From Endurance to Dressage
Second Level or Bust?
I like to have goals. It's actually more truthful to say that I have to have goals. They don't need to be huge, although I always have one or two that are, but I do need a target, something I'm working towards. Right now, Izzy has become my main ride, and so I am trying to figure out what a reasonable expectation is for his USDF debut.
Since he doesn't have a flying change yet, I am shooting for Second Level in late October. If the simple change is not quite reliable, we can always drop to First Level, but for now the goal is Second. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was able to come down on Sunday for a lesson. I told her what I was thinking and asked what she thought.
One of the many things I love about Chemaine is that she is always willing to shoot for the stars. She doesn't look at low scores as a negative reflection of her character. She totally gets that some of her clients are risk takers and some are not. If I want to aim for Second Level, she's totally on board to help me get there. Of course, I've made her promise many times to not let me make a total fool of myself, so I trust her to tell me if my goals are not realistic.
So with our rocket ship aimed at a distant constellation, we started tackling some of our weaker areas in preparation for Second Level, namely getting a bit more loft in Izzy's trot work. Chemaine had a great metaphor for upping my game with the big brown horse. She described it as putting him in a box. When he is tense and resisting, the box will be made of steel. The frame is non-negotiable. He simply has to "get used" to working in a more tightly packaged frame. When he accepts the parameters that I've established, I can turn my box into cardboard. He can stretch and push on the box as long as he's lifting his back. If he gets hollow or braces, the box will once again be unyielding.
That sounds horrible, doesn't it? Metal, unyielding, get used to it, but the metaphor made perfect sense. Instead of throwing away the contact because he's tense, she had me firm up the outside rein, slow him down, and add leg. In essence, she had me think piaffe. I wasn't actually asking for piaffe, but in a way, it's the same idea. Engage the hind end which means making it more active and carrying more weight. That's when he's in the metal box. He can't push forward. He has to carry himself. Once I could feel that he was comfortable with that work, I could slowly push my hands forwards and allow the sides of the box to soften like cardboard so that he could push forward and lengthen his stride.
We kept coming back to that idea of a metal box. When he resisted or hollowed his back, she encouraged me to slow down, compress his frame, and ask him to work harder. As he accepted the harder work, I could offer him a release by letting him more forward with a longer stride. Even if he didn't accept my invitation, he knew it was there. Even during just this one lesson, he did start looking for that release.
We used the same idea at the canter. I used a steel box with unyielding sides to say, look, this is where I need you to be. Accept this work, get comfortable with this work, and we'll go big. Physically, Izzy can do everything I am asking of him. He just doesn't know it. Once he sees that he can do it, he trusts me and resists less and less. During this lesson, he showed tons of progress and genuinely tried really hard to do what was asked of him.
He's always been a fun horse to ride, but I think we're going to make a lot quicker progress if he's my only horse to ride. I still adore Speedy, and I am hopeful that he might return to higher level work, but in the meantime, I've got something brewing that might keep him working at least lightly, which will make him a lot happier. My fingers are crossed that it's a good fit for everyone involved.
In the meantime, Big Brown Horse and I have our work cut out for us. I think we're up for the task though, especially since we've got Chemaine guiding our path. I sure do hate Second Level though.
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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
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%: