From Endurance to Dressage
Before doing the demo ride on Sunday, I asked Chemaine if we could do a lesson on Saturday night. I was thrilled when she made time in her schedule to school us through the exercises that she wanted us to demonstrate the next day.
I should point out that being one of Chemaine's demo rider ranks up there as one of the most enjoyable, exhilarating, and awesome things that I have had the opportunity to do with horses. And I have completed 100-mile endurance rides, ridden across the Irish countryside, galloped on the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, jumped fallen redwoods in Redwood National Park, and ridden horses in at least five different countries. Even with all of that, being a demo rider was pretty damn cool.
Even taking a lesson at the Fairplex was exciting. We rode in the racetrack's infield, just behind the main arena with music blaring and the announcer calling out introductions. As my lesson started, the track's lights came on, and the atmosphere became almost electric. Speedy sure felt it!
Chemaine had us start with a changing the bend exercise. Basically, it's a figure eight, but in the straight section, the rider 1) takes up the outside rein, 2) weights the new inside seat bone, 3) sponges the new inside rein to get a bend, and 4) RELEASES the new inside rein. The exercise can be done at the walk, trot to walk to trot, trot - change the bend - trot, canter to trot to canter, and even canter to lead change to canter.
The video is super short, but it shows how we started: trot a 20-meter circle, walk, change the bend, trot the other 20-meter circle. The exercise just builds in complexity from there. After we warmed up by doing it at a trot, we moved on to the canter.
For the canter, I brought him back to a trot and then a walk where I changed the bend and then changed the lead. As the exercise gets more complex, the downward transitions become canter to walk transitions in preparation for Second Level Test 1, and ultimately for flying changes.
This little video clip is funny because my friends are heckling me as we struggle with getting the correct lead. I am including it just for fun.
As it got darker, more and more riders came out onto the field in preparation for the evening program that was gearing up in the main arena. Speedy started woohooing, and my support team/photographer took a few minutes to poke fun at us. So, for all of the Speedy fans out there who don't believe that he can be a jerk, here's proof that he can be full of piss and vinegar.
For the rest of the lesson we focused on the counter canter. I play around with counter canter all of the time, but not picking it up. If we're cantering on a left lead, I'll circle around and do a 20-meter counter canter circle but then return to a true canter. Chemaine wanted me to be able to pick up the counter canter on the long side for the demo ride.
Speedy can pick up both leads equally as well when the direction of travel is obvious. If we're circling right, he gets the right lead. If we're circle left, same thing. On the long side however, I am not as good with my seat aids, so he simply defaults to a true canter lead, or a left lead if the option isn't super clear. In this last video, Chemaine was really encouraging me to look in the direction of the lead. For me, picking up the right lead was the most difficult as my right hip has trouble coming forward.
I really enjoyed this lesson because we worked on some new things in a huge, wide open field with a lot of distractions. There were riders carrying flags, western horses schooling their stuff, lights, and the loudspeaker blaring music and voices. Through it all, Speedy mostly did what I asked. Even though we struggled with some of the exercises, I was really proud of him as a lot of other horses would have lost it in those conditions.
Tomorrow: the demo ride!
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%: