Adventures in Qualifying

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Fürstenlove(Oliver 2.0) and Suzanne from HITS in August. Photo by Terri Miller

By Suzanne Krauss 

The first time I heard about the Great American/USDF Regional Dressage Championships was when a barn mate, Dianne, and her older mare “qualified” in Region 8. She rode Second Level at the time. I held the championship in high esteem, and was so impressed that someone I knew “made it”. The goal seemed so unattainable, I didn’t know how to do that.

At the time, I was a Hunter/Jumper rider on my handsome, scrappy, and much-loved Thoroughbred gelding, Oliver1.0, that I hand fed on the day he was born. We kinda rocked it in New Hampshire at the “A” Circuit shows… reserve champions three years in a row, and each year moving up another 3”.

I’d been showing for years and had dabbled in dressage. As an adult, I went to dressage schooling shows with my AMAZING, unknown breed, schoolmaster, Beau. When I say that, I mean he took care of anyone that rode him.  He was trustworthy.  At Training Level, we always scored in the 70s.  I had never been to a recognized show with him.  Honestly, I was scared away by the paperwork.  In hindsight, what a travesty.

When Oliver1.0 made a stupid move in a trailer, his surgery landed him in rehab for a full year.  When he came back, I decided dressage was the proper way to build his muscles back. I tried to hear the wisdom, and put him into work at Training Level. I also decided to get over my fear of the paperwork and signed us up for our first recognized show. Looking back, our scores would have qualified us to go to Regionals. HMMMMMMM.

We didn’t go to Regionals that year because I just didn’t know.

Finally, someone told me the 65s in First Level Test 3 that I was getting were scores that could qualify me. I had to make sure when I rode Test 3 of any level that I signed up for a qualifying class, it’s an additional $15, and you can make the addition at the show if you’ve already signed up for your test. I needed two scores at First Level of 62% or more. The scores had to come from two different judges, at two different shows. Each level has a different qualifying score. Now that I know how to qualify for the Great American/USDF Regional Championships, I’ve been three years in a row!

2019: First Level : My first year, and I was scared.  I cried a lot. (Ok I was planning our daughter’s wedding, and a friend committed suicide, just to name a few other things…) Why was I there?  My trainer at the time said,” Suzanne, do you know how many people wish they were here?”  We didn’t do well, and that’s okay. We got there.

2020: First Level: Oliver1.0 got laminitis.

2021: First Level: We scored reasonably, for us. We finished mid-pack—NOT bad! Progress.  That year we also qualified at Second Level for 2022.

At the beginning of 2022, 17-year-old Oliver1.0 moved on to a new career that put less stress on his joints and stomach. Shortly after, I got Oliver2.0. – a six-year-old hunk of a Hanoverian. 

I’m tired of the word journey, so adventure it will be.

Our first recognized class we earned a 66% at Training Level Test 3.  Yes, our first score was a Qualifying score!!! Pat on the back! But in July, I got COVID.  We didn’t go to our second recognized show for our second qualifying score.  “UGH” says the woman with a goal.

I’m NOT, NOT going to Regionals. I’m hooked.  Not to win, but for the experience.

The most logical show to go to get our second score was four hours away, and is where the Region 8 Championships are held. A good outing for my young horse. My trainer can’t go.  My barn mates can’t go. I signed up blindly, thinking – hoping – this would come together. I asked EVERYONE that I could think of if they were going—having a support system is crucial.

Less than 24 hours after I put it out there, I had a golden ticket in my hand.

I found out Dianne, the woman from the beginning of this story, was going to the same show by herself and she too has a newer horse. It’s set. We would stall next to each other and share a tack stall, and an AirBnB. 

Anxiety was a key phrase for the upcoming show.  Breathing was part of the answer.  Dianne helped by reminding me to shorten my reins and move Oliver2.0 forward!  My young horse found his show mode. I believe he loved all of the attention throughout the day. And we did it, we received two qualifying scores over the weekend.  Here we come, New York!

Read Suzanne’s other stories Who Knew? and Secrets of the USDF Training Manual.

Are you interested in qualifying for the Great American/USDF Regional Dressage Championships? Visit the Regional Championships Competitors page for all the details!

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