From Endurance to Dressage
If we're friends on facebook, you've already heard that Speedy and I finally earned the last score we needed to qualify for a USDF Bronze Medal.
For those of you who only casually follow dressage, a Bronze Medal is awarded once a rider has met certain score requirements. There are six scores required.
There were the deep hoof bruises caused by wearing shoes; we went barefoot. He developed tendonitis after an exuberant turnout. He sliced open his coronary band; on what we never found. He knocked out a tooth. He sliced open both front legs requiring sutures. Then he developed PPID which came with repeated abscesses. Speedy always recovered well, but the time outs took their toll on our training.
Our slow journey wasn't all Speedy's fault though. Most of our snail's pace was because we were never intended to be a dressage team in the first place. I bought him as a three-year-old to be my backup endurance horse. When my super star mare died in 2010, Speedy got called up to the big leagues completing several endurance seasons before we became dressage partners. Because I had never taken riding lessons, we started at Introductory Level and then moved ever so slowly through Training Level before we even thought about earning the necessary scores from First Level. And the truth is, it never even occurred to me that we might make it to First Level, and certainly not Second and then Third!
Obviously, we did. Along the way we struggled - we have lots of scores in the high 50s, but we also made consistent and steady progress. We've either won or been reserve at every California Dressage Society (CDS) Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) level from Introductory through Second Level. Last August, Speedy developed an abscess just days before RAAC where we slated to show at Third Level. We were forced to withdraw.
In 2019, Speedy was diagnosed with PPID, otherwise known as Cushing's Disease. Even with medication - we have a Therapeutic Use Exemption from US Equestrian, it has taken some time to get his symptoms under control. Knowing that horses with PPID frequently become insulin resistant and are more likely to suffer laminitic episodes, I recognized that our time competing together wasn't guaranteed, and each day's ride might be the last. I didn't want to earn a Bronze Medal on a different horse. Speedy and I started this journey together, so I wanted him to have the honor of getting us all the way there. Knowing that time might be short added another layer of pressure to get those Third Level scores.
Over the years, we've had plenty of help from our trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. While Chemaine is now based closer to me than before - she's still an hour away, getting weekly lessons has been impossible. For many years, I was lucky to ride with her at most once a month. Even without being able to ride in a steady program, Chemaine has been a tremendous support, frequently coaching me through a problem over the phone or by text. With her guidance, she has taken an endurance pair from Introductory Level to the Bronze Medal. We would never have been able to earn the needed scores without her instruction and vision.
After I finished my first ride on Saturday, I felt pretty confident that we had eked out at least a 60%. Hearing that we had indeed earned a qualifying score left me feeling more relieved than happy. After working so diligently for the past several years, I expected to feel elated. Instead, I just felt utter relief. Earning a USDF Bronze Medal was a lot like earning my first 1,000-mile Medallion from the American Endurance Ride Conference or finishing my first 100-mile endurance race. Those two milestones left me feeling like I could truly call myself an endurance rider. The Bronze Medal has given me a similar feeling. Now I feel a bit more confident in identifying myself as a Dressage rider.
As I lay in bed on Saturday night, I felt both happy and unburdened. By Sunday, I felt pressure. As a USDF Bronze Medalist, I now feel like I had better start performing like one. It feels as though the bar is now higher, that more should be expected. We're not done with Third Level. That left to right flying change still gets stuck and our half passes need more bend and a lot more forward.
Now that I am not putting so much pressure on myself to earn that Bronze Medal - you do not know how frustrating it is to be one score away, I think I'll be able to really focus on improving the movements where we're weak and building on our strengths. And besides, I can't move on to Fourth until we've had our opportunity to compete at the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition at Third Level.
But knowing Chemaine like I do, I know she's already sneaking in some Fourth Level stuff. I don't mind; endurance riders are always looking down the trail to see what's around the next bend. I may not know what's next, but gratefully, Chemaine does, and I have every confidence in her ability to get us there.
Stay tuned for videos and a show recap.
Because my GMO (California Dressage Society - CDS) is so big and offers so many awards, I only join USDF as a Group Member (GM). As a GM I am only eligible for Rider Awards but not Horse Performance Certificates, the Adequan Awards, or the All-Breeds Award. Like I said though, CDS offers so many awards, plus a great championship show held in conjunction with the USDF Region 7 Championship show, that I've never felt the need to join as a Group Member.
The only thing that kind of calls my name though is the Adequan/USDF All-Breeds Award. Each year when the Yearbook edition of the USDF Connection arrives in my mailbox, I hungrily flip to the All-Breeds Award section and check out how we might have fared against the Arabian Horse Association (AHA) winners. For adult amateur awards, a rider must have at least eight scores from four judges from four different shows AND a median score of 60% or greater (Training through Fourth Levels). In 2019, Speedy and I had eight scores from two judges from two shows and a median of (roughly) only 56.5%. We wouldn't have qualified for this year's All-Breeds Award.
There have been years though, like in 2018, where we might have been competitive. In 2018, we had a median score of (roughly) 61% at Second Level which included sixteen total scores from five shows and five judges. 2019's first and second place riders (at Second Level) clocked in at 63% and 62%. We might have been close.
The main reason I don't declare for All-Breeds is because it's pretty expensive.
That doesn't mean I still don't find the idea attractive. If I didn't ride two such popular breeds - a lot of Arabians get All-Breeds Awards, and the RPSI horses all have scores in the high 60s and 70s, I might be more interested in signing up. If I rode a rescue horse or maybe a Clydesdale, I'd be much more interested in showcasing my breed. Which brings me to the real point of this post. Have you seen some of the Participating Organizations (PO) that give out awards? The list is fascinating!
A few of the associations really jumped out at me, so I thought I'd do a little research and learn more about them. First of all, who doesn't want to ride a Clydesdale? The one and only time I did, I had an absolute blast. My non-horsey husband did, too! The Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A, a new PO in 2019, had a winner - Kim Fiore riding Freedom Royal Legacy at Training Level.
Another association that caught my eye was the Hungarian Horse Association of America. This is definitely a breed that is new to me. Apparently more people know something about these horses than me since in 2019, the HHA awarded All-Breeds Awards from Training Level to Prix St. Georges, including a Freestyle winner.
The International Drum Horse Association would cause anyone to stop and take a second look. According to their website: Actually named after a “job” performed by the horse, The Drum Horse is an important member of the Queen of England's Band of the Life Guards. These horses carry two large solid silver kettle Drums, plus a fully outfitted rider, through crowds of thousands, during the Queen’s processions! The fact that the Drum Horse can remain quiet in large crowds of people while being controlled entirely by reins attached to their rider’s feet is a testament to the Drum Horse's extraordinary disposition.
It doesn't appear as though IDHA awarded any horses an All-Breeds Award this year, but they're not a new PO, so they must have had winners in the past. I'm going to keep my eye open for one of these beauties.
The International Georgian Grande Horse Registry gave out All-Breeds Awards from Training through Fourth Level to Open and Adult Amateurs alike in 2019. During the 1970s, a breeder named George Wagner Jr. started crossing drafts to Saddlebreds to recreate the[m] as closely as possible the original Saddlebred type. He wanted to bring back the heavier boned, bigger Saddlebreds of the historic past, which were more robust and sensible. One example of the original type Saddlebred was General Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveler, who was Lee’s favorite horse throughout his many battle campaigns.
This definitely sounds like a breed that can work all day comfortably!
We know that dressage is good for all horses, but the International Rescue Horse Registry is making sure that all horses, no matter their breed, get a chance to be recognized. This registry is the dream of a horse rescue board member, trainer and supporter. We'd like to give the wonderful people who give new life to abused and rescued horses a chance to register them (even if the pedigree is unknown) and earn End-of-Year Awards and scholarships.
The IRHR recognized ten different horses in 2019 by giving All-Breeds Awards from Training through Second Level.
The USDF All-Breeds Award isn't really for me, at this point anyway, but I sure do like that so many registries and associations are stepping up to get their breeds recognized by USDF. Another thing that I like about the program is that most of the breeds listed aren't warmbloods. No bias against warmbloods, but dressage really is for all horses, so it's great to see so many breeds and types of horses getting out there and showing in the sport.
As I look over the list of All-Breeds Participating Organizations, the one breed I am dying to try out is the Haflinger. I keep threatening to get one as my next horse. By the time I'm ready for a new horse, I am going to need one that is short, sturdy, and not at all interested in breaking a sweat. Is there a breed you'd like to take for a spin?
Last fall, my chapter of the California Dressage Society (CDS) lost its core group of "doer-of-a-all-the-things." You know the who I mean, the people who actually DO everything so that the rest of us can reap the benefits. The chapter needed someone to pick up the reins, so along with my trainer and a few other ladies, I agreed to help.
I don't think I knew what I was getting into. Since taking over as Vice-chair this fall, I've launched a website, a Facebook page, created 10 show entries (English and Western Dressage have their own versions), rounded up a group of sponsors, and mostly recently, put together an awards "ceremony" for our riders who had earned their plates from CDS.
It may sound like I am complaining, but I am not. I am just stressing how much work it is to run even a small chapter of an organization. I've always appreciated the people that run the various groups to which I belong. I always knew it was a ton of work.
We're putting on five shows this year and have a few other things planned. We're hoping to do a clinic the day after each show which would be a new event for our chapter. We're also trying to get enough riders together to ride in the Bear Valley Springs (BVS) 4th of July parade. To augment that event, I am designing and organizing t-shirts to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BVS. To say it's going to be a busy summer is an understatement.
For the awards party, we celebrated with champagne cake, of course! Since we want our chapter members to feel special and appreciated, I also created certificates to hand out along with the plates.
Our chapter actually had quite a few plate recipients. Many of them live out of town and weren't able to attend our party, so I mailed them the other day. Hopefully they've arrived by now.
I look forward to getting my plate each year. For the first plate you have to earn five or more scores at 60% or above, but each year thereafter, you need only earn a single score to be eligible for a plate. Speedy and I have managed to earn one each year.
I haven't shown Izzy much these past few years, and when we've shown we haven't been particularly successful, but in 2019, he and I managed to earn a qualifying score. His plate is proudly sitting along side Speedy's.
Being involved with my GMO has been surprisingly satisfying. Seeing what goes on behind the scenes somehow makes the awards all the more sweet. Fingers crossed that both boys make the plaque in 2020!
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!
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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
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