I've officially followed in a few fellow blogger's footsteps and delved into the world of dressage. We've been practicing our test (Training Level Test 1)for the last couple of weeks and we've had some up's and down's at home. I really wasn't sure how it would go but I figured, well I'm entered and paid up, I'd better go. Our trouble spots have been the canter to trot transition and the stretchy trot & walk parts. The trot tends to be a bit too fast (in my opinion anyways) and the walk is not so straight and not as stretchy as it could be.
The cheap side of me originally planned to trailer down the morning of the show. Then I got to thinking.... Our first class was at 7:50 am.... How early am I going to have to get up?? Ick. So I coughed up the $ and trailered down the night before. It was a REALLY good idea because it SNOWED a bunch more overnight and wouldn't have been the best drive down. Plus it gave me the opportunity to school in the arena the night before, which was good because Brigit thought the fake flowers that decorated all of the letter cones were TERRIFYING at first. Once she got over that, we had a lovely, relaxed ride. The arena has this neat footing, it's white silica sand & cotton fibre so it feels really nice & springy to ride in! I'm also glad I went down the night before because I had lots of time to get Brigit and all of my stuff ready, much more relaxed than trying to come down the morning of.
I have to say, there are benefits to riding in a small arena all the time. You really learn to use your arena and go deep into corners. The ring was HUGE compared to ours at home, Must have been 20 m by at least 60 m or more. It was awesome to have some more time to get organized in between some of the movements (ie the canter half circle, to the trot, to the stretchy trot circle).
I didn't sleep well at all, I kept trying to remember the directions to get back to the barn from my friend's house (where I stayed the night) and I kept running through the dressage test in my head.
On to the show! So we show up for the warm up at 7:00 am and this time we're sidesaddle and everybody is looking. Now Brigit is ok with the fake flowers but she's terrified of the judges table....oh no. Back out of the ring to finish getting dressed and then we're in for the "Dressage Pleasure Hack". The class went really well but I had no idea what the judge thought of me riding sidesaddle. Turns out we got 2nd place! And the judge came up to me afterwards and said she was very impressed and she admitted that she had to check the rulebook because she's never had anyone ride sidesaddle.
Our next ride wasn't until 12:00, so I untacked & both Brigit and I had some breakfast. I learned a lot from watching everyone else's ride and listening to other trainers give their students tips. I noticed a lot of not-so-round circles and cut corners, something we've been really working on! The more I watched, the more confident I felt about our ride.
We got another warm up session before I went in for my test. I started at the far end and just wanted to focus on relaxation and that stretchy circle. I swear we almost had the heck/neck set of a reiner! Brigit was trotting and cantering around with her head nearly on the ground! Wow! ...And then we went to the other end of the ring and suddenly Brigit had decided she was terrified of the judges table...... Ooooh no. We're talking, totally counter bent, giving the hairy eyeball to the judge, going sideways et al. Oh well, not much we can do about it now! We walked up and down the holding area working on focus and a nice quiet halt and then it was our turn....
It felt like everybody came out of the barn to watch and boy was I nervous!! Our trot in and halt was great, except Brigit turned her head to look at something during the salute, darn! Brigit looked at the judges table a bit as we went past but was pretty good. I was so pleased with the whole test, our circles were round (although we need to work on our bend going to the right more), our transitions were dead on and smooth. The trot circle was SUPER stretchy and Brigit really lengthened out, the judge thought it was a bit rushed, which I agree but she was really reaching so I didn't fiddle with it too much. Considering it's our first test, I could't have been happier with it!
It's in my nature to pick apart my ride though and there's a couple places I'd work on improving. Our "free walk" across the diagonal wasn't totally horrible but I wasn't happy with it. It wasn't very stretchy at all and our pace was really inconsistent, something the judge noted too. After the free walk we had to trot at "C", right where the judge was sitting and all Brigit wanted to do was stare at the judge, she was totally counterbent and there wasn't much I could do about it without a leg on the right side! lol I could hear the judge say "resisting..." to the scribe as I went past. The rest went really well but by this time I was getting TIRED!
I was really pleased with ourselves! It went really smooth and only had a couple of minor hiccups. We got a big round of applause! I realized that were were up against some stiff competition and didn't really expect much in terms of placing considering it was our first time out. Because I teach riding lessons and do some tune up rides, I'm considered a pro, so I have to ride against the pro's (I don't mind).
Boy was I ever shocked & proud to hear that we earned ourselves 2nd place with a score of 65.208%!!!! Yay us!
I had a lot of fun at the show and I really understand why people love dressage! I think I may be hooked and will definitely be doing this again! The perfectionist in me loves the challenge of getting each element just right!
Unfortunately I have NO pictures of us!!! BUT there was a professional photographer at the show that takes amazing photos, I will be buying a few and I'll share them when I get them!