From Endurance to Dressage
On Saturday morning, I woke up refreshed and ready for the day. I was also anxious, but encouraged. Knowing that Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, was going to be there coaching me, I felt a lot less responsibility. On Speedy, I liked having a reader for a new test once or twice, but after that, I was able to memorized my tests. I rode them better that way.
With Izzy, there is so much to manage while riding him that I gave up memorizing the test and asked Sean to read them for me. Besides having Sean there to support me, other friends jumped in as well. The show manager is a great friend of mine so she did video. Her assistant Morgan, also a friend, read for me on Sunday when Sean couldn't be there (he had long before booked the date, so I knew he wouldn't be there to coach me). Another friend, Sarah, did me a huge favor by showing up on Sunday to be my groom. She schlepped water buckets, helped me tack and untack, took Izzy's braids out, and did video. Having those ladies be there to support me took away all of the anxiety of showing such a high maintenance horse like Izzy.
Our warm up ride ran just like it had the day before. Sean kept reminding me to be elastic in my arms and to ask Izzy lots of of questions. He said our goal was just to ride the test with a steady rhythm; the "tricks" could come later. That was the first time I had heard advice like that. While I've taken Izzy to nine shows (most of them schooling or CDS-rated only), my goal has always been to survive AND try to do well.
Sean's goal for us was much simpler and therefore much easier to achieve. Again, it was that idea of just getting 1% better each time. Sean didn't care if we had the medium gaits or crisp simple changes. He wanted me to ride with a clear tempo and rhythm and to keep control, and he wanted Izzy to realize that I was up there talking to him. That was the goal, not to achieve a certain score, only getting Izzy to work with me just that little bit.
We rode Second Level Test 1, and it was a disaster. On the other hand, it was better than we had done at Santa Barbara, but much worse than the show in October at SCEC. When I came out of the ring, I asked Sean what I could have done better, and his response was, nothing. Izzy just couldn't get over his stage fright. And that's what we've kind of discovered. Izzy can relax in the warm up ring, but entering at A feels different for him. Is it my tension? Maybe, but I think it's more his own tension.
My friend Jen had some difficulty with the first video - she shot the first part in time lapse which shows everything in fast forward which is AWESOME when you score a 51.486%. Nobody needs to see that. Even so, the rest of the test is below with the score sheets. They show a lot of wildly low scores, but there are also some scores in the 6s - ten of them in fact, so we're definitely capable.
The second test - Second Level Test 2, didn't score any better (50.854%), but I felt like it rode much better. I came out of the ring feeling like we had made progress. The judge disagreed. I did hear that she was a tough judge, but even a more generous judge couldn't give me the scores I wanted. Even so, we earned another ten 6s, but when you see 3s and 4s, you just can't get a 60%. The score sheets and video are below.
As disappointing as it was to earn scores in the very low 50s, I was actually really encouraged. Sean has laid out a clear path for us, and it feels as though he really can get us earning qualifying scores. Last night both professional photographers sent me their proofs. Based on those photos, spread over two days, Izzy looks spectacular, so I am really pleased with that. If only I could present to the judge those moments, we'd score in the 70s for sure!
There's more ... to be continued.
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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%