Hope y’all aren’t into, like… lots of pro quality pictures and ample videos and stuff. I went to this show 100% completely alone, and the only reason I have any media at all is because of a couple of very nice friends who were in the right place at the right time. Lets all be very happy with that.
As usual I was super well prepared, in that on Friday morning I was like “I should probably look at the dressage test again. Well… actually I should probably look online and make sure of which test we’re doing.”. Upon which I realized it said Training Test B, which I have never even so much as looked at before, much less ridden or practiced. Ha. Friday was Henry’s day off though, so instead of trying to do a last minute run through the test I just texted Trainer (who sadly would not be attending) and asked her for tips.
See, our objective as of late has been to make him borderline TOO forward. He’s always had this tendency to go in at A and immediately tense up and get stuck behind my leg, to where it’s just a big yucky tight sewing machine type of test. Obedient, always, but there’s nothing relaxed and forward-flowing about it, and the connection can be a bit fake when he’s like that. So we’re hoping that if I just ride him a bit overly forward for a while, we’ll be able to get him un-stuck. I am all about making new and different mistakes instead of repeating the same ones for years on end, so I was determined to just keep my freaking leg on and keep going forward no matter what happened.
Our ride time wasn’t until 7:22pm, and they were running a bit late in my ring. I was kind of okay with that, though, because a) it was still really hot and humid, b) for some reason Henry was REALLY tense and spooky when I got on. Like, he spooked at the flags that marked the perimeter of warmup. He’s seen flags like that a million times. We walked until I felt him release his back a little, then we trotted and cantered both ways, lengthening and shortening, and then in the last few minutes I practiced a couple of the little 10m half circle “teardrops” that are in the test. Henry felt a bit like he was on a hair-trigger, but whatever… I was here to just ride him a lot more forward and see what happened.
As we trotted around the outside of the ring he looked at the letters, the judge’s booth, the announcer, and the chains around the arena, then flinched at the crackling loudspeaker. Awesome. The whistle blew and in we went. As usual, he was pretty obedient. The first teardrop rode a lot better than I thought it would, and was bang-on accurate. I expected it to be harder than that. He took a couple of wanna-be-trantering steps in the second teardrop but it was going away from the judge so I don’t think it looked obvious from behind. I really went for it in the trot lengthening, to the point where we got the comment “running”, but usually we get the comment “show more difference”, so LOL. Middle ground? Maybe someday.
The canters were ok – a bit launchy and crooked into the right lead depart – and again I tried to really go for it in the lengthenings. Those are quite hard for croup-high Henry, being on a circle. I was also a bit worried about both of the canter/trot transitions happening at X. He has a history of getting quite tense about the idea of cantering across the diagonal, anticipating a lead change. They were both decent though, no major problems. The stretchy trot, usually our best movement at home, is always just meh at shows (see entire post about tight and tense), but he took a deep breath and gave me some good effort in the free walk.
The second medium walk (after the free walk) was an absolute chess match, trying to keep him from jigging. Man it was close. REALLY CLOSE. He kept a lid on it, but barely. That is a long ass walk from H to M when your horse really just wants to gallop. I was a couple steps late picking the trot back up at M, mostly because I was trying to make sure I actually got a trot instead of a gallop. The half circle turn back up to center line and his halt were great though, garnering the comment “square, immobile”.
I really wasn’t sure how that test would score at all. He was still tense, just less stuck-feeling than he normally is. I knew it definitely had to look hurried in a few places, but I tried to ride as accurately as I could and not give any points away. I’m not even in the habit of looking at dressage scores anymore, so I had no idea how we’d done or where we were sitting until Trainer texted me while I was getting in bed and said:
Turns out that all of our scores were between 6 and 8, with the majority of them being 7, and a final score of 32.3. That landed me in a brand new place for us – the top of the leaderboard after dressage. I’d seen at least bits and pieces of most of the other tests, so I was guessing we’d be mid-pack, but no… somehow we creeped out ahead. Granted, there was only a 6 point spread between first and last, so that’s not saying much. I think maybe we got a little charity there for whatever reason, or maybe it was the accuracy that helped make up the difference, but either way I’ll take it.
By the time I cooled Henry out and hosed him, put my tack away, cleaned his stall, fed him dinner, took a shower, and set up my tent, it was 9:30. I was even too hot/tired to eat dinner, so I settled for chugging 2 bottles of water instead. And then my air mattress’ battery died when it was only about 70% inflated, but again, too hot and tired to care. I just collapsed into the floppy mess and laid under my little fan, trying not to move. Stadium was at 8:37 the next morning, with XC right after, and we still had a whole lot left to do.