Dressage, crochet and no jumping, thank you very much

Considering that it was only in the early hours of Friday morning that I made the decision not to jump today (Sunday) I found that I had completely failed to worry about the dressage. This had pros and cons. On the one hand I wasn’t feeling pressured about it. On the other hand I realised I couldn’t remember the walk-trot test at all. Oh. But I’d asked for a caller on my entry form, so it would all be fine. I continued not to worry.

I was rather preoccupied with getting good plaits, having asked for advice on the matter following the last dressage test in which a staff member put some stunning plaits in for someone (at a fee of course). I was also preoccupied with fly bonnets.

All I wanted was a white fly bonnet. I prefer to buy my horse supplies from local businesses where possible, so although I could have bought some on the internet, I tried to buy them from shops. Ever since I got him, every time I went to a horse shop I looked for a pair of white ears… and came back not having found any (or none in full size, anyway).

We do have a red pair with gold trim, which are gaudy but fun, and a basic black pair with tassels. In previous outdoor dressage tests we’ve worn the black ones but I really did want some white ones. One day I looked at the red ears and thought, “These are really not a complex shape. How hard can it be to crochet my own?”

Well… harder than I hoped… but manageable.

First I got the internet to teach me the basic stitches, and had a go at producing basic squares and triangles. That achieved, I trawled the internet for a pattern I wouldn’t have to pay for. I found one… but I didn’t really like it. So I tried customising it. The end result was … wearable… and Drifter seemed to find them very comfortable, but the ears came out rather too long and floppy. But not bad for a first attempt. I’m afraid I don’t seem to have a picture (although I was sure I took one) and I’ve left it at the stables.

So after that I’d been browsing the internet, as one does, and came across a pattern on Etsy (by popelkaLida) that looked beautiful. I had to buy it.

Fast-forward to last night, and I was crocheting as fast as my hands could go. How much nicer would it be to wear the pretty ears rather than the design-as-you-go-too-big-in-the-ears ones? But could I finish in time? Last night I finished all the structure, but there was a line of embellishment all round the outside that was not done. They were wearable without it – should I try to finish that too or not? I decided it was doable, and in the morning sped round it as best I could between mouthfuls of breakfast. About 2/3 of the way round I had to stuff it in my bag and go. If I got a chance to finish at the yard, so be it. If not, we’d wear the too long ones.

I arrived on the yard. I had bathed him the day before, and as it’s still only 5 days since he was clipped I knew grooming the body was not going to be time-consuming. I plaited the mane before even brushing anything else. For the first time I used a sectioning clip to keep the unwanted mane out of the way, and tried to space as evenly as possible.


I was quite pleased with them… until I went out and saw some professionally done ones. Sigh. I need to watch someone very good to see how they fold them and get them tied in so close to the neck. Still, I think they were the best neck of plaits I’ve done so far.

Plaits done, I dived into the cool of the tack room and seized my crochet needle!

With almost an hour left before my first test, I completed the bonnet. This photo was taken with laying them on my legs as I sat on the tack room floor – the cleanest place I could find!DSCN4800

The ears are actually same size as each other, but it’s hard to quickly take a picture of something laying on your legs while at the same time sympathetically listening to someone telling you about their lame horse, so please make allowances. In real life they look much better than this picture, if I do say so myself.

So I ran a brush over the horse, plaited the tail (badly, because for the first time ever I’d got the tail really clean, so it was very slippery and the top of the plait went off centre) and started tacking up. And discovered that the ear bonnet was rather small for him. I thought it would do, so I popped everything on and went off to warm up.

We had a reasonable warmup, but even then, at about 10.10, it was hot hot hot. My jacket and tie were not my friends!

There didn’t seem to be anyone to take us round, so a few minutes before our time I went round to the school. Unfortunately, the judge had decided that C wasn’t central and was moving it. We waited outside for some time while they got C in a place everyone agreed on. I was pleased to notice that they’d covered the “wrong” dressage letters, so only the movable ones that related to the test were showing.

Eventually we were asked to go into the arena. On our first little foray down to the A end, BANG, FLAP, PANIC, SPOOK, WHOOSH.

Oh, I’m still on board. We’re on the other side of the school but I’m still on board. That’s handy. Nothing to see here, people, move along please.

We’re used to hearing shooting on Sundays, so few horses at our yard do more than flick an ear at the shots. But when there’s a gun shot about the same time as a piece of paper flaps at him… that’s scary stuff. The tape holding the paper over the incorrect letter F, visible in the far left of this photo, had partially given up, and in the wind, just as we were about to go past it, it tried to attack us.



So we spent a minute or two looking at it, going past it one way then the other, and establishing that it was not going to do it again.

Then I twigged… there was no caller in the school. My turn to spook and panic! Handily there was another livery watching and I yelled for them to get my caller. Not very “dressage” of me to yell, perhaps, but not only had I asked for (and paid for) a caller on my entry, I’d double checked that morning that people knew I’d need a caller. I realised at this point that I could remember nothing of the test beyond entering at A in working trot. Luckily I’d yelled before they’d signalled me to start.

My caller arrived … without a copy of the test. The test was located, and eventually the car horn sounded for me to start. Enter at A in working trot… things were going OK despite our less than ideal beginning … circle here … well not too bad … turn right at E , 3-4 steps of walk across X, ooh that was quite nice and accurate, relax a bit … why did the car horn beep? I guess they leant on it by accident.

Nope. Caller is waving at me. Instead of tracking left when I reached B I’d tracked right. Oh. I was right about not knowing this test, wasn’t I?!

To quote my sat nav, “Make a u-turn, where possible.”

Ah well, might as well enjoy it now! We finished the test with no more incidents and gladly left the arena on a long rein. I left feeling that it might be the worst test we’d ever done, but I was proud not to have fallen off, and I could be happy with that.

Throughout the test and warmup I’d been aware his ear bonnet was too small. I wasn’t going to make him wear it for the second test. As if to confirm this, when we were walking to cool down back in the warmup arena, he managed to shake them off despite his bridle over the top of them. He has spoken. The ears do not fit.

I need to adapt the pattern to accommodate that Drifter is quite large at the base of the ear and his ears are quite long. I put them back on him long enough to make some notes about where I need extra rows and I’ll have another go. But what to do with these? Easy. While I’d been frantically finishing them in the tack room a girl had been admiring them very much. Her little horse is a bit finer boned and has smaller ears than Drifter. I would see if they’d fit her horse. She came out of her dressage test very down, so I followed her back to her stable and offered them to her. Her verge-of-tears face was transformed to smiles by the gift and I could not have been happier to present them to her. None of the work was wasted because they went to a horse they fitted and a rider who really appreciated them.

I had about an hour between my two tests. I had time for a drink and a cool down and to go and look at the scores so far. I was flabbergasted to see that despite my foray to the wrong end of the school, I was not quite in last place! Hurray!

And all too soon it was time to put the tack and jacket back on and warm up again. My second test was at 12 so it was really hot by now. I put the too-big ears on him and although they did look silly he was more comfortable and they would keep the flies out of his ears, so we went with it.

I started my warmup a few minutes later than I wished, and was told when I got there that we were running early! When the next rider came in she told me it is our right not to enter any earlier than our published time, but I knew I’d get more stressed if I tried to assert myself over that than just going in a bit earlier. The warmup had nice moments, but wasn’t awesome.

We were asked to go round and I could tell Drifter had had enough of the sun and the heat. He was sluggish and even getting him to the school took a lot of leg.

In we go. Try to get him moving. Energy energy energy. It was hot. And I haven’t needed to put that much effort into going forwards since I last rode I riding school horse. They took AGES to sound the horn for us to start. And we began.

To be honest I don’t remember much about the test except the unbearable heat and the extreme effort I needed to keep him going forwards. This might be working trot but I’m working far too hard here! We went the right way and we kept going. The canters were … well, not too bad for us. The second circle fell in, but we cantered in the right place and trotted in the right place and it was all satisfactory, although I feel that I did all the work for both of us. I really had to ride to get that test out of him so I’m proud of that. And of keeping going through the heat!

And oh, blessing of blessings we were finished! I would not be jumping! What a great pleasure it was to take jacket and tie off and know we were done!

So what did the scores say?

Walk-trot: 63.75 – 4th place (of 5)

Preliminary (i.e. w/t/c): 62.69 – 2nd place (of 3)

Notable marks and notes:

W/T: Well the going the wrong way produced my first 4, but to be honest I’ve had 5s before going the right way, so that could have been worse!

But some nice 7s for both centre lines and the halt, all of which can be problems for us. Considering how much went wrong at the start of this test (the direction problem was only the third movement of the test) I think I recovered very well and can be proud of this.

Prelim: For the canters, a 6 and a 6.5, each with the comment “active.” We seem to have turned last month’s “wayward” into “active.”  🙂 That can’t be bad. Although of course he was in a very lazy mood by that point! Again we have a 7 for the halt – we really seem to have done good things there – but my favourite comment, for a 20m circle in trot was “outline starting to show.” Hell yes. That’s what we’ve been waiting for. In the free comments section on both tests, among other comments, I got “lovely test”. Aw thanks!

Of course I took his plaits out, and here is the result. Who needs a perm, anyway!

DSCN4811All of the pictures below are from the walk trot test, as the heat, my red face, the floppy too-big ears and the massive effort I was putting in to keep him going all made the pictures from the second test somewhat less attractive than they might have been. So these are all pictures with the too small ears – I think they look pretty good in the pictures!





10 thoughts on “Dressage, crochet and no jumping, thank you very much

  1. The Dancing Rider says:

    Enjoyed the adventure via reading! I admit I’ve tried to crochet the cute little ear coverings also – no luck. Gave up. Kudos for succeeding!

    Really liked all the test stuff, including the spook, and the heat (jacket not being a friend). You did well again, and great on the “active” in canter! 🙂 Those photos are very nice. You guys look quite good together! 🙂

  2. This is all great stuff, but the part that made me the happiest was learning that fly bonnet crochet patterns can be purchased on Etsy. Wonders never cease! I hope you can make another one that fits him better now that you’ve had a bit of practice, and well done on a) your resolution and b) your dressage scores!

  3. Elinor says:

    Great that you could crotchet on your own! I was thinking about asking my mother in law to help – she is a STAR with most crafty things, but got worried it would be too difficult. I have two store bought ones and they work well. If they break, (I break everything…) I won’t have to feel heartbroken. Let us know if you start making saddle pads!!!

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      I have to admit the possibility of making saddle pads did cross my mind, but I dismissed it as too much work and too much worry about whether I’d end up hurting his back if I didn’t get something right. At least with ears a horse has more polite ways to communicate dislike than bucking!

  4. Really enjoyed your post. Dressage tests in the heat can be torture!
    Best wishes

  5. mellchan says:

    I want to come ride at your stable….I am needing a change. Looks and sounds like a lovely adventure…I always look forward to reading your posts!

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