From Endurance to Dressage
We Went to a Show
We did go to a show, but we didn't actually "show." It was the first time I've ever scratched. I've almost done it plenty of times before, but my philosophy has always been if I paid for it, I am riding it. That idea served me well with Speedy but not so much with Izzy.
During an earlier lesson, I told Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, that I didn't want to to go to the show. That too was a first. I love showing. I don't love failing, and I certainly don't enjoy almost dying, both of which were all I did last show season. Sean didn't press me too hard, but he thought I needed to go. What could I possible accomplish by going? Sean's answer was quite simple - nothing. The trip wouldn't be about scores. It was simply a way to find out where we are.
When I still expressed my doubts, and they were big ones, Sean made the following suggestion: I should go to the show and just do a warm up ride. If the warm up was fun and easy, we could then consider doing a test. If that was fantastic, we could consider doing a second test. I was still doubtful, but Sean felt that it would be worthwhile. He also insisted that I braid and dress. Whether we made it into the show ring or not, he wanted Izzy to understand that it was a show.
With an actual, articulated plan, I agreed. I did the predawn wake up and was at Starbuck's by 5:30 a.m.;Izzy was braided by 6:30. My dearest friend in the world agreed to make the trip to Tehachapi with me. By 6:50 we were on the road. We pulled into the Bear Valley Equestrian Center and parked. After unloading Izzy, we hung his hay net and a bucket of water. I checked in, got my number, and quickly changed into my show clothes.
I'll write about the specifics in another blog post, but since Sean couldn't come all the way to Tehachapi, we decided to try and use the Pivo so that he could coach me through the warm up. While I was waiting for him to join me in the Pivo Meet, I decided to go ahead and starting warming up. Izzy immediately lost his marbles. He slammed on the brakes, threatened to rear and emphatically said nope, no way, no how. Thankfully, my friend Kathy was there, and even though she knew I didn't want to show, I could not walk out of the warm up after having just driven an hour and a half. I sucked it the heck up.
To my relief, Sean was suddenly in my ear. He was able to quickly assess the situation and suggested I stay closer to the gate. The warm up ring is a ginormous arena, but there are cows at the far end, and Izzy's I can handle only so much threshold started this side of halfway across the arena. It wasn't easy, but with Sean's support, Izzy eventually let me take control and put him to work. We schooled for nearly an hour, but by the time we were through, horses had come and gone, we had calmly cantered, done shoulder-in, a bit of half pass, and even some imaginary centerlines.
Even had I not already scratched, we schooled past my ride times. Neither Sean nor I cared. I was actually relieved to not have to show - so was Izzy! Sean was very pleased with Izzy and felt that the day was a complete success. We were able to school through some rough moments, but we finished with a happy horse. We left the warm up and went straight back to the trailer. Izzy looked a little surprised, but finishing with a quiet horse who wasn't stressed out was our goal for the day.
Once I was back at home, I called Sean and we discussed next plans. It seems that moving down from Second to First wasn't enough to help ease Izzy's show anxiety. Moving down to just the warm up seems to be what he needs. Our next thought is to head to a schooling show in June and just do the warm up again. We'll keep that same plan through the summer. If that's what it takes to help Izzy conquer his show anxiety, I'm all in!
If nothing else, doing the warm up is cheaper than paying for classes, and we still get to put on our party clothes.
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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%: