From Endurance to Dressage
Confirm Scores or Chase Scores?
The way I see it, there are two ways to approach showing. You can either show at one level until your horse is truly confirmed at that level and the scores reflect that, or you can chase down the 60% and move on. I am not going to say that one approach or the other is better, but I do know what feels right for me right now.
I am two scores away from the California Dressage Society Ruby Award. Two Second Level scores. That's it. Speedy and I are well enough along that we could probably eke out a 60% at Second Level at a CDS show.
I've wanted to try for those two scores all summer long, but I haven't. While I want the scores, I want even more for Speedy to be truly confirmed at First Level before we move on. That's why it's taking me so long to move through the levels. I've faced this dilemma (when to move up) at every level since Intro.
Every time I've gotten bored with the level I am working on, I remind myself how much I love seeing a 70%. Moving to a new level too early isn't going to yield scores that I like. It's that simple.
I want confirmation. I want to know that my horse is confirmed at the level and ready to move on with a solid foundation under his girth. That doesn't mean I am going to finish out the level with 70%, although that happened at Intro and Training Level. For me to feel confident enough to move on to the next level, I need to be earning at least mid-60 scores. We're pretty close.
Ruby Award aside, I have several First Level goals that I'd like to see realized this summer. The first is to do well at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) this weekend. We've won at Intro and Training, so it's not an impossibility.
The second is to maybe win my CDS Chapter's Adult Amateur High Point Score for the season. We've also won that one before, but it will take a miracle this year, like maybe a 70%!
I'm also trying to get as many 60% and better scores as possible to add to my CDS plaque. In 2013, we earned a whopping 16 scores. Last year, Speedy struggled with several different lamenesses so we earned a disappointing 4 scores. Right now, we're on track to finish with 13 scores above 60%, but less likely if we chance a Second Level test.
I'd rather finish the season on a high note rather than make the move to Second Level and maybe get a 60% but probably bring home several disappointing 50s. In a way, I guess I am still chasing scores. Thoughts?
8/10/2017 07:58:11 am
It sounds like you're really agonizing over this! Any time I find myself in the position of making a difficult decision, I always watch this TED talk on how to make hard choices. It literally changed my life. Maybe it might help you too.
8/10/2017 09:48:23 am
Thanks for sharing, Addie. Just a few months ago I heard part of that TED talk on the TED Radio Hour and really got a lot out the concept of hard choices being on a par. I had forgotten about it though, so it was great to hear the whole thing. :0)
Hmm... I was chasing scores with Mikey. He was 16 when he died, but around 14/15 I was like, "This horse is starting to struggle- he's only got so many years left in him, and none of them will be above 3rd." He struggled so badly with 3rd and was just getting older that I decided I just wanted my two scores to finish my Bronze and then was going to fall back and try to be Queen of Second Level. Obv that didn't pan out...
8/10/2017 09:49:58 am
LOL Trainer just gave me a shove telling me to MOVE UP in October. :0)
8/10/2017 09:13:01 am
This is my preferred approach as well. I see people who *barely* break 60% before moving up, and their horses struggle. Those same people often complain that the judges aren't being fair, but to me, it looks like they're rushing their horses. This is depressing enough when amateur riders do it, but I see professionals who are happy with 60%! As a pro, I don't want to see a horse move up until he's scoring 68%+ at a level. I see records on people who are showing fourth level but have never broken 65% at ANY level, including training. I may not show a lot, but that makes my eyes roll back in my head a bit....
8/10/2017 09:55:31 am
I am with you on that, Dom. I feel like it's easy to squeak by on a 60% at First, but once you start moving up through the levels, the lack of a good foundation will start to show.
8/10/2017 01:25:16 pm
I think mid-60's is perfectly respectable, especially once you move past 1st. But when I see horses who blow up every time they have to do a lead change and are still being shown above third level, it makes me nuts. Sure, there are some horses who don't have the movement or natural ability to be truly competitive at GP. That doesn't mean they shouldn't move up! BUT if they can't do the basic movements in a level (even in a lackluster fashion), they definitely shouldn't move UP from there. I understand that there are horses who are born with second level gaits and carriage and horses who will have flat gaits no matter how well trained they become, but settling for "just barely" is an injustice to the horse, IMO.
8/10/2017 03:38:07 pm
8/10/2017 10:14:56 am
Yup I'm one of those people showing 4th level but don't have ANY scores about 65%! ... ok maybe one 67% somewhere. Not at rated shows anyway. The thing is is that my horse is not going to score much above 65%. He just doesn't have the gaits, or the uphill balance. Frankly I don't care about scores, but the progress we make. I spent 3 years at Third level getting more confirmed. Even after 3-4 years at that level, our best rated score? A 64. I know people probably look down on me for moving him up, but sometimes I can beat the horses with the gaits if I just get the technical movements right. But no, he will never be a 70% horse. He just isn't.
8/10/2017 11:32:32 am
I totally know what you're saying. While Speedy has earned 70s at intro and training at rated shows, it can't be my benchmark. As we move onward, I am sure his average scores will fall. He's a VERY consistent horse ... 6s and 7s are where we're going to be. I feel good when we gets 7s. 5s tell me we need to improve. So when I see a test filled wth 6.5s and 7s, I know we're about at our best work.
8/10/2017 11:38:22 am
I've found that it's less about "finishing out" a level than actually being able to perform all the movements of the first test at the next level. There's no reason you can't ride 2-1 AND 1-3, or like Jan, take a horse that's just started showing at 3rd back to 1st. I've also discovered that 1st is a heck of a lot easier and you score a whole lot better (see 73+% this spring on 1-3, compared to 65-67% last year on 1-3) if you're riding a 2nd level horse. The old addage to show a level below what you are schooling at home is pretty legit, even though I don't follow it (ahem). So I think the real question for me is, can I put in a 60%+ on the next test, regardless of the level? If so, I should probably give it a go, regardless of what my scores are at my current test... because honestly, if I can put in a 60%+ on the next test up, the test I'm currently riding is probably pretty solid.
8/10/2017 03:36:04 pm
You're so right, jenj. I should have added that. It's not just doing well at this level, but being able to put in at least a satisfactory score at the level above. In this case, Second. When I start a level, I am aiming for a 60% and thrilled to get it. As I gain more experience and the horse becomes more educated, I want higher scores of course, but at the beginning, a 60% is great. :0)
8/10/2017 12:46:09 pm
I love the thought behind confirming you're solid at the level before moving on vs ticking the minimum requirement. I think it's a great way of approaching progress
8/10/2017 03:37:14 pm
It works for me, but then I am probably moving along slower than I need to. I just hate low scores. :0)
Comments are closed.
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%: