From Endurance to Dressage
Over the weekend, Speedy and I worked with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. As always, I laid out our current struggle: he's in front of my leg, but I can't shift his balance back as much as I need to for the half pass. It's always the half pass. Chemaine's solution was to focus on weighting the outside hind leg and then reposition the new outside leg. Sound confusing? Yeah, for me too.
There is video of this first pirouette, but it's too embarrassing to show. Speedy understood Chemaine's directions, but I didn't. The exercise goes like this: use the outside rein to weight and control the outside hind leg as the horse's shoulders come around the circle. That part I undersood. But as we were finishing the turn, Chemaine instructed me to ride a shoulder in to the new direction. I could not figure out how to do it.
To perform one walk pirouette to another, or half pass to canter pirouette to lead change - something in our future, the rider needs to be able to control the outside hind leg and then the new outside hind leg. In the photo above, the red arrow shows the new outside hind, but because I've "lost" the shoulder - see how it's bulging out?, the new outside leg isn't in position to carry Speedy's weight in the new pirouette.
You'll understand the exercise much better if you watch Chemaine coaching me through it.
Then we took that exercise and applied it to the half pass. Chemaine had me "ride a square" - an exercise that fixes so many things. In the corner, we walked and did a quarter pirouette, striking off into the trot and again walking in the corners. In each corner, the walk pirouette told him to sit down, bend, and soften. After going around the square a few times, we then did a trot half pass out of the corner after nearly walking. This really asked him to sit down in preparation for the half pass.
One of the pieces of homework that Chemaine has given me over the past month has been to keep Speedy at the same tempo before, during, and after the flying change. In the beginning, we were just excited to get a change, so we didn't focus on the quality of the canter after. Then Speedy started to anticipate the change, rushing into it. It was a challenge to teach him to wait for my aid, and sometimes, it's still a challenge. As I got the anticipation under control, his next evasion was to bolt through the change which left him unbalanced. Just this past week I have been able to get flying changes that are smooth without any change to the tempo.
The changes are now definitely confirmed and much more quiet, but they're still pretty expressive.
Of course, we still struggle with it because Speedy is not always as light in my hand as he needs to be. To fine tune the changes, Chemaine is now having me focus much more on the preparation before I even think about the change. As we come through the corner, Speedy needs to start getting softer and softer so that I can achieve the new bend more quickly. This will help us in Fourth Level where we'll need to do three changes across the diagonal - a movement we can do about 50% of the time.
In this video, I got him softer, but then he missed the aid for the change. When we tried it again, you can see him start to rush, but with a bit WAIT, he came back to me, and then we got a nice, clean change.
Chemaine rarely rides Speedy, but during this lesson, she asked if she could get on him. I was struggling with the left bend, and she couldn't see why. It wasn't until she got on him that she felt how heavy he actually was. We joked about the fact that I was hiding it quite well. She worked him left and right, pushing him back and forth off both reins and legs. He was happy to be heavy on either rein/leg, until Chemaine convinced him that yes, he could work between the aids.
When she handed him back over to me, she gave us both a lot of praise. "He feels like a dressage horse," she exclaimed. Since she's only ridden him once or twice in the past year, that was great to hear. This will never be "easy" for Speedy, but it's nice to hear that we're on the right track.
If everything goes to plan, we'll have one more lesson before out first show of the year. We're still showing Third Level of course, so maybe this will be the year we get that score ...
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%