Have a great weekend!
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!
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 ...
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.
Lord have mercy. Just how many things can I possibly have to say about this one show? Four day's worth apparently. I'll try to make this quick.
I did learn a few new "tricks" to help ride some of the Second Level movements a bit better. The first is to have more bend. That's not really a new trick, but I continue to have doh! moments about why.
For example, I learned that for the turn on the haunches, I need to think about doing a lot of things before I actually do a turn on the haunches. I need to 1) keep the walk marching. 2) I need to think shoulder in. 3) I need to make sure I keep the inside bend otherwise Speedy will be counter bent and my outside rein does nothing.
I also learned to keep off the rail for the rein back. It's a bit like parallel parking - you don't want to get too close or you'll scrape your tires as you back up. It helps to give your horse a little more room too. And besides, you don't need your elbows in the judge's face as you back up. Just saying.
As much as my sitting trot needs work, I wasn't the worst rider out there. I am not fishing for compliments here, but it did my heart good to see that we pretty much fit right in. There were riders better than me and riders who had their own struggles. There were nicer horses than Speedy, although not many; you gotta love the one you're with after all.
And finally, while we didn't hit it out of the park, we did earn four scores that were ever so close to being satisfactory. Our first score of the show, the 61.97%, was actually good enough to count for a whole slew of things. It gave us another CDS Championship qualifying score which means we only need one more. We also earned another score towards our Second Level USDF Rider Performance Award leaving us only two more before we earn our patch. And best of all, we earned the final Second Level score needed for a Bronze Medal.
Each year Speedy and I prove that we are certainly Not-So-Speedy Dressage. We are ever so persistent though. It may take us longer than the average rider, but we get it done. Believe it or not, we have another show on Sunday. It's only CDS-rated so we can't earn a USDF score, but my GMO's scores count for so many things that you can bet your butt we'll be bringing it. If you're in the Tehachapi area on Sunday, we ride at 1:20 and 2:00. We'd love to see you.
Wish us luck and have a great weekend!
Last weekend's show report continues ...
Sunday morning dawned gray and rainy, but it didn't dampen my spirits one bit. Best Friend and I had had the best time ever over the past two days. We laughed all Saturday evening as we shoveled down our dinner of burritos and white cheddar popcorn. Don't ask.
My rides were early on Sunday morning - 7:14 and 8:10, but that only meant we would be getting home that much sooner. What I haven't yet mentioned was that our drive down on Friday had been anything but easy. Our plan had been to stop on Interstate 5 at the In-N-Out for a quick lunch, but after I dropped BF off at the door and parked the truck and trailer, I saw that she was standing in a line at least 30 people deep.
We both said forget it and decided to walk over to the nearby Subway where we were met with a similarly long line. By that time, we simply gave up and dug some string cheese and chips out of the cooler and hit the road again. We ended up getting a sandwich at a Subway in Fillmore, 45 minutes from the show grounds.
Less than 10 minutes from the El Sueno Equestrian Center, we came upon a wreck and fire on the road that had us parked for more than an hour and a half with fire trucks racing by us over and over again. Speedy was an absolute saint. He stood quietly the entire time without making a single bit of noise. What should have been a two and a half hour drive ended up taking us more than five hours.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was supposed to come and give me a lesson on Friday afternoon, but because of the wreck, the road that we came in on was closed right after us. We were very, very fortunate to have made it through. That meant no warm up lesson.
Because my rides were so early on Sunday morning, I didn't need Chemaine to come and coach me. I figured I would just ride to the best of my ability which turned out to be about the same as on Saturday (here and here). Before I share my scores, check out the final halt from Test 1. I am not sure what spooked Speedy, but I love that he finished the halt decently square. The judge gave us a 6.0.
For Second Level Test 1, we scored a 59.242% - my absolute least favorite score. I'd rather have a 58 than a 59. We missed a 60% by 2.5 points. On the final medium trot the judge commented, "rider appears to be posting? needs more ground cover thrust & reach". Guess what posting gets you on a Second Level test. Yup, a two point error. Crap. It wasn't that I was posting on purpose. My sitting trot on the medium trot still sucks. Here's the test.
I said that this was a blooper filled weekend which means there was more. I've only ridden Second Level Test 3 three times, and the third time was this past Sunday.The first two times I had a reader. It's not that it's a particularly hard test to memorize, but there is a lot of canter work to remember.
I got lost on the twenty-fourth movement, the three-loop serpentine. I simply forgot where we were going. And frankly, up until that moment, we were doing pretty well. Speedy and I scored a 7.0 for our entry. We had two 5s, four 5.5s, fourteen 6s (!), and two 6.5s. All of that means that we were riding a 60% test (with the double coefficients). As soon as we went off course, I got a two point deduction. Here's the test.
What made it so bad was that the three-loop serpentine is a pretty tough movement. Speedy and I need time to set up for it so that we're balanced for the counter canter. Since I was lost, I didn't set us up for it very well so Speedy dropped to trot, and I couldn't convince him to pick up the counter canter. The whole thing went to hell in a hand basket earning us a 2.0 on a movement with a double co-efficient. For those of you who don't speak dressage, that means that single movement was worth twenty points, or nearly 5% of the whole test. Ouch!
We ended up scoring a 56.098%. That's kind of an ugly score, but truthfully, I know that we lost virtually all of our points on that serpentine. It's a movement that we can do pretty decently. We earned a 6.0 for the first one and a 6.5 & 6.0 on the two from Saturday.
Yesterday I promised you the best worst comment ever. I bought a grey horse on purpose. I know many of you cringe at that, but light colored horses often deal with the heat better. Speedy was bought as my next endurance horse long before I ever thought of doing dressage. He replaced a black Arab who struggled mightily with the heat. I got lucky with my grey; he HATES to get dirty.
While many people might call Speedy a white Arab, he is actually grey. His skin is black except for below his knees; he has white socks. You can see them when he's wet. He is also lightly flea bitten (little brown dots). So I leave you with this last comment from the judge. All I can say is ... Is that the best almost compliment you've got?
Yesterday, I wrote about slogging through Second Level with a 61%. I looked up the meaning of slogging - to work hard over a period of time; you'll notice that there's nothing in the definition about being successful. Slogging also means to toil, labor, plod, and exert oneself. Uh ... yep.
Here's the video for Saturday's next test, Second Level Test 3.
When I first saw the score, a disappointing 57.561%, my initial reaction was that the judge was being too tough. Upon further reflection, I realized that the score was actually pretty good. After all, she gave us ten 6s which translate to satisfactory and five 6.5s which mean almost fairly good. So of the twenty-seven movements able to be scored, fifteen of them were at least satisfactory or better. That's more than half. The remainder of the scores were 5s and 5.5s with a pair of (insufficient) 4s.
Throughout my not-so-speedy dressage journey, my process has always been the same. I analyze my tests to see where our strengths lie, and I work to build on them. I also study our weakness, and I focus on turning the 5s to 5.5s. Eventually, they become 6s, and before I know it, we're scoring consistently in the mid to upper 60s.
I know we have a lot that we have to fix before we're getting scores in the 60s, but I'm having fun, and I feel like we're almost ready to be competitive.
Tomorrow, day two's tests including some bloopers and the best worst comment ever!
... but having a blast while doing it. Best friend and I loaded Speedy G for a two-day show over the weekend. For the first time since Speedy and I made the jump to Second Level, I was headache free AND I had fun. We made mistakes, and our scores were closer to meh than marvelous, but I am motivated and ready for more.
That was Second Level Test 1 with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, "coaching" me on the video. For the record, I couldn't hear her. We all know it wasn't a brilliant performance, but there were some really almost great moments like that rein back (seriously!) and those simple changes. Even I know those didn't stink.
The medium walk after the after the first counter canter was also pretty good. I think it's the first time we've actually gotten a walk instead of a bunch of trot steps into walk.
My sitting trot is also improving - not during the medium, of course, but for the collected trot there's less air between my butt and the saddle. For right now, I am excited about the slightest bit of progress.
For this first test, the only thing that really hurt was the shoulder in. Those were our only sub-six scores (5.5 & 5.0). Well, that and my navigational error.
The free walk goes from S to P, but I rode it from H to P, one letter too early for those of you who aren't familiar with the the dressage court. That's a two-point deduction, and it did affect my score.
Overall, Speedy and I finished with a 61.970%. Spoiler alert. That was our best score of the weekend, but I still had a great time and came home ready for more. The second test tomorrow ...
Last week while letting Izzy wear his bit during breakfast, he hooked the throat latch of his bridle on something, probably his hoof, and snapped it down the middle. I was disappointed for about a nanosecond. It's not that the bridle is ugly or ill-fitting, but it was starting to show some wear. Izzy is hard on his tack. As I held the flapping piece of leather, I realized this was the perfect excuse to buy a new bridle.
As I poured over website after website, my practical side took over. Izzy isn't ready to show yet, so he doesn't need a fancy bridle. Besides that, he's hard on his tack - he sweats like a teenaged boy, throws foamy spit everywhere, and rubs his face on his legs every chance he gets. I decided to replace the bridle with something very similar for under $200.
I don't like to think I am that picky about bridles, but as I looked over my list of must haves, it would seem that the opposite is true. My must haves include:
With my must haves in hand, I went back to the internet to see what I could find. Searching with a clearly defined list makes the process much quicker. Before long, I ended up at our ever favorite Riding Warehouse. They have a good selection, and without too much searching, I landed on the Bobby's Tack Padded Crank Dressage Bridle with Reins.
The bridle checked off every one of the items on my list. The monocrown is padded and contoured, there are buckles instead of hooks, and the crank noseband is just the right size. Two things that were bonuses were that the throat latch is adjustable on both sides, and the leather is Italian. An additional perk is that the leather reins are actually quite nice. I've put them in storage for now, but I may bring them out to try later.
The bridle runs $182.95, but with a 15% discount, I only paid $166.78 which included free shipping. The bridle is not fancy, but it will work great as an every day schooling bridle.