From Endurance to Dressage
Thinking About Showing
I started riding and showing dressage in 2010. Since then, I've shown one hundred twenty-seven days. One hundred eleven of them have been on Speedy. I showed Sydney nine times and Izzy has been shown seven times. The only horse I've shown at a USDF show though is Speedy. Every one of the scores earned towards my Bronze Medal were achieved with him.
With Speedy, I always went to a show hoping for at least a 60%. At the beginning of each level, we almost always walked away with scores in the high 50s. Eventually we would start earning scores in the low 60s, and later, scores as high as low 70s. But each time we started a new level, we went through the cycle again.
I know many people disagree with that strategy. They think if you're not earning mid-60s, you're showing at the wrong level. That may be true, but for me, I have always used the judges' scores as feedback to guide me through the level. While I am able to take more lessons from Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, than I used to, there are still months where I might only get one lesson. Sometimes, the judge's score is my only feedback. If I waited until we scored in the mid-60s, I'd never show. I'd also never improve. Showing tells me when I am doing it correctly, and it also tells me when I am doing it wrong so that I can fix it.
Over the past two months, I've been schooling Izzy in preparation for our first USDF show. We're doing Second Level. We're struggling. We're probably going to score in the 50s. What I've just this week realized is that there are a lot of reasons to score a 5. With Speedy, a 5 meant we weren't doing the movement correctly. We didn't have enough bend, enough reach, enough length, enough something.
In the seven times I've shown Izzy - Intro and Training Level, we earned the exact same scores that I earned when starting Speedy at a new level, high 50s. That simply baffled me as the rides on Izzy felt like such a hot mess while the rides on Speedy felt at least okay. It seemed as the the scores on Izzy should have been much lower.
In some cases, they were. At Izzy's first two shows - Introductory Level, we earned scores as low as 49%. But in his case, it wasn't because he couldn't do the movements, it was because of tension. Introductory Level is about walking and trotting (and a small bit of canter) with a minimal amount of fuss. If the horse walks and trots in a straight line or on a relatively round circle, you're going to get a 60%. If the horse looks as though he is about to die, a 49% is in your future.
In Izzy's case, he can do the movements. They're not hard for him like they are for Speedy. That won't be why we earn 5s. It will be because of tension. His back will be tight, his neck will be short, and his stride will be three inches long. It's not like I just discovered that he's tense - we've all been watching that since the beginning. It's just that over time, I've been able to work a lot of the tension loose. It's still there, but he's beginning to listen and let go of some of it.
Will he be able to relax at SCEC in a few days? I don't know, but I feel pretty confident that I at least have some tools for working through the tension. Will it work? I don't know that either, but I am hoping that over the two days we show he'll get tired enough to take a deep breath and realize that, no, he is not about to die.
I won't be surprised by a score in the 50s, but I am also hopeful we get that 60%.
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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%: