From Endurance to Dressage
The day before we left for San Diego, I attended TMC's Mid-Summer dressage show. While it was only CDS rated, the scores count for a variety of CDS awards and programs. Besides that, I am attempting to earn TMC's year-end high score award. As of right now, I think I'm in third place, but there's still one show to go.
We weren't brilliant or anything, but we got the job done. We earned a 64.063% which was good enough for first place. While I am always looking to improve my scores from one show to the next, I try to look at my score in relation to the rest of the scores posted that day. The average score for the adult amateurs was only 58% which makes my 64% seem relatively high.
After watching the video, I suspect I am probably riding First Level about as well as I can. I've been focusing on getting a bend and adding leg which is helping me earn another point or two for each movement. The score sheet is filled with 6.5s and 7.0s which tells me I am on the right track.
Unfortunately, I did make a mistake that probably cost me as many as three points. I was thinking ... sit, sit, sit, as we were developing the working canter in preparation for the downward to trot. Apparently my work on the half halt has really paid off because Speedy SAT at C instead of at M. The judge gave me a 4.0 with the comment, "lost canter." We typically score a 6.5 or a 7.0 for our canter to trot transitions so that cost me nearly a full percentage point.
To the good, there was more that I liked about the test than I didn't. We're getting some lengthenings, both at the trot and canter, and our 15-meter canter circles (7s for both) are definitely proving to be a strong point.
I was also quite pleased with how well Speedy picked up the right lead canter (7.0). Going from left to right is easier than going from right to left (in Test 3). That's something we're definitely going to be working on this week.
The judge's further remarks hit the nail on the head.
Our next show is in two weeks - the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). It's a fun show, but it's really competitive as everyone has to qualify to enter. We've won at our level twice (Introductory and Training). I don't ever expect to win, but I would sure like to do well.
With a few more points here and there and no silly mistakes on my part, we might do okay! Test 3 tomorrow.
Basically, the whole show was pretty amazing. I've watched the videos, and I don't look amazing, but Speedy sure does. It finally looks as though he is excelling in spite of me. Go for it, Speedy. It's about time you started pulling your weight!
We were riding against some pretty nice horse and rider teams, so I am more than happy to score in the same ball field as they did. Yeah, it's a last place score, but it's better than we did a month ago. And frankly, the third test at First Level is HARD. It does not flow in an organized, or logical way.
It's Frankenhacked together if you ask me. After the halt, you track left into a lengthened stride at trot, followed by a leg yield to X and a leg yield back to the rail. That's fairly reasonable, but then immediately after, there's a stretchy trot circle followed by a ten-meter circle at R, a halt at X, and then another ten-meter circle at V.
After those two trot circles (with a free walk to separate the trot and canter), the canter work begins which flows somewhat better. It's a 15-meter canter circle into a canter lengthening followed by a single canter loop from K-X-H (that's from one corner to the middle back to the other corner for you non-dressage types).
As you finish that first loop, you have to reorganize quickly for the change of lead through trot at X. We messed that up big time. Speedy just couldn't/wouldn't pick up the left lead (4.0). Once you change leads, you do another 15-meter canter circle, a canter lengthening, and then the same loop - but on the other side.
The canter work makes sense to me, but it's a lot of cantering all in a row. The part of this test that I really hate is that the last movement is a trot lengthening across the whole diagonal. By the time we get to this part of the test, Speedy is starting to lose his oomph, and I am definitely breathing hard.
While it might not have been as impressive somewhere else, on this day, the judge liked our trot lengthening and rewarded our effort with an 8.0! I'll take it! For what it's worth, ignore what I am doing up there and focus on the gray pony. He's the only one who seems to know what he's doing out there.
I am not Charlotte Dujardin, and Speedy's no Valegro, but hey, we're getting around the court in a respectable manner. My goals for this summer are small, but we are meeting them. And you never know, we might even exceed them!
It might be a totally nerdy thing to do, but finally having the chance to write about a "win" makes me all kinds of giddy. I mean, check this out!
Pretty, right? We still have oodles to work on, but at least for one afternoon, Speedy and I were able to put it all together for a grand total of four minutes and fifty-three seconds, the length of time it takes to ride First Level Test 2.
It's not a perfectly ridden test, and I think a few of the judge's scores were a bit generous, but it was a pretty solid little test. And I can't help it, he's just so darn cute!
Like I said, I think the scores were a tad bit generous, but I've ridden just as many tests where the judging felt more punitive than encouraging. Based on the rest of the day's scores, it seemed as though the judge was rewarding nice moments rather than looking for ways to ding the rider. I like that.
For this test, we scored nothing lower than a 6.0 (and there were only 2 of those), and we actually had a slew of 7s and 7.5s, 18 of them to be exact. Oh, and did I mention we earned an 8 for our final halt? Our final score was 68.75% which was 4 points shy of a 70%.
There were only two or three places that I can see where we might possibly have made up a point or three, but not four. Our entry was quite unsteady (6.0) which usually earns a 7.0; we got the 7.0 on the next test. My leg yield right earned a 6.0, but that's still typical for a us. My stretchy trot earned our usual 6.0, but that's another movement that I need to work on. Other than that, I would have needed two more 7.5s instead of the 7.0s we did get. That's just being greedy.
Whether the score was generous or not, it came at a time when I really needed a little boost to my moral. No one's feelings are ever hurt by an atta girl. I am glad I rode for this judge this weekend. I needed to hear something good about my riding.
Oh, and even better - that score earned us Adult Amateur High Point!
I am not going to lie. It felt really good to walk away a "winner." Not sucking is amazing!
Speedy and I are making the trek up to Tehachapi on Sunday for the second of four, CDS-rated shows put on by the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS. It's a well run series with great cash prizes, it's super well organized, and it's less than an hour and a half away - a huge bonus!
With my limited funds this year, this series is pretty much the entirety of my show season. I did do our one and only local show, and I still plan on going to the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in August, but this small, four show series is my main hurrah for the year. As such, scoring well has become my goal.
I am probably not going to win either of my classes on Sunday, I have some pretty stiff competition, but I am striving to bump up my scores. Speedy and I have shown that we have the ability to earn a high 60 or even a score in the 70s (we have two of those at a USDF show). Those scores are certainly not gimmes, but at least we're capable of them.
To that end, I've really been focusing on the areas where we tend to score the lowest. At last month's show, the judge really dinged us for Speedy being too curled. This happens when he's not pushing from behind. In order to "fix" it, I've been getting his hind end much more active while focusing on the sit.
I love the photo above, not because it's particularly correct, but because it might be the first photo I have of him with his poll at the highest point and his croup lower than his withers. The dude is learning to engage his hind end and sit down. The very next photo in the series is even less attractive, but his poll is still up (no curling!) and his hind leg is way underneath him.
So yesterday, I focused on lengthening the right lead canter and coming back to a working (or even collected) canter without needing a million strides to get there. When we rode at Expo, Chemaine helped me get a truly lengthened canter stride that was actually reaching and not just running faster.
I realized that to get that feeling, Speedy has to be sitting down in order to push up and forward. When his hind end is engaged, he can return to a working or collected canter without me having to jerk his face off. He gave me some excellent transitions to working canter yesterday which gave me confidence to ask for a bigger and more powerful canter.
If I can get it at the show, we'll definitely bump our sixes closer to sevens.
At the western States Horse Expo a week or so ago, Chemaine showed an exercise for helping to know if your horse is truly lengthening the stride or simply getting quicker. I've been doing the exercise at home and have seen some excellent results with Speedy G.
I put two cones down the long side of the arena and a matching pair on the other side. I start out in a working trot or canter and count how many strides it takes to get from one cone to the other. Initially, I try to match the number of strides on both sides to ensure that my tempo is even.
Later, I do trot lengthenings and count to see if Speedy's stride is definitely longer. I can tell he's truly lengthening when we get fewer strides than we did before. It's the canter work that is really showing the most improvement though. And it's not just because I threw out a couple of cones, but that has helped.
Yesterday, I focused on the 15-meter circle into a canter lengthening from First Level. The lengthening has been tough for us because I have a hard time getting him back to a working canter. With the recent work I did with Chemaine, Speedy is now pushing off from behind (instead of dragging himself on his forehand) which helps him sit when we come back to a collected canter. At least that's how I am riding it.
Chemaine informed me that I need to ride the First Level tests as though they're Second Level. Thinking about it this way has forced me to really insist he pick up his poll, accept the contact, and sit.
We have a CDS-rated show on Sunday. I am really hoping to see our scores improve if I actually ride him more forward like I do at home.
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.
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 …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
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