Here's the update you've been waiting for... Dylan's!!
There is so much to write about here that I've been stalling finishing it. Too much to write. Mostly I'll just share a brief show synopsis, pics, and videos. Then I'll finally feel like I can move back onto regular blogging. There is just so much here to update that it's been impossible to start, you know? Not to mention the fact that I'm still trying to do this on my phone, which is terrible.
Dylan had a killer end to the year. Following August, when I was last blogging actively, Dylan had USDF Regionals, Haras Cup, and two Heart of Texas working equitation shows that he went to. He was also supposed to do a fifth show, but karma stepped in and got me out of that one - it was the literal week before my wedding, there was SO much to do, and fate decided to give Dylan a fat leg for a week. He's fine, it was just a minor dermatitis (actually I think he slept in ants), but it still worked out for the best honestly!
Region 9 Championships:
Regionals was one of the most fun weekends of the year. It was low pressure and high in fun. I stayed with one of my best buds from college who now lives in Houston, and we had a great time. JenJ was there, Stephanie was there, and several other people I know were too. At one point, after coming out of my GAIG 3-3 test, there were like 8 good friends there standing in a group that all didn't know each other, but that knew me. That was super cool. I know I've been the lone wolf at shows for many years, but this past year has really shown me that showing is definitely more fun with friends. Especially since I've reached the age where it's a good excuse to drink wine and have a good time more than be panicky about scores.
We were in two Championship classes - one was the GAIG Region 9 Third Level AA class, and one was the SWDC (Southwest Dressage Championships) Third Level AA class. I went to Regionals with absolutely no other goal than to put in the best rides I could. I just can't beat those AAs on perfectly made super fancy warmbloods, and I'm completely okay with that. I can't turn out low to mid-70s every ride like they can. But what I CAN do is bang out a sufficiently good mid to high-60s score when we're really on our game, and I also feel like as we go up a level this year, the accuracy I can produce will outscore some of the fanciness of the warmbloods. And what else I can do is beat every other Andalusian or Lusitano in my classes. Dylan is, not that I'm biased or anything, one of the best moving Andalusians I've ever seen. He can use his hind end and he can be flamboyant at the same time. Whether or not I can always put the two halves of the whole horse together is another story, but he can do it. When he's on, he can do it.
And that's what we did. Except, with errors. I don't know if it's due to my numerous head injuries or what, but I am having absolutely the worst time remembering my dressage tests. I've ridden 3-3 what, a million times by now? And I forgot movements in BOTH my tests and had errors. And they were different movements! In the SWDC class, I for some reason started a half pass where I should have been doing a shoulder-in. In the GAIG class, I forgot my halt-reinback. Again! Ugh. Remind me to get a reader. In the SWDC class I had one good clean change that scored a 7, and one totally change that was a tick late behind. The judge at A missed it, the judge at E did not, and gave me a 4. That plus my error, and my okay-but-just-holding-it-together walk scored us a 62.8% and an 8th place out of I think 15 or 16 horses. Not our best test, and SWDC only places through 6th, but ah well. I wasn't unhappy since the mistakes were all just human pilot error.
The GAIG class went quite a lot better although both those changes were *almost* not quite perfect. Dylan has a tendency to plant both hinds while he's changing in front, which the judge doesn't always catch, but when they're picky about it that usually scores a 5. A 5 is fair for that I think! Changes are kind of his sticky thing and I'm not always a strong or coordinated enough rider to get my timing absolutely perfect, so it's rewarding when he gets them perfectly. Still, he scored 8s on his lateral work and would have scored higher had I not bogged him down a little through his changes, and through his mediums and extensions. It was good enough to score a 64.6% and land him 6th place in a class of 18. Everyone else above me scored mostly in the 70s with an errant high 60s in there. And I got to ride in my first victory gallop with Dylan!
This picture says "god damn it do not forget your halt again"
Victory gallop cheesin
I love this picture because I look like I know what I'm doing!
At the end of the GAIG test... I'm exhausted but he's so handsome
Oh man there's a lot to tell about Haras. I don't even know where to begin. Perhaps it needs to be fully elaborated upon in its own entry, but for now I'll give the brief report!
Haras is this enormous huge shindig. It's like a huge party with a horse show going on in the middle of it. Ferraris decorate the place, and the local elites come to wear outrageous hats and outfits and gossip together in the stands. The facility is beautiful and clean, the horses are fine, the people watching is exceptionally good. Haras has everything - a spa, a resort, a restaurant, fountains, architecture, and fine Portuguese horses. We showed under 5 judges for each phase, 3 of which were international (2 Portuguese and one French judge). That created some drama over the course of the four day weekend as the French and American judges were scoring everyone consistently 10 percentage points higher than the Portuguese judges. The Portuguese judges were *harsh.* I mean really harsh. My dressage score average was about a 58% - fair, it wasn't a great test - but the Portuguese judges were knocking me down to the low 50s. They knocked everybody else down there too. And in my EOH they scored me in the low 50s too! Dylan was hot and strong in his dressage, but just tired enough to be perfect in the EOH, and I thought it was one of the better ones we've done. Blips here and there for sure - our single slalom wasn't great with the changes (first obstacle), and the cloverleaf barrels he trotted at the third barrel (a big no no, fourth obstacle), and he swapped out briefly behind in the double barrels (second obstacle). The double slalom (third obstacle) was absolutely the best I've ever ridden, it was rhythmical for the most part and I got all the changes perfectly. The one Portuguese judge scored me a THREE on it! Watch the video and see what you think.
So dressage was eh, EOH was great but scored low. Speed was good too - he touched the inside of the bell corridor and got tagged for that, and he's never particularly fast, but we were both tired by that time so we just sort of flopped our way through it!
We had issues with water in the barn all weekend, so please don't mind my horse's poopy yellow tail in any of these pictures!
The rest of the show was fun people watching, fun alcohol drinking, great company, and even a crazy Gala diner with entertainment. We were all freezing since it was super cold and we were in cocktail attire, but staying for Moet champagne and watching aerial performers hanging from the rafters of an indoor arena was so worth it! I really should give this thing its own entry, there's too much to tell.
Both saying cheeeeeeeeese again
And of course, riding pictures:
My prize, Mago!!
Change through the double barrels (plants)
Heart of Texas #4:
Don't worry, I don't have many pictures from this one ;)
I'd been thinking a lot about why I always scored much better in USDF dressage than in WE dressage. I watched some of the top riders, I talked it over with people. I came to the conclusion that WE scoring comes down very hard on tension and inaccuracy. In USDF dressage, that bit of tension can create a crazy fancy mover, but in WE dressage it gets dinged really hard. So, I dialed his energy down a notch... or a lot of notches... for the 4th HoT series show in Waco. It worked, and my dressage score jumped to a 64% from the consistent 58% that I had been scoring. I followed that up with a not-very-great EOH, which scored a 58%. I had the right amount of "just a little tired" energy for dressage, which then fell to "not enough energy" for EOH. This was a back to back weekend with Haras, so I wasn't surprised. The changes just weren't there, and we floundered through a backwards metal gate, something he had never done before. But he made it through! I had no horse (or person) really left in speed, so we took it pretty easy. He was tired, and I was tired. But I had figured some things out, and that was important for the next upcoming show.
Heart of Texas #5:
This show was where I really felt like I pulled everything together, finally, at the end of the year. Dylan had a sufficiently good dressage with a 62%, and a solid EOH with a 64%. Some mistakes - double slalom has a few botched changes, that backwards gate again (but we lived). Highlight of the course was having to carry the garrocha through the double barrels (he went wide on the second barrel because I was so pleased he got his change perfectly that I stopped riding for a second). He had never done banks before to my knowledge either, and we hadn't done a "varied terrain" obstacle before either, but he was so game. And the speed round too was great - I actually rode instead of flailed along, and surprise surprise, it went a lot better.
Speed... bank those turns
Good picture showing how WIDE Dylan is!
I clearly have forgotten how to properly ride down banks
Also have forgotten how to jump
Dylan was the 2017 Heart of Texas Intermediate B Amateur champion, the 2017 Confederation for Working Equitation Intermediate B Amateur champion, and 6th in the region for Intermediate overall for WE United.
There are a lot of things we have coming up in 2018.... 2017 was just the warmup!!