From Endurance to Dressage
There's more? Yeah. How much more - I have stuff to do! Two more posts after this one. How long was this dang show anyway? Long!
I was finished with both of my tests by 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. Once Speedy was put back in his stall, there wasn't much to do but spend the day watching all of the other riders do their tests. It was a day well spent, but it was also quite tiring to sit out in the sun for so many hours.
On Sunday, my rides weren't until 3:00 in the afternoon, which meant that I spent another day pretty much sitting around watching everyone else ride. I did lunge Speedy and take him for a walk which required another bath, but that only takes so long. By the time I needed to saddle up, I was over it.
I had no enthusiasm, although I was trying very hard to bring my energy level up. I ate lunch, drank a coke, walked briskly, even so, I was pretty lethargic. As I entered the warm up, my stable core and strong upper body from Saturday were noticeably absent. Instead, I found spaghetti noodles attached to a bowl of Jello. I tried to shake it off and pep Speedy up, but he was feeling my low energy and happily went along with it.
Sarah, from Eventing in Color, had sent a text saying that she was popping over for a quick visit. She was scheduled to arrive in time for my first ride, but then I discovered we were running ahead so I walked over to the covered arena for my ride without getting to see her. I was hoping a visit from Sarah would give me a little adrenaline rush.
I greeted the judge, gave her my number, and head down the outside of the court waiting for her whistle. I entered at A, saluted, and tracked right at C. Right at that moment, Sarah came walking up quietly, just in time! I gave her a big smile and got that little bit of a boost that I needed.
I continued on with the test, but Sarah's dollop of energy must have run out because as I was doing my free walk, I heard the whistle blow. Seriously. How can you go off course while walking?! I was so focused on getting a better, more forward walk, that I continued straight on to H instead of turning right toward M. You know you're tired when you get lost while walking! So, that gave me a two point error.
After that little hitch in our giddy-up, everything else went okay. As I did my final halt and salute, I felt a little disappointed about the test. We had ridden it so well the day before that I was hoping to do at least as well. Sarah, being the supportive friend that she is, insisted that it looked lovely.
The afternoon break followed my test, so Sarah and I spent some time catching up and laughing while I waited to do my second test, which was one ride after the break. Her visit recharged my batteries and perked Speedy up as well. He can be such a pest! Sarah was on her way home, so she had to leave before my last ride of the show, but her visit gave me the energy to finish out the day with a positive and energetic attitude. Thank you, Sarah!
After I was finished riding my last test, I went up to the show office to get my score sheets. When I saw the score for Training Level Test 2, I was shocked! Even with the two-point deduction for the error, we still scored a 66.071%. Again we had no 5s, and we even earned a 7 for the stretchy trot! Overall, ten of the sixteen scores were 7s or higher!
Tomorrow, the final test ...
I know it must drive you nuts that I stretch these show recaps out for days and days, but I just have so darn much to say about them!
Between Test 2 and Test 3, I only had about a half an hour. I walked Speedy back to his stall but left all of his tack in place, even his bridle. He took a good drink of water, which I was happy about, and then just stood and waited patiently. I reviewed Test 3 for the hundredth time, and just thought about how I wanted to ride. I didn’t know what my Test 2 score was, but I knew I had ridden it as well as I could so I would do the same with Test 3.
With 20 minutes to go, I walked Speedy back over to the warm-up ring. I’ve learned that he doesn’t really need a second warm up. All he does need is to stretch his legs and maybe move his neck and back around. Since it is the trot loops that are the difficult element in Training Level Test 3, I focused on changes of direction by riding a few shallow serpentines. As my time approached, I called the warm-up quits and walked over to the covered ring to wait our turn.
Just like the test before, as I entered at A, I knew we were prepared. The loops weren’t perfect, but I felt like I was in control. Even on the long canter stretch that starts at A and finishes at X, Speedy stayed with me. In the past, he has gotten stronger and stronger as we near X. Not this time; he was listening and transitioned pretty nicely; we scored a 6.5.
As always, our stretchy trot was just barely satisfactory, and I suspect the judge was lenient there as she gave us a 6. I find the placement of this stretchy trot a real challenge because it comes at B as we head for “home.” Speedy knows that trotting down the long side means we’re nearly finished, but in this test, the stretchy trot interrupts the flow of that long side trot. He can get pretty pushy as I ask for the right bend, which takes us away from A. Even though the judge might have been a wee bit generous, I know it was a better stretch than in the first test.
So what was our score? An impressive 65.000%, and again, no 5s anywhere on the score sheet! All day long I kept checking the posted scores to see how our scores compared to everyone else’s. Since I don’t usually score in the upper 60s, I really wanted to see if the judge had just been generous. What I discovered was that my scores definitely fell within the top third of the scoring spectrum. She gave a couple of 70-somethings, a few 50-somethings, and a lot of scores in the low 60s.
Does scoring in the “upper” 60s make me something “special?” No. Will I still earn disappointing scores? Undoubtedly. For now, I am going to take this “win” and hug it to my heart knowing that on this day, Speedy and I showed that we are a capable team.
Sunday’s tests tomorrow …
My ride times were quite early on Saturday morning, 8:08 ad 8:46. I was a tiny bit worried that the coolness of the day might give Speedy too much energy, but I shouldn’t have worried. Like always, I checked on him as the sky was just turning gray. He’s always eager to see me on show mornings and very eager to get out of his stall. I hand walked him out into the derby field and put him on the lunge line. In no time, he was prancing around me with his nostrils flared and his tail flagged over his back.
Once he had the big moves out of him, I spent a solid twenty minutes walking around the derby field. By the time we’d made two large laps, he was more forward and less up and down. I tucked him back into his stall and fed him breakfast. I carted my tack down to his stall and changed into my show clothes. By 7:30, he was tacked up and ready to go.
I walked down to the warm-up ring eager to see if he was as relaxed as the night before. As we walked along the edge of the ring, I asked him to move his shoulders into the track and then back out onto the track. Chemaine, the trainer in Somis, had shown me this exercise as a way to supple his neck and shoulders. It definitely helps! I urged Speedy into a relaxed trot and knew that he was going to be good for me. I did a few changes of direction and then picked up the canter both ways. Our warm up lasted less than 15 minutes. He was ready.
When we entered at A for Training Level Test 2, I knew that it was going to be a good ride. Nothing was perfect of course, but as I rode, I kept thinking about how light and responsive he was being. Throughout the test, I kept putting a big smile on my face. It probably looked like a grimace to the spectators, but Christian Schacht, the clinician I’ve worked with twice this year, insists that if we smile, we will relax. So I smiled. A lot!
When we trot down the centerline for our final halt and salute, I knew we had ridden the best test we’d ever done. I didn’t know how the judge would see it, but I knew it was good. As I turned to leave the dressage court, I took a bit of a ragged breath and started to get a bit teary eyed with relief. I was so grateful to have reconnected with Speedy G. I stroked his neck all the way back to the barn and told him over and over how very proud of him I was.
Our score? A whopping 66.429%! And this wasn’t a schooling show either, but a CDS/USDF/USEF rated show. I am beyond happy! The score sheet is down below of course, but the best thing about it is that we scored nothing lower than a 6, which means I finally earned my goal of a ride with no 5s. And to make it even better, out of the 16 scores given for the directives, we earned 7s on nine of them!
I am one happy girl. First Level is getting closer and closer!
Coming tomorrow - the second test ...
The first thing I appreciated about this weekend's show was the weather. As I cruised west along the Ventura Highway, I smiled contentedly at the wall of fog that loomed in front of me. Of course, I turned south before I got to it, but the coastal coolness reached far enough inland that I had an elbow happily resting out my open window.
When I arrived at El Sueno, the breeze was softly blowing, and there was a scattering of fluffy clouds overhead. The daytime highs for the weekend were predicted to be 81℉. Bakersfield’s low has been warmer than that this past few weeks. Weather like that makes showing so much more fun.
The drive over took a little longer than I had anticipated; I took a different route, but it was worth it as it was a much gentler route. I need to start taking Blue Truck’s age into mind when I plan my trips. You know how those senior citizens can be!
The California Dressage Society’s Regional Adult Amateur Competition will be held at El Sueno in two weeks, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go to this show. They’re turning some of the temporary barns into permanent stalls, but they are bringing in a new section of portable stalls for the RAAC. For those who know the facility, the new stalls will probably be next to the fence in the derby field. I am glad I got a heads up from the show manager as I park in the derby field. I may have to move my rig back a little bit which would be a bummer as I’ve had a luxurious spot under the big oak tree.
