While it felt like a routine show season, Speedy and I ended up with some very gratifying successes. Early on, we won the Adult Amateur High Score at two different CDS shows. In August, we took home First Level Reserve Champion at the CDS Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition. This weekend, my CDS chapter, Tehachapi Mountain Chapter, awarded us First Level Adult Amateur Reserve for the season.
Each October, Tehachapi Mountain Chapter holds an awards and appreciation banquet at Oak Tree Country Club, about an hour's drive from Bakersfield. The list of attendees is usually quite large given that Bear Valley Springs is a community of fewer than 23,000 people. It is astonishing that such a small town can generate so much interest in dressage!
I mentioned a few times over the summer that winning the adult amateur show average was a goal of mine. While we didn't win first place, I was quite honored and proud to accept First Level Reserve.
In my opinion, just entering at A at all is a huge accomplishment. Doing it with a decent score is like winning at the Olympics. Just think how many riders can't even get their horses show ready. I know because I am one of them, too. I've been working with Izzy for more than two years, and he's still not ready to enter a real show. So knowing how hard it is to make it to show after show all season, winning reserve feels like a grand achievement to me.
One of TMC's regular volunteers custom made the reserve awards; first place received trophies. Tracy designed the awards specifically to suit each rider. I am delighted with my helmet bag!
Tracy even selected a special print to line the inside of the bag. She told me that mine was selected to complement Speedy's black leather RAAC halter.
During dinner, my husband and I sat next to the junior First Level Champion. While I competed with him all summer, it was the first time we had a chance to chat. He's quite a talented rider, and as I found out, a well rounded young man. We've already decided that next year at Second Level there's going to be some butt kicking. No doubt it will once again be him doing the kicking. I am glad he's still a junior!
In all the excitement from earning second at the RAAC, I sort of forgot to highlight the cool swag that the California Dressage Society had for its competitors.
We've all seen the halter. But in case you missed it, here it is again.
I am sure many clubs and organizations offer halters as prizes, but it's my first one. Living in such a hot state, coolers are fun to win, but mine don't get used very often because it's hardly ever cold. I am definitely going to use the halter more than I've used the coolers.
When the RAAC competitors check in, they always get a welcome prize. One year I got a duffel bag which immediately became my over-night bag for any and all horse related trips. I've even used it for regular vacations as well.
This year, we got a grooming bag. We all have grooming bags, but I am going to admit that the one I keep in the trailer is starting to look a bit threadbare. It lives in the trailer which means it gets pretty dusty as well as bounced around a bit, so it's no surprise that it is looking worn out.
Over the weekend, I finally had the chance to transfer my grooming supplies from the old grooming bag to the new, fancy CDS bag. I must say, it's medium size is going to be perfect for keeping in the trailer.
Maybe I just don't get enough swag to be accustomed to it, so forgive me if I seem stupidly happy over a halter and a grooming tote. But hey, it's the little things, right?!
As per my plan, I took it easy on Sunday. I fed early like I always do and took Speedy out for his mandatory lunge/walk. He simply won't eat breakfast unless I do. But after he was tucked back into his stall, I climbed back into bed and read until 7:00 (I was RV camping, so I had that luxury). I eventually coaxed myself out of bed and made a leisurely breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, I also kept my sunglasses on, wore a wide brimmed hat, and stayed in the shade. Since my ride time wasn't until 2:26, I had the whole day to wait through. In fact, I was the last rider of the day.
I am not sure if you noticed Speedy's braids, but I kicked some butt on those babies. They were so neatly done that they held through the night and were still good enough to use on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty proud of them. After the last time I did this particular braid, I knew I finally had it down pat.
My strategy for Sunday's ride was pretty clear: stay out of the heat during the day, do a short 15 minute warm up, and don't give up before I'd even started. I slept in, hung out in the shade all day, and forced myself to wait to saddle until even friends thought I was pushing it.
I felt kind of bad about the last part of my strategy, but I was seriously intimidated by my competition, no matter how friendly they were. The one thing I forced myself to do was to NOT watch any of their rides. I was just as worried about them making a critical error as I was about seeing them put in a brilliant ride. I didn't want to place well due to someone else's mistakes, but I also didn't want to lose my confidence by watching a winning ride.
By the time the ring steward gave me the go ahead, the heat had returned, but I felt better equipped to deal with it. I marched Speedy into the ring and gave it our all. He was still behind my leg and he still curled, but we put in a pretty solid effort.
When I finally had time to sit down and study my test, I was relieved to see that we had nothing lower than a 6.0, and there were only four of them. We also earned eleven 7.0s, which was what I had been working towards all summer! Our final score for the test was a solid 66.029%.
If you read my post from the other day, you know my finishes at RAAC have been either first or eighth. While we didn't win, I was very relieved to not be in eighth place. I was more than happy to receive that red neck ribbon!
First place always receives a lovely cooler (I already have two of them), but second gets a leather halter. I know it's silly, but I am so in love with the thing!
Here's the video of the ride followed by the score sheets.
We have one more show in a few weeks to finish out the 2017 season. So far, I am more than satisfied with where I am towards accomplishing this year's goals. Win or lose at Tehachapi, I'm calling the season a success!
The way I see it, there are two ways to approach showing. You can either show at one level until your horse is truly confirmed at that level and the scores reflect that, or you can chase down the 60% and move on. I am not going to say that one approach or the other is better, but I do know what feels right for me right now.
I am two scores away from the California Dressage Society Ruby Award. Two Second Level scores. That's it. Speedy and I are well enough along that we could probably eke out a 60% at Second Level at a CDS show.
I've wanted to try for those two scores all summer long, but I haven't. While I want the scores, I want even more for Speedy to be truly confirmed at First Level before we move on. That's why it's taking me so long to move through the levels. I've faced this dilemma (when to move up) at every level since Intro.
Every time I've gotten bored with the level I am working on, I remind myself how much I love seeing a 70%. Moving to a new level too early isn't going to yield scores that I like. It's that simple.
I want confirmation. I want to know that my horse is confirmed at the level and ready to move on with a solid foundation under his girth. That doesn't mean I am going to finish out the level with 70%, although that happened at Intro and Training Level. For me to feel confident enough to move on to the next level, I need to be earning at least mid-60 scores. We're pretty close.
Ruby Award aside, I have several First Level goals that I'd like to see realized this summer. The first is to do well at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) this weekend. We've won at Intro and Training, so it's not an impossibility.
The second is to maybe win my CDS Chapter's Adult Amateur High Point Score for the season. We've also won that one before, but it will take a miracle this year, like maybe a 70%!
I'm also trying to get as many 60% and better scores as possible to add to my CDS plaque. In 2013, we earned a whopping 16 scores. Last year, Speedy struggled with several different lamenesses so we earned a disappointing 4 scores. Right now, we're on track to finish with 13 scores above 60%, but less likely if we chance a Second Level test.
I'd rather finish the season on a high note rather than make the move to Second Level and maybe get a 60% but probably bring home several disappointing 50s. In a way, I guess I am still chasing scores. Thoughts?
Speedy and I had a pretty slow show season in 2016. In fact, we didn't actually make it to any shows during the calendar year. Good thing for us the show season actually starts in the fall.
In October of 2015, we went to a show and earned four very nice scores in the high 60s at First Level. I was certain that our 2016 season was going to be a roaring success. Nope. It wasn't.
It was one thing after another with Speedy. In the spring he suffered a small bowed tendon which the vet only called tendonitis, and then throughout the summer he soared himself by pacing and fence walking. Before I knew it, winter had arrived and our show season was over.
My GMO, the California Dressage Society (CDS), has a number of rider incentive programs, but the Rosettes Award is my favorite. To be eligible, riders must earn 5 scores at or above 60% at rated shows during one season. Each year thereafter, each score over 60% at a rated show earns a "rosette" which is presented on an engraved plate.
The plaque can be purchased from CDS. The certificate, also from CDS, is only taped on and will be removed once I need the space for more plates. I love this plaque because it's a great way to look back on the progress we've made.
Our first plate came from Intro and Training Level. The next two were also from Training Level, but the * indicates scores of over 70%! The last two plates are from First Level.
As lofty a goal as it may be, I would love to get a plate this year with Second Level scores. I know Speedy is capable of Second Level work, we're already schooling some of the movements, but I don't know if he'll stay sound enough to make it to a show.
No matter what happens, I was certainly delighted to add another plate to our plaque. And who knows, maybe Izzy's name will be up there this year!
I've written about CDS many times, but in case you're kind of new here, CDS is my GMO. The California Dressage Society is the USDF's largest GMO with more than 2,800 recorded members.
Like most GMOs, CDS has a number of awards programs. One of my favorites is the engraved plates that are mounted on personalized plaques. In order to receive the first plate, a rider must score 60% or higher five times in a single season at Introductory C or above. Thereafter, riders receive their plates no matter how many scores are earned in a single season. The scores must be earned at CDS rated shows.
Speedy finally received his fourth plate this week. Level 1 of course refers to First Level and the 8 Rosettes means he earned 8 scores of 60% or higher in the 2015 season.
Even though Speedy is currently side-lined, he will also get a plate in 2016 as we already have four scores over 60% for a show we did in October. I hope he has the opportunity to add to that number.
I would certainly love it if Izzy could earn some scores in 2016, but we need to get through a schooling show first and maybe get our canter departure a little more under control. Once we get that organized, my goal will be to try for those five scores this summer. The plaque will fill up a lot more quickly if two horses are getting plates!
What does your GMO offer to encourage or motivate its riders?
I am not really "allowed" to decorate the public parts of my house with horse-related art work, although there are a few small items here and there. I get it, I am not a big fan of the hunting/outdoors motif either. Our cabin is decorated that way, but it's appropriate for the space.
I do have an office though that is covered floor to ceiling with framed riding photos. There are also shelves of model horses and piles of equine related books and magazines.
I earned my USDF First Level Riding Performance Award two months ago, but I hadn't had the time to get it framed until last week. I've heard some chatter on Facebook about what to do with those patches. I like to frame mine.
I've framed both Rider Performance Awards in the same way: I include the certificate and then lay the patch on top with a bit of scotch tape behind to hold it in place.
Both of the certificates and patches hang on my "awards wall." I have my endurance Chevrons (patches) and medals hanging on the same wall. I've also hung my plaque for the CDS Rosettes (plates), and a few other awards I've won with Speedy G or Montoya (may she RIP).
I never wanted to sew my endurance patches and chevrons to a jacket because I was afraid I might lose the jacket or wear it out. The same goes for the dressage patches. I'd rather have mine safely framed at home. Do you have any equine related patches, and what did you do with yours? Do you wear them or display them?
Or, GMOs for short. I've written about this topic before, but the more people I get to know around the country, the more interested I am in learning about their GMOs.
If you want to know more about the various GMOs, USDF has a handy little feature that lets you look at the list of GMOs grouped by region. First, you need to know your region:
When you know which region you want to look up, click the link here. It's an easy page to navigate. Find your region listed, and select. All of the GMOs in that region will be listed along with the GMO's USDF number - this isn't the number of members. Here is Region 7's list of GMO's.
If you then select a particular Club Name, like the California Dressage Society, you'll be taken to a page that lists the contact information, the group's website, and the full roster. Here's the page for CDS:
The California Dressage Society's USDF number is 700 with a roster of 1297 recorded members. Central Office's mailing address is shown along with the website. Contact information is also listed. I believe that Pauls's position is a paid one, so I can always reach her when I have a question. She is also very quick to return emails.
The California Dressage Society operates like a mini-USDF. Because of the huge area it covers and its sheer number of members, CDS is divided into thirty-three chapters, similar to GMOs. Each of the chapters operates independently of one another, based on what its members want and are willing to do.
My own chapter puts on four, CDS-rated shows each summer. They offer cash prizes for Open, AA, and Jr./YR class winners and over-all hight point winners, again divided by division. The chapter also hosts an annual awards banquet where additional year-end ribbons and cash prizes are awarded. Other, larger chapters host clinics, schooling shows, lectures, demonstrations, and so on.
Like USDF, CDS offers rider incentives for earning certain scores and recognizes various levels of achievement. The new Gem Rider Award is one of those, along with Rosettes and other awards. CDS's Championship Show is held in conjunction with the USDF Region 7 Championship Show. Each year, CDS also holds an annual 3-day meeting and symposium for its members.
I have a feeling that for many of California's dressage riders, the member benefits that CDS and its chapters offer are more accessible and user-friendly than what USDF offers. I am sure that CDS is always working to grow its membership, but compared to most GMOs, it's already a colossal organization.
I would love to know more about your own GMO.
I've written before about the awesome GMO that I am lucky to belong to - the California Dressage Society. It's a great organization that is completely rider focused. And even better, CDS recognizes that adult ammies and Junior/Young Riders are an integral part of the sport of dressage and works hard to provide ways for us to be acknowledged.
Just yesterday, I received an email from CDS introducing the newest Rider Award, and oh boy, am I super psyched about it.
CDS is calling it the Gem Rider Award. You can see the requirements above, but the very best thing about the award is that it is retroactive!!!! The second cool thing about the award is that I am already two thirds of the way to earning the first one, the Ruby Rider Award. Oh, sweet Jesus, I can barely contain myself.
Since this is a CDS Award program, the scores need only be earned at CDS-rated shows, not necessarily at USDF shows. I've mentioned this before, but most CDS shows are also USDF-rated, but my local chapter of CDS, Tehachapi Mountain Chapter, hosts a four-show summer series that is only CDS-rated. Since it's not a USDF show, the judging is usually a tiny bit more generous than at a USDF-rated show.
This is going to provide a great opportunity for the riders in my area to earn scores for their Gem Rider Awards. Like I said, oh, heck yeah! I am so all over this award. Now I am even more motivated to get mine and Speedy's butts up to Second Level. We've got a lot of work to do this winter!
When I blogged about renewing my memberships last month, I mentioned that if I had money left over at the end November, I wanted to upgrade Speedy's USDF Horse ID to a Lifetime Horse Registration (LHR). Well, there was money left over, and Speedy has been upgraded.
I rarely spend money on the horses unless I have a purpose for the expenditure. I don't buy new things just because they're pretty or stylish. I am pretty conservative with my money and tend to buy things on an as needed basis.
Spending $70 bucks to upgrade to an LHR seems a bit wasteful to me. Speedy is simply eligible for more USDF awards and honors, but he can't get any of those things unless I also upgrade my Group Membership to a Participating Membership. That probably isn't going to happen this year.
But it might ...
There aren't a lot of benefits for Speedy having his LHR, but there are a few.
I have a lot to think about in the next month. USDF does offer some interesting programs, but my own two GMOs do as well, and I've already paid those memberships. Both GMOs have Championship Shows, and DASC even offers a breed award. The CDS Championship is held concurrently with the USDF Region 7 show, so if we qualify we'd still get to be there like we did in 2014.
Speedy might not ever get to use his LHR number, but at least it's a one-time expense and doesn't need to be renewed annually. It's paid for so that if I want to upgrade my membership in the future, it will be one less thing to pay for.
How much are you willing to pay for "the chance" of an award?