From Endurance to Dressage
Izzy and I had another lesson the other day with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. Because Izzy is maybe too relaxed at home, I've been taking him to my friend Amy's place so that we can see what it's like to work away from home even when you're nervous. And by you I mean Izzy.
When we were there a few weeks ago, I had to switch out his snaffle for my correction bit, borrow some longer spurs from Amy, and then Chemaine hazed him with the whip when he refused to go forward. For this visit, I started with the big guns - correction bit, whip, and long spurs. I needed him to know from the first instant that if he decided to think for himself, I would be there with an immediate correction. He thought about trying to tell me no, but a few jabs with the spurs stopped any jackassery.
Aside from a little tension, from the very beginning of the lesson his brain was engaged, and he was willing to work.
Riding two very different horses has given me a much better education than if I had had only Speedy to ride. Where Speedy wants to be heavy in my hand with his hind end trailing behind, Izzy offers me the opposite problem. He's too light in my hand, and he gets stuck without being able to drive forward. These last few months have been about getting Izzy to reach for the bit as he stretches and rounds his topline.
In every movement that we did, from shoulder-in to half pass to a trot lengthening, it was always the same: push him to the outside rein, let him stretch down, and then drive him forward again. Izzy is so tentative about connecting with the bit, that I almost have to always be thinking about shoulder-in to put him on the outside rein. Once he takes the bit, then I can push him forward.
Besides working on the connection to the bit, we played around with the flying change. I can sort of, almost, was that it? do a change on Izzy. In just a few short weeks he has learned that what I am doing up there is an aid. Now he's trying to figure out the answer.
He doesn't quite have it yet, but he knows that I am asking for something.
There are so many ways to teach flying changes. All it took for Speedy was to head into a corner on a counter canter; he hated that. He gave me a clean change the first time I asked. Izzy is far more talented, but he's a lot less confident. We've tried asking him in the corner, on a circle, going across the diagonal, but he doesn't quite trust that he can or should change leads. Yet.
Chemaine had me try another method for getting a cleaner change. Instead of just counter cantering across the diagonal, like you do in Third Level, she had me leg yield across the diagonal in counter canter. This really forces the new inside hind to step underneath. It took a few tries to get Izzy to cooperate, and I've been working on it since, but it helped him understand what I am asking for. We finally got a change while still cantering, even if it was a little wonky.
It's not that I need the flying change for any particular reason. I am really asking for it because the harder the question I ask, the more focused that Izzy becomes. And frankly, he does need to learn it. His counter canter is confirmed, and he can even pick it up on a circle. I don't plan to work on the changes every time I ride, I don't work on them with Speedy every day either, but it's time to start introducing them.
Izzy has so much natural talent. He can do any of the movements that I ask for. His problem isn't a lack of fitness or muscle; it's a lack of confidence. We're getting there though, and it's all starting to come quicker and quicker. It's a good thing there's no due by date. We'll get there when we get there.
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%: