I knew as soon as we entered at "A" I was going to have to fight for every point, and it had nothing to do with Speedy G. Instead, I had let the pressure of riding in a RAAC class get to me. I should probably remind you of some background information.
The California Dressage Society (CDS) has more than 3,300 members. It's the largest of the GMOs, and competition can be a bit stiff. CDS holds three Regional Adult Amateur Competitions (RAAC): one each in the Northern, Central, and Southern parts of California. Qualifying isn't overly difficult, but many riders work hard to get there. The RAAC is also USDF/USEF rated.
Last year, Speedy and I qualified for RAAC at both Introductory and Training Level. I was the only rider who qualified and entered in the Introductory class so I was the winner with a score of 67.000%. My goal for the Training Level Test 3 class was to simply not finish dead last. Out of ten riders, we were ... 10th. I was really disappointed. In hindsight, I should have been quite happy with our score of 57.200%. It was only the fourth time I had ever ridden that test, and the third time had been the day before!
My goal for this year's RAAC was to not finish dead last, again. We've worked on this test for a whole year, and I know we are capable of turning out a pretty solid ride. During our warm-up, Chemaine had me work on the loop. In order to get some bend, I needed to turn my own body to encourage Speedy to bend his body.
I have learned that we score better if we enter the ring on a right bend. When the judge rang her bell, we were on the other side of the ring which meant I was going to enter on a left bend. Speedy was resistant, and I knew I shouldn't enter before feeling ready. My inner voice kept saying, pass "A" and turn around. I ignored that little voice, never again!, and entered at "A" from the left with a resistant horse. We wobbled all the way up the centerline to "X," and I fought for a halt. Our score? A dismal 5.5.
One of our strongest elements is our trot up centerline. I knew we had blown the very first movement, and I had four tough ones ahead. I made it through the loop and canter, but the frustration and mental energy wasted on our entrance left me feeling slightly dazed. As we transitioned from the canter to the trot at "X," I continued across the diagonal, but as I approached "A," I had absolutely no idea what came next. I halted at "A" (which is what I was supposed to do), but then thinking I should have cantered, I circled back to the rail to restart so I could get the canter transition.
The judge blew her whistle, which fortunately woke up my brain, and I got back on track. The rest of the test went just fine, nothing spectacular, but it was relatively well ridden. Even with the horrible entry and the two point deduction for going off course, we earned a 61.200% (just 1.5 points lower than the day before). I was sightly disappointed with the ride, but still hopeful that I could still place somewhere in the middle of the scores.
When my mom and I went up to check scores, she asked what I would be happy with. Anything over 60% always makes me feel pretty good, I told her. But then I quickly changed my mind and added, I just don't want to be dead last.
You know what's coming.
Mom asked me if I needed to be alone. She said she understood how disappointed I was and wouldn't be offended if I just needed to walk off alone. I told her that I was fine, and I would be okay in a few minutes. One of my strengths is being able to let a "bad" ride go so that I can prepare for the next ride.
Chemaine and I went over the test. I didn't really need any feedback; I knew exactly what had gone wrong. I rushed the entry, lost control of Speedy's outside shoulder in the first loop which made the first canter transition rough, and then I went off course. I managed to pull the second half of the test together and ended up with a straight halt (7.0). There were no further remarks, but we scored a 7.0 for gaits and another 7.0 for rider position. The judge also commented that we are a "nice team."
Not to spill the beans, but when we rode this same test later in the day for the El Sueno Equestrian Center Training Level Championship, we ROCKED it! More tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the Awards Ceremony.