From Endurance to Dressage
I don't think it's really possible to eliminate the warm-up chaos, but apparently Louisa Zai thinks it can be done. She wrote an article for the April edition of Dressage Today entitled, "The Golden Rules of the Warm-Up Arena: Learn how to stay sane amid the pre-test chaos." It's a good article, mostly. But before I share her rules, I would like to share an epiphany I had while at the Santa Barbara Dressage Show. Here it is ...
Politeness is not the driving force in dressage. Holy shit, Batman! That's where I've been going wrong. And before you get all hostile on me, I am not saying that dressage riders aren't polite, although I am saying that some of them aren't. What I am saying is that politeness isn't an integral part of the dressage mentality. And, so what? Well, here's what! I've been operating under the assumption that being polite was necessary to the functionality of the dressage show process. Why would you do that? Because in endurance racing, politeness (and by extension, friendliness) is the cornerstone of the sport. What?
I know. It sounds weird, but it's true. Politeness is valued over just about any other thing in the endurance world. It's so important that most Ride Managers clearly state on the entry form that if you demonstrate unsportsmanlike conduct or are rude to any race staff member or volunteer, your butt will be disqualified and you will be thrown out! There are many ways in which you are expected to be polite: if you come upon a horse at a water trough, you are expected to wait quietly and not barge in. If a horse comes up to a water trough while your horse is drinking and that rider waits patiently, you are expected to wait while he or she drinks rather than go racing off and leaving the horse distraught. If you come upon a rider on foot, it is expected that you will offer assistance or at least inquire as to what you might do to help. If you arrive at a gate that has just been opened, you are expected to wait until the rider who has just opened the gate has remounted her horse and is ready to leave. And it would be even more polite to let her take the lead.
And the list goes on ... there is no end to the number of ways that you are expected to be polite. You should thank the in timer, the out timer, the P & R person, the vet, the vet secretary, and especially the volunteer who is holding your horse as you scramble to pee behind a bush (if there is one). When you show up to camp, you thank the RM for hosting the ride. You thank the ride secretary for checking you in. You thank the the guy that grease-penciled your number across your horse's butt in lime green goo. And you definitely thank the water truck guy.
You thank anyone and everyone who has anything to do with the race because you know that without them, there would be no event. There's no money being made at en endurance race. There is no trainer earning big bucks coaching her students. There is no one showing off a barn full of horses to sell. There is a just a group of people who want to ride the crap out of 50 miles and know that it can't be done without a butt-load of volunteers. So you are NICE TO THEM! Politeness is the driving force behind an endurance race.
So back to the rules of the warm-up arena ... No wonder I've been bumbling along. I thought being polite was required. It's not. It's a nice way to behave, but you're not getting kicked out for giving someone a dirty look or crashing into them because no one knows where anyone else is going.
So what are the rules? Well, according to Louisa Zai, here they are: (her words and ideas are italicized, mine are in standard font)
1. Riders should pass each other left hand to left hand. There are exceptions however. If you are circling, stay to the inside of oncoming riders. But what if they're coming across the diagonal and you're circling? Who's on left?
2. Slower gaits take the inside track. Again, me asking, But what if they're coming across the diagonal?
3. The warm up arena is for work. So basically if you're just standing there, get out. That one I understand.
4. Control your whip. Really? That needs to be a rule? Sheesh ...
5. Prepare for the pre-test warm-up. This one covered a broad range of things and actually seemed to go in favor of the green horse or green rider. If you have a loud, thundering horse, know that he is probably scaring the crap out of those intro and training level horses. Since no one knows where you're going, please give a heads up or on your left.
I love this next one. It's so good I'm quoting her directly, "If you can steer, you are supposed to be more generous and self-aware than those who cannot. If you are a princess, you get no dispensation. Make your tempis around the helpless novice rider, not through them!" THANK YOU!!!!! Oh, and one more, "I think it's up to the advanced riders to keep their antennae up."
6. Using wireless headsets - basically, pay attention. No one else can hear where you're being sent. Even if your trainer says do this and that, make sure there is room to DO this and that!
7. Use warm-up time effectively. The warm-up is not the place to run through your test. You should do that at home. Seriously, I've tried to warm up in a standard-sized court with someone riding their test. What would you like me to do? Follow you?
And basically, that's it. If you follow these rules your warm-up should go super-duper. Oh, wait. There was a follow-up paragraph, "Polite riding can keep you and your ringmates from getting further stressed out. Niceness often perpetuates itself."
Well, hell. Maybe the endurance riders have it right after all!
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
2021 Pending …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 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