From Endurance to Dressage
Now that Speedy is "retired," his life looks very different from what it used to. He gets ridden once or twice a week, and the rest of the time he relaxes in his field, harassing or being harassed by Izzy. He looks quite happy.
I miss him a little bit though. Of course I see him most every day, and he happily gobbles up the cookies I use to greet him, but I miss having a plan, goals, things that we're trying to accomplish together.
It's been nice that 2020's award season has stretched on for so long. We're still awaiting our USDF Bronze Medal, but there was yet another award that I had forgotten about - the California Dressage Society (CDS) Horse Performance Award.
I write about this all the time, but my USDF Group Member Organization - CDS, is really large compared to the rest of the GMOs across the country. As of today, there are 623 members listed. The roster is a bit light at the moment as many members are still renewing for 2021. Even though I renewed a few weeks ago, my name still isn't on the list.
With such a large GMO, it's quite common for the award's recipient list to be pretty hefty when CDS holds its annual meeting in January. This year, the list of winners is really small.
The year Speedy and I won our Ruby GEM Award (two scores of 60% or above at Training, First, & Second Levels), the stage was packed with riders who had earned their own Ruby, Sapphire, or Diamond awards. That same year Speedy also earned a Horse Performance Award. The list of riders who took the stage for that award was also long.
This year, the list of riders earning CDS awards is much shorter than normal, so I feel particularly grateful to be on that list. Shutdowns due to COVID-19 impacted California's horse show season pretty severely. The regulations and protocols that our governor has mandated have been largely viewed as capricious, inconsistent, and frequently downright draconian. With the state in perpetual lockdown, most counties were forced to deny show managers permission to hold shows. That meant that some areas of the state couldn't hold shows while others could. It's no surprise that so few could earn an award.
Speedy and I only made it to three shows this season, and the first was in October of 2019, the month our new new show season begins. Those shows gave us just enough of an opportunity to finish earning the scores we needed for Speedy's Third Level Horse Performance Award.
A week or so ago, I was sent an email from CDS congratulating me on our accomplishment. The Annual Meeting and Awards Gala will of course be virtual this year, but the event's organizers have requested a photo to display as our names are read. I've sent my favorite photo, one from Speedy's last show.
While I wish we could all meet in person to celebrate the accomplishments of our friends and fellow riders, it's not to be. Instead, I'll be waiting anxiously for my award to arrive in the mail.
Let's hope 2021 brings better news and an end to this madness.
Speedy and I have had a very good run over the past decade. We've won most everything that USDF offers outside of a Silver or Gold Medal. We've also never earned breed recognition (AHA is just too expensive) or Horse of the Year. The competition nationally is just too far out of our reach. Outside of those few awards, we've done pretty well.
In the next month or two, I expect our USDF Bronze Medal to arrive. I already have the lapel pin, but it won't feel truly official until the medal actually gets here. I am also looking forward to receiving the USDF Annual Yearbook since we'll be listed. I submitted a photo, so that might appear as well.
My "achievement wall" will need to be rearranged because I plan to frame the medal. I am not sure what I'll do - a shadow box maybe?, but since that may be the only medal I earn, I had better make the most of it.
Last night, my newest CDS "plate" arrived. Due to COVID-19 and a few other things, the plates are no longer being given out to members via the chapters. Last year, my CDS chapter - the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter, did a small celebration for our members that included awarding the plates and certificates during a small ceremony that concluded with a celebratory champagne cake.
CDS is now mailing the plates directly to recipients. Also new this year is that the plates are no longer free. Members must submit a form along with $12.00. That doesn't seem like much unless you ride four or five horses (or more) like many trainers do. Suddenly, your plates might cost you $50 or more.
Speedy and I have earned a plate every year since 2012, and Izzy earned one in 2019. The shows we've done this fall are in the 2021 season, so Izzy already has at least one score for next year. "Rosettes" are earned for each score of 60% or better at CDS/USDF shows. This year was most likely the last year that Speedy earns a plate, for me anyway. I'm not disappointed though; he's earned more than I ever thought possible.
Now it's up to Izzy to try and fill in those empty spaces. I am not sure whether I should hold my breath or not. He's capable, but it remains to be seen whether he believes he's capable.
This is really just silly, but I cannot figure out why it took me so long to put my Bronze Medal lapel pin on my show coat. I am not going to lie. Earning a USDF Bronze Medal is probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I've completed 100 mile endurance races. And yet, I've been staring at the pin sitting in its little plastic case on my desk ever since it arrived earlier this summer.
I am deeply proud of earning a Bronze Medal, but I am also "over it." Having a Bronze Medal does not make me a better rider or a better human. I will always see myself as a struggling rider because there is no end to what I still need to learn. So while I am very proud of it, it didn't change a single thing in my life other than give me a bit more hardware to add to my jacket.
I was listening to a podcast the other day about introspection. The author being interviewed talked about how we see ourselves. It was a talk about internal versus external credit. I don't remember the exact term but what it amounted to was this: when bad things happen, do you blame the situation or the choices you made - external forces? On the flip side, when good things happen to you, do you give credit to your choices - internal forces, or do you feel that you just got lucky?
In my case, I invariably credit the good things in my life to luck and the bad things to my own ineptitude or poor judgement. This of course isn't a healthy mix. By taking all of the credit for the "bad things," I am not recognizing that some things are literally out of my control. I can't control the weather, crazy drivers, or a pandemic. Attributing all of my successes to luck isn't healthy either as doing so negates hard work, education, and good decision-making. Without acknowledging the "wins," it makes it even more challenging to build on good decisions.
That idea really hit home. I decided that I need to take less responsibility for the not-so-great things and give myself more credit for the successes I've earned. My first tangible step in doing that was to pin my USDF Bronze Medal label pin to my show coat.
I recently wrote about Your Dressage in a post titled, Hey, USDF, Looking Good! As it turns out, Speedy and I made an appearance this week on the site with an article about our journey from Endurance to Dressage. You can read it by clicking the Achievement tab or here.
We've received a fair amount of feedback on the article, all of it very positive. The one thing that has surprised me though is how inspiring readers felt it was. I never feel that I am "inspiring" anyone, especially since I feel like we represent riders of the struggle bus. Struggle Bus Riders Unite! If there was one thing that I could hope other riders might take away from our story, it would be this: with hard work and a bit of luck, any rider can be successful. Speedy and I are the poster children for average. I am an average rider, my horse is an average horse, and neither of us is particularly talented. And yet, we achieved an accomplishment that fewer than 10,000 riders have been able to do in nearly 50 years of the the medals being available.
So whatever your goal is, whether in dressage or some other discipline, don't let yourself be discourage or intimidated by the competition. You do you! Set big goals, but it's also important to set mini goals that will serve to motivate and inspire you to reach for greater things. Don't be afraid of failure. Failure shows you where you need to improve which ultimately leads to success. If I can do it, ANYONE can.
And if you do check out USDF's Your Dressage, take a look at their Weekly Poll; the answers are always interesting. I voted twice this week since I have two horses, and I am looking forward to reading the results.
Have a great weekend!
You might have noticed that things look a little bit different. A month or so ago, it was suggested that my website needed a more mobile-friendly look because the font was too difficult to read. I tried to make an adjustment, but the theme that I had been using had not been optimized for mobile devices, or as Weebly calls it, responsive. Over the weekend, I looked at changing my theme, but while doing so, Weebly suffered a major fart and refused to let me go back to my old theme. So viola, I have a new, responsive theme.
I can't say that it looks any better on mobile devices, and I am not sold on the font color, so you might notice some changes over the next week or two. To those who hate change - I am FREAKING out right now, I'll try to get it done quickly. I despise constant changes. Pick something, dammit, and stick with it. But that's just me.
In the midst of that nightmare ... er, surprise, I got an even better one in the mail. After the forty-sixth F-bomb - redoing a website is a pain in the butt, I took a walk and checked the mail. So glad I did as both my USDF Rider Award Certificate and my lapel pin were waiting in the mailbox. I am now (even more) officially a USDF Bronze Medalist.
I think there might be such as thing as too much celebration, but honestly, this achievement is only now starting to sink in, and I am going to appreciate every new bit of it. While at the show this past weekend - I swear I'll get to that over the next few days, Speedy got a ton of compliments, which always surprises me. I mean, I know he's cute, but he's definitely not the big, powerful warmblood that draws all of the oohs and aws. Whenever the person complimenting Speedy seemed interested in hearing more about him, I couldn't resist telling his story quickly ...
I bought Speedy as a 3-year old to serve as my next endurance horse. He's now 16. Eventually, after 16 years of competing in 100 and 50-miler races, including several seasons on him, I decided to give dressage a try. Speedy and I started at Introductory Level together, and while it took ten years, we just earned our Bronze Medal.
Of course, my little story always earned what seemed like genuine and heartfelt congratulations! I like to tell his story because so many riders think you can only be successful on a purpose-bred warmblood. Yes, the sport is probably easier on those horses, but with a little extra hard work (in our case, a LOT of extra hard work), any horse and rider can be successful in the sport.
Go out and ride what you've got, and you might just surprise yourself. I certainly did!
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