask Speedy to consistently stretch down. By Sunday afternoon, I could get him to stretch down nearly on command and he liked it! I earned three 6s and a 6.5 for our stretchy trot during the tests. That 6.5 was one of my favorite scores of the weekend!
For those that are like me and find the stretchy trot to be a complete mystery, here's how we did it.
I discovered that while I am not afraid of him bolting and running off, I am afraid of "handling" that bigger and bolder movement. It takes a lot of balance and control to keep that energy connected without falling apart (as in the trot loops at Training Level Test 3). I also discovered it's a lot like riding a bike: if you go too slowly, the bike wobbles and you fall over. If you can get your bike zooming along, you can ride the energy forward.
Do I see trot lengthenings in our very near future? More tomorrow ...
7/30/2013 01:06:42 am
Now that's an exercise that sounds familiar. I do the same thing on a daily basis with Olano.
7/30/2013 03:55:04 am
It's quite effective. :0) You guys looked great this weekend!
7/30/2013 02:31:59 am
I cannot believe how similar Speedy and Varro are! I have several of the same problems. Thanks for breaking it down step by step! Can't wait to hear more!
7/30/2013 03:56:42 am
I have both kinds, Sandra: one who wants to be too light in the bridle (Speedy) and one who wants me to lug his head around myself (Sydney). They keep me on my toes. Hope the exercise works for you!
7/30/2013 03:57:19 am
I keep hearing that, Lauren. :0) So far, so good!
Wants to be too light in the bridle ... all too familiar. Great explanation of the stretchy aids! I'm so glad to hear your trainer didn't tell you to widen your hands. That was such a pet peeve of the judge I scribed for this fall that it has become one of my pet peeves!
7/31/2013 11:23:46 pm
I don't like to widen my hands, but sometimes that is the only way to maintain contact. It's not to the correct way to stretch, but I think it's better than dropping the contact completely. Usually adding leg will get Speedy's head back up. I know the judges don't like to see it, but sometimes you have to do something to reestablish or maintain contact.
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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%: