I had a couple lessons last week that I had full intention of writing about on Friday, but… just completely ran out of time. So, very short version: flat lesson on Wednesday to ride through parts of our test for the weekend, and work on Presto’s bend and balance through all the turns. Thursday we jumped a couple courses, kept it brief, but made sure he was locked and loaded and feeling ready to go.
On Friday Presto got a bath (which is not a fun experience for either of us, because it doesn’t matter how old he gets or how many baths he’s had in his life, he still acts like you’re melting his skin off with acid. It’s a lot of flailing limbs and angst.) and then I turned him back out in his fly sheet in an attempt to keep him clean overnight. Which he had a massive temper tantrum about. This went on for half an hour until I threw him some alfalfa to distract him. Two things he hates the most – being clean and wearing clothes when he doesn’t technically need to be wearing clothes.
On Saturday my dressage wasn’t until 11:30, so I had plenty of time to pack the trailer and braid him in the morning. Granted, he is a massive toolbag to braid. I got knocked off the stool with his head and/or his feet 3 times. I got like 2 braids in before I was like “fuck this absolute shit” and just proceeded to throw in some big fat ugly braids. I did not have it in me to argue with him on that one. Thank goodness for the Quick Knots though, I was able to roll them up pretty quickly. He sure does know how to make himself deeply unpleasant sometimes.
But hey… he was braided. Beggars can’t be choosers. I figured if anyone didn’t like my braids they were more than welcome to braid this rage demon themselves.
We rolled into Rocking Horse about mid-morning, got everything unloaded, and I went up to get my packet. Hillary put the BEMER on Presto while I was gone and I came back to a snoozing Doodle with his eyes half closed. It’s been a while since we pulled out the BEMER, I forgot how much he really does like it.
He warmed up for dressage pretty well. I have to give him credit, he is full of Fuckery 95% of the time but usually when you’re like “Ok for real, time to do your job” he says yes ma’am. It’s not so much that he’s naughty as it is that he’s really easily bored and has a busy busy brain, thus invents things to entertain himself… and those things are generally not the best. But once he’s working, he’s usually good.
In warmup we focused again on getting him to really bend through his body. He’s such a big horse that in a small ring like this, if he’s not really laterally supple and bending THROUGH his rib cage, he has a hard time navigating the turns and keeping his balance. Especially in Novice Test A where you come up centerline, turn left, and immediately cross the diagonal. We had worked on that on Wednesday, and to his credit, he is a very fast learner. Once something clicks for him he’s like “Oh yeah, got it.” and that’s that. If there was one thing I wanted to really nail, it was that first turn.
We came in bright and energetic, made our turn, and bam – we got it. I swear that one turn made all the difference in keeping him balanced and forward for the rest of the test. There were a few places where we left some points on the table… a couple places where I still just didn’t quite keep enough bend, the down transitions from canter he can get a little braced, and he took one canter step at the very beginning of his stretch circle (which was otherwise fantastic and still got a 7 but I feel like otherwise could have been an 8 or 9).
But it was a very consistent and overall correct test, he was forward and relaxed, and it was accurate. Definitely the best dressage test I’ve had to date, on any horse.
The judge really liked him, and we got a 23.6 – my personal best dressage score ever. Y’all know I love Henry to the ends of the earth and would absolutely die for him, but a dressage horse he is not. It makes a difference coming into the ring on a horse that’s immediately in the 8 range vs one that starts at a 6 and goes up or down from there.
All of our scores were between 7 and 8 (I think we got a little bit of charity a couple times, but I’ll take it) including a Harmony score of 8. It’s amazing how just a couple little tweaks in one lesson can make a massive difference.
That score put us first in a division full of pros and very nice horses (I’m not eligible for Novice Rider, which was kind of a bummer to realize… the Open divisions in Ocala are intimidating).
I didn’t showjump until 4, so we had a lot of time after dressage to eat lunch, check out the SJ course, and walk XC. I missed a drag break for the course walk so we went over to watch a few rounds of the Modified to see how the course was riding. Which… the Modified didn’t even look that big to my eye. Me: looking at the jumps, looking at Steph. Looking at the jumps, looking at Steph. “This is how big we jump at home”. Steph: “hahahaha yep!” Evil woman.
To her credit, we get to the show and the courses always look small and simple.
After that I went and walked XC with Steph, and then walked it one more time on my own so I could confirm my plan with my brain. Plus I’ve never been to Rocking Horse before and didn’t want to get lost, and Presto had never been there before either, so I wanted to make sure that I scoped out not only the jumps and the terrain, but also anything that might potentially pull his focus or instigate Fuckery. He’s highly susceptible to that stuff.
By the time SJ finally rolled around I think we were all a little tired of being there. Presto especially was on his last thread of patience (there are not many threads to begin with). By the time I got on he was a bit wired for sound, and pranced his way into the warmup a little sideways. He proceeded to go airborne a few times (with some squeals for good measure) and made himself That Horse. Wouldn’t be a whole entire horse show without him making himself That Horse at least once, right?
I ended up giving my spurs to Steph, and we jumped a few jumps and then just got him out of the warmup. It’s too much commotion and winds him up, staying longer and jumping more isn’t beneficial. If I can spend 10mins in there, that seems to be the sweet spot. We learn a little more at every show.
Once we got in the ring he was still a little bit jazzed up, but reasonably rideable. I got him a bit tight to fence 1 because I was too busy listening to the announcer say that this was my first recognized show on my second generation homebred (she knows me and has the inside scoop) and I was like aw that’s so cute and then turned slightly late. Whoops. He popped over it no big deal though, and that plugged my brain in. Self, you should probably ride.
The round was relatively uneventful. I did jump in bold to one of the lines that was riding a little quiet and I knew as soon as I landed that there was a zero percent chance we’d be able to fit the number in there nicely, so I just let him roll down and leave it out. He stayed balanced, so he pinged off the ground great and it worked out fine. He did rattle the rail coming out of the 2 stride because he was too busy staring at the tent and drifted to the right, but we got away with it. Otherwise it was a “confident clear round” (so said the announcer) and we maintained our lead.
The whole reason Steph really wanted me to do Rocking Horse before we move up is because of the stadium. Don’t tell anyone, but I think I actually prefer the smaller/tighter ring. Less time for Presto to commit Fuckery and less time for me to make lots of bad decisions. When the jumps come up super fast, you don’t have much option but to just keep the balance upright and keep coming forward. I’m better with fewer options.
Two phases down, one more to go! We’ll get to the good part tomorrow.
(Patrons – you have the full dressage and SJ videos on your dashboard! Working on uploading all the XC footage I have, too.)