From Endurance to Dressage
That means that Third Level Test 3 should be right up my alley. It might not be our strongest test yet, but it will be. I can feel it.
Our first test of the show went really well. We had a bunch of 7.0s and only one small blooper, a late change behind in the flying lead change. I was feeling pretty good about test 3.
Unfortunately, the show manger had scheduled a pretty long break between our two tests, just over an hour and a half. On a normal summer day, that probably wouldn't have affected us, but on that particular day, California's Central Valley experienced its hottest day of the summer. It was officially 110* in Bakersfield and in the low 90s in the Tehachapi Mountains (which feels hotter than it is). Our first test was at 12:16 and the second one was at 1:51.
I kept Speedy tacked up, but pulled his bridle and covered him with a fly sheet to shade him from the worst of the sun. For this show, I tie to the side of the trailer where there is usually a little shade. Speedy was cool to the touch and not sweating at all. in fact, he stood there dozing with his lip hanging, certain that we'd be going home at any moment.
I kept my second warm up super short, focusing on just perking him up. When we entered at A, I felt like things were going to be okay. In fact the first half of the test rode pretty decently. We earned a long list of 6.0s and 6.5s. Our trouble started with the first trot half pass (5.0). From that point on, the test gets a lot harder, and it showed in our scores.
At home, we can do a very balanced walk to canter transition. This season though, that movement is completely broken when we show. I know it's me because we have trouble with both the right and left lead. For test 3, we blew the left lead walk to canter at K needing several tries to get the correct lead - 4.0. This really stinks because it leads directly into the canter half pass left - 4.0.
While our canter half passes definitely need a ton of work, the flying changes are getting better. We earned a 7.0 for the first one but a 5.0 for the second one when it was very late. So late, in fact, that it took me until the rail to get Speedy to change behind. Booger. From there, we pulled in a couple of 6.0s for our medium and collected canter and a solid 6.5 for our collected trot at H.
Our final score for this Third Level Test 3 was a frustrating 59.250%, just 3 points shy of a 60%. With so many of this test's scores counting as double coefficients, it's easy to both lower or raise your score. If we can just get a slightly better canter half pass and ride both flying changes cleanly, we'll "easily" earn a 60+% for this test.
I can't swear being hot and tired was the cause, but I think it was. Even my husband thought the test looked labored. Speedy just wasn't really feeling it, and for us to earn a score in the 60s, he has to really want to. He didn't really want to. I can't blame him too much. This horse does an awful lot for me.
Here's the video.
Much to my complete surprise, our show season is not over! We have one more chance this weekend to earn those Bronze Medal scores. I'll share that story on Friday.
Third Level is certainly proving to be a challenge. Not that I am surprised. We have yet to sail through any of the levels easily. I am not frustrated by our pace though. In fact, after last weekend's show, I am a bit encouraged.
Our recent internet interruption meant that I couldn't share how we did at the recent CDS-rated show in Tehachapi. Before doing that show, I had accepted the fact that I wasn't going to earn my Bronze Medal this year, nor was I going to qualify for my favorite show of the year, the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). And frankly, I was okay with that.
It's no secret that we are clearly a "developing" Third Level team. Our scores prove it. In our defense, we've only been showing at this level since June. And as everyone already knows, I am not one of those who show a level below what I am schooling. I'd never get anywhere with that approach. Instead, I school it at home, and then show it to the judge. I rely on the judge to let me know in which areas I need to focus.
My parents, whom I haven't seen in a really, really long time, decided to visit for this show weekend. Surprisingly, I wasn't at all worried about them driving 500 miles only to witness a train wreck of a show. My stepmom reads my blog enough to know that we're struggling. Entering at A with a well-groomed and neatly braided horse was enough to put a smile on her face. I wasn't so sure about my dad. He did ask if he could hang my ribbon in his billiard's room though so maybe he thought the whole thing was actually better than watching paint dry. In any case, they didn't make me nervous at all. In fact, maybe they gave us a reason to shine.
Before I rode my first test, we sat through a couple of other rides as I explained to my parents the basic dressage rules, the layout of a dressage court, and what they should be looking for when I rode. I have to give them credit; they truly listened and seemed interested in understanding the sport. And we all know how boring it can all seem to an uneducated audience.
Our first test of the day, Third Level - Test 1, rode better than any other test this year. I always know when I am finally getting the directives when I feel like the test is going in slow motion. Does anyone else experience that sensation? When I first start a level, the movements seem to come hurtling at us in fast forward. Not this test. I actually felt like I was able to prepare for each movement.
My husband went and collected the score sheet, something he's never done before. When he asked me what score would make me happy, I rolled my eyes and said any score in the 60s would be awesome. I think he might have been more proud of that 63% than I was.
I was really excited about our score sheet. The judged awarded us a 63.243%. We had one single score below a 6.0, a 4.0 for the first flying change. The judge noted that it was late behind. Aside from that score, the rest were really good. We earned a 7.5 for our collected trot down centerline and a 7.0 for our final centerline. We earned three additional 7.0s for our halt to rein back, a 10-meter canter circle, and best of all, a 7.0 for our second flying change. Insert huge first pump for that sucker.
Having that 60%-plus score gave me a real sense of accomplishment. It wasn't a USDF score, but it did count for a lot of other programs within my own GMO, the California Dressage Society (CDS). Every perceived success, no matter how small, gives just that little bit of momentum toward the next effort.
Here's the video.
Not to spoil things for you, but the second test wasn't nearly as good as the first one. It wasn't terrible, but we fell just three points shy of a 60%. I'll tell you that story tomorrow.
Part 1 here.
I usually move on to test 3 of a level after I get at least a mediocre score at test 2. Why are the second tests of the lower levels so horrible? I don't think there's a single test 2 that I've liked. We scored a 62.105% on Third Level's test 2 this Sunday. Did we hit a home run? No, but it was satisfactory enough that my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado - owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, thinks we're ready to move on to test 3.
The only new element in test 3 is rein back to trot. That doesn't mean test 3 is easy, we know that from 2-3 and 1-3. The third test is where all of the movements get thrown at you as quickly as possible in ways that do not appear to make any sense. Even so, I am ready to start tackling 3-3 and have even sent in my next two show entries. I may regret that decision. Oh, wait, I already do!
As you would expect from a slightly more challenging test, our scores dropped a bit for test 2. We didn't get a single 4.0 though. When we got to the walk to canter at F - a movement that caused us all sorts of trouble on test 1 (except that it was at C), I told Speedy he had better pick up the canter correctly. And just as a final reminder, while we were waiting for the judge to ring us in, I asked Speedy to pick up the canter from the walk several times. I may have even had a whip in my hand. My diligence paid off though as Speedy earned himself a nice little 7.0 for that transition to canter. Well done, Dude, well done!
The rest of the test went pretty solidly, not brilliantly, but it wasn't disastrous either. We need more suppleness, more uphill, better throughness, and more clarity between our collected and extended gaits. I get it. We're still a developing Third Level team and probably will be for quite some time.
One movement that I only started to do two weeks ago is the clear release of both reins for 4-5 strides over centerline at the canter. It shows up only in test 2. When Chemaine asked me a week or so how it was going, I laughed and said that I was just going to skip it. HAHAHAHA. "Um, no," came her reply.
She showed me what it should look like, I practiced it once or twice, and then I did it at the show at El Sueno earning a 6.0 both times. On Sunday, it looked awkward as heck, but the judge liked it well enough to give me a 7.5. Do not ask me what my body is doing. Instead look at how forward I shoved those reins. I wanted the judge to see that I was CLEARLY RELEASING THE REINS. Maybe I am sorry I am not doing 3-2 again.
If Second Level is all about the counter canter and the simple change, Third Level is about the flying change. Ours definitely still reside in the "developing" camp. Both changes earned 5.0s for test 2.
The judge's comment was very succinct and spot on, "kicked out." The next change got better quicker, but it still earned the same score. With the double coefficient for the flying change of lead, the 5.0s don't exactly help our overall score.
In the video, I look quite determined, and I was. Speedy was so behind my leg in the first test that I carried the whip around the outside warning him that he had BETTER WAKE UP PRONTO. It helped. Even so, getting him forward with more power but expecting him to be soft and supple is still really hard. For both of us.
One of my favorite moments though was this surprise shot caught at the very end of the test. I NEVER smile during a test, yet here I am looking as happy as can be!
This dressage court doesn't have the center line letters (DLXIG) marked on the main letters. I had just come from an extended canter M-F with a transition to collected canter F-A. From A, you continue up centerline in collected canter until the collected trot at L, which I couldn't find.
With no letters to help me, I was frantically chanting Daddy Loves eXotic Indian Girls hoping to find "I" (S/R) for my halt. In the photo I was laughing because I was certain I had overshot the "I." The judge gave us a 7.0 for the center line and halt, so it must not have been as big of an issue as I had thought, although from the photo, it's pretty clear I was way off. Good thing there was no judge at B/E!
Once upon a time, eliminating 5s from my score sheets was my goal. I am in that place again. I now know we can get 7s on every movement; we've already done it. Now the trick is to do it on a single test!
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%: