From Endurance to Dressage
If we're friends on facebook, you've already heard that Speedy and I finally earned the last score we needed to qualify for a USDF Bronze Medal.
For those of you who only casually follow dressage, a Bronze Medal is awarded once a rider has met certain score requirements. There are six scores required.
There were the deep hoof bruises caused by wearing shoes; we went barefoot. He developed tendonitis after an exuberant turnout. He sliced open his coronary band; on what we never found. He knocked out a tooth. He sliced open both front legs requiring sutures. Then he developed PPID which came with repeated abscesses. Speedy always recovered well, but the time outs took their toll on our training.
Our slow journey wasn't all Speedy's fault though. Most of our snail's pace was because we were never intended to be a dressage team in the first place. I bought him as a three-year-old to be my backup endurance horse. When my super star mare died in 2010, Speedy got called up to the big leagues completing several endurance seasons before we became dressage partners. Because I had never taken riding lessons, we started at Introductory Level and then moved ever so slowly through Training Level before we even thought about earning the necessary scores from First Level. And the truth is, it never even occurred to me that we might make it to First Level, and certainly not Second and then Third!
Obviously, we did. Along the way we struggled - we have lots of scores in the high 50s, but we also made consistent and steady progress. We've either won or been reserve at every California Dressage Society (CDS) Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) level from Introductory through Second Level. Last August, Speedy developed an abscess just days before RAAC where we slated to show at Third Level. We were forced to withdraw.
In 2019, Speedy was diagnosed with PPID, otherwise known as Cushing's Disease. Even with medication - we have a Therapeutic Use Exemption from US Equestrian, it has taken some time to get his symptoms under control. Knowing that horses with PPID frequently become insulin resistant and are more likely to suffer laminitic episodes, I recognized that our time competing together wasn't guaranteed, and each day's ride might be the last. I didn't want to earn a Bronze Medal on a different horse. Speedy and I started this journey together, so I wanted him to have the honor of getting us all the way there. Knowing that time might be short added another layer of pressure to get those Third Level scores.
Over the years, we've had plenty of help from our trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. While Chemaine is now based closer to me than before - she's still an hour away, getting weekly lessons has been impossible. For many years, I was lucky to ride with her at most once a month. Even without being able to ride in a steady program, Chemaine has been a tremendous support, frequently coaching me through a problem over the phone or by text. With her guidance, she has taken an endurance pair from Introductory Level to the Bronze Medal. We would never have been able to earn the needed scores without her instruction and vision.
After I finished my first ride on Saturday, I felt pretty confident that we had eked out at least a 60%. Hearing that we had indeed earned a qualifying score left me feeling more relieved than happy. After working so diligently for the past several years, I expected to feel elated. Instead, I just felt utter relief. Earning a USDF Bronze Medal was a lot like earning my first 1,000-mile Medallion from the American Endurance Ride Conference or finishing my first 100-mile endurance race. Those two milestones left me feeling like I could truly call myself an endurance rider. The Bronze Medal has given me a similar feeling. Now I feel a bit more confident in identifying myself as a Dressage rider.
As I lay in bed on Saturday night, I felt both happy and unburdened. By Sunday, I felt pressure. As a USDF Bronze Medalist, I now feel like I had better start performing like one. It feels as though the bar is now higher, that more should be expected. We're not done with Third Level. That left to right flying change still gets stuck and our half passes need more bend and a lot more forward.
Now that I am not putting so much pressure on myself to earn that Bronze Medal - you do not know how frustrating it is to be one score away, I think I'll be able to really focus on improving the movements where we're weak and building on our strengths. And besides, I can't move on to Fourth until we've had our opportunity to compete at the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition at Third Level.
But knowing Chemaine like I do, I know she's already sneaking in some Fourth Level stuff. I don't mind; endurance riders are always looking down the trail to see what's around the next bend. I may not know what's next, but gratefully, Chemaine does, and I have every confidence in her ability to get us there.
Stay tuned for videos and a show recap.
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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%: