From Endurance to Dressage
I read several blogs that focus more on eventing than dressage. It's nice to get out of my own little space occasionally and see what the rest of the horsey world is up to. I've seen photos of course walks and enjoy seeing the jumps. The part that I've never seen is how big some of those places really are.
Twin Rivers Ranch covers about 500 acres, but just under 300 are used for the equestrian facility. Besides the cross country fields, there were seven dressage courts, what we assumed were stadium jumping rings, and a massive covered arena. For the RAAC, two of the dressage courts were moved up to where the covered arena is situated so that riders could warm up in the shade.
On Saturday evening, we walked down to part of the cross country course so that we could get a closer look at some of the jumps. I only took a few pictures, but I am guessing there were at least 200 jumps out there, probably more.
One of the first jumps that had us all giggling in terror was a massive Trakehner - I had to google that. I had no idea what it was called. This thing was so big and deep that it seemed impossible that it was designed for horses.
We could tell that there were three sizes for different levels, but the only difference seemed to be how deep the ditch beneath it was. All of them were identical in size front to back.
We walked through many of the water complexes, they were dry, but even those were huge and equally terrifying. Occasionally one of us would spot something that looked kind of sort of maybe doable. And then we'd walk up to it and think, nope.
I bet you could train every day at this facility and not jump the same jump twice in a week. To all the eventers out there, you have serious balls.
I just realized this, but I did get a photo of the covered arena. It's behind Chemaine in the photo above. You can also see one of the two dressage courts that they set up for the RAAC.
By the time we got back to our house rental, we were all a bit hot and tired. I am not sure if all course walks are that long, but again, eventers, you guys are not only ballsy, but a bit nuts.
It takes all kinds.
The show photographer mailed out proofs over the weekend, so I finally got to see our Honor Round photos. My crew had all driven home, so I didn't have anyone free to take photos for me.
I bought all three of the photos, and they are of course used by permission. The woman on the right is Louise Koch, one of the weekend's judges. She explained that Hilda Gurney, my judge, had to leave early but had left her congratulations. I was disappointed as I wanted a photo with Hilda. Oh, well. Next time!
Good times, but time to move on!
My husband seemed pretty impressed by our win at RAAC. I was more surprised than impressed. My trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, was probably relieved. I imagine there is some worry when your student sports your logo on everything and then brings home a score in the mid-50s. It just doesn't look good.
I am always thrilled to do well, but it's really hard for me to take any credit for it. When we finish near the bottom of a class, I always say it's because everyone was better than me. The horses were better, and the riders were better. I don't resent them, and I don't feel as though it's unfair; it's just life.
When we do well though, I always feel as though everyone else must have had a bad day. It's certainly not because I have a better horse or am a better rider; Lord knows that can't be true. I am usually a glass half full kind of girl, but when it comes to showing, I always assume the worst.
Chemaine and I have decided to spend the fall and winter tackling Third Level. She's assured me that it's a lot more fun than Second, and since Speedy can already do clean flying changes (when I don't ask for them), it might even be easy.
When I asked her how we got through Second Level so quickly while we languished at Training and First Levels, she explained that it was because we built a very solid foundation at those lower levels.
I guess that means we're not just lucky. Maybe we're even good sometimes.
I live in USDF Region 7 whose states include California, Nevada, and Hawaii. Nevada doesn't have a Group Member Organization, Hawaii has three, and California has two - the California Dressage Society (CDS) and the Dressage Association of Southern California (DASC). To give you some idea of how big CDS is, I added up the membership from the three Hawaiian chapters and DASC. Together they total 156 members. In contrast, CDS has 3,196 recorded members.
The USDF Region 7 Championship is always held in conjunction with the CDS Championship. Every other year the location of the championship changes; one year it's held in Northern California and in the alternating year it's held in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank. Speedy and I competed in the CDS Horse of the Year (HOY) Championship classes in 2014.
For adult amateurs to qualify for CDS HOY at Second Level, the horse and rider team needs 5 scores of 61% or better (any test) from 4 different judges. Each year, whether I intend to go or not, I make it my goal to qualify.
As of July 31, only 20 riders have qualified for the CDS Championship show at Second Level. I am really proud to have made that list in our first year at Second Level. Additionally, our win at RAAC gives us a "bye" - an automatic qualification for the Championship show.
Besides being thrilled to have qualified, I was equally excited to see that most of the Bakersfield dressage riders also qualified! We're a pretty small group of ladies, so to see Bakersfield so well represented is something worth cheering for. In total, six Bakersfield riders, including one junior, qualified for the CDS Championships.
The championship show is pretty expensive, and I already spent a lot going to RAAC, so I don't think the championship show is in the cards for us this year. I am happy enough just to have qualified - twice!
Sorry to make you wait so long, but boy was last week a busy one. I didn't even watch the video of Sunday's ride until this weekend. And once I finally watched it, I was really happy; there wasn't a bad moment. Even when I grabbed screenshots, I mostly just hit pause without having to go frame by frame to catch that one, single, nice moment. Nearly all of the moments were good - relatively speaking.
I should also mention that this test was judged by Hilda Gurney. I've always found her to be a fair judge who calls 'em as she sees 'em. I am not sure if she was in a good mood, or if we were that good, but I'll take Sunday's score without a bit of complaint.
This has been a year for pilot error though. Again, I messed up at the walk. The walk, people. How can you get lost while walking?!?!? I have asked that question multiple times this year. WTH?
I know what happened, and it's because of a good thing, but sheesh. I have been schooling the walk like crazy. I've been busting Speedy's butt over having more activity at both the medium walk and free walk. On top of that, we've been working hard on our trot to halt. As we approached C for a rein back, I half halted and SAT. We did the rein back, and I knew it was good. We got an 8 which made three in one test!
All I could think about was keeping that activity as we went forward. Instead of turning left at H for the turns on the haunches, I went straight to do our free walk. I was all excited about getting a good free walk when I heard the whistle blow. Dammit.
The result of that pilot error crept into the next movement though. I hurried to get back on course and then completely blew the first turn on the haunches. We scored a 4.0. It was totally my fault. We earned a 7.0 for the next one, and from there, we were back on track without any further errors.
On the video, you can hear Hilda telling me I forgot the turn on the haunches. I tell her I am sorry, and she quips, "That's okay, I'll just take off two points." I then laugh and move on. When I first heard the bell, I felt such a sense of defeat. I knew I didn't stand a chance of earning at least second place, and even getting a 60% was not looking good. The levity of the moment cleared my feeling of defeat though, and I rode on.
I was pretty sure I had blown any shot at first or second, the two placings that earn a fleece cooler or a halter. I really didn't care about that though as first and second had to stay for the Honor Round which was scheduled for 3:05. Riding in the Honor Round means being properly attired in show clothes and show tack.
I really just wanted to get home. I was worried about my score though because that ride was my last chance of the year to earn my fourth score for my Second Level Rider Performance Award. I had plenty of Second Level scores, but they needed to be from four different judges. So instead of worrying about winning the class, I was crossing my fingers for a 60%.
Earlier in the morning, Chemaine Hurtado's other student earned reserve champion at Prix St. Georges. We were super excited that Symphony Dressage was being represented so well. As we waited for my score though, things got kind of quiet while I silently prayed for a 60%.
When Chemaine couldn't stand it another moment, she snuck off to the show office to check on my score. I peeked down the barn aisle to see what kind of expression she was wearing as she walked my way. When she grinned excitedly, I knew I had earned my 60%, but then I saw a blue neck ribbon and a fleece cooler in her arms. How Speedy and I pulled off that little miracle, I'll never know.
Even with the two point deduction and the blown turn on the haunches, we scored a 64.286% which was good enough for 1st place. It was a very competitive class with only nine points separating 1st from 4th. I am not sure how it's possible, but Speedy and I have now won RAAC at Introductory Level, Training Level, and Second Level with a reserve at Fist Level.
Once USDF has the score recorded, I'll apply for my Second Level Rider Performance Award. In the meantime, we have our last show of the year this Sunday in Tehachapi. It's been a busy show season!
Here's the test.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%