From Endurance to Dressage
Continued from yesterday ...
I didn't even get off between tests. I think there were only three rides between my two tests. Speedy was getting tired, so I spent a minute walking around the warm up ring, and then I parked him along the fence and chatted with some friends.
I didn't give up per se, but I knew that it wouldn't be fair to expect too much more out of my pony. He'd only been ridden three times in the past month or so. I figured just showing up was a win for us, and no matter how the test went, I was going to be happy with the day. And as it turned out, we did more than just show up.
I had definitely shaken the cobwebs off during Test 2. For this test (First Level Test 3), I felt a distinct feeling of familiarity. It was as if I had finally woken up: oh yeah, I remember what this is all about.
While I knew the test, the drama from earlier in the morning had gotten to me, and I knew I was better off having a reader. Hearing Chemaine's voice settled me even further, and I felt like I was able to really get to work.
I rode each movement as well as I could, but again, it certainly wasn't perfect. The trot lengthening was better, but Speedy still needs more push from behind.
Our canter was probably our strongest work. We had a string of 7s for all of that, except for the 6s for the change of lead through trot and the loop on the left lead.
The leg yield rode better than I think we've ever done (6.5/7.0) and most everything else felt quite satisfactory. As I mentioned yesterday, the halts weren't what we can normally do. The 4.5 really hurt. When I watched the video though, I thought we deserved a bit more especially since that movement included the half circle which I thought looked pretty good.
Here's video of the test.
Not a 70% test for sure, but I'll never turn my nose at a 64%. This score earned me the second of the three scores that I need to qualify for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, a fun and competitive show. I also earned a second score for my Rosette Award, something I wasn't sure I'd get for Speedy this year.
Even though the number of riders was really, really small, Speedy and I still earned the High Point Arabian Award (a lovely ceramic vase), and we were the Adult Amateur High Point winner (a bucket filled with some serious goodies). Even though we were the only adult ammie pair to show up, we SHOWED UP! We did compete against another Arab, so that recognition was a bit more well-earned.
Here is the score sheet.
Riding this test really helped me see what we still need in order to compete at Second Level. We're close, but we need to tighten up a few things. Now that Speedy is sound again, I am looking forward to more lessons on him to get us to that next level in our work. We can do it, I have no doubt!
It was so much fun to be back in the show ring with Speedy G. That dude truly is a star. What makes showing him so enjoyable is that he clearly likes the attention and the opportunity to strut his stuff. No matter where we go, Speedy always attracts attention. People just like him.
I've mentioned before that Bakersfield doesn't have enough riders to really support a show, and this endeavor was true to form. There were 11 rides for the day spread out over 4 people. We had two juniors, an open rider, and me as the only adult amateur.
There was some drama upon arrival, but when does a show go perfectly well? Things got sorted out, and Speedy and I hit the warm up. We were the first team of the day. Chemaine was there coaching us, so in no time she had us ready to go.
When we entered at A, I felt a sense of coming home. I love showing Speedy; he just makes things fun. My next thought was about how long it had been since I'd ridden a test where I had aspirations of doing more than just not dying (aka showing Izzy).
I quickly realized that I was having a hard time seeing the letters (they were low). Since I rarely get to school in a dressage court, I didn't have a good sense of exactly which pylon held the letter. I made some mistakes that affected our score. I felt like I was doing a lot of reactive riding instead of being proactive. Fortunately, the judge must have thought my geometry was better than I did because she didn't mark me down for that.
When I gave my final salute at X, I smiled. In spite of feeling rusty, I really liked the test and was more than happy with the ride. It certainly wasn't perfect, but all of the elements were there; we didn't fake anything. There was actually a lengthening at the trot and while the judge felt my canter lengthening was conservative, at least we got it and came back without falling on our face or crashing into anything.
The score was more than good enough to count as a qualifying score for CDS's Regional Adult Amateur Competition, a show that we've won twice. It's also more than good enough to count for our first Rosette Award for my plaque.
I love the 7.5, especially since it's for the leg yield, a movement we struggle with! The rest of the scores are pretty solid as well.
I don't know how well you can see it, but we earned an 8 for the 15-meter canter circle to the right. I am beyond tickled with that score!
For both tests, a weakness did show up which was totally my fault. Speedy's halts were terrible! I was very surprised by this because that's one place where we historically pick up points - as in the occasional 8. After the show, I realized that we haven't worked on the halt in a long time. We'll be fixing that.
Test 3 tomorrow!
This version is an upgrade though!
Speedy has been dealing with a few different lamenesses for a while. The first one is something he does to his right front foot when he gets agitated in his paddock. He twists and pivots until he's so sore that he can barely walk on it. It generally resolves itself in about two weeks. He has seen the vet(s) numerous times and had radiographs done. Without an MRI, my vet says to just manage him. So, I try not to let his environment change too much as that it was drives the anxiety.
The second lameness was a small tendon bow that he did in turnout last spring. Once he healed up from that, we went another few rounds with lameness number one when we changed barns. It took him a while to settle into the routine at the new place.
And then, just when things were running well again, he tweaked something a month or so ago and was off for another two weeks. The stars aligned this month however, and we were able to ride three whole times last week and then make it to Sunday's show.
To help prepare for our first show in a year and a half, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, agreed to come to Bakersfield for a Saturday afternoon lesson. Even more amazing was that she was able to stay over and coach a few of us through Sunday's show.
I brag about Speedy constantly. While he's truly an awesome dude, he's also a bit of a challenge to ride. Speedy is built for the endurance trail: he's long and ever so slightly downhill. He can cover trail like nobody's business which means it's more difficult for him to round, lift his back, and get off of his forehand. Hard, but not that hard.
When Chemaine asked what I needed helped with, I told her that our canter lengthenings were good, but we couldn't come back to working canter. To address the issue, she took a page out of Izzy's playbook: the inside rein crossed just slightly in front of the pommel.
I know an exercise is a good one if Speedy gets Sassy. For the most part, he's happy to go along with me if I let him off the hook. When I finally get his number though, and he knows the jig is probably up, he'll always throw a bit of a hissy fit in an effort to change my mind.
It never works for him though. Once I crossed that inside rein, he had nothing left to tug on or hang on. Within a very short time, he gave up and started listening to my half halts. In fact, on our first test we got 6s for the working canter after the lengthening and 7s on the next one!
The trick also "fixed" our leg yield issue, something I've been working on for a year with Speedy. We got a 6.5 and a 7.5 (!!!) on our leg yields for Test 2 and 6.5 and 7.0 on Test 3.
Speedy is an awesome little horse and so much fun to ride, but a lot of credit is due to my trainer. Even though Speedy doesn't look like your typical dressage pony, Chemaine has every expectation that he be one. I love that she expects correct work from him regardless of his size or breed.
Go, Speedy, go!
Speedy and I showed on Sunday, and I am dying to share that, but other things have happened that I want to share first. So, first things first.
If you've been reading for at least five minutes, you know that my big brown horse hasn't been the easiest guy to bring along. He's notoriously sassy and rather opinionated.
Over the past six or so weeks, things have started to change, and I don't mean up and down, up and down. I mean changes that are consistent from day to day and week to week. It's as though he's finally getting it.
Each day last week, he gave me a winner of a ride. While that might not seem so spectacular, it is if you remember that a day off usually means starting all over. This week, Izzy had a day off between every ride, yet he came to work the following day ready to put his back into it.
I followed Chemaine Hurtado's simple adjustments, and it has really helped Izzy relax. After some reflection, I think there are two things in particular that really helped him settle down. The first is using just my seat bones to loosen his back without asking for any flexion through the neck or poll or withers. He seemed to relax much sooner by asking just with my seat bones.
The second thing that seems to have convinced him that it's more fun to relax is my promise to continue to let the misdemeanors go but not the felonies. There were several moments last week when I could tell he wanted to spook hard, but he resisted and nervously asked if he had done good. I praised him profusely for the smaller spooks and let him know that he had indeed done good.
Izzy was so reliable last week that I was finally able to promote him to the ported barrel bit. The correction bit, which we both love, is not show legal, nor is the ported barrel for that matter, but it's a step closer to the show legal bit that I have waiting for him. The show legal bit has loose rings and a ported barrel that is a bit wider and lower. Hopefully we can stay in this one for a while without needing a correction bit reminder.
Izzy had Sunday off because of the show, but I am so looking forward to today's ride. Was last week a fluke, or am I really on to something?
The decision has been made regarding which horse to show on Sunday. Izzy was always my second choice, so I am relieved that Speedy is sound and "ready" although ready is obviously a very relative term.
Speedy hasn't been shown in a year and a half, and his schooling during that time has been very intermittent at best. Not by my choice of course, but a variety of lameness issues have just plagued the poor guy. Fortunately, none of them have been life threatening or career-ending. Irritating is bad enough.
I put Speedy to work last night. He's now been ridden three times in three weeks - he's just coming back after a sore back/hock/stifle. I don't imagine we'll lay down any super great scores on Sunday, but I'm hoping we can at least break the 60% mark.
After running through the elements of the First Level tests, the one area I know we struggle with is the return to working canter from the canter lengthening. He'll lengthen his stride just fine. It's getting him to sit back down that's the problem. This is no surprise though as it's the same issue we have at Second Level. Collecting his canter is our current hurdle.
I am not overly worried about the scores though. I am just happy to finally be able to show him again. Wish us luck, and I'll let you know how it goes.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: