From Endurance to Dressage
Donna is a local dressage rider. She's ridden a lot of horses over the years, earning her bronze medal along the way. This season, she's bringing along a young horse that she bought a couple of years ago. This year, they qualified for both RAAC and the CDS Championships at Second Level. I am pretty sure she'll be at Championships, so if you're going, look her up.
Donna is also a very accomplished musician who plays for the Bakersfield Symphony. She also performs outside of the Symphony doing local events and the occasional wedding. And if all of that wasn't enough, she teaches the violin and viola as well.
Last week, Donna shared the following video of her riding Hans while playing the violin. The video went viral on Facebook, making the local news as well. If you have trouble coordinating your aids (like I do), trying riding with something in your hands other than your reins!
So many people asked Donna questions about the ride that she explained why she had done it. Here's what she had to say.
This entire thing has been so funny to me, I should probably explain why I made this video. “Pop Goes the Weasel” is a song I have sung to my young horses for years to teach them cadence, and also to regulate my own seat to keep them steady. About six years ago I had the thought that I should try playing it on violin while I cantered my super broke show horse, Zena, but just never got around to it. (i.e. take the time out from training, bring the junker violin down from the cabin where it’s been for the last 10 years, clean my boots, etc.).
After I saw all of the scores for Sunday's show, I realized my test 3 score, 61.829%, wasn't too shabby. For Training Level through Intermediate (only one of those) there were fifteen scores lower than 60% and only twelve scores above 60%. The high score was 69% by an open rider. The three Introductory Level tests earned 66%, 64%, and 67%.
I either rode this test better, or the judge felt sorry for me. We had no 4.0s. There was still a smattering of 5.0s though - one for our travers left and another for the rein back. Speedy only gave me two and a half steps before he rocked forward. I knew trying to fix it would create more problems, so I let it go and took the 5.0. We also earned a 5.0 for our final halt. Since I am now getting more energy, he quit wanting to actually halt.
The rest of the test was filled with a solid string of 6.0s (twelve of them), some 6.5s (seven of them), and even four 7.0s (for our walk work and a downward transition to collected trot). It's amazing how a few 5.0s can do more damage than the 7.0s with a double coefficient can help. How is that?!
I am not disappointed with our overall score. We definitely have some issues that we need to address before next year, but all in all, I think Speedy and I are certainly headed in the right direction.
Here's the video. You be the judge.
As I mentioned earlier this week, Speedy and I had one more show to bring the season to a close. I don't know how he felt about it, but I was pretty much over it before it started. That doesn't mean I didn't ride to the best of my ability; I am no quitter after all, but I had to really suck it up hard to get myself motivated.
But before I tell that part of the story, I have to share this cuteness overload. Two of my colleagues brought their little girls to the show, and Speedy proved his worth yet again. After some initial shyness paired with a bit of fear, the girls relaxed and had a ball. I don't know how I got so lucky with this horse. He is an absolute saint and worthy of a forever home.
I kept a close eye at first, but after being sure that Speedy was okay with it all (this was after our tests, so he was all about relaxation and pampering), I let the girls have at it. They dragged those buckets and step stool around, brushing every inch of his coat, and then they did it again.
They took out his braids, combed his tail, and then started braiding everything that could be braided - more than once. They rubbed conditioner into his mane and tail and even picked out his (already cleaned) feet.
Eventually, the long day started to get to me, so they helped me pack everything up and watched as Speedy hopped into the trailer - they had already been in and out of the trailer several times themselves. I am pretty sure both moms are going to be asked if they can go see Speedy again!
As for the "important" part of Sunday - really though, the part with the girls was way more fun; even Speedy thought so, I felt like we put out a solid test 1. The judge disagreed. We earned a rather puny 58.636%, much lower than we've been earning. Initially, I felt like the judge was extremely harsh. After watching the video, I can certainly see a few weakness - those halts definitely need some work. Even taking those into account, I still feel as though the judge was a bit punitive.
Most of the scores for the First, Second, and Third Level horses were in the low 50s and 60s. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what my scores should be after riding at least 25 tests this year alone. In my experience, there are two types of judges. The first assumes you're earning a 6.0 and unless you do something obviously bad, you're getting that 6.0 (or maybe even something higher). The second type of judge starts you off at a zero and expects you to earn every point. That kind of judge really likes 5.0s. Sunday's judge seemed more like the latter sort.
The test wasn't all low scores though. We earned four 7.0s - one for a shoulder-in and one for the rein back. Both of those movements have double coefficients. The other two were for the quality of our serpentine and Speedy's gaits. We also earned three 6.5s and twelve 6.0s.
What killed us were the three 4.0s (one was totally earned when we got an incorrect lead) and the five 5.0s. That's eight sub-par scores. No one's bringing home a decent score with those marks. And really, the 5.0 that he gave me for Effective Use of the Aids seemed just mean.
The Judge is an "S" judge which means he's licensed to judge all tests at national level shows. Some judges are just tougher than others. I am sure that some of the spectators and volunteers will say he was more than fair, but until you go to a lot of shows and see the scores that other judges give, it's really hard to get a sense of what is "fair." But you know, it is what it is. That's just how it goes.
Here's the video with super helpful commentary by my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, stopped by last week for a lesson. I am itching to start (correctly) schooling the half pass and flying lead changes at Third Level but haven't wanted to confuse Speedy before the season's last show (that write-up is coming soon, I promise).
I wanted to work on things that are needed at Third Level that would also help my scores at Second. I asked to work on a "loftier" trot. Chemaine was all over that plan and put me to work right away. Now that Speedy knows how to sit better without ducking behind the bit, Chemaine felt he was ready for a bigger compression. By revving him up and asking his hind end to be better engaged, he'll lift his back and connect his hind end to his front end.
The first time I got it right, I got this.
Now I've got all fall and winter to develop this new, more powerful trot. And funnily enough, it's an easier trot to sit than the less dynamic, downhill trot. Go figure!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon, but by the time you read it, Speedy and I will have finished our last show of the season. And frankly, I'll be glad when it's over.
I started the season with little hope of accomplishing anything. We were staring down a very formidable Second Level, and all I was hoping for was at least one score above 60% so that we would get a plate to add to our perpetual plaque.
If you would have told me that we would eventually go to nine shows for twenty-five rides, I would have thought you were crazy. As hard as it is to believe, we made it through Second Level a lot more successfully than I ever thought we would.
Don't read more into a "win" than there is. We didn't kick Second Level's butt or anything, but we definitely showed major improvement through the year, and I am pretty happy about that.
Here we are in August though, and I am tired. I saddled Speedy on Saturday morning, but I had to keep sitting down in order to get it done. It wasn't the riding that had me sighing deeply, it was what I had to do after riding: cleaning tack, loading tack, bathing, and finally braiding.
This is the first season that has worn me out. I think it was the most mentally challenging season than I've had. Plus, I dealt with the whole migraine issue for the first half of it, not to mention learning the ins and outs of Second Level.
I was really torn about not going to the CDS Championships to compete in the Horse of the Year classes, but I am over it. We qualified, which was a goal I never thought we'd achieve, so that's good enough. I am grateful that I decided not to go. Given how apathetic I feel towards Sunday's show, it's a good thing we're not going. I don't need to spend a thousand bucks and feel meh while doing it.
I've had a great season, but I am ready for a break. I'm going to need it if we're going to tackle Third Level this fall.
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%: