Dressage again

I have mentioned that I had a virus. I had it for about 3 weeks and for most if that time wasn’t well enough to work, ride, or do much more than lie down. I had time off work which ran into my holiday. It was not good timing, but it could have been worse – I was still able to do everything I planned on my holiday, even if I did it with less energy than I would have liked.

I started feeling maybe-better-enough-for-a-little-walk/trot at the weekend which opened my holiday. I wasn’t really well enough for much but was keen to get riding as on the Tuesday we had our last dressage test of the summer. And I’d barely ridden for weeks, one way or another. And this was the dressage test I’d said my mother and my in-laws could come to (previously only Mr S had been allowed to come and watch us). I wanted to get back in the saddle ASAP and do some preparation!

DSCN4359 By the Monday I was relieved to find I could practice the whole test once through without needing to stop to get my breath back in the middle. This was a major achievement. Most of the elements were a bit dodgy but at least I’d be able to get through the test. It would be nice if, one day, we can go into a dressage test feeling prepared and like it’s well within our capabilities. Maybe next year…

The competition had been advertised as the trophy winners’ competition, the idea being that people would have competed in every one of the summer dressage competitions, accumulating points over the 5 competitions so that they could award a champion at this one. Unfortunately I think people thought that this meant they couldn’t enter unless they’d been in all of the previous competitions. It was not very clear from the literature that you could do it as a one-off event or participate in the championship or both. For this reason attendance was very low. I had only been to two of the preceding dates, but had checked it was OK for me to participate in this one. We were doing the same walk-trot test as our other attempts. The main comment from the judge on the previous one was that we lacked impulsion, so I was hopeful that we might improve there even if everything else was scrappy. I had a little ride on the morning of the test and things were not encouraging. Centre lines were missed, halts were wonky, and we just weren’t working well. I reminded myself I must be grateful I was well enough to do the test at all and that I couldn’t ask for too much from either of us, and went home to clean my tack.

It was a shame that the competition for which I had more guests watching me was the smallest and least impressive. Because the field was smaller my time was later which I initially thought was a good thing. For once I had time for a breather between the stress of plaiting up and when I needed to start tacking up. I kept Drifter tied outside his stable because I didn’t want him getting dirty or rubbing the plaits out. It became apparent that he was getting bored, so I took him for a little in-hand walk, trot and graze to try to keep him entertained, but it didn’t really do the job. In hindsight I should have just put him back in his stable. In keeping his body clean I let his mind get frustrated. And frustrated horses don’t do their best dressage.

After the usual mad scramble where I don’t start tacking up quite early enough, we got out to warm up. He was uncooperative, which made me tense, which made him worse. At least we had time for a decent warm up, and perhaps he’d settle, I thought. But after a short time one of the teens, also warming up, decided to come over and coach me. Although I very much appreciate her kind attempts to help me, I did not want any riding advice at that point – I just wanted to try to get in the zone. Yes, I am tense. I am aware of that. Your pointing it out is perhaps not as helpful as you think it is.

It’s the thought that counts though and I am genuinely pleased that she cared enough to try.

So we did our test. For the first time I remembered to look at the correct temporary letters rather than the everyday ones in the wrong places. I felt like we had more impulsion, but little accuracy. Turns onto the center-line were uniformly rubbish; trot to walk transitions mostly late; walk to trot, early. He was anticipating and rushing – both signs that he’d had enough. He’d been good for ages getting ready and now he just wanted to be left alone. I was exhausted and getting through the patterns was sorely testing my stamina. I tried to keep a smile for the photographer despite it all and was grateful when it was over and we could untack and stop.

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I later discovered that there was no photographer this time, presumably because not enough people had booked in to make it worth his while. So all that smiling was for nothing!

The scores were posted and I found myself in second place with my usual score of 61%. I hadn’t really hoped for any better and at least it wasn’t worse than previous attempts. Time to wait for the score sheets.

My score sheet was mostly 5s and 7s, with the majority of the 5s involving a centre-line. Previously my sheets have mostly been 6s, so the absence of 6s struck me, but I think we did do a very up-and-down test, so I think it was probably accurate marking. I did manage a double scored 6 on the free walk on a long rein, which I’m very pleased with as we only got 5s for this before and the double marked score for impulsion (which I was particularly keen to improve) had gone up from a 5 in our last test to a 7 in this, so I had achieved that goal.

Had I been well and he been in a more cooperative mood I think we could have turned most of those 5s into 6s or 7s, so I’m hopeful we’re on the right tracks, even if the overall score seems stuck at 61%. It’s a shame this was the last of the dressage series. I don’t know when the next chance will be to improve on this. I am hopeful that there will be dressage at the Christmas show if not before, but that seems like a long way from now, although I know it will be on us in no time.

As none of the adult walk-trot-ers had attended every one of the dressage competitions I had a chance of ranking in the championship. Despite only doing 3 out of the 5 competitions I came in 3rd place in the championship. I was close to coming 2nd but not quite close enough. Sadly there were only rosettes for champion and runner-up, but I got my blue rosette for 2nd in that day, which I liked particularly because I hadn’t been sure if they’d have non-championship rosettes and also because it’s a beautiful blue.

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2 thoughts on “Dressage again

  1. The Dancing Rider says:

    Congratulations! Which test? I’m sorry I’m forgetting…..A or B?

    I’m trying A in October I think (if life does not interfere – which it’s had a nasty habit of doing lately). I don’t expect anything over 55% at this early stage. Everyone there will have ridden either for their whole lives off and on, or most assuredly far long thatn I.

    Really enjoyed the blow-by-blow re tacking up and warmup….not to mention the teen trying to give you friendly advice. That never seems to help me, only making me more tense in such situations!

    Good job, and you two look so nice in the photo.

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s a locally made up test rather than a real official one, so I don’t think it’s either of them. It’s mostly in trot, has 20m circles, a serpentine, trots across the long diagonal with 3-4 steps of walk over X, the free walk and lots of centre lines.

      I hope October will go well for you. Yes, it’s hard doing anything marked in an environment where even some of the 6 year olds have been riding longer than me – I certainly know that feeling!

      Thanks for your kind words 🙂

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