From Endurance to Dressage
I have to first say that my feelings toward Second Level have changed completely. My initial frustration with the level has turned into anticipation. No, I am not joking, and no, you're not being punked. Once I figured out that the purpose of Second Level is not actually to torture lower level riders and discourage them from ever entering another dressage show, I realized that it's actually, sort of, kind of, almost ... fun(?).
There are a lot of neat pieces to Second Level, and I know it sounds like I speak from long time experience, but I don't. If you're looking for that kind of experience, you'll have to read someone else's blog. If you want to know what to expect when you get to Second Level, I am happy to share what I am learning. Riders hate Second Level for a reason. It's not easy because it's loaded with all kinds of bricks to build a solid foundation for the upper levels. But, if you stick it out, Third Level should be MUCH easier. I'll let you know when I get there.
Back to why I am enjoying Second Level. There's just so much more to do. At First Level, it was just leg yielding and lengthening of stride. At Second, there are at least nine new things to work on. I pick one or two or maybe even three for each ride. It's never boring, that for's sure.
So far, Speedy and I have been chipping away at the simple change - it's getting better quickly. I've also been riding the shoulder in a little better now that my aids are more correct. Our newest project is the haunches in, also known as travers.
When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here last Tuesday, we spent most of the lesson on this deceptively (not so) easy movement. She helped me finally see that the haunches in is a precursor to the half-pass. Understanding the purpose of the movement and seeing what it leads to gave me a whole new appreciation for why it needs to be right.
While I could get Speedy's haunches to move off the track, what I wasn't able to do was keep an inside bend at the same time. And even now, a week later, we're still struggling with the suppleness needed to move that way. Speedy doesn't think he can bend that way, and he's positive that he can't do it at the trot. Just wait until I tell him he has to eventually do it at the canter!
What Chemaine had me do was to bring it all down to the walk to start. She had me get the inside bend (more than I think I need) and then ask for the haunches in with my outside leg and outside rein. If I could also get good forward, that was great, but keeping Speedy soft in the bridle was more important than the forward.
Once I understood the aids, we moved on to a slow trot which we did like this: bend, haunches, GO ... adjust ... Go ... adjust ... Go. In fact, she wanted me to surprise Speedy in the GO so that he learned that being soft also means that he has to be in front of my leg. There was a lot more adjusting than going.
Besides leading to the half-pass, travers is also an excellent way to supple your horse for the collected canter and the simple change though walk. And now that I am maintaining the inside bend (better anyway), everything else is improving at the same time.
Our next CDS show is in two weeks. I feel like it should go better, but we might still be in the ugly part of it takes a lot of ugly before it gets better thing. We'll see what happens at today's lesson.
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%: