From Endurance to Dressage
Championships - Part 1
Spoiler alert - yes, we went to championships but not to show. Whew! Got that out of the way. Over the weekend, the California Dressage Society held its annual Championship Show in conjunction with the USDF Region 7 Championships. Back in 2014, Speedy and I showed and it was a fantastic experience. Going purely to spectate and support was just as much fun.
The annual show rotates between Southern and Northern California which means next year's show will be too far north for me to even think about going, even if Izzy and I somehow managed to qualify. However, I do have my eye on 2024. Maybe by then we'll be ready for Training Level Test 3. If wishes were horses ... I talked my longtime friend Kathy into making the drive with me. We left my house at 6:00 a.m. and rolled into Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC) right at 8:00.
After a quick restroom break, we parked in the first lot we could find which happened to be directly in front of Sean Cunningham's stall. Sean, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was showing Sunita, a client's mare, at 9:15. Before I get too far into this thing, I should warn you that I failed epically at taking photos. Every once in a while I'd get a wild hair and start snapping pictures of what was around me, and then my phone would stay buried in my pocket during the good stuff. So you're going to get a bunch of random photos that don't necessarily show the good stuff.
While Sean finished braiding, Kathy and I lugged packages of water bottles to each of Sean's Oh, Shoot! Stations (no new photos, but check out this post to see some of what he puts in them). For Championships, he set up three of his stations to cover the needs of the riders at the four different rings. Kathy and I restocked each station and tidied up. We emptied the trash, cleaned out the dust and leaves, hauled off the used rags, and checked to see if any supplies needed restocking. Sean has slowly added to the stations, so they were stocked full of all sorts of new stuff.
By the time we got back, Sean was getting up in the tack, so we headed over to the ring with him. Since I shot video for him, I wasn't able to take any photos, but the pair did well, finishing in the top ten in a very large class with a 68.188%. Sean was happy with Sunita's effort as was his virtual trainer, David Hunt, of Great Britain. David wasn't able to come out to California of course, but Sean sent him the video and they debriefed after the ride.
Once Sean's ride was done, we spent the rest of the day watching different classes, shopping, and of course eating. More on the shopping tomorrow. One of the more interesting classes we watched was the USDF Dressage Medal Semi Final for 13 Years and Under. The 14 - 18 class had only one rider, so they ran the two classes together. Mia, the lone rider in her class, was a crackerjack rider scoring a well earned 85%.
In the 13 and Under Class, there were five riders, all on wonderful horses and ponies. We had great fun watching these kids walk, trot, and canter. One rider in particular caught our eye as a very talented young lady. It turns out that we had a good eye as she did place first with a score of 82.000%. Once the class was over, we went back outside and were pleased to see that we had arrived just in time for the USDF JR/YR Second Level Regional Class. To our surprise, in rode the medal winner from the 13 and Under class.
She was doing a lovely job until she got to the three loop serpentine with the counter canter. The horse made the turn onto the counter canter and then bucked. The rider got pitched forward a bit, and the horse took advantage bucking a few more times. That young lady gave a valiant effort and almost managed to ride it out, but alas, it was not to be. Despite a great effort, she came off over the horse's shoulder landing on her hip, spoiling her very pretty white breeches. The horse gaily cantered off with its reins flapping in the breeze. Someone managed to grab him at the gate, and the young lady dusted herself off calling out that she was all right.
Every one of us watching felt her disappointment. It is so frustrating to work so hard to be so unceremoniously dumped so publicly. But that's horses; one minute you're winning with an 82% and the very next you're dusting off your breeches as you get disqualified. Highs and lows pretty much define what horse ownership is like. That was really my take-away from the entire show. I was reminded that for every win, there's a loss. I saw a score of 59% from a world renowned rider. And the day before's score was even lower.
We stay for the evening's freestyles where I was reminded yet again that dressage is just walk, trot, canter. It's not magic. Even grand prix horses hollow their backs, lose their balance, and score sixes and sevens. When I looked at the scores for the Grand prix Freestyle Open class, I was reminded that scores in the 70s just mean that rider scored a lot of sevens. My scores in the 60s mean I score a lot of sixes. 70s are better of course, but it's not impossible to turn my sixes into sevens.
It's really important that we not allow ourselves to become intimidated by numbers that seem so far out of reach because they're not. Will Izzy and I ever score an 80%? I very much doubt it, but it is not impossible to earn a 76%. We just need lot of sevens and an eight or two. Watching talented riders on stunning horses earn low scores just confirmed that it's a struggle for all of us no matter your last name or the thickness of your wallet. It was also very motivating to see "average" horses being well ridden and scoring well as a result.
Horses often times bring us to tears, but sometimes, they're tears of joy.
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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%: