From Endurance to Dressage
With all of the ideas from the clinic with Barbi Breen-Gurley rolling around in my head, I then took a lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. She came out on Wednesday afternoon. We chatted for a few minutes about what I had learned, and then we worked on fitting those pieces into my every day riding.
I wasn't expecting anything big to click into place, but this turned out to be one of those lessons where a bunch of little puzzle pieces fall into place and suddenly you see the picture that all those little colors were trying to make. We took the suppling exercise that Barbi showed me - flex in, flex out, let him go down if he'll take it, and applied it as a softening aid once Izzy was supple. In fact, I bent him in, out, and down for the entire lesson. I just never stopped. The more I moved his poll around, the softer and softer he became.
We spent the entire lesson on a three-loop serpentine. Originally, Chemaine's plan was to have me work up to the simple changes on the centerline, but instead, we used all of those changes of direction to get Izzy soft in the poll and working over his top line all while keeping his hind end active. The result was the most amazing canter I've ever ridden.
With a new feel for how to more effectively move his poll around, Chemaine was able to help me move other parts of his body at the same time. When he let himself be softer in the poll, I could also move his shoulders around. Being able to move his shoulder allowed me to also move his haunches. Eventually, the whole ride turned into a lesson in straightening. It seems counter intuitive to say that more movement in his body helped achieve straightness, but that was the result.
One way that I was able to get a better connection, particularly to the right, was that Chemaine had me think about what was happening to the reins when I flexed him. When I flexed him to the outside, did he connect with the inside rein or was it just loose? It became an exercise in putting him on the rein and then letting him off, putting him on the rein, and letting him off until eventually, he truly made that connection with the rein.
As we continued to work, Izzy just got more and more supple. Every time I think I've felt "supple," this horse surprises me with yet another layer. In fact, I joked about it a bit because while I adore Speedy and am immensely proud of him, he just doesn't have the same depth that Izzy has. I teach Izzy something, and then when I teach it some more, he gives me more.
Wednesday's ride was something else. Yes, we struggled with achieving that connection and suppleness, but once Izzy was there, he rocked that canter. I have never before felt that line of muscles from poll to tail move like they did on Wednesday. It was a truly amazing feeling. And once I feel something, I know I can get it again. I am like the elephant that doesn't forget. I don't know that we'll have a good enough simple change for Second Level in time for October's show, but then again, we might!
I am not taking anything off the table just yet.
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%: