Once again we were committed to doing a dressage test. Happily this one coincided with a week I’d already booked off work, so I knew I had plenty of time to prepare and plait. As I’d changed his bit to one newly purchased the day before (as I needed to return the borrowed one to the riding school) I was keen to school a bit on the morning of the test to give us a little more time to get used to it. He didn’t seem to go much differently in the purchased one than he had in the borrowed one, which was a relief. He seemed rather tired, but we did some work on the dreaded “free walk on a long rein” and some on the final centreline /halt, each of which had earned us 5 out of 10 last time. The new bit seemed to be helping with both, although it would still be a miracle if we managed the walk without him tossing his head. We had a few moments of nice contact, but his head was still more often in the air than on the bit. Well at least we don’t need to worry about accidentally doing Rollkur 😀 Although it was reasonably early in the morning it was getting hot by the end of our little ride and the flies were out in force, which was not what I wanted to see, but fussing about weather never did any good, so I didn’t worry about it and took my tack home to clean.
By the afternoon it was overcast, humid and feeling like a storm might break. I was rather hoping it would rain while I was plaiting and clear the air and the flies, but it did not. Plaiting was very hot and flies in the stable were trying both of us – him because they were landing on him and me because every time one landed he’d try to jerk his plaits out of my hand to bite it. After 3 goes at the french plait in his forelock I was not particularly pleased! Eventually I finished plaiting. He was hot, tired, grumpy and generally uncooperative. I can’t say I felt much differently but once the plaits were finished I calmed down a bit and gave him some treats. I planned to start my warmup a bit earlier than last time so that we could relax a bit, and I seemed on time to do that.
Eventually we finished preparing and went out to warm up. Mr S was on hand to support (an unexpected bonus as he’d worked away that day and got back earlier than expected to watch us).He was easy to mount (hurray for the new bit) and we started working easily, taking our time and relaxing. We even had a nice moment of contacty-outline. Luckily in the schools there was a bit of a breeze and the flies had not bothered to come and irritate us. This was particularly good as his red fly ears are not appropriate dressage-wear (note to self – look into getting some white ones) so we were relying on my home-made fly spray. Unfortunately then there was a mix-up with two little girls needing the same pony for times close together and they asked the girl ahead of me (one of the teen liveries) if she could go one slot earlier. She declined, which I don’t blame her for at all – she was doing the combined competition and her horse had reared before her jumping phase. She wanted to settle him properly for the dressage. Drifter and I had not been warming up for long, but I felt like we were probably already as good as we were going to get, so I offered to go next and ended up starting about 10 min. before my official time.
I was pretty relaxed, and unlike last time, was confident that I could manage the steering, execute every movement and remain within the arena. It was the same test and I knew it well (although I still had a caller as a safety net!) I remembered to smile and although we could have been more accurate, I was pleased that we did better than last time. I knew the free walk on a long rein was still not what they were looking for, but it was good for us – fairly straight, no head tossing, reins lengthened and subsequently taken back without incident.
And so to the scores …
Disappointingly the score was not higher than last time’s 61% … but at 60.5% I think I’ve been pretty consistent. This judge seemed to be slightly tougher, so I’m satisfied that I did a better test even if the scores don’t reflect that. Like last time most of my scores were 6 or 7, with two 5s, one of which was for our nemesis the free walk on a long rein, as I would have expected, but the most wonderful thing was that there was an 8! Not only was there an 8, but it was for our final centre-line and halt, which last time we got a 5 for! The new bit and a little practice had really paid off there!
In the competition last time there were 4 in the adult section of the competition. This time, according to the list on the wall, there were 3. I didn’t really look at the names of the adult riders, but when I was back in the stable untacking him I heard the teen next door complaining that she was down incorrectly as an adult for the walk trot competition. So actually there were only 2 adults. I was pretty sure I’d be getting a nice ribbon out of this one… and I won! I actually beat someone and took home a red rosette! As the icing on the cake I saw that the photographer had captured a picture of us in a pretty nice shape, which of course I bought, as a reminder that we can achieve this and as something to work towards doing all the time one day in the future.