From Endurance to Dressage
The good news is that we had a very pleasant and relaxed first test. The bad news is that I don't have any drama llama moments to share with you so this post might get a tad boring. As such, I am keeping it super short and sweet.
Chemaine met me at the warm-up and helped me get Speedy focused and stretching. I will say that with her help, I've learned that Speedy actually needs a longer warm-up than I've been giving him. Normally I ride for 15 - 20 minutes. Chemaine had me walk for 10 minutes working on flexions to the right and left before we even started our trot work. This definitely helped Speedy loosen up through his back. I think 30 minutes is going to be Speedy's best warm-up time: 10 minutes of walking followed by 20 minutes of other exercises.
The test went well, we scored a 64.464% which was good enough for 2nd place out of five riders. Again, we had no 5s on the test, which has become my personal indicator of whether or not we're ready for First Level. We also had a collection of 7s and even a 7.5.
Peggy Klump, a former CDS president, was the judge, and I know she is well respected for being fair and consistent. I rode in a clinic with her in 2011 and loved the experience. She's also judged me a time or two in the past, and I've found her comments to be helpful and accurate.
Chemaine and I studied Peggy Klump's further remarks quite closely and worked hard all weekend to address the weaknesses. Peggy wrote, "Smooth? test that needs polish w/clear bend & balance, keeping poll highest point. Develop rounder frame, prepare more for transitions w/poll ⬆ & this talented pair shows potential for brilliant performance."
I think we're nearly finished with Training Level Test 2. We're starting to show some real consistency in the test. I am guessing that by some time next year we can either use this test simply as a warm-up, or leave it behind all together. My score sheet is posted below. More drama tomorrow!
Before I get to the show, I need to tell you about the fantastic lesson I had with Chemaine on Friday evening.
After having some lunch and getting settled in, I saddled Speedy and head out to the warm-up ring. I started out with lots of walking and a suppling exercise that I had learned from Chemaine the month before.
Chemaine Hurtado, of Symphony Dressage Stables, is based at CastleRock Farms in Moorpark. She is an outstanding trainer. If you live anywhere near Ventura, and you're looking for dressage help, I suggest you give her a call at 805-340-3246.
The walk work and the trot work seemed to go okay. I wasn't as happy as I had been at the show two weeks prior, but it wasn't a total disaster until I asked for the canter. Crap. I knew I was in trouble.
The first summer I showed, back in 2010, I got lots of comments that read hollow, needs steadier contact, needs better energy, and above the bit. It took a while to start feeling what those things really meant. Now that I know what hollow feels like, I do everything to avoid riding it. Speedy's canter on Friday was so hollow that I felt as though I was riding a hammock with a head and a tail. His back couldn't have been any lower without his belly dragging on the ground.
When I asked for a canter, I got a buck and a kick followed by a leap and a rear that was followed by a dirty slam on the brakes. Repeatedly. I had told my mom that she chould sit in the shade along the arena's edge and relax for a moment as my warm-up would be quick and we could head back to the trailer.
After a half hour, I started to feel sorry for my mom, but I felt like I just had to get something that approached a canter transition or I was going to be in big, big trouble on Saturday. I never did get a good transition, but at least the bucking and kicking tapered off. To say I was discouraged, frustrated, and bummed out would be a classic understatement. I just didn't want my mom to have driven 650 miles to watch a 55% dressage test. I put Speedy away and sent Chemaine a frantic text: HELP!
The plan had already been for Chemaine to coach us through both tests each day as needed. She needed to be at El Sueno anyway later that evening so we planned to meet at 6:30 for an emergency pull us together lesson. Knowing that help was on the way, I was able to relax and visit with my mom.
When Chemaine arrived, my mom was quite impressed that I would be using the ear pieces to hear Chemaine's instructions. She thought Chemaine's whole approach was pretty classy and upscale. After listening to the lesson and watching me magically improve to become an actual dressage rider, Mom promoted Chemaine to Trainer Extraordinaire!
Chemaine's quick assessment was that Speedy was tight in the back so we worked on getting him to stretch over his top line. If you've been following any length of time, you already know that the stretchy trot is my nemesis. Chemaine was finally able to show me a way to effectively ask Speedy to consistently stretch down. By Sunday afternoon, I could get him to stretch down nearly on command and he liked it! I earned three 6s and a 6.5 for our stretchy trot during the tests. That 6.5 was one of my favorite scores of the weekend!
For those that are like me and find the stretchy trot to be a complete mystery, here's how we did it.
I discovered that while I am not afraid of him bolting and running off, I am afraid of "handling" that bigger and bolder movement. It takes a lot of balance and control to keep that energy connected without falling apart (as in the trot loops at Training Level Test 3). I also discovered it's a lot like riding a bike: if you go too slowly, the bike wobbles and you fall over. If you can get your bike zooming along, you can ride the energy forward.
Do I see trot lengthenings in our very near future? More tomorrow ...
I am home! What a great weekend filled with time spent with my mom, dancing, lots of riding, and making new friends. I had a total blast at this year's California Dressage Society's Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) and El Sueno's Championship!
On Friday night, the show management provided a pizza dinner and drinks, which was a great way to visit with old friends and make new ones. Mom and I had a great time and felt very welcome.
On Saturday evening, The Ventura County Chapter (VCC) of the California Dressage Society threw a fantastic barn party! There was wine (lots of it!), dips and veggies, wraps, fruit, and other goodies.
For entertainment, VCC brought in a great guy to lead us in line dancing and square dancing. We had the most fun learning those dances. Several times the caller joked about our lack of coordination and poor sense of direction given that we ride dressage. Most of us couldn't tell our left from our right or our toes from our heels!
My mom might have had even more fun than I did! She's quite social and had no trouble meeting everyone in our barn row. She even made some new friends that I'd never met before. On the way home, she told me that she felt as though she'd learned so much about dressage that she'll be better able to understand some of the technical stuff that I write about (such as it is!).
There is a lot more to share, of course - you know me, but I'll leave you with this tidbit: Suzi Kuykendall, the show manager (and super nice lady), draped my Championship ribbon over my chest and told me to wear it proudly. I walked down to the championship ring to say goodbye to Chemaine, my now, out-of-town trainer, and Jen, the VCC Chairperson.
Hilda Gurney had just finished her Grand Prix Championship ride on Wintersnow. As she walked by us, she noticed my championship ribbon. Stopping Wintersnow for a moment, she paused and congratulated me. I felt pretty honored that someone of her experience would take a moment to congratulate another rider even though she must have been still busy recovering from her challenging ride. Thank you, Hilda Gurney; you made my day!
Nothing big. Nothing fancy. Just wanted to let you know that we, yes, there's a we this time, are heading to the Regional Adult Amateur Competition and El Sueno Championship Show. If you'll remember from yesterday, my mom is here with me to keep me company.
We spent Thursday packing the trailer and cleaning up Speedy. Mom also sat in the shade and watched me school both boys. She spent my entire saddle time oohing and aahing over how beautiful Speedy is and how lovely I ride. I gave her a few, aw shucks, Mom. But you know I was grinning from ear to ear.
We'll be on the road by 8:00 a.m., and if traffic permits, we should pull in by 11:00, just in time to unload and have lunch. Both of my Saturday rides are in the 9:00 - 10:00 range which gives me all afternoon to watch. Hilda Gurney will be riding Wintersnow, which will be a treat to watch. On Sunday, I ride in the morning and then late in the day. The Honor Round and Awards Ceremony don't start until somewhere around 4:30 so we won't get home until rather late on Sunday evening.
Wish us well; I really need some good juju right now! Have a great weekend.
It's not that I am at a loss for words, Hubby can swear that never happens, it's just that I have too much to say. So instead of a post about one topic, I need to just unload a few different things.
1. I am back to struggling with my gray pony, but at least I am not taking it personally. He is being a real stinker about the canter. He is literally hurtling his body into the gait with no effort at relaxing. When I rode on Tuesday, I just kept asking in a nice way while staying calm and relaxed myself. After what seemed like forever, he finally rolled into the canter. We made one circle, and I brought him to a halt. I praised him like there was no tomorrow. Getting frustrated with him isn't going to help anything.
2. I am worrying about this weekend's show. Of course. I am worrying about the parking; I am worrying about the stabling arrangements; but my greatest fear is that we "peaked" at the last show. I just don't see how we can equal that performance. Ridiculously, the main reason that I am so worried about it is because a handful of local riders will be there, and I don't want to be the bumbling country cousin that everyone rolls their eyes at. Oh, right, her again.
I know, I know; it's stupid. I give my students a million ways to combat those self-destructive thoughts: Success Starts with Believing in Yourself; For Success, Attitude is as Important as Ability; and my favorite, The Three D's to Succeed: Desire, Discipline, Dedication. I am up to my chin in those three things.
3. I got some good work out of Sydney on Tuesday. We mainly worked to the right. I could feel my brain firing like crazy with all of the info I learned on Monday. The first thing I did was to really make sure he was working from that outside rein. Once he felt balanced, I started asking him to soften off the inside rein. And then, all of a sudden I could feel when I needed to use my inside leg. I asked for a right lead canter and actually got it the first time. It wasn't a spectacular transition, but getting it right away felt like a victory. I called it a day.
4. My mom is coming to the show. She drove down from Cave Junction, Oregon just to camp out with me for three days at the show. It's a 650 mile trip so I feel some added pressure to do well and make sure that she has fun. I know she'll be wearing her rose colored glasses and will only see an Olympic rider on Speedy G, but still ... I'll know it's just me.
Even though I am anxious about it, I am still looking forward to having my mom walking with me from the warm-up and waiting patiently (or not so patiently) ring side as we do our tests. Oh, and to have a boot polisher will be divine!
As hard as I tried to make this a true list of 5 Things, I couldn't find a fifth thing that has me worried. Well thank goodness for that! So instead, here's a bit of a Can-Do to help myself out ...
5. I work really hard to improve (Success: Don't Just Wish for it, Work for it!). I do a lot with a little: I travel alone (no groom/trainer), I ride non-traditional breeds (Arabian & OTTB), I don't have a dressage trainer (h/j trainer instead), and yet, we still mange to get the job. Win or lose, I'm in it for the education and experience (Education is Not Received, It's Achieved!).
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%: