From Endurance to Dressage
Some final thoughts … (finally)
I have learned that taking the time to watch other riders do their tests is an excellent way to learn. At one-day shows, I simply don’t have time to hang around and watch because I usually have a two-hour drive back home. Sitting around for several hours means getting home after dinner. At two-day shows however, I have nothing but time to sit around and watch, and I did!
Here are a few things that I noticed, realized, or decided:
Observing from A offers a completely different perspective. You can really check for straightness and accuracy. Straightness and forwardness is hard for all horses, not just the low level ones.
The best riders have a really solid core. Their posture is strong and straight. They ride very uphill themselves with bent elbows and straight backs. You can quite easily tell that they are riding from a deep seat that is maintained by excellent core strength.
On the other hand, there are many struggling riders out there, and they aren't necessarily the Intro or Training Level riders. I don’t point this out to be catty, only to illustrate that you don’t have to be perfect to move on. I also realized that I don’t look out of place out there. While I am certainly not the perfect rider, I do have a decent seat that is getting better and better.
Everyone else worries just as much as I do about failing and having a bad day. I also noticed that even the very best riders appreciate an encouraging word and positive feedback when they finish. I enjoyed calling out, have a good ride, and telling a rider they had ridden a really nice test. It was fun to see them genuinely smile and say thanks.
Which brings me to this: I am no longer star struck. Really watching horse and rider teams ride all the levels from Introductory through the Grand Prix has shown me that it’s all about relaxation, rhythm, contact, and the rest of the training pyramid. Twice I watched Grand Prix teams put in pretty dismal rides. I felt really bad for the riders because I know both were expecting more, but even I could see their horses were struggling with rhythm and collection. The piaffe and passage just weren’t happening that day.
I also noticed that all of the upper level movements are related to what horses at the lowest levels are learning. I can see how mastery at each level prepares the horse for the next level. Those upper level movements no longer look like magic tricks to me because really, all of the horses are just walking, trotting, and cantering. There’s no magic involved. Looking behind the curtain reveals that you don’t have to be a wizard to ride Grand Prix. What a liberating concept: anyone who works hard enough can get there. Even me!
After watching a number of First Level tests, I decided that First Level is looking really doable. I don’t think we ought to run off and start showing at that level quite yet, but I can see that if we start adding a few elements to our daily work, Speedy and I might think about showing First Level, Test 1 at a schooling show in February.
If you don’t show dressage (yet), but really would like to, I urge you to get out there and go watch some shows. I hear about Dressage Queens all the time, but to be honest, I haven’t met any while out showing. What I have met is a lot of nice women (and a few men) who are journeying along the same road that I am. Come and join us!
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%: