From Endurance to Dressage
I know it's kind of silly to get excited about USDF Rider Performance Awards, but I can't help it.
When I first started on this dressage journey, an early trainer told me that most riders never make it past Training Level. At the time, I felt a little discouraged. Did that mean that dressage was so hard that riders felt forced to quit at the very earliest stages?
I wondered if I should even bother. But then I rationalized that there was no way it could be any harder than the sport of endurance. When I first started endurance riding I thought that there was no possible way I could ever get a horse fit enough to complete 100 miles in one day. Not only did I ultimately start and finish five 100 milers, I did three of them in one year on the same horse.
The percentage of endurance riders who compete at the 100 mile level is admittedly quite low relative to the number of riders competing at the shorter distances, but you don't have to be an elite athlete to do it. And I'll admit that the list of riders who do 3 hundred milers in a single year is probably really small. I am certain it's fewer than 100, and it might even be smaller than 50. Or, that's how it was when I was competing back in the early 1990s and the 2000s.
I share all of this not to leave you with the impression that I was some kind of super star in the sport - not even close. I was just a run of the mill rider with a pretty nice horse (I only paid $1,000 for her). We trained consistently, had a lot of good luck, and made good choices in vets and farriers. I also dug deep that year and persevered; endurance racing has a huge mental component.
I lost Montoya to an unusual colic in January of 2010 just a week after competing at the Fire Mountain 50 miler. She was 20 years old. Speedy had been doing some endurance races, but he wasn't nearly as gung ho about it as Montoya. I did a few more races on him during the spring, but then I decided to take a break from endurance training and racing. We entered the Just Coe Crazy 55 miler in early June (which we didn't complete) and did our first dressage show three weeks later!
I don't know if that early trainer was right or not. Do most riders top out at Training Level? I guess it has a lot to do with where you live. In a dressage desert like Bakersfield, it's probably true. In a dressage mecca like Ventura or San Diego, the majority of riders probably get farther in the sport before they start to plateau.
Either way, having earned my First Level Rider Performance Award feels like a big deal to me. I don't have the patch yet, but USDF finally posted it to USDFScores.com which means it is now official.
Endurance riders know how ridiculously hard it is to get a horse through a hundred miler. Even so, a run of the mill rider can get it done with hard work and attention to detail.
The same hard work and attention to detail can get an average rider like myself through the dressage levels. I think most dressage riders can appreciate the journey that a horse and rider team must make in order to earn their scores for any of the Rider Performance Awards. You don't have to be an elite horse and rider team to do it, but with consistent work, a little luck, and good horse keeping choices, most riders can get it done.
I am really proud of this award because I know how much work it took for us to earn it. It will be displayed with pride.
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%: