From Endurance to Dressage
Our Equestrian Lounge is finally "finished." I use quotes because you never know what we might add in the future. For now, all of the projects that I wanted to do are now complete. Everyone at the barn enjoys the space, and we wonder how we lived without it.
I so wish I had taken a before picture, but we started moving in the furniture before anyone had a chance to say no. If I had taken a before shot, you would have seen a lovely tree with piles of leaves and some discarded fencing panels and some discarded buckets. So what did we add to create our lounge? Well ...
Here's a final tour.
Now if I could just find a way to add a water feature, it would really be done.
As I sit here hitting refresh on my Rider Award Eligibility page at USDFScores.com, I decided to do a little research. But first, what's up with the USDF website? It has been ridiculously glitchy for more than a week. Sometimes, a click will take me to a blank page and other times I can get where I want to go. Also, lost from the menu, is the link to look up how many medals have been awarded and to whom. I eventually found it by doing a Google search, but I can't find the link on the current USDF website. Meanwhile, I refresh the page.
The reason I keep hitting refresh on my eligibility page is because you aren't automatically awarded a medal or performance award. You have apply for it, and you can't apply for it until your scores are officially recorded by USDF. And so I hit refresh. One of these times, my pink section will light up in green.
While I wait, I've been busy looking up some interesting numbers. First, USDF was established in 1973 after it was decided that there ought to be a national governing body for the sport of dressage. There were already dressage associations spread around the country, but there were no uniform standards. The California Dressage Society (CDS), my own GMO, was formed in 1967, six years before the birth of USDF.
I am sure many articles have been written on the history of the various USDF awards programs, but after a brief search, I only found this one. Admittedly, I was only casually curious and didn't want to spend too much time looking. According to the article, the first Gold and Silver Medals were awarded in 1974. After searching through the USDF website, I found that a Bronze Medal was issued in 1977. Were there other medals awarded before that? Probably, but there are currently 9,626 Bronze Medal recipients, and I didn't want to look through them all.
If you can get to the page, USDF has a way to look up every medal recipient by the current year and by all years. You can find the link here (maybe). I was really curious to know how widespread the Bronze Medal actually is. Frankly, I feel like the last person on Earth to get hers. Many of my friends have had their medal for years. I also have friends who have earned the needed scores but haven't bothered to actually apply for the medal.
As of late June, 179 riders have applied for a Bronze Medal in 2020. The total number of Bronze Medals that have been awarded since the late 1970s is 9,626 - soon to be 9,627. Of course, fewer Silver Medals have been awarded; 111 in 2020, and 5,487 in total. It's not surprising that the number of Gold Medals is even less. There have only ever been 1,625 Gold Members awarded and only 43 in 2020. The Freestyle Bars have even fewer recipients: 287 Bronze Freestyle Bars, 328 Silver Freestyle Bars, and 160 Gold Freestyle Bars. My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has ALL SIX. I would really like to know how many other riders have all the medals.*
As I was researching the number of riders who have received the three different medals, I ran across this article, "Building Blocks to Bronze." While it doesn't tell you how many Bronze Medals have been awarded, it does talk about how difficult it can be to achieve. If you're working towards you own medal, it's a worthwhile read.
In the meantime, I am going to continue with my strategy of hitting refresh. Eventually my scores will become official, and I'll be able to apply for my Bronze Medal. Of course, the medals aren't awarded until the end of the year so more waiting will be necessary. I will be able to buy my lapel pin though. You can bet that will happen the instant my pink section becomes green!
Refresh. Refresh. Refresh ...
* According to this USDF article, as of 2011, only 10 USDF members had earned all six medals. Chemaine Hurtado is certainly a member of a very elite group of dressage riders.
Back in February, I shared a post wherein I had entered my Third Level scores into a spreadsheet so that I could see if any patterns showed up. Boy did they! What with COVID-19 and the cancellation of all shows this spring, I completely forgot about my spreadsheet until I got home from this most recent show.
As a teacher, I run quite a few different reports, particularly matrices, to track student progress. The reason we use matrices is to check how a student does overall and how a student performs in one particular area. And usually, we look for multiple examples of that performance. If I am checking on a student's understanding of multiplying with fractions, I will run a matrix report that focuses only on the questions that tested multiplying with fractions.
When I create an assessment, I generally test no more than three or four skills. For each skill, I will generate three or four questions designed to show whether a student understands that particular skill. Because we're teachers and like things to be readable and accessible to all types of learners, we often display the data with colors which clearly indicate a student's level of proficiency. Usually, we assign blues and green for mastery, yellows and oranges for students approaching mastery, while red is reserved for far below mastery.
After I input the scores from last weekend's show, I realized that while my spreadsheet showed overall percentages for each movement, I couldn't really "see" the inconsistencies. So, I took a page from my work practices and applied color to my scores.
As soon as I added color, our strengths and weaknesses jumped off the page. I chose to only color the scores at the extreme ends: 7s and 8s were done in shades of green while the 4s and below were done in shades of yellows and reds. The more extreme the score, the darker the color. The 8s are in a dark green, and the 1s are a dark red. The middle scores, the 5s and 6s, I left white. At the bottom of each column is my average score.
While our strong movements are quite obvious, so are our weaknesses. Our flying change from left to right is wildly inconsistent. Out of 19 attempts, we've scored 4s or lower 40% of the time. On the other hand, we've earned 7s 20% of the time and when combined with the 6s and 5s, we've had "okay" scores 60% of the time. Still, there's nothing like a 1.0 to trash your overall score especially since the flying changes have a double coefficient - for you non-dressage peeps, that means the score gets counted twice.
So what does all of this mean? How can I use this information? I am glad you asked! There are two weeks until our next two-day USDF show. The one movement that we desperately need to get right is the left to right flying lead change. I simply can't afford to give away 14 - 16 points by earning 2s and 3s. Earning a 7.0 instead of a 3.0, will raise my overall score by at least 2%. That's the difference between a 58% and a 60%. The other movement that has to get better is the canter half pass, particularly to the right.
Yesterday, I started working on both movements. Instead of telling Speedy he was the best boy for getting one left to right change and then walking away from it, I told him he was a good boy, but I wanted three or four of them. I need him to know that giving me one isn't good enough. So, we did the change, walked around a bit, and then we did it again, and again, and again. I praised him each time, but I also focused on making each one better than the one before.
Then we tackled the half passes. The other day, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, shared a Facebook post from Dressage Today that offered a tip to improve the accuracy of the half passes. In it, Leslie Webb (who lived and worked in Bakersfield for many years) is quoted as saying, "Align your outside hip, inside hand and the bit with your destination letter in one straight line. (This will help you remember to use your inside rein as an indirect rein, not an open one.) Imagine this line, and you will always arrive at the proper destination in all your half passes, whether they are shallow or steep, at trot or canter." —Leslie Webb
Hello. Where have YOU been all of my life? Riding with this in mind didn't fix our half passes, but it did give me a better idea of how to apply the aids. On Izzy, it was a magical solution, but he's an over-achiever. Speedy wasn't too receptive, but with some practice, it should improve our half passes. It certainly can't hurt.
Right now, my goal to is to get my scores up into the mid-60s. Will it happen at this next show? I don't know, but that's what I am shooting for. As painful as it was, I also studied the videos and score sheets from each of the three tests we did this weekend. It's easy to see that I just need to clean up a few things. Speedy and I have some work to do over the next two weeks, but I know it will pay off.
I definitely enjoy a challenge.
Third Level is taking more out of Speedy than First or Second ever did. I remember when he could do a Friday warm up ride and then two tests a day without any issues. Now? Not so much. Based on the results of this show, I am going to have to change the way I am doing things if I want to ride three tests over a two-day show.
We weren't brilliant. We weren't even decent. We finished the test with a sad little 58% and change. It was deserved though. We gave away our 60% in three movements - the walk pirouette to the left (4.0), the canter at C (4.0), and that pesky left to right flying change (3.0). In the walk pirouette, Speedy started to poop just as I asked for the turn. In the video (3:45), you can see him step wide which cost us several points. The canter depart at C has plagued us since the beginning. If I am not super correct in my aids, Speedy picks up the left lead. It's now a "thing." The change of lead was just him saying, NO. He basically flipped me the bird. We all know he can do a lovely left to right change. He just didn't really want to.
Were it not for those three errors, we would have had a score in the low 60s as we had a smattering of 7.0s to help the 5.0s. What this test showed me was that Speedy gets tired which makes him grumpy. We'll attend another two-day show in mid-July. My plan will be to do a short ride on Friday afternoon, no longer than 30 minutes total. My warm up on Saturday will be no longer than 20 minutes. On Sunday, my warm up can't be more than about 12 minutes, and it can only consist of a stretchy walk, trot, and canter. I am finding that Speedy is giving me his best work in the warm up.
If I ask for a movement too many times, he starts to feel like he's getting picked on and pretty much throws in the towel. That definitely happened with the flying changes on Sunday. I did a few in the warm up to "sharpen him up," but when I asked for them during the test, he felt like he had already shown me his best effort so he said nope. Lesson learned, Dude.
It wasn't all bad though. Our entry was still good with a 6.5, our rein back was solid with another 6.5, our second walk pirouette was spot on with a 7.5, and our medium canter showed some improvement with a 7.0. My friend Jen, the show manager, had shot a slow-motion video of parts of the ride that revealed I needed more outside rein in my 10-meter circles. I added that in and bumped those scores up to a 6.5 and a 7.0. And as usual, our last centerline was a 7.0
Shooting video for me for this test was my trainer's daughter. She had a young friend with her who is just getting into dressage, so on the video you can hear Morgan coaching her young student. After I listened to it, I felt sorry for the friend because some of the movements weren't performed well enough to be able to identify them. I am looking at you extended gaits! Here's the video with the score sheet following.
More tomorrow ...
While this is probably the best Third Level test we've done, at a USDF show anyway, I can still see we have so much work to do. We earned a 61.750%. It was "enough," but like I mentioned yesterday, I want us to get better. My goal is to ride tests that earn scores in the mid-sixties.
While we have plenty of room for improvement, I didn't make any obvious errors, and there were some parts that were pretty good. We scored an 8.0 for our first centerline, and our walk pirouettes, always a strong movement for us, scored a 7.0 and an 8.0. In the video you'll hear hear Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, tease us a bit right before the first walk pirouette when Speedy spooked. He actually spooked because the scribe made a sudden and loud noise, and while you won't hear it on the video, she gasped out an audible oops in apology. Given the dramatic spook (look for at it the three minute mark), I thought his recovery was pretty spectacular.
While the flying changes weren't brilliant, they were on my aids, and they happened at the centerline. While a 6.0 just means sufficient, it's a much better score than the 1.0 we got twice last year.
The left to right flying change also went pretty well. Again, not spectacular, but it was when and where I asked for it. The screenshots make his changes look so dramatic, but on the video you can barely see him make the jump.
What I love about these two changes is how rhythmic they were. We've worked really hard to be able to do the changes without a change in the tempo. It was only a few weeks ago that I was able to figure out why he was rushing through them. For so long I had to really put on the gas to get some jump in the canter. I realized that I was still asking for that rev up even though he doesn't need it any more. Once I quieted my seat down, his changes started to happen within the canter rhythm.
My half passes still need a lot of work, and the shoulder-ins weren't as nice as in Test 1. But again, nothing was catastrophic. Last year we struggled with some 3.0s and 4.0s (and even some 1.0s and 2.0s), but this year, I've turned them into 5.0s and 6.0s. With a little work, I know I can turn those into 6.0s and 7.0s, and that's how I'll get scores in the mid-sixties.
Here's the video, again with Chemaine offering some feedback. The score sheet follows.
Tomorrow - day two.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read