2016 show season · champlain dressage schooling series · dressage

Longer Show Recap

Can I just say, I envy all of you who can do blow-by-blow accounts of your tests? Like, you remember pieces of them? I dunno. Maybe my head is stuffed too full of everything else, but I can only retain some basic pieces.

First: holy fuck, the weather was miserable. It wasn’t so much the rain or the wind as it was the rain, and the wind, and the cold, all together, constantly. Watch Emilie’s video to get a sense of the day.

My last prep ride on Friday, after our epic, come-to-Jesus ride on Thursday, was…sluggish. He was tiiiiiiired. We did a thoroughly uninspired run-through of both tests in the dressage ring, in the snaffle, and then he got a long bath. Which he hated, but desperately needed.

Saturday night I didn’t sleep terribly well; I drilled and re-drilled the tests, but they would not stay in my head. Not only that, but I discovered that the long diagonal free walk in Training 1 that I had memorized and schooled was, well, not a long diagonal after all, but a short one. *facepalm*

Sunday morning: bang on schedule for everything, but maybe a smidge short on warmup time. I was in not-fucking-around mode, Which was both good and bad. It meant that I was disciplined and strategic about what I chose to do with him, spotted trouble spots, and tried to work through them. It also meant that I was tense, iron-fisted, and railroaded him through everything.

setting off. nope, didn’t braid. zero regrets.

From a certain point of view, that was the ride he needed. And it worked: we had not a hint of the bolting, bucking, uncooperative little shit that he had been for the previous three weeks. When I told him to jump, he asked how high. He was so docile that halfway through my warmup I went down to the barn and got a whip, and that added in the last bit of sharpness that I needed, but he still remained controllable.

note clenched fists.

But I’m not going to pretend that was a ride that was going to score well in a dressage ring!

I rode Training 2 first, and succumbed at the last second to an offer to have the test read. That was a first for me! I’ve read many tests, seen many read, but have never had one of my own read. It kind of underlined my theme of the weekend: do what you can, and let the rest go.

sit up. SIIIIIT UP.
Anyway, Training 2: I was pleased with the way we rode into corners, the promptness of transitions, and while he was braced AF, we at least had lines of communication. I softened when I felt like I could, which was probably way less often than I actually could have, but having gained the upper hand finally there was no way I was letting it go.
I was less than pleased with the, of all things, the lack of interest in my inside leg, particularly to the left, that meant that we were miiiiiiiiiiiiles away from the fence, particularly on circles and particularly in the canter.
does that circle look like it’s going to end up anywhere NEAR E?
On the other hand: free walk! YEAH! One of my very few claims to fame is that I do a damn good free walk. Just a few seconds after the picture below was taken he stretched out even more. You can get a sense of how windy it was by his mane & tail.

So, Training 2: I felt pretty good about having nailed the thing, if not done it well, and then we hung out by the ring in the rain waiting for Training 1. I felt like Training 1 would be my chance to actually do well.

Mostly I was right in that. I was much more present in the test, having the assurance that he was going to behave. I identified moments to ask for more, and moments to soften. He responded well to both. So while it was a more uneven test than the first one I’d ridden – which had consistency going for it, even if it was consistently tense – I was more pleased with it.

Well, except for a few dumbass moments. First! I kicked over A on my way in. And laughed my ass off down the entire center line. The judge was clearly grinning pretty hard too when I did my salute, and Tristan didn’t care, but man, that was embarrassing.

you can see it on its side in the background here.
Second: I put the right canter circle in the wrong place. It’s in the end of the ring, and I put it in the center. Which is a shame as it was actually turning into a really nice circle when I heard the bell. Damn it. -2.
And THEN when we went to do it again, I was so determined to put him on the rail so he could go deep into the corner so we could get the canter transition on a bend so we could be ready to get a good 20m circle…I put him too close to the rail. And he did a little tap dance and I heard his hoof hit the board and I said “DON’T YOU DARE” right at C, and of course lost all of that prep for the canter. (The judge either didn’t hear me – which I find hard to believe – or took pity on me and did not mark this as an error, but I totally deserved one.)
I was overall happier with this test, with his rideability and my decision-making, though it was still tense.
what do you mean, straight and upright on a canter circle?
In my partial defense, by the time I entered the ring for my second test it was raining so hard I could barely see through my glasses. A few people actually commented on it afterwards.
CRUSHED the free walk again!
Both tests ended up right around 58%, which is less than ideal, but was good enough for second place in the class, which tells me two things: a) hooray, schooling shows! and b) the judge scored really tough, which I like. Down with the 6’s and 7’s for every movement!
We scored lowest on our canter circles and any moment when we needed to display bend. We pulled in 7’s on both free walks, and the centerlines & halts. Centerline + halt requires little to no actual skill and it’s one of the few things I pride myself on consistently nailing.
my own feelings on appropriate salutes are a matter of public record
I put Tris back in the barn, toweled off my tack pending a cleaning later that day, and praised him to the skies. He really did so well. Far better than I expected. It was not fancy or anything, but for our first time in the ring in 4 years, amid disastrous weather and a less than ideal prep in the last two weeks, plus the totally scrambled state of my brain – I’m pleased.
spent several minutes trying to get him to put his ears forward, no joy
Which is not to say the competitive nature of my brain now wants to SHOW ALL THE SHOWS, NOW. It does. We’ve got probably three more schooling shows lined up for the summer, pending rides, and we can definitely do better.
kinda wish I’d gotten a picture later in the day when all the branches on that tree started swaying

I spent the rest of the day being a general helper around the show grounds. Frankly, I was as miserable, cold, and wet as I’ve ever been at a horse show. The company was exemplary, but wow. At a certain point after about noon most of us hit the wall, reached the other side, and the rain almost didn’t even matter anymore. Wet and cold was a constant state of being.

I helped clean up as much as I could but I admit I bolted as soon as the show was over. I went home, took a loooooooooong hot shower, and sat down on the couch for a cup of hot tea, a few minutes of relaxation…and fell sound asleep for about 2.5 hours. Whoops.

So, that’s the story of the show! Overall good. Plenty of room for improvement.

2016 show season · dressage · fashion · show planning

One step forward, two steps back

First, the good news: show clothes still fit! Including the white breeches!

The coat is just a smidge tight, but not in the “doesn’t fit” way, in the “cut to be restrictive and make you sit up straight” way, and it’s always tended that way.
My stock tie has vanished, but as of late last night I have another one on the way from a friend which is a fun story I will blog about later.
I also located my show helmet, hairnet, show gloves, stock pin without difficulty, remembered that I had actually bought a brand new white show shirt out of some technical wizard fabric like all the kids are wearing these days (my old show shirt was a polyester short sleeved thing that worked for IHSA classes in college but was the actual pits of fashion). I had never worn said shirt but a wearing it in the picture above!
I had also (yay past me!) washed and neatly packed away all my white/show saddle pads. So those are good to go too.
Now the bad news: I tried to start Tristan in his snaffle in the dressage ring last night and it was kind of a disaster. He bolted repeatedly, never relaxed, never softened, would not listen to me and as a result our circles were weird half-square half-oval blobs. In fairness, it was ludicrously windy, so that may have keyed him up, but it was still absolutely awful.
I brought him back down to the indoor and schooled the everloving shit out of him. We ran both tests. We ran every movement in both tests. We ran transitions, We cantered. I put on spurs and a whip and forced him forward into a hand gallop. He was tiiiiiired but finally cooperative at the end.
Then we went up to the outdoor jumping arena, and we repeated that, making sure I had brakes and that he was listening to leg and hand in the walk, trot, and canter. Then we went back up to the dressage ring and trotted and cantered around the outside, politely. He was ever so very tired, but cooperative.
So, today: we’ll see. I’ll start in his snaffle but bring his kimberwicke up. Depending on how the ride goes I’ll decide whether to warm him up in his kimberwicke and switch to the snaffle for the actual rides.
Semi-related gripe: I didn’t read Training 2 through thoroughly enough, what the hell. How many times can you cross the diagonal in one goddamn test?!

2016 show season · dressage · show planning

Baby Steps & Show Prep

First things first: on Tuesday night, I started my ride in the kimberwicke, and let’s just say there was not enough pony kicking in the world. So I hopped off and swapped bridles – I had brought his dressage bridle up – and Tristan was a ROCK STAR.

We ran through Training 1, and my geometry was the absolute suck, but Tristan took a half halt, gave me some bending, and even softened up quite nicely in the canter. It was nowhere near a world-beating ride but there were moments of respectable dressage. Which is really all we’ve ever aspired to.

So, we might actually pull this off!

Things left to do:
– pull out my show clothes you guys I haven’t even unzipped my coat bag since we moved to Vermont and literally the last time I put on my white breeches was July 2012 THIS CAN ONLY END IN TEARS
– give Tristan a bath
– clean tack
– actually read Training 2 and maybe think about memorizing it
– think through some kind of warmup plan? who am I kidding, I’m going to wing this on Sunday morning

Realistically: I have this evening to do one last major ride and pull out my show clothes, and then tomorrow afternoon – maybe? – to do a quick tune-up, give Tristan a bath, and clean tack.

Also last night I pulled out a calendar and counted and for a stretch that started this past Tuesday, this coming Sunday is my only complete day off for 21 days. So of course I’m horse showing, then volunteering afterwards. What is it about horses that encourages so many bad life decisions?

Oh, and it’s going to rain. All day. Yup.

2016 show season · dressage

Training Level Test 1

Whelp, I’ve officially entered Tristan for a schooling dressage show on June 5. I skimmed the tests and picked Training 1 and Training 2 for…no real reason other than they’re sequential. It’s been so long since we’ve attempted a test all the way through that I have no really good sense of what will play to his strengths, and honestly sussing that out is not gonna happen before the entry deadline.

So, I’ve been looking more closely at Training 1.

1. Centerline, halt, turn left. Potential pitfalls: halting square, picking up the trot again without a tantrum, heading straight toward the judge’s box. Beginner Novice B, I MISS YOU AND YOUR BENDING LINE ENTRANCE.
2. Track left, circle in the center. Potential pitfalls: geometry. Bulging right shoulder. Staying in the arena.
3. Transition to canter, turn left. Potential pitfalls: crossing the entrance again; Tristan might see an easy way out. Also, our canter transitions are pretty much mired in suck right now. At least the left transition is as far away from the judge as it gets.
4/5. Canter circle in the center, back to trot. Potential pitfalls: Staying on the circle in the canter, especially left. Geometry. Staying in the ring.
6/7. Free walk across the diagonal. Potential pitfalls: picking the medium walk back up for F. 
8/9. Trot transition, circle right in the center. Potential pitfalls: staying on the circle, a not-ugly transition at A.
10/11/12. Canter transition, circle in the center, trot transition. Potential pitfalls: as mentioned above, our canter transitions are ugh. Geometry always a concern in the canter. Timing the transition back to trot.
13. Centerline, halt, salute. Potential pitfalls: making the turn, keeping the centerline straight, getting the halt square.
The good news: this gives me some marching orders. In particular, those canter transitions. Fix them and we’ll nail down a lot of the other problems – especially the shoulder-flinging.
I’ve been working on the trot-walk-free walk and back again transitions for a little while now. Tris has a great free walk, mostly because he’s so relieved I let him do what he wants. The trick is keeping it marching – we’ve mostly got that, but it will be different in the other ring. I need to be more subtle and tactful about picking the reins back up, too.
In short: while I have no doubt we can get the basic test done, I need to polish some of the pieces. All of them are well within our capabilities. I wish I hadn’t hit a valley right when we need to be ramping up for this test, though.