Let's hope we can put on as successful of a show season and awards banquet as the Quinns have these many years.
Fall is awards season, at least it is if you show dressage. The championship shows are winding down and scores are being tabulated. Here in California, both the CDS Championship and the USDF Region 7 Championship shows have ended. It's now time for awards.
On Saturday evening, my husband and I, along with Team Symphony and about 75 other people, attended the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS's annual awards banquet.
The banquet was held at the very beautiful Oak Tree Country Club. It was actually supposed to be held last weekend, but with the recent power outages across California, it had to be moved to this past weekend. The Country Club was able to pull it off though, and surprisingly, it looked like most everyone was able to make it.
The dinner was quite lavish with prime rib and parmesan crusted chicken, a wide array of side dishes, and a decadent apple crisp topped with freshly whipped creme. Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC), is a small CDS Chapter with fewer than 40 members, but they work hard to put on a first class banquet and awards ceremony.
Although only a small chapter, TMC recognizes open riders, amateurs like me, and juniors. Awards are given for Champion and Reserve for each level, Introductory through Fourth Levels. TMC is a generous chapter whose goal is to promote the sport of dressage and to encourage rider participation.
Team Symphony was well represented with riders winning championships at Introductory, Second, Third, Fourth, and Western Dressage.
Speedy and I earned the Adult Amateur Championship for Third Level. While we didn't have much competition, we still had to earn an average of 60% or greater. Our year-end average was 63.379%. I am really proud of this award. Third Level isn't exactly easy.
This was Lois and Terry's last year as TMC board members. They decided to retire, much to the dismay of the rest of the chapter. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, along with myself and several other people, have stepped up to fill the Quinn's especially large shoes. Chemaine will serve as Chairperson with me as her Vice-Chair.
Let's hope we can put on as successful of a show season and awards banquet as the Quinns have these many years.
Today, April 15th, marks Speedy G's 15th birthday. He was given the name G Ima Starr FA at birth, but since joining my little family as a wee three-year old, he's been just Speedy.
This horse has given me so many opportunities that I surely wouldn't have had without him, and he's done it all with very few complaints. Horse camping far from home? Okay. Riding on the beach? Okay to that, too.
We went to his first endurance ride in March 2004, just before his fifth birthday. Except for horses coming straight at him, he handled it like a real pro. You want me to do what? Well, all right.
We went fox-hunting in 2013. Since there aren't really foxes here in California - at least not those kind, the hounds hunted coyotes. I threw a newish rider up on Speedy, and I rode Sydney, the New Zealand Thoroughbred I owned before Izzy. Speedy thought it was all quite hilarious. Not sure what we're doing this time, but it's fun!
In between endurance rides, I asked him to take a few dressage lessons. And then I asked him to try out a few shows with me. We looked like the total beginners we were, but he did it with the most willing attitude a girl could ask for. Just do some circles and straight lines for 5 minutes? Are you sure that's all you need? You had me at hello!
Since he was willing to do a few shows, I asked him if he could do a few more, and then I asked him to win. Why not? I look good in blue!
And then I asked him to do it again ...
We found out he looks just as stunning in red ...
And I've kept on asking him to do more and more for me. Sometimes it takes us awhile, but he continues to try. No matter how we do, he's always game to come back and try again. Not because he wants to, but because I do.
Now that he's 15, he's definitely what we would call middle-aged. That means, like me, there's a pill for this and a pill for that. It's harder to get up in the morning, and it takes longer for things to heal. As we get older, we have to think about whether we want to keep working and whether we should keep working. While I am looking forward to retirement, Speedy is most definitely not.
Speedy has already shown me that he gets pretty grouchy if I stop asking him to do things for me, so I am going to continue on to Third Level as long as he's willing. And so far, he's still digging it. You want more ribbons and medals? Sure, let's go!
Wishing you a very happy birthday, Speedy!
With Speedy on the disabled list, the what ifs start running amok. And once those things escape their cages, corralling them can be a serious endeavor. It starts with what if this is worse than it looks? That leads to what if it takes forever to heal? And then of course that becomes what if it doesn't heal? And naturally, everyone's favorite, what if he dies? always makes its appearance. Right now, I am wrestling with what if that was our last show season? Jerk.
A few posts ago I mentioned something about having a lot invested in Speedy. I wasn't talking about money. I have no idea what he's "worth" - if anything. No, what I meant was he and I have spent well over a decade fostering a relationship that meets both our needs. He knows that he can trust me with his life, and on my side of the equation, I know that this horse will show up and do his best for me every single time. That's not an easy thing to find. Or to let go of.
A week or so ago my California Dressage Society (CDS) plate arrived. When I opened it, I took a moment to savor it, but then I left it on my desk, mostly forgotten with all the drama surrounding Speedy's multiple leg injuries. Over the weekend, I had time to study it and was reminded of what a topsy turvy season we had in 2018.
I started the season feeling woefully ill prepared for Second Level. I was coping with severe migraines, Speedy didn't have a reliable simple change, and my sitting trot was anything but sitting. Even so, I entered show after show, and we pushed through it. By the season's end, we had earned our USDF Second Level Rider Performance Award, we were Second Level Champions within my CDS Chapter, and we took home a blue neck ribbon for the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in the Second Level Elite division.
As I attached the newest plate to my plaque, I paused to look over the six seasons already represented. Not one single one of those seasons was easy. In fact, almost every one of them came after some sort of injury and layup. Year after year I've had to beat down the what if this is our last season? bully. And each year, Speedy has emerged better than the year before.
If Speedy is a bit accident prone, he's also shown himself to be a great rebounder. The dude loves having a job and is always ready to come back fighting. We're definitely on the bench for now, but we'll be back in the game soon. Speedy might not know we're aiming for a Third Level plate, but I do. And whatever I set out to achieve, Speedy is always right there with me, ready and willing.
Here's to that next plate!
I am just going to start off by saying that I have a TON, yes, a literal ton of stuff to share about this past weekend's California Dressage Society Annual Meeting and Health Fair. Since I can't seem to organize myself, I am just going to start with the most exciting part while the educational stuff percolates for a day or two.
Before I jump into the awards part of the weekend, I should tell you a tiny bit about the meeting just to give you some context. Each January, the California Dressage Society (CDS) holds its annual meeting. On Friday, the Executive Board meets. Saturday is the general meeting where the budget and other things related to the purpose of CDS are discussed. Committee chairs also share, and the chapter chairs hold round table discussions. An awards banquet is held later that evening. Sunday's activities vary from year to year, but this year there were lectures focused on equine and rider health.
A very delicious dinner was served during the awards banquet, and a variety of awards were presented, two of which I was there to receive. While I don't know this for a fact, I am assuming that most of the award recipients don't actually make it to the banquet. California is huge, and not everyone can or even wants to drive ten hours to pay for a hotel room just to receive a $5 pin or an $8 plaque. Only twelve ladies were called up to receive their Gem Awards, but I am certain that many more stayed home and saved themselves a ton of money.
To each her own of course, but we had a laugh-so-hard-it-hurts good time; I am glad I went. Who wouldn't want to cram four punch-drunk ladies (okay one wasn't actually a "lady" as she's only 16, but still ...) in one hotel room with nothing to do but talk horses?
I won't mention any names, but one of us (not me!) schlepped a full-sized printer, laminator, laptop, gift basket for the silent auction, and suitcase full of clothes but forgot to pack something to wear to the banquet. Even more hilarious was that the sixteen-year-old bought blue and pink dye on the drive to Anaheim so that she could dye her hair ... in the hotel room. I am not saying you would have enjoyed it, but we certainly did.
Back to the awards though. So what's a Gem Award? I hear you asking. For me, it was the Ruby Award which is earned when the rider earns qualifying sores at Training, First, and Second Levels. It's a bit like a USDF Medal in that the scores need not be earned in a single season or even on the same horse. I won't even tell you how long it took me to get those six scores. Let's just leave it at a long time.
The pins are typically worn on your show coat lapel. The super cool kids wear their Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal pins down one lapel with their Diamond, Sapphire, and Ruby pins down the other. And if you have Freestyle Bars to go with them, well you're just too cool to be seen with me.
The Gem Awards recognize rider perseverance, but since all of my scores have been earned on Speedy, the pin is just as much his as it is mine. I am sure he won't mind if I pin it to my jacket; pinning it to his "coat" might be painful.
The Second Level Horse Performance Award is given to horses who earn six or more scores of 60% or higher. Scores need not be earned all in one season. I am ridiculously proud of the fact that we earned fifteen scores of 60% or better at CDS and/or USDF-rated shows in just one year. We kicked that requirement's butt.
Jen and I were both a wee bit disappointed that the awards don't come with the horses' names engraved on them though; a cost saving measure I am sure. In case any of the Executive Board are reading, I would have paid an extra three bucks to have Speedy's name on the plaque. Just sayin'.
Never having been to a state level awards banquet, I was very surprised by the camaraderie that was expressed. It didn't matter whose name was called; everyone cheered for each rider no matter which award they were receiving. Being surrounded by so much good will left me feeling empowered and eager for this next show season and beyond.
Throughout the course of the weekend, many people congratulated me personally and introduced themselves as readers of my blog. I am always thrilled to meet the people who actually take five minutes to read over what I've written, but I am also deeply humbled. I still feel like that endurance rider having a go at Introductory Level, Test A.
I feel so lucky to be a member of the California Dressage Society. Besides earning some terrific awards, I totally dug feeling so connected to a larger organization. More on that tomorrow.
This afternoon I am heading down to Anaheim - Los Angeles area for the non-Californians out there, for the CDS Annual Meeting.
I've never really had a reason to attend before, but this year, Speedy and I are both receiving an award. This seemed like a good year to see what it's all about.
Saturday's schedule is filled with chapter meetings. Since my chapter chair isn't attending, I asked if I could go as a representative. The Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS is pretty small, but they work hard to put on a summer show series and yearly banquet, both with great ribbons and awards. I think TMC has plenty to share with the rest of the chapters.
That same night, there's a banquet where awards are handed out. That's really the reason I am going. Speedy and I worked hard to earn both the Ruby Rider Award and the Second Level Horse Performance Award. Receiving those are worth going to Anaheim for.
Sunday's schedule focuses on a health fair. I am not certain that any of the topics pertain to me, but Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, will be there as a vendor sharing her yoga ball lessons. Her daughter and another mutual friend will also be attending so whether the health fair is interesting or not, the four of us are guaranteed to have a great time.
Enjoy your own weekend.
Happy New Year! I know most people have today off and won't be getting their daily blog fixes, but this was something about which I had to write, and I felt compelled to do it on the first day of 2019.
I started my dressage journey in 2010, riding Introductory Levels A and B (before there was even a Test C), in four different CDS-rated shows. By 2011, I was hooked, but I never expected us to do very well. I've been competing on my very well bred Arabian gelding, but not purpose bred for the sport of dressage.
While reflecting over the past year, I started thumbing through my early show results, reminiscing. As I clicked through each year's scores, it occurred to me that Speedy and I have accumulated a surprisingly good-sized list of accomplishments.
Most of the time I am pretty self-deprecating and never take anything too seriously, especially the wins. Blue ribbons or brown ribbons, it's all been about the journey for me. Even so, I decided to make an organized list of our different achievements; was I ever shocked at the resulting list!
Show High Points: we've earned high point award eight different times. I am pretty sure the scores were all earned at schooling shows or CDS-rated shows, but hey, we rode against whom we rode, and the judge saw what she saw. I'll take it!
Championships: I decided to include only true championships in this category even though the wins at Regional Adult Amateur Competition feel like championship wins. With that, we have "won" three year-end championship titles: Introductory Champion from Ventura County Chapter of CDS, Training Level Champion from El Sueno Equestrian Center, and Second Level Champion from Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS. We were also "Reserve" Champion at First Level from TMC, but who's counting?
California Dressage Society "Plates": A plate is awarded to a CDS member the first time he/she earns five (5) or more scores of 60% or better at Introductory C Level or above in a single show season. Recipients will continue to receive plates every year thereafter. The plate is engraved with the horse's name, level of competition and number of scores.
In 2011, Speedy and I earned the CDS Certificate of Achievement for earning 4 scores of 60% or better at Intro Level C (or higher). Beginning in 2012, Speedy and I have earned a plate every single year through 2018. In total, we have earned 86 scores above 60% at CDS and/or USDF-rated shows. The scores may not be high, but I appreciate Speedy's consistency.
California Dressage Society Awards: I can't say it enough times; my GMO is simply amazing. Besides the aforementioned "Plates," CDS offers so many other ways for riders to be recognized for their hard work. I take full advantage of the awards offered and have brought home quite a few "wins."
Speedy and I have won the CDS Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition at nearly every level that we've entered: Introductory Level, Training Level, and Second Level. We've also brought home a neck ribbon in red for First Level.
Later this month, Speedy and I will be receiving the Second Level Horse Performance Award as well as the Ruby Rider Award at the CDS Annual Meeting.
CDS has been very good to us over the past nine seasons!
Awards from USDF: While my GMO is fabulous, we all know that it's the USDF awards that really matter. While I haven't taken advantage of everything that USDF offers, memberships can be a bit of an issue, the Rider Performance Awards have been something I've worked hard to achieve. As of 2018, Speedy and I have now earned all three Rider Performance Awards from Training, First, and Second Levels. We are two scores away from the Bronze Medal.
It has taken us nine full seasons with 74 days of shows, but Speedy and I have managed to do pretty well for an endurance horse and rider team. I can't wait to see what we'll accomplish in 2019.
Happy New Year, everyone!
I sometimes wonder if I would pursue dressage if no awards were offered. Think about it. Would you bust your chops to get that next score if no certificate and patch were offered? What about getting that last Third Level score for a bronze if no bronze medal existed?
I am going to say that I would probably not be involved in dressage if it were not for the award programs offered by USDF and my own GMO, the California Dressage Society (CDS). I am a competitive person and highly goal oriented. While my motivation is mainly intrinsic - I am proud of a job well done, I do crave public recognition in the form of external rewards. I need at least some extrinsic motivation to propel me forward.
Fortunately, most of my motivation comes from within. Had I been the type who craves recognition in the form of podiums and endorsements, I would have quit long ago. Not to say there's anything wrong with being rewarded so dramatically; it's just that I would have lived life perpetually disappointed. I am simply not good enough to earn such a powerful spotlight.
I am good enough to earn certificates though, and Speedy and I have earned a pile of them! Since certificates are cheap, USDF and CDS can afford to be generous in how they're handed out. It is surprising how hard I have worked, and how much preparation and planning it took, to earn those certificates. While they may simply be a few words mass printed on a page, for me, they represent hard work and acknowledgement of a goal achieved.
Speedy and I were pretty successful this year if that success is measured by ribbons, trinkets, and certificates. The wins didn't come at CDIs and my competition was often just me, but I'll take those shiny small moments and hang them where they will continue to inspire me to keep trying.
What about you? Does your motivation come from within, or do you crave tangible proof of your success?
For starting out the season feeling woefully unprepared, Speedy and I did pretty well in the awards category. We've already received some of the goodies from our various "wins," but others will take longer to get here.
In mid-October, we attended my CDS chapter's awards banquet. The Tehachapi Mountain Chapter might be small, but they put on a great summer series of CDS-rated shows with generous awards. At the banquet, Speedy and I were named the 2018 Second Level Adult Amateur Champion.
Last year, I kept track of points, working towards winning TMC's First Level Championship; we ended up Reserve. While I was maybe a bit disappointed - come one, who doesn't like to win? - placing second in that year's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) felt like a win enough that I was really happy being reserve. This year, as green as we started at Second Level, I didn't think we had a chance at winning this year's RAAC or TMC's Second Level Championship. To win both at Second Level felt pretty good.
No one gives a speech when receiving their award at the TMC Awards Banquet- no one wants to sit there that long, but if I could have, I would have thanked my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. I think there are a lot of trainers who wouldn't have let me make the move to Second Level out of fear of me making them look bad.
I get it. My performance is a direct reflection of my trainer's teaching and coaching skills. Especially so when I use her logo on my saddle pad and walk around with her logo bedazzled on the back of my shirt. I am a walking billboard for Symphony Dressage; she needs me to represent.
Even though we didn't get any 70% scores this year, I know that because of her teaching and coaching, she turned a First Level horse and rider into a confirmed Second Level team. And under her experienced eye, I know she's going to get Team Speedy ready for Third Level and a Bronze Medal.
Doing well for myself is always on my mind, but the truth is that I want to do well for her. I have so much respect for Chemaine's teaching that I want to be the student that showcase's her talent as a trainer and coach.
Thank goodness that she's okay with me just being mediocre.
Speedy and I had a great first season at Second Level. We earned some low scores, we earned some middle of the road scores, and we cleaned up in the awards category. This season, we managed to earn:
I hoped with fingers crossed I'd get it this first year at Second Level, but I didn't really believe it would happen. Second Level had always seemed so intimidating. People tell horror stories of being stuck in its clutches season after season. Somehow, we actually didn't suck all of the time which allowed us to get the scores we needed.
My plan is to be ready for at least test one of Third Level by this spring, but I am not too proud to keep working at Second if we're not quite ready for Third. Second is a foundational level for sure, and getting better at it won't hurt our (eventual) Third Level scores.
But for now, In your face, Second Level!
I've written about my USDF Group Member Organization (GMO) at least 5,000 times already. The California Dressage Society (CDS) really and truly cares about its membership and is always looking for new ways to motivate riders and reward their efforts. Last week, CDS launched a freshly re-designed website AND a new award.
As of now, the list of CDS awards that riders can already earn include:
Horses may earn the award at Training through Grand Prix. In order to earn the award, the horse must earn 6 scores of 60% or better at Training through Fourth Level. The horse needs 3 scores of 60% or higher for Prix St Georges, Intermediate, or Grand Prix. Of course there is also the requirement that the rider must be a CDS member in good standing, and the horse must be registered with CDS ($10 annually or $100 lifetime).
Because the award is being announced so late in the season, scores earned earlier this year will count as long as the horse is registered with CDS. I dropped my registration in the mail yesterday. Speedy has five qualifying scores at Second Level already. He just needs one more. I am hopeful that we'll get it this weekend.
The awards that CDS and USDF offer are a big deal for me. I don't care about ribbons, but I do need something to aim for; it keeps me focused. We might not be earning high scores this season, but we're meeting goals and checking off boxes. I don't know if Speedy needs the proverbial dangling carrot, but I sure do.