From Endurance to Dressage
I never felt truly successful on Speedy, even so, we enjoyed a ridiculous amount of success. We won at least five neck ribbons. We earned a number of "Year End Champion" trophies from my chapter of the California Dressage Society. From CDS, we earned the Ruby Rider Award and Horse Performance Awards from each level that I entered. We won the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition for Intro, Training, and Second Levels and were reserve at First Level. We earned all three of the USDF Rider Performance Awards as well as a USDF Bronze Medal. After such a dismal 2021 show season with Izzy, Speedy and I look BRILLIANT in retrospect.
Spending the last year earning scores in the 50s has been heartbreaking. I don't blame Izzy at all. I've known for a quite a long time that under a more knowledgable rider, he would have been much farther along in his education and would likely have been earning scores that would make him eligible for awards and trophies. With me aboard, that hasn't happened. Yet.
During my Saturday lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I finally told him that I didn't know why I was going to the show at the end of the month. Not only are we going down a level, but I have no hope of earning a decent score. Sean pulled the plug on that thinking almost immediately. "What's going to happen when you're in the warm up and Izzy gets tense?" he asked. "Will you get mad at your horse?"
"No," I replied. "I'll simply feel frustrated."
"And Izzy will feel your frustration, and he'll feel anxious." Sean replied. "You'll get into the ring already knowing that you're not going to get whatever score you wanted. You'll get more frustrated, tense, and angry and Izzy will feel that. Sunday's ride will be even wore."
"Then why bother spending $700 at all? Why not just skip the whole thing and stay home?" I asked.
"We need to see where he is. A show will show how well we're doing." Sean answered.
We continued to chat about it, but I wasn't feeling any better. Isn't a show the place where you SHOW OFF your horse? I am tired of looking foolish. I am tired of earning scores that clearly indicate we don't belong out there. Why bother?
Sean had me think about reframing my goals. My goal cannot be to go out there and earn high scores. Instead, he wants me to focus on going out there and applying what I've been learning over the past six months. How well can I use the tools that he has given me? What will happen if I do? Instead of going with the goal of earning at least a 60%, he wants me to ditch the idea of scores completely. That is such a hard thing to do, but it did me no good last year. What do I have to lose?
Instead of aiming for a 60%, my goal is to reduce Izzy's anxiety by trying the different techniques that Sean has been teaching me. If Izzy spooks, I'll ignore it. If Izzy bolts, I'll stay soft and follow, but I'll also do what I have to keep control. If Izzy pushes against me, I'll use one of the strategies we've worked on for softening his under neck muscles - halt and get round, over exaggerate the inside bend, and move his body around. When Izzy is round, I'll push the swing once and see what I get. When Izzy focuses on me, I'll reward him with a scratch.
It won't be easy to ignore the scores, but having a different goal gives me a better chance for success. I don't need to win, I just need to feel that I am doing something right. Having Sean determine my goal also takes some of the responsibilities off my shoulders. He wants me to focus on implementing the lessons I've learned. If I do that, then I'll have been successful.
I won't turn down a generous judge or a bit of luck though.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read