From Endurance to Dressage
In case you missed it and feel compelled to read it, Part 1 can be found here.
While day two's scores showed marked improvement over the previous day's scores, they were still atrocious. Since scoring well wasn't my focus though, it didn't matter. What mattered was whether or not I used the tools that Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, has given me. More than that, I wanted to feel confident in using those tools. And you know what? I did!
Izzy and I have not had the best luck at shows. More than once we've had to show during a freestyle. This show presented some unique distractions. At the same time that my warm up was to begin, the Halloween costume parade was planned to happen. I ended up following a trio of wildly costumed horses - more on that tomorrow, down to the warm up ring. Fortunately, they turned right and Izzy and I turned left. I deliberately made sure to leave the trailer early so that we followed the costumes instead of walking towards them. Having scary objects moving away is less terrifying than walking towards them.
We made it to the warm up, and Izzy was his regular tense self. This time, rather than feeling helpless, I just got to work. I never doubted myself. I just rode him like I would have at home. Eventually, Sean found us in the warm up and started offering feedback. Since I was doing everything right, there wasn't much more he could say other than to confirm my riding choices. After one particularly hard bolt and spook, I brought Izzy to a halt and just patted his neck. I could feel the tension ebb away, and Sean could see it even from half way across the arena. Keep doing that was Sean's advice.
The other scary thing that gave me pause was that yet again, a freestyle was just about to go off in the ring right next to us. Fortunately, the ring steward was looking out for me. After a brief consultation with show management, my trainer, and the judge, I was ushered up to the ring early so that I could try to finish my test before the music started. My ride was the first after lunch, but since the judge was ready, she suggested we start.
Sure enough, just as I did my final halt and salute, some very high energy music came blaring through the speakers. I think a free style is in Izzy's future because he (yet again) piaffed his way out of the ring in time to the music. Of course, neither test rode well, but the scores were better than they were the first day, and we rode in the same ring with the same judge. For First Level Test 1 our scores went from 49.483% to 53.621%. For Test 3, we went from 46.806% to 49.583%. They're terrible scores, but they did get better.
So why would I not feel like quitting after such a disaster? Well, the truth is that I am finally convinced that I am not the world's worst rider. Izzy's tension isn't coming from me, and in fact, I am actually helping him cope with the situation. It has taken months of very hard work, but I am finally understanding what Sean has been trying to help me learn. Izzy will feel my confidence and respond; I am now certain of it.
It didn't happen at this show, and I am pretty sure that's because I only started to feel that confidence myself and trust it. I think Izzy started to get a sense of my change in attitude though, but it wasn't enough to affect real change. It doesn't matter though because I felt it. A lot of things changed in my riding at this show. I didn't over-react when he bolted or spooked. I didn't let him bait me into a tug of war. I didn't get impatient. I didn't grab at the reins. During the test, I gave up worrying what the judge thought and rode my horse how he needed to be ridden even though I consciously gave up points - circling when he spooked, for example.
The thing that finally convinced me that I really don't suck rotten eggs was the feedback from several complete strangers. As I finished the last test, a rider who had stopped to watch (our train wreck), walked over and very enthusiastically congratulated me on my riding ability. Not just once, but repeatedly. She felt compelled to convince me that I looked very much in control while still being relaxed. She said that not many riders can ride a hot horse so calmly. Of course I burst into tears at her generosity, but I didn't try to convince her that I am really a hack. Instead, I thanked her as sincerely as I could.
A few moments later, a working student of Hilda Gurney's came up and said pretty much the same thing. She was parked next to me so we had chatted throughout the weekend. Her comment also included this: I know why you keep trying with this horse. He's got something special. I like him! Who doesn't want to hear that?
So there you go. It looks as though I've finally found some confidence, and the instant I did, other people noticed. I always try to offer positive feedback to my fellow riders because I know how harmful self-doubt can be. It's hard for me to be on the receiving end of that feedback though. This weekend, I kicked self-doubt to the curb and allowed myself to be receptive of some much needed positive energy.
Here are the two tests, wild and wooly and unedited. Enjoy the rodeo!
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%: