From Endurance to Dressage
Lecturing on a soap box is a bit arrogant unless you have something to say that people actually want to hear. Otherwise, you're just some weirdo spouting off cockamamie ideas that make people roll their eyes and cross the street to get away from your idiocy.
Knowing that, I am climbing up. You can roll your eyes and walk away, or you can gather and shout amen, sister! with the rest of the believers ... Dressage is incredibly hard. Showing dressage is even harder still.
After I finished my first test of the weekend, I left the arena feeling a bit grouchy and made that statement to my trainer. It's not that I resent doing things that are difficult. I thrive on demanding work. The more onerous, the better. Give me something that stretches me to my limit, and I am a happy camper. Weenie babies don't ride 100 miles through freezing cold temperatures in a single day. I did, more than a few times, and loved every minute of it.
What used to drive me nuts about endurance riding was all the people who would claim that they too were endurance riders. Whenever they were asked which endurance races they had done, they would claim that they just "conditioned" their horses in endurance saddles or had done 10 - 15 mile fun rides.
Sorry, simply using an endurance saddle to get your horse fit doesn't make you an endurance rider. You have to actually ride an endurance distance on a prescribed course under a vet's observation. And doing it more than once helps. That's what makes an endurance rider.
I am sure you can see where this is going.
As I finished that test and groused about this sport being difficult, what I really meant was that unless someone is actually showing at USDF-rated shows, they don't know how hard it really is to put it all together in front of a judge, make it look easy, and get a good score. It's hard, really hard.
When we ride at home, we can repeat the transition over and over. We can ride that figure twice until it feels balanced. If we're not ready for that canter departure at C, we circle back around and give it another go. Or, we pick it up at M. Who is going to notice the difference? At a show, the rider has to string all of the movements together without any do-overs.
That's what makes showing so hard. We don't get a second, third, or twelfth chance to get it just right. It has to be done correctly then and there, ready or not. So even if someone's horse has a few lovely flying changes at home, until they have to get five 4s from H to F with the third one landing at X, those changes don't mean much. And they mean even less if the rider can't follow it up with five 3s across the other diagonal. That was for Jen and her Prix St Georges test this weekend. Ask her if riding it correctly in front of a judge is easy or hard.
The thing about showing at a USDF-rated show is that the judges aren't cutting you any slack. It's not their job to make you feel good. It is their job to give you legitimate, honest, and helpful feedback. The judges at fun shows or schooling shows ARE there to encourage you and give you softball scores. That's their job. They're trying to get you to come back. They want you to feel good about showing so you'll pay your USDF money and help the sport grow.
I know many people will disagree with this viewpoint. Many riders feel that the judging at schooling shows is equal to that at USDF-rated shows. Maybe. I only show here in California, but I find it awfully difficult to believe that the L Program Graduates would change their style just because they live in another region of the US. The USDF and USEF work very hard to standardize judging around the country.
When I was still competing in endurance races, I loved those shorter distances for introducing a horse to his job. As a dressage rider, I've done many schooling shows for the same reason. There's no sense spending all that money on a USDF show until you know how your horse will deal with new venues, judges' booths, and the stresses of showing,
Until you can put it all together in front of a USEF judge at a USDF show, preferably one that holds his or her "S" license (Senior Judge), it might be best to hold off a bit on the celebration. Those USEF judges are tougher than they look.
So that's it. That's my rant. I am getting down from my soap box. What's your feeling on judging and scores?
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%