From Endurance to Dressage
Unbelievably, yesterday was my first day of summer break. I truly thought the day would never come. COVID has sucked on so many levels and for so many people that I hate to complain about the "inconvenience" it has caused me. I don't work at a grocery store - those people are saints for putting up with all the rigamarole with which they had to contend, and I am not a nurse or a doctor; they, too, have had a rough year.
When COVID first became a thing, there was an outpouring of support for teachers as parents suddenly had to spend the entire day with their kiddos doing reading and math and history and science and everything else. Once school resumed in the late summer, suddenly, the world hated teachers. We were all lumped in with "ban the police" crowd and the "we won't work" slackers. I guarantee that while that does describe some teachers (and waitresses and store clerks and mechanics and bankers ...), it was not how the majority of us felt. We wanted go back to work in person.
I've been a teacher for twenty-seven years. I have never worked longer days, including every weekend, than I did this year. Not only did the year feel longer than every other year, it actually was. Since the district didn't know how to handle distance learning, the kids started the school year eight days after we did. In order to meet state requirements (and earn the money that comes from ADA - Average Daily Attendance), the district stuck those missed eight days at the end of an already arduous school year.
On Wednesday afternoon, most of my staff met at a local Tahoe Joe's for a happy hour celebration. I expected to feel the normal sense of freedom that final day brings, but in truth, it was a pretty low key event. We were all tired. Even though yesterday was my first day of vacation, I still had to get up at dawn to feed all of the horses at the ranch - long story, not mine to tell. That afternoon, I finally took some time for myself. I got a much needed pedicure and stopped off at my favorite mom and pop burger joint. I plopped down on the sofa and watched a stupid movie and started to feel as though I might truly be done with this school year.
Summer break is when I feel like my "real" life truly begins. As usual, this summer is already starting off with me being busier than I have time for.
Just typing all of that makes me tired. The end of the school year always feels like the true year's end; December 31st is just practice. So for me, it truly does feel as though this year is over, and the new one has just begun.
I really hope the second half of 2021 is a lot more pleasant than the first half was.
I've been looking forward to this date, January 1, 2020, for more than a decade. Y2K, an ominous year if there ever was one, started off as a year predicted to be filled with disaster. On the other hand, 2020, as a metaphor for perfect vision, has always seemed a year destined to bring clarity, opportunity, and a road paved straight and smooth. Will it? I don't know, but I like how things are shaping up.
Over the past week, I've been planning my show year. I've also spent hours and hours and hours working on things for our chapter of the California Dressage Society, the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter. As Vice-Chair, I've taken my job pretty seriously. Public service is not necessarily what gets me going, but I felt it was time for me to start giving back.
With "giving back" as my motivation, I've been working on a number of projects for the chapter. The first was making our chapter a lot more visible. I revamped the chapter's old website in favor of something a little fresher and then changed the web address; www.tmcdressage.org was the result. I am not a web designer by trade, so it is what it is, but I think it suits our needs.
Next, I launched our new Facebook Page. I am just going to say, I have trouble managing my own social media. Suddenly, I am the one responsible for keeping up on three pages, my own, a group I belong to, and now the Chapter's page. I'm turning into one of those people who's always checking her phone. But really, check out our Facebook page and give us a "like," especially if you live in California.
The thing with being on a board is that the group represented has to have a reason for being, and the board has to bring to life that reason. For us, the sole purpose of the chapter is to put on shows. We don't have enough members, nor do we draw from a large enough pool, to put on USDF-rated shows. Our summer series of shows are CDS-rated which is a big attraction for our local riders.
Scores from CDS-rated shows can be applied to a lot of programs, all of which I've talked about many times. Your scores count for CDS Plates (which go on a plaque), rider awards (my Ruby Rider award is over there on the right), Horse Performance Awards (Speedy has one), the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, and the CDS Championship. The reality is that our members can do and earn a lot of things without ever having to participate in the pricey USDF shows.
Our chapter, which is based in the mountains of Tehachapi, is hosting 5 shows this year; we added a new show for here in Bakersfield. Well actually, we're reviving an old show that was run by someone else. They've agreed to join forces with us. Since our show manager retired, and we freshened things up, a new show premium had to be created. I volunteered.
Holy moly, was it ever a lot of work! It's nearly done, but it has gone through at least 2 dozen edits, and it seems that we keep finding things to add. I will never look at a show entry the same way again!
Besides planning and organizing our Chapter's shows, I've also planned out my own show schedule. Although you know how that goes, "You make your plans and you hear god laughing." Even so, I need a direction in which to start, and since this is the year 2020, a year of clear vision, I am hopeful.
My plan is to get our last Bronze Medal score in the spring. That's certainly not a guarantee, but again, it's 2020. After that, I plan to take Izzy to all of the TMC shows and Speedy to the summer's USDF shows. We'll see how long my money lasts, but that way, I might have two horses qualified for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) in August. Izzy got his toes wet last summer. He's ready to start doing his job.
I've been reading The left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, and last night something jumped off the page that really seemed appropriate for this new year. In response to something Estraven has just said, Mr. Ai responds, "I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
Truer words could not be spoken. Happy New Year!
I am not one to do year in review posts. Not anymore, anyway. Way back when I first started blogging, I did a few. Frankly, they're just too much work. I do feel a need to bid adieu to the old though as we welcome in the new. With that, I decided to choose my three favorite (equine) things about 2019.
#1 My Health
In 2018, the migraines that I had battled since childhood reached unmanageable levels. At one point, I had a migraine for 6 straight weeks. It became so severe that while at the doctor's office, my neurologist had me admitted to and treated in the ER. Shortly after that episode, I decided to lose weight. By the end of 2018, I had lost 40 pounds, and the neurologist was getting the migraines under control.
In 2019, I kept most of the weight off; I think I've gained back 5 pounds over the holidays, and the migraines are now mostly controlled with medication. I take two daily prescriptions, and once a month I give myself an injection of a third medication. I still have the occasional headache, but they're easily treated.
It has been so much easier to ride with that weight gone, and my head is clear. For so long I rode with a head throbbing in pain or fuzzy from medication. 2019 was the first year in a long while that I felt healthy while riding.
#2 Third level
I say this every time Speedy and I advance to a new level, but showing at Third Level was something I only secretly aspired to and certainly never thought we'd ever achieve. It's been a real thrill to take my well-bred, but not dressage-bred, Arabian up the levels by myself. Yes, I have had wonderful trainers and clinicians coaching me along the way, but I am the one who does the daily riding.
I say this because it proves that anyone can "dressage". You don't need to board at a fancy training barn - I certainly don't, and you don't need a big fancy warmblood - you all know Speedy's an Arabian. You don't even have to show at Third Level. I was having just as much fun as an Introductory Level rider. I always wanted to get better, of course, but for me, First Level was always the big goal. So to be where we are now at the end of 2019 only makes my heart swell with pride. I love this horse.
#3 Breaking 60%
If you've been reading my blog for more than 10 minutes, you know that scores are important to me. For me, they're proof of improvement. Scores below 60% say we're not there yet. Scores of 60% say we're getting close. Scores in the mid-60s say we have a chance to win.
I wouldn't be so happy about Third Level if we hadn't managed to earn a few scores of 60%. Three of them were earned at CDS only shows, but they're still important to me. Those scores helped me earn my annual "plate;" with those scores, Speedy will earn his Third Level Horse Award - we need one more score; those scores will qualify us for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition and the CDS Championship Show - we need a few more; and if we make it to Fourth Level, the scores will help us earn the CDS Sapphire Rider Award - I already have the Ruby Rider Award.
More importantly though, those scores are what we need to earn a USDF Bronze Medal, and we just need one more. We had to work really hard in 2019, but I am proud of what we were able to achieve. We're definitely still struggling at Third Level, but now I know we can break 60%.
Well, no, but I did limit myself to my favorite three things. I could really go on and on since 2019 was filled with great things. Speedy is much happier since we moved him to a new field. Izzy is definitely happier. I got a new truck. Izzy went to a few shows and even earned 60% himself. He now goes in a dressage legal bit 95% of the time. Without looking back at every post, I can still say 2019 was a good year. I had fun with my horses, and I think they had fun with me.
It's hard to ask for too much more than that.
I saw this over on the $900 Facebook Pony's page who saw it at May As Well Event's Page. I am usually off writing on my own little tangents, but this is a topic that I come back to now and again, especially as Speedy as I come up through the dressage levels. And so with that, here are the past ten years (plus an extra one) in photos.
This photo is from our very first show in June of 2010, just two weeks after an endurance ride. We showed Intro A and B earning 63.500% for each test. Back then, I thought that was a "low" score. Oh, the stuff I wish I had known!
By 2011, we were showing Intro C and Training 1. For this show, we earned a 58.500% for the Intro C test and a 56.250% for the Training 1 test.
We've obviously been Not-So-Speedy Dressage for a long time because by 2012, we were still showing Intro C and Training 1. In my defense, the canter work from Training Level had been pushed down to the newly created Intro C test, so while I was "still" at Intro, it was really Training Level Test 1. At this show, a USDF-rated show in Santa Barbara, Hilda Gurney awarded us a 69.500% for the Intro Test C.
By 2013, we were firmly ensconced at Training Level where we would sit for quite some time. This photo was of a Training Level Test 2 where we scored a decent 63.214%.
Over the years, Speedy and I have had some big moments. We've earned at least five neck ribbons, won multiple championships, and have more than several trophies. Winning this particular class, the Regional Adult Amateur Competition at Training Level, was particularly memorable because before the show, several things of note happened.
On the drive over, I stipulated that if we won with at least a 70% - knowing that would NEVER happen, I would take Speedy to the CDS Championship show. The other thing of note was that after asking me in which class I was showing, a woman stabled near me told me that her friend, who was an amazing rider, was going to win my class. She didn't. We won with a 72.600%. True to my word, we did compete at the CDS Championship show placing 18th(?) overall for the CDS Training Level Horse of the Year.
By 2015, we were charging through First Level with scores as high as 67%. This is one of my all time favorite photos. It's not fancy, and in fact we scored a pretty paltry 57.765%. What I love about the photo is that it embodies how supportive my trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, always is no matter whether we're winning or bringing up the rear.
Speedy spent most of 2016 injured, although I can't remember from which injury it was. This photo is particularly special as it was from the first time that Chemaine invited me to be one of her demo riders at the Horse Expo in Pomona. I had such a great time showing everyone that you can "dressage" on the horse you have. You don't need a fancy warmblood. Speedy did his breed proud.
With Speedy being injured for most of 2016, I was thrilled to have him back for 2017, even if it meant plugging through First Level again. We ended up Reserve Champions at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition, but it felt like a win to me.
By 2018, I was over First Level, so Speedy and I jumped feet first into Second Level, ready or not. It was a challenging year for many reasons, but as he always does, Speedy brought his A-game by the end of the season winning the Regional Adult Amateur Competition for the third time. We earned a 64.268% at Second Level.
And here we are. Like every year before, nothing about this one was easy either. Speedy spent all of last winter injured as we dealt with sutures and abscesses, but despite that, we managed to make the leap to Third Level and are just one score shy of a Bronze Medal. This photo represents a lot of hard work and possibly a few tears.
2007 - Back to the Beginning
In the spirit of the challenge, I'd like to add one more photo. I think this is the first photo that I have of Speedy G. It was taken in December, the morning after I bought him. I remember thinking how calm and trusting he was. I bought him to be my next endurance horse, which he was, but I had no idea what a total rockstar he'd grow up to be.
I love this look back over the past decade. I can't believe that my endurance-turned-Introductory-Level horse has progressed to Third Level with flying changes and half pass. He has certainly lived up to his name, G Ima Starr FA.
Who knows what we might do in 2020!
Happy New Year! I know most people have today off and won't be getting their daily blog fixes, but this was something about which I had to write, and I felt compelled to do it on the first day of 2019.
I started my dressage journey in 2010, riding Introductory Levels A and B (before there was even a Test C), in four different CDS-rated shows. By 2011, I was hooked, but I never expected us to do very well. I've been competing on my very well bred Arabian gelding, but not purpose bred for the sport of dressage.
While reflecting over the past year, I started thumbing through my early show results, reminiscing. As I clicked through each year's scores, it occurred to me that Speedy and I have accumulated a surprisingly good-sized list of accomplishments.
Most of the time I am pretty self-deprecating and never take anything too seriously, especially the wins. Blue ribbons or brown ribbons, it's all been about the journey for me. Even so, I decided to make an organized list of our different achievements; was I ever shocked at the resulting list!
Show High Points: we've earned high point award eight different times. I am pretty sure the scores were all earned at schooling shows or CDS-rated shows, but hey, we rode against whom we rode, and the judge saw what she saw. I'll take it!
Championships: I decided to include only true championships in this category even though the wins at Regional Adult Amateur Competition feel like championship wins. With that, we have "won" three year-end championship titles: Introductory Champion from Ventura County Chapter of CDS, Training Level Champion from El Sueno Equestrian Center, and Second Level Champion from Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS. We were also "Reserve" Champion at First Level from TMC, but who's counting?
California Dressage Society "Plates": A plate is awarded to a CDS member the first time he/she earns five (5) or more scores of 60% or better at Introductory C Level or above in a single show season. Recipients will continue to receive plates every year thereafter. The plate is engraved with the horse's name, level of competition and number of scores.
In 2011, Speedy and I earned the CDS Certificate of Achievement for earning 4 scores of 60% or better at Intro Level C (or higher). Beginning in 2012, Speedy and I have earned a plate every single year through 2018. In total, we have earned 86 scores above 60% at CDS and/or USDF-rated shows. The scores may not be high, but I appreciate Speedy's consistency.
California Dressage Society Awards: I can't say it enough times; my GMO is simply amazing. Besides the aforementioned "Plates," CDS offers so many other ways for riders to be recognized for their hard work. I take full advantage of the awards offered and have brought home quite a few "wins."
Speedy and I have won the CDS Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition at nearly every level that we've entered: Introductory Level, Training Level, and Second Level. We've also brought home a neck ribbon in red for First Level.
Later this month, Speedy and I will be receiving the Second Level Horse Performance Award as well as the Ruby Rider Award at the CDS Annual Meeting.
CDS has been very good to us over the past nine seasons!
Awards from USDF: While my GMO is fabulous, we all know that it's the USDF awards that really matter. While I haven't taken advantage of everything that USDF offers, memberships can be a bit of an issue, the Rider Performance Awards have been something I've worked hard to achieve. As of 2018, Speedy and I have now earned all three Rider Performance Awards from Training, First, and Second Levels. We are two scores away from the Bronze Medal.
It has taken us nine full seasons with 74 days of shows, but Speedy and I have managed to do pretty well for an endurance horse and rider team. I can't wait to see what we'll accomplish in 2019.
Happy New Year, everyone!
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read