From Endurance to Dressage
Now that the RAAC is over, I have one more show for the 2017 season, the final Tehachapi show. It's this weekend. We're doing First Level one more time in hopes of maybe eking out the highest overall average score for the adult amateur division. There's a $100 prize and certificate at stake, so it's worth aiming for. The competition is stiff however, and I think I am only in third place at the moment. Win or lose, I hope it's the last First Level test I ride.
The problem with moving up a level is that Speedy and I have been poised on that brink before only to step back down. When we wanted to move from Intro to Training Level, USEF radially changed the tests so that the Training Level stuff got moved down into Intro. That meant that we stayed at Intro for another year.
When we finally moved to Training Level, we did well enough the first season, but our scores were in the bottom 60s, and I knew we weren't ready for First Level. The second year we did Training Level, we finished with scores in the high 60s and low 70s. We moved to First Level.
Our first season at First Level went okay. We started with scores in the high 50s and low 60s, and ended with some solid mid-60 scores. I was hopeful that we could move on to Second Level in the spring, but over the winter, Speedy kept coming up lame. It was so intermittent that I couldn't keep him in regular work. Then, in the spring, he suffered some tendonitis brought on during turnout, and I gave up any plans of showing him for the rest of the year.
This winter, Speedy's lamenesses resolved themselves. The tendonitis had long ago healed with no issues, and the night time turn out took care of the whirling and pacing that was causing him to be sore on the right front. We started at First Level again.
And now, here we are staring down Second Level. I think we're ready. Our scores are solidly in the mid-60s, and it feels as though we're pretty confirmed at the level. I just don't think there is anything more to be learned by hanging out at First again.
I am pretty sure US Equestrian isn't going to surprise us with new tests, the current ones are good through November of 2018, so it's simply up to Speedy to stay sound and healthy.
As I was looking over the shows that start the 2018 season, which begins in October, I saw two different shows that looked great for first timers. The first is in Fresno. It's a two-day show with Saturday's event being a schooling show (cheap!), and Sunday's classes are USDF-rated. I think this is a clever show set up. If we make it, Speedy and I will have one day to dip our toes into Second Level before we let it all hang out at the rated show on Sunday.
The second option is at Hansen Dam in November. It's also a two-day event, but on Saturday, riders get to do a Ride-a-Test twice, and then on Sunday, there's a schooling show. This option would be cheaper with a lot less stress.
I don't know yet which one I'll do. Heck, I might even do them both!
2017 RAAC, First Level Test 3, Sunday
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!
2017 RAAC, First Level Test 3, Saturday
While my super powers were fully restored, they don't combat everything, especially the heat. Like a lot of other places around the world, California is having an unusually hot summer, even for us. While the mornings in Paso Robles were pleasantly cool, by afternoon, the temperature was almost unbearable.
Because of the heat, at least one rider scratched. I considered it, but I knew Saturday's second test was our last opportunity to really prepare for Sunday's actual RAAC class. We trotted in when the judge blew her whistle.
My goal for this show was to earn as many 7.0s as I could. There are a smattering of them for sure on this test, but there are also more 5.5s than I am happy with. As low as the scores look, I know most of it was because of the heat.
As we exited the ring, my mouth was so dry that I couldn't conjure up enough saliva to even swallow. Unlike the morning test, this ride was a best effort. I pushed Speedy as hard I could. Getting him in front of my leg, even when it's hot, is a new goal of mine.
Even with the slew of 5.5s, we still managed a middle of the road 64.412%. My goal for this season was to finish First Level with scores in the mid-60s. I felt like this score was within that range.
Some of the movements I really wanted to fix were the leg yields (6.5 and 7.0) and the 10-meter trot circles (7.0 and 7.0). I also wanted to improve the change of lead through trot (5.5). We managed to improve in at least two areas.
Here is the video and the score sheet.
As we exited the ring, I felt good about the ride, but I knew we could do even better. I had switched out the less-than-perky and now slipping pad for the larger, but sturdier Union Hill, so that problem was solved. I couldn't do anything about the heat, but I knew I'd have more horse with a shorter warm up.
As I lay in bed that night, I contemplated my strategy for Sunday which included sleeping in and staying out of the heat. I also planned to eat and drink more often, and I decided not to assume my competition was going to win.
The "Big Test" tomorrow ...
2017 RAAC, First Level Test 2, Saturday
One of my strengths when I show is the ability to shake it off, whatever it is, and get on to the next movement. My super power failed me on Saturday though. I am not sure what my kryptonite was, but it was lurking somewhere near ring 1.
Everything about the show was going so well. The grounds were fantastic, including the stabling and parking, and my barn mates were all about good fun and friendly competition. Not like a few years ago when one of the competitors said that her friend was showing in my class and was going to win. Turns out she didn't, but I did!
Anyway, things were going well until I made a slight miscalculation in how long I needed to warm up. Apparently, showing is now old hat to Speedy and 15 minutes is all he needs. I gave us 30. After the first 12, I knew I had gone in too soon, so we walked and walked and walked. Just before my ride time, I decided to wake Speedy up with a big gallop.
Two things happened. First, he got really annoyed at me, and second, my trusty show pad, that one that wasn't looking as perky as before, nearly slid off his back. He gave a few bucks before I saw what had happened. In horror, I jumped off and reorganized the pad. From that moment, my confidence was shot.
As we trotted down center line, all I could think about was my stupid pad slipping off during the test. I kept glancing down to see if it was still there! Once I forced myself to forget about it, the next worry took over.
Speedy was behind my leg, note the curling above, but I knew that if I really goosed him forward, he'd flip me the hoof. That would be okay for one movement, but when he feels like I am working against him and not for him, he quits trying. Instead of sending him forward with a big cowgirl kick, I just nursed him through the test.
And really, it wasn't a bad test. My goal was 6.5s and 7.0s. We got more 6.0s than I would have liked, but considering how behind my leg he was, it wasn't terrible. That 4.0 though, I have no recollection of not being in canter. It's right in front of the judge though, so if she says we weren't cantering, we weren't, but that score came as a shock to me.
As with the comments we've had all summer long, the judge's further remarks were spot on. "Capable pair. Needs balance in transitions up and down. At times, horse over round and low in outline today." I love how generous she was in using "at times" and "today" as though yesterday we weren't and tomorrow we wouldn't be!
As we exited the ring, I knew it wasn't even close to a best effort, and I acknowledged that I had given the test away. I let the bigness of the show and the quality of my competition intimidate me.
I shook it off almost before we made it to the ring steward. Yes, I had let my confidence slip for a moment, but I recognized it for what it was. I was already planning my comeback for Test 3 which was to come later that afternoon. There was no sense in beating myself up about it, and suddenly, I felt my super power return!
Many of Sunday's riders didn't even bother with riding Test 2, so it was a very small class. For the adult amateurs, Saturday's classes were all warm ups for the actual RAAC classes held on Sunday. The scores from Saturday's tests still counted for USDF, but I knew that I still had time to get my little team squared away for Sunday's "big one."
When John and I compared our tests, we laughed at the point difference. Just 2.5 points separated our tests which would prove to be a theme for the weekend!
More to come ...
Heading to RAAC
Today's the big day. We are headed to the California Dressage Society Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC).
MISSION: The mission of these competitions is to provide an opportunity for all CDS Adult Amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience. The regional nature of these shows will help to provide our membership with a developmental path for gaining competitive experience, promote excellence and increase awareness of and support for the Chapters.
I've competed at RAAC four different times, winning at Introductory Level and Training Level. I've been to RAAC at first level, but we didn't do so well. I am expecting this year to be different!
In 2013 and 2015, we finished dead last. Both times! And even weirder still, we placed eighth. Twice! Several year apart. There's actually quite an interesting pattern to my placings.
In 2014, I competed at the CDS Championship. That means that for evermore I must compete in the RAAC Elite division rather than Novice which is for riders who have never been to the championship. I don't know if this makes things more difficult or not. The elite division is for riders that have competed on a bigger stage; it doesn't matter if your horse has shown at a bigger show or not.
No matter what happens, I know that we've prepared as well as we can. Speedy is fit and ready, I know my tests (knock on wood right now, please), and the trailer is clean and ready to go.
Wish us luck!
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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: