Saturday, April 29, 2017

Catch-Up Post III: Dylan's Two USDF Shows

I actually have another catch up post to write now, since we have been to a third show, this time a working equitation show. I am home today under the threat of deathstorms, so I have a minute to catch up! I obviously still haven't had a moment to myself to write, which is disappointing. I suppose the best I can do is just... do the best that I can. 

Unfortunately, I have very few pictures from these shows. There were no photographers, much to my dismay. I have a couple here and there, but mostly this post will be words, which I am sorry about.

On March 25th, I had another WE lesson with Tarrin. I've been riding Dylan pretty much exclusively in his snaffle, which has made me be really accountable for holding him together with my body. Dylan is so very clear about everything - he literally does everything I ask him to do, whether or not I ask him to do it. If I really engage my seat, he gets feather light in front. If I get a little stronger in my contact, he falls on his forehand and leans on my hand. If I sit too heavy one way or another, he'll clearly have difficulty laterally one way or another. He tells on me. If he's doing ANYTHING that doesn't feel great, it is literally always me. In that way, he is a true schoolmaster - I have nothing to teach him, but he has plenty to teach me and I never have to ask "why are you being naughty and not doing this?" Instead, I always have to ask, "what am I doing wrong?" and the moment I correct it, he does it well.
The lesson with Tarrin went great. We went through the new dressage tests (they changed for each new level, since they split each level into an A and a B section), and Tarrin commented on how much the walk pirouettes and the changes have improved. I've been working very, very hard on both of those things, as they have continuously been sticking points for me. They both require an extremely high level of precision from the rider, and Dylan tolerates nothing less. You can trot around and get away with looking okay, but if you're not right where you need to be in those more precise exercises, it becomes very clear. In the walk pirouettes, if you so much as shift your weight a hair, or touch the reins a little more than you should, he will either plant the hinds in his turn, or he'll take a step back. Same in the changes - if the canter isn't quality, if I get ahead just a little, if I lean just a hair, he'll either leap up high in front and plants the hinds in the change, or he'll be late behind. These things have been getting better and better for us, but I've had to work really hard to get there. 
After we ran through the test, we went to work on some of the obstacles. We chose the double slalom, the garrocha, and the cup corridor. At Intermediate B, I need to canter or walk everything, and do all flying changes - no simple changes allowed anymore. That means I need to canter the double slalom and put changes in between each pole, about every 3 strides after each volte. It's way harder than it sounds - but we were getting them bang on in our lesson. There were a few here and there which were a bit late behind, but almost all were clean. We practiced making our lines between each obstacle too, which is something riders can forget about. Coming from an eventing background, it's natural for me to look for the most efficient lines, so that's the easiest part for me!

The following day, March 26th, we woke up early, bathed and braided, and drove out for our first stab at a USDF show, this one held locally in Glen Rose. I've been to this arena before with O, for a barrel race some years ago. I have not shown USDF in ages, not since Gogo in... 2008? It's been awhile. After 2008 I showed almost exclusively USEA. Gogo and I did very well at First level, earning regular 69%s but never hitting the elusive 70% at a rated dressage show. I didn't want to take Dylan out at Second, since I feel that Second is something I'd like to achieve with my homebreds. So I decided to take Dylan out Third for our first stab, since I feel like Third is way less achievable with another horse than Second would be. You can get to Second level with most horses, but Third is really a step up from that, or at least it is in my head. That does mean I skipped out on my opportunity to get my Bronze at the moment, but I feel that I can achieve that later. I'm less worried about my Bronze than my potential Silver, which is where I want to get with this horse before he goes back home. I have him for hopefully another 3 years so I think I can do it. 

We were doing three classes that day, Third 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They do dressage shows differently down here, or perhaps differently now than they did 10 years ago - they run one entire show on Saturday, and one entire show on Sunday. That way, you have two chances to qualify in one weekend, which saves you on driving and time taken off. You have to pay entry fees for two shows, which does suck a bit (office fees for each show etc), but you only pay for one weekend of stabling at least. I think it's a great way to get things done efficiently - Region 9 is enormous, and some people have to travel a really long way to get to shows. Texas is a biiiiiiiiiiiiig state. 

I have to give the most excellent and deserved props to Dylan, who stood tied to the trailer all day like an old cowpony. He just slept, and ate his hay, and drank buckets and buckets of water, and did nothing. We live close enough that it wasn't worth stabling for just a one day show. I don't know too many stallions who can be trusted to stay put and not care.

Third 1 was first up, and it went.... ok. I think I get more nervous than I really realize, which affects him. When I get a little tight, the detailed things fall apart. We had a number of problems - both walk pirouettes were poor, both changes were poor. He even just flat out ran into his first change, something he's never done, so I;m not quite sure what I did to ask him to do that! On top of that, I had a course error when I totally forgot where I was going, and then scored poorly on the movement when I was back on course. All of those things scored well deserves 4s, which gave us a 58% and a fourth place. I felt disappointed... I had just done all these clean changes the day before. 
My trainer happened to walk by while I was warming up for my second test. I hadn't asked her to school me at the show, but I was regretting that at that moment. She gave me some good pointers anyway, and came in to watch me ride. I'm not sure what happened, but the test was just awful. I botched every change, every pirouette, and had all sorts of negative remarks on my half passes, all of which were led with the haunches instead of the front end (another problem we have, if I'm not sitting well). The test scored an abysmal 56%, but it was deserved. I was the only one in Test 2, so I got a blue ribbons, but ribbons don't mean a lot when your score sucked. Louisa kind of looked at me like "what the hell was that?" when I came out of the ring, but said nothing negative and instead gave me pointers for the last test of the day, which she would not be there for. Mentally I swore I would do a better test the next time she saw me ride - remember this for later, because it's a promise I fulfilled. 
During my warmup for Test 3, I happened to glance over at another rider, who was on a bouncy giant warmblood. Her seat was just jammed into that saddle - it looked like she was trying to scoop a hole through it with her seatbones. I'm not sure why, but suddenly I had this moment of, "stop just sitting there passively and get your seat into this horse! Ride! You know how to ride!" And, it worked - I went into that arena, got my seat into Dylan, and found a quality of gaits I hadn't had all day. We got clean changes and clean pirouettes, and put in a workmanlike test for a 61%. AND I had another error when I forgot to halt at the correct spot at the end, so that also lowered the score. This one was also a first place, but we had four riders in our division and the win felt so, so much sweeter. I was so excited! I felt suddenly like I had a clear picture of what I needed to do in order to get the better scores at my next show. 

The second USDF show was held on April 8th-9th, again held as two separate shows. The first show was actually held the 7th and 8th, and the second the 9th, but I only showed on the 8th and 9th. We showed Third 2 and Third 3 on both days - another thing that has changed from the shows up north is that down here, you don't have a Champion and Reserve Champion at each level. You only have a top scoring AA, JR/YR, and Open person over the entire show. There isn't any incentive to show all three classes at Third, because... why? What do you need to show all of them for if there is no major prize for showing in them all? I have a lot of beloved Reserve and Champion ribbons on my wall, and this was admittedly disappointing to me when I realized it. I don't know if they stil do it differently up north or not, but I can see why you wouldn't bother here. If you have one day shows, most people aren't going to show in enough classes for a Ch or Res. You certainly can't show in four classes in a day! Three is pushing it as it is. You're not allowed to do more than two tests at I believe 4th and up, and even if you could it would be pretty rough. So, I totally get it. It's not really conducive to this format of showing. 

Snoozin the night before the show

Louisa was at the Saturday show but not the Sunday show, and I had asked her to coach me through both tests. I hadn't used my last Third 3 test as a qualifier - I should, because it was a qualifying score! - but I made sure both the Third 3 tests I was riding were going to be used as qualifiers, both for the Southwest championships and the Region 9 regionals. She set me up with the magic trainer two way radio, which I LOVE. So easy to hear your trainer and not have to listen to them shouting over the other people shouting. She had me warm up for my first test differently than I normally do - by posting around the arena alternating between a medium and a small, almosts passage-like trot. We moved from there through some lateral work, trying to get Dylan to unlock his lower back and take bigger steps behind. It worked - we went into Test 2 and had a rocking test with a 66.8%! It would have scored even higher had I not let one of my half passes be led by his haunches. Remember when I said I would ride better in front of Louisa the next time she saw me ride? I improved my score by TEN percentage points the second time she saw me ride. Pretty good.
Test 3 did not go as well, because of his walk work. His changes were clean, his pirouettes were good, his lateral work all scored very high, but the walk was tense and shuffley. It scored a 61.1%, which is a qualifying score but not a super one. It also placed us 5th - it placed us first at the last show, and fifth at this show,

Day 1 haul

Day two did not have a Louisa to coach me, so I had to take my warmup from the day before and try and figure out what we were doing and what worked. I did the same trotwork and some lateral work, but I think I jazzed him up just a bit more than I should have, because our walk work in Test 2 just sucked. He shuffled and jigged and trotted through our extended walk, which earned us a well deserved 3, and some 4s on the other walk work. The score was a 60.1%, which I think was deserved. The rest of the test was very good! But, the walk sucked. 
I brainstormed with Louisa and K during the break between classes. We talked about what K did to keep Dylan quiet and his back loose in the walk work, and she reassured me that his walk is very challenging to ride, and she has scored horribly on it too. She said she even earned a 45% once at 2nd level many years ago when he was a youngster. I felt a lot better after that! Louisa and I talked more about getting him to step over and step bigger when he starts to get tight in his lower back - when he wants to get jiggy when I put my leg on, to push him over and get him to take a deeper step behind instead of going faster. He picked that up in our warmup very fast, and Test 3 went much better. He scored a 64.1% which was so much better! I felt that I held him together in the walk work so much better, including a 6 on our extended walk, which was a big improment from that 3 that morning. Nothing spectacular, but it was clean and a pure walk which is really all that matters. 

What a weekend! I can't believe how much we improved in a matter of weeks from one show to the next. I really feel like I'm clicking on a deeper level with this stallion. It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't ride for ten minutes without almost falling off in pain - to have gotten this far is amazing as it is. So that is a full compliment of qualifying scores for Regionals, and the Southwestern Championships, AND he had fulfilled his Bronze requirements at Third level. And we are only just beginning!!

From here my goal is to keep working on what we have built so that we can move to Fourth level. I don't want to spend time and money and effort showing at Third when I can pour my energies into clinics and lessons on my way to Fourth. I want to be there by the fall, and I think we can do it. What do you think?

Starting into a medium

Moments from the worst Test 3. I imagine we both looked a lot better in the other tests. But we will never know!


  1. Well done to both of you and congrats on the qualifying scores!

  2. Woah, nice haul! So cool that you have such an amazing horse to learn from and ride. I can only imagine that it would be quite humbling and difficult at times though :) Like trying to speak a foreign language with someone who's fluent haha

  3. Congratulations! Andrea you do such an amazing job going with the flow and making the best of what life brings, and so I'm extra happy for you when life brings you awesome things! (And by that I mean Dylan, not the wins. You earned the wins.)