From Endurance to Dressage
I feel truly lucky to have found a sport where the governing body does so much to support its members. The United States Dressage Federation (USDF) really seems to care about my dressage experience. I love that. Last night, the annual yearbook arrived. My husband set it on the counter, the normal resting place for mail, but as I was in the middle of something, I promptly forgot about it.
As I was getting ready to head to bed, I saw the yearbook laying on my counter, and all of a sudden I remembered that all of the medal recipients would be listed. All thoughts of being tired vanished as I eagerly flipped to the page that listed the USDF Bronze Medalists.
There are five pages of Bronze Medalists this year, and since my last name falls near the end of the alphabet, I found my name on the last page.
I know it sounds silly, but I dreamed of one day seeing my name on those pages, and there it is! It won't come easily, but I am just as determined to see my name on the page of Silver Medalists too, and after that, on the page of the Gold Medalists. And then, because it will more than likely take at least another decade, I'll be eligible to receive a USDF Master's Challenge Award (for riders of 60 and above). I am not in a rush for that one.
Back when I was teaching kindergarten, in 10 inch letters, I hung on a bulletin board the words YES YOU CAN. Kindergartners love to say I can't. Another year, this time for my sixth graders, I posted the phrase, Miracles Come After a Lot of Hard Work. Sixth graders often times quit believing in themselves. I think those two sentiments are just as true for dressage riders. We too, doubt ourselves by saying I just can't do it. We also attribute the good that happens to us to luck when the reality is that hard work is the real reason we succeed, not luck.
So to all of you doubting yourself, me included, we can do it. Yes you can!
My Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) is the California Dressage Society (CDS). Pat, I'd like to buy a vowel, please. I may have mentioned that (about a billion times) already. I talk about my GMO so often because they are, or rather, WE are, an amazing group of dressage enthusiasts. The people who make up the Executive Board and Directors are people just like you and me. In fact, if you live in California and show even occasionally, you probably know at least one board member. In fact, you might have even been a board member or director or committee member.
Even before becoming a CDS chapter vice-chairperson I had at least occasional cause to speak with CDS's Central Office manager, Paula. As chapter vice-chair, I find that I am calling and emailing her quite frequently. I am not special, that's just how CDS does things. It's an organization that strives to meet member needs by being easily accessible. We care about each other, and it shows in how our organization is run.
Each month, CDS produces a monthly magazine that is distributed to members. It recently went digital. When my copy arrived in my email last night, I quickly popped it open and read through it. As I read about the CDS Virtual Annual Meeting, I saw my name mentioned. Even though I've seen my name in print before, it's always a little exciting.
As I kept reading, I saw my name mentioned again. That's a first. CDS had asked for feedback from the members about the virtual meeting. Since it was such a massive undertaking by a group of people who are nearly all volunteers, I thought it was important to let them know much I appreciated their efforts. I sent an email not knowing it would be published. Again, it was fun to see my name in print.
As I continued reading, I was pleased as punch to have been mentioned twice in one month. When what to my wondering eyes should appear? A THIRD mention in a single year! Yep, Speedy and I were there again. Ignore the PSG part, that honor goes to Barbara. I was having trouble with my mark up tool. The Third Level notation is ours.
Every time I think Speedy and I are finished as a dressage team, something else reminds me of all of the great adventures we've had. I know CDS didn't choose to "write about me" - that's just how the cards fell this month, but I appreciate my GMO's efforts to reward its members as often as possible.
I feel like such a star this morning. I promise it won't go to my head.
The California Dressage Society, my USDF Group Member Organization, does an amazing job recognizing its members with a bevy of awards and recognition opportunities. Normally, there is an annual meeting which all members can attend. The chapter chairs participate in round table discussions, there is a silent auction, educational seminars and clinics, and an awards gala.
In 2019, a group of us went to the CDS annual meeting where several of us earned our 2018 Ruby Gem Awards and Horse Performance Awards. It was thrilling for me to step up on that stage to receive the Ruby Rider Award (scores earned at Training, First, and Second Levels) and Speedy's Second Level Horse Performance Award. It was more than I ever thought we might earn. I was grateful we had gotten that far. Little did I know that two years later we'd eventually earn a USDF Bronze Medal and a Third Level Horse Performance Award.
Due to COVID - aren't you sick of hearing that expression?, this year's annual meeting was held virtually. CDS did a great job putting this thing together. All CDS members were allowed to join in by watching the events on the members only Facebook page. The round table discussions were broadcast live and available to watch later. On Friday, there was a lecture by Kristi Wysocki, a Federation Equestre Internationale FEI 4* Dressage and FEI 5* Para Dressage Judge.
On Saturday evening, there was a Kahoot game in which I came in second place! Apparently I won a dressage book which is being shipped to me. I felt like I cheated a bit as I use Kahoot in my classroom, so I am fast at clicking on the answers. It was a legitimate win though, so I'll take it! On Sunday, there was an Educational Session with
Technical Delegate, Doris North. where she spoke about understanding the rules; I missed that session. Shortly after, there was second educational Zoom meeting with "S" Judge Axel Steiner where riders were able to ask Steiner about different movements on the dressage tests. His explanations were very practical and sometimes, downright funny!
On Saturday evening, all of the CDS annual awards were presented live on the members only Facebook page. While I would have loved to have walked cross the stage to receive Speedy's Third Level Horse Performance Award, CDS made it pretty special even though it was virtual. I knew we were getting the award, but to make it more meaningful, CDS sent all of the recipients a letter asking us to submit a photo for the awards night presentation.
Most years, the list of recipients is pretty long. Because of COVID, so many shows were cancelled in 2020 that it made it very difficult for riders to earn the scores necessary for the Horse Performance Awards and Gem Rider Awards. This year, only five riders from the entire state had horses who were able to earn a Horse Performance Award. One rider's horse earned the award at PSG, three riders' horses earned the award at Training Level, and then there was Speedy G. He earned the award at Third Level.
As I eagerly listened to each horse's name being called, I was stunned to feel tears threatening to fall when Speedy's name was announced. My heart swelled with love and pride and gratitude. Each time we've won something, I've cherished it knowing that it was probably the last one we would earn. And yet, year after year there was always one more, something else to hang on our wall. Somehow, I am sure that this will truly be the last one.
When the ceremony was over, I replayed the video, pausing it just before the Horse Performance Awards were given. My husband watched it with me, giving my leg a gentle squeeze when I teared up for the second time. He doesn't quite get the horse thing, but Speedy is part of our family, and I think my husband felt proud to see Speedy recognized so publicly.
I don't know why I was so blessed to have this horse in my life, but I will be forever grateful. He has given me so much, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay him. He of course has a home for life doing as much or as little as he'd like. Right now, he seems to love being a school master, cheerfully carrying his ladies around the dressage court. When he's done being a schoolmaster, I'll try to find him an even less demanding job, or he can doze in the sun doing nothing if he likes.
He has more than earned whatever he feels like doing in his retirement.
I swear this is the LAST post about that Bronze Medal. I am sick of writing about it. It took forever to earn it. It took forever for it to get here. It took forever to figure out what to do with it once I had it in my hands. I already wrote about its disappointing size. It's a little bit too big to actually pin to a jacket, and it's a lot too small to display. Frankly, the lapel pin checks all my boxes. It arrived quickly, and it's purpose was clearly stated on the box. Not really. I made that part up, but you get the point.
After thinking on it for a bit, I decided it needed to be displayed, but I had to add a lot of other stuff to make the display big enough to actually see. Framing something the size of a quarter requires some creative thinking. Fortunately,I save everything related to shows.
I have every score sheet I've ever earned (except two that I lost in November, and I am still mad about it), so I decided to display two of the Third Level Score sheets. Knowing that I might want to use it someday, I saved Speedy's number from the day when we earned the last score needed for the Bronze. I also saved the ribbon we earned. Don't get too excited, we were the only rider in the class so it's blue. We won by default, but it was a pretty ribbon, so I kept it.
I decided that a shadow box was probably the best way to memorialize our accomplishment. I laid out a couple of tests, the ribbon, the number, a document listing all of the scores needed, and of course the medal itself. I rearranged things a few times and found a configuration I liked. I took a few measurements and found a shadow box that looked like it would work.
For the document, I wanted to show when and where Speedy and I earned our scores. From First and Second Levels I had quite a few scores to choose from. Rather than use the first scores we earned, I chose scores that were meaningful. Two of the scores were earned under the watchful eye of Hilda Gurney. Another score was earned at the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) - two of them actually. For the Third Level scores, I wanted to show that we earned at least one score from the championship level test - Test 3. I typed it all up, printed it out on heavy card stock, and used rubber cement to mount it.
It took Speedy and I forever to get through Intro, Training, and First, but once we did, the scores at Second and Third came relatively quickly. I have a feeling it might be a long, long time before Izzy and I earn any scores towards a Silver Medal. We'll need two scores of 60% or above at Fourth Level and two at Prix St. Georges. I never thought a Bronze Medal was even a possibility, but there it is hanging on my wall.
Now that I know that the unthinkable is possible, I am not ruling out a Silver Medal.
Last week, I started seeing posts on Facebook of rider's receiving their USDF awards for 2020. I knew my Bronze medal must be imminent. I was right. On Thursday evening a little package from Kentucky was sitting in my mailbox. My husband knows how much I've been waiting for this day, so he kindly stood at the counter with me as I eagerly opened the package.
I expected the package to be smallish, but I was a little worried about how small it was, and once I opened the larger envelope to reveal an even smaller bundle, I grew a bit more concerned. Was it even in there?
When I peeled off the congratulatory note and opened the bubble wrap, a very small, plastic case rested in my hand. I stared at it for a moment, and then said huh. My husband peeked over my shoulder, looked at me, and raised his eyebrows in a look that duplicated my own. It was not at all what I was expecting a BRONZE MEDAL to look like. Where was the neck ribbon?
I opened the plastic box thinking that the ribbon was somehow folded beneath the medal itself. Nope. I flipped the medal over and saw that not only does it not come with a multicolored neck ribbon, it's actually just a pin. Like the lapel pin I already bought and affixed to my show coat.
I actually laughed. I spent ten years and many tens of thousands of dollars for this? When I told the story to my trainer and good friend Wendy, they both laughed as well, and at one point, Wendy quipped, It's like what you get out of a gumball machine. For two quarters do you get a silver? I laughed so hard that if I'd have had a Coke, it would have come out my nose.
I could stand here and say I wasn't expecting much, but I'd be lying. I pretty much anticipated my medal looking a lot like an Olympic medal. I wanted a fancy ribbon, and I wanted to be able to take that see if it's real bite.
Ultimately, the petite size of the medal doesn't diminish the pride I feel in having earned it. Even if Speedy can't wear it around his neck for a photo op, I am still immensely proud to be one of fewer than 10,000 riders to have ever earned one. That I did it with my endurance-turned-dressage Arabian makes me even more proud.
At least now when I get my Silver medal, I'll know what to expect!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read