Dressage day

It transpired that our walk/trot test was the first of the day. So my hoped-for lie-in turned into getting-up-early to plait.

Being a somewhat lazy owner of a black horse I had not bathed him and had no intention to do so. Both the day before and on the morning I gave him a super thorough grooming and hot-cloth and I have to say most of him looked very clean indeed when I’d finished, although the mane was grubby if you looked closely, but my plaiting improved that by being neat enough to draw compliments. If there’s one thing I’m proud of it’s my pony-brushing skills 😉

Unfortunately he was a little dribbly in the bowels department today, so I ended up washing brown drips off his one white sock at intervals throughout the morning! Thankfully once I’d plaited his tail he managed not to dirty that again!

I was glad to find that I actually managed to stick to my time-table and get tacked up and in to warm up in lots of time. This has never happened in any of our previous dressage tests. As we had plenty of time we started walking round on the buckle, to chill us both out and get my mindset from ‘groom-and-plait-fast-until-your-arm-falls-off” to “we-are-connected-as-a-team” and “when-I-move-you-move.” Still on the buckle I rode all sorts of unexpected shapes to get his mind switched on while his body was relaxing. After a brief trot still on the buckle we shortened up and I started asking for contact, roundness and power from back to front. We had some very nice moments in the warmup where I really felt his back lift and round. And of course we had some giraffing to balance it out. I used canter to improve the trot, and lots of transitions to keep his brain switched on. Although I tried to keep him wanting more, it was actually quite a nice mini-schooling session.

At just about the right time we were asked to make our way from the warm up arena to the competition arena. On the way past we collected our caller and on we went. The judge’s booth, AKA a small blue Peugeot belonging to one of the instructors was parked at one end of the school, with white plastic drain pipes marking out the edge of the area at that end, and the fences marking the other 3 sides. As is usual for tests in that particular school, the dressage letters on the fences are not in the right places so for tests they use moveable ones. This is not confusing at all … no, wait, it’s totally confusing. In the past they have stuck paper over the wrong ones but today both correct and incorrect letters were visible and I’m pretty sure I used the wrong A for every centre line I rode today!

I was glad of the caller because there was one point in the walk trot test where I had no idea what came next! Luckily despite the wind trying to snatch her words she has a very loud voice which gave me an anchor to cling to.


All in all I felt that our walk trot test was a solid effort. While there were things that could have gone better there were moments I was very happy with.

So what did the judge think?

Most movements we got a 6 or a 7, but we also got our first 8! Even more unexpectedly the 8 was for the halt. Seriously!? We usually do not halt well, but I guess we are both squarer at all times in the new saddle, so that’s got to do good things to the halt.

Overall mark: 64.5%

I was over the moon. I think previously 62 has been our best, so this was just what I wanted. We took 3rd with that but it felt like 1st to me 😀

For the first time I had multiple tests to do because we were also having our first bash at Preliminary – yes a test with canter in it.

I popped D back in the stable and untacked. He took the opportunity to pose for the camera while I was dropping his girth on the floor.



I popped a little rug on him and left him with instructions not to poo on his white leg again. He did not listen.

In no time at all I was tacking him up again, washing off that leg again and warming up again. This time my warmup was not as tranquil, but still better than we’ve managed on other occasions. For some reason he was not picking up the canter nicely but we were called to go round, so round we went.

Again my caller was enlisted, although I knew this test much better, and again I was glad of her when my mind blanked. It is a much more complex test, which gave me little time to think. This has good points and bad points! It seemed to be going OK.


The above picture shows my earlier point about the letters. The B in front of the horse is the misleading one. The one behind us is B for the purposes of the test!

It was always going to be a bit of an unknown quantity when we got to canter. We picked up the first canter OK, and then needed to circle in canter in front of the judge’s car. Canter circles are not exactly our forte yet … which is probably why it turned into complete motorbiking round the corner with me yanking on the inside rein to try to stay inside the arena. I’m pretty sure we cantered on the drain pipe marking the edge of the arena, but maybe we just kicked it out of place and kept ourselves in. Hard to tell, but I was pretty embarrassed. But I didn’t have time to be because staying on the circle and transitioning down to canter was taking all my attention. Then we had to do the same on the other rein … and pretty much did the same on the other rein, except now we’d lost the drain pipe we kicked away, so we had a few more cm to play with! Ah well, it can’t get any worse from here, sit back and enjoy the final centreline.

I was pretty disappointed. But at the same time I’d just done my first test including canter, and I was pretty sure we’d been on the right leg and pretty much done the movements. Whether we’d be disqualified for leaving the arena I couldn’t be sure. Had we stayed in or not? But who cares. I’d already done one good test and I’d managed a recognisable version of this one.

We cooled off. I put him back in his stable. After a bit he got a whole swede for a treat.

I waited for the results. Eventually someone seemed to be writing something on the board… and it looked like a score so we probably weren’t disqualified. Yay us!

I went over to look. “Seriously,” I said to the staff member who works out the percentages, “I don’t think that’s our score.” He double checked. “SIXTY-7?” I asked. “Shouldn’t it be fifty-seven?” “Nope. That’s right. You got some nice scores.”

Indeed I did.

Overall mark: 67.31% – 2nd place

Having passed through disbelief I burst into tears. Actually this is reminiscent of passing my driving test. First I couldn’t believe it, and insisted that it was impossible, and then I burst into tears.

It was ages after that before I got my hands on the comments/marks sheet. Again I got an 8 for the halt! I also got an 8 for a 20m trot circle.

I’d been dying to see the comments for the canter circles. I got a 6 for each, which seemed generous but I’m not complaining. The comments for those two movements were “wayward” and “running through the bridle.” You know, I couldn’t have put it better myself! Wayward makes me laugh though because it’s so true but quite a polite way of putting it!


I feel a little guilty for not having made more fuss of him immediately after the prelim dressage, but at that point I didn’t feel like we’d done well. He did get a swede though. I gave him chill out time before I took his plaits out, but when I did, well just look at him rocking the curly hairdo!



So Drifter’s day was over. But I stayed to watch the jumping. I took some photos of the jumping which you can find here if you’re interested.

I decided that we are certainly capable of the little jumps and next time I think we’ll do combined training (walk/trot dressage followed by a course of 10 teeny jumps), the prelim dressage test again, and maybe the mini-clear round jumping. Although clear round is supposed to be less pressure than combined, it feels like more pressure to me because it’s all or nothing. If we do the combined course and knock everything down I could feel better about that somehow than about knocking one jump down in clear round. And we’d still get a rosette, albeit not a very impressive one! So I’d better book a jump lesson or two.

All the drama of the day, as usual, was during the jumping. One girl, who has a very energetic little horse of pleasant character, got bucked off in the warmup. I didn’t see it but apparently she somersaulted over his head, which suggests it was one of his handstand bucks. Her air jacket went off and she was fine, but one of the teens got on her horse to “take it to school.” I’m not entirely sure this was a good idea as she worked it up no end. The owner got back on and rode a clear round and went back to the warm up/cool down area, whereupon the horse decided it needed to roll. With her still on top. She got clear, and although the saddle will never be the same the tree did not break, so it should not be a write-off but she was really shaken. It also broke the reins getting up again. Every inch of the horse was absolutely dripping with sweat, which was probably why it tried to roll. They’re hoping to get the physio to check it over tomorrow, but I don’t imagine they’ll find anything wrong – I think the first buck was exuberance, albeit not channelled acceptably, and that the teen who got on after that got it so hot and bothered that after it jumped the clear round for its owner and she gave it a long rein it felt it just had to get comfy and de-stress. It learned pretty quickly though that if you roll with a saddle and rider on people come running and shouting at you and it is not relaxing! I felt so bad for the girl, who had a really bad day, through none of her own fault. She’d been due to jump again later, but obviously with broken reins and a damaged saddle that was out of the question.

Not long after this, a new mare-pony-4-year-old kicked Lady-with-a-pony’s pony, but although he limped for a few steps he seemed fine after that. Luckily the new pony is not shod behind. Lady’s daughter was riding at the time, which shook mother and daughter.

But on the positive side there was some lovely jumping and I really enjoyed taking pictures of it. Now I’m physically and emotionally exhausted, and not best prepared for a week at work, but wow what a day!

17 thoughts on “Dressage day

  1. Fantastic! *All* of the congratulations 😀

  2. The Dancing Rider says:

    Congrats on all of it! Great marks! I aspire to better marks, like yours, if I ever do another dressage test. I enjoyed every word of your entry, Pics are fantastic. You two look great together.

    • The Dancing Rider says:

      Oh, and I LOVE the curly forelock!

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      Thank you. I still can’t believe it, and of course some judges are more generous than others. Mr S did well taking the pictures.

      • The Dancing Rider says:

        What you say is true! While when I think back I may not have been in super shape to try Test A and B, that day even the “real” riders did not break 60% – so I felt a bit better about my marks.

        Mr. S did a great job with photos!

  3. Congrats on the awesome scores! Sounds like things are really coming together. Also I can’t wait to hear more about your jumping!

  4. Julie says:

    Congratulations, you!x

  5. Well done you and “Curly”. Great description of your day – felt like being there!

  6. Congrats on the 8!!! We got an 8 in our walk-trot tests last month, but added two canter tests this Saturday and our scores plummeted 😦 We have work to do. I did not braid, though I had every intention of doing so. And a 67??? WOW! My weekend scores were a 56 (seriously, a 56) and a 60. Keep up the good work.

  7. theInelegantHorseRider says:

    Congratulations, this all sounds brilliant! Drifter’s curly hair is very cute. Great read, makes me want to do another dressage test 🙂

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