2012 show season · beginner novice a · dressage tests · hitching post farm · video

Hitching Post Recap: Dressage

…and then life intervened, whew. I haven’t even turned on my home computer since Monday, much less been able to work from it.

Back on track. Tristan woke up on Saturday morning disinclined to participate in the day’s activities. He paced his stall, followed me around while I cleaned it around him, had hoovered up his grain but was fussing too much to really eat more hay after that. I cleaned his stall as best I could – he’d tracked hay a fair bit, next time I’ll know and bring a hay net – and put him on the trailer. We got to the grounds about 6:50. My goal was to get on by 7:30.

Thank goodness I had some help getting him ready, because he would. not. stand. still. He’s typically a little fidgety in new places to be tacked up, but this went beyond the pale. He was flinging everyone who hung onto him every which way he could. Eventually we got tack on him, but it took three times as long to do a running braid in his mane – and unfortunately it looked terrible – because I couldn’t get a grip with his flinging about.

He was a hot ticket in his warmup too, and I fell into my typically nasty trick not wanting to put leg on because he was so reactive. Please understand that Tristan’s reactive is an order of magnitude smaller than most horses; I prefer him that way. He is spooky and light so rarely that it unnerves me when he is. I can out-stubborn my horse all day long, but as soon as he gets reactive, I feel like I’m riding a horse of spun glass and hesitate to apply firm aids.

Luckily, T. talked us through it, and pointed out that when I actually put my leg on, firmed my reins, and rode him, he was going nicely. If I’d had another 15 minutes I might’ve really settled us in, but the warmup was not terribly productive. We moved down to the secondary warmup and did some trotting. I opted out of cantering down there to avoid problems with the little kids on ponies without steering.

I felt good about him once he was in the ring, though, and overall, was happy with my test. He was responsive and mostly willing. The first left canter circle was terrible; sort of a 15 meter egg shape instead of a proper circle. After the free walk, though, I felt great about everything. I knew we’d nailed the free walk, which is one of Tristan’s favorite things, and I felt great about the right trot circle and then, bless him, he gave me an right lead bang on cue. My halt wavered a bit but I waited until he’d settled and gave a full, proper, measured salute.

(Pet peeve: riders who slide into a halt and nod and fling their hand out to the side in .25 seconds while their horse is still jigging. I halt, confirm he’s settled, put down my hand, half count, put down my head, half count, and then bring both back slowly. Then I look at the judge, then I drop the reins.)

The judge said it was a really nice test, and T. said afterwards it was really quite pleasant. He has said in days since that Tris wasn’t carrying any tension at all in his hind legs, and really produced a nice, rhythmical test, which was great news. Though I didn’t know it at the time, we scored a 32, with an 8 for the free walk and, astoundingly, an 8 for gaits. Thanks to my hare-brained wavering during the halt, we got a 5 for that – apparently I managed to completely miss X.

One of the barn moms was kind enough to email me a few days later and say that she’d videod the second half of Tristan’s test, so here it is for posterity. It starts with that lovely free walk.

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