From Endurance to Dressage
It must happen to everyone. I am sure of it. Do we all eventually see through the smoke and mirrors of dressage? I think I am finally there. It looks easy, effortless almost, but dressage is hard. Really hard. Most of the adult amateurs that I see are struggling. Very few of us are out there hitting balls out of the park. In fact, most adult amateurs are still stuck at home waiting, trying to get good enough to show.
I have never appreciated Speedy G more than I did this weekend. That dude's brain and temperament are worth their weight in gold. If I ever sell him, his price is going up. Way up. We may not be riding at the top level, but he is certainly doing his part to get me going somewhere. The problem with dressage is that having a strong to desire to be good is not enough. To be good, it takes a rider who knows what she's doing, a horse with the right temperament, and the financial means to get where you want to go.
Sydney helped me see three things at Sunday's show: 1) I am actually a pretty decent rider, 2) I have a solid horse in Speedy G and not so much in Sydney (yet), and 3) for the most part, money is not what's keeping us from going to shows. I am guessing that you're guessing that things weren't all rainbows and unicorns for Sydney and I this weekend. It wasn't a total disaster, but I am starting to feel a bit like quitting with him. I enjoy this horse, truly I do, but I don't know if showing is what he wants to do.
He did many great things, but he was a total ball of tension in the ring. Let me count how many times the judge used the word tension in our first test: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - five times. I am sure there would have been more, but to change it up, she used words like needs more stretch, needs more forward, wavering, spooking, and sashaying (really, she used that word!).
The problem is. I don't give up. Ever. I can't think of one single time that I have ever given up on something that I actually cared about. Okay. In college, I did sign up for a ballet class, went one time, and promptly quit. But that was just a whim. I didn't really care about ballet, and who starts ballet when they're nineteen? See. Justified quitting.
In reality, the show wasn't a deal breaker, but man! Sydney's progress away from home is really, really slow. He was better than last time, but only marginally. We started out with a lesson on Saturday afternoon with Chemaine Hurtado, my away-from-home trainer.
Basically, she schooled me through the walk and trot in various parts of the arena. We talked about what JL and I have been doing, and then Chemaine worked to try and fill in some of the gaps. I need to weight my inside hip to knee, and I need to open my outside rein to encourage Sydney to fill it up. We did some suppling exercises such as shoulder in and counter flexing with haunches in and haunches out.
There were some oh, crap! moments during the lesson, none of which caused me to even blink, and there were also some nice moments where Sydney was connected, balanced, and doing what he was supposed to be doing. Just nine months ago, he wouldn't even enter at A, and even when he did, he was a rocket that careened out of control.
For this lesson I worked wherever I wanted in the arena, with tension, but still, we worked. He never bolted. He never got away from me. He never made me feel afraid. Chemaine pointed out that if some of her other students had been riding him, they would have been quite terrified. He wasn't an easy ride. The difference is that now I know how to keep him under control. He bucked, hard, and he did some pretty impressive aerial maneuvers, but I never lost the contact, never tipped forward, and never panicked.
For me, this is important. The better rider than I can be, the more likely it is that I will be able to coax more from him. And honestly, I wasn't the reason for his tenseness. I just need to figure out how to show him that he doesn't need to be tense.
More tomorrow ...
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%