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Monday, May 10, 2010

My first triple rated dressage show

Blogging has lapsed, not for the lack of material, but for the lack of time and energy. I have several posts coming up that I hope will be very interesting, so please stay tuned!

Today’s entertainment is: Melinda’s first “recognized” dressage show.

On the fence about showing? Let me see if I can help you out.

Please rate the following in terms of enjoyment level:

1. Bathing and grooming until o’dark thirty, then sleeping 3.5 hours, and then rising to finish grooming and trailer to show. You know it’s early when Starbucks isn’t open….

2. Wearing white clothing around horses.

3. Wearing boots that make your feet go to sleep.

4. Eating liquid breakfasts

5. Grooming and grooming and then more grooming

6. Being judged on the last 8 months of training based on a 3 minute test.

Do I have you convinced to go out and renew you GMO, USDF, and USEF memberships RIGHT NOW?

All kidding aside, here’s what I learned at this show and why I’ll continue to show:

  • Grooming for a show can be a bonding experience. I don’t usually spend much time grooming Farley. As long as I knock the dust off the saddle area and spend a few moments untangling her mane, we are good. However, while preparing for this show, I discovered there’s another bond that forms after spending 3-4 hours grooming a horse and it’s a good thing.
  • Showing is a test of your ability to do something on demand. Yes, you can do it at home, or in a lesson. But, can you perform when you have one shot at the movement and must perform at the designated location? That’s a whole ‘nother ball game….Just as doing organized endurance rides has different stressors than a conditioning ride of the same length, so does showing test your equitation skills.
  • Because humility and acceptance of reality is a beautiful thing in an otherwise bossy and controlling person!
  • Because sometimes, you get that magical moment where you and the horse connect and actually DO something that’s spectacular in a very personal, quiet way.

The show went very well.

It did not start well….She jigged and got very tense. We managed (with coaching from my trainer) to get through most of it and before I knew it, it was time for my first class – intro A (remember – I scratched from training level after 2 weeks of not-so-good schooling last Wednesday). I knew this was my throw away class as I hadn’t ridden the intro A test since last November. I second guessed my caller and made one mistake because I thought she was wrong (she was right, I was wrong – lesson in humility #1). Farley was tense and not very round and through, but we got through it without any outright naughtiness so I was pleased. I knew it was good enough for a high 50. Back into the warm up pen and I had ~10-15 minutes to prepare for my next test.

For some reason I was over flexing to the left. I couldn’t feel it from the saddle, but from the ground (apparently) it was pretty obvious. I went into my second test (intro B) vowing not to put ANY pressure on my left rein when it was inside…..

I thought my intro B went very very well. Unlike in November, she was BETTER in the second test. My trainer was able to watch this test and was very pleased (which made me pleased).

I had a magical moment on my last change of rein on the long diagonal where me and Farley just clicked and we did the best change of diagonal I have probably ever done! Those moments are why I do dressage and how cool is that it happened during a show? I knew that movement was good for a 7, and I thought the test probably scored 62-65 (trainer agreed, and her husband…and my caller….). I was so happy…..

I scored a 59+% (can’t remember the exact score). We were all a little shocked. It was still good for 2nd place (yes there were more than 2 people!) – it’s the judge’s first year and my trainer said that she was being a bit conservative. Lesson in humility and character building #2!

So I didn’t get my coveted 60%, BUT Farley performed SO WELL in the second test I have trouble caring what the actual score was. I couldn’t have asked for more and so what if it wasn’t scored a 60? The judge was scoring consistently (only 2 tests in all intro classes were in the 60’s) so I’m feeling pretty good! Here's what went really well:

  • None of the naughtiness from the rides in November was in evidence,
  • Farley performed according to her ability (and to my ability to give cues!)
  • I remembered all of my coaching while in the ring (didn't space out), and tried hard to put it all into practice, even if it didn't look like it :) (position and prepare for corners, ride her RUMP in the center line, look early for the center line, swing wide at A when entering the court, keep a pleasant expression, carry the inside hand, turn with every stride on the circle, the diagonal is my money shot, let my elbows move at the free walk, etc.). Even though I was nervous in warm up and going to the test, I could think and concentrate during the test and I actually ENJOYED my tests! :)
  • She was FORWARD in the tests and I didn’t have to use my whip even once during a test.
  • We also got a judge’s comment that we made “a very attractive pair”.

Can I really ask for more at my first recognized?

The show gave out bottles of local wine (the area is well known for wine) for all classes places first through third, so I got 2 bottles of wine to try! (intro A was good for a third place even at a 55%– only 3 people in the class) Very happy – I really enjoy a glass of wine but I’m often too cheap to buy.

BTW – even though I was ADAMENT I was NOT going to overflex during the second test, I STILL got comments from the judge throughout intro B that she was overflexed to the left (lesson in humility #4) so hopefully in my next lesson on Wednesday I can get that FIGURED out. I have a feeling I’m collapsing to the inside, going to the left, which is contributing to the feeling that she isn’t flexed enough (which makes me overflex). I got a eye-opening picture at physical therapy on Friday of how uneven my body is (my left side has been compensating for injuries on the right side for 10 years), AND coupled with the white hairs on Farley’s left side, I have a feeling my position is questionable to the say the LEAST. I’m going to really focus on evenness in the next couple months – while riding, running, sitting etc.

As you can imagine, Sunday afternoon was spent napping in the recliner and sipping on glasses of wine....


  1. Hooray for you and Farley! What a terrific experience for you both...

    ...but I'm afraid that you still haven't convinced me to try dressage showing. Sorry 'bout that. >g<

  2. That is wonderful!!!!!!!! Money well spent and wine for a prize...that sure beats the things I have won! I am so glad you had a good time, there is hope of turning you into a DQ yet.

  3. Knew you'd do great! Feeling the that bond in such a moment of pressure is one of the coolest things about being a horseman(woman) :) May you have more great experiences to come!

  4. Well done, Mel! Really enjoy your blog, thank you for sharing your experiences.

    On a different note, a few weeks ago you posted about a good trainer/instructor having the ability to present ideas in different ways. You apparently took some flak on another board about counter-bending to pick up the correct lead. Check out the clinic video at behindthebitblog if you haven't already - Felicitas Von Neumann makes the same suggestion - vindication for you!!


  5. Lisa - how funny! I'm think I'm learning a few "squeaky wheels" can alter the perception of what "everyone" is doing. Ha!

    BTW - something I forgot to add to this post was another thing that went well at the show - I found out that I'm pretty good at saying "wow - that movement probably scored a 7"....and then wehn I get my test back, sure enough I got a 7! It made me feel good because I'm starting to feel what is "correct". The difference between a 5 and a 6 is still a bit fuzzy, but I KNOW when I score a 7 and I KNOW when I score a 4 so that's a start right?


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