As per my plan, I took it easy on Sunday. I fed early like I always do and took Speedy out for his mandatory lunge/walk. He simply won't eat breakfast unless I do. But after he was tucked back into his stall, I climbed back into bed and read until 7:00 (I was RV camping, so I had that luxury). I eventually coaxed myself out of bed and made a leisurely breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, I also kept my sunglasses on, wore a wide brimmed hat, and stayed in the shade. Since my ride time wasn't until 2:26, I had the whole day to wait through. In fact, I was the last rider of the day.
I am not sure if you noticed Speedy's braids, but I kicked some butt on those babies. They were so neatly done that they held through the night and were still good enough to use on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty proud of them. After the last time I did this particular braid, I knew I finally had it down pat.
My strategy for Sunday's ride was pretty clear: stay out of the heat during the day, do a short 15 minute warm up, and don't give up before I'd even started. I slept in, hung out in the shade all day, and forced myself to wait to saddle until even friends thought I was pushing it.
I felt kind of bad about the last part of my strategy, but I was seriously intimidated by my competition, no matter how friendly they were. The one thing I forced myself to do was to NOT watch any of their rides. I was just as worried about them making a critical error as I was about seeing them put in a brilliant ride. I didn't want to place well due to someone else's mistakes, but I also didn't want to lose my confidence by watching a winning ride.
By the time the ring steward gave me the go ahead, the heat had returned, but I felt better equipped to deal with it. I marched Speedy into the ring and gave it our all. He was still behind my leg and he still curled, but we put in a pretty solid effort.
When I finally had time to sit down and study my test, I was relieved to see that we had nothing lower than a 6.0, and there were only four of them. We also earned eleven 7.0s, which was what I had been working towards all summer! Our final score for the test was a solid 66.029%.
If you read my post from the other day, you know my finishes at RAAC have been either first or eighth. While we didn't win, I was very relieved to not be in eighth place. I was more than happy to receive that red neck ribbon!
First place always receives a lovely cooler (I already have two of them), but second gets a leather halter. I know it's silly, but I am so in love with the thing!
Here's the video of the ride followed by the score sheets.
We have one more show in a few weeks to finish out the 2017 season. So far, I am more than satisfied with where I am towards accomplishing this year's goals. Win or lose at Tehachapi, I'm calling the season a success!
While my super powers were fully restored, they don't combat everything, especially the heat. Like a lot of other places around the world, California is having an unusually hot summer, even for us. While the mornings in Paso Robles were pleasantly cool, by afternoon, the temperature was almost unbearable.
Because of the heat, at least one rider scratched. I considered it, but I knew Saturday's second test was our last opportunity to really prepare for Sunday's actual RAAC class. We trotted in when the judge blew her whistle.
My goal for this show was to earn as many 7.0s as I could. There are a smattering of them for sure on this test, but there are also more 5.5s than I am happy with. As low as the scores look, I know most of it was because of the heat.
As we exited the ring, my mouth was so dry that I couldn't conjure up enough saliva to even swallow. Unlike the morning test, this ride was a best effort. I pushed Speedy as hard I could. Getting him in front of my leg, even when it's hot, is a new goal of mine.
Even with the slew of 5.5s, we still managed a middle of the road 64.412%. My goal for this season was to finish First Level with scores in the mid-60s. I felt like this score was within that range.
Some of the movements I really wanted to fix were the leg yields (6.5 and 7.0) and the 10-meter trot circles (7.0 and 7.0). I also wanted to improve the change of lead through trot (5.5). We managed to improve in at least two areas.
Here is the video and the score sheet.
As we exited the ring, I felt good about the ride, but I knew we could do even better. I had switched out the less-than-perky and now slipping pad for the larger, but sturdier Union Hill, so that problem was solved. I couldn't do anything about the heat, but I knew I'd have more horse with a shorter warm up.
As I lay in bed that night, I contemplated my strategy for Sunday which included sleeping in and staying out of the heat. I also planned to eat and drink more often, and I decided not to assume my competition was going to win.
The "Big Test" tomorrow ...
One of my strengths when I show is the ability to shake it off, whatever it is, and get on to the next movement. My super power failed me on Saturday though. I am not sure what my kryptonite was, but it was lurking somewhere near ring 1.
Everything about the show was going so well. The grounds were fantastic, including the stabling and parking, and my barn mates were all about good fun and friendly competition. Not like a few years ago when one of the competitors said that her friend was showing in my class and was going to win. Turns out she didn't, but I did!
Anyway, things were going well until I made a slight miscalculation in how long I needed to warm up. Apparently, showing is now old hat to Speedy and 15 minutes is all he needs. I gave us 30. After the first 12, I knew I had gone in too soon, so we walked and walked and walked. Just before my ride time, I decided to wake Speedy up with a big gallop.
Two things happened. First, he got really annoyed at me, and second, my trusty show pad, that one that wasn't looking as perky as before, nearly slid off his back. He gave a few bucks before I saw what had happened. In horror, I jumped off and reorganized the pad. From that moment, my confidence was shot.
As we trotted down center line, all I could think about was my stupid pad slipping off during the test. I kept glancing down to see if it was still there! Once I forced myself to forget about it, the next worry took over.
Speedy was behind my leg, note the curling above, but I knew that if I really goosed him forward, he'd flip me the hoof. That would be okay for one movement, but when he feels like I am working against him and not for him, he quits trying. Instead of sending him forward with a big cowgirl kick, I just nursed him through the test.
And really, it wasn't a bad test. My goal was 6.5s and 7.0s. We got more 6.0s than I would have liked, but considering how behind my leg he was, it wasn't terrible. That 4.0 though, I have no recollection of not being in canter. It's right in front of the judge though, so if she says we weren't cantering, we weren't, but that score came as a shock to me.
As with the comments we've had all summer long, the judge's further remarks were spot on. "Capable pair. Needs balance in transitions up and down. At times, horse over round and low in outline today." I love how generous she was in using "at times" and "today" as though yesterday we weren't and tomorrow we wouldn't be!
As we exited the ring, I knew it wasn't even close to a best effort, and I acknowledged that I had given the test away. I let the bigness of the show and the quality of my competition intimidate me.
I shook it off almost before we made it to the ring steward. Yes, I had let my confidence slip for a moment, but I recognized it for what it was. I was already planning my comeback for Test 3 which was to come later that afternoon. There was no sense in beating myself up about it, and suddenly, I felt my super power return!
Many of Sunday's riders didn't even bother with riding Test 2, so it was a very small class. For the adult amateurs, Saturday's classes were all warm ups for the actual RAAC classes held on Sunday. The scores from Saturday's tests still counted for USDF, but I knew that I still had time to get my little team squared away for Sunday's "big one."
When John and I compared our tests, we laughed at the point difference. Just 2.5 points separated our tests which would prove to be a theme for the weekend!
More to come ...
Today's the big day. We are headed to the California Dressage Society Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC).
MISSION: The mission of these competitions is to provide an opportunity for all CDS Adult Amateur riders to qualify and compete against others of similar skills and experience. The regional nature of these shows will help to provide our membership with a developmental path for gaining competitive experience, promote excellence and increase awareness of and support for the Chapters.
I've competed at RAAC four different times, winning at Introductory Level and Training Level. I've been to RAAC at first level, but we didn't do so well. I am expecting this year to be different!
In 2013 and 2015, we finished dead last. Both times! And even weirder still, we placed eighth. Twice! Several year apart. There's actually quite an interesting pattern to my placings.
In 2014, I competed at the CDS Championship. That means that for evermore I must compete in the RAAC Elite division rather than Novice which is for riders who have never been to the championship. I don't know if this makes things more difficult or not. The elite division is for riders that have competed on a bigger stage; it doesn't matter if your horse has shown at a bigger show or not.
No matter what happens, I know that we've prepared as well as we can. Speedy is fit and ready, I know my tests (knock on wood right now, please), and the trailer is clean and ready to go.
Wish us luck!
The way I see it, there are two ways to approach showing. You can either show at one level until your horse is truly confirmed at that level and the scores reflect that, or you can chase down the 60% and move on. I am not going to say that one approach or the other is better, but I do know what feels right for me right now.
I am two scores away from the California Dressage Society Ruby Award. Two Second Level scores. That's it. Speedy and I are well enough along that we could probably eke out a 60% at Second Level at a CDS show.
I've wanted to try for those two scores all summer long, but I haven't. While I want the scores, I want even more for Speedy to be truly confirmed at First Level before we move on. That's why it's taking me so long to move through the levels. I've faced this dilemma (when to move up) at every level since Intro.
Every time I've gotten bored with the level I am working on, I remind myself how much I love seeing a 70%. Moving to a new level too early isn't going to yield scores that I like. It's that simple.
I want confirmation. I want to know that my horse is confirmed at the level and ready to move on with a solid foundation under his girth. That doesn't mean I am going to finish out the level with 70%, although that happened at Intro and Training Level. For me to feel confident enough to move on to the next level, I need to be earning at least mid-60 scores. We're pretty close.
Ruby Award aside, I have several First Level goals that I'd like to see realized this summer. The first is to do well at the Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC) this weekend. We've won at Intro and Training, so it's not an impossibility.
The second is to maybe win my CDS Chapter's Adult Amateur High Point Score for the season. We've also won that one before, but it will take a miracle this year, like maybe a 70%!
I'm also trying to get as many 60% and better scores as possible to add to my CDS plaque. In 2013, we earned a whopping 16 scores. Last year, Speedy struggled with several different lamenesses so we earned a disappointing 4 scores. Right now, we're on track to finish with 13 scores above 60%, but less likely if we chance a Second Level test.
I'd rather finish the season on a high note rather than make the move to Second Level and maybe get a 60% but probably bring home several disappointing 50s. In a way, I guess I am still chasing scores. Thoughts?
Speedy and I are headed to our biggest show of the summer on Friday. I have a blog post coming. In the meantime, I am trying to clean up a few things before the show. The leg yield and the change of lead are two of those things.
We've worked on the leg yield twice now, and I am getting nowhere. I can keep the shoulder from falling out, but that little booger (sorry, Speedy, you know I love you) will. Not. Step. Over. I finally nailed him with the whip which got a reaction, but I don't want to yell at him every time I want a bit of a lateral step. I've got one more ride at home to work on it, but that 7.0 might just be out of our reach.
On a good note, the change of lead through trot is now working for us. I left it alone for a few days and didn't ask for it until Sunday. I schooled it exactly as we had during our lesson last week, and got a balanced change of lead the first time I asked. After having had a come to Jesus moment about the leg yield, I thought it was a good idea to reward Speedy for the effort, so I hopped off and fed him his mints.
Besides cleaning up a few of the movements at First Level, I also gave my show pad a good once over. While it came out of the wash okay, I realized that it's not looking as perky as it once was. Unfortunately, I can't find that pad for sale anywhere. I have at least three brand new Union Hill Dressage pads, but I've always felt they were too big for Speedy's smaller fame.
While it's not a perfect fit, I think I can get away with it. The spine length is fine, it's just the drop that's a bit too boxy and long. I think my eye is just so used to seeing Speedy in a smaller pad. This pad is only about an inch or so longer, so it's not that much bigger on him.
I have two other nice fitting pads that are monogrammed, but since US Equestrian changed the rule about pads, I am not sure if my monogram is legal or not. Here's what the rule book states. You tell me what you think.
While in the competition ring and during awards ceremonies, a logo/monogram or name may appear on either or both sides of a saddle cloth in an area not exceeding 200 cm2 (26.632 sq. inches). Only the following logos or names are permitted: breed logos (for horses registered with that breed); a national flag (for citizens of that country); USEF or USDF names/logos. Professionals of any age may have a business or product name/logo of their official sponsor. Amateurs may not have a business or product name/logo unless they own the business. Competition award pads and stable name pads are permitted. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on saddle cloths or horses. BOD 8/29/16 Effective 12/1/16 BOD 11/7/16 Effective 12/1/16
(I added the bold formatting.) The rule is confusing. On the one hand a logo or monogram is permitted, but in the next sentence they stipulate which logos are permitted but they don't add any comments about monograms.
