From Endurance to Dressage
Saturday's rides had been part of the SLO-CDS Fall Fling USDF show, but Sunday was the reason most of us were there. Ring one was (mostly) reserved for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition classes. The RAAC has two divisions: Novice is for those riders who have never shown at the CDS Championship, and the Elite division is for riders who have. I was riding in the Novice division, Training Level Test 3.
When I woke up on Sunday morning, the air crackled with tension. The horses were calling to each other, trailers rolled in purposefully, riders hurried from here to there. The atmosphere was definitely charged with electricity. Speedy was dancing in his stall before dawn and wanted out. Before the sun had even risen, I had taken him for a long walk around the show grounds and out into the nearby fields. I even turned him out in the lunging paddock to free lunge, but he just couldn't relax.
He might have been picking up on my mood. I wasn't tense or anxious in the traditional sense; there were no butterflies or shaky hands, but my mood was pretty somber. My excitement from Saturday's success had long since evaporated, and in it's place I felt dismay. There was simply no way that I could repeat Saturday's performance. I worried that I had simply gotten lucky and that today was my day to really tank. And besides, I spent the last two years finishing dead last in the RAAC class. What made me think that this go-round would be any different?
Yeah, yeah … I get it. Have more confidence. Grow a set. Man up, girl!
I gave myself a little pep talk, but my expectations, while ever hopeful, were still pretty low. I saddled Speedy G and walked over to the warm-up ring a little earlier than necessary. The instant Speedy's little prima donna hoof hit the dirt, he humped his back and gave some pretty threatening crow hops. I immediately turned around and left the warm-up. Nothing was going to be accomplished by fighting with him.
I know this dude really well. He wasn't ready to get to work. I dropped the reins and started circling the show grounds. Golden Hills Farm is a pretty big place; I heard more than 90 acres. I figured we could just do some exploring. Gradually, Speedy's back let go and his stride lengthened. He motored wherever I put his nose and seemed much happier to just march around.
With fifteen minutes to go before our RAAC class, I went back to the warm-up. His head shot up, his back hollowed, and he set himself against my hand. I sent him into a hand gallop and did several pretty hard halts to tell him that he needed to listen to my half halts. We galloped for most of my warm-up, tracking right and left, until I felt that he was starting to listen.
With five minutes to go, I walked over to the ring and dropped my reins. Within thirty seconds, Speedy let go of his breath, and I knew I had my horse back. I even patted his neck and welcomed him to the party. At that moment, I didn't care how we placed. I was just grateful to have my tried and true partner back, and at the very least, I knew we'd get one of our regular, mid 60% scores. That was fine by me.
I've watched the video (once), which I can't seem to rip from the DVD, so you'll just have to believe me when I say it looks like most every other video I've shared. There were definitely some mistakes, and it was still me riding. My left hand doesn't work at keeping the outside rein; I let it drift forward. We jigged at the start of the free walk and were early/late for a few transitions.
The one thing that I can see that the judge probably rewarded us for was how completely steady and pleasant Speedy rode. He looked like a horse that I would want to ride. He just motored right around with a very good-natured expression on his face. And, it was a harmonious ride. At our final halt and salute, I felt like it was a pretty solid test, but not a winning ride. Boy, was I wrong.
Before I share the score sheet and final score, I should point out that Judge Creeky Routson is an (S) judge, which means that she can judge all levels, even the FEI tests as long as she does it here in the USA. Her credentials are impeccable, so who I am to say that she doesn't know exactly what she's seeing. I am a bit afraid to add up the scores myself for fear that I'll find a huge error. So with that, here's what Creeky Routson (S) thought of our ride.
How do you frame a test like this without looking like a retard? Honestly. I didn't know we had it in us. I had to actually count each mark. We earned a total of six 8.0s, one 7.5, and twelve 7.0s. And not a single 5 or 6 to be seen. I am sitting here shaking my head in disbelief.
But like I said yesterday: I'm over it. The euphoria has vanished although in truth, it never really enveloped me as I was stunned at the score and never really owned it as mine. It was more of a freakish anomaly than anything else. In place of the pseudo-giddiness is the same old nagging feeling of self-doubt settling itself comfortably back in place.
There was one other test, and since it has a bit of a story, I'll share that tomorrow. I also have a long list of items that are food for thought, mostly for me, but you might find one or two of them worth chewing on. Or maybe, you'll have something to add. So for now, I'm trying to figure out what to do with that lovely cooler since I already have one from winning the Introductory Level Novice RAAC class back in 2012. Oh, what a problem ...
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%: