From Endurance to Dressage
Before you go thinking that Part 2 must have a comeback story, it doesn't. In fact, we scored even worse than on the first test. Two things to note however - 1) I had never Ridden test 3 all the way through, only its individual parts, and 2) both my trainer and I felt that I did a much better job regardless what the score says.
Before the ride recap, which isn't going to be that exciting anyway unless you love the number 5, I want to share a super quick story. I've told you this first part about 900 times, but here it is again (make it 901).
I rode my first dressage test just a week or two after an endurance ride. Speedy and I started at Introductory Level. Having already competed in endurance racing for nearly two decades, it was tough going back to beginner status. I desperately wanted to be successful and felt that getting to Training Level was where it was at. Forget about First Level; I knew I'd never make it there. Second Level was home to the Big Dogs. I felt guilty even breathing their air.
The way the dressage court is situated at the Bear Valley Equestrian Center, most people wander back and forth between the court and the show office. To get to the arena, riders have to pass through this back and forth traffic. Speedy loves it as he is always surrounded by what he considers his peeps.
A very nice woman walked up to us and wanted to chat. She was very complimentary as she stroked Speedy's face. During our conversation, she said something like, I ride, but I'll never be as good as those of you riding at Second Level. Imagine my embarrassment. I spluttered, didn't you just see my test? If I can make it to Second Level I told her, ANYONE can!
The lesson for me is that Grand Prix riders put on their underwear just like I do. And for those of you who feel like everyone else is doing it better; they're not. Okay, maybe some of them are, but they have their bad days too.
After the first test, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, insisted that I ride with a whip and get after Speedy each and every time he tried to drop behind the bit and leave his hind end trailing.
I am not sure the judge liked a single moment of this test other than when we turned to leave the arena. Fifteen of the twenty-seven scores were 5.5 or lower. She even found creative ways to criticize. Her comment on our final halt, too many short steps into halt. It felt like she was really digging for a negative thing to say. Her favorite word was "too". He was either too deep, too shallow, too constrained, or too high.
I am not suggesting that the judge was wrong, but it felt as though she had made up her mind about us after the first test. I feel like judging can be done in at least two ways. First, some judges look to reward your good moments. Other judges take a more negative view looking to penalize your bad moments. On this day, it felt like we had more of the latter.
In all probability, it's just a case of sour grapes. I didn't get a good score so the judge must be mean. I don't think so though. Our final score was a 55.122%. At least I know what we need to work on. Here's the video.
Our next show is in two weeks. It's another two-day USDF show. We'll see how it goes!
I am definitely an under-achieving over-achiever when it comes to dressage. This is hard for me because I tend to be pretty good at the things in which I am interested. Why I chose dressage, I'll never know as it is a discipline where perfection is unattainable unless your name is Charlotte, Carl, or Isabell.
I am not making excuses here, but dang is Second Level hard. On Sunday, Speedy and I gave it yet another go. For the first time this show season, I didn't have a horrendous migraine, and while I may still be drugged up, the drugs weren't making me loopy. And you know what? We scored WORSE than before. Insert HUGE eye roll here.
Again, I am not making excuses, but this judge was tough. I rarely, if ever complain about my scores. If anything, I tend to discredit our higher scores believing the judge to be overly generous. I am not doing that again. Out of 23 posted scores (not counting 1 elimination or any of the scratches), 10 scores were in the 40s and 50s. I'll do the math for you; that's 43%.
On the other hand, the judge also handed out some very nice scores. The top two scores were a 71% and a 75%. The rest of the scores were all in the 60s. This either means that this show attracted a LOT of sucky riders and a few good ones, or the judging was a little tough. I guess it depends on who you ask.
Each time I move up to a new level, the struggle is the same. I work hard, I cross my fingers, and I pray for a 60%. Instead of the 60, I bring home scores in the 50s. Eventually, we get better, and I start looking for scores in the mid-60s. Then comes the day where I start praying for a 70%. That's when I know we're ready to move up. We're not there yet. Speedy and I are still stuck in the land of the high 50s.
We had some nice moments on our Second Level Test 1. Our free walk earned a 7 which was great as it has a double coefficient. Our walk to canter at C earned another 7 as did our halt at X. We also had a smattering of 6s for our rein back, the simple changes, and our medium canter. The rest of the test was filled with 4s and 5s.
I did make two errors that were not Speedy's fault. On our second 10-meter canter circle, I glanced down and swore we were on the wrong lead. I brought him back to trot and picked up the left lead. Doing that put us out of position for the counter canter from F to E so I halted again, turned back toward A and picked up the left lead again so I could counter canter back to the rail at E. Out of the 20 possible points for those two movements, I earned 7 points. Ouch. And as it turns out, I was on the correct lead to begin with.
I knew it wasn't a great test, and I was frustrated for second guessing myself. Our score was a dismal 56.515%. Certainly not what I was hoping for, but at least we had a few good moments. I have some homework to do for sure, especially on my sitting trot. Like I told my trainer, last May when I rode with Hilda Gurney at the CDS Adult Amateur Clinic, I couldn't sit the trot for more than two strides. Now, here I am sitting for a whole test. It may not be pretty, but it's getting better.
Here's the video.
Test 2 Tomorrow.
If you've been around a while, you know about Izzy's bitting preferences. If you're new to our journey, here's a quick run-down.
Izzy had his teeth floated in February, but they required very little work - his teeth are looked at twice a year. The vet was happy with his mouth. I rode with the legal bit a day or two later. The next day, he refused to take the bit, and I realized that he might have been a little sore from the dental work. He of course blamed it on the legal bit.
Rather than fight with him about it, I went back to the bit he likes so that I could build his confidence back up. Things started to really come together in early spring. Since the beginning of March, he has been a joy to ride. He is stretching over his top line and reaching for the bit, happy in his work.
Last week I decided it was time to bring back the legal bit. Insert an exasperated sigh accompanied by a dramatic eye roll. My lovely, bouncy, happy horse disappeared and a jackass took his place.
At the same time, Speedy began ramping up his temper tantrums over the pile of discarded jump standards that rest outside of the arena. It's a long story, but to help him cope, I laid the jump standards down and moved them over. Not only did it not help Speedy, but Izzy flipped out.
I might have dropped a few F-bombs. Holy hell. This all happened in the two days before this past Sunday's show (write up coming, I swear.) Determined to beat them at their own game, I moved the jump standards yet again. At the near end of the arena is an area that already has a pile of discarded things. As ridiculous as it sounds, I tried to camouflage the jump standards by mixing them in with the jump poles and other industrial implements already there.
For yesterday's ride, I walked Izzy over to the new pile so he could check things out. He didn't even look. I did the same thing from inside the arena. On foot, we walked back and forth past the pile so that he could see it from both eyes. Then I got on him and did the same thing. I shouldn't have bothered. He didn't give a rat's behind about the new situation. I either camouflaged things really well, or he was over it. Speedy had the exact same reaction, no big deal.
Now that the junk piled has been resolved, Izzy is back to his happy, bouncy self. When I ran the whole situation past Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, she suggested I try the legal bit for one ride but then go back to the bit he likes until he's happy again. Each time his confidence returns, I'll go back to the legal bit for a day.
I am hoping over the next month I can go back and forth from one bit to the other without having to start all over again. And of course ultimately, it would be great to use the non-legal bit just for tune-ups and reminders. Since he was so great on Monday, his next ride will be in the legal bit.
Like I said, a bit of a legal problem!
My husband just doesn't understand the whole Look how much money I saved! strategy. He doesn't get it because he doesn't realize that I am going to buy those things eventually which will be money spent, but when I find a deal on said items, I really have saved money. You follow this logic, right?
Not too long ago, I wrote about a pair of summer weight tights that I really liked. I definitely planned on ordering more, but I was waiting for a sale or more money to find my wallet. When I saw that Riding Warehouse was running their Memorial Day sale, I knew it was time to order.
The Horze Women's Juliet HyPer Flex Full Seat Tights go for $59.95, a good price for tights that you like. But, if you order two or more - and why not?, they go for $52.95. With the 20% off sale, the discount for buying two pairs, and free shipping, I only paid $80.86.
The discount is automatically applied - I love not having to enter a promo code!. The sale end today though, so if there is something that you know you're going to be buying soon, you might as well spend it now and pay less than you might in a month or two.
See! Spend money to save. What's not to understand?
Speedy and I are going to our third show of the season on Sunday. It will be our third attempt at Second Level. It's a CDS-rated show so the atmosphere will be a little more relaxed, but the judging will still be tough.
While I don't feel like we have Second Level down pat, I do feel more confident than I did in March. Since I hate Second Level Test 2, I've decided to jump right into Test 3. It's the one I'll have to ride at RAAC anyway, so I might as well get some practice in now.
Both Speedy and I have had some big AHAs over the past few weeks. I've shared mine, but last weekend, I realized that Speedy has had at least one too. All of a sudden, he has clued in that nearly all of our downward transitions from canter are now to the walk. Even when I am okay with a (lazy) canter to trot because he just did something really well, he's still sitting hard and walking. Good boy!
The AHA that I desperately need him to have like RIGHT NOW is that he can carry his haunches to both the left and the right WHILE TROTTING. Holy heck is he being stubborn about this. I get that it's challenging, but please, horse, just try!
To his credit, he gets it at the walk. He now knows that he can maintain the inside bend AND carry his haunches in. He's getting much lighter in my hand and willing to flex his neck. Now I just need him to do it while trotting. I haven't yet told him about the fact that (eventually) he'll need to also do it at the canter. Palm to forehead.
It took us a month or so, but we have a three-loop serpentine. I don't know how good it is, but it rides pretty well. Just this past weekend I really worked on collecting him for the counter canter while letting him move out more for the true canter. Playing around with transitions within the gait seemed to really help him balance.
Maybe the best thing we've got going is that Speedy's collected trot is showing a lot more uphill tendency with tons more thrust. His poll is up, and he's really moving well. Unfortunately, he's stuck with a rider who is still struggling to sit his more expressive trot. Oh, and that's me in case you were wondering.
Second Level doesn't scare me anymore. In fact, it's turning out to be a lot of fun. Stringing all of the movements together so they look harmonious is our struggle now. Schooling at home with do-over after do-over is nothing like showing. In front of the judge, you get one shot.
Good thing I am good at moving on from mistakes! Next movement, please.
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%