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!
Speaking of showing ... Just how do we afford all of these shows anyway? Well, if you're like me, you supervise the children's version of jail. Kidding, of course. Sort of.
You see, at my school (I teach 5th grade in case you're new here), we have lunch time detention. It runs for the 30 minutes of lunch recess. Students get approximately 30 minutes to eat followed by another 30 minutes to play.
Kiddos who get in trouble, either from our school principal or another staff member, serve noontime detention with whichever teacher has detention duty. Most often, that's me. I run detention every Monday and Friday. The other nine intermediate teachers rotate through weekly so that they serve Tuesday through Thursday about three times a year.
Why do I do it so frequently you ask? For the "money," of course. I make approximately $12 each time I serve as the detention teacher. During the course of the school year, I gave up my lunch twice a week, sometimes more if I "subbed" for another teacher. In June, I got my extra duty check for the second semester's detention as well as for serving as my school's Battle of the Books coordinator.
My check was a "whopping" $822. I used the money to pay my entries for both June shows, coaching at each show, and Izzy's new bridle. My husband was horrified that I would give up my lunch twice a week to supervise naughty children for $12. Looking back, It does seem like a lot of work for so little pay.
School starts again on August 16th. I have another month or so to consider whether missing my lunch hour two to three times a week is worth one or two shows during the summer. But you know, if Izzy doesn't break anything next spring, I could turn that check into three shows. My colleagues certainly hope that I'll continue with the Monday/Friday detention schedule as it means fewer days they have to serve.
It's worth it, right?
I am sure most of you will disagree with me, especially if you don't live in California and aren't members of CDS. But here goes - US Equestrian, I want a refund.
Up until this year, membership with USEF was $55 a year. I was never excited to send them half a Benjamin, but I figured it was part of the game; showing isn't cheap. This year, USEF raised their rate to $80 a year. That hurt. My USEF membership is now my most costly membership, and I get nothing tangible for those 80 bucks.
Like I said, a lot of you are getting ready to itemize all of the many ways that US Equestrian makes it possible for me to show. It kind of reminds me of the scene were Miranda so cheekily explains where Andy's cerulean blue sweater came from.
I get it; I really do. Rulebooks need to be maintained and updated. Horses needed to be registered and followed. Points need to be recorded. Awards need to be distributed. New members need to be brought into the fold. I grinched about the 45% increase, but I paid it.
This past week though, I got the newest edition of US Equestrian, the official magazine of the United States Equestrian Federation. My level of irritation rose from mild to are you kidding?!?!
Let me explain.
I am a member of the California Dressage Society, a Group Member Organization of the United States Dressage Federation. My annual membership is $70. For that fee, I am eligible to participate in various programs and earn numerous awards. And I do participate.
I've twice been selected by my CDS Chapter to ride in the CDS Adult Amateur Clinic - my chapter paid the clinic fee. I've shown at the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition more times than I can count. Speedy and I have won twice and been reserve champion once. We have two coolers and a leather halter to show for our efforts. Each year, Speedy and I have earned a "plate" to add to our plaque. And this year, we earned our scores for the CDS Ruby Award which we'll get in the fall.
A portion of my CDS membership fee goes to USDF which also offers a number of awards programs in which I participate. As of 2018, I've earned Rider Performance Awards at Training and First Levels, and with a little luck, I might get my Second Level award at the end of this show season. Once that's done, I'll set my sights on a Bronze Medal.
What do I get from US Equestrian? I get to be an Adult Amateur and ... I get this glossy magazine that now sports a trendy new textured cover. Glossy must have looked cheap. Not only that, but this month I got a 30 inch long foldout on heavy duty paper lauding the member benefits that my $80 get me.
There is a Learning Center (already get that with USDF), the USEF Network (I am not much of a TV watcher), the magazine and Equestrian Weekly which shares US Equestrian articles (redundant?), 120 National Championships, and International Team Development. How about no, nope, too expensive, and did I mention NO?
And to top it off, in bright red letters, US Equestrian included their current count - a community of over 105,000 members. I did the math; that's in excess of 4 million dollars in membership fees. And I didn't even count how much more they get as members pay to have horses registered.
I know it's probably a case of sour grapes, but I resent paying so much to an organization that gives me so little in return. I am just a small time adult amateur trying to have a little fun. I would think that instead of pumping even more money into the cost of publishing their magazine, US Equestrian might think of a small atta girl to help me see the benefits of joining. Even USDF sends me a sticker every year.
Right now, I'm looking at all this print media thinking I'd like a refund. Where's the recycle bin?
Before last weekend, I had never needed to back out of a show before. And technically, since this show got rained out, I'm calling it a show cancellation rather than saying I cancelled. When I was still showing at Introductory Level, I entered a show that was also cancelled due to rain. Of the more than 50 shows that I've attended (many of which were two-day events), that's my experience with cancellations. Obviously my data set is quite small.
The show secretary sent out an email saying that refunds were on their way. I even wrote about how happy I was going to be to get my money back given the huge vet bill I had just incurred, so imagine my disappointment when I saw that the check was a fair amount less than I was expecting.
I am not mad; I get it. The secretary no doubt incurred some expenses in organizing the show. Even so, the $56 in office fees she kept seems a little steep. Had there been 30 riders, I haven't checked, but that seems like a reasonable number, she made $1,680. That seems like an awful lot of pre-show expenditures.
I don't know what her expenses were, maybe she had to pay the judge, but I know she works at the facility in some capacity and puts on a series of shows there, so I don't think she had to rent the place. I am not writing any hate mail or sending any complaints, and I will go back for other shows. I am just curious to know what is the standard when it comes to refunds at USDF-rated dressage shows.
Have you ever cancelled or had the show get cancelled? What kind of refund did you get? Please share your experience with refunds. I'm definitely curious.
I've been to more than forty dressage shows and a dozen clinics. I've also participated in more than 80 endurance races. I know how to complete an entry form. This entry form, however, was a completely different beast. I read through the whole thing (all 33 pages) and never found my classes. I almost gave up right then. If I couldn't even find the right class, what did that say about my readiness? (said with an eye roll)
It probably would have helped had I known that the CDS Championship classes are referred to as Horse of the Year classes. (Holy crap. Nothing like adding extra pressure!) But since I didn't know that at the time, I kept reading, looking for the Championship classes since I knew (or thought I did) that Speedy couldn't possibly be in contention for Horse of the Year.
Finally, I went to the CDS webpage and looked up the championship results from previous years.
As soon as I saw the first set of results, I realized that yes indeed, Speedy and I would be riding for the Training Level Horse of the Year award for Adult Amateurs. Hmm. That gave me a great deal to think about.
The next thing I noticed was how BIG the classes were. In the Adult Amateur Training Level class, there were 18 riders in 2012, which was the last time the championships were held in southern California. I also studied the scores; they ranged from a high of 72.321% down to a low of 55.400%. I know the judges at this show are all very highly qualified. What I hoped was that these weren't brilliant riders getting their lowest scores ever, but rather that they were riders (just like me) getting fair scores from knowledgable judges.
What really interested me was that the scores were all exactly the type of scores that I've been earning this season. And that got me thinking. If these riders really were your typical adult amateur competitors, I had a chance of doing pretty well at the show … if I didn't let my nerves psych me out. I decided to enter.
This dressage show is not run like any other I have been to, so it did take me a while to complete the entry. Most of the information required was typical: ID numbers for horse and rider, stabling requests, and so on. The part that threw me was figuring out which classes to enter.
It took some time and a phone call, but I finally figured out that for the championships, riders will ride Test 2 on one day and Test 3 on another day which is actually one class, 2AB. The scores are then averaged to determine the Horse of the Year winner for each level. Normally, for a two-day show, I would ride two tests each day to maximize my time at the show. For the championships, you only get two rides over the course of the entire show (unless you qualified on multiple horses or at multiple levels).
Riders are also allowed to ride in ONE warm-up class on Thursday, but only one. The other thing that makes this show tricky is that the schedule is not made in advance. In other words, you don't know which day your tests are being judged until a week or so before the show begins. When I completed my entry, I had no idea which days I was going to be showing.
I have since received my ride times, and unless something changes, I will ride Test 2 on Saturday and Test 3 on Sunday. Way up above, you can see the entry fee for the Horse of the year classes - $170 gets you a "package" deal. The entry fee of $170 allows me to ride Test 2 and Test 3, and that's it. Pretty expensive!
Stabling was also high. No matter how many days you stay, the price for a stall is $175. And, according to USEF's rules, if you are entered in more than one championship class (who isn't?), and they are not scheduled on the same day (whose is?), you MUST stable on the show grounds rather than just paying the $20 haul in fee. I live too far away to haul home, but there are a lot riders who do live close enough to take their horses back home each afternoon.
The last little thing I should mention about this entry form is that quite a lot of money is at stake for the top riders, relatively speaking.
Basically, if you're in the top five, you're getting a check, and if you're in the top ten, you're getting at least a ribbon. And I think the top two get something monogrammed, but I can't tell if that's just for the USDF Regional Championship. Below tenth place, you're just walking away with more experience.
So. What did these three dressage tests cost me? A whopping $664 which includes the three tests, stabling, fees, and camping. It does not include shavings brought from home ($40), a shared tack stall ($35), trainer fees ($200?), gas ($100?), food ($50?), or other incidentals.
I hope I enjoy it!
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: