Greenwood recap Part 2: dressage and stadium

The format for the lower levels at Greenwood meant that we did dressage and stadium on Saturday and XC on Sunday. Since I was in BN Senior (note to self: start entering Horse instead of Senior) my ride times were quite late – dressage was at 2:33 and stadium was at 4:31. That resulted in a very long morning of boredom.

Henry got to walk around and make a new friend with one of the tack shop trailers

Then he stood out behind the barn and grazed while my friend Amy and I enjoyed the sunshine and nice breeze. Granted, he seemed to be more interested in giving me a tongue bath than in grazing. It was a strange experience, he wouldn’t stop licking me, covered just about every inch of bare skin, and I might be a little traumatized.

Then he got braided

Then he took a nap (thanks buddy)

And then finally – FINALLY – it was time to get on for dressage. Since this was only our 3rd horse trial, I’m still learning the best way to prepare him and warm him up. Based on our experience at Pine Hill a few weeks ago where he got pretty tense in the warm-up and had a bit of a meltdown mid test, I changed my entire approach. This time I got on an hour ahead of time, walked for a while, trotted a little, cantered ONCE, and then spent the rest of the time walking and trotting, doing the same exercises that we do at home, and lots of halts and free walk. I didn’t ask him for brilliance, I just asked him for obedience and tried to keep him relaxed. I opted to go without spurs, which I normally wear for dressage work. I knew I would be giving some points away with this approach but I want him to learn that dressage is no big deal and to just relax, so I chose the good experience over trying to get every possible point and risking a brain overload. I didn’t have a trainer with me to validate that decision, but it’s what I knew was the right thing for Henry so I went with it.


He was a little flat and on the forehand and not really pushing much from behind, but he was super chill so I left it at that. When we were on deck they let us into the inner warm-up area to prepare to go into the ring. Again I just walked, halted, did some trot leg yields, and patted him and told him he was The Best Boy.


Then they rang the bell and in we went


We didn’t have much brilliance, and our canters were heavy and leaning on the inside shoulder (I missed my spurs at those moments) but he was very calm and obedient and happy. I was thrilled with him. The score didn’t reflect it (we got a 37) but this test was miles better than the one a few weeks ago at Pine Hill that got a 31. Funnily enough our best score from this judge was a 7 for our halt, which is usually one of our lowest scores. Everything else was a 6 or 6.5, which I’m ok with because at least it was consistent! This judge was harsh, but she was harsh to everyone so it was fair. After dressage we were in a 3-way tie for 6th, and only 2 points separated the second through ninth place horses.

After many cookies, a quick bath, and a graze, it was time to get ready for stadium. I just hopped on and did a quick 10 minutes of trot and canter, hopped two fences, and let him chill by the gate. He went in and marched right around without a single peek, and honestly he was super. The traffic on the road that I was a little concerned about the day before when I walked the course didn’t bother him at all. Sadly, we had a really cheap rail at the last fence. He just barely ticked it with a hind foot (I should have done a better job of keeping the power in the canter going up the hill) and it toppled out of the cup. I find it so much harder to ride these little fences well than it is to ride the bigger ones.

That rail dropped us to 9th, which was both a big bummer and a bit of a relief. On one hand it meant my chances of getting a top 5 placing (which I need one more to qualify for AEC’s) were slim to none. On the other hand, it meant that the pressure was off for XC, and if we had a problem with the banks I could just use it as a schooling opportunity.

I ended the day with mixed feelings about our situation but a whole lot of pride for my pony. So far he’d done everything I asked of him and done it like a pro, no questions asked. You just can’t be disappointed with that, no matter what place you’re in.

Tomorrow – XC! On to the fun stuff.

33 thoughts on “Greenwood recap Part 2: dressage and stadium

  1. You are KILLING ME making me wait! 🙂 But congrats it sounds like a good day for all of you! 🙂 Those dressage photos were lovely and i for one will take calm and cool over a hot mess in dressage any day!


  2. It sounded like you made the best decision in your dressage warmup- better to create a positive showing experience for a greenie and set them up for being confident, then the next show you will have a more relaxed horse and can start to push for more brilliance!


  3. awesome that you figured out how to keep him happy and relaxed through dressage – positive experiences are so valuable!! bummer about the rail tho – but sounds like an easy peasy round for him all the same 🙂 can’t wait to read about tomorrow!


  4. Sucks about the rail, but it sounds like your decision for a HAPPY dressage horse will really pay off in the long run. Brain over point chasing is typically a good decision!


  5. He looks so good! The licking thing cracked me up. I have a mare that does that when she’s in heat and she’s so consistently mannered that it is the only way to tell that she’s in heat. So weird! hahaha


  6. I love your jacket! It’s enough to distinguish you from the crowd but not teal or pink or fuchsia or anything. Love it.

    I’m also loving reading this recap — and am going back and forth on whether or not I should spoiler it for myself by checking Eventing Scores… is that super weird? I struggle a lot with getting Murray’s mental game together away from home and have tinkered with different warm up strategies too. My biggest problem is probably my own — I don’t feel prepared if I haven’t asked him to canter at least once in each direction and gotten a quality transition in the warm up. It just seems like asking him to canter in the test without prepping for it is asking for disaster. Buuuut maybe it’s not… I always seem to get perfect transitions in warm up and bucking in the test so maybe just one canter to loosen him up is the way to go. Definitely something to toy with.


    1. The cantering once and early thing seemed to work for me. Mine tends to get more and more wound up the more up transitions he does and the more he canters… he starts thinking that he should cantercantercanter all the time. So cantering once and then taking it off the table completely settled him a lot, but I had no trouble getting it in the ring. It wasn’t GREAT canter but it was calm.


  7. Love your approach to warming up – I think we all try to fit in brilliant warmups when we really should just be asking for obedience and relaxation. I know it would at least help me! I get SO nervous and try to school everything and it does not good for my horse.

    It’s just supposed to be warm up, not a lesson! Thanks for the reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well done both of you! You’re really giving him the ride he needs. My coach would tell you not to worry overmuch about rails until you’re going prelim, ha.


  9. Sucks about the cheap rail, but it speaks volumes of Henry and your training about how well he’s handled everything… ya know, including a whole new discipline!


  10. Well done!! New facility and new warmup all without a trainer – you are such a boss! And wow that’s a tight division. Tell me, why do BN horse vs senior? BN horse tends to have the trainers and be more like an open division, no?


    1. I actually would be much better off entering Horse, most of the time. A lot of the people in the Senior division have been showing in it for a long time and/or have pretty experienced horses, so they tend to be pretty solid. At least all the ones in Horse are green, even if they do have a pro up. If I’d been showing in horse instead of senior I’d have gotten my AEC qualifiers already. 😉 When we move up to Novice we’ll do Horse… lesson learned!


  11. Ohhhhh myyy you guys look so fancy dressage-ing 🙂 It sounds like such a successful day, even with the cheapo rail. Henry learned a lot, you had fun, and he made a new friend. Winning all around.


  12. You guys look AWESOME, so sad about the rail though. It sucks when you have a pilot error moment like that! I do love your approach to your dressage warm up. It’s such a delicate balance between relaxation and performance, but you obviously know your horse well and made a good call. So glad it paid off for you, and I’m interested to see what tweaks you make for the next trial!


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