From Endurance to Dressage
My second test of the day was just three rides after the first so I opted to hang out by the ring rather than walk back to the warm up. Izzy was tense and worried, but within minutes, he was walking nicely with a swinging back. And really, that's all I am looking for right now - relaxation at a show.
Due to my own inability to DELETE stuff, Best Friend was not able to capture the ride in its entirety. At just after a minute, my ipad ran out of space. Here's what she did capture. Pay close attention to the break to canter up center line. He can definitely sit deeply.
Overall, I liked this test better than any I've ridden so far. The score was low at 54.688%, but outside of the blooper moments, Izzy was far more in tune with me than he has been. It was like he suddenly realized I was up there. His show nerves were still raging, but I felt like I was actually riding him, not just piloting a rocket on a string.
His trot up centerline was clearly fussy, but he was much straighter and not trying to outrun his front end.
But this time, I just couldn't keep him in the walk. The jigging was back, but it was far less than in previous tests. Instead of jigging the entire way across the diagonal, it was only a step here or there, but there were enough of them to garner a 4.5.
While the judge wasn't in love with our 20-meter trot circles at E/B, I know they were much better than we've done in the past. Those circles are hard because they are in the middle of the ring rather than on the rail at A/C. Izzy likes to blow through his shoulder, so this is where he'll lose his balance and throw in a rear or a spook. I'll take the 6 for the first circle and a 5.5 for the second isn't too bad.
The one surprise that Izzy threw me was his refusal to halt at X at the end of the test. The halt has been something that he's been doing pretty well. While we don't have it on video, you can tell from the judge's comment that it took quite a while to get it. He simply wouldn't rest all four feet on the ground at the same time.
With Chemaine's words ringing in my ear, I decided to school him no matter how long it took. He backed up, I added leg. He stepped sideways, I pushed him back over. The halt took so long that I had time to have a conversation in my head about what to do. I figured that if he never halted, we were getting a zero. If he finally halted, no matter how long it took, I knew that the judge would have to give us at least a 1 for very bad.
I've never earned a zero, and I wasn't about to then either. I finally got all of his hooves to stay still long enough to give my salute. We earned a 4 which is only insufficient, but it's better than not executed.
While I started the day feeling pretty discouraged, I drove home feeling inspired to keep on trying. Best Friend once again stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. She's almost more of a Pollyanna than I am. She gives me that kick in the pants or the smack to the face whenever she thinks I am being too hard on Izzy.
She only sees him every couple of weeks so she's always totally amazed at how different he is every time she sees him. She's quick to point out every little thing he does that's better than the last time. Look at how much hay he's eating, look at how quietly he's standing there, look at how he didn't spook when that Friesian passed by too closely ...
My scores weren't great, we finished in last place both times, but I drove home with a huge smile, grateful for an awesome friend and an amazing horse. I hope you're as blessed as I am.
I was too busy to watch this test until yesterday afternoon, and you know, it's not half bad. I've been doing a lot of thinking about Izzy's scores over the past 5 shows (four schooling and this one, a CDS-rated show). He's definitely struggling, but Speedy and I had very similar scores at Intro Level. And while we also had GREAT scores at times, Speedy had/has his share of difficulties too.
What has thrown me for a loop was that Speedy's resistances were very subtle and quiet, but they created the same net effect - scores in the 58% range. We bounced around from 53% to 65% a lot. I would get one issue fixed, and then Speedy would come up with something else. We had a run of shows where he gave a gigantic spook during every test.
Before I wax any more poetic, watch the test ...
This was a California Dressage Society rated show with an R judge, licensed to judge through Fourth Level. That typically means the judging is a little more strict than at a schooling show, but not as strict as you would see at a USDF-rated show. We scored a 58.750%, just two points shy of a 60%.
As I watched the video, I was surprised at how non-awful it looked. Izzy's tension is obviously visible, but I need to focus on the fact that it's not as bad as it feels to me while I am on him. I probably need to find a way to embrace the tension and make it a more positive tension. I am desperately in need of a lesson.
It's hard to be frustrated with a 6. For so long, my goal with Speedy was to simply not have any 5s. Izzy only had two of them on the front of the test and no 4s!
If you've been following along, you know my goal at the schooling show we did two weeks ago was to not get 4s on the walk. We were only partly successful. For this test, we got a 5 and two 6s for the walk work. That's progress.
The trot work also had some good moments. There were no spooks like we've had in at least two of the shows we've done. We earned a 6 and a 6.5 for our 20-meter trot circles.
The judge's Further Remarks were absolutely spot on: Nice horse but a lot of tension today. Concentrate on suppleness and relaxation. Working on it, sir, working on it.
Tomorrow ... Test B.
If you would have asked me on Saturday night how I thought Sunday's show was going to go, I would have said that I didn't even want to go. Why waste gas money when you know it's going to be a disaster?
Our ride on Saturday was terrible. Like knock down, drag down terrible. I spent 45 minutes trying every single thing I knew to get Izzy to let go of the bit. His jaw and poll were so locked that I had no steering and rode through bolt after bolt. All he could do was charge forward.
Eventually, after kicking his ass every way I knew how, I finally got off and threw him in the round pen and just sent him forward. I really wanted to just send him down the road, but a round pen by definition is ... round, so he kept coming back. To my dismay I should add.
After 5 minutes, I know because I timed it, he was heaving and sweating rivers. I got back on him and walked him for ten minutes hoping that he was at least thinking about relaxing.
After cleaning him up, I gave him a healthy dose of electrolytes with his Platinum Performance. When I turned him out into his paddock, I asked him to please just consider letting go of some of his tension.
This photo is not from Saturday, but I wanted to report back on the new fleece half pad. It's working great, and I really like it, but if I order another one, I think I'll go with the medium. My last one was a bit narrow so my saddle sat on the fleece trim instead of inside it. This one is a large, but it ran bigger than I expected.
I was a bit peeved when I untacked Izzy because my new half pad was dirty and sweaty. My girth was also soaked through, and I seriously considered scratching from the show. He was going to be a jerk anyway and my tack was already dirty ... somebody please call the wambulance!
I gave myself a stern, quit your whining! and proceeded to give my saddle and bridle a (half-assed) cleaning, but at least they looked presentable. I sent Best Friend a text letting her know to meet me at 5:30 a.m., and then I went home to try and start some positive thinking.
Since I am a bit of a Pollyanna, I was able to give myself an attitude adjustment. I was still peeved at Izzy the next morning, especially since he was a jerk as I was trying to groom and brush out his tail. As soon as Best Friend showed up, she got to hear all about how rotten he was being.
And then he walked quietly onto the trailer. In the dark. With a grouchy owner. My heart softened immediately, and all I could see was my fabulous boy who just needed my help and encouragement.
When we arrived at the equestrian center it was chilly and we were alone. Izzy craned his neck looking at the horses in the corrals, but with Best Friend's help, he stood pretty still to be braided. We checked in, got his number, and headed for the warm up.
His nerves were all a twitter, but he never felt like he was going to lose it. He just couldn't keep his focus on his job. One of my Tehachapi friends said that if she hadn't known how old he really is, she would have thought he was just a four year old. That's good for me to hear because I think he should be acting like the eight year old that he is.
During the morning, several fans of Bakersfield Dressage made it a point to come and say hi and ooh and ah over my big brown (gold) horse. It was so nice to see them and even nicer to have their support. Having friends who root for our success is such a huge motivator for me.
Spoiler alert: Izzy did not show brilliantly, but many people encouraged me to stick it out with him; they were that impressed with his potential. I have trouble seeing it, but apparently Izzy oozes charm and has that certain sparkle.
Tomorrow: Introductory Test A.
For those of you who don't know, I teach 5th grade. School started last week, so my life has been turned upside down. Something kind of funny happened yesterday at work that brought my dressage life and work life together in an unexpected way.
We are doing boatloads of assessments right now - poor kids. The test I was administering is called DIBELS. Each child reads a passage for 1 minute while the teacher marks any mistakes they make in their reading.
There were three of us administering the test in the same room - myself and two reading specialists. Since the test is timed, we all use the timers on our phones. I prefer the stopwatch, but they were using the timer with a bell to indicate when the time was up.
As my students were reading, they would pause after a time until I encouraged them to keep reading. Their score is calculated based on the number of words they read. Finally it dawned on me that they were pausing because they thought the bell at the next table was their own.
I almost laughed out loud. The same thing has happened to me while showing. I can't tell you how many times I've mentally halted during a test when I've heard the bell ring. Was that for me? Did I go off course? Why hasn't the judge said anything? I never actually stop though since I know the bell might not be mine; it usually isn't.
Please tell me I am not the only one who does this!
Especially if it's on or near a horse. Case in point:
That used to be a fairly nice Roma sheepskin half pad. I know it wasn't a top of the line model, but it was quite luxurious. I am going to cut Roma some slack. I've owned this half pad for six years, and I bought it used. It's been used on four different horses since I've owned it. Who knows how many more it sat upon before them.
I will say that its demise can be largely attributed to Izzy's prolific sweating. That dude is worse than a seventeen year old teenaged boy. He sweats clean through his dressage pad which means that the half pad got washed a lot more frequently this summer than it has in the past.
It always came out of the wash feeling soft and fluffy. Recently however, small clumps have been falling out of it. On Sunday, I decided to order a new one just as I threw the old one into the washing machine. When I pulled it out, this is what it looked like. I'd say it lived a long and productive life.
As always, Riding Warehouse had just what I needed. I ordered the Fleeceworks Half Pad for just under $100. But you know I couldn't just order that. I threw in some bell boots, and then because Izzy is so destructive, I ordered another lead rope.
I've blogged about my lead rope snobbery many times before. I am pretty picky about the feel of a lead rope, but I've found the RJ Yacht Rope 12 Foot Leads to be just about perfect.
Poor Speedy never gets anything new because he's so gentle with his stuff. Not Izzy - I just noticed this the other day.
These are/were heavily textured rubber reins. They are no longer pebbled, and they will soon cease to be rubber covered. It's a pity because I adore these and can't replace them. They came with my Micklem Bridle.
I don't know which reins I'll end up with, but I know what's next on my replacement list ...
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%: