From Endurance to Dressage
We enjoyed another weekend of dressage lessons with Chemaine Hurtado. Everyone who rode thanked me for bringing her here. It wasn't that they were thanking me for any special action on my part. Instead, they were expressing their gratitude at having the opportunity to ride with a trainer who is so enthusiastic, encouraging, and knowledgeable.
Chemaine helps you bring out the very best in your horse, and she does it in a way that you can replicate once you're on your own. She makes sure that you leave the ring feeling confident about at least one thing. Not all trainers do that, and since we live in the Great Dressage Desert, finding one who can give you those tools is truly like stumbling upon a refreshing spring in an oasis.
I wanted to leave the day feeling confident about two things, the leg yields and the trot lengthenings. While neither of the movements are going to be getting us 8s anytime soon, the quality of the movements is improving.
When I saw Chemaine last month, we started building the foundation for a better leg yield. Speedy's issue is that he wants to lead with the outside shoulder, particularly to the left, and brace his head, neck, and shoulders while trailing his haunches. The first step to fixing this was to get that shoulder under control. So last month, we started doing the leg yield with Speedy being slightly counter bent rather than having a slight inside bend
That worked pretty well. Being counter bent helped me slow down his outside shoulder so that his haunches could keep up with his front end. You can see an example in the video below. We lost it at the end, but at least we got the legs crossing over, and the shoulder wasn't leading.
Now that I have a bit more control of Speedy's shoulders, Chemaine wants us to add another layer on our foundation. Instead of counter bending him, I am now going to "lock down" my outside hand while playing with the inside rein. He'll be straight, but this will serve to keep his shoulder from leading while asking for a little softness. This is really important to the left, the side we struggle with the most. To the right, he'll give me a lot more inside bend. While still not perfect, you can see how much better he got in the next video.
After a lot of time working the leg yield, we played around with lengthening the canter and then did those changes of bend at the canter in preparation for the change of lead through trot. The only suggestion that Chemaine made was that I needed much stronger half halts. When Speedy wasn't listening, she wanted a half halt strong enough to get him to walk.
She was right of course, when I use the half halt more consistently, his canter gets more collected and straighter because he quits falling out on the outside shoulder.
Here's a short clip that combines a small amount of canter lengthening, stronger half halts, and the change of bend that comes before the change of lead through trot.
We have a lot to work on, but I don't let it discourage me. I like focusing on just one or two things at a time. I recognize that at some point we need to help Speedy raise his poll, he gets too round, and Chemaine sees it too. There are times when she'll help me focus on that part of our work, but to try and fix everything all at once would overwhelm and discourage me and irritate the heck out of my horse.
For now, I am happy to finish my rides having had one or two really good moments. And if my horse feels good about what he did, it's even better. Morgan caught Speedy's face as we walked out of the ring. He looks pretty satisfied with the work that he did!
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%: