From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy and I are still slogging away at Third Level. Everything is improving, and we're even schooling movements from Fourth Level, but it's still a struggle. Even so, once we get to show again, I am feeling pretty confident that we'll get the last score we need for the Bronze Medal. Until then, we just keep working away at helping Speedy be more supple so that the half passes get more fluid. I had a lesson last week with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, where we worked on just that.
I've said this about a billion times: Speedy loves to go forward. He really gets into it, lifting his back and pushing off. His extended trot just gets better and better. It's the lateral work that he's not so fond of. And at Third Level, that means half pass. Every time Chemaine comes, it's the same sob story, help me fix the half pass.
We've been working hard at getting Speedy to engage his hind end so that he can sit and carry more weight. He's still not actively using his hind all of the time, so Chemaine did some tapping with the whip while I kept him at a walk. We're looking for a feeling of piaffe, and he's definitely getting it. I can really feel it in the walk pirouette.
Once his hind end was really engaged, we moved on to the shoulder in. Everything we're working on right now is to increase his overall suppleness. As I ride, I over-flex him laterally and tell him we're doing it just because he can. I don't hold him in the flexion, I just over-flex, and let go. Every time I do, it shows him that he can hold the bend himself without being so heavy in my hand. It's definitely a work in progress.
We're really tackling two big issues, keeping his hind end active and engaged while also being able to bend and stay light in my hand. When we get those moments, they make all of the slogging worth it.
During this lesson, Chemaine had me work on two exercises: using a leg yield or shoulder in the trot half pass, and using walk pirouettes in the canter half pass. Neither one was easy, but they both helped me see why we struggle in the half pass. The main issue we're having is that Speedy wants to lean and fall in on the inside shoulder, particularly the right shoulder.
It's really hard to wrap my head around how switching to a leg yield or a shoulder in during the half pass will help fix it, but it did. Chemaine had me do a half pass right, and the instant I felt like he was heavy on my inside rein, she had me switch to a leg yield left with an emphasis on pushing his inside hind over. With his hind end over, it repositioned his front end for a straighter half pass.
Another thing that helped was as we came through the corner, she had me open my outside rein to draw his shoulders to the rail so that he could pick up his inside shoulder rather than pivoting on it which is why he falls in on that shoulder in the half pass. Here's a quick video of her explaining.
The last exercise we did was using the walk pirouette to help Speedy maintain the bend in the canter half pass. We started with walk pirouette circles. Once he was on my outside rein, I asked for the canter. Anywhere in the half pass that I felt like I was losing the bend, I brought him to a walk and immediately did a walk pirouette. That exercise really helped Speedy understand where his haunches need to be in the canter half pass.
Back when I was just starting out at Intro A, I just knew that once we got to Training Level, everything would fall into place, and things would get easy from there on out. I felt the same way as I was staring down First Level, and then Second Level. The reality is, for me anyway, we're never going to just get it and grab our Gold Medal as we piaffe our way down centerline. No level is going to come easy for us.
While it's highly unlikely that we'll ever earn a USDF Gold Medal, and we might not even get that Bronze Medal, I can say that we're enjoying the journey. While Speedy has never said so himself, I feel safe speaking for him.
Every once in a while I stop and look at all the miles we've traveled. I would have never guessed that here is where that road would lead. I guess my point is this: keep on keeping on as long as you're enjoying what you do, and take time to appreciate your accomplishments.
And if you can find someone with whom to laugh along the way, all the better.
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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%
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%: