From Endurance to Dressage
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.
No matter what the scores say, I am so proud of Izzy. He was such a good boy at this weekend's schooling show. As the only adult ammie showing Intro A and B, we took home two lovely blue ribbons. I don't even care that we earned them with a 49.69% and a 52.50%. Izzy handled himself like a true rockstar.
My friend Laurel came with me and served as Izzy's groom and all around protector. I owe her much more than the Starbuck's scone and horse show lunch that she got for coming with me. She kept me laughing the whole day.
The craziness started with my carefully planned out day - the one where I only left myself 5 minutes for braiding. How we even made it there in time to show is a mystery to me
As I laid in bed on Saturday morning thinking about my day, I was going though the schedule in my mind. I kept hitting a mental glitch when I got to the braiding part. I finally got out of bed and looked at what I had written. When I saw my miscalculation - no one can braid in 5 minutes! - I jumped in gear and got out of the house by 7:00.
I picked up my pace a little and saved a few minutes on my braiding by doing thicker and fatter braids. Laurel arrived a bit early, so even after a few minutes spent persuading Izzy to get the heck on the trailer, we managed to pull out right on time.
As we laughed and chatted our way down the two lane country highway, I realized I was looking at some unfamiliar territory; I had missed the turn which would take us towards Woodlake. I pulled over to the shoulder while Laurel used her phone's GPS to figure out where we were. It was to be the joke of the day - how many times could we piss Siri off by turning on the wrong road. Apparently, Siri loves the phrase, MAKE A U-TURN!
The last straw was actually making it to Woodlake only to encounter a detour that took us around the entire town. By that point, Laurel and I were in complete hysterics. It took us two iphones, a ticked off Siri, a crappy set of Google directions, numerous u-turns, and a full extra hour of driving before we pulled into the beautiful Sequoia Hills Stables.
I can't say enough about the show management and the facility. Parking was easy, the show office was clearly marked, and we were greeted by friendly and helpful volunteers. In no time at all we were back on schedule. While Laurel groomed Izzy, I switched into my show clothes and then tacked Izzy up. Laurel grabbed my bag of stuff while I led Izzy to an over-sized round pen.
Using Chemaine's strategy, I quietly lunged Izzy with the draw reins until he started to stretch his back and relax. Laurel kept me company by chatting over the fence. With her easy going conversation, I focused on keeping myself relaxed and confident, and Izzy followed suit. By this time, Laurel noted that Izzy kept looking to the two of us for reassurance. Wherever Laurel went, Izzy was happy to follow. We had quickly become his herd.
I had the warm up to myself, thanks to clever planning on the show manager's part (she knew this was Izzy's first show so we were first to go after lunch). I walked Izzy for quite a while just letting him look around. We eventually picked up a baby trot and simply focused on staying relaxed.
As my ride time approached, Laurel encouraged Izzy to follow her as we made the walk over to the show ring. He kept his nose right between her shoulder blades.
There were clearly problems during the test, but Izzy tried so hard to stay focused on me. This was the first time he's been in a show ring with the judge's tent and potted flowers. There was also a spectator's tent. Even with the tension and giraffing of his neck, you can see moments where he's kind of figuring it out. I can definitely see his potential.
This judge didn't pull any punches. The slew of 4s and 5s that she gave us were what I expected. Some of the 5s might have even been a stretch. Had this been a rated show, the 49.69% that we earned would probably have been our score - I don't think the judge "softballed" any of her scores, and I am okay with that. Once Izzy learns to relax, our scores will go up. I am tickled that he actually did each movement without a meltdown.
My honest to goodness goals for the day were a) get him to stand somewhat still while I tacked up, b) let me get on without a rodeo, and c) trot in the warm up. There was no d) - I didn't even think we'd make it into the show ring.
After the horrible rides we'd had earlier in the week, I had seriously considered not even going. Chemaine, my trainer, talked me down off the ledge reminding me that it was just a schooling show and that Izzy needs experience.
So while some critics might scoff at the work we did in the ring, I couldn't be happier. Even Laurel, who sees him every day, was blown away by how hard Izzy tried. She hadn't expected me to be able to ride him either.
The judge's Further Remarks were quite accurate and are our blue print going forward, "Much tension throughout with very short strides in both gaits. Often above bit." Well yes, that's all very true.
Look for test B tomorrow. It was actually a tiny bit better!
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 …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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