From Endurance to Dressage
Be forewarned. I am over it already, so if I sound blasé, know that it is not out of arrogance, but out of humility. One good show does not make me any better than I was two weeks ago, although Chemaine hates it when I lowball myself. (Sorry, Chemaine. I am just not good at blowing my own horn.)
I was the first rider in ring 2 on Saturday. That can be either great, or a little unnerving. I felt like I was setting the stage for everyone else. If nothing else, the rest of the riders would reap the rewards after the judge saw us go as it's a near certainty that they'll be better. For the last two years in a row I've scored dead last in the RAAC class. Not just low, but DEAD last. TWICE. I hoped this year would put me at least in the middle of the field.
When I go to a show, I am truly riding to beat my last score regardless of where that places me against the rest of the field. I am not too terribly competitive against other riders, but I do want to kick my own butt. But last? I wanted to do better.
I finished Training Level Test 2 with a feeling of having put in a solid ride, but I knew it wasn't perfect. There were some bobbles here and there, although nothing went spectacularly wrong.
I had about 45 minutes until Training Level Test 3, so I took Speedy back to his stall and let him get a drink and hang out for a few minutes. I didn't have time to check my scores, so I had to wing my next test without the benefit of seeing what the judge liked or wasn't so pleased with in Test 2.
I left that test feeling like it too was fairly solid, but again, there were little hiccups here and there. I untacked Speedy, ditched my breeches for shorts, and walked over to the board to check my scores.
When I looked at the first score, my heart dropped into my stomach. My score was scratched out which I was CERTAIN meant that I had been disqualified for some reason. When I looked closer to see why, I realized that my score was written above the scribble, and then my heart took a magnificent leap. Was that right? I had scored a 70.179% at a USDF show.
Not only was I not dead last, I had just earned a personal best on a USEF test (I have another 70% at a USDF shows, but it was at Introductory Level and not recognized by USEF). My mission for the weekend was complete. I had earned a qualifying score for the CDS Championship, and I had ridden to the best of my ability. I was ready to pack it up and head home.
I couldn't have been more thrilled with a second place ribbon. And to make it even better, there were more than two riders in the class. I never place high so this felt pretty sweet. Then I checked out my score for the biggest class of the show. The Training Level 3 class had ten riders, which is pretty rare for around here. Our classes tend to have five or fewer riders, so this class was HUGE by our standards.
When I saw that "2" next to my score, I practically swooned! The score was pretty nice (68%), but the placing just stunned me. I actually am good enough to compete. I am going to treasure that red ribbon forever. It's the first time that I've ever really been competitive in a class.
I went to bed on Saturday night feeling satisfied with the world. Since coming back home, I've had a bit of time to reflect, and there are a few things I want to share, but I am going to wait until I've written about the classes on Sunday. I know we did well this weekend, but like I said, I'm over it and moving on. My 12 minutes of awesomeness have passed, and it's time to get back to planet Earth. I had a great lesson on Sydney on Monday night, which was a great reminder that I am not all that.
Sunday's rides tomorrow ...
I am writing this at 5:00 a.m., so forgive the lack of quality and the typos!
A few weeks ago, it looked as though some of my Ventura friends were going to be attending the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), including Chemaine Hurtado, my occasional dressage trainer. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for them to come. I was a bit disappointed as I was really looking forward to a lesson on Friday night.
A different dressage friend, VG, did make it to RAAC, and she brought her trainer, Peggy Klump. Peggy was a California Dressage Society president, currently serves on the CDS board, and is a well-respected trainer. I asked VG privately if Peggy would be willing to give me an unscheduled lesson, and when she said she thought so, I asked, and the next thing I knew, I was getting some coaching after all.
Peggy was also schooling her three clients and their horses that evening so I sat around to watch that series of lessons first. I found it amazing that Peggy could coach VG while riding S's horse and also be talking to S about what her horse was doing. This was after schooling R's Arabian, Orion. The woman has more energy than I've ever seen!
VG rides First and Second Level right now, quite successfully, but is moving to Third and Fourth for next season. That little German Riding Pony can bust a move! VG won one of her RAAC classes and scored in the 70s for a second place in her other RAAC class while also earning high score for all Novice RAAC entries. Pretty darned good!
Peggy is a boisterous, loud, high energy instructor. She's quick to point out what's not going right, several times I heard, WHERE are you going? as I lost Speedy's shoulder and drifted wide of B or E, but she's also immediate in her praise and very supportive of her students. I had ridden with her before so I knew that I would enjoy the lesson.
She gave me a lot of information, but the two things that I kept in mind during the show were her tips on improving my geometry (LOOK WHERE YOU"RE GOING!), and the idea of soft hands. This one was huge.
I hold a lot of tension in my wrists, so Peggy pointed it out and showed me what a soft hand can feel like. She actually grabbed my hands and tugged and pulled so that I could feel what was happening in Speedy's mouth. Her analogy was to think of a dental hygienist. Would I want her knocking on my mouth or using even pressure? Speedy responded immediately when I released the tension, which was enough of a motivator for me to begin implementation of soft hands ASAP.
Throughout all four tests, that soundtrack played repeatedly in the background of my mind … soft hands, soft hands, soft hands.
If you're a Facebook friend, you already know how the weekend went for us. If you want to know ahead of time, go ahead and check out my Show Results 2014 link, but I'm going to wait until tomorrow to tell you how Saturday's classes went. In the meantime, here's a photo of the cool goodie bag and treats that all of the RAAC participants received followed by some pictures of the grounds.
The California Dressage Society's (Central) Regional Adult Amateur Competition has finally arrived. I know I've been talking about it for quite a while. I had pretty much written this show season off when Speedy came up lame in February with a hoof injury. I knew it was unlikely that we would make it to a USDF show, much less qualify for the RAAC. But, here we are!
Somehow, Speedy recovered in time to salvage the season and get me qualified for the regional show. We didn't get to do it at First Level, but I am still grateful to be going. Thank goodness I have at least one amateur friendly horse!
I am sure I've shared all of this before, but for those who weren't here or for those who don't remember, the RAAC is designed for adult amateurs like myself. The show entry for RAAC states:
The mission of these competitions is to provide an opportunity for all CDS Adult Amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience. The regional nature of these shows will help provide our membership with a developmental path to gain competitive experience, to promote excellence, and increase awareness of and support for CDS Chapters.
Not a bad idea at all! Qualifying for the RAAC is more abut participation than it is necessarily about scoring well. For Training Level through Fourth Level (including PSG and I1), a rider must earn three scores of 60% or better from at least two judges from any test at the level. For Introductory Level, which we won in 2012, the rider must earn three scores of 65% or better from at least two judges from Test C.
We qualified easily with all eight of our scores well over the required 60% mark. Four of the scores were over 65% and one was even as high as 68%. I think we're pretty prepared for this year's event.
This year's central RAAC is in Paso Robles at the same venue as in 2012. I liked the facility and am looking forward to showing off what we've learned. Each year that I've headed to RAAC, I've had specific goals in mind, but this year, I just really want to enjoy the experience and ride to the best of my ability. It's hard to ask for more than that.
Have a great weekend, and I will see you on Monday!
Over the weekend I found out that my Monday and Wednesday lessons were cancelled. It was okay though because I felt like firming up our latest work was really important before adding a new element.
The latest is of course, the right lead canter. Things went quite well on Saturday. They were even better on Sunday. By Tuesday's ride, I was grinning from ear to ear. For the first time ever, I was able to ask for repeated right lead canter departures wherever I wanted to in the arena. We worked in the scary end where I asked for the canter in the second half of the circle at C, between H and C, and even between C and M. If he got fussy, I worked the inside rein as firmly as I needed to remind him that he can't hang on it.
When I took a lesson with Chemaine a week or so ago, she reminded me of a technique that Christian Schacht uses to encourage a horse to let go of the inside rein. He has the rider lift the inside hand toward the outside shoulder, effectively crossing the withers (something we're never supposed to do). The instant the horse lets go, the rider MUST give a release. I can't over-use the technique with Sydney, but mild variations of it remind him that he must let go.
JL has had me sponge or rock the inside rein, but when that doesn't get the job done, I can now use Christian's method. And once Sydney has been encouraged to let go with that aid, it is much easier to remind him with the rocking of the rein.
The more in charge I am, the more relaxed he becomes. This horses doesn't want to have to make a single decision. He doesn't want to save my butt, and he certainly doesn't like multiple choice questions or fill in the blanks. He wants me to point exactly where he is to go.
No problem, Sydney. I can handle it!
I can't believe how viewing Sydney as a non-AF horse caused such a huge shift in my thinking. If you're wondering where I am going with this, you can check out the discussion in this post from last week. I had a whole week to consider what I would do differently with a horse who is not AF. I got my first chance to try out the ideas on Saturday.
In some ways, Sydney helped out with the whole thing by wanting to gallop in his turn out. Since he is ridden so regularly, he rarely needs to let off steam in turn out, but since he hadn't been ridden in a week, he had quite a fire stoked. For me, this was great because by the time I saddled up, he was already warmed up and in front of my leg.
Right away I got the feeling that he was still up and could go either way - relax, or let 'em rip. I sat up tall and immediately started asking him to go long and low without a single moment of popping above the bit to gawk. Basically, I put him straight to work.
I kept my mind on the job at every moment and didn't let his attention wander for even a second. Every stride I asked for softness or bend or more forward … something. And you know what? It really worked! I got some nice trot work out of him that was relaxed, supple, and willing.
The first thing I asked for was some counter bending work. I counter bent him at the trot for half of the circle and allowed him to be on the correct bend for the second half of the circle. We repeated the counter bend/true bend exercise for several minutes and then changed direction. I finally started to feel some real lift in his shoulders and the bending exercise helped him to loosen up.
From there, we went right into some left lead canter work that was soft and light. We cantered a 20-meter circle, then went down the long side, and then repeated the 20-meter circle. It was effortless. We took a very short walk break and changed direction.
As soon as we were tracking right, Sydney tried to come above the bit, but I insisted that he keep his down and that he wait for me. No rushing, no hurrying, and no looking around. I asked for a right lead canter and got it with no fussing. He was a bit strong in his first few strides, but I insisted on softness and he came right back to me. We did a few more right lead canter departures, each one better than the one before it, and then called it a day.
For the whole ride, I just kept telling him that I had all day. There was no need for tension on his part because I was there to do the thinking for both of us, so his best choice was to just hand over the metaphorical reins and enjoy the ride. And that's what he did. I always ride with a purpose, but this felt even more purposeful than before.
I really think I am onto something with this idea that I am not on an amateur friendly horse. Not that I am anything but an amateur myself, but recognizing that my horse isn't going to fill in the blanks for me gives me a whole new purpose.
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read