Here's the video. You be the judge.
After I saw all of the scores for Sunday's show, I realized my test 3 score, 61.829%, wasn't too shabby. For Training Level through Intermediate (only one of those) there were fifteen scores lower than 60% and only twelve scores above 60%. The high score was 69% by an open rider. The three Introductory Level tests earned 66%, 64%, and 67%.
I either rode this test better, or the judge felt sorry for me. We had no 4.0s. There was still a smattering of 5.0s though - one for our travers left and another for the rein back. Speedy only gave me two and a half steps before he rocked forward. I knew trying to fix it would create more problems, so I let it go and took the 5.0. We also earned a 5.0 for our final halt. Since I am now getting more energy, he quit wanting to actually halt.
The rest of the test was filled with a solid string of 6.0s (twelve of them), some 6.5s (seven of them), and even four 7.0s (for our walk work and a downward transition to collected trot). It's amazing how a few 5.0s can do more damage than the 7.0s with a double coefficient can help. How is that?!
I am not disappointed with our overall score. We definitely have some issues that we need to address before next year, but all in all, I think Speedy and I are certainly headed in the right direction.
Here's the video. You be the judge.
As I mentioned earlier this week, Speedy and I had one more show to bring the season to a close. I don't know how he felt about it, but I was pretty much over it before it started. That doesn't mean I didn't ride to the best of my ability; I am no quitter after all, but I had to really suck it up hard to get myself motivated.
But before I tell that part of the story, I have to share this cuteness overload. Two of my colleagues brought their little girls to the show, and Speedy proved his worth yet again. After some initial shyness paired with a bit of fear, the girls relaxed and had a ball. I don't know how I got so lucky with this horse. He is an absolute saint and worthy of a forever home.
I kept a close eye at first, but after being sure that Speedy was okay with it all (this was after our tests, so he was all about relaxation and pampering), I let the girls have at it. They dragged those buckets and step stool around, brushing every inch of his coat, and then they did it again.
They took out his braids, combed his tail, and then started braiding everything that could be braided - more than once. They rubbed conditioner into his mane and tail and even picked out his (already cleaned) feet.
Eventually, the long day started to get to me, so they helped me pack everything up and watched as Speedy hopped into the trailer - they had already been in and out of the trailer several times themselves. I am pretty sure both moms are going to be asked if they can go see Speedy again!
As for the "important" part of Sunday - really though, the part with the girls was way more fun; even Speedy thought so, I felt like we put out a solid test 1. The judge disagreed. We earned a rather puny 58.636%, much lower than we've been earning. Initially, I felt like the judge was extremely harsh. After watching the video, I can certainly see a few weakness - those halts definitely need some work. Even taking those into account, I still feel as though the judge was a bit punitive.
Most of the scores for the First, Second, and Third Level horses were in the low 50s and 60s. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what my scores should be after riding at least 25 tests this year alone. In my experience, there are two types of judges. The first assumes you're earning a 6.0 and unless you do something obviously bad, you're getting that 6.0 (or maybe even something higher). The second type of judge starts you off at a zero and expects you to earn every point. That kind of judge really likes 5.0s. Sunday's judge seemed more like the latter sort.
The test wasn't all low scores though. We earned four 7.0s - one for a shoulder-in and one for the rein back. Both of those movements have double coefficients. The other two were for the quality of our serpentine and Speedy's gaits. We also earned three 6.5s and twelve 6.0s.
What killed us were the three 4.0s (one was totally earned when we got an incorrect lead) and the five 5.0s. That's eight sub-par scores. No one's bringing home a decent score with those marks. And really, the 5.0 that he gave me for Effective Use of the Aids seemed just mean.
The Judge is an "S" judge which means he's licensed to judge all tests at national level shows. Some judges are just tougher than others. I am sure that some of the spectators and volunteers will say he was more than fair, but until you go to a lot of shows and see the scores that other judges give, it's really hard to get a sense of what is "fair." But you know, it is what it is. That's just how it goes.
Here's the video with super helpful commentary by my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables.
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.
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.
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 ...
I am kind of over watching these videos and writing about this show. Yes, it was fun. Yes, we did decently overall, but I'm ready to move on to something else.
The other thing that makes these write ups so boring is that Second Level Test 1 and Test 3 are nearly identical, so all of my photos (screenshots, really) look the same in ever single post. I swear they're not all from the same test!
So in the interest of time, let's just cut to the chase. We squeaked by with a 60.366% for Second Level Test 3. No errors, but we had a few scores below 6.0. The first was for the left turn on the haunches, 5.0, with the comment "stuck." The day before the judge gave us 7.0s. I didn't think this one looked any more stuck than the ones from the day before, but maybe she was tired of cutting me so much slack.
We also earned a 5.5 for a medium trot (needs ground cover just into front foot steps - or that's what I think it says). And in that same medium trot we earned a 5.5 for the transitions at M and K. No surprise there. We were both feeling tired.
We didn't score any 7.0s for this test, but we had enough 6.5s (six of them) to make up for the 5s. This test certainly wasn't our best effort, but we didn't totally stink either. We're heading to the California Dressage Society Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) next Friday. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, will be there both days, so hopefully we do better on Sunday.
I keep saying this, but while we may not be brilliant, we are decidedly consistent. I am learning, Speedy's learning, and that's how we'll get better.
Here's video of the test.
If I am pretty relaxed for the first day of a show, which I usually am, I am almost over it by day two. I just can't quite get excited about doing it all over again. I don't groom quite as thoroughly, and I am a little lazy in my riding ... that simple change was almost what I wanted, it's okay if his braids are a bit fuzzy; the judge can't really see them anyway, yes he's behind my leg here, but let's just get it done. That kind of thing. I am happy to be there, but my attention to the details gets a bit careless.
That doesn't mean I don't care, but my focus tends to wander. Even so, the test was quite satisfactory. We scored a 62.424%, meeting my goal of no scores below a 6.0. We earned a 7.0 for our 10-meter canter circle right, eleven scores of 6.5, and fifteen scores of 6.0. Again, not a brilliant test, but we're being consistent.
As before, the simple change through walk is still our weakest movement. We scored 6.0 for both of them on the serpentine, although I think the judge was being really generous for the first one; we were all over the place. Or rather, I was all over the place.
Our rein back is definitely getting better, and that's a good thing as it carries a double coefficient. I worked the halt to trot to halt so well that Speedy started to get really anxious in the halt as he anticipated the GO command. I left it alone for a few days which turned out to be a good thing as he definitely started to relax in that transition.
Speedy has always liked crossing the diagonal and charging up centerline. I am not sure what he thinks is going to happen once he gets there, but he always digs deep and powers down those long lines. Since I know that, I always try to take full advantage of his enthusiasm as centerline is one place where we earn a lot of 7.0s.
This judge was quite helpful with all of her comments, and she did it in a positive way. Her further remarks read, "Nice job for level. Try to lengthen neck a little while encouraging more length of stride in mediums." Yep. We're working on it.
Here's the video.
When I saw my score from Second Level Test 1, I was quite pleased; it's my highest Second Level score yet. Not that 64% is fabulous or anything, but improvement is worth celebrating.
Test 3 started out fairly well with a 6.5 for our entry and halt and progressed well, if not quite as solidly as test 1. Where we had 6.5s for test 1, our score was 6.0 for test 3. In total, we earned only a pair of 7.0s, eleven 6.5s, twelve 6.0s, and two scores below 6.0 - we earned a 5.5 for the first simple change across the diagonal and a 5.0 for the second one. The simple change is definitely our weakest moment right now.
Not only did we miss my goal of no scores under 6.0, I didn't help myself any by giving away two points in an error at the walk. Yes, you read that correctly. How do you go off course when YOU'RE WALKING?!?!? If you walk from M to V instead of R to V, you lose two points - that's how. Rats. That mistake cost me half a percent. Without the error I would have had a 62% which just feels better than a 61%. My final score was 61.585%.
The overall score was still above 60%, which is my goal for now. And while there are definitely plenty of things to improve, there were some really good moments. The 10-meter canter circle to the left earned a 6.5 with the comment, "Balanced." Both turns on the haunches, which carry a double coefficient, earned scores of 7.0 - we made up a lot of points there. Both medium canters earned the comment, "bold."
When I got home and started looking at my scores and analyzing what needs to be improved upon, I realized that I had completely forgotten about earning the third score toward our Second Level Rider Performance Award. The award is earned with four scores of 60% or better from four different judges from at least two different shows. We only need one more score. At our next show, this show's judge and Hilda Gurney will be judging. I hope I get to ride at least once for Hilda, otherwise we won't even have a chance to earn that last score.
As painful as it is to watch, here's the video with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, narrating.
This weekend's El Sueno show was a lot of fun, and I never felt stressed about it. Of course I wanted to do well, but it didn't worry me. I am still coping with the migraine issue, but even though it was hot as blazes - great conditions for triggering a migraine, I was pain free all weekend. That alone counts as a win.
Since I am always on a budget, I go with the cheapest stabling option possible, but this time, Speedy got to stay in the main barn, a total upgrade from the portable stalls. Now that we've flown business class, I don't think we can ever go back to coach. Speedy's small enough that we don't need the bigger stalls when we show, but I think he appreciated the extra room.
The best thing about stabling in the main barn was that it was completely shaded with a lovely breeze. We weren't hunkered down in the corner of the stall looking for a strip of shade. With warming up in the covered arena, I stayed cool enough to wear my coat even though coats were waived first thing in the morning.
Chemaine was able to come out on Friday evening for a lesson, and she coached me through both tests on Staurday. I can go to a show without her of course - and I did that for a lot of years, but it's such a luxury to have someone coaching you through your warm up.
Besides having fun, my number one goal was to eliminate any score below a 6.0. We killed it on Saturday's Second Level Test 1 with nothing lower than a 6.0! In fact, we earned three 7s, and fourteen(!) 6.5s. We finished the test with a 64.242%. It's not a brilliant score, but it's approaching the mid-60 range which tells me we are definitely showing improvement.
The first couple of times I rode this test, and test 3, I needed a reader. A few shows ago, I decided to ride it on my own as I find that I do a better job if I am thinking about the movements rather than waiting for someone to tell me where to go. For this test, everything slowed way down, and I had time to prepare for the movements (to the best of my ability - Charlotte Dujardin I am not).
Our comments for this test were needs more over stride, needs impulsion, slightly lazy, and needs more ground cover. Yes, yes, and yes. There were other corrective comments as well like slightly off rail, think shoulder fore when on rail, and keep slight flexion right on right lead. Got it, will do. The judge was really kind and friendly to everyone. After every test she thanked the riders and often gave compliments loud enough for everyone to hear.
The judge's further remarks were spot on, This is a nice horse to learn on - well balanced and obedient. Try to get him a little more up for medium canter and a quicker walk in between canter on serpentine. I had to laugh at the first part though - if she only knew what a butthead he was in the beginning. But yes, he is a great horse to learn on now that he's 14 and truly broke to ride. She could have filled the page with try to get him ____________. We have plenty of room for improvement, but I'll take the positive comments.
Here's the test.