From Endurance to Dressage
Over the past week, a few friends have asked me about Speedy's braid from Sunday's show. I thought I'd give you an update.
I just don't have the heart to pull Speedy's mane. He's a bit like Samson without a Delilah; cutting his hair would just take some of the wind out of his sails. So I leave it long.
Until this past winter, I was just doing a French braid that looked really nice for about 15 minutes. After that, it slowly loosened up until it was just a mess. In December, I stumbled on this braiding video.
I've used the braid with mixed success. Sometimes it holds really well, and other times, not so much. At a show in May, a braid near the top popped out during my warm up. Fortunately, the judge just laughed about it. I mashed it into a lump and rubber banded it for the second test, but it was a hot mess.
For this show, I re-watched the video and took extra time braiding. I wet Speedy's mane for each braid, and I did them tightly. I also did them in smaller chunks. Unless you have a horse with a really thick mane, like thicker than Speedy's, the tail end that you stick through the braid won't be enough to be a third on it's own.
I found that I had to add extra hair to that piece and then choose two more sections of equal weight. I also discovered that as the mane gets thinner near the base, it's important to keep the braids smaller. You can see that the rosettes in the middle are larger than those at the bottom.
If the rosettes are too widely spaced, the tail end that you poked through the rosette wants to pull out. I am also going to buy white rubber bands; no one can see the bands, but I can see them from the saddle.
Even taking my time, the braid took no more than 30 minutes. Now that I have figured out how to make the braid stay in (damp mane, tight braid, thinner pieces), I think I can get it cleaner and neater. If your horse has a long mane, this is definitely an easy way to braid for shows.
I just finished reading R. J. Palacio's Wonder, the book about a boy who was born with a severe facial disfigurement. If you haven't read it, or if you don't know anything about it, check it out. It's worth the read even if you're not in the fifth grade.
Early on in the book, Auggie's English teacher, Mr. Browne, presents the kids with monthly precepts, or what he calls "rules about really important things." The first precept he assigns the class to write about is this one by Dr. Wayne Dyer: "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."
That really struck a chord wth me. I like to be right. I also like to be kind. It made me stop and wonder if I sometimes choose being right over being kind. I had to admit that yes, it probably happens.
And then I got to thinking that many horse people, especially dressage people, deal with this conflict pretty often. Dressage, and horse ownership in general, is fraught with people who have THE ANSWERS. It seems as though the second you voice an idea, SOMEONE (or twenty someones) immediately knows EXACTLY what you should do.
There are a couple of relationships in my life (I am not going to name names) where I am struggling with being right or being kind. For the first one, I realized that I couldn't change this person's view, but what I could do was respond to it differently than I had been. Instead of being right, I've decided to be kind. It's funny, because that idea is also addressed by Dyer. He says, "How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours." I haven't had a lot of opportunities to practice this change in my response, but I am prepared.
In the second relationship, it's my friend who wants to be right. All the time. About everything. And it's horse stuff, so you know I have an opinion as well, but we aren't necessarily agreeing. While I haven't been unkind yet, I can feel it coming. Instead of worrying about whether my own opinion gets heard or not, I've decided to be especially kind instead. Mr. Browne's precept for the month of March should be a corollary to the first, Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. - Blaise Pascal.
I think it's worth a try.
Third Place is AWESOME
Basically, the whole show was pretty amazing. I've watched the videos, and I don't look amazing, but Speedy sure does. It finally looks as though he is excelling in spite of me. Go for it, Speedy. It's about time you started pulling your weight!
We were riding against some pretty nice horse and rider teams, so I am more than happy to score in the same ball field as they did. Yeah, it's a last place score, but it's better than we did a month ago. And frankly, the third test at First Level is HARD. It does not flow in an organized, or logical way.
It's Frankenhacked together if you ask me. After the halt, you track left into a lengthened stride at trot, followed by a leg yield to X and a leg yield back to the rail. That's fairly reasonable, but then immediately after, there's a stretchy trot circle followed by a ten-meter circle at R, a halt at X, and then another ten-meter circle at V.
After those two trot circles (with a free walk to separate the trot and canter), the canter work begins which flows somewhat better. It's a 15-meter canter circle into a canter lengthening followed by a single canter loop from K-X-H (that's from one corner to the middle back to the other corner for you non-dressage types).
As you finish that first loop, you have to reorganize quickly for the change of lead through trot at X. We messed that up big time. Speedy just couldn't/wouldn't pick up the left lead (4.0). Once you change leads, you do another 15-meter canter circle, a canter lengthening, and then the same loop - but on the other side.
The canter work makes sense to me, but it's a lot of cantering all in a row. The part of this test that I really hate is that the last movement is a trot lengthening across the whole diagonal. By the time we get to this part of the test, Speedy is starting to lose his oomph, and I am definitely breathing hard.
While it might not have been as impressive somewhere else, on this day, the judge liked our trot lengthening and rewarded our effort with an 8.0! I'll take it! For what it's worth, ignore what I am doing up there and focus on the gray pony. He's the only one who seems to know what he's doing out there.
I am not Charlotte Dujardin, and Speedy's no Valegro, but hey, we're getting around the court in a respectable manner. My goals for this summer are small, but we are meeting them. And you never know, we might even exceed them!
Not Sucking is AWESOME
It might be a totally nerdy thing to do, but finally having the chance to write about a "win" makes me all kinds of giddy. I mean, check this out!
Pretty, right? We still have oodles to work on, but at least for one afternoon, Speedy and I were able to put it all together for a grand total of four minutes and fifty-three seconds, the length of time it takes to ride First Level Test 2.
It's not a perfectly ridden test, and I think a few of the judge's scores were a bit generous, but it was a pretty solid little test. And I can't help it, he's just so darn cute!
Like I said, I think the scores were a tad bit generous, but I've ridden just as many tests where the judging felt more punitive than encouraging. Based on the rest of the day's scores, it seemed as though the judge was rewarding nice moments rather than looking for ways to ding the rider. I like that.
For this test, we scored nothing lower than a 6.0 (and there were only 2 of those), and we actually had a slew of 7s and 7.5s, 18 of them to be exact. Oh, and did I mention we earned an 8 for our final halt? Our final score was 68.75% which was 4 points shy of a 70%.
There were only two or three places that I can see where we might possibly have made up a point or three, but not four. Our entry was quite unsteady (6.0) which usually earns a 7.0; we got the 7.0 on the next test. My leg yield right earned a 6.0, but that's still typical for a us. My stretchy trot earned our usual 6.0, but that's another movement that I need to work on. Other than that, I would have needed two more 7.5s instead of the 7.0s we did get. That's just being greedy.
Whether the score was generous or not, it came at a time when I really needed a little boost to my moral. No one's feelings are ever hurt by an atta girl. I am glad I rode for this judge this weekend. I needed to hear something good about my riding.
Oh, and even better - that score earned us Adult Amateur High Point!
I am not going to lie. It felt really good to walk away a "winner." Not sucking is amazing!
More Up Than Down
While neither of my boys is an easy ride, Izzy is the one who makes my life the most challenging. At least twice a year, I start writing his For Sale ad, and I'll even start choosing photos to use in the ad. Last month was one of those times. I am happy to report that the ad has been torn up and tossed in the trash.
The truth is that I want to show. It's that simple. I don't need to win, but I need to get out there and show off what we've learned. It's frustrating to be stuck at home, perpetually schooling the same basics over and over. Even though I showed him last summer, it was simply for experience and not to show off anything. Our scores ranged from a low of 49% to a high of 58%. We weren't ready.
I don't think we're ready right now either, but we are definitely making progress. The tension is till there, but I have had a few AHA moment this month about how to work through his mental tension.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, teaches a warm up exercise that really works for Izzy. I've written about it before, but it's basically 1) firm up the outside rein, 2) sit on the inside seat bone, 3) flex to the inside, and 4) release the inside rein. I've had to modify it a bit though. I start with number 2 only. Down the long side, I sit on the outside seat bone, but as I approach the corner, I weight both seat bones a moment and then I sit on the inside seat bone. I do the same thing through the next corner until I am again on the outside seat bone.
As we're walking, I think about massaging his back as we walk the rail and cross the diagonal. Ever so slowly, I pick up the outside rein and go from number 2 to number 3. He can look straight ahead, but he can't look to the outside unless I choose to counter flex him.
As I rock from one seat bone to the other, taking a moment to weight both seat bones evenly, I urge him into a larger walking stride. As his back starts to relax, I follow the exercise in the actual 1-2-3-4 order. By using this warm up, I keep his attention on me completely, and the jackassery simply never starts.
That was the biggest AHA of the month. Izzy is a hot horse who is looking for reasons to be scared. If I keep his attention on me, he focuses on the task at hand and forgets to think about the monsters lurking outside of the ring.
I know many riders would have given up on him long ago, but for me right now, this horse is teaching me a whole lot. He's not scary or dangerous, just a slow learner. I forgot to mention this, but my mom and her husband were down a week ago. She wanted to come out to the barn and watch me ride.
I had a typical ride on Izzy, but my mom thought he looked fantastic. She even commented that he looked like he was trying very hard to please me. That really took me by surprise since I always feel as though he's working on his exit strategy. It was encouraging to hear that kind of comment from someone who doesn't ride or spend time with horses. If she could read that expression on his face, it must be true.
More up than down is progress.
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%: