From Endurance to Dressage
My second test of the day was just three rides after the first so I opted to hang out by the ring rather than walk back to the warm up. Izzy was tense and worried, but within minutes, he was walking nicely with a swinging back. And really, that's all I am looking for right now - relaxation at a show.
Due to my own inability to DELETE stuff, Best Friend was not able to capture the ride in its entirety. At just after a minute, my ipad ran out of space. Here's what she did capture. Pay close attention to the break to canter up center line. He can definitely sit deeply.
Overall, I liked this test better than any I've ridden so far. The score was low at 54.688%, but outside of the blooper moments, Izzy was far more in tune with me than he has been. It was like he suddenly realized I was up there. His show nerves were still raging, but I felt like I was actually riding him, not just piloting a rocket on a string.
His trot up centerline was clearly fussy, but he was much straighter and not trying to outrun his front end.
But this time, I just couldn't keep him in the walk. The jigging was back, but it was far less than in previous tests. Instead of jigging the entire way across the diagonal, it was only a step here or there, but there were enough of them to garner a 4.5.
While the judge wasn't in love with our 20-meter trot circles at E/B, I know they were much better than we've done in the past. Those circles are hard because they are in the middle of the ring rather than on the rail at A/C. Izzy likes to blow through his shoulder, so this is where he'll lose his balance and throw in a rear or a spook. I'll take the 6 for the first circle and a 5.5 for the second isn't too bad.
The one surprise that Izzy threw me was his refusal to halt at X at the end of the test. The halt has been something that he's been doing pretty well. While we don't have it on video, you can tell from the judge's comment that it took quite a while to get it. He simply wouldn't rest all four feet on the ground at the same time.
With Chemaine's words ringing in my ear, I decided to school him no matter how long it took. He backed up, I added leg. He stepped sideways, I pushed him back over. The halt took so long that I had time to have a conversation in my head about what to do. I figured that if he never halted, we were getting a zero. If he finally halted, no matter how long it took, I knew that the judge would have to give us at least a 1 for very bad.
I've never earned a zero, and I wasn't about to then either. I finally got all of his hooves to stay still long enough to give my salute. We earned a 4 which is only insufficient, but it's better than not executed.
While I started the day feeling pretty discouraged, I drove home feeling inspired to keep on trying. Best Friend once again stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. She's almost more of a Pollyanna than I am. She gives me that kick in the pants or the smack to the face whenever she thinks I am being too hard on Izzy.
She only sees him every couple of weeks so she's always totally amazed at how different he is every time she sees him. She's quick to point out every little thing he does that's better than the last time. Look at how much hay he's eating, look at how quietly he's standing there, look at how he didn't spook when that Friesian passed by too closely ...
My scores weren't great, we finished in last place both times, but I drove home with a huge smile, grateful for an awesome friend and an amazing horse. I hope you're as blessed as I am.
I was too busy to watch this test until yesterday afternoon, and you know, it's not half bad. I've been doing a lot of thinking about Izzy's scores over the past 5 shows (four schooling and this one, a CDS-rated show). He's definitely struggling, but Speedy and I had very similar scores at Intro Level. And while we also had GREAT scores at times, Speedy had/has his share of difficulties too.
What has thrown me for a loop was that Speedy's resistances were very subtle and quiet, but they created the same net effect - scores in the 58% range. We bounced around from 53% to 65% a lot. I would get one issue fixed, and then Speedy would come up with something else. We had a run of shows where he gave a gigantic spook during every test.
Before I wax any more poetic, watch the test ...
This was a California Dressage Society rated show with an R judge, licensed to judge through Fourth Level. That typically means the judging is a little more strict than at a schooling show, but not as strict as you would see at a USDF-rated show. We scored a 58.750%, just two points shy of a 60%.
As I watched the video, I was surprised at how non-awful it looked. Izzy's tension is obviously visible, but I need to focus on the fact that it's not as bad as it feels to me while I am on him. I probably need to find a way to embrace the tension and make it a more positive tension. I am desperately in need of a lesson.
It's hard to be frustrated with a 6. For so long, my goal with Speedy was to simply not have any 5s. Izzy only had two of them on the front of the test and no 4s!
If you've been following along, you know my goal at the schooling show we did two weeks ago was to not get 4s on the walk. We were only partly successful. For this test, we got a 5 and two 6s for the walk work. That's progress.
The trot work also had some good moments. There were no spooks like we've had in at least two of the shows we've done. We earned a 6 and a 6.5 for our 20-meter trot circles.
The judge's Further Remarks were absolutely spot on: Nice horse but a lot of tension today. Concentrate on suppleness and relaxation. Working on it, sir, working on it.
Tomorrow ... Test B.
If you would have asked me on Saturday night how I thought Sunday's show was going to go, I would have said that I didn't even want to go. Why waste gas money when you know it's going to be a disaster?
Our ride on Saturday was terrible. Like knock down, drag down terrible. I spent 45 minutes trying every single thing I knew to get Izzy to let go of the bit. His jaw and poll were so locked that I had no steering and rode through bolt after bolt. All he could do was charge forward.
Eventually, after kicking his ass every way I knew how, I finally got off and threw him in the round pen and just sent him forward. I really wanted to just send him down the road, but a round pen by definition is ... round, so he kept coming back. To my dismay I should add.
After 5 minutes, I know because I timed it, he was heaving and sweating rivers. I got back on him and walked him for ten minutes hoping that he was at least thinking about relaxing.
After cleaning him up, I gave him a healthy dose of electrolytes with his Platinum Performance. When I turned him out into his paddock, I asked him to please just consider letting go of some of his tension.
This photo is not from Saturday, but I wanted to report back on the new fleece half pad. It's working great, and I really like it, but if I order another one, I think I'll go with the medium. My last one was a bit narrow so my saddle sat on the fleece trim instead of inside it. This one is a large, but it ran bigger than I expected.
I was a bit peeved when I untacked Izzy because my new half pad was dirty and sweaty. My girth was also soaked through, and I seriously considered scratching from the show. He was going to be a jerk anyway and my tack was already dirty ... somebody please call the wambulance!
I gave myself a stern, quit your whining! and proceeded to give my saddle and bridle a (half-assed) cleaning, but at least they looked presentable. I sent Best Friend a text letting her know to meet me at 5:30 a.m., and then I went home to try and start some positive thinking.
Since I am a bit of a Pollyanna, I was able to give myself an attitude adjustment. I was still peeved at Izzy the next morning, especially since he was a jerk as I was trying to groom and brush out his tail. As soon as Best Friend showed up, she got to hear all about how rotten he was being.
And then he walked quietly onto the trailer. In the dark. With a grouchy owner. My heart softened immediately, and all I could see was my fabulous boy who just needed my help and encouragement.
When we arrived at the equestrian center it was chilly and we were alone. Izzy craned his neck looking at the horses in the corrals, but with Best Friend's help, he stood pretty still to be braided. We checked in, got his number, and headed for the warm up.
His nerves were all a twitter, but he never felt like he was going to lose it. He just couldn't keep his focus on his job. One of my Tehachapi friends said that if she hadn't known how old he really is, she would have thought he was just a four year old. That's good for me to hear because I think he should be acting like the eight year old that he is.
During the morning, several fans of Bakersfield Dressage made it a point to come and say hi and ooh and ah over my big brown (gold) horse. It was so nice to see them and even nicer to have their support. Having friends who root for our success is such a huge motivator for me.
Spoiler alert: Izzy did not show brilliantly, but many people encouraged me to stick it out with him; they were that impressed with his potential. I have trouble seeing it, but apparently Izzy oozes charm and has that certain sparkle.
Tomorrow: Introductory Test A.
After the "roaring success" that was Test A, I made it my goal to GET. A. WALK.
And that was it. That's all I cared about; I didn't care if he bolted, bucked, or left the arena. My two goals for the show were to 1) have a controlled warm up and 2) not get a 4 for the walk. We met our goal for the warm up, but we earned yet another 4.0 for the free walk in the first test. When the judge and I chatted after the first test, she agreed that getting a walk would go a long way toward improving our overall performance.
I'll let you decided if our free walk was improved.
Right?!?! How much better was that?????? There is so, so much wrong with that ride (unsteadiness in the bridle for one), but he walked! There was absolutely no jigging or piaffing. It was far from perfect, but it was so much improved over his first effort. The judge gave it a 6.0 (generous, but better than than the earlier 4.0) with the comment, not tracking correctly. I'll take it!
We have a long way to go, but I really want to celebrate our "wins." Did you notice our first halt? Honestly, that thing is getting really nice. We earned a 6.0 (tensing back), but I really like how square he is trying to be. This boy really does have talent.
And in case you missed it, this is proof that Izzy can walk. I've been schooling it at home during our warm up and cool down and any time he gets particularly tense. As we continue to work on it, it should start to appear during shows as well.
Of the eight tests that we've done since April, this test was definitely our best even though we earned the exact same score as our test B two weeks ago. Our total was a 58.438%, but we had no 4s! Izzy earned a 7.0 for Gaits and the judge awarded me a 7.0 for Rider's Position. The rest was a mix of different 5s and 6s. If Izzy keeps improving at this rate, we'll crack 60% soon.
Our next show is CDS-Rated. Maybe it will happen there!
After our mostly quiet warm up, I was feeling pretty excited to strut our stuff at walk/trot, and Izzy felt ready to actually work a little. We followed best friend down to the ring and walked up and down the walk way, waiting for the rider in front of us to finish.
After her final salute at X, I walked Izzy up the little rise and entered at A. In a nano second all of his tension came rushing back. The E side of the arena was nestled into an avocado grove that was being watered. I couldn't see the sprinklers, but they gave a very loud hiss down the entire long side. Izzy checked out, and I knew that I needed to just get him through the ride as quietly and tactfully as possible.
You can see for yourself what I mean:
I wasn't disappointed or frustrated with him at all. Those sprinklers scared him, and since he was already only barely coping with his nerves, I simply rode the horse I had. When I watched the video, I was actually impressed with how easy I made it look. I suppose others might think I simply looked ineffective, but believe me, riding a powder keg and looking happy while doing it is not as easy as it sounds.
When I finished my final salute, the judge asked to talk to me. The first thing she said was, "Are you an event rider or a dressage rider?" For a split second, I was horrified. I thought she said, Are you even a dressage rider? My brain hadn't processed the event rider part of her question.
Then my brain clicked in, and I realized that she thought I might be an eventer. My head swelled so big that my helmet almost popped off. Eventers are BADASSES. The judge thinks I am a badass. Well who wouldn't after watching all that badassery going on?
I can't say for sure whether the judge thought I was as cool as all that, but she certainly thought my horse was. The next thing out of her mouth was how awesome his talent for the piaffe is. No really. And not only did she say it to me, she even wrote it down!
Best friend is new to dressage so doesn't always know when to start recording. In this case, she missed the judge's bell which means the first part of my test didn't make it on video. That's where most of the piaffe steps happened. I was a little disappointed to not see them, especially after hearing the judge gush over them.
You'll have to indulge me for a moment. This is my first encounter with a judge who LOVED my horse. I've had judges who thought Speedy was a nice horse, and he and I have earned comments like elegant pair, but wait until you see this judge's accolades.
While super engagement and uphill tendency are not necessarily glowing reviews, it's not often that you see those terms applied to an Introductory Level horse. Well, not unless you're riding my super awesome Izzy Zweibrücker!
This comment is all me and was earned for that spook demonstarted above. Even best friend said I was all business. Many thanks to Chemaine Hurtado for teaching me to sit those things out.
I shouldn't be surprised by clear talent for upper level work as Chemaine has said this to me on more than one occasion, but man-oh-man, it is soooo nice to hear it from someone that I am NOT paying.
And then there was this little gem: What a horse! Who doesn't want to hear that about their pony? Although after reading it, I was looking around for Charlotte as that's almost exactly what she says to save Wilbur from the butcher. But that's just me - my feet are solidly rooted in REAL LIFE. While I love, love, love these comments, I am also wondering if the judge was actually watching the ride.
While my common sense and deeply practical side want to discredit the judge's assessment of my horse, I am giving that side of my brain the finger. This judge completed the coursework that gives her the credentials to recognize a horse with potential and talent. I am going to whole heartedly accept her compliments and use them to keep myself motived.
During our discussion, she insisted that I keep working as this horse is more than worth the effort. In fact, she was so effusive in her praise that best friend said that everyone in the vicinity could hear her remarks.
As we walked back to the trailer, I grinned in joy and didn't even try to hide it. Those positive comments from the judge stayed with me as I went back into the warm up for our second test, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for that part.
Tomorrow: Introductory test B.
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