From Endurance to Dressage
I will never again complain about the lost hour and a half that the original SafeSport training took me. Just before school started, my district office notified its teaching staff that we would be required to complete 3 hours of online "interactive" training courses on our own time. Oh, and I didn't get a certificate either.
The first one-hour course had three modules, one of which included our annual Employee Training. This is the SafeSport type of stuff: recognizing the signs of child abuse, child neglect, bullying, sexual molestation, etc. It also included all that business about teachers being mandated reporters (MR). Being a MR means I can get in big, BIG trouble if I knowingly turn a blind eye to anything that even smacks of child abuse. I've actually filed more than one Child Protective Services (CPS) report during my tenure as an educator. Forget about SafeSport's sanctions; not reporting could get me arrested. And jailed. And fired.
We were also notified of various laws that are new to California along with what to do if we have a shooter on campus. It was all pretty basic stuff except there was no way to pause or rewind the videos, so if you missed something, you were kind of screwed. Or in my case, the custodian came in to clean, and I had to ask him not to vacuum because I couldn't hear the video!
The second training, a mere 45 minutes, involved some really basic material. If you've been a teacher for more than ten minutes, you should already know this stuff. Heck, even my husband, who is not a huge fan of pint-sized munchkins, could have passed the test without seeing the video. In case you're worried, I scored 100%.
It was the third training that really made my eyeballs roll. I listened to a solid hour of how terrible adults can be to one another. Jeez, people, how inappropriate can you get?
I had to watch video after video about how it is not appropriate to comment on someone else's sexuality. I was also told that no still means no which means I am not allowed to keep asking the next door teacher out on a date after he has previously told me no 10,000 times. Really? Who does that? I am married of course, so it isn't me.
At one point in the video I was "welcomed" to my annual training. My ears perked up at that phrase. Annual? You mean I have to watch this same video again next year? While teachers get these trainings every year, this version, the online interactive thing, was new. I was horrified that I might have to spend three hours again next August listening to the same training. And on the heels of my SafeSport training which renews on September 1, 2020.
Rest assured all you moms and dads out there. I am the BEST TRAINED dressage rider you'll ever meet!
Man. They aren't messing around. On Sunday morning, I got this email from US Equestrian.
Last year, when the SafeSport training was launched, I dutifully, if not particularly willingly, completed the training well in advance of the required date. I did it on August 31, 2018 to be exact. US Equestrian's email arrived on September 1, 2019. I knew I was due for the refresher course, but since this is the first year for a refresher course, I wasn't quite sure how it was going to work. I assumed I'd get a friendly reminder just like when it's time to renew my membership. I got a reminder all right, but I didn't expect it to be so snappy and accusatory. Sheesh, US Equestrian. You made it sound like I failed to show up for a court hearing.
How about a slightly friendlier letter? Maybe along the lines of Dear Karen Sweaney, You are due to complete the SafeSport Refresher Course in order to be eligible to compete at USEF-licensed competitions. Yada yada yada. In fact, the email doesn't even mention that it's the refresher course I needed to take. Nope. Instead, I got a big fat accusation, "Because you did not complete the required SafeSport Training ..." Which kind of freaked me out because I did take the initial training, and I had a certificate to prove it.
While I might not be shy about voicing my opinion, I am still a rule follower, so I sat down on Sunday afternoon to take the course. I don't know if it was because US Equestrian's website was down over the weekend - I think they were moving to a new building, but logging on to my account on USEF and then getting to the SafeSport training both took a fair amount of time. Thankfully, I didn't have to retake the whole thing though. SafeSport seemed to know who I was and sent me to the Refresher Course.
Once I was finally on and ready to go, the course took no more than 15 minutes. I watched an introductory video, answered 7 questions on a pretest, and then read through a number of note cards all designed to remind me of what bullying, harassment, and sexual misconduct look like. I was also reminded of when to report a violation. The course ended with a posttest that was made up of the same 7 questions I took as a pretest.
As a classroom teacher who goes through much broader training each year, SafeSport's refresher course was thankfully quick and painless and certainly much better than was the original course.
And of course, when you finish, you get this handy dandy, very official certificate recognizing you for successfully completing SafeSport's Refresher Course. As I was studying the certificate though, I noticed that it stipulated that I had done Refresher Course 1. That got me wondering just how many Refresher Courses there might be, so I zipped back over to US Equestrian to see if I was truly finished.
Since I am hoping to take Speedy to a USDF-rated show in October, I wanted to make sure to get this done in as timely a manner as possible. I just wish US Equestrian would have been a bit less brusque in their communication. We're all supposed to support one another in a positive and friendly atmosphere, right?
I think we should expect the same thing from our governing bodies.
Mid-May seems awfully late to be starting the show season, but Speedy's winter of maiming himself put us a little behind schedule. Our first show will be at the Bear Valley Equestrian Center in Tehachapi over Labor Day weekend. We'll do Third Level tests 1 and 2. While the show is "only" CDS-rated, the scores count for a lot of different awards.
Any scores of 60% or better (ever hopeful!) count as qualifying scores for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC), the adult ammie's version of a championship show. While I love RAAC, getting there is not my primary goal for the season, but if we qualify, I'll undoubtedly go.
With a 60% or better, I will be able to check off one of the two score I'll need at Third Level to earn the CDS Sapphire award. I'll also need two qualifying scores at Fourth Level, so this is not a pressing goal.
Speedy needs 6 scores of 60% or better to earn his CDS Third Level Horse Performance Award. Earning 1 or 2 of them at this show would be exciting. So while it's "just" a CDS-rated show, the scores matter.
A week or so ago I wrote about US Equestrian and how much the organization bugs me. A few of you agreed with me while others didn't. I thought I'd clarify my comment about professional riders not needing to join USEF to maintain their pro status.
In order to compete as an adult amateur here in California, I HAVE to join US Equestrian. If I simply want to compete in my GMO's shows that are not USDF/USEF rated, I still have to join US Equestrian to get my my AA card. Professional riders who do not want to earn national titles do not have to join US Equestrian to be considered professional riders. Yes, they'll have to pay USEF non-member fees, but they don't HAVE to join. They are still permitted to show as professional riders. In my opinion, the adult amateur card should be free while professional riders should have to pay to play. But hey, I am only one person.
My Adult Amateur card is paid for, my SafeSport training is complete, and that first show entry of the year has been mailed. While I am working hard for good scores, I know that we're not quite performing in the 60% range yet. This show will give me an idea of what we have down and on what areas I most need to focus.
All that's left is to trim up Speedy's bridle path and drag out my show shampoos. Well, I should probably memorize those tests as well!
I have a love/hate relationship with US Equestrian, the official sanctioning body of all equine sports. And really, it's more of a hate relationship. There is so much that bugs me about the organization that it's hard to pick just one or two things. The only thing I "love" about them is that they make the rules, and I am a rule-follower through and through.
Before you jump all over me about how great US Equestrian is for equine sports, I get it. It works much the same as Trickle-Down Economics where favoring top horse and rider teams will eventually benefit grass-roots riders like myself - in theory anyway. We need to subsidize and promote the Laura Graves and Verdades of American equestrian sports. Without them there wouldn't be a place for the Speedys and Izzys of the world to compete. Insert big eye roll. Nothing personal, Laura. You're my idol.
I recently received the "yearbook" version of US Equestrian Magazine. It's the issue that chronicles all of the Horse of the Year Awards. It also included an article wherein US Equestrian's president, Murray Kessler, described the "Strategic Plan's five-step 'virtuous circle.'" A what circle? The plan, I refuse to call it a "virtuous circle," included:
The "plan" was followed by a lot of yada yada yada ... heard it all before kind of stuff that initiated yet another massive eye roll. Number 1 being ...
Revenues have climbed and reserves are up. No kidding, US Equestrian. Don't you remember your ridiculously high rate increase of two years ago? Our membership rose from $55 a year to $80, a 62% increase. When was the last time you got a 62% raise?
I guess the real reason that US Equestrian annoys me so much is that I get exactly two things for my $80 yearly fee: the privilege of showing as an adult amateur (professional riders don't have to join US Equestrian to maintain their professional status) and a magazine that I rarely read. That's it. There are no atta girl certificates, no patches or plates, nothing to earn. To US Equestrian, I am simply another $80 to add to their coffers.
To earn anything, I'd have to pay an additional $95 a year to bump up Speedy's Horse ID to an Annual Recording membership. And if I did that, I'm not quite sure what we'd be eligible for, but I am pretty sure it wouldn't be the types of awards that USDF and CDS offer when a horse earns a specified number of scores. So, no thanks.
In an effort to be fair to US Equestrian, they did finally send out something useful: the 2019 USEF Guidelines for Drugs and Medications. This little pamphlet was actually put together with the membership's needs in mind. The very first page has four QR Codes that actually work and take you right to the form you need.
The next page very succinctly sums up the rules and requirements relating to Pergolide, the drug used to treat Equine Cushing's disease. Speedy was diagnosed with the disease this winter, so US Equestrian's recent decision to allow Therapeutic Use Exemptions came at the perfect time for us.
The pamphlet covers a few other drugs as well and includes a Common Prohibited Substance list along with a quick guide as to when the last dose of some common drugs can be administered and how long many drugs remain detectable.
I am sure US Equestrian makes some positive contributions to dressage that actually benefit adult amateurs, but they're not doing the best job of making me aware of what those things might actually be. Since I need AA status - who wants to show Open?, I'll continue to fork over my $80 annually, but I don't have to like it.
Before I wrap this up, I found something in the Yearbook issue that totally and completely cracked me up. See for yourself.
Over the weekend I attended the California Dressage Society's (CDS) Annual Meeting. All members are welcome to attend Saturday's general session, but it's mostly chapter chairs that participate. When I found out that my chapter chair wasn't going, I asked if I could go as a representative. I got the go-ahead and headed to Anaheim as an official chapter representative.
I checked in alongside my friend, Jen, who is a chapter chair, and was made to feel welcome immediately. Even though CDS is the largest Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Association (USDF), the general meeting still had a small club vibe.
Kevin Reinig, the outgoing president, made numerous jokes during his report and even asked other members to step in to answer questions. The morning was long, and I could see how it might get boring to attend the meeting year after year, but I was fascinated. After the president's report, each committee chair shared their own bits of news, progress, or general state of things.
After a lunch break, which was excellent, we then reconvened for a roundtable discussion amongst regional chapter chairs. This part of the meeting was the most engaging as each chairperson shared their chapter's successes or obstacles. As a designated representative, I felt honored to share the wonderful things that my own chapter does. It was very gratifying to hear such positive feedback from the rest of the group.
What I enjoyed most about the day was the feeling of being so connected to the inner workings of the dressage world. Being a part of the CDS General Meeting felt like having a direct link to both USDF and US Equestrian. The people with whom I was rubbing elbows were the very same people that talk to USDF's people. And when CDS asks for something, USDF listens (usually).
Most of the time, we are content to school in our arenas, head to local shows, and collect our ribbons at the end of the day. We think of USDF and US Equestrian as these massive organizations that do whatever they want, whenever they want with no thought to our needs or desires. Being at this meeting helped me see that that is not entirely true. When we offer feedback to our GMOs, that feedback does make its way up the pipeline.
I can't say that I particularly want to serve my GMO in an official capacity, but filling in as a representative felt like giving back in at least some small way. I also offered to help another chapter in my region with a project they'd like to get started. The dressage community, at least here in California, seems to be pretty tightly knit with a genuine desire to work together. I like that, and I am proud to call myself a member.
The meeting was a lot like jury duty; I never actually want to get picked to serve, but once having done so, I'm left feeling like I've made the world a better place.
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 …
3/6-7 El Sueño (***)
4/17-18 El Sueño (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
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