From Endurance to Dressage
Um ... a little surprise ...
I should provide a bit of information about myself in explanation. While it may seem that I am very forthcoming about my horsey life, I am very selective in what I actually share. What I mean is that I only share what I have thought hard about, or what I am certain of. You might have noticed that I share things after-the-fact. The reason for holding things close to the chest is that I don't like to get too many opinions, which can be conflictive, and I don't like to appear "flakey" as in nope didn't do that, nope didn't get there after all and so on. I like to ask specific people for their advice and I get a bit cranky about too much unsolicited advice. If I put something on the blog, it's out there to be shared and discussed and feedback is very welcome. Memoirs of a Horse Girl gave me some great advice the other day. Big decisions, like buying a horse, take a lot of thought without a lot of "background noise."
And with that, meet Sydney!
Sydney is a 16.1 hand, 9 year old, New Zealand Thoroughbred. His previous owners really wanted him to be a hunter/jumper. They tried, he tried, but he didn't enjoy the work and frankly, it stressed him out a little bit. He enjoys working on the flat though, and decided that dressage might be more up his alley. Enter a new trainer. Yep, dressage was a better fit, and he was put up for sale as a lower level dressage horse with potential to do more.
Taz's mom, who knows my heart very well, and Cha Ching's mom who knows horses and my riding ability very well, both graciously offered to spend the whole day in the car with me as we drove up north to check him out. Heads began nodding almost immediately. Debbie Davis, of Sport Equine, was riding him as we pulled into the drive. As we watched him work under saddle, all three of us immediately commented on his floppy ears - a sure sign of a relaxed pony.
After some discussion, I climbed aboard, and with some nice instruction from Debbie, I was able to do a fair job of riding this very kind guy. Here's the video of my very first ride (unedited, bad equitation included!).
By the way - I bought him!
Me and Sunny with my trophy, sash, and a tiara that you can't quite see.
Sunny came home with me, and my life as a horse person began. I will be forever grateful to my dad for forcing me to be the person responsible for the care of my first horse. He doesn't know what a wonderful gift he gave me. I was given the opportunity to learn about equine care completely on my own. No one told me how much to feed, when to have shoes done, how to worm, or even if my tack was right. Or, at least that's how it felt. I know that my step-mom hovered in the background making sure that I didn't starve, mistreat, or neglect Sunny. But once she could see that I really was committed to this horsey life, she let me make my own way.
I read every book and magazine that I could find. I researched hay prices and teamed up with people to have it delivered by the truck load to save money. I bought in bulk when I could, and took great care not to waste feed. True to my dad's word, I did have to pay for everything. He helped me find a job where I worked eight hours every single Sunday at a local Mom & Pop diner. I made enough to buy hay, grain, shoes, wormer, and the tack that I needed. My step-mom still laughs at the "account" I kept on the refrigerator door showing how much money I owed my dad. I usually couldn't afford to pay for the whole ton of hay, so I would borrow from my dad and pay him back each Sunday with the cash I made in the diner. It seemed that as soon as I had one ton paid for, it would be just about time to buy the next one.
Riding down Main Street
One of my all time favorite memories with Sunny was the summer I ran for Garberville Rodeo Queen, and won. It was the real deal: tiara, sash, parade, rodeo. It still ranks as one of my all-time favorite horsey days. Riding down Main Street on my sparkling pony, leading my "court," - it seemed to be a scene out of the many horse books that I read as a kid. Part of the Rodeo Queen's duties were to actually go to the rodeo and ride in the grand opening. The queen's name is announced and she does a victory gallop while all the other rodeo contestants hold the line in the arena's center. Are you kidding me? I get to do what? I truly could have died on that weekend and would have felt as though my life had been worth living.
Sunshine was an outstanding first mount. She taught me a lot about not falling off, which I did many, many times. She also taught me that horses cinched up too tightly nip their owners. I also learned to pull my knees in tight around tight corners, and that the view from between two furry ears can't be beat. Sadly, Sunshine suffered a small bone break in her fetlock during a morning canter and had to be euthanized. Her final lesson for me was the one about loss.
After Sunshine, there many other horses: Nakota, Gideon, Corky, Sassy, Montoya DSA, Mickey Dee, and of course, G Ima Starr FA, also known as Speedy G. Each of them has their own unique story to tell. I hope you'll come back to hear them.
I am sure by now you've read, or maybe just skimmed, that huge piece I did about my horse life in general. If not, you can find it here. I kind of wanted to also tell you a little bit about each horse that has owned me. There have been a few over the years, and I've loved each one.
Sunshine, January 1986
My very first horse was a small Morgan/Welsh cross mare. Well, at least that's what they thought she was. I didn't care. She could have been a zebra and I would have been just as delighted. When I left my mom's house in Sacramento and moved to rural Humboldt County to live with my dad, there was finally room to have a horse. My step-mom had horses throughout her childhood and early adulthood and quickly recognized the horsey bug in me. I don't know how long it took, but she finally wore my dad down, and he agreed that I could have a horse, BUT ... You know what's coming, here. I had to pay for everything and it was going to be my responsibility to do all the feeding, etc.
The first part of all that meant clearing the thick brush that covered the only level spot on my dad's eleven or so acres. And when he said I was going to help do the work, he meant it. We spent many hours cutting dense brush, ripping out stumps, burning branches, and building the fencing. And I was there for every minute of it. I had bug bites, scratches, blisters, and sore muscles. But it was worth it. I'll say this for my dad - he made me earn everything I got, but I am so glad that he did. Every dollar I now spend on my horses comes with the recognition that I've worked hard for that dollar followed by the question, is this worth buying?
When we went to look at Sunshine, that was her name, I knew I wanted her before we even got there. What wasn't to like? She had four working legs and was free. She was small, but very sturdily built, a brilliant copper color with a thick flaxen mane and tail, and was in her early teens. It didn't hurt that she was super cute and had a very friendly eye. No one thought to put a saddle on her. She was bridled, and I was popped up on her back. They sent me out to a neighboring field to give her a try. Within a few minutes, I had her smartly trotting around ... and then she wasn't. She bucked me off, and I hit the dirt.
Her owner, a father of several no-longer-interested-in-horses children, was very disappointed that I had fallen off. He was hoping to be rid of the mare, one less mouth to feed and all that, and was certain that I no longer wanted her. Quite the opposite, I was actually terrified that my dad wouldn't let me get her since I had fallen off. I caught her and brought her back to my dad and step-mom, sheepishly asking if I could still get back on her. My dad, bless his heart, fully expected me to. I think he would have been pissed at me for making him drive all the way out there only to get bucked off and quit so easily. In his mind this was one of those by God, you wanted a horse, now get back on it! moments. It seemed as though he and I were, for once, on the same page.
Read Part 2 Here
I am sorry. I don't usually post twice in one day. Who has time to read one post EVERY SINGLE DAY much less a second one? I just had to write about my day-after-the-show ride.
For me, showing lets me see what I have learned, and what I still need to work on. The judge at Sunday's show really got us on maintaining a steady contact, steady rhythm, and of course the canter. So when I went out to ride this morning, I kept those things in my mind. Here's what I discovered:
Don't misunderstand, I did not fix anything today, but I definitely see where we need some work and we'll just keep practicing until we get it right. When I feel discouraged, I think back to where we were last summer, and I realize that we have come a long way.
I should be pleased. Really. We scored a 65.625% at Introductory B. I guess we "fooled" the judge, or she just couldn't see what I was struggling with. I felt like Speedy would not maintain a steady tempo, he kept trying to break gate (walk-to-trot and trot-to-canter), and he kept trying to "suck back." The judge's scores? For the test: one 5, four 6s, two 7s, and two 8s. For the Collective Marks: two 6s, four 7s. There were three things that I was excited about. I was very pleased by the 8s (who wouldn't be?) for our free walk and our working trot rising between H & C which was right in front of the judge! For Rider's Position the judge gave me a 7 and commented that I was quiet and tactful. That may seem like no big deal, but I am pretty self-concious about my seat and hands and I usually score a six for position.
Test C, the walk/trot/canter test that is similar to the old Training Level test 1, did not go as well as I was hoping. That canter transition has really turned into a problem for us. Before we started "working" on it, Speedy and I could pick up the canter any ol' time we wanted. Now ... we can't. Just like at the May show, he bucked and kicked when asked to canter. Good thing the test says developing working canter because that's what we're doing, developing. Once the tests says CANTER, we might be in trouble.
I don't have very many scores of 4 in our previous tests, but we earned TWO of them for our second transition in and out of canter. The first canter we earned two 5s. My overall points for this test were: two 4s, three 5s, four 6s, three 7s, and another 8. The 8 was again for working trot rising between C & M, right in front of the judge. Our Collective Marks were nearly identical as in the first test: three 6s and three 7s. And again, I scored a 7 for rider position with the comment, "tactfully ridden." The judge's further remarks were this, "Nice moments. Elegant horse." That's a comment any rider would like to hear!
The overall score for Introductory Test C was 60.500%.
(Click the photos for a larger view.)
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%: