Big Girl Panties – Check!

I was a demo rider for Part 1 – Session B, USDF “L” Program two weekends ago. This is how it went down…

I was scheduled as the last rider to go on Saturday (5:00pm). Saturday morning I was awake and in full swing by 7:00 am, checking in participants and helping set up the audio/visual stuff for the lecture portion. At 1:00, the program moved to the barn for the demo rides. I had 18 gift baskets to hand out and not a clue who was riding. Ha!

I tacked up 40 minutes before our ride, and headed out to warm up, but after just a couple of minutes I was told it was my turn to go. Eek!

We slid into the indoor arena while the L participants finished critiquing the previous rider. After a few minutes, the presenter said they were ready. My hands shook. I took a deep breath. Ava was tense, and leery of the mass of squirming bodies at C.

We entered at A….

The test went great. Ava was fluid and happily swinging beneath me. Our trot lengthens were much improved over the last show, and I was very proud of how much more balanced she was. When we came around the corner to C for our stretchy trot circle, Ava caught a look at the huddled mass of bodies on the bleachers a foot from us and spooked. However, she came right back after a couple of strides and did a very nice stretch with an even tempo.

I was most concerned about the canter work, but Ava came through with flying colors. Our only mistake during the test was the last canter serpentine. I got off balance and Ava flipped leads in front. But she let me rebalance her immediately and pick up the canter again with just a few strides.

When we finished, the L participants were asked what they scored us. One guy gave us a 70%, but the presenter said he was way too generous. šŸ˜¦ The average score from most of the participants was low to mid 60’s. That’s about what I’ve been getting at the shows. The participants then shared their critiques of each individual movement. I was pretty devastated that everyone said we showed no lengthen.

It was hard listening to the group as each L participant voiced their criticism of my test. I stood there and listened for what seemed like forever as they picked apart every single movement. I wanted to leave… It’s not like it wasn’t true (what they were saying), but normally you get that on a test sheet, not broadcasted to 50+ people who ride/train dressage.


After they finished, and let me go, I untacked Ava and sat on a bale of hay trying to compose myself. I knew they were going to be harsh, but ouch, just ouch…

After a bit, my trainer came by, and as she was feeding Ava some carrots she said that Marilyn had scored me at a 63%. An international, FEI level judge gave me a 63% score! I know it doesn’t seem that great, but I’m really darn proud of that score. šŸ™‚

Moral of story: Being a demo rider for the L program requires thick skin, and an ability to take criticism well. I admire the other demo riders. It took guts to put themselves out there, for no pay, all so our future judges can learn to be good judges.

USDF “L” Program – Session B

Marilyn Heath, was our presenter for Session B. Heath is a ā€œSā€ Dressage judge and Chairman of the USDF ā€œLā€ Education Program. She has competed through Grand Prix, earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals. She also competed in the CDI at the World Championships in Ontario, Canada in 1986.

The lecture section started at 8:00 am Saturday morning with a review of the homework assigned to participants. Pens flew furiously as the presenter covered each answer given. Marilyn then dove into the meat of the content, covering the evaluation of the quality of the gaits. The focus being on rhythm, tempo, suppleness, and elasticity of the gaits.

Hillary Clayton helped provide information into biomechanics of gaits and how structure and ligaments allowed for freedom of movement.

After lunch, participants and auditors made the short trip to Mystic Marsh Equestrian Center to watch live demonstrations of movements and tests. These demonstrations were generously provided by 18 horse/rider combinations.

Each level (Training through Second) started with a small group of riders who demonstrated several key movements within the level. The L Program participants were then asked to score and comment on the individual movement. The focus was on giving riders a concise comment that could help the rider achieve the goals of the level. After the group ride, one rider would ride Test 3 for that level. The participants scored and evaluated each movement and determine a final score. After the test, the participants then were asked to share their marks and give reasons for each mark.

Sunday followed the same format, with lecture in the morning followed by demo rides in the afternoon. There was a wealth of information shoved into two full days.

Overall, Session B was an information packed event. I would highly recommend attending the L program even if you never aspire to be a judge. The information, discussions, and demonstrations of correct/incorrect movements, were not only interesting but will hone your eye for seeing the true underlying issues.

Lecture portions:
Session A was biomechanics of gaits

Session B is quality of the gaits. Evaluation of the quality of the gaits

Stay tuned for Session C in November.

Irons in the Fire

My posting on here has been limited lately. I think sporadic is a better word. Ha!Ā  I’ve been working on getting some things in the rest of my life organized, and checking out some new opportunities.

Apparently, I’ve been nominated for the Glass-Ed Board (our GMO) , and if elected I will be a Director on the board. I had to write a bio for the nomination. They generously sent me example bio’s written by former/current board members. Most of the bio’s were about two paragraphs. But what would I write? How do you condense your life into a bite sized, catchy couple paragraphs to sway people to vote for you.Ā  I finally settled on:

I am a former U.S. Marine, a software engineer, and obsessed with dressage. I own one horse, Ava, who I hope to compete at Second Level next year. I rode as a kid, took almost 20 years off, and got back into riding in 2011. My goal is to train through Grand Prix before I’m no longer capable of riding.

Elections are in November. From what I heard, there are plenty of seats open (apparently there was a mass exodus this past year).

I also volunteered as the Glass-Ed newsletter writer. I’m both daunted, and excited! My major concern is finding good reliable, factual, fresh content. This could either be awesome, or such a time drain that I’ll regret it in a few months. Guess we’ll see.

This Saturday I’ll be a demo rider for the USDF “L” Program, Session B.Ā  I’m also going to help set up the A/V on Friday night, check in people Saturday morning, and then ride Saturday evening. I’ll probably help out Sunday morning too, but then it’s off to Grandma’s 94th birthday party! Go Grandma!!!

Oh, and I was notified that I’ve earned some kind of Rider Award from Glass-Ed this year. Probably one of those “Thanks for Trying!”, “Everyone’s a Winner!” awards. šŸ˜‰Ā  I’m not saying that with a “pity me” tone. They determine the awards by number of points earned during the year, or highest percent earned during the entire year (at a specific level). There were a lot of riders who participated in numerous shows this year, and had some amazing scores. I did 3 shows. And that first one was not good.Ā  I’m not concerned with getting a prize/award for the year. We hit our goals, made good progress, and got some great feedback on things to work on over the winter, so I’m thrilled with the year!

I’ll post more about the L program and demo ride later. Until then… Enjoy the fall weather!



Edit: I just read this over, and boy does my life sound exciting! How come it never feels exciting? Usually life just feels chaotic and a daunting. And tiring. haha

Fall Dressage Show

I finished my very first Second level test yesterday! Seriously, I’m so excited to have simply not made an utter fool of myself, my trainer, or my horse. And to top it off we got a respectable score of 59.85% (I lost 2 points for halting at I instead of G). The highest score in the class was a 60.57%.


The Second Level test was the first test I rode, and then First 2 and 3. It was a little anticlimactic.

The weather was cold. It was a brisk 40 degree’s with drizzling rain. My mare hates rain. I cannot express to you how much she detests rain.

During our First Level Test 2 test, we were doing a15m canter circle into the rain when Ava flattens her ears, flings her head around, and (I swear) stomped her little feet. It was so funny looking I burst out laughing.


Our final test didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I was shivering, it was still raining, my horse bonked her head and now had a bruise where the bridle sat. Horse wasn’t happy. She was still mad about the rain smacking her in the face, and now she was ornery because her head hurt. Ava was fine, but I know whacking your head doesn’t feel good. However, she did try very hard to do as I asked, and there were some great parts to the last test. It just wasn’t a very smooth test.

Overall, not a bad last show. I got three Third places. Much better than I had expected to do.

We had some crazy good warm-ups though. I mean, awesome warm-ups. Best canter I’ve ever felt! It wasn’t just floaty, it was powerful, controlled, flowing, energy. Then we got in the arena, and I had barely there, kept falling apart canter. Anyway, now I know what it should feel like, and she can do it, so we’ve got all winter to develop that.

A few pics:





Counter Canter – Success!!!!

I was so proud of Ava last night. We successfully did a three loop (full width of the indoor arena) canter serpentine without breaking, or flipping leads. It even looked good. Almost like we knew what the heck we’re doing! (Boy have I got people fooled.)

The counter canter work also really improves her canter. She has more lift, more suspension, between strides. And she’s more evenly balanced between the aids. If I can continue working on counter canter without killing her desire to do flying changes, then we’ll be in a really good place by the time we hit Third. *Hopefully*

Third is still a very long way off though….

Topic Change:

I have my last show this Saturday, and we’re going to attempt Second Level Test 1. I’m very excited to see how we do. The counter canter part scared me the most, but that seems to be coming along well. Now I have to worry about our simple changes.

Note to Mom and Dad – Bring rain gear. But if you bring an umbrella then you can only open it when everyone else rides. šŸ˜‰ haha