From Endurance to Dressage
Watching and absorbing as much as I could was my plan for day 3; I didn't have a ride scheduled. The truth is, there were no bad horse and rider teams at the championship show. Everyone who was there had already shown that they deserved to be there by qualifying earlier in the season, so watching the best of what California had to offer was a lot of fun.
I had made a list, which included ride times and ring numbers, for all of the riders who I knew personally. Hopping from ring to ring to ring kept me busy for the better part of the day. I also held coats and whips, polished boots, and cheered loudly. Sometimes I was the only one cheering which meant I had to cheer even louder!
I also managed to use LAEC’s bridle path, which was a highlight of the day. Speedy was a bit of a stinker; he told me quite emphatically that he DID NOT remember being an endurance horse. The trail was too scary, and he wanted to walk RIGHT NEXT TO LEO (said with quite a lot of hoof stamping). It only took a few minutes of my spur jammed into his belly before he suddenly remembered about being a trail horse.
The trail encircles LAEC and is an access point to Griffith Park (and the Hollywood sign). Leo’s rider told me that the loop is about 2 miles in length. We rode it once with her, and then we picked up Cola’s rider as we were nearing the gate. Leo and Amy walked back to the barn while Cola and Speedy rode the loop again. We ended up spending about 45 minutes on the trail, which was a great way for Speedy to spend a non-showing day. It’s hard to be cooped up in a stall all day. Our mid-day ride proved to be an excellent way to use up some excess energy.
Jen, the chair of Ventura CDS, was the ring steward for the Equidome, which is where the BIG classes were held. It was also the staging area for all of the awards ceremonies. At the end of the day, I went up to keep her company and ended up with a small volunteer job myself. Some of the riders hadn’t had time to get their ribbons, which were required to be worn during the awards ceremony. I toted the “dummy” ribbons around to loan out to the riders as they did their victory laps. I even had the pleasure of placing neck and bridle ribbons on Hilda Gurney’s horse.
The day ended at the hospitality tent with fried chicken and potato salad. Jen and I enjoyed our dinner on the patio laughing and sharing trail riding stories. There was a lovely breeze, and the sun slowly set while we enjoyed the evening. Isn’t it funny how food tastes so much better at a horse show?
Still more tomorrow ...
The first day’s rides were either USDF Region 7 Championship rides or CDS warm-up rides. The warm-up rides were just that, a warm up for the CDS Horse of the Year (HOY) Championship classes. The scores counted for USDF Rider Performance Awards, USDF Medals, and so on, but they weren’t used to calculate the HOY.
My ride wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t up to the caliber of work that we’ve been putting in over the last few months either. I didn’t necessarily feel tense, but a friend who has only ever seen me at clinics, not shows, noted the difference. I was glad she pointed it out because for my next two rides I focused on relaxing and letting go of the tension.
My tension comes from a very strong desire to do well. I am not out to beat anyone else per se, I simply want to do better than the last test I rode, wherever it was. And yes, I realize that this is a competition and someone has to be the winner, but honestly, my goals are always about improvement. I would rather be dead last with a 69% than win with a 62%.
Somewhere during the second half of the test, I gave myself a hard shake and tossed my tension out the back window. As I trotted away from the judge down the long side, I laughed out loud and told myself to get over the tension and ride my horse like I knew how to do. I wish I could say that my scores improved dramatically at that moment, and maybe they did go up bit, but there was no miraculous recovery. With that said, it was a steady eddy test with nothing lower than a 6.0, which gave me a final score of 62.500%.
At first, I was a little disappointed in the score until I realized that I was competing against the best riders in California at the biggest CDS Championship show ever.
There were seven riders in my warm-up class:
5. 62.500% (me)
So while a 62.500% isn’t worth a huge celebration, it wasn’t completely out of the playing field either. It was a huge show with a level of activity that we’ve never seen before. I went to bed that night pretty pleased with how we’d done. A score in the low 60s might not get us in the ribbons for HOY, but it was still a solid effort.
Continued tomorrow ...
As I pulled through the impressive front entrance of the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and down the tree-lined thoroughfare, the excitement finally started to build. I finally let myself feel the anticipation of being at such a prestigious event.
To my left were huge banners welcoming the CDS Championship and USDF Region 7 riders. Next came the enormous Equidome with its numerous offices, including LA Saddlery, an onsite tack store. At the end of the road, I was met by the traffic coordinators who directed me to my barn. As soon as I pulled in, Chemaine, my out-of-town trainer and coach, one of her clients, and her assistant, greeted me with big smiles.
Symphony Dressage, Chemaine’s barn, had a great spot with three tack stalls, which meant we all had ample storage space for tack, feed, and the million other things that we brought with us. Chemaine has all the coolest toys, which meant I had a permanent spot for my bridle, saddle, pads, and other stuff. There were also hanging baskets and coat hooks for our show coats. (Click images to enlarge and see captions.)
Once I had everything unloaded and Speedy was tucked into his stall, I went up to the show office to check in. As I turned up the road towards the Equidome, I was met by the site of a small village! The path to the show office was lined with vendors and barns displaying their most elegant show set-ups. More than one trainer’s tent had gurgling fountains and patio furniture that was nicer than what I have at home. The fancier tents had tile floors, wine bars, and Keurigs.
Checking in was easy, and I was thanked for having a perfect entry. On the side table was lemon and cucumber ice water with small treats and snacks for the riders. I was handed my packet, which included a lovely ceramic stall marker verifying that I was indeed a 2014 CDS Championship Qualified Rider.
Inside the packet was a thick schedule of events that also included a small write-up of each rider. There were also tickets to the various hospitality events and a detailed awards schedule. I knew it was going to be a very competitive show, but I held onto the awards schedule … just in case!
Later that evening, I took a lesson with Chemaine. Normally the lessons that I take with her are more about building my confidence and keeping Speedy happy. This time, Chemaine grabbed the bull by the horns and rocked my little world. She called me on my lack of inside bend and worked on my equitation. She insisted that I get the inside bend quicker and with more authority. Wiggling and jiggling the rein only wags Speedy’s head and doesn’t achieve what I want.
As we warmed up, she had me start by getting Speedy’s neck rounder and lower with lots of half halts. Once he was soft and low, she had me ask for a bigger stride. We rode the bigger stride and then half halted to rebalance, and I asked for bigger again. All the while, she kept at me about getting that inside bend.
We then worked on the canter departure. The trouble I have is that I don’t get enough activity behind which means that Speedy has to hoist himself into the canter. Chemaine had me use the half halt at every corner to get him back a bit on his haunches and help him rebalance. Then, I asked for a bigger, more active trot, and once I had that, I asked for the canter. By the time we were finished, Speedy was looking was pretty darned good.
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel at all intimidated by the quality of horses and riders at the show. This far into my dressage journey, I’ve leaned that there are always going to be better horses than mine, better riders than me, and better horse and rider teams. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish that I was part of one those better teams, but all I can do is the very best that I can with the horse that I have.
More tomorrow ...
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 the lower levels. 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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Shows Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Completed …
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: