Last week I took a lesson which was 100% show preparation. We trailered to a nearby farm to use a different indoor, I began my warmup on my own like I would at a busy show, and when we were properly warmed up I went straight into a run-through of 1-3, after which each of the spectators offered their thoughts on my test – what was good, where we can make improvements, where I screwed up and relied on the trust bank (hey, it still happens!).
Because – oh, yes – there were spectators. Two years ago a trip off the farm would have turned into a drama-filled hour of bucking and wheeling – maybe that’s why my barnmates and a few of my trainer’s other students turned up? Really, I think it was an excuse for a group of friends to get off the farm together – but for me, it turned into a test of my show preparedness.
Because the hardest part of a show isn’t the test, or the horse (thank goodness), or the tack or the trainer or the arena or the movements.
It’s the people.
The people who watch us.
The people who judge us.
I have no idea why being watched/judged/spectated bothers me so much. I know I shouldn’t have gone into dressage with this hangup (Should I switch to jumpers? I should switch to jumpers). It’s gotten a bit better since I started competing in cosplay competitions, but I still lock up when anyone other than my trainer is watching me. It’s probably obvious, but – locking up is not good for dressage.
Our practice test was adequate. It felt like a decent presentation of our skills – which, since we were at a new venue and in front of a small crowd, I was very proud of “decent”.
And the feedback from “the crowd” was nothing but uplifting – everyone gave perfect compliment sandwiches, for which I was relieved and grateful. I got so much good feedback!
- The turn into a trot extension must be straight through the body and straight up and down. Otherwise, it’s difficult for the horse to lift their shoulders (especially if said horse is half draft and full carriage horse and has shoulders that weight 10,000 pounds).
- The initial turn down centerline has to be bombin’, for the sake of my score and of my confidence. This is our first impression and our opportunity to say “look how awesome we are”. Plus, if I nail it, I’m going to be more likely to ride the heck out of the rest of the test.
- I need to sit back, look where I’m going, and allow space to move into my rein during the leg yields. I’m too dang anxious about this movement and I’m letting it completely sabotage my test.
- Speaking of which…if I mess up a movement (*cough* leg yield *cough*) I need to let it go and move on. I let little failures literally collapse me. When I collapse, Robbye takes the two inches my weakened core gives her and proceeds to dive onto her forehand, causing even worse work. That right there is a vicious cycle.
- Canter loops must go all the way to the centerline.
- 15m canter circles need to be larger and more centered. Don’t turn right off of the centerline!
- 10m trot circles need to be larger and more correctly bent. (What a nice problem to have – that our 15m and 10m circles are too small!)
- I can ask for a quicker simple change, and Robbye is perfectly capable of providing nice ones. I’m just too conservative and scared.
- I need to remain thinking throughout the test. I must ride actively – constantly asking for more, preparing for the next movement, thinking thinking thinking. (It is incredible how much thinking goes into a first level test; I can’t imagine what a Grand Prix one is like.)
This looks like a whole lot of things to work on, but truly we’re at a perfecting stage. Which frankly is incredible to me – that I could be perfecting the toughest test in first level, and preparing to move up someday soon.
Now, to find a show!