From Endurance to Dressage
That's what I texted to my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer and Symphony Dressage Stables. Buckle Up, this ride is about to get started. For the past six years - oh my God how is that possible? I've been working with Izzy, but it's mostly been about turning him into a solid equine citizen. Now that Speedy is not my main ride, Izzy is going to have to step up his game and start showing for real.
The CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition is this weekend, we had to withdraw of course, and the CDS/USDF Region 7 Championship Show is at the end of September which means California's show season is winding down. Even without COVID-19, there usually aren't many shows in September. The new show season starts after Championships, so the October show at SCEC is always a great event to hit because you can get a head start on the new season. My goal is to get Izzy to that show.
Every single ride since the Barbi Breen-Gurley clinic has been about following with my elbows, not dropping the contact, keeping my left shoulder back, and looking between his ears. When I rode on Wednesday, I was rewarded with a correct and balanced flying change to left. I ended the ride on that glorious note.
Wouldn't it be hilarious if we start his showing career at Third?
Even though I got too busy/lazy to sign up for professional photos before the show, the photographer, Ashton Kingsley, was wise enough to shoot a series anyway. God bless show photographers. It has to be about as non-lucrative a job as one can get. It was 100 degrees, and yet he sat out there all the cursed day long shooting pictures of riders who probably weren't going to buy anything. Even if they had all turned out horribly, which they didn't, I would have bought one anyway. As it is, I bought a package of ten.
All of these photos were purchased from A.J.S.K Photography and used by permission. Visit A.J.S.K. Photography to schedule Horse Event Photography, Horse & Rider Portraiture, Equine Sales Photo/Video, and Non-horse related Event Photography (Birthday Parties, Graduations, etc.). I am delighted with the quality of the photos and am already working on getting some canvases done.
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Day two of a show has always been a struggle for us. I am tired, Speedy's tired, and we usually just want to go home. At the SCEC show last October, I finally made the decision that two tests on Sunday is one test too many. At the June show, I rode only one test on Sunday and felt that it was a better choice for both of us. For that show, we had two scores above 60% on Saturday, but I lost focus on Sunday - even with only doing one test, so our score was only 58%.
For this show, my goal was to earn above 60% for all three tests. I've already mentioned here and here that I had adjusted my warm ups to be less than 20 minutes. That proved to be successful; on Saturday we earned a 63% and 61%. Sunday was again super hot, and we were both tired. I felt my enthusiasm waning, but then I gave myself a kick in the butt. If my mental energy was flagging, there was no way Speedy was going to bring his A game. I sucked it up, Buttercup.
As planned, I did the shortest warm up possible; it was less than 15 minutes, The rider in front of me had just started, but rather than walk around for the next 7 minutes, something that makes Speedy sleepy, I headed to the ring so Speedy could watch. Not that I thought he would be inspired, but I was hopeful that the activity would perk us both up.
For day two of the show, we had a different judge. Word had already trickled down that she was tougher. Rather than think that Saturday's judge was just generous, effectively admitting that my scores had been inflated, I decided to show this judge that we were indeed worthy of that Bronze Medal.
While I was mentally ready for the ride, Speedy's energy level just couldn't be raised. I am not sure whether or not you can see it on the video (below), but I was thumping my legs and driving with my seat for the entire test. Speedy felt like a sputtering engine about to stall out at any moment. For much of the test we did well; we earned six scores of 7.0 (both flying changes earned 7.0), and thirteen of our scores were a mix of 6.0 and 6.5.
Unlike the day before, we also had two scores in the 4.0 range. We earned a 4.5 on our trot half pass right which has a double coefficient meaning we earned nine points out of twenty - ouch! We also earned a 4.0 for our canter half pass right. Again that movement has a double coefficient. And finally, our final halt, one of our strongest movements, earned a paltry 4.0. Speedy just refused to plant his feet. Had we earned 6.0s on all thee movements, we would have earned a 62.625%. Instead, we scored a 60.375%. It wasn't a brilliant test, but I met my goal: all three tests earned scores above 60%.
Next up is the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) August 8 - 9. That gives us a couple of weeks to focus on the half passes and polish the flying changes. We could also use some work on our shoulder-in. We've done the RAAC many times, and while we've been last a few times, we've also won at Introductory Level, Training Level, been reserve at First Level, and won at Second Level.
We'll either win at Third, or be dead last. I am hoping the former!
I've now been showing at Third Level for exactly one year. Speedy and I have been to seven shows at Third, including this one, and I am finally starting to feel some comfort at the level. I showed up with a plan, and I was able to carry it out pretty much to the letter. I've learned what Speedy can't, or maybe won't, do at a show. He's plenty fit, so it may have more to do with desire. Long pre-rides and warm ups only serve to rid him of any sparkle. Speedy only gets better at shows; he doesn't need any extra riding to get relaxed.
As planned, I limited my first warm up to less than 20 minutes. I asked for some simple walk, trot, and canter, did a bit of sitting trot and shoulder-in, and then I asked for a flying change in each direction. That was it. I knew we were as ready as we were going to be, and rather than give away our best effort in the warm up, something that's been happening lately, I saved it for the show ring.
One way I know that I am riding a level with at least some competence is that the ride starts to happen in slow motion. We're not moving more slowly, but I find that I have more time to think about and prepare each movement. I have time to go through my mental checklist of what needs to happen to make that movement as good as I can get it. For the first time at Third Level, that's how I was able to ride the tests. That doesn't mean we killed it or anything, but our scores showed great improvement, especially in the flying changes.
For our first test on Saturday, 3-1, we scored a solid 63.784%. I could not have been happier with the result. We earned thirteen scores of 7.0, one of which was a 7.5. There are only twenty-eight scores on the entire test, which means we earned a 7.0 on almost 50% of the test. But most impressive to me was that of the six flying changes we did over the course of the weekend, we earned a 7.0 on five of them! For nearly three weeks, I worked on that left to right change, and it showed!
While test 3, our second ride of the day, wasn't spectacular, I was equally pleased. We earned a 61.375%, and that was with a two-point error. I lost a stirrup just after the extended trot and spent a few frantic seconds trying to get it back. Unfortunately, the whole debacle happened just as we were supposed to halt and rein back. Oops. The judge blew her whistle and reminded me about the missed movement. Fortunately, the rein back has a double co-efficient. We earned a 7.0, so the two point deduction for the error brought our net score down to a twelve which kept our score average at 60%
For test 3, the championship level test, we earned eight scores of 7.0. Both flying changes earned a 7.0 with the comment, "clean" on both. The half passes still need some work - 5.5 & 6.5 for the trot half passes and 6.5 & 5.0 for the canter half passes, but they were improved over earlier shows. Again, I schooled the heck out of those over the past few weeks.
Saturday was a great day. I could not have asked Speedy to try any harder, and other than missing the rein back on test 3, I didn't make any foolish mistakes. I felt like I rode the test to the best of my ability. The good news is that we're definitely getting stronger at the level which gives me hope for doing well at August's CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition.
To be continued ...
I had actually sent in an entry for a completely different show, but a week or so ago, the property owner felt it necessary to cancel at the last moment due to fear of COVID-19. The show secretary told me that the SLO-CDS Wine Country Show was still scheduled to go. I quickly contacted that show secretary and submitted an online entry. There was a glitch though; the stabling was full. It's slightly over two hours to Paso Robles, and the show was a two-day show. Speedy had to sleep somewhere.
I quickly called a friend who lives in the area. I knew he'd be able to help me, and sure enough, he had a fantastic solution. A year or so ago, he had purchased 20 acres just minutes from the show grounds and said Speedy and I were welcome to camp at his place. It had been a long, long time since Speedy had spent a night at the trailer, but I knew he'd be okay. Neither of us got much sleep - horses tied to the trailer make a ridiculous amount of noise, but it all worked out.
On Friday, I drove straight to the show grounds for a quick tour of the place and a super short warm up ride. After showing a few weeks ago, I had created a new showing plan that called for a minimal ride on Friday, quick warm up on Saturday, and virtually no warm up for Sunday. I stuck to that plan, and I am glad I did. It was 100 degrees all three days. As it was, Speedy was exhausted by Sunday morning, and we had early ride times which meant we showed during the coolest part of the day. Those riders who showed at 4:00 in the afternoon deserve some serious respect. And a beer.
After our quick ride on Friday, I hauled Speedy over to my friend's house and set up camp. Early the next morning we drove back to the show grounds. Around noon, I loaded him up for the return trip back to camp. On Sunday morning, we again drove to the show, but instead of returning to camp after our test, we headed back home to Bakersfield. I have to say that Speedy got a little tired of getting in and out of the trailer.
Knowing that California is teetering on the edge of a return to a complete shut down, the show secretary followed US Equestrian's rules to fidelity. Upon arrival each day, including Friday, every person's temperature was checked at the front gate. Masks were required, and social distancing was enforced. Scores weren't posted anywhere which discouraged "loitering," and there was no real show office. Most communication was done over the phone. There was a see-through barrier placed between the judge and the scribe, who wore a mask. The judge didn't wear a mask while seated, but I am sure that was so the scribe could hear her.
You would think all of these precautions would suck the joy right out of showing, but you know, it didn't. Yes, the mask was uncomfortable, especially in the excessive heat, but it was worth it to be able to show. I always travel alone, so not being able to bring spectators doesn't really affect me. I did hang out with my host - he was in charge of dragging the arena, watering, and running the freestyles, and the people I parked near each day were all great fun.
To be continued ...
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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
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