From Endurance to Dressage
Unless you just started reading this page yesterday, you'll know that Izzy is not an easy horse to ride. That may be one of the biggest understatements I've ever made. He's downright challenging to ride. Do I sometimes wish that he were a bit easier? Sure, but easy doesn't teach you a lot. Easy can also be boring. It should be clear by now that I thrive on difficulty. You need proof? I trained my endurance horse to be a dressage horse and together we earned a USDF Bronze Medal. Difficult doesn't scare me. Difficult and I are friends.
While difficult doesn't scare me, I do like my money, so I try to spend it wisely. The 2021 show season is upon us. Unlike last year, it really seems as though we might get to actually show. That means I need to make some decisions pretty quickly. Initially, I was going to show at El Sueño at the beginning of March, but my trainer wasn't going to able to come, so we decided that SCEC at the end of March was a better option. I like SCEC a lot. Speedy and I earned our final bronze medal score there, and Izzy earned his one and only qualifying score there in October.
The decision to go to SCEC in March is pretty well established. It's what we should do after that that is in question. Here's the problem. We're in the midst of refinancing our house which will knock ten years off our payback date. This is going to push our house payment up a fair amount. In the short term, it's forcing us to tighten our belt just a bit, but the long term benefit is huge. That money has to come from somewhere, and the most obvious place to cut expenses would be from my show budget.
So here is what I am thinking about:
Even if we're not particularly competitive, I still want to take Izzy to RAAC as it's one of the best shows of the year. If you think adulting is hard, consider this: it's even harder to be 50 and have to make decisions that affect your retirement!
Man, I'm getting old!
Yep. We qualified for the California Dressage Society's Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) on the very last day. It's this weekend. Like I said in an earlier post, I was fine with not having qualified. I had already decided that it was too expensive anyway, and my money would be better spent on Speedy's vet bill (I kid you not, that thing is STILL sitting on my credit card).
And then I got a wild hair and threw caution out the window. I downloaded the premium and realized that entries had closed the day before. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? I filled out the entry, paid my late fee, and started packing (mentally anyway.)
And then on Tuesday, Speedy trotted off lame. I shook my head in disbelief. It was hard to be too mad about it, especially since I had only just decided to go to the show a week before. I pulled his tack and got on the phone with the vet.
The only way to get even part of the entry back, which was a hefty one, was with a letter from a veterinarian. Just as my call was answered, my farrier, who was not supposed to come on Tuesday, pulled up the driveway! I quickly explained to the office manager that Speedy was lame, but I was going to have the farrier take a look, and I'd call her back.
My farrier put the hoof tester on the right front, and wham-o! Speedy flinched pretty hard. A quick flick with the hoof knife revealed a small abscess track. My farrier dug down until a bit of blood appeared, but the abscess didn't drain. He was certain that the infection was higher up near the heels.
A summertime abscess here in the land of baking heat is not so common unless your horse has Cushing's Disease. Before this past winter, Speedy had never abscessed in his life. It was three abscesses in quick succession that suggested to my vet that we should test for adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Speedy's numbers came back just above normal, so we started him on daily Pergolide (Prascend). My farrier was certain this abscess was related to Speedy's Cushing's Disease.
After some back and forth discussion, we decided to pack the hoof with Numotizene and cross our fingers. My farrier said it just might drain in time for the show, but if it got worse, I was to call him so he could clean it out some more.
Sadly, it didn't get any worse, but it hasn't improved either. Yesterday, I sent an email to the show secretary telling her that Speedy and I had to withdraw. I attached the letter my vet had provided. I'll get most of my entry fee back, but I may need it to pay for this damn abscess if it won't drain on its own.
I've already called my farrier and asked if he can come back out to dig deeper, but I haven't heard back from him. Hopefully this thing resolves over the weekend. I go back to work officially on Monday, so it's going to be a lot harder to get Speedy into the vet to deal with this.
Hell's bells; it's always something.
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon, but by the time you read it, Speedy and I will have finished our last show of the season. And frankly, I'll be glad when it's over.
I started the season with little hope of accomplishing anything. We were staring down a very formidable Second Level, and all I was hoping for was at least one score above 60% so that we would get a plate to add to our perpetual plaque.
If you would have told me that we would eventually go to nine shows for twenty-five rides, I would have thought you were crazy. As hard as it is to believe, we made it through Second Level a lot more successfully than I ever thought we would.
Don't read more into a "win" than there is. We didn't kick Second Level's butt or anything, but we definitely showed major improvement through the year, and I am pretty happy about that.
Here we are in August though, and I am tired. I saddled Speedy on Saturday morning, but I had to keep sitting down in order to get it done. It wasn't the riding that had me sighing deeply, it was what I had to do after riding: cleaning tack, loading tack, bathing, and finally braiding.
This is the first season that has worn me out. I think it was the most mentally challenging season than I've had. Plus, I dealt with the whole migraine issue for the first half of it, not to mention learning the ins and outs of Second Level.
I was really torn about not going to the CDS Championships to compete in the Horse of the Year classes, but I am over it. We qualified, which was a goal I never thought we'd achieve, so that's good enough. I am grateful that I decided not to go. Given how apathetic I feel towards Sunday's show, it's a good thing we're not going. I don't need to spend a thousand bucks and feel meh while doing it.
I've had a great season, but I am ready for a break. I'm going to need it if we're going to tackle Third Level this fall.
The show photographer mailed out proofs over the weekend, so I finally got to see our Honor Round photos. My crew had all driven home, so I didn't have anyone free to take photos for me.
I bought all three of the photos, and they are of course used by permission. The woman on the right is Louise Koch, one of the weekend's judges. She explained that Hilda Gurney, my judge, had to leave early but had left her congratulations. I was disappointed as I wanted a photo with Hilda. Oh, well. Next time!
Good times, but time to move on!
Sorry to make you wait so long, but boy was last week a busy one. I didn't even watch the video of Sunday's ride until this weekend. And once I finally watched it, I was really happy; there wasn't a bad moment. Even when I grabbed screenshots, I mostly just hit pause without having to go frame by frame to catch that one, single, nice moment. Nearly all of the moments were good - relatively speaking.
I should also mention that this test was judged by Hilda Gurney. I've always found her to be a fair judge who calls 'em as she sees 'em. I am not sure if she was in a good mood, or if we were that good, but I'll take Sunday's score without a bit of complaint.
This has been a year for pilot error though. Again, I messed up at the walk. The walk, people. How can you get lost while walking?!?!? I have asked that question multiple times this year. WTH?
I know what happened, and it's because of a good thing, but sheesh. I have been schooling the walk like crazy. I've been busting Speedy's butt over having more activity at both the medium walk and free walk. On top of that, we've been working hard on our trot to halt. As we approached C for a rein back, I half halted and SAT. We did the rein back, and I knew it was good. We got an 8 which made three in one test!
All I could think about was keeping that activity as we went forward. Instead of turning left at H for the turns on the haunches, I went straight to do our free walk. I was all excited about getting a good free walk when I heard the whistle blow. Dammit.
The result of that pilot error crept into the next movement though. I hurried to get back on course and then completely blew the first turn on the haunches. We scored a 4.0. It was totally my fault. We earned a 7.0 for the next one, and from there, we were back on track without any further errors.
On the video, you can hear Hilda telling me I forgot the turn on the haunches. I tell her I am sorry, and she quips, "That's okay, I'll just take off two points." I then laugh and move on. When I first heard the bell, I felt such a sense of defeat. I knew I didn't stand a chance of earning at least second place, and even getting a 60% was not looking good. The levity of the moment cleared my feeling of defeat though, and I rode on.
I was pretty sure I had blown any shot at first or second, the two placings that earn a fleece cooler or a halter. I really didn't care about that though as first and second had to stay for the Honor Round which was scheduled for 3:05. Riding in the Honor Round means being properly attired in show clothes and show tack.
I really just wanted to get home. I was worried about my score though because that ride was my last chance of the year to earn my fourth score for my Second Level Rider Performance Award. I had plenty of Second Level scores, but they needed to be from four different judges. So instead of worrying about winning the class, I was crossing my fingers for a 60%.
Earlier in the morning, Chemaine Hurtado's other student earned reserve champion at Prix St. Georges. We were super excited that Symphony Dressage was being represented so well. As we waited for my score though, things got kind of quiet while I silently prayed for a 60%.
When Chemaine couldn't stand it another moment, she snuck off to the show office to check on my score. I peeked down the barn aisle to see what kind of expression she was wearing as she walked my way. When she grinned excitedly, I knew I had earned my 60%, but then I saw a blue neck ribbon and a fleece cooler in her arms. How Speedy and I pulled off that little miracle, I'll never know.
Even with the two point deduction and the blown turn on the haunches, we scored a 64.286% which was good enough for 1st place. It was a very competitive class with only nine points separating 1st from 4th. I am not sure how it's possible, but Speedy and I have now won RAAC at Introductory Level, Training Level, and Second Level with a reserve at Fist Level.
Once USDF has the score recorded, I'll apply for my Second Level Rider Performance Award. In the meantime, we have our last show of the year this Sunday in Tehachapi. It's been a busy show season!
Here's the 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 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 …
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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