From Endurance to Dressage
After my lesson on Sunday, I zipped across the street to watch Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, school Laurel's horse Silver. Silver was in need of a bit of a tune up, so Laurel and I stood at the rail watching.
It's easy to feel discouraged watching your trainer ride your horse, especially when she does it so well. Trainers make it look effortless to achieve what you might spend a whole ride trying to catch just one moment of. The trainer gets on and suddenly you own a Valegro.
As Laurel and I watched, we focused on what Chemaine was doing and not on Silver. As spectators, it's easy to get caught up in how beautiful a horse is moving. To learn though, I find it's of much more use to focus on the rider. It's not easy though if the rider's aids are nearly invisible.
As Laurel and I continued to watch and chat, she lamented how much her hands and arms move. I laughed and told her she should have seen the lesson I just finished; talk about wildly moving arms and hands. Then I told her that I see riding as a lot like driving a car.
When you're just starting out as a young driver, you have a million things you're trying to think about because you haven't learned to monitor your driving subconsciously. All of your corrections come a bit too late so they're a bit more dramatic. Young drivers hit the shoulder occasionally and wrecks aren't uncommon. As you gain experience though, you begin to make your corrections sooner and sooner with smaller movements that become difficult to see.
Trainers are like NASCAR drivers. Bubba Wallace can zip through the field while avoiding the wall and other cars all while going 200 miles per hour without causing a wreck. His driving ability requires complete muscle memory and lightening fast reflexes. Trainers ride a horse the same way. Their corrections happen long before the horse actually spooks. They feel the need for a half halt before the horse has had a chance to pop his head up and hollow his back. The horse doesn't get heavy because the trainer doesn't let the horse go round and round leaning on the bit.
The only way to develop those unconscious feels is to practice. The more hours you drive, the better your reflexes become. Riding a horse well needs the same kind of practice and repetition as driving a car.
And you know what? I think you can be a pretty good driver no matter if it's behind the wheel of a Ferrari or a Volkswagen beetle.
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%: