From Endurance to Dressage
This is a continuing series of photos (albeit not a regular one) that illustrates the differences between an endurance seat and a dressage seat.
Sorry that it's a bit blurry, but scanning photos comes with limitations. In this photo, we are partway through a very cold 50 mile ride. You'll notice that Montoya is looking where we're going while I smile goofily at the photographer. And as usual, we are traveling on a loose rein. One thing I notice is that her stride in back is very short. This is probably because there was a pile-up (not literally) of horses in front of us, and Montoya had slowed her pace in anticipation of a burst of speed to pass them. I am sure she's calculating which direction would be her best bet to get around them.
A note about photographing an endurance ride: it's common in the Pacific Southwest for a photographer to station himself somewhere on the trail early in the morning. He'll typically place a sign 50 or so yards in front of where he'll be so that riders can adequately space themselves out as they pass his position. This can cause all sorts of chaos. The horses frequently don't see the photographer (Montoya didn't) which can cause some hilarious shots if they do notice at the last second. As the riders space themselves apart, the horse in the rear sometimes gets antsy waiting for his turn as his buddies all seemingly trot off without him. That rider usually gets a photo with a very alert horse!
We finished this 50 miles in 24th place out of 73 riders with a ride time of 7 hours and 6 minutes.
Sunday was a great day, and not just because it was Speedy's birthday. As much as I tried to get him excited about it, he seemed to treat it just like every other day.
The winter storms from the day before finally passed, and the footing was absolutely perfect. Both boys got ridden and barn chores got completed. So what made it such a great day? Several things actually.
When I turn Sydney out, there's always a lot of frantic and wild galloping. And I mean W-I-L-D. That boy can move! On Sunday, as I was cleaning his stall, I didn't hear the thundering of hooves that I was expecting. Instead, I head trot, trot, trotting hooves. Who could that be? I thought to myself. I peeked around the corner and was pleasantly surprised to see Sydney simply trotting around the arena in a rather relaxed frame. Weird! I was slightly worried so I went out to see if something was wrong. Nope. He was just not feeling the need to rip around.
As soon as I ducked under the fence, he came right up to me and nosed around for treats. He was relaxed and very happy. This was a good thing. I decided to try a version of the tag game that Speedy and I play. In Speedy's version, we chase each other quite actively with lots of quick turns and slamming on the brakes. It's quite fun, but I didn't think Sydney was ready for that version of the game. For him, I simply played follow the leader. I stood at his shoulder and walked off briskly. Like a good pony, he fell in step behind be. I quickened my pace, and he followed suit. I gave a a few clucks and trot off. To my surprise, he picked up the trot and jogged along happily behind, I turned left and he followed. I turned right and again, he was right there with me. I gave a soft whoa! and stopped. A stride later, a surprised Sydney stopped and turned to face me. A treat was quickly offered.
We repeated the trot off, turn here and there, and then whoa! for several minutes. Sydney got better and better at the halt. This was the first time that he's been in the arena and really looked at me. We followed all of this up with an excellent ride, and then I even hacked him up and down the neighborhood road for a few minutes. I went as far as he was comfortable and then turned back and went the other way. He was anxious about leaving the barn area, but I stopped to graze along the way and gave him lots of good boy pats. It was one of the best riding days we've had in a long while. I think my last lesson with JL really helped me get control of not only Sydney's body, but of his mind as well. He seemed much more trusting on Sunday.
I think Sunday was definitely a two steps forward kind of day!
Yeah. I guess I should share that, huh?!
A local trainer, Betsy Shelton, who left our area and who has now returned, sent me a message and asked if anyone would be interested in a clinic. I certainly was, but I didn't know if I could round up enough other riders to call it a clinic. A few emails and Facebook posts later, a Casual Clinic was formed.
Since the event is being hosted by Bakersfield Dressage, also known as ME, I opted for a casual approach that would welcome riders of all levels. I sent a few messages and connected with CT, Bossy's Mom. She immediately volunteered her awesome arena for the event, and we were off and running.
A Casual Clinic with Betsy Shelton is scheduled for April 21st. We have seven of the eight rides tentatively filled right now with room for at least one more. I am hoping that an eighth rider will appear to fill out the day. If you're interested, drop me a line!
CT and I have talked about hosting a clinic in the past. Since the opportunity sort of fell into our laps, we decided to run it our way which just means a friendly atmosphere with no DQ attitudes. I've only participated in one other clinic, hosted by the local CDS chapter, so I don't really know how they're actually conducted.
We're setting up a food table, of course, and hope to have a relaxing day of riding and visiting. CT is cooking tri-tip sandwiches which we're serving with chips and drinks. More food might get tossed in if CT gets a wild hair! My sweet tooth is acting up so I may toss in a few sweet treats to round out the menu.
The best part of the event is the price: The ride with the clinician is a very affordable $75; lunch is $5.00; auditors are welcome at no charge; and drinks and candy are on the house! Come join us.
In a very round about way. But first, I want to share an endurance story ...
I don't want to give you the wrong impression about endurance riders. Just like in any sport, there are a few pain in the patooties in that field as well. I was nearly run down by an FEI rider at the 20 Mule Team 100 miler a few years ago. I was walking down the trail, when from out of nowhere, an FEI rider came blasting up and blew by me without uttering a single word. Montoya spooked pretty hard and I ... wait for it ... GLARED at the rider as she disappeared from view. Did she see me glare at her? I doubt it. Would she have wondered what the hell my problem was? Probably. Who was in error? No one.
You may not know this, but walking is allowed during an endurance race. In fact, I walked nearly 200 miles of the Death Valley Encounter beside THE Grand Dame of endurance riders, Trilby Pederson. Trilby holds the record for the most miles ridden by anyone, ever. She has completed over 60,000 race miles. To ride with her was truly an honor.
You might wonder how that happened. To be honest, it was because I was stuck in my trailer barfing from anxiety, and I missed the ride start. I just couldn't get on my horse. I knew that Trilby always started last, and finished last as well, so I formulated a plan to at least begin the ride tagging along behind her. She agreed, and no doubt assumed I'd trot off as soon as the anxiety passed and I felt better. As it happened, we were deep into a discussion about saddle fit when I realized that I felt fine, but it was too late to run off and leave her alone. We agreed to hang out together until the first vet check. As it turned out, we didn't part company until near the end of the fourth day.
Riding those 175 or so miles with Trilby was a true learning experience. She taught me a lot about endurance riding and how to achieve longevity with your horse. The only reason I left her on the final day was because she wanted me to get back to camp in order to clean up so that I could go to the big New Year's Eve bash being held back in camp with Hubby. I argued, but she insisted that I hurry back for the party. What a gal! Did I mention that Trilby was in her late 60s at the time?
So what does all of this have to do with the warm-up ring? I guess I wanted to illustrate that I have encountered thoughtless riders in the endurance world, and I lived to tell about it. And maybe I've even been the thoughtless rider. No one ever thinks that they're in the wrong. I have also gratefully accepted the mentorship of those most in the know. I am a lifelong learner who doesn't hold a grudge. I take things as they come, learn from them, and move on.
If you read yesterday's post, you no doubt saw the many comments, some pretty critical, and others more supportive. I don't feel the need to further explain my point of view. I think I made my point, but I wonder if an explanation of the blogging process is in order. A Blog is a web log, a diary or journal of someone's experiences shared with those who care to read it. Each person uses their blog in their own way. Me? I use it as a way to analyze and record my equine experiences. For me, the topics that most interest me are equine health, endurance experiences, and my foray into dressage.
All of that means that this blog is simply my interpretation of my equine world. Am I always right? Certainly not. Am I always wrong? Definitely not! Can we each see things differently? Absolutely. I will continue to get pissed about whatever pisses me off, and I will also delight in the things that amuse me. And I will write about all of it honestly, from my perspective.
I don't need the last word ... ever. With that, I close with this: The warm up ring is a confusing place with a lot of riders of varying levels of experience which tends to muck up the works. Throw in a bunch of Type A personalities, and let the dance begin! Please offer the last word, and I promise not to reply!
The warm-up ring has become my scab. Ew. Yeah. I know. But I am just going to keep picking at it. Based on comments from the other days's post, many riders have conflicting opinions about the warm-up ring's "rules." And by the way, thanks for all the comments since they served to illustrate my point. There are a lot of interpretations of the warm-up rules! All of you had something to say about this or that. How can such a precise, stringent, and governed sport not have more clear cut rules for the warm-up ring?
And before someone gets all "preachy" and tries to tell me me that I'll get it with more experience, that's just bullpucky. In what sport do you have to participate for a decade before the rules are revealed to you? None. For the record, I'm in my third season of showing. So far, I've attended seventeen shows at eight different venues. I've shown in schooling shows, one-star events (CDS-rated), and three-star events (USEF/USDF/CDS). So I think I have just enough experience to speak on this topic. Mind you, I am NOT saying I am E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E-D, but I have been to enough shows to know that the rules are a bit gray, especially regarding right-of-way.
At not one of those seventeen shows was there a posting for the warm-up rules. Yes, lunging has a designated spot, but the rules for ridden warm-up are not posted. And it's not as though they're understood. Clearly they're not or people like Louisa Zai wouldn't have to be writing articles for Dressage Today!
In many of the comments made the other day, the importance of shared rules was brought up over and over. Crossing the diagonal is probably what caused my previously mentioned scab. I am not expecting an answer here, but how in the world can anyone follow any kind of order when someone is charging across the diagonal? And when I mention that, it is NOT because I want to school across the diagonal (or ride my entire test or whack anyone with my whip), but that others do. If I am making a 20 meter circle anywhere within the warm-up, the horse charging across the diagonal either has to speed up or slow down to not t-bone me. Or I have to.
How does this make a warm-up effective? For lower level riders especially, establishing a nice working rhythm is essentially the warm-up. If I am constantly slamming on the brakes to avoid Sir Charge-a-lot, I might as well just walk the rail. Oh, wait. The "understood" rule is that slower riders take the inside track, but walkers are usually seen on the rail. Huh? Oh, wait, another "understood" rule is that faster traffic passes to the inside. How can they if the slower riders take the inside? Shaking head.
I know what you're thinking: Get over it already and just get in there, keep your eyes up, watch where you're going, and do your best to be polite and not cause any trouble.
I hear you, and that's precisely what I do. But. I take offense when Sir Charge-a-lot glares at me for being in her way and then feels compelled to tell someone else that I am causing trouble. I also take offense when Sir Charge-a-lot's twin sister roars up behind me and scares the crap out of my clearly lower level pony at a schooling show.
What's to be done? Well, probably nothing, and since I am no doubt preaching to the choir, I will just have to start warming up with my lance and shield with my armor-face firmly positioned to glare as equally pissy as Team Charge-a-lot.
And with that, here is a list of "official" warm-up rules as posted by the United States Dressage Federation. To see the full document, which I have also added here (it's called Dressage Protocol), visit USDF here. By the way, the Dressage Protocol document is actually quite informative and should be read by all competitors, especially newbies.
All USEF rules apply from the time the entries arrive on the show grounds (when the show office opens).
If you arrive the day or evening before the competition, ask permission before entering the competition areas. Management sometimes allows schooling in or around the competition ring, but do not assume that you may enter the competition arenas to school. The prize list may describe the schooling policy.
Numbers must be worn whenever a horse is ridden, exercised, or out of his stall or away from the trailer. Some management issue two numbers; if they want you to wear two, the second number is not a spare in case you lose the first one.
The size and layout of the warm-up areas will vary greatly. Find out if management has a stated policy for warm-up and schooling areas. Think of “warm-up” as the arena for the work you will do immediately before entering the competition arena. The warm-up area is not the place to train a horse or give a riding lesson. Other schooling areas for lungeing, exercising, and coaching are to be designated.
The warm-up area is primarily for the use of competitors preparing for an upcoming test. Others should give these competitors priority. Sometimes only the next two or three competitors are permitted in the warm-up ring. Others will be advised to use schooling areas. When entering the warm-up arena, be careful not to cut off another rider. Slower gaits take the inside track.
Pass left shoulder to left shoulder and look where you are going. When overtaking traffic in the same direction, pass to the inside with care and plenty of clearance. Better yet, take a circle or cut across the arena to avoid passing.
Keep at least one horse’s length from any other horse.
Plan halts for the center of the ring.
When turning, check your “rear view” first.
Be careful how you use your whip. Other horses may react more enthusiastically than your own.
Fractious horses should be removed from the area immediately.
Upper-level riders should be careful not to frighten green horses and riders in the warm-up arena.
Make way for ring maintenance crews in the warm-up arena. Some competitions post ring-maintenance schedules. Be aware of them.
Be courteous to other riders who are trying to concentrate on their own warm-up.
Do your schooling in a positive manner. Do not school after a test if you are angry. Perform your warm-up routine with a purpose: do not merely meander around the arena.
Be polite. Foul language is never tolerated.
Horses not entered in the competition do not belong in the warm-up area.
Remember the warm-up arena is for work. Do your final tack adjustments outside of the warm-up arena. Most competitions request that trainers and helpers stay on the rail, with no foot traffic allowed in the warm-up.
Ring stewards are required to spot check tack after your exit from the competition arena. Keep in mind that some equipment allowed in warm-up is not allowed in the performance arena. Tack permitted in the warm-up area and the competition arena is specifically stated in the USEF rule book.
Lunge only in designated areas, and give all horses enough room. When you are finished, pick up your lungeing equipment—do not leave it on the ground as a hazard.
Be especially courteous to show volunteers. They keep the competition running smoothly and facilitate communication between competitors and management. They are there to help you, but it is your responsibility to get to the right arena at the right time.
Inappropriate behavior by a competitor or his/her family members or assistants can be an unpleasant experience for others at the show. In addition, be aware that a competitor can be penalized for USEF rule violations as a result of inappropriate behavior of family members.
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%: