From Endurance to Dressage
My second test of the day, Second Level Test 3, was about forty minutes after the first. We walked Speedy back to his stall for a quick break and a drink of water.
My goals for this test were two-fold: no score lower than a 6.0 - fail, and improve the score over a few weeks ago when I rode for the same judge - met my goal but only just barely.
Our one and only sub 6.0 score came at our very first centerline - 5.5 with the comment, not truly immobile drift right of E. From the video I can't tell if he drifted, but I believe it. That's something I've been struggling with as I sit the trot. I am sure I am sitting too hard on one seat bone or the other. And you can definitely tell he wasn't truly halted. He was all over the place in that first halt.
That first blip aside, the test rode pretty much at a satisfactory level. The whole test is a sea of 6.0s with some 6.5s thrown in for good measure. The comments were more corrective than glowing, but there was this gem, good correction when too much neck for our shoulder-in right. She gave me a 6.5. I love hearing that we're doing something right.
Unfortunately, and you can definitely see it in the video, I let Speedy get behind the vertical in the canter work. The comments say it all keep poll highest point (twice) and way behind the vertical. Not just behind, but way behind. Ouch. The judge's further remarks were both kind and dead on, Both of you are really trying. Try to increase the flow of the test harmony without horse getting behind the vertical.
Our final score was a 61.585% for fifth out of five. I wasn't disappointed though. My score was over 60%, and we only had that single 5.5. Other than that, we just need to inch those 6.0s to 6.5s and the 6.5s to 7.0s.
Here's the test.
Sunday's results tomorrow if I have the time.
For so long, I went to shows by myself, spending a lot of time watching others ride and feeling a bit like an outsider. Even so, I made it a point to chat with my barn neighbors, making some good friends along the way, and slowly I started to feel like I was part of the crowd. Now, nine show seasons later, I am going to shows with my trainer and her other students as well as meeting up with old friends. It's definitely a lot more fun than cranking it out alone.
Being a part of Symphony Dressage Stables means having a great team supporting me no matter how I do. It means getting my boots polished, my rides videoed, and doing the same for a friend. It also means staying up late laughing about being Naked and Afraid with a strange man while wondering if its okay to spoon with said stranger if you're married. We never came to a consensus.
This year's Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) was held at Twin Rivers Ranch, an eventing venue. For the eventers out there, you'll know the facility well. It was the first time many of us had ever shown there. As a side note, there is also a Northern and Southern RAAC as well. California is pretty big.
I got to TRR on Friday at lunch time and got our tack stall set up. Jen pulled in a few hours later. Since it was so hot, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, arrived in the early evening to coach us in the massive covered arena. I meant to get pictures, but I got busy.
Both horses warmed up really well, and I had some good aha moments while riding. My Second Level feel is really starting to develop. I am not sure we're completely confirmed at Second Level, our simple change is still a bit weak, but we're definitely getting there.
After our Friday night lesson, Jen, Morgan, and Chemaine all headed out for dinner while I gratefully walked to the house we rented (yep, a rented house right on the show grounds. How awesome is that?!). After a cold shower and a quick bite to eat, I snuggled into bed and read for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep. It had been a long day and we had two more to go.
Everyone was up early on Saturday morning as Jen's Prix St Georges ride was scheduled first thing. With only one ride for the day, Jen spent the rest of the day hanging out and graciously videoing my rides.
My first ride of the day, Second Level Test 1, was at 10:06 which left me plenty of time for braiding and tacking up. Like every show this season, my goal has been to score nothing lower than a 6.0. We met our goal for this test while also scoring a pair of 7.0s for good measure. Our final score for the test was a respectable 62.727% - not breaking records, but it was a solid effort.
Since last riding for this judge, I worked really hard on getting Speedy more active. While we didn't hit a grand slam, the judge did notice. Our medium walk earned the comment, fairly active needs over stride. Our counter canter from E to H earned the comment, fairly active. She still felt we needed to cover more ground and show over stride/thrust, but all in all, she noted the improvement where she saw it.
As we near the end of this show season, I am more than happy with the progress we've both made. My sitting trot is passable, and Speedy's medium gaits are getting better. We've also nearly eliminated the curling, although we still have our moments.
Here's the video from Second level Test 1.
Second Level Test 3 tomorrow ...
One of my strengths when I show is the ability to shake it off, whatever it is, and get on to the next movement. My super power failed me on Saturday though. I am not sure what my kryptonite was, but it was lurking somewhere near ring 1.
Everything about the show was going so well. The grounds were fantastic, including the stabling and parking, and my barn mates were all about good fun and friendly competition. Not like a few years ago when one of the competitors said that her friend was showing in my class and was going to win. Turns out she didn't, but I did!
Anyway, things were going well until I made a slight miscalculation in how long I needed to warm up. Apparently, showing is now old hat to Speedy and 15 minutes is all he needs. I gave us 30. After the first 12, I knew I had gone in too soon, so we walked and walked and walked. Just before my ride time, I decided to wake Speedy up with a big gallop.
Two things happened. First, he got really annoyed at me, and second, my trusty show pad, that one that wasn't looking as perky as before, nearly slid off his back. He gave a few bucks before I saw what had happened. In horror, I jumped off and reorganized the pad. From that moment, my confidence was shot.
As we trotted down center line, all I could think about was my stupid pad slipping off during the test. I kept glancing down to see if it was still there! Once I forced myself to forget about it, the next worry took over.
Speedy was behind my leg, note the curling above, but I knew that if I really goosed him forward, he'd flip me the hoof. That would be okay for one movement, but when he feels like I am working against him and not for him, he quits trying. Instead of sending him forward with a big cowgirl kick, I just nursed him through the test.
And really, it wasn't a bad test. My goal was 6.5s and 7.0s. We got more 6.0s than I would have liked, but considering how behind my leg he was, it wasn't terrible. That 4.0 though, I have no recollection of not being in canter. It's right in front of the judge though, so if she says we weren't cantering, we weren't, but that score came as a shock to me.
As with the comments we've had all summer long, the judge's further remarks were spot on. "Capable pair. Needs balance in transitions up and down. At times, horse over round and low in outline today." I love how generous she was in using "at times" and "today" as though yesterday we weren't and tomorrow we wouldn't be!
As we exited the ring, I knew it wasn't even close to a best effort, and I acknowledged that I had given the test away. I let the bigness of the show and the quality of my competition intimidate me.
I shook it off almost before we made it to the ring steward. Yes, I had let my confidence slip for a moment, but I recognized it for what it was. I was already planning my comeback for Test 3 which was to come later that afternoon. There was no sense in beating myself up about it, and suddenly, I felt my super power return!
Many of Sunday's riders didn't even bother with riding Test 2, so it was a very small class. For the adult amateurs, Saturday's classes were all warm ups for the actual RAAC classes held on Sunday. The scores from Saturday's tests still counted for USDF, but I knew that I still had time to get my little team squared away for Sunday's "big one."
When John and I compared our tests, we laughed at the point difference. Just 2.5 points separated our tests which would prove to be a theme for the weekend!
More to come ...
Today's the big day. We are headed to the California Dressage Society Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC).
MISSION: The mission of these competitions is to provide an opportunity for all CDS Adult Amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience. The regional nature of these shows will help to provide our membership with a developmental path for gaining competitive experience, promote excellence and increase awareness of and support for the Chapters.
I've competed at RAAC four different times, winning at Introductory Level and Training Level. I've been to RAAC at first level, but we didn't do so well. I am expecting this year to be different!
In 2013 and 2015, we finished dead last. Both times! And even weirder still, we placed eighth. Twice! Several year apart. There's actually quite an interesting pattern to my placings.
In 2014, I competed at the CDS Championship. That means that for evermore I must compete in the RAAC Elite division rather than Novice which is for riders who have never been to the championship. I don't know if this makes things more difficult or not. The elite division is for riders that have competed on a bigger stage; it doesn't matter if your horse has shown at a bigger show or not.
No matter what happens, I know that we've prepared as well as we can. Speedy is fit and ready, I know my tests (knock on wood right now, please), and the trailer is clean and ready to go.
Wish us luck!
Holy freaking heck, but am I tired of this test. I have decided that after the next two shows, I am done with First Level. There is nothing more that I can get out of it. With that said, I do want to finish strong. On Wednesday, best friend and I loaded both boys and headed to Moorpark for lessons with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
I took my last two tests with me as a reference for Chemaine. Rather than learn any new exercises, all I wanted to do was school the tougher movements of test 3. After discussing the judge's scores and comments, we decided to address three main areas - the leg yield, the 10-meter circles, and the canter work (15-meter circles, lengthening, and single loop).
In Test 3, the leg yield goes from one corner to the centerline (leg yield right) and after a moment of straightness in the center (X), the rider leg yields back to the rail (leg yield left).
I have two trouble spots on the leg yield. First, It takes me too long to get the left bend for the leg yield right, and second, I lose the shoulder. To help me fix this, Chemaine gave me a "process" for keeping my wet noodle of a horse packaged up better.
10-Meter Trot Circles
Our circles aren't bad, but it is an area where I know we can again earn 7.0s. My issues are not getting an inside bend to the right, slamming into the halt, and not getting enough energy to the left.
To help with this section of the test, Chemaine had me think of several things.
Our canter work isn't bad, and we're already getting scores of 6.5 and 7.0, but I think we can get 7.5s or even an 8.0 with just a bit of tweaking.
For the 15-meter canter circles, the rules are the same as for the trot circles.
It is during the change of lead through trot where I hope to make up the most amount of points. We can change from a left lead to a right with very little effort. Getting him to let go of the right rein is our trouble spot.
To help me fix this, Chemaine had a great series of steps.
Besides tweaking these movements, Chemaine also encouraged me to keep my chin up, literally. When I curl, Speedy curls! Riding with my chin up will help a lot.
The next show, Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) is in just a week. The changes I am looking to make are all small, but if done correctly, they'll be really effective!
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%: