From Endurance to Dressage
Spoiler alert: This Sunday, I earned the lowest RIDER'S CORRECT AND EFFECTIVE USE OF AIDS score in my 12 years as a dressage rider. I also got some pretty harsh feedback from the judge. Like I told Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, the judge doesn't know how hard I am working and how much progress we're making. He can only judge what he sees. Sean was still pretty annoyed by the scores though ...
So ... Izzy and I attempted yet another 2-day show at SCEC over the weekend. This place is our kryptonite. Izzy just hates showing there, and it hasn't helped that over the past two or three years we've had to show with loud freestyles happening in the ring two feet away or halloween costume parades surrounding us on our walk to and from the ring. After our bit of success at August's USDF show in Tehachapi - where we finally broke 60%, we thought it was time to try another USDF show farther from home. SCEC was pretty much my only choice.
We decided to follow the same plan we had used at the smaller shows up in Tehachapi. I left home early Saturday morning and met Sean at SCEC where we just schooled. The show was smaller than usual which meant there was just one ring going so the warm up was pretty quiet. After schooling, we over-nighted at STC Dressage and then trailered back to SCEC on Sunday for one test, Training Level Test 1.
The schooling ride on Saturday went pretty well. Izzy was super tense and thought about bolting or bucking, and he did get one small bolt past me, but over all he seemed much more aware of me than he has before, particularly at this venue. During the schooling ride, Sean observed that Izzy was finally connecting the pressure and release of my aids to his actions. I hadn't really made that connection yet myself, but it made sense. Each time Izzy thought about exiting stage right, I put my calf into his side, flexed him to the inside, and pushed him to my outside rein. He then thought about what he should do. Most of the time he gave a small oh, crap, I better do what she says.
While Sean was there in my ear offering fairly constant feedback, it was much more of the good, yes, just like like variety instead of very specific directions. At this point, I think he has finally convinced me how to use the tools he's given me so he basically was just confirming that I was using them well. Often times, he would make a comment, and I would roger that, as I had just had the same thought.
I think we were out there less than 45 minutes, and the first 10 or so had been spent hand walking. While we would have liked to have finished with Izzy more supple and volunteering more relaxation, we both recognized that Izzy has a timer which means we need to finish before that timer goes off. I pushed for just a last bit of suppleness and then we walked out.
The next day, as I was finishing the hand walking, the videographer, a woman who had seen some of our rides from two years ago, stopped me and asked if this was the same horse I had ridden two years ago. When I responded that yes, it was the same horse, she shook her head in disbelief. She gushed over how great he looked and she specifically mentioned his muscling and shape. She had watched our schooling ride the day before and couldn't believe the difference we had made in just two years.
I tell this not because I am a fabulous rider with a fabulous horse, but to illustrate how as riders and competitors we can still win while failing epically. This judge hated everything about me as a rider even though I did some of my best test riding. I didn't sit there frozen. Instead, I made constant adjustments as I rode rather than leaving Izzy hanging out to dry. The score didn't reflect it, but I felt like it was a huge personal win.
To be continued ...
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%: