From Endurance to Dressage
Things have been good in my neck of the woods. With such a mild winter, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been able to come down more frequently over the past month, and I've been able to go up to her place. During our lesson on Sunday I told her that it feels as though I've learned more in the past six months than in the past decade. That's not true of course, but it's really motivating to be in a learning phase as opposed to just trying to survive.
Now that Izzy's tummy is feeling better, he's back to being a bit of a jerk. I told Chemaine that it was almost funny that while his tummy was upset, he worked a lot better. Now that he's not thinking about his tummy so much, he's thinking about how hard his job is. I liked him better when he was feeling a bit puny. Sheesh.
Now that he's once again resisting the idea of being supple, I needed Chemaine to jump in with yet a new suppling exercise. I've been doing tons of shoulder-in and haunches in, particularly on the circle, and I've even been playing around with shoulder-in and haunches in to the outside of the circle. Essentially, I am just focusing on getting the different parts of his body to move and loosen up.
Like she seems to do, Chemaine came up with a variation on the exercises I've already been doing. How she does this on the spot, I'll never know. Using the quarterline again, she had me ride Izzy in a haunches in. Every time he resisted the outside rein, she wanted me to halt. No just do a half halt, but to really and truly halt. And while halting, she wanted my leg on and for Izzy to stay in the haunches in.
It sounds easy, but when you have 400 pounds in your hands, it's not. Instead of keeping his hind end underneath himself, he insisted on dropping his back and flinging his head up. It is my tendency to try to make things easier for him, so Chemaine had to insist that I insist that he halt. Not just shorten his stride, but to HALT, DAMMIT!
Initially, I didn't really understand the purpose of the full halt. As we continued trotting up one quarterline and down another in haunches in, Chemaine helped me see that by insisting on a full halt every time he resisted the outside rein, Izzy started to anticipate the full halt which helped him to understand the half halt. And that's why she's the trainer.
As I started to understand the purpose of the full halt, I was able to be more exacting in my riding. Haunches in for bend and to put him on the outside rein, full halt when he resisted. Repeat, repeat, repeat, Change direction. The point was to show him that once he gives, he gets to go on again. When things are crystal clear, Izzy learns so much better. The more clear and consistent I was, the more supple he was willing to be.
Then we did it at the canter. And once again, I tried to make it "easier" for him, but really, I was trying to make it easier on myself. Instead of coming to a full halt every time he resisted, I tried to cheat and just collect him super short. But as usual, Chemaine saw right through me and explained that the full halt made it much more clear to him that resistance is futile. When he resisted, he had to halt with his hind legs underneath him which is much harder than just being more supple through his neck and back.
As we worked, Chemaine asked for more. More what I asked? Her response was more half halt. She wanted me to make him earn the release by using more compression in the haunches in. Eventually, we used the 10-meter circle, something we're struggling with to the right, as a reward. When he was soft in the haunches in on the quarterline (but compressed), I turned it into a 10-meter circle and gave him more room to stretch forward. As soon as he braced, I collected the canter making the last half of the 10-meter circle much harder.
This exercise, trotting or cantering the quarterline with haunches in, is an excellent way to set up lots of other movements like the 10-meter circles, simple changes, and especially the canter half pass. Near the end of the lesson, Izzy was so soft on the left lead that I left the quarterline and floated across an imaginary diagonal line in a lovely canter half pass. For about three strides, and then it was less lovely, but still pretty nice.
Show season is on its way. We're not ready, but we never are. Each week though things get less ugly, and there are actually whole minutes where things are pretty. Not just moments, but strings of moments. As we worked on Sunday, I actually heard myself say, "Do you remember when he couldn't canter on the right lead?"
And now, he has a very pretty right lead canter. The left's not too shabby either.
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%