I got Speedy settled in quickly and then unpacked all of my own stuff. I may gripe and moan about that gray pony, but he is an absolute rock star at shows. There’s no fussing or worrying or screaming his head off (like the mare who was camped next door). As long as he has his hay and water along with an occasional beet pulp mash, he is (mostly) quite happy to stand and wait for me. I check in on him frequently so he knows where I am, but I totally dig his got this vibe.
After we both had lunch, I braided Speedy’s forelock and went for a ride. He has been such a complete jerk at home over the last few weeks that I had low hopes for a good show. I took a deep breath and figured I would rather have him happy and strung out rather than braced and forced into a frame. I lengthened my reins and focused on relaxation and suppleness.
It was the best warm up we’ve ever had. He was practically floating. He felt almost jaunty! El Sueno has these wonderfully large, clean mirrors that really let you check yourself out as you ride. I used the mirrors to check on my rein length and shortened them just a bit when I realized his nose was poking out too far. But from what I could see, his frame looked perfectly acceptable for a training level horse. He was tracking up nicely and was moving forward with good energy.
As a side note, mirrors also let you see the spare tire that has formed around your waist. Sitting deeply forces butt fat up and belly fat down. All that fat then meets around your middle. I tried really hard to look at my arms and back, but my eye was invariably drawn to the ball of fat rising out of my saddle. Each time I passed a mirror I asked myself who the middle aged lady was riding Speedy. Your forties are a wonderful decade full of awesome experiences, but be prepared for a sharp reality check.
After using the warm-up, I walked over to the covered arena, which was to be our ring for Saturday and thought I should do some walking in there to just finish up the afternoon. Speedy was so relaxed and willing that I decided to do some figures just for the fun of it. I made sure to ooh and ah over him and praised him like he was the star of the show, which he was!
Frankly, I’ve been quite frustrated with Speedy lately. Every ride this past month has been a failure. I am sure he knows that I am angry and frustrated, and he must resent never getting it right. I know Friday’s ride was the complete opposite of the work we’ve been doing, which is a good thing. As I was riding, I realized that I was asking and encouraging rather than picking at him and forcing him. He was happy, and I was happy. I need to remember to just let him do his best and not nag him to death over every little thing. We’ll both be happier for the change in my attitude.
I know you were expecting some horse show news, but since I knew I would be T-I-R-E-D, I prepared this post instead. Show news tomorrow ...
I think it was some time ago, but Lauren moved to Texas and now writes a really creative blog about a variety of things, usually about her OTTB Simon. The other day she wrote about equestrian themed horse decor for your home and shared some ideas about re-purposing your horse show ribbons. You can read about it here.
I had been complaining about the massive pile of ribbons in my office at home just the day or so before I read Lauren's post. Perfect timing on her part! I really like getting ribbons, and it's easy when there are only one or two riders in the class, but seriously, the pile had gotten out of control. I had them hanging from framed prints, a book shelf, and photos. Lately, I have just been depositing them straight to the floor.
After seeing Lauren's post, I pulled all the ribbons down and made some kind of organized heap on the floor.
I remembered that I have a variety of clear vases in my pantry so I dug one of those out and started filling it with ribbons. The ribbon pile shrank a little bit, but I realized I either needed a HUGE vase, or several different ways to display the ribbons. I saw a little basket sitting in my desk's hutch so I emptied it out and stuffed ribbons in it, too.
It's actually an easy project. I folded up the tails of the ribbons and tucked them under the metal clip. I know it would have been easier to cut the rosettes off, but this way my ribbons are still intact. If you try this, it works easier with wide jars or vases. Here is how I decided to display them (for now).
Since the unused pile of ribbon's was still quite large, I drove over to Michael's, an arts and crafts store. I bought a large jar with a lid, better to keep dust out, and began stuffing it with ribbons. The ribbon pile is still pretty big, so I may go get one more jar. Michael's had this really pretty apothecary jar that was HUGE, but at $30, I am not sure I liked it that much. I'll wait and see how much I like my current display. Here is the second jar.
I placed the jar on small book shelf that holds my horse books and photo albums. There is also an early photo of Speedy and me showing.
I still have 28 ribbons, not counting the ones I won yesterday. If you have some easy ideas for repurposing show ribbons, please share! I am a bit arts and crafts challenged, so a picture is very helpful. Please feel free to email me photos of your own projects.
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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