No pressure or anything.
I know I already "debuted" at Second Level, but that was at a CDS-rated show. This time, it's the real deal, a USDF show. Not to disparage the CDS show; my GMO is huge, and the two qualifying scores I earned count toward a lot of great programs (Regional show, Ruby Award, Rosettes, Championships). My scores didn't count for the Second Level Rider Performance Award or a Bronze Medal though; both things I would like to earn someday.
Earlier in the week, I dragged out my clippers to tidy up Speedy's bridle path and fetlocks. When I opened my braiding box, where I store my clippers, I realized it was really gross inside. Some hair gel had spilled, braiding bands were in little dusty piles, and they whole thing was filled with dirt and loose hair.
I dumped everything out and and gave the inside of the box a quick wipe. Then I proceeded to throw out anything that was empty, cracked, broken, or otherwise useless.
Then I repacked everything. I don't think I have ever cleaned this box out. I bought it six years ago; it was time.
Of course, after that was done, I looked up and saw my bandaging box. That too got a "going through."
In for a penny, in for a pound. By that time, I was in full on organize everything mode. Next up was my med kit.
And since I couldn't have stopped even had I wanted to, I tackled my bottles and jars of OTC stuff.
Then I had a crack at my shampoos and conditioners. For someone who doesn't do a lot of grooming, I have way too many types of mane and tail products. By the time that was all done, my side of the tack room started to feel pretty clean and organized. When I stepped back to admire my work, I was disappointed to see that it didn't look any better. It's all still just crammed in there.
After I was done, I realized that I was just blowing off nervous energy. Instead of feeling worried and anxious about the show, I was actually really excited. I feel better prepared than I did last month, and we're going to a venue that Speedy knows well.
My Saturday times are really good - not too early, and not too late. I wish they were closer together though. I hate to make Speedy stand saddled for all that time. Keeping him tacked up lets him know he's not done for the day though. He can get resentful if I take him back out when he thinks he's finished.
My Sunday times are great - first thing in the morning. Since I camp on the grounds, I'll be there anyway. And since I ride so early, I'll be able to hit the road sooner (it's a two and a half hour drive) which means I'll get home in time to unpack the trailer and make it home with part of the day still intact.
One last thought: the show drew more riders than anticipated which means there are two rings and two judges. I get to ride for both judges which means I get more opportunities to earn scores for Championships and the Second Level Rider Performance Award - scores need to be from four different judges. This show could get me halfway there.
No pressure or anything.
Last Friday I was agonizing over whether or not to go to a show in two weeks. No sooner did I hit publish than my Facebook feed was filled with friends urging me to GO.
Having so many people encouraging me to go and knowing that they'd be at the show with me, tipped the scales. I worked hard on Friday and Saturday and got tons of classwork done way ahead of schedule. I'll have no problem finishing the course work over the next few days - a week early!
That evening, my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, not only urged me to go, but nearly has me talked into doing an extra show in May. I have had an eye on USDF's Second Level Rider Performance Award since I got my First Level Rider Performance Award. I need four scores from four different judges. We'll have our first shot at a score at this show in two weeks. I'm riding four tests over the two days so hopefully I can get the first score then. If we go to the May show, I'll get a second chance.
I would be really happy to earn those four scores this year. That won't mean I am done with Second Level, but it would be nice to see that atta girl hanging on my wall.
Moving up a level is always hard for me because of the new scores I'm likely to receive. It's not like I finish each level with amazing scores, but walking away with high 60s or low 70s makes you feel good. Knowing that the likelihood for a mid-50 score (at the new level) is pretty high can be a bit demoralizing. First thing learned.
I didn't get that mid-50 score at Second Level though, at least not yet. We're a little better than I give us credit for. Another thing learned.
You know that confessions post I wrote a while back, the one where I admitted that I was terrified to ride in front a home town crowd? When I halted and saluted at X at the end of test 1, I was shocked to hear a huge round of applause. I was stunned. It dawned on me that they don't see me as a hack (okay, maybe one or two do) but rather as one of the family. Knowing that so many people were truly rooting for my success gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies. Lesson learned.
