From Endurance to Dressage
Before I get to this weekend's show recap, I wanted to share some things I learned. (Spoiler alert!) I didn't get a single score of 60% or higher. While that was certainly disappointing, I had a ridiculously good time even so. Best of all though was that I gained some new insights about myself as a rider.
Guess what? Speedy and I are NOT Charlotte and Valegro. But no one else is either! I don't know why this hasn't occurred to me before, but the idea smacked me in the forehead as I sat watching a Second Level class after my own rides were finished. This is HUGE. I have spent NINE years certain of the fact that I pretty much suck at this sport. Over the weekend, I realized that EVERYONE else sucks, too!
When I first started as an Introductory Level rider in the summer of 2010, I thought everyone else rode beautifully, especially those riders a few levels above me. I would watch their warmups, particularly at Second and above, and think there was NO WAY I could ever ride as well as that.
I am not a rail bird, but what comes out of my mouth next is going to sound railbird-esque. As I watched the Second Level (and lower) riders, I could see and appreciate their effort and their try, but they pretty much sucked JUST LIKE ME! It is not my intent to disparage anyone. Instead, what I saw was a bunch of women and kids on a journey really similar to my own. None of us are fabulous, and we're all struggling equally.
That was one of the biggest insights I had: I am no better than anyone else, but I am not WORSE than everyone else either! Realizing that I am not a terrible rider or that conversely we all are, did a ton for my confidence. While we aren't Charlotte, that doesn't mean that we can't be good.
I was stabled near a big name trainer and a few of her clients. They had F-A-N-C-Y horses and (what seemed liked) plenty of money. I'll admit I felt a bit outclassed for a minute. One was riding First Level and the other Training. Both ladies felt compelled to offer explanations for why they were riding such low levels - both horses were Nervous Nellies who needed low pressure rides to build confidence. Okay, I thought. And? No need to justify to me why you're not riding PSG.
One of the ladies then added, in a very embarrassed tone, that she couldn't even remember the last time she rode at First Level. I bet Hilda Gurney does. It was probably fairly recently, too. Oh, wait; I just looked it up. She rode Training Level in May and again in April and again in March.
If that rider only knew how long it had taken me to get through First Level! I didn't take her comment personally. I just shrugged my shoulders, knowing that they were simply expressing their own feelings of inadequacy. I've got plenty of my own. But then I realized that we're all there for our own personal goals. No one's goal is better or worse than anyone else's. And suddenly, I didn't feel so outclassed after all.
Another realization that hit me was that losing so much weight, 42 pounds at the last check, has made showing a heck of a lot easier. Last summer, I could barely make it through my Second Level tests without collapsing in exhaustion. While I was still huffing and puffing at the end of each of my Third Level tests, I wasn't begging for them to be over, red-faced and wobbly. Doing Third with that extra weight would have been hard, really hard. If you're thinking of losing a few pounds, do it. It does make riding easier.
We all know that showing with our friends turns what could easily be a solitary pity-party into a group laugh-a-thon. I always enjoy hanging out with my friends at shows, but this time, something was different. Somehow the whole event seemed to be about enjoying the moment and the people in it rather than having a laser beam focus on THE SHOW.
One reason I go to this particular venue is because the show is managed by my dear friend Jen. She's an amazing show manager and puts up with some unbelievable weirdness. Dressage riders are a curious bunch. I spent my non-riding time as her beck and call girl. I ran tests from the judge to the show office for tabulating, I did some printer troubleshooting, and then I even helped the guys dismantle the dressage court so it could be moved to a different ring for Sunday's rides.
When I wasn't riding or helping out Jen, I spent some time laughing with my friend Sarah who helped me both unload and load crap. She just finished saving her gelding Enzo's eye. He has spent months battling an eye infection that started with a very small ulcer. She hopes to be showing in July. I'm certainly rooting for her.
I also hung out with my friend Valerie, owner of the Dressage Pony Store. If you ride a smaller statured horse, check out her online store. Her own pony Clooney, seen above, always looks brilliant in the stuff she carries in her store. Speedy's pad in the above photos came from the Pony Store.
Valerie is just one of the most down to earth people you'd ever want to meet. We spent hours giggling over our score sheets - she rode 3-3 and 4-1. We both laughed at comments we'd never seen before: vague, modest, not to CL followed by still not from CL, and my favorite, 11-meters (in reference to my 10-meter canter circle). We practically snorted over the 11-meter comment. It was just such a precise comment while my circle clearly was not.
This show definitely showed me what I am not. I am not Charlotte, but no one else is either. I am not a terrible rider and neither are the rest of you. I am not out there doing this alone. I have a lot of friends who want us to do well because that's what friends and fellow competitors should want.
And finally, while I didn't get a single qualifying score, I am not disappointed. Go figure!
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
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 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