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Monday, July 11, 2011

Impressions of Pebble: Day 3

Day 3 is the day I’m most proud of. This was my last and final day in the show ring.

I had an incredibly hard time in the warm up arena. My first ride was early – 9am – and as it worked out, I needed to warm up Zach by myself with coaching from my trainer on the ground (as opposed to her doing the first bit of riding as had happened the previous 2 days). It fell apart quickly, and stayed that way for an hour. Over and over I tried to “get back in the game”. Over and over I failed. More than once my trainer called me over to the rail and attempted to get me back to where I was at the end of day 1. I tried trying, I tried not trying. I tried humming, smiling, frowning, relaxing, sitting up straight, zoning out, and concentrating. It just wasn’t happening. I wanted to quit. Badly. But as my life wasn’t in danger and I wasn’t going to lie in order to go back to the barn and throw a pity party for myself, I just kept going. Then a miracle happened. Literally minutes before I went into the dressage court it all came together. As I finished my lap around the arena and as they rang the bell (signal in dressage to enter the court and start the test – in this case they were using a truck horn…) I had it. Me and Zach were going to rock this thing.

And we did. We had an AMAZING test. I was so proud of us both. I would have been proud of that test anywhere, anytime – but what made it more special is that I got Zach to that point that gave me that test on that morning. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect, but we got it down, and then totally rocked it.

As I had feared, the score did not reflect this. I’ve shown under this particular judge several times and knew that I would probably have to enjoy this day of showing for my own personal accomplishments and not rely on a score. A number of people came up to me afterwards and let me know how nicely the test was ridden which was very appreciated. It was also comforting to know that EVERYONE was being scored exceptionally low. Classes were being won at the lower levels by 62’s. The majority of the riders in a class would get 50’s. Riders that had never before gotten below a 60 were getting scores in the 50’s. Still, I wanted a 60. I’ve never received a 60 at a recognized show. Because this was my last chance at a 60 for a very long time, I made the decision to ride my second class of the day, under the same judge for that chance.

After studying the comments on my test, we decided to ride Zach on a longer, lower frame. I wanted to demonstrate that Zach was moving freely, reaching for contact. The goal was to show a significant difference between my first level test in the morning and my training level test in the afternoon – thus demonstrating to the judge that I had read her comments and had attempted to change my ride according to her preferences.

Zach and I were both fatigued. But again, going into the dressage court and doing our laps before the bell, I knew that we were going to have another awesome test (who says you can’t improve your performance by the power of suggestion?). I really concentrated on pushing him forward to the connection and Zach responded beautifully, reaching down and really showing the judge that he in indeed WAS on the bit. It was a solid test and ridden very differently from my test in the morning. Before looking at my score, which I knew I would be disappointed with (and I was), I told my trainer that I was proud of my second test for the following reason – I made changes and rode it differently. I was a good enough rider that I would decide that for THIS test I would rider longer and lower and deeper. And I did. I could ride a horse in more than one way. I didn’t just go out there and say “well, this is correct so this is the way I’m going to ride” – I was able to make changes, while still preserving the correctness of the ride.

As I had suspected, the score was low. However, my biggest disappointment was that both my tests (judges comments) read identically. No change whatsoever.

Does a small part of me want to immaturely scream and jump up and down and stomp my feet?


But I’m not going to. Because what I want to the legacy of this show to be is how I had a wonderful test after refusing to let myself go to a “bad place” and I succeeded in a warmup that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I want to remember that I followed that up with a test in which I demonstrated I know more than one way to ride.

I couldn’t have done either test a year ago, 6 months ago, or even a 1 month ago. Of course I’m a better rider, but I am a better person because of my trainer and Zach too. I was able to congratulate my teammate on a job well done, even though we were in all the same classes, sincerely and without jealousy – yet still be a competitor to the core. I was able to not take the judges scores personally, and accept that a different judge may have given significantly different scores – and that’s just how the show world works. I was able to let go of a goal without any drama and appreciate what I did accomplish – and not let what I didn’t accomplish spoil the milestones I did achieve.


  1. You go, girl!

    You have beautifully summed up how I feel about dressage - at the end of the day, it's not about what the judge thinks, or how you placed against the other competitors, it's about how YOU and YOUR HORSE did, together, on that day, for that test. If you rode as well as you could, if you really "went for it," and if you feel like you really accomplished something - that's what it's about. Congrads!

  2. way to go! Sometimes I wonder about the judges that do as you said, score riders badly. Do they feel that it is their duty as judge to make as many riders feel bad about their ride as possible so they will go home and improve? Or do they just like being that "Judge" of the show. Shows need to pick their Judges more carefully. Its odd that your training level ride had the same comments as your first.
    I wish I could have gone and watched you!


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