The 20-meter half circle from S to R or V to P doesn't touch C or A. Just thought you'd like to know. Good thing Chemaine pointed that out before the test. A good thing to learn ...
Speaking of geometry, I also learned that when you make a 10-meter half circle at A and ride the counter canter back to E, you ride the shoulders toward E. That's another good thing I learned over the weekend.
Second Level is harder physically for Speedy than First Level was. He's going to need to do some canter sets to increase his fitness. I've already been hammering away at the treadmill, but I might need to do a few more sets myself. We showed on a cool spring day. What's going to happen when it's 90? Glad I learned that early in the season.
The biggest thing I learned is that I take this too seriously. I really need to lighten up a bit. I say that, but actually putting it into practice is hard to do. I'll work on it it though.
Enjoy your weekend!
When starting a new level, I don't generally hunt down my score from the first test before riding the second one. The score doesn't matter at that point because I am already riding to the best of my ability. Reading that I suck isn't going to help any, so I'd rather get all the news, good or bad, at once.
After finishing my first ride, I knew it was pretty well done. I didn't have much time between tests though, so I didn't bother to check the score. It was what it was. Never did I imagine that I had earned a full 5% higher than I was hoping for. I am serious. I was hoping to score as high as a 57%. Breaking 60% was my pie in the sky goal. We obliterated that goal with our 63%.
There were two rides between our two tests, so I didn't even bother going back to the warm up. There was nothing I needed to fix, and I was worried about wearing Speedy out.
As we trotted up center line for the second time, I knew we were in a bit of trouble. He was a lot less enthusiastic the second time around. By the time we got to the canter work, I was working really hard to keep him cantering. He was pretty sure he'd had enough. He's such a rock star though that as we turned down center line for the final time, I felt him push off and give me all he had. He went from a string of 6s at the end to a 6.5 for his last score.
I have to say, those half turns on the haunches were legit. I haven't see video of us doing those since last summer when we first learned how to ride them. I can see that movement being one of our strong suits, and since they have a double coefficient, all the better!
We definitely have a lot of room for improvement (ahem, simple change at B), but the test looked a lot better than I ever imagined it would. We earned a 61.282% for our effort. While not as high as the first test, the score still exceeded my expectations. We only had two 7s, but again, no 4s and only one 5. I'd say our Second Level debut was a success!
Speedy's Arabian Horse Association registered name is G Ima Starr FA. He has lived up to his name time after time. I really don't think there is anything this horse can't do. I love him to pieces!
You read about our warm up yesterday. Here's what happened the next day.
With all of my eggs riding in Speedy G's basket, I gave him a modified bath (legs and belly only), braided (they looked AMAZING, but I forgot to take photos!), and headed over to the Gardiner Ranch.
Oh, but before that, while I was cleaning my everyday boots because my nicer boots are really hard to zip up, I had a zipper blow out. Crap. I threw them in the trailer anyway hoping they would make it through the day. They didn't. I zipped them up and down a couple of times to assess the damage, and they seemed okay until I walked a few steps in them. Fortunately, with the help of a friend (thank you, KM!), we were able to get the other pair zipped up.
Even feeling super confident in my partner's ability to carry the day (I Got This!), I was still feeling anxious. I did my best to shrug it off though and made it a point to visit with friends and check out what the Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society (GEAHS) had put together for the day.
Not only was there a free barbecue lunch, but the club had a silent auction and buckets filled with goodies for awards. At the lunch break, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables rode a Freestyle to entertain the crowd. I didn't get to watch it as I was doing my warm up, but I heard the music and applause.
When she was finished, Chemaine zipped over to give me a few last tips before my test. She reminded me to get Speedy moving without throwing away the contact. Check and check.
Here's our Second Level Debut, Test 1.
We earned a 63.485%, good enough for first place. It was hard though. No big surprise, but my sitting trot definitely still needs work. Last May, when I rode with Hilda Gurney, I couldn't sit at all, so I am pretty happy that I was able to sit as much as I did.
When I watched the video on Monday morning, I was shocked at how easy Speedy made it look. He looks like he's been doing this his whole life. What the heck? He is an amazing partner.
I don't know how well these scores will hold up with the next judge, but there is no way I am going to complain about eight 7s my first time out the gate and no 4s. Was it just beginners luck?
We have a lot to improve on for sure, but I am so relieved to have that monkey off my back. Now that we've actually shown at Second Level, I don't care how long it takes us to get it right. Just knowing that we're in the right neighborhood takes a lot of pressure away.
Test 2 up next ...
I don't clip my horses over the winter. Nor do I blanket them. That means they get pretty wooly over the winter. There are many great things about living in California, but the one thing I really like is that winter in the Central Valley is quite mild. We have so many warm and sunny days that I can hose my horses off at least once a month without worrying about hypothermia. That keeps the funk from getting really gross. But still ... they get gross.
Over the past few weeks, I've been helping Speedy shed his polar bear coat. Every day I scraped off piles of hair, determined to get him at least somewhat slicked out for Sunday's show. About ten days ago, I decided to tackle his feathers. Those things were longer and thicker than most girls' pony tails.
For a horse that's not draft at all, I have no idea why he grows so much foot hair. I had to use scissors to cut away the first layer. It took an hour to slowly clip away the rest. They're not beautifully smooth, but no one will see the clipper lines. Last weekend, I tackled his tail and head. I don't mind a bushy tail through the winter; it actually serves to keep their butts warmer. For show season though, I like it trimmed up.
Some time ago, I bought one of those mane thinning combs - mine came from Germany. I love that thing. It makes thinning manes and tails so easy. I did his tail in less than five minutes.
After a quick shampoo of Speedy's belly and legs in the morning morning, he looked pretty smart for Sunday's show. I haven't had time to sort through all the media, but a friend shared a couple of photos.
More to come!
I was recently accused of being a bit of a Negative Nelly of late. I would agree. In my defense however, I have been particularly worried about this upcoming show. I really, really hate to do poorly. Just recently, I heard Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR crew chief, put it this way: we hate losing more than we love winning. Yep, me, too.
I get it though. Life is too short to spend all of my time worrying about how well my horse can perform a simple change. Once we get that mastered, there's the flying change to worry about. After that, there's something else.
In the spirit of not obsessing over simple changes and counter canter, I thought I'd remind myself how truly awesome my gray pony really is.
In 2012, just two years after our leap into dressage, Speedy and I were Introductory Level Champions at the California Dressage Society's (CDS) Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). The year before, we were the Ventura County Chapter of CDS's Introductory Level Champion.
The next year, we were the year-end Training Level Champions at El Sueno Equestrian Center.
In 2014, we were once again RAAC champions, this time at Training Level.
At the 2017 Central Region RAAC, we earned Reserve Champion for First Level. It wasn't a blue neck ribbon, but I couldn't be prouder of that red ribbon. We worked really hard and were up against some great horse and rider teams.
Since we started showing dressage in 2010 - our first show was three weeks after a 55-mile endurance ride, we've earned a Show High Point score seven times! We've earned the season average high point twice (for two different CDS chapters) and been reserve champion once.
We've also earned five scores in the 70s, three of which were at USDF shows. Three of the scores were at Intro Level, but two of them were at Training. I don't care at what level they were earned. I'll take a 70% any day of the week.
Speedy is truly an awesome horse. His heart is huge, and he just keeps on getting better. What I enjoy most about riding him is how consistent he continues to be. He shows up at every show always ready to perform and do his best.
Why would our debut at Second Level be any different?
If you hurry up, there's still time to enter. Find the show premium here; it needs to be postmarked by March 7th. If you're still on the fence about the show, get off it, and come! The Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society is putting on a show unlike they've ever done. Wait until you see the facility!
Lowell Saunders, the show manager (contact him here), invited me to join the club as they toured the show venue and made final arrangements. How have the property owners kept this place such a secret?
The show venue is located just off Enos lane, a few miles south of 7th Standard Road. Parking will be along the edge of the gravel drive, but it's plenty wide enough and close to the arena and warm up area.
The club will also be sponsoring a barbecue lunch, free for competitors and trainers. The GEAHS group has always done excellent prizes as well as a silent auction. Expect them to bring those back for this year as well.
The arena is so large that it will contain not only the dressage court and judge's platform, but an "on deck" warm up area as well. Even though a reining show was going on during our visit, the footing still looked quite lovely for dressage. George, the man in charge of the footing, asked me to describe the kind of footing we would like and promised to get it perfect for us.
There is also a round pen for lunging and a dirt field that will be dragged and smoothed for the warm up. It's a large, fenced area that will more than meet our needs as a warm up ring. As a bonus, it is just steps away from the arena entrance.
The GEAHS Spring Open Dressage Show is CDS-rated, but if you're just starting out, don't let that stop you. The club is hoping to attract riders of all levels. They really just want riders to come and enjoy a day with horses in a beautiful facility.
The show is Sunday, March 18th. In order to prepare for the show, I am working with the venue's facilitator and Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to (hopefully) put together a Ride-a-Test clinic for Saturday, the day before the show. Let me know if you'd like to participate.
The GEAHS is already planning next year's event at the Gardiner Ranch. So even if you're not quite ready to show this year, come on out to get a look at the facility. Then stay for lunch and enjoy Chemaine's fabulous freestyle!
We don't have a very big dressage presence here in Bakersfield, and the truth is, I am not sure it would even take two hands to count the number of active riders showing dressage. So when a non-dressage equestrian group offers to put on a CDS-rated show, it should be something we support.
My local friends are eye-rolling now, I know. You see, this show has ... some history. It hasn't gone well the past few years, and local riders are skeptical that it won't be any different this year. In fact, it's going to be interesting to see if the show actually gets enough participants to put together a schedule. For the record, I am going.
Most everything about the show has been done well. They've offered High Point awards, raffles, and food. The facility had good parking, was centrally located, and while the footing wasn't the greatest, it was good enough for this former endurance rider.
So what's to complain about? Well, without beating a dead horse, some of the show day decisions have been questionable. One year, the show manager refused to return score sheets until the end of the show. Often times, classes were scheduled in what appeared to be in no particular order. On top of that, riders were permitted to ride out of order so that the class couldn't close until nearly the end of the show. Last year, ride times were confirmed the night before, but by the next morning, everyone's times had been switched around; mine by four hours! Other riders had been rescheduled to an earlier time and so were not even on the show grounds! In short it was a disaster.
This year, a new show manager has been brought in to replace the manager of the past few years. He's excited about the show and working hard to fix the glitches of the past. They've moved the show to a new venue, one that none of us has seen. They're still offering high point awards and no grounds fee. On top of that, they're providing a free BBQ for riders, trainers, and owners! That's a new one for me.
So local peeps ... what do you say? Let's give them another chance. If nothing else, it's a cheap show, and you'll get lunch out of the deal!
If we fizzled on Test 2, I am not even sure a match was struck for Test3. I haven't had a score this low in quite some time (61.029%). But like I said yesterday, this ride didn't feel any different from the tests I've ridden all summer. The judge simply marked it how he saw it.
The real bummer is that I had a videographer all lined up, but when I found out that she takes lovely still shots, I ditched my iphone and let her use her lovely camera. I just assumed that the ride would look pretty similar to every other test I've ridden this year, so why record it?
As I looked through some of her pictures, I could definitely see that my position was wonky (The Lean), but Speedy looked pretty nice. Now I wish that I would have had her take video so that I could check the video against the scores.
These scores are not what I've seen in a while. Six scores in the 5 range? I didn't feel it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't so.
Not that it explains everything, but it was hot. I've already said that keeping Speedy in front of my leg on hot days is a new goal. Good thing we have like a million more hot days coming because I have lots of time to work on it!
I guess the one thing that we did do right was our halts. We earned a 7.5, 7.0, 7.0 (scored with a right and left turn between the two 10-meter trot circles), 6.0, and a whopper of an 8.0! I don't know which one is pictured up above, but we had some problems earlier this year with fidgety halts, so I am happy that we at least improved in that area.
In the end, I met at least some of my goals for the year. We placed well at RAAC (Reserve Champion), we earned 13 scores of 60% or higher for my CDS Plaque (no scores below 60%), we earned AA high score at two shows, and we were quite competitive within my CDS chapter. I don't know who won AA high point for the season, but I know I was close.
Overall, I had fun this season, and I am looking forward to slogging it out at Second Level!