Am I better off going with a pad that is slightly big on him, or do I risk using the monogrammed pads? And while I am at it, do I beat him into the leg yield, or do I just take the 6.0? Just kidding!
While we still earned a blue ribbon, and in a larger class no less, this test didn't ride as well as the first one. Part of that is due to my riding ability. I am doing the best I can, but this test is just hard. Most of why we weren't as sparkly though was because it was freakin hot. Like gasping for breath and thinking about scratching hot. Even the judge was starting to wilt.
Halfway through the first test, I truly thought I would need to scratch Test 3; I was having trouble focusing. I am not a quitter though, and I really hate wasting money. Instead, I took Speedy down to the trailer where we both got a good drink. He looked better than I felt, so I figured we'd just crank it out and see what we got.
I didn't even take him to the warm up for our second test; it was just too hot, and I worried I'd have no horse left. Instead, we did some quick transitions within the trot as we waited for the bell. As soon as I turned down centerline, I knew it was going to be a lackluster performance. Speedy was behind my leg and curling. I was so hot myself that I just urged him forward as much as I could.
I know this judge wasn't giving any points away, but I do think his scores took the heat into account. When we cantered at C, Speedy got a wee bit sassy and even considered throwing in a buck. I think he realized it was just too danged hot for any shenanigans and decided cantering was just easier. The judge gifted us a 6.5 and even called it "prompt."
I really hate this test and look forward to moving on to Second Level just to not have to ride this thing anymore. Even though it was hot, our scores improved for the canter work which comes during the second half of the test. I can assure you it wasn't because I got a second wind.
The first part is just hard with the leg yield to X and then back to the rail. Then there is the stretchy trot and the 10-meter trot circles. It's a lot of bending and lateral work for the first part of a test. All of the canter work at the end flows much better.
Since this is the test that I'll be riding for RAAC in two weeks, I need to try and eke out a few more points. Our canter work is okay, but if I can get him a bit more balanced and pushing from behind, we might get some 7.0s. It's the leg yields and 10-meter trot circles that I need to focus on this week.
I think we can also work on that halt!
There was video by the way, but my videographer made a small error. You can probably see it better on a mobile device!
The day before we left for San Diego, I attended TMC's Mid-Summer dressage show. While it was only CDS rated, the scores count for a variety of CDS awards and programs. Besides that, I am attempting to earn TMC's year-end high score award. As of right now, I think I'm in third place, but there's still one show to go.
We weren't brilliant or anything, but we got the job done. We earned a 64.063% which was good enough for first place. While I am always looking to improve my scores from one show to the next, I try to look at my score in relation to the rest of the scores posted that day. The average score for the adult amateurs was only 58% which makes my 64% seem relatively high.
After watching the video, I suspect I am probably riding First Level about as well as I can. I've been focusing on getting a bend and adding leg which is helping me earn another point or two for each movement. The score sheet is filled with 6.5s and 7.0s which tells me I am on the right track.
Unfortunately, I did make a mistake that probably cost me as many as three points. I was thinking ... sit, sit, sit, as we were developing the working canter in preparation for the downward to trot. Apparently my work on the half halt has really paid off because Speedy SAT at C instead of at M. The judge gave me a 4.0 with the comment, "lost canter." We typically score a 6.5 or a 7.0 for our canter to trot transitions so that cost me nearly a full percentage point.
To the good, there was more that I liked about the test than I didn't. We're getting some lengthenings, both at the trot and canter, and our 15-meter canter circles (7s for both) are definitely proving to be a strong point.
I was also quite pleased with how well Speedy picked up the right lead canter (7.0). Going from left to right is easier than going from right to left (in Test 3). That's something we're definitely going to be working on this week.
The judge's further remarks hit the nail on the head.
