From Endurance to Dressage
As usual, I had a great lesson with Chemaine Hurtado yesterday. That woman can really teach. If only I lived slightly closer, like say within 100 miles, Izzy and I would definitely be farther along than we are.
When we finished the lesson, she told me that I am doing a great job with Izzy. While I love to hear that, I am always waiting for her to qualify the compliment with the addition of "... for someone who doesn't know what she's doing." I know that she doesn't really think that of course, but I do feel like his progress would be much faster under a better rider. And of course it would, but he's got me, so our progress is what it is.
So what kind of progress are we making? Steady, monthly progress. Each month I have been able to achieve what Chemaine is looking for which allows us to move on to the next step. Chemaine's word for the day was educated. As soon as she said, "now that Izzy is more educated," I understood exactly what she meant. He now has a training foundation that we can start building on.
Up until now, it's been about giving him some rudimentary skills: go, stop, turn, etc. Now that's he's more educated, I can start really working on the dressage pyramid. For this lesson we started focusing on throughness and even some straightness.
Last month, Chemaine had me focus on getting a good inside bend while also doing lots of changes of bend. To do this, I used the inside rein and spiraled in or out while also doing a lot of counter bending. Now, she wants to me to use less (or almost no) inside rein and instead start to build an outside wall with my outside leg and rein. When my outside aids are firm and steady, I will be able to push Izzy's inside hind deeper with less sideways movement and more forward movement.
This took me a little while to understand. Essentially, I have to be very firm in my outside half halting rein while using my outside leg to keep him from drifting all while asking him to give to that outside rein with my inside leg. We all know this as inside leg to outside rein. As I asked him to soften to the outside rein with my inside leg however, I kept losing his shoulder to the outside.
To help both of us understand the concept better, Chemaine had me compress Izzy's stride with my outside aids, effectively slowing him down, while asking him to soften with my inside leg. Once he softened to the rein, I could give him an inch and ask for a longer, more forward stride. Each time he lost his balance, I again compressed his stride, and asked him to soften to the outside rein.
When we moved on to the canter, the idea was very much the same. We had already worked on quieting my canter cue the other day, so for this lesson, Chemaine had me really focus on firming up my outside aids. By establishing an outside wall with my outside rein and leg, I was able to keep Izzy's shoulders between my aids rather than letting them blow out (which is why he gets the wrong lead).
My video quality was pretty poor for this lesson so you can't hear what Chemaine is saying, but essentially, she's having me get him soft to the outside side rein before I ask for the canter. She had me think, compress ... soften ... canter. You can see both of us struggling, but once we get it right, the canter is really nice and soft. In the video, I am deliberating patting him over and over during the canter because it helps me release the inside rein and it confirms for Izzy that he's doing exactly what I want.
We weren't able to capture the best of our canter work, but Izzy finally offered a canter that wasn't explosive. To the left, he got so soft that I was able to canter the whole arena all with a super soft inside rein. To the right didn't get quite as nice, which you can see in the next clip, but we were finally able to canter the whole arena without losing the lead in back or doing a flying change in front.
Two months ago, we couldn't get a right lead canter, and the left was pretty iffy. Last month, we finally got a right lead canter, but it was wild and wooly. So while this clip shows a total lack of straightness down the long sides, I am really pleased that he can now hold the lead without galloping off into the sunset.
More on the lesson tomorrow with some funny blooper photos!
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%: