The one to wait: Sooke Saddle Club Dressage Show and Tell #2

Going into this show (only a mere month since the last one) I had a goal of riding a cleaner, more competent test. I wanted Oats to be more through his back, balanced and listening. I didn’t want his tense, head-flaily test of last month.

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From the last show- photo courtesy of Lois Burton.

And the scores? Yeah, well those can wait. We have other fish to fry.

I had a dressage lesson on Thursday instead of jumping, so I could prep our mindset for the show- and it went quite nicely. I was very pleased with how Oats was responding and felt like maybe this was a good omen for the show? A softer, listening and more responsive horse? Could be!

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Also from last show- happy to say there was improvement this time! Photo by Lois Burton.

Saturday the show was hot hot hot! I, in my infinite wisdom (thank god, b/c it usually only goes one way with me, ha) had decided to only sign up for 1 test. Good idea, me! Oats warmed up okay…But his canter was resistant, high-headed and draggy. I wasn’t super impressed with it, and quickly got annoyed. I asked Christina, who hauls us and is an experienced dressage rider at third level, for some advice.

She suggested I throw in some shoulder-fore at the canter to really work on more straightness and solidify the half-halts. So that’s what we did, and wouldn’t you know…it worked! Got him off my hands, listening better and more engaged. (Note- he sometimes flails into a flying trot while doing this exercise, but hey, baby steps).

We went into the test and wouldn’t you know, it was awesome!! Things we mucked up- my 15-metre circles were WAY too big, and my lengthens did not show enough differences…But otherwise, a really solid test and an improvement for both Oats and I, markedly, from last time. I could feel it!

The judge was very complimentary- she said didn’t I tell you to move up last year? And I said, but I did! This is my move-up! And we had a laugh at that. She ran us through the circles a few more times to work on my geometry, and we did a few lengthens in the canter- very exciting!

And then get this- she ran us through a Level 2 test! Just for fun, to play around with what is being asked at a higher level. It was hilariously bad, but super enjoyable to play with it, and see what happened! It made me feel fired-up and excited 🙂 Even though we kind of sucked at it. And our score for the level 1 test? A very generous 70%!!

Wild’n’Wooly show recap: SUCCESS!

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Braid job and photo thanks to the lovely Sarah C!

After having to cancel two dressage shows with Oats this past year, I was understandably concerned about this one–I REALLY wanted to take him. The Wild’n’Wooly shows are new to us, I wanted to support them, and last time I took Blaze and had a great time. I thought maybe I could do even better with Oats~

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Photo thanks to John.

We were at Training Level, because of our rustiness. In September I was planning on moving him up to First Level, but after he almost died, we had to cancel. Which was fine, I would rather enjoy lots more years with my boy! And then this past spring he had the plague that all the horses picked up, so I couldn’t bring him and NO WAY was I feeling prepared enough to jump straight to First Level this spring. So, Training it is!

And it went sooo well! He warmed up really nicely, listening, not overbent, not bucky- though he did feel QUITE jazzed in the show arena, which made me feel a bit concerned, but when I ‘gave’ him my hands in the canter he responded really nicely and stretched instead of getting ‘up’ and bottled up and balky. Sooo that’s a win!

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Braids by Sarah C. Awesome job eh?

He was a total dink to get into the arena though- running backwards, gate sour. We had to get a running start from Christina every time. SIGH. Oats you are way too mature and experienced to be a crank about going in the in-gate. That was the only big bobble from our day though, so as one of my friends also riding put it ‘I’d rather the horse be a dink about going into the ring rather than have them be a dink IN the ring!’ Ha, ok that’s so true.

So the tests had some minor mistakes- my halt sucked at my first Training Level 2 test, but otherwise was ok. I came into my Training 3 test way ‘wowing’ out at the centreline approach (whoops!) but my halts were better and my circles were better. My stretchy trot wasn’t great either time, and my long-rein walk Oats was rooting. Ah!

I was rewarded well though, and came out of my Training 3 test feeling good about it, like I had improved on my Training 2 test. I NEVER feel that way normally. So that was awesome. Our final test was Prix Caprilli Training and I had a BLAST!! I was smiling, felt awesome, and loving it! Oats was super engaged too, and he was locked in on the fences hahah. Finally something we can both agree on. We did have one major bobble- our ‘stretchy trot’ ended up like, trot-walk-balk- square instead of circle. Whoops!

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All my friends. What could be better?? Photo thanks to John.

But that was pretty much our only big mistake. I came out smiling, and feeling really good.

A great day even before I checked the scores. I knew at that point they didn’t matter– I rode tests I was proud of, happy with. I had a great time with my horsey friends, I was a bit bummed for them that their tests did not go as smoothly. Horses can be heartbreakers. They work so hard and deserve to see that work provide some results!

My results: Training 2: 68% for a second place, Training 3: 71% for a first place, Prix Caprilli (?) not sure, I didn’t pick it up yet.

We were the Training Champs with 70% avg. and we also received the Judge’s Choice award. I am over the moon with his comment: “Lovely rider, I would have her ride my horses anytime!” WOWWWW! 🙂

And that friends, is an awesome day. I do not expect that kind of feedback normally, so I am floating on air with it now.

 

Back in the show ring

I sort of on a whim entered the local schooling show series hosted by Cedar Vista with Oats on Sunday. I had a lot of reasons: read excuses- about why I shouldn’t, and only one why should- because I want to!

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Thanks to the Cedar Vista stables hosting a friendly show series. It was also freezing yesterday!

I missed the season opener in April because I was in Mexico *SO WORTH IT so this one was my first show in many months- since July of last year, actually. I down-scaled what I entered (from 2’3” to 2’0) to minimize my horrible show nerves. Funny enough, when I made that decision I instantly felt a weight (nerves) lift off my shoulders. Phew! It felt a bit strange to be entering that height when I just jumped some really decent 2’6” oxers in my lesson on Thursday, but I have a very challenging time managing both my show nerves and Mr. Oats himself that this was truly the best idea.

And Sunday dawned wayyyyy too early (ughh) and I was up and at’em with Oats at 6:30 a.m.  We loaded up at 6:45 and were at the show grounds to start warming up, get our numbers and registration, learn our courses and start the show at 8 a.m.

Oats was a bit strange- tender footed, not very forward, quite ‘sticky’ and rude/balky. When I sharply reminded him about forward, he threw a big buck! And when we worked over the warm-up course, he was balky, head-tossing and ready to start fussing and bucking! Uh oh, first show back issues? I SO didn’t want to get bucked off!

But..the silver lining? Because the jump height is only 2’0”, I was able to school Oats without having a care in the world about the jumps. They were just ‘there’ and I could do what I needed with his drama-rama and it wasn’t a biggie.

He also didn’t look at a single thing, and wasn’t spooky the whole day! Just sticky, balky and throwing some sassy bucks here and there. HA, good thing it was a jumper day and not hunters…

We rode our classes, some jumps better than others, I had to work SO HARD to get him ‘going’ and he was sluggy, slow and sticky. But, jumped all the jumps, and didn’t buck me off, haha. That meant our time sucked (for match the clock) but others went off course, had horses that stopped or ran out, or had a few rails. That meant we still placed in all of our three classes- and not too bad either actually.

Finished the division with a 2nd, 3rd and 5th place. And Oats is getting shoes for the next show. A good season opener for us, as I have a devil of a time managing nerves typically and stop riding. Yesterday (longest day ever) I could’t stop riding!

Kudos to my fellow riders, who all came home with championships and reserve championships- I was practically the odd man out without one!

Foxstone winter series: Recap of the final show!

 

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Our loot- the 4th place is for our single 2’3” round!

 

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It wasn’t really sunny for a single moment yesterday! Shoot!

I’ll preface this by saying I had a really great jump lesson on Thursday (even did a small grid w/o hands) so anything at the show was basically a cherry on top! That said, my recap is tinged with a bit of bitterness–I was standing in reserve champ in my division standings by the third show and I did NOT manage to hang on to it. Shoooooot! I so wanted it this  year and felt like I really worked hard to keep it!

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Lacking any new media- from last year’s show.

Instead, I dropped down to third, and honestly–it was nice to keep it there, as the final show was quite competitive in my division, with up to 14 riders per class! Crazy eh?!

Still, my goals aren’t ribbons–they’re good experiences. Sometimes I do lose sight of that.

Oats warmed up nicely in the outdoor arena and it was so wet! Wet footing splashed up all over us when we landed from a jump. I had sand on my face even! Oats had it on his bit, on his nose, everywhere. It was a very rainy day, and I was feeling supremely grouchy because of it…

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Then we went to do our brief warmup they offer in the ring, and that’s when the wheels kind of fell off…Oats was a bit crow-hoppy in the outdoor, but I brushed it off, until he was VERY humpy and crowhopping in the corners of the indoor. I immediately felt panicked…This is it, he’s going for a launch again..Just like what happened in the past. I was worried.

We pulled it together and worked over the two warmup fences twice, just to clear any residual concerns about his silly behaviour in the corners. Nicole counseled me to sit tall, and work to mitigate his silliness in the corners before he had a chance to act out. Easier said than done? Years of shows past where he completely launched me echoed in my head…

I’m not gonna lie, I was GRAY going in to my first round.

It was not a fabulous round. I rode extremely conservatively, and rather tensely as well. I didn’t give Oats as much freedom and leg as I should have (and could have). I rode deliberately for the short distance and he didn’t get a chance to act up.

Coming out, Nicole and Sarah said I looked better, and I said I felt a “bit” better but I was still riding very backwards, and constrained. Went in for round two and I couldn’t shake it! Still holding back, and very management-style riding. Oats was fine, and he was managing my silliness now…

Third round and I felt slightly better- it was my equitation round and I started coming out of it more and actually riding, instead of acting like a manikin. We even aced the trot fence that last show we completely bungled. Go us!

A LOOOONGG wait for the flat class and we kind bombed it. I’m not sure what the secret is for a great one (all the stars align?) but Oats was chargey and rude and kind of wanted to get crazy in the canter, but I held him firmly under wraps. Gak!

I started backpedaling like crazy after my flat class. Ambitiously (ok, ambitious for me, the wimp!) I had signed up for a single 2’3” class to round out my day. And then I immediately didn’t want to ride it…

I was cold, wet and it took forever for the 2” division to be over, due to the large number of entries. Still, Nicole was NOT. HEARING. IT. and basically forced me into the warm up ring for the 2’3” warm up. And you know what? Oats was GREAT in it!

I went in to the 2’3” class telling myself–this one I don’t give a shit. Go, finish your class and you’re done for the day. Who cares?!! And it was the BEST CLASS OF THE DAY!

True we had a moment of disunited canter when I thought – mistakenly- that we could get the change behind and boyyyy we sure didn’t. Ooops! But other than that I finally- finally, felt connected to Oats, and we were rockin’ it!

No silly humping or being a twit from Oats, no backwards riding from me. Just good, forward, getting it done!

I came out of the ring smiling. Smiling!! Me?! 

That, despite the ribbons for the day being kind of a wash (two 6th places, two 5th places, and a fourth), made me the happiest of the day. Heck, we did place even out of 14 riders in every one of our classes, so I’m not too sorry about the low-number ribbons. The fact that I didn’t want to, and then I did ride my best in my last class of the day, made all the difference to me.

I went the whole day waiting for that moment to happen. And then it did!

Video

Oats does Dressage

In these grey days, it’s nice to take a step back and reflect on how fun the summer was, and how successful!

This video is from Oats and my first dressage debut- doing walk/trot dressage at the Sooke Saddle Club’s show’n’ tell.

It was really fun, and I found the gang at Sooke Saddle Club very supportive and nice. The judges were hilarious and kind, and Oats and I had a very positive experience.

I came out of that day feeling like, you know what? Maybe we COULD do dressage- and not suck at it completely!

And we were right! I did two more dressage schooling shows- 1 more SSC show’n’ tell and 1 show at QMS, and I never came out of the ring feeling like I sucked.

So maybe there is something to this dressage world eh? My husband was very pleased with the fact that dressage offers times- so you show up at your appointed time, and when you’re done, you go home. No standing around waiting for hours like at my hunter shows. Haha.

I liked how I did feel like I was progressing, and progressing at a pretty good rate. When I am jumping, it can feel really difficult to ‘measure’ how well I am doing, as nerves tend to get in the way, and unfortunately measuring success via jump heights is a losing game…

We did our first show at QMS cantering the dressage tests, and scored well within what we had been scoring all summer. So that told me that our performance had been consistent, and nobody was necessarily giving ‘gimmies’ or overly-generous (yes that is a fear of mine, strangely!).

Here’s to more dressage days!