I have such a hard time acknowledging anything less than brilliant as successful (for myself - I see it so easily in others). I tend to see only the big picture and never the smaller details. In my mind, we weren't successful this weekend, we didn't crash and burn, though, either.
I view showing like a number line. A good performance would be a high positive number; disasters are negative numbers. The bigger the disaster, the bigger the negative integer. My rides on Sunday felt more like a zero, neither disastrous nor successful.
I clearly have some personal growth issues to work on. When I put something down on paper (or here), I feel obligated to make it happen. I need to make it a goal to acknowledge, no matter how hard it is, that even tiny success are really an accomplishment, especially in the show ring.
After I finished Introductory Test C, I approached the judge for some feedback. She encouraged me to try and lower my hands. I find this kind of funny because that’s all I do with Sydney at home: keep my hands low. In fact, I spend most of my warm up with my hands resting on my thighs. But, I am getting ahead of myself.
For this schooling show series, a dressage court with no outer “alley” is used which means you are already in the court when the judge rings her bell. I kind of like this set up as the horses don’t always know when they’ve started. I entered at A via a left hand turn as planned, but right away, Sydney became a giraffe. His head was as high as he could get it, and he was swinging it hard. I know where my hands should be, but it seemed more important to maintain some type of contact, so I followed him with my hands.
We aimed up the center line, but I all I felt was a zig-zag. I am surprised that he halted at all. I had to haul back pretty firmly to stop his forward movement. We scored a 6 (it felt like a 4).
He did trot forward and track right at C, and it didn’t feel too bad; we scored a 6.
We attempted to "circle" right 20 meters at B, but it wasn’t a circle. I kept an inside bend and pushed with my inside leg to the outside rein, but he just couldn’t reach and stretch into the bend. The judge gave us a 6.5 and the comment, “fairly tense, needs better bend/stretch; keeps good rhythm (it felt like a 4.5).
As I was finishing the 20-meter trot circle, I debated about whether to even attempt the canter. I knew he wouldn’t do it well, and I was a little worried about an explosion. But then I decided that we had to try and that even if he blew the right lead canter, it might gives us experience for the left lead canter. We got it, but it was a mess. He came back to trot, and I re-cued for the canter again. I decided to school the transition even though we were riding a test. He did pick it back up, but by then we needed to transition back to trot. The judge gave us a 5.5 with the comment, “good transition then breaking, very braced in the transition.”
After the canter, we crossed the diagonal (K-X-M) where I tried to let him move out, but the giraffe was back. We scored a 6.5.
The rest of the test rode much the same. He was stiff, tense, and heavy. He tried to listen, but that was all he could give. To his credit, he never spooked or tried to leave the arena. We rode the test without any big snafus, but I was riding a rocket that could only shoot straight forward. I know the scores look good, but I didn't feel any 5s or 6s. I felt a lot of 4s.
Surprisingly, his free walk was the one thing that felt really, really good. He marched along very nicely. At Intro C, it’s a short free walk from B to H. It took me a few strides before I felt comfortable letting that much rein go; I didn’t want him to bolt for home. The judge’s comment was right on, “shows nice stretch when rider allows hands to come down and reins to lengthen.” Even though I was slow to release the reins, she gave us a 7.
Overall, the judge felt that my hands were too high, and that I needed to allow him to stretch down. She also pointed out that I was slowing him down before the canter transition which was like trying to re-cork a bottle of champagne. She also said I needed to help him maintain a more consistent rhythm so that his canter wasn’t so explosive. While she is certainly right, my reason (right or wrong) for slowing him was in an effort to help him rebalance. I have learned that if he races or falls into the canter, he gets very upset by the loss of control and tries to rear or bolt. It seemed safer for both of us to slow down and lose rhythm rather than to risk a bolt.
I felt like he went like he did six months ago at home. That’s how every ride would go. I would work hard for a half an hour just to get a few strides of softness. Now, I get on and he gives me such a nice, stretchy trot. Our canter transitions are no longer explosive and he enjoys the work. We have it at home; my hand position is good and he’s willing and balanced. We just need to get that same work away from home. The only way to do that is to travel more often. Sydney will go back to HDEC for their next show at the end of June.
Here are the score sheets for the first test.