From Endurance to Dressage
I am pretty hard on myself. I am certain you are sick of hearing that line, but it continues to be true. I have a much easier time giving my horses the credit they deserve. So please, join me in giving Speedy G a round of applause. He was an absolute rock star at the show.
It makes showing so much easier when you can just walk away from your horse and know that he is perfectly content to stand at the trailer for the next twelve hours if needed. I hung his hay bag and a bucket of water and he just stood there, waiting patiently for me to tell him what was next.
Not only is he good tied at the trailer, but he is always a favorite of the volunteers and spectators. He loves everybody and is confident that they love him right back. He reaches his muzzle out to anyone who passes by and invariably cons them out of a scratch or a pat on his neck. There is just something about this horse that people are drawn to. He reminds everyone of their own special mounts.
He adores standing around the ring watching other horses do their thing. He greets every pony that walks by with a friendly look and does his best to sidle up next to anyone who will have him. He never sneers or pins his ears at any of the other horses, and he quickly forgives those who might not greet him as warmly.
We always get lots of compliments, those people should see what a stinker he is at home, but lately, we're getting praise of a different sort. Usually people admire his clean and silky coat or his cute expression. But recently, we've received some very nice comments pertaining to his physique and conformation.
Several people stopped to admire his very solid rear end, he's really purebred? (I hear that a lot.) Others approved of his nicely arched neck and muscled shoulders. I heard several comments about his development being very unusual for an Arabian. I was told that most Arabians have very petite necks and backs and butts. Petite being used as a euphemism for ewe-necked and hollow backed.
I don't take this as an affront to the Arabian breed at all. Instead, I take these comments to mean that people can appreciate that his breeder, Feather Arabians, bred for correct build and movement rather than fashion. They also recognize the results of good, correct training (thanks to the many people who are helping me: JL, Chemaine Hurtado, and Dr. Christian Schacht).
This isn't a sales add, Speedy G is definitely not for sale. I just wanted to share how tremendously proud I am of the horse he's matured into.
Holy smokes! I can't believe the amazing feedback you all offered yesterday. I know we're improving, very slowly, but often times it feels like it's all in my head. I loved it that so many people could actually SEE the improvement just through some photos. That speaks volumes. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for acknowledging our progress.
My second test was less than a half an hour after the first so I just walked around on the buckle. Speedy would have been grouchy had I gone back to the warm-up. It was a toasty day, high 90s, and I just didn't want to burn up his last bit of energy.
While my score was very good for the first test (67.679%), I wasn't really happy with the ride, so rather than working on "go" and "bend," I decided to focus just on improving the inside bend. With the heat building, I knew that Speedy would get resentful if I kept insisting that he trot bigger and with more expression. It simply wasn't going to happen.
My score was a bit lower for Training Level Test 3 than it was for T2 (65.800%), but I was happier with how I rode it. My first loop at the trot was weak (5.5), completely my fault, but I fixed it for the second one (7.0). The judge noticed as well, better shape and energy.
We didn't get nearly as many sevens for this test (ten as compared to seventeen), but this test only has 13 movements as compared to the 16 in Test 2. We did improve our halts though from the first test to the second. We earned sixes on Test 2 and seven point fives for Test 3.
Even though our score was lower, I liked how Speedy felt for this test. He was listening better and was more receptive to my aids. I am also really happy about the canter to trot transition at C (right in front of the judge). We've earned a seven there the last three times I've ridden this test. Since that is a downward transition on a right lead canter, the side we struggle with most, I am happy to see such a solid score.
With that, here is the score sheet.
The second half of the test rode better than the first. It looks like the free walk really helped him to relax.
For Test 2, the judge said that we had a very steady test. I think a very fluid test is an improvement, but it could simply be the judge's way of saying the same thing! It's his final words that are particularly nice to read, consistently harmonious throughout. That's what it felt like to me.
I really wanted to use Sunday's show to work on my own relaxation. My goals were two-fold:
For both tests, I entered at A focusing on my ride and thinking about how I wanted to execute each movement. In the past, the tests always just flew by in fast forward which always left me playing catch up. With more experience, I am finding that I am able to ride much more in the moment which is certainly helping to improve my scores.
Aberdeen, Speedy's new trail buddy, went up with us, and after checking that I truly didn't need help with anything, she went and hung out with an acquaintance as well as a few other people to whom I had just introduced her. That left me free to focus on my horse and get myself mentally prepared for my first test. I suspect her "disappearance" was very deliberate, but I appreciated it.
I was actually saddled ten minutes too early, which turned out to be a blessing as there was a glitch in the schedule. It turns out my first ride time was fifteen minutes earlier than I thought. Had I been on Sydney, the earlier time would have been a problem, but with Speedy, I simply shrugged my shoulders about it. He hardly needs a warm up.
The purpose of the Training Level Tests is to confirm the horse is supple and moves forward in a clear and steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit. We've got that, but what we need now for First Level is more forward thrust and better bend for the lateral work. First Level's purpose is to confirm that the horse has developed the thrust to achieve improved balanced and thoroughness and to maintain a more consistent contact with the bit.
As I rode Training Level Test 2, I kept the ideas of forward thrust and inside bend in my mind and tried to get as much as I could from Speedy. At the test's end, I was a bit disappointed as I know we've ridden the test better. I felt that by asking for more thrust, we sacrificed some rhythm. I also felt like my half halts weren't going through in the corners which negatively affected the bend.
Here are some photos. Some show me with a solid position, while others show areas of needs to improve.
At the show Speedy and I did a few weeks ago, I thought I rode this test better, but I scored a very low 61.250% on day one. This time, I knew the test wasn't our best, but the judge awarded us a whopping 67.679% and the comment, "confident partner."
The judge is a licensed "S" judge, which means that he can judge all levels at national shows, so I don't know if my scores were a tad higher since this was only a CDS show and not a USDF-rated show or not. Interestingly, the judge at the last show (USDF-rated) is an "R" judge which means he can only judge through 4th Level. It just goes to show that you never can tell.
Here is the score sheet.
Look at the second movement: 7.5, active, well bent. We got heavily dinged a few weeks ago on that same movement; we had no inside bend and needed more activity. It would seem as though our work over the past two weeks is paying off.
The stretchy trot is our nemesis, but look at the slew of sevens. That just blows me away! I love the comment at movement fourteen, steady bend and energy. And that's to the right!
It's hard to ask to ask for more than a very steady test. We'll probably never get comments of "brilliant ride," or "fancy mover," but I'll definitely take steady!
And even though I didn't feel that this was our best work, I heard that the score earned us the Adult Amateur High Point which has a $50 cash prize. Not a bad way to start and end the day!
I really love my two boys. They're not perfect, but they are pretty cool dudes. Aberdeen came over on Saturday and we trailered out to the river for a two hour trail ride. I always forget how much I enjoy hitting the trail.
Both boys loaded up with their customary ease and unloaded just as pleasantly. Sydney still gets a bit tense backing out of the trailer, but he manages to get the job done. Tacking up was a bit wild and woolly as both boys were feeling fresh and excited to be working somewhere new.
Sydney kept nipping at my shoulders, something he does when he's feeling anxious. He doesn't use his teeth, but he likes to grab me with his lips. I just patted his neck and puttered around as if this was our every day routine. Speedy needs some TLC as I girth him up as he still panics when the girth is tightened. It's an ongoing issue, and one which I am managing, but it makes things a bit hectic when both boys need mothering at the same time.
Within no time though, both horses were saddled. We walked through the trail head fencing and got on at the bottom of the hill. Sydney was quite the looky-lou and his body was pretty tense, but he slowly released the tension and finished the ride completely on the buckle.
We rode through the trees along the river trying to stay in the shade as much as possible. I was so pleased with Sydney. He wanted to be in the front and managed to do most of the weird places all on his own. There were a few times that Speedy needed to go first, but as soon as Speedy offered a forward step, Sydney was right behind, bravery resurfacing.
We even rode through some very narrow trail that has a canopy of trees just over our heads. For a tense horse, the closed in aspect of the trail can be very claustrophobic, but Sydney took it in stride without a single mis-step. At the half way point, we got off to give the horses a quick break in the shade while Aberdeen checked out Rancho Rio's arenas.
We took a different trail back, and even let the horses pick up a canter over an undulating and winding trail. Speedy offered a few bucks, but Aberdeen just laughed through them and kept his head up. What I most appreciated about Sydney was that as soon as I asked for a return to walk, he was on the buckle without any need to hurry. In fact, we walked along a bit and then picked up another canter.
Our river has fairly steep sides and is pretty brushy along the way so it's not easy to get down to the water's edge. We finally found a spot though so we took the horses down for a drink. I had to get off to coax Sydney to the water's edge, but once I was on the ground, he happily stepped in and got a long drink. And then of course he kept going and tried to pull me in.
Once we were back at the trailer, we untacked and offered both horses fresh water. They must have tanked up well enough in the river because neither of them was interested. They hungrily dug into their beet pulp though while we let them cool off before driving back home. It's only a ten minute drive to this trail head, so the lunch break was just to give Sydney a chance to stand tied at the trailer to show him that good things happen there.
Speedy was once again a perfectly well-behaved pony. He loves getting out to do different things so I know this trip was very good for his brain. It makes me proud to know that I've helped him become such a model equine citizen, and it's fun to watch someone else ride and enjoy him. I know Aberdeen misses her own horses and wants them to be here, but she's welcome to ride Speedy in the meantime. I know he enjoyed her company!
It's just a small CDS show, but it's kind of our last "practice" for the RAAC in late August. It's not like Speedy's just going to be sitting around, but it's our last opportunity to see what we can do in our tests with our new found go and bend buttons.
I've been really happy with the work we've done the last two weeks. It's not like his inside bend is automatic, but I've had some wonderful rides on him where I could finally feel the stiffness and address it.
We've also been working hard on improving our canter departures. We're decent to the left, but much like with Sydney, he's reluctant to the right. I am learning that I need a lot more outside rein with him as well to keep his butt lined up with his shoulders.
I wrote about Aberdeen the other day, the woman relocating here from Scotland. She's actually going to the show with me. I told her it's like winning the lottery to have someone to hold my jacket, dust off my boots, and take photos.
It's a also a bit stressful to bring someone along as I always feel a sense of needing to keep that person happy and entertained. The truth is, I've been doing this by myself now for so long that having someone along makes me feel a bit crowded and gets me off my rhythm. Instead of letting it stress me out, I've decided to not feel bad about using her as a gopher. She's a big girl; she doesn't need me to entertain her.
In fact, I know she'll enjoy hanging out at an American dressage show. She can watch other riders go, meet people, or just enjoy a snack in the shade. I might even find that my boot polisher has gone AWOL!
I ride Training Level Test 2 at 1:11 and Test 3 at 1:32 which is much later than I usually ride at this show. I'll actually have time to give Speedy a bath this morning instead of having had to do it yesterday afternoon.
Wish us luck!
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%: