From Endurance to Dressage
I wish I could do weekly lessons, but as I've lamented many, many times in the past, I live in a dressage desert. My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado (owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables) is two hours away, and I work full time. During the summer months, I managed to take a lesson about once every third week. That was awesome.
Once school started, I had to go back to work, and my trainer got busy with year-end championship shows. Her schedule has finally settled down enough that she was able to come to Bakersfield for two days of lessons this weekend.
Whenever Chemaine gets on Izzy, which isn't often enough, I am always hopeful that she'll instantly "fix" of all of his problems. That's never going to happen though as training takes time, not magic. As weird as it may seem, I was happy to see that he behaved just as badly for her as he does for me. That tells me that I am (probably) not causing any of the issues.
So yah for me being a competent rider. The downside is that the issue is Izzy. While Chemaine rode around, she asked me a few questions about his behavior. I explained that the constant looking for danger happened every single day. She was really surprised by his over-all nervousness as she has never seen him that nervous, even at a show.
He tried all of his shenanigans under her, which again, made me feel better. She agreed that the bit change was more than needed. He had definitely learned how to blow through that bit which is not acceptable
While the correction bit is a good choice for the next few weeks, she explained that he wouldn't be able to take a good contact with it. That's fine for now as he needs to lighten up, but once he gets that part re-figured out, I'm going to need to go back to a snaffle.
I had serious reservations about going back to the eggbutt lozenge, and Chemaine could see it on my face. I shouldn't have worried. When she agreed with me that we needed something to keep him from running through my aids, I knew what was coming: The Double. Cue ominous music here. Pretty scary, huh?
Before anyone gets all freaked out and starts criticizing, I agreed with her. Izzy is a challenging horse to ride, and more than one "expert" has pointed out his talent for upper level work. We're not going to intentionally skip any of the lower level stuff, but we may need to do things out of order with this horse.
A bradoon bit, strap, and curb have all been ordered. Chemaine has also given me directions on how she wants me to use them. Besides that change, which is big enough, Chemaine also had some suggestions for reprogramming Izzy's brain.
Chemaine thinks he has developed a habit of being fearful in this arena which probably started when I brought him to the ranch a few months ago. She wants me to bring Speedy up to the arena and tie him to the fence for a while so that Izzy doesn't feel so isolated from the other horses. We tried it during her ride on him, and he did seem to settle down a bit.
Next, she wants him doing more leg yields and haunches in to supple up his body. Along with that, she wants him to slow the heck down. She compared him to a child that stutters. When he gets going too fast, he can't control his legs and he scrambles faster and faster. This is not new information of course, but with the snaffle, I simply couldn't slow him down.
She rode for most of the lesson, but I hopped up on him for a few minutes after she had schooled him. In just that short time he felt so much lighter. She once again reassured me that this horse is worth the time and effort and that yes, I do have the ability to get the job done. It's just going to take a while.
It might seem like a daunting endeavor, but I love having a plan!
I know a lot of people have had great success with using essential oils to calm dogs...I almost wonder if it would help a nervous type horse? I like your trainers ideas for slowing him down. It doesn't sound like he's actually digesting your requests and answering you as much as just motoring around.
11/15/2016 10:41:51 am
Now that he's not running through the bit, his ability to process my aids is miraculously improved. 😜
11/15/2016 07:29:44 am
I also ride in a double on a horse who still can't reliably do a First level test for that exact reason. She figured out how to just blow through the bit and a stronger bit didn't work for encouraging contact. The double has been great! We've made so much progress and basically just use a snaffle at shows now.
11/15/2016 10:43:16 am
So encouraging to hear. Thank you for describing the issue perfectly!!!!!
11/15/2016 10:44:00 am
11/15/2016 09:01:27 am
I was remembering that changing from alfalfa to grass hay entirely had an amazing affect on calming as did adding calcium magnesium. For a short while I also used Kava kava to re groove my horse in the show ring but now it is not allowed. The severity of a bit is all in who is holding the reins. That is exiting that Izzy can go forward and wear the upper level bit. I think one of the main differences between a mild bit versus curb bit and chain and thin bit as in a bradoon, is when they spook, and I know I hang on by the reins, so they get it in the mouth.
11/15/2016 10:48:06 am
He only gets half alfalfa, but I don't think he could get enough calories from our grass hay. He was also on Quiessence (magnesium) for over a year, but it didn't do anything one way or the other. All excellent strategies though. I have pretty quiet hands and stick his spooks pretty easily so I am too worried about hitting him in the mouth. And frankly, maybe a few pops to the mouth might make him rethink his life choices. Lol
11/15/2016 11:39:28 am
I'm sure this has been brought up, but have you tried treating him for ulcers? I see the epitome of a nervous, ulcery type horse. You can cheaply order the granules, and you may see a huge difference. I came across your blog back when you were having trouble cantering, and I was having all the same troubles, exactly at the same stage of training. I treated my horse, even though he had been previously scoped as negative the season before, and it has made my guy a dream horse. He is out showing and giving me 100%.
11/15/2016 12:21:02 pm
A magic bullet would be awesome, but I don't think that's what it is. My vet doesn't think he has ulcers either. He's been on Platinum Performance since early summer which has calcium and magnesium, both of which are ingredients often used to treat ulcers. I'll definitely run it by my vet again, but I think changing his bit and building his confidence by having a buddy come to work with him are good places to start. Thanks for the suggestion.
So I live the demons in the riding ring drama. For Carmen there's a little bit of wariness, a little bit of 'this gets me out of work' and a lot of habit. What I've learned is that you have to ride through it and keep the point on what you're asking and not let her choose the discussion- otherwise it quickly escalates from a discussion about leg yields to OMG trolls I'm not going there. I've done a whole post on it: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2016/08/spookology.html
11/16/2016 07:03:03 am
I really don't think Izzy is trying to get out of work.The way it feels is that the distractions are so overwhelming for him that he simply can't hear me. Changing the bit out has done total wonders for him. Having Speedy there for the past three rides has also really helped to remove some of the tension. I am not one to give up, so when Izzy resists, I simply work around the problem trying to solve it any way I can.. Sometimes I change the conversation, take a break, or go back to something easier. My motto is to always end on a winning note. maybe I don't win the original point, but I always leave thr arena hearing some kind of a yes ma'am. :0)
Doubles are such neat tools. Penn used just a Weymouth over the summer for a single ride when he decided to blow through me or ignore me. Mikey used one to learn his changes because again, he was bolting through me. Both times allowed me to use far less hand than a snaffle, and more off the seat and leg. I'm excited to see how it goes!
11/22/2016 07:18:08 am
I remember that post. I find it so hard to believe that such a small thing (the shape of the bit) can have such a big effect. Izzy didn't turn into Valegro or anything with the curb, but he was MUCH more respectful of my aids. He's hit this bit pretty hard a few times, but it was him, not me. With the fat snaffle, I was jerking his face off to try and turn or even stop. He just set his jaw and put his hooves in his ears and chanted, "I can't hear yooooouuuuu!."
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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%
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