So much has happened since I last posted on Friday morning that I don’t even know how to cover that much ground anymore. Plus it feels like Friday was a lifetime away. So I’m just gonna try to do a show recap as best I can, broken up so that it doesn’t end up being a total novel. Fair warning though, I can’t get my videos to upload on the farm wifi, and the pro photos that I bought (all of them. I literally bought all of them. I have self control issues.) are gonna take 2-3 weeks. So, like… enjoy the grainy blurry screen caps? There’s not a lot I can do about that at the moment. Real media will have to come later.
As you may recall, we left off with Henry being a bit of a dragon during our attempted runthrough of the test on Thursday. I decided to get back on him early Friday morning before we left, just to try to get his brain stuck back in. We did a lot of walk, from on the contact to stretchy and back again a bunch, then same thing at the trot. After about 15 minutes he FINALLY took a deep breath and settled, so I quit with that. Sometimes he just needs a mental re-calibration if he feels like he’s been under a lot of pressure (this horse has a lot of feels in general, let’s be honest).
Then we loaded up and were on our way to Chatt (I like how it sounds fast and easy in that one sentence but actually took almost all day). Once we settled in and unpacked, we all got on for a short dressage ride. Luckily they still had all the dressage rings open, which was REALLY nice. I didn’t ride him inside any of them, but we rode around outside of them for a while. He was being super good so again we kept the ride short, but he sometimes sees monsters around the dressage rings so it was great to let him trot around them and get his snorts out. Especially because there was a blue barrel at the fence line at the end of ring 1 (our ring of course) that he was ready to call the cops about. That thing was clearly up to no good.
Since the 2-ride thing worked so well on Friday, we decided to try that tactic for Saturday as well. I’ve never done any kind of “pre-ride” approach with him before, but… worth a shot? So I swung up around 7 and repeated the same type of ride as Friday morning. He was SUPER, felt really great and relaxed, so we were out there for all of 10 or 15 minutes. Just enough to settle him, basically.
Our dressage wasn’t until 1:40 (UGH waiting around all day is the pits) so we had a slow and casual morning of braiding and cleaning and getting stuff ready and making sure I actually remembered the test. I got on him around 1:20 and headed to warmup, where he was great again. A little more on edge than in the morning, of course, warmup is never exactly calm, but still really good and rideable and “with me”. We did maybe 10 minutes of work and then just walked and let him relax. One of the big keys to Henry is knowing when to quit.
When we went down to our ring he definitely tensed up a bit. He knows what this dressage thing is all about, and he’s still extremely skeptical of it. BUT, I have to say, despite some tension he was so much more rideable in this test than I think he’s ever been. He’s finally starting to let me “go for it” and actually show him a bit, rather than skate through in “dear god just don’t have a meltdown” mode.
Don’t get me wrong, he was not totally transformed and rideable the whole time. Definitely not. He had a couple of borderline moments, for sure. The second canter lengthening was sketchy, one of the down transitions from canter to trot was more of a “plop”, he took one teeny step back with a front foot in the halt which knocked that score down to 5 (OUCH), and those 10m half circles are a bit tough when your horse is tense. But what excites me is that he was able to come back from each mistake and re-focus. Test A is a much more difficult test for him, with the canter coming so early. He tends to be pretty wired after that, but this time he was more willing to take a breath and stay with me throughout.
I really had no idea how it would score, but I also didn’t care. I was pleased with the progress he showed and the effort he made, and so was Trainer. It’s baby steps with this horse when it comes to dressage, and I’m happy with any forward progression. But not gonna lie, I was also happy when a barnmate told me we were sitting 5th on a 34.5. For this horse, doing that test, at a bigger show in good company, I was pleased with that. It’s certainly better than 9th or 10th on a 38 or so, our more typical position after dressage.
Either way, phase 1 was done! And I had a XC start time of 3pm, so the hustle to completely change gears was on…