Our next show is in two weeks - the California Dressage Society's Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC). It's a fun show, but it's really competitive as everyone has to qualify to enter. We've won at our level twice (Introductory and Training). I don't ever expect to win, but I would sure like to do well.
With a few more points here and there and no silly mistakes on my part, we might do okay! Test 3 tomorrow.
Basically, the whole show was pretty amazing. I've watched the videos, and I don't look amazing, but Speedy sure does. It finally looks as though he is excelling in spite of me. Go for it, Speedy. It's about time you started pulling your weight!
We were riding against some pretty nice horse and rider teams, so I am more than happy to score in the same ball field as they did. Yeah, it's a last place score, but it's better than we did a month ago. And frankly, the third test at First Level is HARD. It does not flow in an organized, or logical way.
It's Frankenhacked together if you ask me. After the halt, you track left into a lengthened stride at trot, followed by a leg yield to X and a leg yield back to the rail. That's fairly reasonable, but then immediately after, there's a stretchy trot circle followed by a ten-meter circle at R, a halt at X, and then another ten-meter circle at V.
After those two trot circles (with a free walk to separate the trot and canter), the canter work begins which flows somewhat better. It's a 15-meter canter circle into a canter lengthening followed by a single canter loop from K-X-H (that's from one corner to the middle back to the other corner for you non-dressage types).
As you finish that first loop, you have to reorganize quickly for the change of lead through trot at X. We messed that up big time. Speedy just couldn't/wouldn't pick up the left lead (4.0). Once you change leads, you do another 15-meter canter circle, a canter lengthening, and then the same loop - but on the other side.
The canter work makes sense to me, but it's a lot of cantering all in a row. The part of this test that I really hate is that the last movement is a trot lengthening across the whole diagonal. By the time we get to this part of the test, Speedy is starting to lose his oomph, and I am definitely breathing hard.
While it might not have been as impressive somewhere else, on this day, the judge liked our trot lengthening and rewarded our effort with an 8.0! I'll take it! For what it's worth, ignore what I am doing up there and focus on the gray pony. He's the only one who seems to know what he's doing out there.
I am not Charlotte Dujardin, and Speedy's no Valegro, but hey, we're getting around the court in a respectable manner. My goals for this summer are small, but we are meeting them. And you never know, we might even exceed them!
It might be a totally nerdy thing to do, but finally having the chance to write about a "win" makes me all kinds of giddy. I mean, check this out!
Pretty, right? We still have oodles to work on, but at least for one afternoon, Speedy and I were able to put it all together for a grand total of four minutes and fifty-three seconds, the length of time it takes to ride First Level Test 2.
It's not a perfectly ridden test, and I think a few of the judge's scores were a bit generous, but it was a pretty solid little test. And I can't help it, he's just so darn cute!
Like I said, I think the scores were a tad bit generous, but I've ridden just as many tests where the judging felt more punitive than encouraging. Based on the rest of the day's scores, it seemed as though the judge was rewarding nice moments rather than looking for ways to ding the rider. I like that.
For this test, we scored nothing lower than a 6.0 (and there were only 2 of those), and we actually had a slew of 7s and 7.5s, 18 of them to be exact. Oh, and did I mention we earned an 8 for our final halt? Our final score was 68.75% which was 4 points shy of a 70%.
There were only two or three places that I can see where we might possibly have made up a point or three, but not four. Our entry was quite unsteady (6.0) which usually earns a 7.0; we got the 7.0 on the next test. My leg yield right earned a 6.0, but that's still typical for a us. My stretchy trot earned our usual 6.0, but that's another movement that I need to work on. Other than that, I would have needed two more 7.5s instead of the 7.0s we did get. That's just being greedy.
Whether the score was generous or not, it came at a time when I really needed a little boost to my moral. No one's feelings are ever hurt by an atta girl. I am glad I rode for this judge this weekend. I needed to hear something good about my riding.
Oh, and even better - that score earned us Adult Amateur High Point!
I am not going to lie. It felt really good to walk away a "winner." Not sucking is amazing!