From Endurance to Dressage
I've been stirring the pot a lot around here lately. How about a little more?
A comment was made a few weeks back that sort of took a pot shot at my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. The person commenting stated that her students were all earning scores in the high 60s and low 70s at Third Level, which I clearly am not. She also went on to say that her students wouldn't use her name and website (these are my words ...) while being a sucky rider and sharing that fact with the world. She didn't put it exactly like that, but that's what she meant.
Virtually all of the criticism I get on social media rolls off me like water off a duck's back. Most of you understand that I am an adult amateur doing the best that I can; just like you are. I can't afford to have a horse in full training, and even if I could, there's not a trainer here in town anyway. Instead, I make do with a few lessons a month.
When I read the comment I'm referring to, my hackles went straight up. Number one, the woman commenting left only a first name, so it is very hard to confirm the veracity of her comment. Number two, it struck me as arrogant to state that her students are earning high 60s and low 70s. Is that every student every time? You mean they never get a 58% ever? If so, she must have a clientele loaded with very talented women who are clearly destined for bigger and better things.
There was more to the comment of course, but I took issue with the insinuation that my trainer isn't doing her job. Let me tell you a little bit about Chemaine's credentials. According to USDF records, there are currently 253 riders who have earned their Bronze Freestyle bars, 302 riders with their Silver Freestyle bars, and only 180 riders who have achieved their Gold Freestyle bars. Chemaine has earned all three of them. She has also earned all three of her medals, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. As an interesting note, there are only 1,556 riders who have a Gold Medal. That's an elite crowd for sure.
I share these statistics to substantiate my claim that Chemaine is a very talented rider. A quick glance at her scores on USDFScores.com confirms that she's not a one hit wonder. She knows what she's doing which is one of the reasons that I've chosen her to be my trainer. That's not the only reason though.
I hope that Chemaine is not unique as a trainer because first and foremost, she cares about your horse's well-being. She wants him to be happy and comfortable in his work. That means she's willing to try a lot of things, even some things that might seem "unorthodox." In my case, we put a lower level horse in the double bridle. Shocking I know, but she was looking for a way to help me communicate with him so that he could understand what was being asked of him. When it didn't work, she made a different suggestion. It turned out that Izzy actually really likes a ported bit and not a snaffle. I now switch between the ported bit and a legal dressage bit that doesn't break like a snaffle. The experiment with the double bridle gave us that information.
The second reason that I adore Chemaine as my trainer is that she also really, really cares about all of her students. While she would love for all of us to be earning scores in the high 60s and low 70s, she's proud of us even when we don't. Her mission is to help us achieve our goals, not hers. Sometimes those goals simply mean entering at A. Sometimes the goal is just not to get eliminated. Or in my case, earning a 60% on a horse that I am basically training myself. Of course I want to score higher, and of course I want to earn a Bronze Medal, but Chemaine recognizes that I need to be supported in the smaller stuff in order to get there.
I am always very concerned about embarrassing Chemaine. I can't stand to let her down, and I worry that other people will judge her based on my riding. (Gee, a little like what just happened). When we don't get an obedient change or Speedy gets behind the vertical, I fret that they'll think she doesn't know how to teach. Believe me, she does. But rather than tell me I can't show until ______________, she encourages me to get out there and try and see what happens. She knows that I enjoy showing and that I need the challenge of the show ring to really help me step up my game.
I don't want a trainer who is more concerned with how I am going to make her look than she is about helping me achieve my goals. Chemaine could probably have a retinue of high scoring ladies if she were less concerned about having fun and appreciating the process. But I don't think that's her. Enjoying the journey, laughing about the mistakes, and continuing to strive for the best that we can be is more her style.
I bet most of you have trainers like Chemaine. Trainers that know that your 59.8% was the best you could do at that given moment. They aren't worried that you're making them look bad. They care about you and your horse more than they care about how you're making them look.
To those hard working, compassionate trainers, we salute you!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: