Monday, April 25, 2016

Dancing in the Sandbox For a Day: Dressage Show Success

With the goals in mind to compete in a new place that Klein has never seen and to halt ON x this weekend we headed to a local dressage show last Sunday. 

The weekend prior Klein had been slightly distracted with taking in all the new sights at Plantation and also that one little tiny spot of freight training me slightly past x thus getting points deducted from an otherwise PERFECT halt, getting us a 33.30 on that test (which is not bad, I know, but we can do better). 

The barn we went to was a dressage only barn so I thought that would be a GREAT place for some legit criticism for us.  I was excited to get some report cards in the form of dressage test feedback.

We rode three USEA eventing tests.  We did the Novice 3 Day long format dressage test for the first time, Training A as a refresher, and Preliminary A which I have been DYING to ride.  We went alone, so, no video from the day.

I also wanted to use this show as a some time management practice, so we left a little early and actually, because I had never been to this farm and Google maps sucks sometimes, I drove right by it the first time.  I found it 15 mins later and we still had plenty of time to check in and warm up.  Funny thing though, as I pulled in a lady walked into the middle of the drive way waving for me to stop.  I thought she was just going to direct me to parking.  She told me I had to wait to drive in because there was a test being ridden and I couldn't drive my truck and trailer by the ring until it was done.  I'm sorry, but that's funny.  DQs sure do crack me up sometimes.  I will respect anyone's rules at their facility, of course, no questions asked, but that was just silly.  I know they are not all like that, but a good bit of them are.  Klein and I would ride our tests with a marching band marching around the ring.  Event horse in the hizzouse people!  A circus bear on a motorcycle could ride wheelies around the ring and we'd still go in there and get our business done.

We warmed up in their indoor and Klein had to check herself out periodically in the mirrors.  I kept telling her yes, she IS the most beautimous mare in the world, and that yes, her ear bonnet was on straight and she looked perfect.  Her warm up was great for all three tests, she didn't take notice of anything that day despite it being a completely new place with all unfamiliar horses.  We almost got run into once by a slightly out of control horse in the warm up, but things like that never seem to bother her either.  She has dealt with much crazier things like babies and crazy racehorses bouncing off of her when we were ponying them and she would just look annoyed more than anything, not spooked or freaked out by it.  More of, "what's wrong with this horse??"

Schooling shows are great times for experiments.  My experiments for that day was riding with and without my whip and rising for lengthenings on one test and sitting for them on the other test.

She warmed up great.  I stuck to the components we needed for each test.  For example, there were no lengthenings while warming up for our first test, the N3D test.  There was no need to get it in her head that there was a possibility of lengthening across the diagonal when we changed rein over it in the N3D test.  Sometimes Klein can anticipate stuff once you work on a certain movement during a ride.  It is something we are working on at home, but it's not something to play with during warm up at a show. 

I rode without my whip for the N3D and it went great.  I felt like Klein was slightly dull to the aids, responsive to my leg but a little dull to the aids for transitions.  I could have done more transitions in the warm up and that would have helped.  But overall I was very happy with it.  This was the first time we had ridden that test.  Although, during our free walk someone walked by with something that made a crinkling noise like a granola bar wrapper and Klein slightly perked up to look for it, it was pretty funny!  I was trying not to laugh!!

We had a little time to relax before our next two tests.  We went back to the trailer and I got Klein some water.  I looked over Training A to make sure I remembered it since it had been a while since we had ridden it, but it is pretty stuck in my head.  After that I put Klein's bridle back on and we went back in the warm up.

I rode with my whip for this test.  I felt like she was a little more forward just by having it in my hand.  She used to have a terrible habit of running from it if I had it in my hand, not even ever touching her with it.  Ever since she was a baby it is just something that has very easily offended her and as the years have passed this is finally starting to fade.  My crop for jumping, no big deal.  My dressage whip, O...M...G... mom, no you didn't!

This time we did throw just a couple lengthenings into the warm up.  I wanted to make sure that switch was flipped on with her.  She gave me some really nice down transitions and I really felt like we didn't need much more warm up, so we watched the ring for a couple rides while we waited. 

In we went and I felt pretty good about that test.  The only thing I knew we didn't do well was our 15m canter circles.  I KNEW we went too big and thought to myself, well we look like we were sleeping in geometry class.

We only had a few minutes before we were heading back into the warm up before our next test so I looked at Prelim A one more time and we went back in to the warm up.  For this warm up we added in some leg yields, since they are in our test, and more sitting trot since that whole test is ridden sitting.  Klein felt great.  The whole day I had been applying a new method Lainey had taught me in our lesson.  When it comes to the outside rein and half halting think of your elbow trying to touch your horses hip.  Of course you're not pulling that far back but in your head if you think of that, it just works.  It made for a better connection for us, and we have been using it every ride since our lesson with her.

We went in for Prelim A and it went great!  The only thing I had a bit of a tough time with is the fact that these eventing tests all the way to Prelim B are ridden in a 20 X 40.  So some movements had a little distance added on to them by being in a 20 X 60 ring.  One of these was the leg yields. The leg yields on Prelim A are from D - H and then D - M.  In a 20 X 60 you have 20 more meters of length to cross over. That's too much for a leg yield from the center line.  So we had to be very careful not to end up on the other side of the ring before H and M.  A little extra challenge, but, we managed.  I felt like we gave it our best effort for our first time riding that test and that being our first test where I sat the entire thing.

Throughout the day people asked what Klein was.  No one guessed her to be full Perch.  When I was picking up my tests the owner of the facility told me she was pleasantly surprised by Klein.  She said she doesn't look like she is the lightest but she can really get her front end up.  That was a very nice compliment coming from this very nice dressage barn.  Everyone was great there.  It was a very well organized show and I will definitely go back to that facility for some more dressage report cards.  The owner also came and checked with me while I was warming up to make sure they had the right test for the N3D test.  I really appreciated that she came to double check, that was very nice of her.

So, our scores? 

N3D:  23.86 (76.13% in dressage scoring)
Training A:  30.47 (69.52% in dressage scoring)
Preliminary A:  26.81 (73.18% in dressage scoring)

I was blown away.  The 23.86 is a personal best for us.  Prior to that our best score was a 26.1 on Novice A.  Training, those 15m canter circles that we made too big got us or that would have been in the 20's too, but I am NOT complaining about that score for Training!  A 26.81 for our first time riding Prelim A?!  So soooo proud of my Klein mare.  SO proud!  It's not the most complicated test in the world, but it is the highest USEA test we have ridden at a show yet.  I want to do some Prelim CTs for funsies and this was another step toward that goal.

We have been working our asses off with dressage and I think this weekend proved that our work is paying off.

Working on our dressage in the sunset last week.

All three tests had a lot of 8's.  We had some comments about our canter being nicely balanced, some saying how straight we were both down the center line and across the diagonals.  I was proud of the fact that our loop to the quarter line at the canter on Prelim A earned us a comment about it being nicely balance and we got an 8 on it.  Our halt on each test got an 8. 

The marks that weren't so great?  When Klein's attention was taken for split second by the crinkling noise during our free walk, that got us a 6.5 and a "more reach, stretch more."  Bet if there was a granola bar on the ground she'd be stretching more!  Our 15m canter circles killed us on training and got us a 6 with a comment of "a bit large" and a 5 with a comment of "way too big."  Oops.  Clearly we know what a 15m circle is though because our 15m trot circles scored 8's and our 10m circles on Prelim A were 8's with comments of "nice bend."  Our stretchy circle wasn't great and got a 5.5 on Training A.  That's something we have struggled with and some days are better than others.  That day it wasn't there and I should have warmed up with atleast one, and I didn't for no apparent reason. 

Also, lengthenings on both Training A and Prelim A, but we knew that.  That's the thorn in our side.  Lainey helped us have a breakthrough with them as far as schooling them and improving but it is not something that will be fixed in two weeks.  We are on our way to improvement with them and I got a 6 and 6.5 on lengthenings on Training where I was posting for them and two 6's on Prelim A where I sat them.  Basically same difference.  The comments said we need to show longer strides.  We're working on it!  I WILL get a 7 on these damn things before this year is over!  We are armed with the tools we need now after riding with Lainey!

See, working on it!  This is us working on lengthenings last week!

We ended up being 1st, 2nd, and 3rd to ourselves in that division.  All Eventing TOC was combined. Klein won a bag of carrots which she enjoyed some of immediately.  It was a successful day, my goals were accomplished and I got my report cards I wanted.  I'm proud of our scores coming from DQ land!  We had another great day together improving our skills and strategies. 


  1. Awesome, and to do all that on your own at the show? Extra impressive in my book.

    1. I'm a pro at being alone. I would say 99% of our rides are alone and so are 95% of our rides anywhere we haul out. I have it down to a science :D

  2. Woo congrats!! Sounds like Klein is doing super well! It's funny - I've ridden prelim A to accommodate first level tests in the short court (that's what's available in our closest schooling shows) but wouldn't have thought to fit the same test into a large court. Why not just do prelim B or a first level test?

    1. I just really have been wanting to ride Prelim A, for actual dressage tests I do want to ride some second level stuff if we have time this year.