I last left this blog around Christmas. While I had planned on updating regularly, I’ve been BORED, for lack of a better term, with my own riding. I had just started a new job which has taken up ALOT of time, and while I’ve stayed consistent with riding we weren’t really doing much that was noteworthy…at least until I look back and see how far we’ve come.
In January I put together a calendar of shows I wanted to get to, mainly from the NCDCTA calendar (NCDCTA= North Carolina Dressage & Combined Training Association). There’s quite a few venues within an hour that offer good unrecognized schooling type shows, so I crafted our plan of attack and we began with just dressage.
First dressage show we headed to Why Not An American Art in February to do…drumroll please…Intro A! Super tough, I know. But it was my first dressage show in 11 years and I didn’t want to have to remember much. The venue has an exotic petting zoo that’s right across the driveway from C in the dressage arena and P was terrified. Trotting down centerline towards these creatures was almost a cruel joke. We scored a 56%- lots of comments about being hollow and tense. The judge was great and gave me some feedback and then let us do a second un-scored test since we were running ahead and the other competitors weren’t ready. We would’ve gotten a 61%, so much better. But still, our judged test was good enough for this!
In March we headed to Hillcrest Farms to perform our version of Beginner Novice B. My trainer and I formed a warmup plan that consisted of arriving 3 hours prior to our test, riding for 45 minutes, hanging out for 1 1/2 hours then riding again for about 20 minutes up to our test. The reason for this approach is because in daily rides he was having trouble settling and focusing, so she would ride him, put him away and then ride again, and she said consistently he was better the second ride. I was riding 3x/week, but usually didn’t have the luxury of time to do multiple rides on him. So I got on for his first ride and he was…terrible. There was ALOT going on since it was a dressage/combined training/horse trials event, and Pilgrim just couldn’t get over it. Gorgeous venue though!
He bolted in the canter each time, and was super tense in the walk and trot. It didn’t bother me though…I expected it since it was his first ride. So I got off, he stood at the trailer and ate hay, and got back on about 20 minutes prior and…
He was still terrible. I thought what in the world was I doing here? We weren’t ready for a WTC test, when I couldn’t keep him from bolting off at the canter! So I was about to approach the ring attendant and tell her I was scratching when she called my number and the bell rang. Well…guess we’re going in.
So we get to the first canter circle and I slowed slightly, trying to delay the inevitable bolt and then this happened.
We actually scored a 7 on the transition. Uhhh, ok then. The rest of the test looked like this-
We scored a 59%. Didn’t hit my goal of 60%, but this was his second show, second time off the property and while like the first show he didn’t handle warm up well, he was a pro in the arena. And 59% was good enough for this…
I could get used to this.
Our next show we headed to Thoroughbred Training Center (TTC) to do BN B and Novice B in May. The dressage arena there is not great for green horses, since it’s downhill and surrounded by woods on 3 sides. Pilgrim performed some very advanced dressage moves as we walked/trotted around the outside of the arena before our first test, but then it was our turn.
In my eyes, he did great. He put in a not so stellar BN B test- free walk was crooked and his was craned around like a drunk giraffe. But we survived without fireworks. His Novice B was soooooo much better. Free walk was smooth and straight with lots of stretching.
Each time we were facing the judge, she wasn’t watching us. Her and the scribe were having a grand time in the judge’s stand, but neither had eyes on us. My husband said the same thing- it was super irritating. So when we got the exact same score of 57% for each test (with a 6 for the free walk on both), I was a little frustrated. I just wanted some actual feedback and things to work on, which is why I signed up for and drove over an hour for this show. But alright, at least we got the experience, which is what matters most.
Novice B screenshots:
In June we went back to TTC- but only after I made sure that the same judge wasn’t going to be there. No use in wasting more time and money! Found out that the judge for this show is much harder, but that’s ok. I entered again in BN B and Novice B and hauled on up.
My two tests were scheduled back to back and I was the first to go after the lunch break. I got on P about 20 minutes before my test and walked over and down to the dressage arena and the judge told me right away that if I wanted to go early, then I could (apparently she wasn’t going to take a lunch break). So I weighed the choice between no warmup against having other horses appear at the top of the hill and distracting him. This is P’s biggest weakness- other horses. He’s very interested in what others are doing. Quickly decided that BN B could be his warmup, so we trotted one direction each way and headed in.
Pony P was awesome, he’s such a PRO when he goes into the arena. When we finished BN B and I told the judge that I was her next ride, she said that she was surprised by how obedient he was in the arena given how “reactive” he was outside the arena (all the woods). She said to really push his gaits as much as I could, given that it was about 100 degrees out and he was a bit sluggish. So I started to head around outside the arena towards A when two horses appeared at the top of the hill. Pilgrim’s neck, his ears pricked forward and he started prancing. I tried to get his mind back by doing some serpentines, but it was no use. Well, there goes Novice B, but whatever. Back down centerline we go.
I had a stupid grin on my face nearly the whole time, I was so happy. Pilgrim seemed to forget the other horses were there and really focused. It was awesome, no other words. At the end, I didn’t even care what we scored (we were the only ones doing USEA tests that day), they were great rides. Although I really did want at least 60%.
When I went up to get my score sheets, I was sure there had been a mistake. 66% for BN B and 68% for Novice B! Blew my goal out of the water. Since the venue was also running a CT, I checked my scores against those divisions, and found out that we would’ve won Novice and come in 2nd in BN. Pretty cool.
We took July off of showing since it was just too darn hot, and instead trailered out for lots of trail rides with friends.
Well, we did show once- at the schooling show my barn put on at the end of July. I went to watch and support and then on a total whim, we entered Pilgrim and my 1 year old Noah in the leadline class. Too much cuteness.
Other than that, we worked on jumping a bit:
So it came to plan the fall show season and my first one up was a dressage/CT/jumper show at a new venue that’s only about 20 minutes away. I was filling out the entry form with the dressage tests I was going to do and then though, “Naaahh” and checked the CT box and quickly dropped it in the mailbox before I could change my mind.
I entered in Tadpole so it was BN A and a whopping 18″. But let’s keep in mind that I have not memorized a jumper course in close to 12 years. So we shall commence freaking out in 3…2…1.
So I thought of scratching multiple times a day in the week leading up to it. My trainer and the assistant trainer were both out of town the week leading up to it at Pony Finals, so I skipped Crossfit (which I religiously do 5-6x/week) every day to get out to the barn to ride. Finally the day came and my husband dropped the kids off at the babysitter and we were off!
We arrived and my husband grazed P while I pulled myself together. We walked down to stadium first, which was not in a stadium at all, but rather an open field with jumps. I ended up walking the course with what turned out to be the judge, which was awesome. I don’t go to shows with my trainer- I always go alone, so it was nice to get some guidance and tips from this guy. Then I realized I had 30 minutes until my dressage time, so we ran back up to the trailers and I tacked P up, then we headed up to the warm-up area. It was an absolute zoo and to make things much more interesting, the dressage arena was in the corner of the large arena they usually use for jumping, so there were people riding on 3 sides of it. I asked one of the show organizers if people would still be allowed to ride while tests were being judged and she said yes. Oh goody, just what I want for my horse that’s so easily distracted: horses on all sides of him.
So we tip-toed into the warm up area and as soon as we did, they called everyone out so that they could drag it. My test was the first one after the break, so uhhh. So I took advantage of everyone leaving and quickly trotted P down the one long side of the arena that was next to woods and we did shoulder-in each direction, then I hustled out of there.
Of course as soon as we trotted down centerline, P was all business. We put in a less than stellar test because the whole time I was thinking about the SJ course, therefore nearly forgetting my dressage test many times. He put in a super quiet test despite the horses cantering around him, and as I fully expected, really just got dinged for geometry. “Make circles round” (with a diagram of a circle next to it) and “ride letter to letter” were next to most of the scores. We put in a 62% (38 really since, we’re cool enough to go by penalty scoring now), which is hilarious to me because after shooting for 60% and just barely missing it his first 3 shows, we’re scoring over that was without even trying.
So we went back down to the trailer and I took off his dressage stuff and then put on his jump saddle. The look I got from my horse whose been solely doing dressage shows was pure bewilderment.
So we walked back down to stadium and my dear husband held the horse while I frantically walked the course two more times because come on, tadpole is terrifying. Since it was a jumper show as well, they were doing SJ rounds for both the jumpers and the CT in the same time slot so they didn’t have to mess with the jumps repeatedly, and when one girl came on course to do her round, I went over and got on P, then sat there and watched her round with the plan to jump some warm up fences after she was done.
So the girl finishes, we all clap and the judge turns around to see who’s next. I look around also, wondering who’s going to go when I realize I’M THE ONLY ONE DOWN THERE WITH A HORSE. The judge realizes that as well and says, “You ready?” I looked at the warm up jumps that I didn’t jump, looked at my husband and said “Uh, yep”, so onto the course we walked. The bell rang and off we went.
It went fairly well, except P was a little backed off since there were new jumps and I wasn’t putting enough leg on because I was so busy trying not to forget where I was going. Which I did. Sort of. By the time I realized fence 3 (yes, I forgot where fence 3 was) was right in front of us, I didn’t have P set up enough and he stopped. I backed him up and he took it like a champ and it was pretty smooth sailing from there. We took a long spot to the last jump, but he felt great. I was SO excited!
We actually had the best dressage score, but since we had a stop that dropped us to third. Because no one really has a stop at tadpole. Unless of course you’re me and forget the course after jump 2. So that dropped us to third, but I was so happy and grateful to this guy, that there was zero disappointment. P was just happy that I didn’t stick another saddle on him.
So my next show I planned to go back to TTC for their CT at maiden, which is 2′ and Intro C. Then I found out that they were running it as a dressage/CT/jumper show and decided after reading a FB post from Denny Emerson that I needed to just go do jumpers. We’ve already proved we can be competitive in dressage, now we need the jumper skills. So I entered in 2′ and 2’3, 4 classes total and we headed off.
The jumper show was scheduled to start at 12 and since I’ve come to learn that P needs very limited warm up, I tacked him up at 11:40. They had the x-rails division before the 2′ so I figured that would put us going around 12:20 or so. Wrong.
Due to the CT SJ rounds taking so long, the jumper show didn’t start until 1:30. So Pilgrim grazed, bridle and all, for an hour and a half. Fun. When the jumps started getting set to x-rails I finally got on and headed to the schooling area, which was a field with a couple of jumps set up. P was nuts. Couldn’t relax, bolted in the canter- sound familiar? So I just walked…we free walked down to the in-gate and back to the warm up area for about 20 minutes before my division was called.
When the announcer called for any rider to go in, I started walking back over. By the time I reached the in-gate, no one had yet gone in so I headed towards the gate. So we step in, they close the gate, the whistle blows and we’re off!
P stopped at the first fence. Granted, it was actually a spooky one, but I didn’t think he was going to. So I turned him, and he launched over it, then felt a little backed off at the first few fences. Then he started getting into it, and started hunting fences. It was such a cool feeling to feel him gain confidence while at the same time listening to my aids. Since we had the stop, we couldn’t stay in for the jump off and there were 19 other riders before the next class. So I headed over and sat with my husband and watched the video he took of the round to see where I could improve. Ahhh, my leaning. It’s so hard for me to sit up straight.
So the next round, I trotted into the first fence and P was like “whatever, I got this” and we had the greatest round. I dropped him a stride too early in front of fence 5, but he was amazing. Didn’t falter, jumped everything and, most importantly, listened. We went double clear and stayed in for the jump off. At first P went all slack, just kind of flopping around as we walked past the gate, going “You missed the gate, we’re done now.” Then the whistle blew and no joke, that horse straightened himself up and went right to work. He’s such a performer.
We definitely didn’t have the fastest time, which wasn’t my goal anyways, but he was foot perfect. I didn’t stick around to see where we ended up placing and I had to scratch 2’3″ because they had started almost 2 hours late and we had to get back to pick up the kids. So bummer that we didn’t get to do 2’3″, but I was on top of the world.
And video of our 2nd round:
And the jump-off:
So that’s where we’ve been and this is where we are now. Typing this all out, complete with pictures, has really shown me how far we’ve come in the last 8 months. So now it’s time to make the blog public because things are getting exciting!