From Endurance to Dressage
Sunday morning started off super early. My first ride of the day was at 8:52 a.m. which doesn't seem too bad if you're stabled at the show, but we weren't. By 6:00 a.m. I was braiding, and by 7:00, Izzy was in the trailer ready for the short drive to El Sueno. It wasn't until I turned on my truck that I realized I had a flat tire. I never panic in a crisis, but that doesn't mean I don't want to. I knew it wouldn't help, so I just dug deep, and made a plan. When my husband starts to get upset about a situation, my response is always the same, work the problem, so I did.
There's a line in one of Bruce Willis's Die Hard movies that has always stuck with me. It's during a scene with the goofy tech guy that MacClane has drug around with him as he attempts to save the world. The kid asks, "Then why are you doing this?" MacClane answers, "Because there's nobody else to do it right now. That's why."
That's how I deal with problems. If I don't do it, who will? By the time the tow truck came and my tire was repaired, my chances for a Zen day were rapidly diminishing. I may be that guy during a crisis, but afterwards, I tend to fall apart. As much as I wanted to throw a bit of a pity party for myself, I pulled up my big girl panties and got to work. I saddled Izzy and headed down to the warm up ring, flat tire forgotten.
Second Level Test 1 - 53.378%
During our warm up, Izzy was fabulous. It was one of those warm ups where you're looking around for the judge, desperately wishing she could score the movements RIGHT THEN. Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, agreed. He was really happy with Izzy's relaxation, especially compared to just one day before. Without wanting to upset things too much, Sean asked me to think about making the questions just a bit harder. If Izzy was willing to work and listen to me, it would be a good idea to ask for just a little bit more from him.
By the time I made it down to the ring, I was feeling hopeful, but not overly confident. Izzy is Izzy after all. To no one's surprise, the tension slammed into Izzy's body as soon as we entered at A. Our 5% of progress from the day before went up in smoke. At about half way through the test, I finally quit riding him like he was on egg shells and told him to get with the program. It didn't fix the first twelve scores, but it made me feel better, and it was probably a relief to the big brown horse. You can see in the last half of the test that my scores started to get a bit better. Actually riding your horse will do that.
Second Level Test 2 - 58.537%
As soon as we finished Test 1, we went back to the warm up ring as the second test was less than thirty minutes later. Izzy was really braced and telling me that he was grumpy and OVER IT. Mentally, I was in the process of throwing in the towel. Well, this one is going to be a disaster, I said to myself.
For all of the other lessons and warmup rides that I've done with Sean, we've used the Cee Coach two-way communication system. Since we had so little time between tests, I opted to skip the process of putting the earbuds back in. I won't be doing that again. As Izzy and I rode the struggle bus around the warm up ring, I realized how much I missed hearing Sean's quiet feedback. He doesn't say a lot, but what he does say is very meaningful.
So there I was throwing in the towel, wanting the whole show over and done with. Sean must have seen the expression on my face (or possibly read my mind), because as I circled by him, he quietly said, "When Izzy is like this, unable to focus or relax, it's up to you to be the leader. You need to be his support." I don't know how Sean knew to say those words right then, but I needed to hear them. For the second time that day, I was forced to pull up my big girl panties.
As I entered the ring, I changed my game plan. Instead of trying to get more from Izzy, I reverted back to our plan for the last show - get a steady tempo. Nothing was going to be fancy, but we were going to do it right. You can see the results in our test. We earned six scores of 6.0 in the first seven movements, and a long list of 6.0s follow. There were even two 7.0s for good measure. The medium trot is killing us right now (4.0), but in every other area we showed a solid effort. The first simple change was rough (4.0), but we pulled out a 6.0 for the second one and another 6.0 for the quality of the serpentine.
In the end, we missed a 60% by a mere six points. Our score of 58% and some change was six percent higher than Saturday's score, and eight percent higher than the Sunday score from the show in April. We're so close. Will Izzy let all the tension go for our next show? I doubt it. Even Sean said it's probably going to take us a while, but just seeing that little bit of improvement each time is enough to reassure me that we are heading in the right direction.
Izzy and I are scheduled to ride with Sean about every other week for the foreseeable future. Our next show is at the end of June. We were so close to a 60% for this show, so I know it's out there waiting for us.
Just one percent better each time will have us there (and beyond) before the end of summer.
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%