From Endurance to Dressage
Guess who is going to be riding at the show this weekend.
No, not him, but that would be cool. Nope, it's California's very own Hilda Gurney. I am not one to get star struck; I wouldn't recognize Tom Cruise if he knocked on my front door. I am just not that into famous people or fancy cars or expensive brand names.
I am, however, seriously into watching top riders do their thing. I hear it everywhere; watch good riders ride, and emulate what you like. I haven't found that particularly easy to do as I ride in a "non-dressagey" community, and I don't hit very many (if any) BIG shows.
When I saw that Hilda Gurney will be somewhere that I'll be, I knew that this was my chance to watch someone who knows what she's doing. She's riding four times on Saturday, and I have each ride highlighted on my day sheet. She's riding Wintersnow, Miciah, and Gulliver. What a great opportunity to watch a great rider.
This brings me to another show-related topic that I've been mulling over. Do the big riders, such as Hilda Gurney, feel that we peon Training Level Adult Ammies are really just gumming up the works of their show day? I really hope not as I've never felt as though I wasn't anything but welcome at the rated shows (20!) that I've done over the past three years.
I bring this up because it is a well-known problem in the endurance world. There are three main echelons of endurance riders: the FEI riders that most of us never meet or interact with (kind of like the Grand Prix crowd); the 50 - 100 mile endurance riders (kind of like the Second - Fourth Level rider); and the Limited Distance crowd (kind of like the Intro, Training, and First Level people).
For many years, there has existed a persistent "looking down upon" attitude toward the LD riders. The common idea was that anything less than 50 miles was not endurance so anyone riding distances shorter than 50 miles shouldn't refer to themselves as Endurance Riders. The AERC rule book even defines an endurance event as one that is at least 50 miles in length.
As you can image, many LD riders are offended by this interpretation of what makes an endurance rider an actual Endurance Rider. I never really cared what distance people rode as long as they followed common trail courtesy, treated their horses with respect, and followed the rules. But, I do understand the argument. I've run some 5Ks, but I've never considered myself a marathon runner.
I'm a long time member of the Mind Your Own Business club. Who cares what everyone else is doing? is generally my motto, but I do get irritated when people put on airs or claim to be something they're not. In the endurance/LD argument, I tended to keep my opinions to myself, but overall, I felt that if you're an FEI rider who has traveled the world, woot! woot! for you. If you're like me, a Steady Edwina who finished near the back of the pack on a 50 mile course, git-R-done. And finally, if you're an LD rider, ride your 25, kick back in the afternoon, and watch the 50 milers straggle in. Toast them with your cold beer, and smile.
And what does this have to do with dressage, exactly?
Well, I am afraid that I am the LD rider of the dressage world. I feel like a dressage rider, but am I? Do I have to ride "50 milers" (compete at Third Level) before I can make that claim?
I never profess to be more than I am, which is a low level rider on an ammie-trained horse. Even so, do those Fourth Level Riders simply tolerate the Introductory and Training Level riders? I worry that when I get to Second Level (it might happen!), I'll look around and wonder what in the hell are those Intro/Training Level riders doing?
Please don't let it be so ...
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%: