From Endurance to Dressage
Please give me a moment as I wait for my head to stop exploding. Oh, USEF, What. The. Frick.
I do not know if you truly and sincerely understand how much I absolutely, unequivocally, categorically despise the behemoth known as US Equestrian. To this day, some twelve years of membership later, I am still trying to figure out in what way this organization has done me, as an adult rider, a single ounce of good.
Shut up. I hear you already mumbling something about USEF being an organization who makes it possible for the sport to exist blah blah blah. No they don't. Schooling shows do just fine on their own. My own Group Member Organization, the California Dressage Society (CDS), offers fabulous awards and educational opportunities that have given me tremendous motivation. The United States Dressage Federation (USDF), our sport's national governing body, does even more with even fewer of my membership dollars. Both USDF and CDS are in touch with their members and are genuinely here to serve.
USEF offers me nothing in return for my membership dues. I get a card that says I can compete as an amateur. I get a worthless magazine that has no appeal to me as a rider who has zero aspiration (or means) to compete on the international stage. So what good is this organization? In my opinion, USEF is a a group of bureaucrats whose sole purpose for existing is to bilk grassroots riders out of their money in an effort to line their own pockets and serve their own greedy interests. So what has me riled up this week? This pathetic message that was sent out on Tuesday.
Lexington, Ky. - In support of action taken at the Mid-Year Board meeting, the USEF Board of Directors approved an Extraordinary Rule change to GR 202.1 Membership Requirements amending the approved use of Show Passes effective 12/1/22.
The emphasis is mine. An extraordinarily sucky rule change is right. And yes, it "streamlined" something - your money heading straight into USEF's pocket. They thought they'd fool us into thinking they've done something good for us. They haven't. What they've done is made it even more expensive for those riders who only want to show once or twice a year. Riders who maybe don't have more than one or two shows that are within driving distance. Riders who can't afford to do more than one or two shows a year.
Now, those riders have to pay for a full membership, which by the way is more than I pay to be a member of CDS and a group member of USDF combined. And how about those horse show moms and dads? The ones who just want to give their kiddos an opportunity to play an individual sport. Those moms and dads who want to coach their own kiddos now need to fork over annual dues as well. Want to know what else all "senior members" in good standing have to do? They have to take USEF's worthless SafeSport training every year.
I am not generally a conspiracy theorist, but I'm three-quarters of the way through Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Google it if it's not on your radar. Holy cow. Shit's gettin' real. I am over this current notion that Americans need to be forced into doing someone else's version of what is "right" - à la SafeSport. I do not need some jackass in Washington (or Lexington) tinkering with my moral compass. I can take care of that on my own. I am not molesting kids, and if I were, we'll let the police take care of it. Oh, wait. Those same jackasses wanted to defund the police.
This idea that self-appointed individuals in our society should somehow have the right to decide what is in everyone else's best interest horrifies me. Has no one ever read a book? When we give up control of our lives, nothing good EVER comes of it.
Shame on you, USEF. Shame on you. And you know what? Shame on me for continuing to be a member of an organization that disgusts me.
Here in California, we don't mess around. If it can be screwed up or made worse, we're all in. Take the weather for example. It's officially fall, but not here. Oh no, you want summer? We'll give you summer; we'll give it to you for eight months. It's still in the mid 90s here in the afternoons. Today should be "only" 92℉. All of this means that while I am still riding daily - my too-hot-ride number is 99℉, it has been HOT.
Once the heat breaks, Izzy is going to be a gigantic handful, so I am riding some of the harder stuff right now while he's too hot to argue about it. That means we're doing a boatload of canter transitions. For the past week that has been my focus: trot-canter-trot transitions and the simple changes. And you know what? My strategy is working. The transitions have shown marked improvement in just a few short weeks. Izzy is far less braced, and he's actually beginning to bend through his body.
In the canter, I am also working on pushing my hands forward for several strides to demonstrate that Izzy is in self carriage. That movement comes in one of the tests from either Second or Third Level; I can't remember which. He's doing a great job with it; he doesn't pop his head up, run forward, or fuss when I bring my hands back. I am also pushing my hands forward to see if he'll follow the contact. He's showing improvement there as well.
Using my spur more intentionally has definitely unlocked a new level of communication for us. For most rides, I only need to really poke him once or twice to convince him that he must move his ribcage. Using a spur effectively does require some education on the rider's part though. Speedy is a small horse, so my leg hung below his belly. To use my spur, I had to really lift my heel up to make contact.
Izzy's barrel is so big, that if I am not careful, the spur pokes him every time I use my leg. This has forced me to isolate my leg aids. As a result, I am much more aware of my calf as an aid than I was before. And, Izzy is now more aware of my calf as well. He is earning that if he doesn't listen to my calf, the spur will soon follow.
Now if we could just get a bit more thrust to get a bit more hang time, that would be groovy!
If you came here today for horses, you're out of luck, although, I might throw in a photo just to keep it interesting. Today, I want to use my space to show my students how easy it is to publish a story. Last week, we wrote science fiction narratives, and this week we're publishing and sharing. I teach a writing process that uses a detailed outline. As we complete each section of the outline we collaborate by sharing ideas and making suggestions to other students (and teacher). Here is the story my students helped me write.
The Time Traveler
With the world running out of cheap, reliable energy, the president decided to try something both dangerous and risky. He called Jessica Bond, secret agent and adventure seeker.
Late one night, Jessica was sitting in her office when her cell phone lit up; the number was from the White House. She knew that the country was facing an energy crisis, so when the president asked if she would accept a secret mission to save the world, she said yes. The president gave her the location of the country's best kept secret: there was a time machine. Jessica grabbed her gear, caught a plane, and headed to Colorado.
Not long after, Jessica landed at a secret, U.S. military base and looked for her contact, a scientist named John Galt. Without wasting any time, he took her straight to the time machine which looked like an old telephone booth. He adjusted the settings while telling Jessica that she would arrive at a lab a hundred and fifty years in the future. Once there, she would locate a box marked TOP SECRET. She was to grab the package and get back to the time machine quickly as she only had five minutes to complete her mission. If not, the time machine would return without her. He asked if she was ready, and after seeing her nod, he sent her to the year 2172.
As usual, Jessica ran into trouble the second she climbed out of the time machine. As she looked around, she noticed packages everywhere, all with the words TOP SECRET stamped across the front. Figures! thought Jessica to herself. Faced with the task of finding the right box, she quickly scanned shelf after shelf, her eyes reading TOP SECRET, TOP SECRET, TOP SECRET, 2022, TOP SECRET. Wait! What was that? Jessica asked herself. She grabbed the box marked 2022 and tore off the lid. To her surprise, the very machine she needed was bubble wrapped inside. She snapped the lid in place and glanced at her watch. She realized she only had forty-nine seconds to make it to the time machine before it left her in the year 2172. She sprinted for the door of the time machine and threw herself and her precious cargo through the doorway just as the machine roared to life. Whew! She had made it.
After delivering the package and making sure her fee had made it into her account, Jessica headed back to her office. As she leaned back in her chair, relieved that the world was once again safe, her cell phone's screen lit up with a message: URGENT!
Back to horses tomorrow ...
Just as a reminder, I went to Championships, but not as a competitor. Didn't matter though, I still had a great time. You can read about my take-aways in yesterday's post. Today's post is about the shopping.
Most of the vendors were beyond my budget - we actually found a little white shirt with short sleeves and not much else going for it that was tagged at $250. Thanks, no thanks. We also found plenty of beautiful things that I just don't need - lots of pads, polos, and gloves. Even so, it was sure fun to look.
We popped into most every booth, although I did skip the saddle rep. I don't know anything about the N2 Saddles, but there was no need to waste their time. I am definitely not in the market for a new saddle (unless I win the lottery in the next few weeks, then maybe).
One of my pals spent a lot of time at Two Hearts Equine Boutique. Each time she went by she came out with something new. She kept dragging me in as well, but fortunately I was able to help her spend her own money and not mine. She ended up with a stylish new coat and show shirt along with a pad, gloves, and a ball cap as her "gateway drug."
The tent that drew me back again and again was Halter Ego. If you haven't heard of this company, you probably hate horses and fancy pants tack. These ladies have it going ON! On Saturday evening they had a wine and cheese reception with more than just wine and cheese. Plus, those ladies were friendly, and their hearing was sharp. If you even mentioned a color or style you liked, it suddenly appeared in front of you as though by magic.
My friend Jen, who I admire more than most, asked me to take a peek at a bridle she had been eyeballing. I think it was the Tuscany which has cognac colored leather padding and piping. It is stunning and now lives with Jen's lovely chestnut mare, Peaches. Anyway, as we were oohing and awing over the beauty we were holding in our hands, I said something about reins, and like magic, a pair of new soft leather reins landed in my hands.
I am pickier than most about reins. I love the Thinline Reins, but I've now worked my way through two pairs; they just didn't hold up well for me. I very recently bought a pair of Schockemohle rubber lined reins, but they just wouldn't drape right for me. Anyhoodle, I now own a pair of Halter Ego reins that are not yet available on the website. It's a product that they're trying out to see if customers will like them. I rode with them on Sunday morning and then again yesterday, and I am very happy with how they both drape and feel.
By the time the Freestyle program was finished, we were hot, sweaty, stuffed, and a bit poorer than when the morning started. If you don't have a horse ready to show, grab a friend and go anyway. Going horseless to a show is almost a cheaper way to spend a day.
Thanks, Ladies! I had a blast.
Spoiler alert - yes, we went to championships but not to show. Whew! Got that out of the way. Over the weekend, the California Dressage Society held its annual Championship Show in conjunction with the USDF Region 7 Championships. Back in 2014, Speedy and I showed and it was a fantastic experience. Going purely to spectate and support was just as much fun.
The annual show rotates between Southern and Northern California which means next year's show will be too far north for me to even think about going, even if Izzy and I somehow managed to qualify. However, I do have my eye on 2024. Maybe by then we'll be ready for Training Level Test 3. If wishes were horses ... I talked my longtime friend Kathy into making the drive with me. We left my house at 6:00 a.m. and rolled into Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC) right at 8:00.
After a quick restroom break, we parked in the first lot we could find which happened to be directly in front of Sean Cunningham's stall. Sean, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was showing Sunita, a client's mare, at 9:15. Before I get too far into this thing, I should warn you that I failed epically at taking photos. Every once in a while I'd get a wild hair and start snapping pictures of what was around me, and then my phone would stay buried in my pocket during the good stuff. So you're going to get a bunch of random photos that don't necessarily show the good stuff.
While Sean finished braiding, Kathy and I lugged packages of water bottles to each of Sean's Oh, Shoot! Stations (no new photos, but check out this post to see some of what he puts in them). For Championships, he set up three of his stations to cover the needs of the riders at the four different rings. Kathy and I restocked each station and tidied up. We emptied the trash, cleaned out the dust and leaves, hauled off the used rags, and checked to see if any supplies needed restocking. Sean has slowly added to the stations, so they were stocked full of all sorts of new stuff.
By the time we got back, Sean was getting up in the tack, so we headed over to the ring with him. Since I shot video for him, I wasn't able to take any photos, but the pair did well, finishing in the top ten in a very large class with a 68.188%. Sean was happy with Sunita's effort as was his virtual trainer, David Hunt, of Great Britain. David wasn't able to come out to California of course, but Sean sent him the video and they debriefed after the ride.
Once Sean's ride was done, we spent the rest of the day watching different classes, shopping, and of course eating. More on the shopping tomorrow. One of the more interesting classes we watched was the USDF Dressage Medal Semi Final for 13 Years and Under. The 14 - 18 class had only one rider, so they ran the two classes together. Mia, the lone rider in her class, was a crackerjack rider scoring a well earned 85%.
In the 13 and Under Class, there were five riders, all on wonderful horses and ponies. We had great fun watching these kids walk, trot, and canter. One rider in particular caught our eye as a very talented young lady. It turns out that we had a good eye as she did place first with a score of 82.000%. Once the class was over, we went back outside and were pleased to see that we had arrived just in time for the USDF JR/YR Second Level Regional Class. To our surprise, in rode the medal winner from the 13 and Under class.
She was doing a lovely job until she got to the three loop serpentine with the counter canter. The horse made the turn onto the counter canter and then bucked. The rider got pitched forward a bit, and the horse took advantage bucking a few more times. That young lady gave a valiant effort and almost managed to ride it out, but alas, it was not to be. Despite a great effort, she came off over the horse's shoulder landing on her hip, spoiling her very pretty white breeches. The horse gaily cantered off with its reins flapping in the breeze. Someone managed to grab him at the gate, and the young lady dusted herself off calling out that she was all right.
Every one of us watching felt her disappointment. It is so frustrating to work so hard to be so unceremoniously dumped so publicly. But that's horses; one minute you're winning with an 82% and the very next you're dusting off your breeches as you get disqualified. Highs and lows pretty much define what horse ownership is like. That was really my take-away from the entire show. I was reminded that for every win, there's a loss. I saw a score of 59% from a world renowned rider. And the day before's score was even lower.
We stay for the evening's freestyles where I was reminded yet again that dressage is just walk, trot, canter. It's not magic. Even grand prix horses hollow their backs, lose their balance, and score sixes and sevens. When I looked at the scores for the Grand prix Freestyle Open class, I was reminded that scores in the 70s just mean that rider scored a lot of sevens. My scores in the 60s mean I score a lot of sixes. 70s are better of course, but it's not impossible to turn my sixes into sevens.
It's really important that we not allow ourselves to become intimidated by numbers that seem so far out of reach because they're not. Will Izzy and I ever score an 80%? I very much doubt it, but it is not impossible to earn a 76%. We just need lot of sevens and an eight or two. Watching talented riders on stunning horses earn low scores just confirmed that it's a struggle for all of us no matter your last name or the thickness of your wallet. It was also very motivating to see "average" horses being well ridden and scoring well as a result.
Horses often times bring us to tears, but sometimes, they're tears of joy.
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%