Our last show of the year was another dressage schooling show, on the 13th. Then work and life exploded and I've had no time to blog until now... end of the year is always so busy!
I had hoped that our last show of the year would be some sort of awesome. We’ve been working hard, making great progress – surely it would all come together somehow.
Best laid plans, right?
To start, I didn’t get to ride Paddy the entire week before. Between holiday obligations and being sick, I missed my lesson and all my practice rides too. Strike one. In addition, the show now requires competitors to have a stall, even if you’re just there during the day. Fuzzypony and I decided to make the most of it and haul out Friday, so that we could get a practice ride in Friday night and leave the boys overnight. Paddy’s not used to being in a stall, and he and Taran are super attached. So when I got him out for our practice ride, he spent the first 30 minutes screaming his head off for his buddy. We did eventually get some good work in, but you know how they say that if your last ride before the show sucks, you’re going to do well? By that criteria, we were going to KICK ASS on Saturday. At least he didn't try to buck me off or anything.
On Saturday, I got Paddy out an hour before our ride, figuring I would give him plenty of time to walk since he’d been stuck in a stall all night. It was a good thing I did, because he powerwalked for 25 of those 30 minutes. He was super distracted and was “that horse,” screaming for his buddy. Awesome! Eventually, we started working through our new warmup routine, and he actually settled in pretty quickly. As usual, he took my requests to move away from my leg as requests to trot, and couldn’t possibly be bothered to listen to my seat. We worked on those things until he was listening, and then moved on to trot and canter. We had some super good work, and then I made the mistake of taking a break about 7 minutes out from our first ride, Tr-3.
The problem with taking a break is that Paddy sometimes thinks he’s done. We only did one lap around the arena on a long rein, but when I went to put him back together, it was like starting over from scratch. He ignored my leg and my seat. I started pulling on the reins (because hey, that always helps, right?), and then it was our turn to go. He grabbed the bit, put his head down, and charged up centerline. From then on, he was calling all the shots. I felt like all the work we've been doing just flew out the window and we were back to our previous train-wreck selves. After he came blasting across the diagonal on the canter/trot transition with me hauling on the reins and leaning back over his ass to get him to trot (about 1:30 in the vid), I almost pulled him up and called it quits. It was truly the worst test we've ever done. But I sucked it up and tried to put the blown movements behind us, and we finished anyway. And that disaster transition? We got a 7 on it. Apparently the judged missed the tug-of-war we had going on, and wrote that she liked our energy. Uh, thanks.
We left the arena, and I knew we had two rides before 1-2 to get our shit back together. I immediately started working him off my seat - ask for trot, immediately walk off the seat. Trot, then walk. Over and over again until we could get it with just a thought. Then I started with 10 meter figure 8s, with walks every half-circle and change of direction. I asked for one canter each way, only half a circle, but very obedient and balanced. We also drilled leg yields and shoulder ins, with 10 meter circles on either end, and lots of transitions. He got no breaks, not even to go into the arena.
And you know what? It worked. He was SO MUCH better off my seat and leg. He was SO MUCH more obedient (let's just ignore that samba he did on the first halt, shall we?). Our trot lengthenings - especially the second half of the second one where I really went for it - actually kinda happened (canter lengthenings, not so much, especially the transitions back to regular canter). I can see that we are starting to make them work. Our leg yields were much better than our last test, although you can see where he leads with his shoulder, then is straight, then his haunches, then is straight... lol! Rider needs more practice obviously.
And here is an excellent picture of me having a love affair with my right rein. Dear right hand: we really need to talk.
This helps nobody, right hand. Please stop now.
The moment I felt him start to become unbalanced, I half-halted him with my seat. No, it wasn't forward and relaxed. Yes, he was behind the vertical for a lot of the ride. No, his canter wasn't as balanced as it has been. But we came back from our sucky first ride and we made it happen, so I am proud of that. In some ways it was much better than our first attempt at 1-2, and in other ways, it was much worse. Now we just need to find a happy medium!
We got a 59% and change on Tr-3 and a 58% and change on 1-2. The scoring was tough but fair, except for the 7 on the downward transition in Tr-3 which I think was a gift. Still, those are the worst scores we've gotten to date, so it was pretty disappointing. I know we are doing much better work at home, but right now we're just not consistent.
On the bright side, I really learned a lot about what Paddy needs to put in a good test. We need to do more overnight shows so that we (well, I) can get better at dealing with being away from Paddy's BFF. I learned that he needs a good long walk warmup if he's been in a stall. He also cannot have a break more than about 15-20 minutes from going into the arena, or he thinks he's done and takes much too long to get his brain back in his head. And it's pretty apparent that we will always put in a better second test than first test, so if we are ever going for scores, we need to plan carefully so that the more important test is the second one.
I also learned that despite having a week off before the show, he's kind enough not to try to dump me in the dirt, even if his generosity didn't extend to being a superstar in the arena. Oh well, you can only get by so much on being cute!