From Endurance to Dressage
After Saturday's show was over, I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my friend Jen who manages the show. We first popped in to Dressage Extensions - the ladies who work there must give back their paychecks. How could you work there and not buy something every day? While I fingered everything, I only bought two small items. I'll share that in another post. We then went to Jen's new barn to visit her lovely horses, Paola and Peaches. After dinner, we went back to STC Dressage and hung out working on an unexpected project for Jen.
Hanging out with another dressage rider really helps put things in perspective. This is all supposed to be fun, and most of us - the cash poor adult amateurs of the world, have had both low scores and challenging horses. Jen and I laughed about my tests and about everything else under the sun.
I woke up early on Sunday morning to give Izzy a quick lunge in the predawn darkness. Afterwards, I put him in the crossties to braid his mane and found myself feeling ridiculously excited by how bored by it he was. The day before it had taken him about ten minutes to even start to relax. By Sunday, he was chewing on the crossties, trying to grab his leadrope, and looking for other ways to alleviate his boredom.
This might seem like a silly reason to be happy, but my goal for the weekend was to give Izzy a good experience because each time he finds an experience that he is comfortable with, we can check it off the list and build from there. As I was finishing up, Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, stopped by for some last minute advice: work on getting a steady tempo no matter how slow it is. The tricks will come later. Get his focus on you and be elastic in your arms. Roger that!
I made the short drive to SCEC and was so happy to see my friend Sarah heading our way. I never have a groom, so letting someone help me is a new experience. I love to serve as groom for other riders, so I am not sure why I felt guilty letting Sarah do the heavy lifting; she's more than capable. She hauled Izzy's water bucket, brushed out his tail, helped bridle and saddle and then talked me out of an impending meltdown.
As we were heading to the ring, I felt a draft on my calf, and then my boots felt like they were untied which can't happen since there are no laces. I looked down in horror to discover that my zipper had had a blowout. Eek! As I began working myself up into a bit of a tizzy, Sarah kept repeating, it's no big deal, deal with it later. And then she marched us forward. She was right. Once I was in the saddle, I completely forgot about it. By the time we came back to the trailer, I was already thinking about the fun of getting brand new boots.
My plan for Sunday was to ride the test as slowly as possible. I know that doesn't seem "forward thinking," but Sean agreed with my strategy. The goal was to ride at a steady tempo. Instead of pushing for bigger movement, I wanted steady. Keeping Izzy firmly in hand wouldn't allow him to get away from me. Keeping him more firmly in control would also allow me to "catch" him when he lost his balance or spooked.
Based on the score for 2-1, 51.892%, the judge didn't think I rode the test any better than I had the day before. I didn't really care though as Izzy felt much more relaxed and rideable. We did earn an additional 1.5 points, so there was at least some progress. The judge couldn't see what I felt, so I wasn't too disappointed as I knew progress had been made, slight as it was.
There was just one rider between my two tests, so I didn't really school anything in the few minutes between tests. Instead, I spent that time walking Izzy, asking him to stretch. He seemed a tired which I felt was a good thing. When Izzy is tired, he spends more time listening to me and less time looking around for monsters. When the judge blew her whistle, I entered at A with more confidence.
It wasn't a great test; it wasn't even a good test, but I was thrilled. Again, Izzy felt far more rideable than he has in the past. Like Sean said - just 1% better will compound quickly. While we only scored a 53.537%, it was a full 11 points (nearly 3%) better than the day before. Yes, there were a lot of 4s and 5s, but there were eight 6s and two 7s (for the turns on the haunches).
We're still a long ways from a 60%, 26.5 points to be exact. But if we improve by 11 points on the next test, and another 11 on the one after that, within just a few more shows we'll be earning qualifying scores. I am sure some (many?) of you are wondering what the heck I am even doing out there with such low scores. You're probably thinking Izzy's not ready to show. The thing I've learned though is that if you always wait until you're "ready," you'll never do anything.
Izzy loads and hauls well. He stands quietly tied at the trailer. He's patient in a stall. He's getting more comfortable in the warm up ring. How can he overcome his stage fright if he never gets into the ring? He knows the difference between schooling and showing which means we just have to keep getting in there until he realizes that it's just another part of his day.
Here are the score sheets and video of the test.
We're not "there" yet, but we're getting closer each time we go out. Our next show will be at El Sueño in mid-May. We'll have one or two more lessons with Sean before then, so hopefully we can improve by another 10 or so points.
And with that, I am off to work but looking forward to this afternoon's ride. Enjoy your weekend.
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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