From Endurance to Dressage
Haunches, Haunches, Haunches
We had Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, here for a clinic this weekend. As always, I went home with several great exercises to use until our next series of lessons in March (message me if you're interested in riding/auditing).
When she was here in December, everything was about the stretch down - for both horses. For Speedy, it was about getting him deeper and rounder making room for a "give." When he lightened up, I could then send him forward into a lengthened stride. With Izzy, the stretch down was to help him loosen his topline so that we could get a relaxed stride.
Over the last two months, we were able to apply those concepts so thoroughly that both boys were ready for much more.
With Speedy, we worked on three things, all of which had to do with shoulder in and haunches in.
The Leg Yield
I am pretty sick of not having this thing right, but Chemaine was able to help me fine tune some parts of the leg yield. Speedy gets pretty sticky off my left leg, so we fixed that with some walk to TROT! transitions. Then, Chemaine worked on my technique. First, she pointed out that I've been allowing Speedy to drift into the leg yield, something that beginner horses might need to do. Speedy is no longer a beginner.
Now, I need to start the leg yield from a position parallel to the rail. As we leg yield, she also wants me to be in more of a shoulder in position since Speedy wants to drift across the arena, leading too much with his shoulder. As we approach the rail, she also encouraged me to get his haunches to the rail first, and not his shoulders. This sets us up more easily for the next turn since his shoulders are now straight, or aligned with his haunches.
Turn on the Forehand
Prepare for a headache. This is not the turn on the forehand done like a leg yield. This is a turn on the forehand half pass style. This exercise is about controlling the haunches when your horse wants to let them drift. Speedy likes to do a lot of drifting!
To do this exercise, walk forward a few steps in shoulder in. Push the haunches in so that the horse is in a comma shape. Now, send the horse's haunches around the forehand into the bend.
Turn on the Haunches
To do a turn on the haunches, you will keep your horse in the same bend as before, like a comma. Only this time, you will send the front legs around the hind end, also into the bend. To keep the horse from walking forward, open your outside hand and bring it straight back as you half halt.
To the left, we are pretty good, but since Speedy gets sticky on my left leg, we need some more practice to the right. Even so, here he is taking a pretty good cross over step to the right.
Walk to Canter
Speedy and I worked really hard on the walk to canter transition over the past two months, and while it's not a perfect transition, it's pretty neat and tidy.
To help with the canter immediately following the departure, Chemaine had me get him softer and rounder right away. In December, Speedy would sit, but then there was no push off forward so I let him get long just to get him going. Now that he can sit and push forward, Chemaine wants him to stay collected from the push off through the canter strides. That was easy to clean up.
Canter to Walk
And then we put it all together! This exercise was the most fun, but it will leave your head spinning. To get the walk from canter, I was putting Speedy into a haunches in and spiraling down until he was really sitting on his hind end. We could get the walk, but it was clunky.
Chemaine encouraged me to get the haunches in, but then canter a few more strides before walking. Speedy quickly learned that haunches in meant walk, but later, when we canter haunches in, I don't want him to think about walking. We cleaned that up as well.
For the simple change - walk to canter to walk, Chemaine brought back the turn on the forehand. As we cantered our circle, she wanted Speedy to hold the haunches in through the halt even though he knew we were going to change the bend and canter off in the other direction.
Speedy's a smart horse. He's also lazy. Keeping the haunches in is hard work. But, if the haunches fall out, picking up the new lead isn't going to be balanced, and it will be impossible to get a flying change. This is what it looks like to lose the haunches.
To fix this, canter on the right lead. Keep the haunches in, if they fall out, reestablish the right "comma" bend and go back to that turn on the forehand half pass style. Do a half circle turn until the horse is facing the opposite direction, and canter right again. Repeat as many times as necessary. And of course, you can do it on the left lead as needed, too.
By the end of the lesson, I was able to pretty effectively keep Speedy's hind end where I wanted it. Of course, if your horse holds the haunches in, simply change the bend, walk forward to straighten the horse, and pick up the new lead.
And then I rode the big brown horse. Catch that ride tomorrow!
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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)
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3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: