Area III Champs at Chatt Hills – Dressage

I didn’t have high hopes for coming out of Area Champs with a ribbon. Not when there are 17 riders in your class and they’re all good. Not when you know dressage is a hit or miss. But I did kind of hope. Our ride at Stable View (which I will some day get around to recaping) had been absolutely beautiful. I knew that if we had another test like that, we had a chance.

But I also knew I was going to be battling the heat and humidity with a ride time of 3:22. Lovely.

Still, I was excited and I headed off to warm-up hopeful. And warm-up was perfect. Hot. Dusty. Blessedly short. But perfect. My hope started to rise. We could so do this.

Then we got into the arena and Gus fell apart including mini bucks as I asked him to enter the area where all the dressage tests were. I honestly don’t know what his deal is. He could care less about the horses in warm up. He could care less about the judge’s booth (he has never once even looked sideways at it) but we get in the dressage ring and suddenly he can’t bend right to save his life. Or move off my leg.

The three things I was happy with were: our right lead canter out of the diagonal which was ironically the only time he was willing to bend, the fact that he kept his head down in the free walk instead of giraffing, and our halt was as good as it has ever been. Otherwise, it was bad. Gus just could not even deal with dressage apparently.

I admit that it looks better than it felt as I received all 6’s and 7’s except for a 4.5 on the free walk/medium walk for jigging and a 5.5. on the medium walk prior to that for being behind the vertical.

Annoyingly enough, this only seems to happen at Chatt Hills. Not that we’ve had great luck elsewhere but the complete 180 is a Chatt thing. I am thinking about having my trainer take him to a schooling show here and just ride every test she can (and blow them if she has to). And then I’ll do the same.

Partly because I had to get ready for XC and partially because I really didn’t want to know… I wasn’t too concerned about checking scores. I knew that wasn’t good enough for a top 10 placing. Sure enough, it was a 39 and change. And we were sitting in 15th.

Trot – Stretchy Trot – Lengthened Trot

After the schooling show at Chatt, my trainer has been very focused on the free walk for Gus. It’s a very frustrating element for the two of us because we can get great stretch and reach at home but the minute we get in the ring, that goes buh-bye! LT wants us to go to a schooling show and ride in a bunch of tests and, if we have to, throw the test to school that dang walk in the ring. I know she’s right but I’m loath to do it because I don’t like throwing anything. Maybe I’ll have her ride him…

Normal medium trot

While we aren’t making a lot of progress at the walk, I feel like our trot work is coming along very well. It’s all baby work at this point but I’m super happy with the try I’m getting.

I’ve never had a lot of luck with the stretchy trot but Gus is starting to like the opportunities I give him to reach down and out. We need to still work on the out… okay, we need a lot more out! … but it is coming together one step at a time. Even better, I can actually transition between the medium trot and the stretchy trot without turning Gus into a giraffe.

Not our best stretchy trot but at least photo evidence of it being worked on

We have also begun to work on lengthening our trot. I know it’s not needed for eventing dressage for a while (training level?) but it is definitely helping Gus learn to use his hind end and push. LT’s favorite exercise for this is to stay on a 10-15m circle asking for more and more push behind but not letting him out. Then when I feel like I’m riding springs, I let him go down the long side (or diagonal) still pushing for more but just letting that power go forward. It is not easy for Gus or for myself but the few steps we get are fun! And each time we work on it, things get a little better.

Knee action! Baby lengthenings!

It may not look like much now but we’re building the foundation for really great dressage work in the future. At least, I hope we are!

Poplar Place Farm May HT 2017 – Dressage

I may have been a little bit exhausted doing Poplar just two weeks after Sporting Days, but it ended up being the best choice! Having two back to back shows really helped Gus and I settle into show life and I think we both learned a lot.

Dressage was no exception to that! I was a little bit worried on Friday because I had a firecracker in warm-up. To be fair to Gus, warm-up was crazy and it was cold and dreary. I didn’t really want to be out there either. Still, I wish he could have just settled and got to work. That way we could have both gotten inside faster!

Thankfully Saturday was much nicer weather and Gus was much calmer in warm-up.

The test was really nothing special and the judge, apparently already a tough judge, scored it that way. However, what the judge doesn’t know is that it was the most consistent test Gus and I have ever had. We rode Test A, which I like better than Test B. I did have to really fight for the consistency with Gus but I’m proud that I went in there and held him to the rules.

The one thing that I was sort of disappointed with my score about was our free walk. I really thought that was the best free walk we’ve ever had but we got a 5.0. That really hurt considering the coefficient. I hate to think what the judge would have scored our Sporting Days free walk!

Our final score was a 36.8. Yuck! I thought we had done at least a 34. But the judge scored everybody just as harshly so I ended up being in fourth place afterwards out of eleven. Can’t complain too much.

He’s a good boy though and we keep getting better and better in the actual ring.

Sporting Days HT April 2017 Dressage

I thought we’d start this recap off with ALL THE DRAMA (TM) or better known as “How I almost got disqualified at my very first event.” To do so, however, I need to back up and tell you what happened on my lesson the Wednesday before. *cue flashback music and fade out*

LT had us working on our dressage, naturally, and Gus was really not feeling it. He’s always been a little bit bridle sour when he’s annoyed but this was beyond that. Gus would not stop shaking his head and giraffing as we worked through our test. LT was standing at C like a judge and as we came by her and transitioned to a walk she cried “stop! He’s bleeding!” WHUT? Sure enough, the bridle had pinched him and he was bleeding from a little rub. Poor guy! No wonder he wasn’t happy. We figured it was a combination of me clipping him earlier in the week and the hardware from the crank so we moved the crank further up on his face and doctored up the cut. Thankfully, that seemed to do the trick and we had no more bleeding and Gus was happy to get back to work with only normal green horse connection issues. Crisis adverted.

So now fast forward to Friday at Sporting Days where we are using the arena for one quick dressage lesson. The rub is heeling up nicely and we are doing great work. Eric, aka Mr. Wonderful, brings me a bottle of Gatorade to chug as we take a quick break and says, “he’s bleeding again.” MOTHER !#$%&*. This time super trainer thinks that the bit is now rubbing where the scab was. We end warm up and decide to be very careful during our official warm-up the next day since Gus is clearly not in pain and is willing to work.

And I promise, it was not gushing or even dripping blood. Super trainer and I never would have pushed forward if we thought we were doing permanent injury or that Gus was in pain. This was a very minor rub that hit us at just the wrong week.

Will it shock you to hear that after just five minutes in warm-up the rub was bleeding again? No? Well, it was. So now we had a quick tack change to a bit that would not pinch or hit the rub and hope for the best. We also shortened what had been planned (and needed) 45 minute warm up to a handful of 20 meter circles and a canter transition in each direction. Thankfully Gus was on his A game for warm-up. It would have been helpful to get the right amount but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Finally, after all that drama, I was able to enter the ring and trot down centerline. We rode a decent but a no-sparkle dressage test and our results showed it. I thought the judge was very fair though one of few words (seriously, one word comments on my test and almost nothing at the bottom…). We got mostly 6’s and 7’s which I think was very fair. We unfortunately got a 5 on our free walk, a double coefficient (ouch!), which kept the score from being better but did get a 7.5 for his gaits.

Gus’ greenness really showed in this test as he did still want to check out everything going on in the ring and I had to be a little tough in portions of the test. Still, that will come with more time and more chances in the ring. Overall, he was wonderful and that was the most steady test we’ve ridden yet. In the end the judge said we had “many lovely moments” and gave us a 34.30. A very decent score but one that sadly had us in 6th out of 7th. Oh well, what can you do? At least we were able to ride the test.

After all of that though, I was very happy to be through dressage. We looked good. We put in a solid test. Now it was time for the jumping.

Poplar Place Farm Schooling H.T. 2.11.17 – Part 1

Since the agility trial the previous weekend, I have been battling an unrelenting sinus infection. Trouble breathing, sore throats, and a nasty hack are not what you really want going into a horse show, especially not when you’re going to be camping. But it’s what I had.

Partially due to being sick and partially due to the fact that one day shows are just a mess, nothing quite seemed to line up perfectly this weekend. I felt like I was left constantly rushing from one second to the other and not making good use of my time. For example, I could have been giving Gus a bath and actually making him look presentable (i.e. NOT like a wooly mammoth) but instead I wasted time walking XC without a map.

But I’ll share that story later.

Suffice it to say, when I tacked Gus up for dressage, the only thing I was happy with was my shiny new bridle. And if it weren’t for Hillary helping me out, I highly doubt I would have made it into the ring at all.

But thankfully I did. And I even managed to remember my dressage test which I had only rememorized earlier that morning.

poplar-laurenn-1

I was not in the best state of mind going into the warm up. I was running late, which always makes me cranky, and just not feeling the whole day. This will be a recurring theme for this show. New Trainer put me to work trying to control where Gus’ rib cage was at all times but in my head I was thinking “this is a lost cause today. Let me just ride my test and get this over with.”

Not the best attitude right?

poplar-laurenn-4

I know, I’m miserable when I’m sick and horse show stress was not helpful.

poplar-laurenn-5

However, thanks to having that warm up and these many months of consistent lessons with New Trainer, Gus and I marched down that center line and laid down the best test we’ve ever had. The connection was steadier than it has ever been, our canter transitions were lovely, and, even though I was unbalanced through the final turn and off the centerline, Gus still gave me a nice square halt.

poplar-laurenn-9

We earned a lot of 6.5s for this test and even a handful of 7s. Not a single score below 6 which was extremely pleased about. The judge did want more steady connection and better accuracy  through my corners but hey, I’m sick, cut me some slack. That’s what I’m going to chalk it up to anyway.

I’m even happy with my posture which is a lot more up and lot less hunter lean these days. I still have to figure out how to stop slipping my reins though since I don’t even realize I’m doing it until someone yells at me or I see pictures. Jesh, it’s amazing I have any connection sometimes.

poplar-laurenn-12

Our final score was a 34.75 which I thought was pretty fair. It put us in fourth place, right in the middle of the pack and that was good enough for me. I was thrilled with how Gus kept it together and how I managed to ride a fairly competent test even with being sick. Biggest accomplishment for me, though? I managed to remember to smile for almost the entirety of the test and didn’t ruin all of my photos.

poplar-laurenn-13

Next up: Stadium!