From Endurance to Dressage
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 ...
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 ...
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!
Holy freaking heck, but am I tired of this test. I have decided that after the next two shows, I am done with First Level. There is nothing more that I can get out of it. With that said, I do want to finish strong. On Wednesday, best friend and I loaded both boys and headed to Moorpark for lessons with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
I took my last two tests with me as a reference for Chemaine. Rather than learn any new exercises, all I wanted to do was school the tougher movements of test 3. After discussing the judge's scores and comments, we decided to address three main areas - the leg yield, the 10-meter circles, and the canter work (15-meter circles, lengthening, and single loop).
In Test 3, the leg yield goes from one corner to the centerline (leg yield right) and after a moment of straightness in the center (X), the rider leg yields back to the rail (leg yield left).
I have two trouble spots on the leg yield. First, It takes me too long to get the left bend for the leg yield right, and second, I lose the shoulder. To help me fix this, Chemaine gave me a "process" for keeping my wet noodle of a horse packaged up better.
10-Meter Trot Circles
Our circles aren't bad, but it is an area where I know we can again earn 7.0s. My issues are not getting an inside bend to the right, slamming into the halt, and not getting enough energy to the left.
To help with this section of the test, Chemaine had me think of several things.
Our canter work isn't bad, and we're already getting scores of 6.5 and 7.0, but I think we can get 7.5s or even an 8.0 with just a bit of tweaking.
For the 15-meter canter circles, the rules are the same as for the trot circles.
It is during the change of lead through trot where I hope to make up the most amount of points. We can change from a left lead to a right with very little effort. Getting him to let go of the right rein is our trouble spot.
To help me fix this, Chemaine had a great series of steps.
Besides tweaking these movements, Chemaine also encouraged me to keep my chin up, literally. When I curl, Speedy curls! Riding with my chin up will help a lot.
The next show, Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) is in just a week. The changes I am looking to make are all small, but if done correctly, they'll be really effective!
While we still earned a blue ribbon, and in a larger class no less, this test didn't ride as well as the first one. Part of that is due to my riding ability. I am doing the best I can, but this test is just hard. Most of why we weren't as sparkly though was because it was freakin hot. Like gasping for breath and thinking about scratching hot. Even the judge was starting to wilt.
Halfway through the first test, I truly thought I would need to scratch Test 3; I was having trouble focusing. I am not a quitter though, and I really hate wasting money. Instead, I took Speedy down to the trailer where we both got a good drink. He looked better than I felt, so I figured we'd just crank it out and see what we got.
I didn't even take him to the warm up for our second test; it was just too hot, and I worried I'd have no horse left. Instead, we did some quick transitions within the trot as we waited for the bell. As soon as I turned down centerline, I knew it was going to be a lackluster performance. Speedy was behind my leg and curling. I was so hot myself that I just urged him forward as much as I could.
I know this judge wasn't giving any points away, but I do think his scores took the heat into account. When we cantered at C, Speedy got a wee bit sassy and even considered throwing in a buck. I think he realized it was just too danged hot for any shenanigans and decided cantering was just easier. The judge gifted us a 6.5 and even called it "prompt."
I really hate this test and look forward to moving on to Second Level just to not have to ride this thing anymore. Even though it was hot, our scores improved for the canter work which comes during the second half of the test. I can assure you it wasn't because I got a second wind.
The first part is just hard with the leg yield to X and then back to the rail. Then there is the stretchy trot and the 10-meter trot circles. It's a lot of bending and lateral work for the first part of a test. All of the canter work at the end flows much better.
Since this is the test that I'll be riding for RAAC in two weeks, I need to try and eke out a few more points. Our canter work is okay, but if I can get him a bit more balanced and pushing from behind, we might get some 7.0s. It's the leg yields and 10-meter trot circles that I need to focus on this week.
I think we can also work on that halt!
There was video by the way, but my videographer made a small error. You can probably see it better on a mobile device!
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