From Endurance to Dressage
Book Review: Just After Midnight
I am a pretty eclectic reader, but from time to time I will find myself stuck on one particular genre or even a specific time period. A year or so ago, all I read was stuff from the early to mid-twentieth century.
During the summer, I usually read heavier material or books that are longer. Over the past two summers, I read Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I am waiting for Column of Fire to show up as one of Amazon's Daily Kindle Deals. During the school year, when I can barely get through ten pages before falling asleep, I tend to choose shorter titles that are easier to get through.
A few weeks ago, I had just finished something really good, although I can't remember now what it was. I knew that the next thing I chose to read had to be light and fluffy, or I would be disappointed. Whenever I read something really good, the next title is almost always a disappointment. So I scrolled through my list of unread titles looking for something that was just mind-candy, something meant to entertain, not change your life. I landed on Catherine Ryan Hyde's novel, Just After Midnight. If you feel like you've heard Hyde's name before, you probably have. She's the author of a long list of titles including, Pay it Forward.
Just After Midnight isn't "literature." It doesn't have a message that compels you to look deep within yourself. Instead, it's a settle in for some fun kind of story that would float any horse girl's boat. Here's the summary from Amazon.
No longer tolerating her husband’s borderline abuse, Faith escapes to her parents’ California beach house to plan her next move. She never dreamed her new chapter would involve befriending Sarah, a fourteen-year-old on the run from her father and reeling from her mother’s sudden and suspicious death.
While Sarah’s grandmother scrambles to get custody, Faith is charged with spiriting the girl away on a journey that will restore her hope: Sarah implores Faith to take her to Falkner’s Midnight Sun, the prized black mare that her father sold out from under her. Sarah shares an unbreakable bond with Midnight and can’t bear to be apart from her. Throughout the sweltering summer, as they follow Midnight from show to show, Sarah comes to terms with what she witnessed on the terrible night her mother died.
But the journey is far from over. Faith must learn the value of trusting her instincts—and realize that the key to her future, and Sarah’s, is in her hands.
I know, I know. Sounds pretty cheesy. But. The whole thing is set in Central California's dressage world. Over and over Hyde incorporates actual towns and cities where dressage truly exists. She evens sets her characters in real life venues where I've shown. She mentions Moorpark, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, and many other places that are practically in my backyard.
Throughout the story, Hyde explains what dressage is as her characters go from one training barn to another. As an experienced rider, you might find yourself rolling your eyes at her very simplified explanations, but the point is to help non-riders feel connected to the characters and their actions.
If you find yourself looking for something to distract you for a few hours, this book might be just the ticket. It's not going to change your world view, but really, sometimes that's a relief. If you read it, let me know what you think!
That Dang Mouse and His Cookie!
I'm a teacher, so books and stories are frequently on my mind, especially Laura Numeroff's series about the mouse who gets a cookie and then wants a glass of milk to go with it. When children's literature or even adult literature comes up as a topic on Jeopardy, my husband just looks to me for the answers. Books are kind of my jam. Anyway, in the story, giving the mouse his glass of milk leads to another request and another and another. You get the idea.
Summer has arrived here, so I can't spend quite so much time in the saddle. I guess it's less can't and more don't want to. I still like being at the ranch though, so even though it was a bazillion degrees a week or so ago, I decided to clean some tack. After I did that, I hosed out a bucket. And then it was on!
With cool water to splash on my face and a tank top to get a little sun on my shoulders, I started looking for other things to clean. The next thing I knew, I had drug out a bleach bottle and every grooming tool in my arsenal. Everything went into the bucket. Several times actually.
The more things I scrubbed, the more things I found to scrub. I scrubbed things that have never been cleaned before and others that should have been cleaned long ago. Before long, I had quite a pile of wet and drippy things drying in the million degree heat.
And then I washed three pairs of gloves and a couple of extra buckets. While I was searching for even more things to hose off, I realized that the feed room/tack room was now a mess. Somehow, stuff that should have been shelved neatly had found a new home on the floor.
Most of the junk on the floor was a result of consolidating my grooming tools into one portable bucket. That was a great idea, but I am not 6 years old. Things can't live on the floor. There is no before photo because I am lame, but here's what happened after my hurricane of a cleaning frenzy whipped through the room.
I know it looks as though it needs to be organized, but trust me, there is a system to the madness.
Moving on to 3-3
Part 1 here.
I usually move on to test 3 of a level after I get at least a mediocre score at test 2. Why are the second tests of the lower levels so horrible? I don't think there's a single test 2 that I've liked. We scored a 62.105% on Third Level's test 2 this Sunday. Did we hit a home run? No, but it was satisfactory enough that my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, thinks we're ready to move on to test 3.
The only new element in test 3 is rein back to trot. That doesn't mean test 3 is easy, we know that from 2-3 and 1-3. The third test is where all of the movements get thrown at you as quickly as possible in ways that do not appear to make any sense. Even so, I am ready to start tackling 3-3 and have even sent in my next two show entries. I may regret that decision. Oh, wait, I already do!
As you would expect from a slightly more challenging test, our scores dropped a bit for test 2. We didn't get a single 4.0 though. When we got to the walk to canter at F - a movement that caused us all sorts of trouble on test 1 (except that it was at C), I told Speedy he had better pick up the canter correctly. And just as a final reminder, while we were waiting for the judge to ring us in, I asked Speedy to pick up the canter from the walk several times. I may have even had a whip in my hand. My diligence paid off though as Speedy earned himself a nice little 7.0 for that transition to canter. Well done, Dude, well done!
The rest of the test went pretty solidly, not brilliantly, but it wasn't disastrous either. We need more suppleness, more uphill, better throughness, and more clarity between our collected and extended gaits. I get it. We're still a developing Third Level team and probably will be for quite some time.
One movement that I only started to do two weeks ago is the clear release of both reins for 4-5 strides over centerline at the canter. It shows up only in test 2. When Chemaine asked me a week or so how it was going, I laughed and said that I was just going to skip it. HAHAHAHA. "Um, no," came her reply.
She showed me what it should look like, I practiced it once or twice, and then I did it at the show at El Sueno earning a 6.0 both times. On Sunday, it looked awkward as heck, but the judge liked it well enough to give me a 7.5. Do not ask me what my body is doing. Instead look at how forward I shoved those reins. I wanted the judge to see that I was CLEARLY RELEASING THE REINS. Maybe I am sorry I am not doing 3-2 again.
If Second Level is all about the counter canter and the simple change, Third Level is about the flying change. Ours definitely still reside in the "developing" camp. Both changes earned 5.0s for test 2.
The judge's comment was very succinct and spot on, "kicked out." The next change got better quicker, but it still earned the same score. With the double coefficient for the flying change of lead, the 5.0s don't exactly help our overall score.
In the video, I look quite determined, and I was. Speedy was so behind my leg in the first test that I carried the whip around the outside warning him that he had BETTER WAKE UP PRONTO. It helped. Even so, getting him forward with more power but expecting him to be soft and supple is still really hard. For both of us.
One of my favorite moments though was this surprise shot caught at the very end of the test. I NEVER smile during a test, yet here I am looking as happy as can be!
This dressage court doesn't have the center line letters (DLXIG) marked on the main letters. I had just come from an extended canter M-F with a transition to collected canter F-A. From A, you continue up centerline in collected canter until the collected trot at L, which I couldn't find.
With no letters to help me, I was frantically chanting Daddy Loves eXotic Indian Girls hoping to find "I" (S/R) for my halt. In the photo I was laughing because I was certain I had overshot the "I." The judge gave us a 7.0 for the center line and halt, so it must not have been as big of an issue as I had thought, although from the photo, it's pretty clear I was way off. Good thing there was no judge at B/E!
Once upon a time, eliminating 5s from my score sheets was my goal. I am in that place again. I now know we can get 7s on every movement; we've already done it. Now the trick is to do it on a single test!
This Sunday, Speedy and I made the short trek to Tehachapi to show at a CDS-rated show hosted by my own CDS Chapter. We earned a 63% (and change) at Third Level!
Some of you already know how hard I am on myself. On the one hand, I am ridiculously giddy with glee. On the other, much larger hand, I am sitting here wondering if the judge had something in her eye as she watched me ride because 63% is a score I'll always be quite happy with but will never think we've earned.
About 10 seconds after seeing my score, I started beating myself up as I agreed with the 4 for the walk to canter but disregarded the two 7s for the flying changes. It's just so much easier to believe in the weak aspects of the ride than it is to accept the strong ones. We had 12 scores of 7.0 or 7.5. What more can I ask for? My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, is no doubt tired of trying to cheer me up when we do well. I am working on it, Chemaine, I am working on it!
While the score was not earned at a USDF-rated show, the judges at this particular CDS show series are notorious for being tough. I nearly always score better at USDF-rated shows than I do at this summer series. I decided that my effort deserved the score rather than just feeling that we got lucky.
During the warm up, a friend whom I haven't seen in ages, noted that Speedy was really carrying himself. I laughed and told her that I still feel like that struggling Introductory Level rider. Every level is a struggle, so it never feels as though we've "arrived!" Of course, I used to think that riders in levels above me were out there having a grand old time on their perfectly behaved, push-button horses. HAHAHA! Good thing the Intro Level me didn't know how much work it was going to be. If anything, it's just gotten harder.
This test was far from perfect, but after watching the video, I gave myself a little pat on the back. We're probably never going to kill it at Third Level, or Fourth, or ... , but we belong right where are. Without being in full training, I don't have the luxury of schooling a level above where I am showing. I need help with the movements that I am showing right now. And each time I show them, they'll get better and better.
So what scored well? The shoulder-in to start. Both of them earned a 7.0. We earned 3 scores of 7.5 - medium trot, rein back, and the left turn on the haunches. The rein back has a double coefficient so that made up for the 5.0 on our half pass right.
The best score though was for our flying changes. We earned 7.0s for both of them, and those also have a double coefficient. The judge noted that they were both clean. She didn't note their exuberance, something I am still working on, but clean is what matters.
So what didn't go so well? The right lead canter has always been a bit of a pebble in my shoe, a pain in my butt, and our achilles heel. I schooled that flippin' walk to canter at F and C a bazillion times. I remembered to look to the inside and get the inside bend, but Speedy still picked up the LEFT lead at C. Booger. So in the corner, I tried again, and again. By this point we were at M where the medium canter had to start, so I got the lead and then tried to rocket him from a walk to a medium canter. I wouldn't recommend that strategy.
It came as no surprise that we scored a 4 for that walk to canter transition, which was more than generous. And since I didn't get to set it up correctly, thanks a lot, dude, our medium canter also took a hit earning a 5.0. Thankfully neither of those movements carries a coefficient. Those two scores, combined with a previous 5.0 for the half pass right, were the only scores under 6.0 on the entire test.
I always try to learn something from each test and show. I had no huge AHA moments like from the show the weekend before - BEND YOUR HORSE and WATCH THE LETTERS, but the judge made an interesting comment on this first test. On the collective marks for Rider's Position and Seat, she wrote, Nice position, show more confidence. First of all, I never get positive comments on my position so that was incredibly nice to hear. Do I need more confidence? I would say that is spot on. I'll work on it, Judge.
I'll work on getting Test 2 written up for tomorrow. In the meantime, here's the video of our first test. That rowdy flying change comes at about 5:45 if you want to skip the boring stuff.
We're getting there even though "there" keeps moving. Dressage is a funny sport!
There's Only So Much You Can Cram
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon. By the time that you read it, Sunday's show will be over, and only then will I know how much of my Friday night cram session made it to the test. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, came down to help me do some last minute "studying" for Sunday's second attempt at Third Level.
Just like studying for a real pencil and paper test, we did the lesson in a sort of flashcard style. On the first card, I wrote Turn on the Haunches on the front, and then flipped it over for the bullet points.
On the next card, I wrote Renvers (I hate you!), and flipped it over.
The Half Pass (trot or canter) card could really be Renvers part II; they're really similar.
The Flying Changes card is so filled with scribbled notes that some of them may have crept over onto the front of the card.
Did all of this work? I'll let you know tomorrow!
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%: