From Endurance to Dressage
Move Your Bloomin' Arse!
On Friday, I had a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, and oh, man, was it a good one. Surprisingly, I didn't take Izzy. Speedy is the one who has been giving me fits lately, so I showed up with a small but challenging list of Things That Need Work.
Every "issue" I have with Speedy can be traced back to one thing - he's behind my leg all the time. The turn on the haunches to the right - he stalls out. Canter to walk - he can't sit because he doesn't have enough impulsion coming from behind. Medium trot - see above.
As we started working, I told Chemaine that I am tired of having this same exact lesson, but no matter what I do - transitions, spurs, whip, I just can't keep Speedy in front of my leg. She laughed and said that it's a problem with many horses, some of hers included. Fortunately, she had a new lesson to re-address the problem.
We started out with a walk. At each letter, I asked for a halt and then a walk. I was to ask for the walk with the quietest of aids. When he strolled forward, I was to pop him with the whip. With most horses, this probably lights their fire pretty quickly. With Speedy, it just ticks him off and makes him cranky, so instead of walking off quickly, he throws his head up or kicks out.
Chemaine explained that Speedy is chosing to respond to my leg or my hand instead of both. When he won't respond to my leg, I often let go with my hand thinking that he needs room to go forward, so then he pops his head up and we get no real push from behind. So now, I have to insist that he NOT pop his head up. He needs to push from behind and lift through his shoulders. This is how we'll achieve throughness and collection.
Once Speedy was listening to my leg (and hand) at the walk, we moved on to the trot. It took the same reminders, but Chemaine had me be really firm with him. I have no trouble going to the whip, but I try to use it judiciously. Chemaine helped me see that I need to really get my message across. If I tap with the whip and Speedy kicks out, I need to tap him again to let him know that the whip doesn't mean kick out; it means go!
After a few rounds with the whip, Speedy got the message and started to offer the biggest and loftiest trot he's ever given me. You can see it start to develop in the video.
I've been plunking away for so long on his little out-for-a-Sunday-stroll trot, that I really struggled with my balance while riding his bigger trot. He struggled too! I love this moment though as it might be the first time that he's actually had all four feet off the floor at the trot.
Once I had Speedy behind my leg, we moved on to some real work - the turn on the haunches and the canter work. Look for that tomorrow.
4/18/2017 07:09:56 am
Keeping the horse in front of my leg is my #1 challenge right now - totally feel your pain.
4/18/2017 10:27:16 am
I can totally relate to this one. My mare prefers to be lazy/behind my leg. You really have to remember to use the whip until you get the desired response...she's slowly sharpening up her response.
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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
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Third Level: 62.105%
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