From Endurance to Dressage
While the First Level Test 3 RAAC class felt wild and wooly, it actually doesn't look that bad except for one or two places. The judge sure nailed us on those movements though. We slunk out of the ring with a dismal 56.765% - nearly an all time low. I have some great photos, but I'll let you watch the ride first so you that you can decide if it was worth more or less than the 56% that the judge gave us.
Here's what the judge thought ... (click images to enlarge).
I didn't watch the video until late Sunday afternoon. I am glad I finally watched it because I drove home thinking it was a disastrous ride; it wasn't. Yeah, Speedy put up a serious stink at the first canter lengthening - did you see the buck? And that second canter loop on the left lead was a bit fussy, but all in all it wasn't horrible.
I have to give myself some credit as a rider. It looks a lot more pleasant than it felt. He was ticked off about that judge's booth and was letting me know it. The reason he gave a buck as we started the canter lengthening was because I had to dig my spur into him to keep him as close to the rail at C as possible. He wanted to dive in and bolt for A.
So yeah. It wasn't a perfect test, and I am kind of blaming Speedy for at least 60% of it, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. The judging was tough, but that's what you get when you enter at A at a big USDF show.
Here's some eye candy. These photos are all courtesy of Edyta.
Once again, we placed dead last in our RAAC class, but here's the funny thing. When we first showed at the 2012 RAAC, we won our Introductory Class with a solid 67.000%. The next year, we were dead last in the Training Level class with a 61.200%.The year after that, in 2014, we won the Training Level class with a whopping 72.600%. So really, things are looking good. If everything goes as it has in the past, we're looking really good for next year's First Level RAAC class!
We finished eighth out of eight riders, but we still showed up for the honor round and cheered on those riders who had a much better day than we did.
You're probably ready for some Izzy news by now, but I have one more post about the show to share. I really want/need to talk about all that I learned at this show. And it's a lot.
On tap for tomorrow... What I learned.
While our first test left something to be desired, like 1.5 points, the First Level Test 3 Green Horse class was certainly an improvement. It wasn't like we went in and kicked a bunch of butts, ours was the only one in the class after all, but Speedy was much more malleable and focused.
This photo says it all. I had no idea at all that other riders were in that warm up end of the arena, and I don't think Speedy did either. He didn't even flick an ear that direction.
While I had been in the Equidome before, Speedy sure hadn't, so I was a bit concerned about how he was going to react. I shouldn't have worried. He was far quieter and more relaxed in there than he was in the large oval where our first ride had been. It was really nice riding inside though. It was quiet, cool, and they played some lovely music that was quite soothing.
Right from the start of the test I knew it was going to go well enough. Speedy was really listening to me and trying (there is video down below). I liked our entry and halt, and I think the first trot lengthening was slightly better than the score indicated. You watch and be the judge.
Chemaine did give me some good exercises for improving the trot lengthenings. The first thing I need to do is keep my hands much lower, and we need to practice doing them for a longer distance. Speedy is showing me that he isn't strong enough to carry the lengthening across the full diagonal. With a bit more practice, we'll both get it.
Of the skills introduced at First Level, the 10-meter circles (and half circles) are definitely our strength. Speedy nails those every time. He finds them easy which is why we practice them a lot. When he gets fussy doing leg yields at home, I'll switch up the work and go to something he likes. He does these well so we do them for fun. I even think these look good on the video.
I spent a lot of time this month working on the trot to canter transitions, and I think this photo shows the improvement. Yeah, his head still pops up a bit, but I like that his croup is getting lower, and he's trying to sit down a little.
Just like the trot lengthenings, the canter lengthenings need more work as well (no photo). It's funny because it feels like Speedy is zooming down that long side, but when I watch the video, I can't see a difference in stride length at all. I've heard my jumper and event rider friends say the same thing. That is definitely something I'll be working on.
The single loop that includes a bit of counter canter is showing improvement though. I am getting Speedy closer to X which means making the loop deeper. It's a tough one to practice at home because I don't have a 60 meter length court. Even so, I am going to start working on deep loops to help improve his balance over all.
The left lead canter is a bit harder as he hangs on my left rein and has trouble moving over onto the right rein. This makes the loop more challenging as he wants to take the bend away.
Not only are the trot to canter transitions really improving, but so are the down transitions to trot. While the quality of this video still is really poor, I like it because it happens at the exact moment of the canter to trot transition, I had to look at it in slow motion about five times to catch the transition. It was that smooth.
And to finish it all off, we had a pretty decent halt, although you'll see in the video that my fan club startles him a little with their enthusiastic applause!
When I looked at the score sheet, I was pretty happy. We earned fives 7.0s one of which had a coefficient of 2, but our total score was still only a 61.765%. Good enough to count towards my USDF First Level Rider Performance Award, but not as high as all of those 7.0s would suggest.
Click images to enlarge.
And now ... the video!
Since I was in a class of one, I did get a lovely blue ribbon. At first I found it puzzling that I was the only one in the Green Horse class, but then I realized that this was a pretty big show and many of the horses and riders there had more experience than Speedy and I do. The Green Horse class was for horses who had five or fewer blues at their level.
Tomorrow ... How We Missed the Mark Completely!
I had so much fun this weekend, and I learned so much that I just want to skip the riding recap and go straight to the here's what I walked away with. We Missed It By a Hair, Made it By a Hair, and Missed the Mark Completely, but since none of that would make much sense without seeing how we did, I had better stick to a more linear story line.
Before I do that, I need to give a huge shoutout to Team Symphony, led by the always awesome Chemaine Hurtado. She runs the most motivating training barn that I have yet seen. I am not sure if it's a deliberate strategy or if it just happens because of Chemaine's attitude toward life, but with her, dressage is fun first followed by sound practices and hard work.
If Chemaine provides Team Symphony's structure, it is her daughter, Morgan, who is the glue that helps hold the team together. This up and coming Jr/YR is not only a talented rider herself, but she epitomizes the ideals of good sportsmanship. She's a motivator, a butt kicker, boot polisher, horse handler, videographer, Jill of all tasks, and all around good friend.
With Team Symphony, it doesn't matter who is in the saddle; everyone pitches in to polish boots, remove leg wraps, take photos, check scores, and cheer loudly no matter what the score. I feel so blessed to have been included in this wonderful family. Thanks, Team Symphony!
Missed It By a Hair
My least favorite score of all is the 59%. It's not like a 55% is all that pretty either, but 59% means you probably missed a "satisfactory" by just a point or two. In my case, it was one and a half points that kept me from earning my last score towards my USDF First Level Rider Performance Award. Womp womp.
Speedy was a fireball during the first warm up, which was completely the other end of the spectrum from where he was at last month's show. Remember that? He ended up needing to pee. Well that wasn't a problem this weekend. He was jazzed up for this go round.
Speedy and I have participated in the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition for the past four years, but this year's show was far bigger than the previous three. There were four rings going, all brightly decorated. Between rings one and two there is a raised platform covered with a circus-like tent and flags snapping in the breeze. There were tables set up for the evening performance and for spectators later on. There wasn't any one thing that spooked Speedy, but the general atmosphere was exciting with lots of color and movement.
There is no question that Speedy was against my hand through parts of this first ride. He was also pretty stuck on the left rein, as usual. My position was certainly not as good as it can be, but when he and I brace against each other, that's what happens. Most of the tension came from the C end of the ring where the judge was seated. He didn't want anything to do with that red, white, and blue bunting. There's video down below.
Overall, the ride felt rushed, and Speedy was heavy in my hand. I also made a stupid error, aren't they all, near the end of the test. I have the test memorized, but I was listening so intently to Chemaine's instructions that I mistakenly heard C 10-meter circle instead of B Half circle 10-meters. Even as I was making the 10-meter circle at C, I was wondering why Chemaine would ask me to do that. She hadn't of course.
I knew before the judge blew her whistle that it was an error and just finished the circle and headed to B to make the 10-meter half circle to finish at G. I now know this test so well that I can do it without a reader. There will be no more off course errors for that test. The 2 point deduction for going off course cost me the 60% score. I missed 60% by 1.5 points.
This was certainly not our best test, but it was a heck of a lot of fun, we both gained some more experience in a "bigger" ring, and I have plenty of time in which to earn that last score for the Rider Performance Award. I am not being negative here, but we'll be working on First Level for a while.
Here's the video.
Here is the score sheet for the First Level, Test 3 AA (RAAC Warm Up Class) ... click to enlarge.
I don't generally criticize the judging, but they did seem a little tougher at this show. Overall, we finished the test with a 59.559% which was sixth out of a class of nine. We've definitely done better, but I am not that disappointed. I can see where we need to improve (more length in the trot lengthening, more length in the canter lengthening, and catch those drifting hunches in the leg yield), but the good thing is that Chemaine gave me some great exercises and advice to help me.
Tomorrow, Made It By a Hair!
I've written about the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition a bunch of times. But in case you missed it, here's the run down:
Even though I live in the central region, I'll be showing in the Southern RAAC. The Central RAAC was too early in the year, and it was quite a ways north. Southern RAAC is just over 100 miles from here, and Chemaine will be there. I also have several friends who will be at the Southern RAAC, so it was an easy choice. Southern RAAC is being held at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC).
The RAAC is being held within the Cool August Nights Show (CDS/USDF/USEF) which means there were some interesting class choices being held. I'll be riding First Level Test 3 three times! I signed up for the regular AA class as a warm up and then of course there is the actual RAAC class, also First Level test 3. And just for the extra experience, I entered the Green Horse class for horses with no more than five blues at that level at rated shows.
Wish us luck, and I'll see you all on Monday!
A few years ago, my mom bought me a very specially selected Stübben bridle for Christmas. I chose it because of the thin leather strapping. It was designed with a finer, more petite horse in mind - like an Arabian. The leather is super soft, and it looks really nice on Speedy.
Virtually all dressage bridle are designed for heavy warmbloods. The straps are all thick, particularly the nosebands. This bridle has a much thinner caveson, and even the cheek pieces are narrower. It's difficult to see all of that because the bridle looks well-proportioned to Speedy's face.
So where has this bridle been? Well, it was such an expensive purchase that it's been hanging in my home office waiting to be used exclusively at shows. I did use it a few times, and I even bought a duplicate of the bit that I was using - a Korsteel lozenge bit, so the bridle was always ready to go.
The problem is that my fancy browband is on my schooling bridle, formerly a Micklem, now the recently re-instated SmartPak Plymouth. I also switched to the baucher bit, of which I only have one, so it was all just too much work to switch out the bit and browband for a show.
Somewhere over the past year and a half, my spending comfort level has risen. I think the transition to it's okay to use your good stuff on a daily basis started when I bought my Ariat Volant's for every day riding. Those suckers were pretty darn expensive, and I've used the holy heck out of them. I think I am getting my money's worth.
As I was thinking about getting ready for this weekend's CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), I remembered that lovely bridle that was just hanging in my closet, and all of a sudden, I realized what a gigantic waste of money it is to never use it.
My mom certainly wouldn't want to know that it is hanging unused. She would much rather know that I am getting her money's worth out of it. I also realized that I take really good care of my tack. I clean and condition it regularly, so it's not like I am going to ruin it by schooling in it every day.
So Speedy has a "new" bridle. I've used it several times this week, and each time I put it on, the softness and suppleness of the leather surprise me. I am finding more and more that it's really silly to save your good stuff for occasional use; it's a lot more fun to live decadently!
Here's to living the good life!
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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
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