From Endurance to Dressage
A Horse With Opinions
When I shared this photo the other day, I realized that I've been sharing a lot of these lately. These bucks and kicks are not hard to sit, and I in no way feel out of control. These are just Speedy's way of saying, quit asking me to work so dang hard!
I wish I had taken screen shots from our earliest rides because I know there have been many, many more of these physical expressions of his opinion. The dude doesn't have a middle finger, but who needs one when you can do that?
Have a great weekend!
Making Ends meet
Speaking of showing ... Just how do we afford all of these shows anyway? Well, if you're like me, you supervise the children's version of jail. Kidding, of course. Sort of.
You see, at my school (I teach 5th grade in case you're new here), we have lunch time detention. It runs for the 30 minutes of lunch recess. Students get approximately 30 minutes to eat followed by another 30 minutes to play.
Kiddos who get in trouble, either from our school principal or another staff member, serve noontime detention with whichever teacher has detention duty. Most often, that's me. I run detention every Monday and Friday. The other nine intermediate teachers rotate through weekly so that they serve Tuesday through Thursday about three times a year.
Why do I do it so frequently you ask? For the "money," of course. I make approximately $12 each time I serve as the detention teacher. During the course of the school year, I gave up my lunch twice a week, sometimes more if I "subbed" for another teacher. In June, I got my extra duty check for the second semester's detention as well as for serving as my school's Battle of the Books coordinator.
My check was a "whopping" $822. I used the money to pay my entries for both June shows, coaching at each show, and Izzy's new bridle. My husband was horrified that I would give up my lunch twice a week to supervise naughty children for $12. Looking back, It does seem like a lot of work for so little pay.
School starts again on August 16th. I have another month or so to consider whether missing my lunch hour two to three times a week is worth one or two shows during the summer. But you know, if Izzy doesn't break anything next spring, I could turn that check into three shows. My colleagues certainly hope that I'll continue with the Monday/Friday detention schedule as it means fewer days they have to serve.
It's worth it, right?
I always disliked First Level Test 3. It was hard and complicated and freaking long. Second Level Test 3 is organized, and it makes sense. What you do to the left, you do to the right. And you don't have to wait until the end of the test to do it. That always killed me about First Level. I always hated that the second trot lengthening came at the very end of the test because I always forgot about it until the last second. I actually like Second Level Test 3.
Like I said yesterday, we didn't break any records, but Speedy and I finally rode a very consistent test with no errors. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer and Symphony Dressage Stables, said that we rode a test where she wasn't thinking more, more, more, and that's a good thing. That doesn't mean we don't need MORE, but now it's a subtle more.
The entire test is a string of 6.0s with a few exceptions. We earned a 5.0 for the rein back, which I felt was pretty good. Apparently, we've been practicing it incorrectly. I've been allowing Speedy to trot into a walk before he halts. Oops! We'll be addressing that in our lesson on Friday. The other 5.0 was for our turn on the haunches left. We go better to the right.
To offset those 5.0s however, we earned a 7.0 for the walk to canter at K (go, Speedy!) and a 7.0 for our simple change at L which has a double coefficient (counts twice for those of you whose eyes are glazing over). We also earned a 7.0 for our final halt.
When I looked at the score sheet and saw a solid string of 6.0s, I told Chemaine that it's disappointing that it only adds up to 60% when it feels like a 70% test. I'll slowly (or maybe quickly) turn some of those 6.0s to 6.5s, and before I know it I'll have a 65%. My final score was a 60.732%. I'll take it! Here's the video.
Speedy and I had another show this past weekend, but I needed a day to recover before I wrote it up. I can't be 100% sure without doing a little bit of digging, but I think this was the first time we did back to back shows. For many of you that's not such a big deal, but dressage shows in my neck of the woods require a fair amount of driving. I am tired. Still.
The Tehachapi shows, all four of them, are put on by my local chapter of the California Dressage Society. They're only CDS-rated, but as most of you know, my GMO has amazing incentive programs, so the scores I earn at the Tehachapi shows can count for a lot.
Spoiler alert: we didn't pull out any fabulous scores, BUT we are stepping up our game. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, put it like this, "Karen Sweaney, in my opinion, had break through tests! Much more impulsion and therefore much less signature Arabian tendency to curl!" Chemaine was showing several clients' horses, coaching other clients (including myself), and coaching her own kids.
So far this season, my scores have fluctuated pretty wildly including a couple of 2.0s and 3.0s and the ever pesky 5.0s. My goal has been to eliminate all of those sub 5.0 scores, especially the 4.0s and below. Anything under a 5.0 is insufficient or worse. In my case, those scores are simply from pilot error. We know how to do the movements. We wouldn't be showing at Second Level if we didn't.
I've said this about a million times already, but in the show ring, the movements have just come at me so fast that I've had trouble riding them harmoniously (or well). For this show, everything finally slowed down, and I felt like I was able to think ahead of the movements and was able to ride proactively instead of reactively.
For Second Level Test 1, we earned 7.0s for our first centerline, our medium walk, and the walk to canter at M. The rest of the test was filled solidly with 6.0s except for three other movements, two of which had double coefficients. We earned a 5.0 (x2) for our shoulder-in left, a 5.0 (x2) for the rein back, and a 4.0 for one of our 10-meter canter circles (Speedy took a wonky step and stumbled into trot).
The final score was a 59.394% - 196 points. We missed a 60% by 2 points. In all likelihood, if I could have balanced Speedy a bit better in the 10-meter canter circle, he wouldn't have lost his balance, and we would have earned a 6.0 and the 60%.
I am clearly in a learning phase right now though so I am not at all disappointed. Chemaine was really pleased with our improvement over just one week ago. I felt much better about the ride and know that Speedy and I getting a handle on Second Level. The scores are already reflecting our progress.
We have plenty left to work on, trot to walk is one of them, but I can't believe how much progress we've made in the past six months. Who would have thought an endurance rider who had never had a formal lesson in her life could go from not knowing her posting diagonals to showing Second Level? It's taking forever, but that's what what you get when you're riding a Speedy pony!
Second Level Test 3 tomorrow ...
Data That's Fun to Look At
I am a score stalker. If I know your real name, I've looked up your scores. It helps me to see what's "normal." While your scores are interesting, I particularly like to track my own scores. Are they trending up? Not right now. Are they following their usual pattern? For the love of all that's holy I hope so! You see, my scores tend to follow a predictable pattern. At the beginning of each new level, they start in the 50s, but they eventually creep over sixty percent and settle comfortably in the mid-60s. I can live with that.
Sometimes I even do searches of famous riders like Charlotte Dujardin (who has exactly two USDF scores) or Steffen Peters. Laura Graves actually has a 54% at Third Level if that makes anyone feel better. She also has an 85% at Grand Prix with 51 rides at that level. So yeah, who cares about a sucky score at Third.
I love looking at my data on USDF's site (or Centerline Scores) because it shows a journey. While I was poking around the other day, I realized that I've done 62 USDF shows with Speedy G. How is that even possible? I feel like we're still beginners.
Most of the time I visit the site to double check that my scores have been recorded correctly. While I was here most recently, I noticed something that I've never seen before. There is now a spot where your awards are highlighted! I am a sucker for any kind of sticker or atta girl, so this totally floats my boat.
When I clicked on the Second Level Rider Performance Award, a pop up window appeared showing my progress toward that award. How cool is that? I have two scores and need two more from two different judges. It sounded so much easier at the beginning of the year.
Another new-to-me feature was the USDF Rider Award Check. If you use Centerline Scores, you know that if you've earned any scores towards a medal, they shade in portions of the medal showing your progress. USDF doesn't do that. Instead, you can now click on the medal you're working toward, and a new window pops open detailing your progress just like it did for the Rider Performance Award. Here's what mine looks like.
I'm pretty excited. I am two-thirds of the way towards a bronze medal. That sounds so achievable to a regular person, but anyone with any dressage experience knows that getting out of Second and scoring those two coveted scores at Third Level is enough to drive you to the edge of insanity and maybe even push you right on over.
There is nothing new on the Tests page, but I like to study this page, too. I like to see how long it takes me to figure out a level. Speedy and I spent FOREVER at Training Level. It was mostly because of injuries, but I also hate to move on unless we're truly ready. I am not sure yet how long we'll be at Second Level. I suspect that if we stay here another year it will be because of my sitting trot.
I definitely won't feel comfortable about moving onto Third Level until this bar graph evens out a little. Those scores at Second are lower than I am happy with. The next USDF show we will do is the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in mid-August. There is a CDS only show right after that, but that's as far as my show season has been planned.
It seems a bit strange to plan a show season based on some charts and data from a web site, but if my Rider Performance Award gets colored in this summer and my bar graph gets a little longer, I may call the season a wrap! We'll see how things go in August.
Check out your data (and mine while you're there), and let me know what you think.
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%: