From Endurance to Dressage
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.
It took us twelve hours to do one schooling show: more than an hour to load and unload tack, six hours of driving, and four hours at the show itself. I think I got my money's worth!
Best friend and I loaded Izzy up at 6:30 a.m. for the nearly three hour drive to Thole Farms in the Ventura area. He loaded without issue and unloaded just as quietly. He stood lazily tied to the trailer and even munched the hay hanging in his hay bag. We both stared in amazement; in just two months he's figured out the trailering part of showing. Best friend and I headed down to the show office without a backward glance.
When I first started in dressage, I went to every show alone. Now that best friend is retired, it is amazing having her help. While I am dressing or grooming, she's right there ready to lend a hand. She hands me water bottles, dusts off my boots, holds my horse, fetches whatever, and cheers me on when I am discouraged. She teased that she is now Izzy's human goat - his comfort companion. When I said that she could take photos as well as video, she insisted on a raise.
Izzy has now done four schooling shows. For the first show's warm up, he was very quiet, but he was also alone. For the second show's warm up, he was a fruitcake. He was somewhat better at last month's show, so my goals for this show were twofold: have a relaxed warm up and no 4s at the walk for the tests.
It's not a great video, but here we are in the warm up.
We also did some trotting, but I focused entirely on softening his poll and neck. I kept everything super slow and never let him jig or get heavy in the bridle. When he tried to brace or lean on my hands, I half halted until he softened to the rein. Sometimes that meant that the trot became a walk and the walk a halt.
Here's another video clip - look for the trotting horse and rider.
I was actually really pleased with the walk work. The quality wasn't fabulous, but he actually walked! That's a huge improvement. And while the trot work also has a lot of room for improvement, he kept his marbles in the jar and listened to me the whole time.
Well, there was one little moment ...
It was actually the silliest spook. We were walking along quite nicely and then we weren't. Here's the video (if it starts from the beginning, scroll forward to about 40 seconds):
Silly boy! Aside from that goofy moment, most of the warm up went quite well, if a little slow pokey. Eventually, we'll be able to get in there and actually do some real work. For now, this is the kind of warm up that an Introductory Level horse needs.
Tomorrow: Intro A and a talent for piaffe!
I don't have anything mind blowing to share about our second test other than we made it through without too many hysterics. In all honesty, I was surprised that the second test earned nearly the same score as the first. I didn't think it went as well.
That happens to me more often than I'd like actually. Sometimes, I ride a test and think that I've nailed it only to discover that the judge was less than impressed. The opposite is also true: I'll ride what feels like a horrible test only to get a 72% - true story.
Izzy was much more tense in this test, yet we earned a 58.438% which was only 0.5 points less than the first test. I am not criticizing the judge, but sometimes it's hard to see what they see.
I always try to take away some big idea after a show or clinic, but I didn't have any serious AHA moments this weekend. The one thing that I did realize was that my hard work is paying off. Even on our drive down to the show, I was feeling much more relaxed. Each time I take Izzy somewhere, he shows me that he's figuring out his job.
His confidence in getting on and off the trailer is growing, I am feeling confident in tying him to the trailer, and I love that he is now eating and getting a drink. His newfound awareness as to where I am is also encouraging. While he's still easily distracted, he is now paying attention to me as I groom and saddle, and he stood really well at the mounting block. All of these things show me that he is more self-assured or at least looking to me for guidance.
Showing me some growth is all I really need. I can deal with the tension and baby theatrics as long as there are forward steps. Right now, I am actually looking forward to the rest of our summer schedule. I have four schooling shows and one CDS show lined up along with at least two lessons with Chemaine. Mileage is what this horse needs now.
Things are starting to come together: his saddle fits, his hocks have been injected, his nutritional needs are being met, and his home life has been ... expanded.
More about that tomorrow!
In case you're not a dressage aficionado, Intro A is the lowest level dressage test that you can ride. It is a walk and trot test only. In fact, the purpose of the test is "to introduce the rider and/or horse to the sport of dressage. To show understanding of riding the horse forward with a steady tempo into an elastic contact with independent, steady hands and a correctly balanced seat. To show proper geometry of figures in the arena with correct bend (corners and circles)."
In other words, it's not rocket science. Even so, I was quite pleased with Izzy's Intro A Test. It's not beautiful, it's not rhythmic, the tempo was wonky, and the rider's hands were all over the place, but it was BETTER than the last two. Take a look.
That halt! Not perfectly square, but it was so soft and forward thinking that the judge rewarded us with an 8! The rest was just so-so, but there was still much to like. Everything Izzy did was distinctly better than in the first two shows he did, and it wasn't because of the different judges. He's just developing confidence.
Here are his scores from all three tests from this season. The last score shown is from this show.
We finished up with a score of 58.750%, 5th in a class of 5, but several other riders finished with scores nearly identical to ours. It was a class of (mostly) very green horses.
A sub-60% score is never what I am looking for, but I was so excited by Izzy's effort. For the first time, there was no spooking, rearing, bucking, squealing, or wild head flinging. He was nervous and worried, but he kept himself together.
In the warm up, I didn't just shoot for survival. I was actually able to school him. He walked down to the test ring without a companion, human or equine, and he walked right into the ring without any hesitation. If you saw our Saturday lesson, you'll know he was quite spooky at C, but for the test, he got tense in front of the judge, but he stayed with me.
As I scrolled through the video, frame by frame, looking for bloopers, I had trouble finding any truly horrible moments. The shot in front of the judge was the most tense and ugly shot I could find. It wasn't a great test, but it wasn't bad either.
I am really excited about this show. Progress, even a little bit, is all I am looking for. My plan for the next few months is a lesson or schooling show every two weeks. I think we're finally getting somewhere!
Next up: the Intro B Test.
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%: