From Endurance to Dressage
And guess what? Neither of us died. In fact, we both had a really good time. Considering it was a three hour drive both directions, I was especially proud of how easily he handled it all.
Before anybody gets too excited, I was super lame when it came to taking photos or asking anyone to video my rides. My husband came out to the ranch the before though and took a few photos, so those will have to do.
So here is how this particular show came about. It was Labor Day Monday, and I was looking at the upcoming show schedule for the fall and early winter. By this point in the season, I am usually done showing. I've either had enough, I am broke, or I am some combination of done and broke. Not this year though, so I was trying to see if there was anything I could still do with Izzy.
I realized that the Ventura County Chapter of CDS was putting on a schooling show the following weekend. I am a planner though, so going to a show three hours away without a PLAN was just not in the cards. And then I thought about it some more. Why couldn't we go? My friend Jen was managing the show, so I texted her to see if I could still get in. "Of course!" came the answer. For the first time ever, I went to a show without carefully planning it first.
Like the show from a few weeks back, the level we show at isn't important right now. While we're schooling half passes and simple changes, I am more concerned with Izzy feeling confident and successful which means we're going to hammer away at Training Level until he gets off the trailer overly relaxed and bored out of his mind.
Since our drive was so long, we didn't pull into White Birch until a bit after 10:00 a.m., long after everyone else had already grabbed their piece of the limited parking. While a lovely facility, White Birch is notorious for having tight parking. After circling the property twice looking for some kind of opening in which to shoehorn my anything-but-short rig, I finally ended up just pulling off to the edge of the gravel drive. This meant that Izzy was standing in the road the whole time. Every time someone needed to drive by, I pushed his hip over so they could squeeze past. He never even batted an eye.
With about an hour and a half until my first ride, my first priority was doing a walk about. At the show we did a few weeks back, that really seemed to help Izzy settle. The longer we walked, the more confident he grew. We circled past all of the trailers, walked by the warm up ring, and then headed down to the covered arena and show office. Jen and I took a few minutes to catch up, but then I continued walking Izzy around the ring and back and forth. He had been to White Birch once before for a clinic back in 2016, but it's still a scary ring.
We walked back up to the trailer where I tacked him up before retracing our steps for yet another walking tour. He wasn't bugged-eyed about anything, but he wasn't dragging his nose on the ground either. I didn't care. I kept the lead rope long and loose, only correcting him when he balked or got his head above mine.
Since we were parked adjacent to the warm up, we didn't have far to go. My plan was to walk until he felt relaxed. I've been following the exact same warm up routine at home, so within a minute or so, Izzy was listening and trying hard. We did some trot serpentines, a bit of canter, and then returned to the trot work. He spooked a few times here and there, but there were no theatrics other than trying to be above the bit so that he didn't have to get round. And with that, we headed to the ring for Training Level Test 3.
As we entered at X, I couldn't believe how relaxed I felt while riding the test. There was no anxiety or pressure to "perform." I was just there to ride my horse, and that's what I did. There were no spectacular moments - well, maybe that 7.0 for our left lead canter, but there weren't any disastrous moments either. The judge's comments were spot on, "Capable pair - keep working to create stretch to bit w/more energy from behind and suppling exer[cises]. Horse will gain confidence with more experience. Good effort today!"
As we halted at X, I was stunned by the boisterous round of applause that we received. You'd have thought we had scored an 80%. Afterwards, a number of friends and strangers alike congratulated me on a well ridden test. It couldn't have been that spectacular as we only eked out a 60.172%, but it warmed my heart to hear so many good things about my big brown horse. I've been told by many, many people that they would have sent him down the road long ago. While I certainly considered it more than a few times, I am very glad that I did not.
For our second test, we were doing Training Level Test 1. I kept our warm up pretty short as I knew he was as relaxed as he was going to get. Physically, he felt great, but I could sense that he was reaching his mental quota for the day. While he behaved himself for the test, I knew he was thinking about telling me NO about every other stride. Interestingly, the judge saw something else, and I suspect it was a bit of his you can't make me attitude. What felt like sassiness to me, came across as confident to her. For this test, she remarked, "More confident horse this ride. Keep dev[eloping] suppleness in conn[ection] and forward, swing[ing] back. Good effort today!"
While I tend towards a glass half full mentality, I am truthful when we fail. Other than secretly wishing we could have earned a 70%, there was not one part of this show experience that left me feeling disappointed. I was on Cloud 9 the entire three hours home. After SO. MANY. YEARS. Izzy and I are finally able to go to a show without fear of scattering other riders or tearing apart the ring. The judge was absolutely right; with more experience, Izzy will gain confidence.
I think there's another schooling show in November. Sign us up!
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%: