Preparing to Show


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!


T1 & T2 Schooling Show – Details and Reflection


I want to put a few more show details down here for my own documentation purposes. It’s a lame post – I know – but I really value this blog as a journal as well.


I know that our halts need work – getting square is really a matter of luck at this point – so I feel like a 6.5 on our first halt is both generous and lucky. I’m also happy with a 7 on our free walk; as Robbye has gotten stronger and rounder, she’s lost a bit of the fantastic stretch she used to have.

A 4 on our left lead canter feels generous. We botched the lead twice and only ended up cantering on the left lead for probably 5 strides. I was proud of myself for maintaining nice geometry in my circle even as I struggled to pick up the correct lead. I’m hoping that I learned from this particular mistake and that it won’t happen again.

That final halt 10, though. #schoolingshows!


I felt all of these were very fair, and the “very patient correction to L canter” comment gave me a warm fuzzy. I really appreciate judges (and trainers, and bosses, and … everyone) who can turn a failure or mistake into a compliment or gentle lesson.


I am very happy with these numbers. All of the scores below 7 are issues I know I need to work on – the halt (I lost her haunches), the canter to trot transition (it’s still a bit of a “run her into the ground” type transition, instead of being back-to-front), the trot to canter transitions (still a tad hollow), and the stretchy movements (need more stretch!).

The 8 on our medium walk is reassuring; I’ve always felt that Robbye’s weakest gait is her walk, and I really struggle to get any impulsion out of her since she prefers to walk as slowly as possible. We really worked it for this walk section and I’m happy the scores reflect that fact.

And there’s another high score for our final halt! I need to figure out what we do differently in our final halt and do it in our initial one. I bet you anything it has something to do with the tension I release for the second one…


Again I felt these scores were fair for a schooling show. Truly, to get three 7s and a 6.5 on impulsion and submission is huge for me and especially for Robbye.

The “obvious leg aids” are just something I need to deal with until 1) Robbye is more sensitive and forward and 2) I’m a better rider. I’m very happy to have more obvious aids if it means replicating the work we got in this test, and I’ll willingly sacrifice my Rider Aids score for it, at least for now 🙂


Our final scores are just…mind-blowing. From reading your blogs, I feel that these would have been perhaps 60%-65% at a recognized show – scores I would be extremely pleased to earn.


The rankings, too, are very heartening for me. There were 8 people in T1 and ten in T2. When I saw these numbers, I just hoped to placed in both classes – I know it shouldn’t be, but being competitive is important to me. Along the same lines of “don’t embarrass myself” and “make my trainer proud”, I want people to see my partnership with my horse and recognize it as a good one. The recognition that comes with ribbons is validating for me. So to beat ~15 other scores is huge.


Yes, I fell off at this show. Well, no, I didn’t fall off – I got dumped. And that really sucks. I heard later that Robbye was a huge disruption as she galloped through the warmup arena to get back to her stall.

That’s embarrassing, and embarrassing is the last thing I want at a show (especially one where I’m there representing my trainer).


After crashing into a fence at a jumper round more than a year ago and subsequently taking a huge step back from jumping entirely, I never imagined that a fall could make me stronger.

But this particular crash awoke some passion that I don’t think I’ve felt before, and that passion led to a quality of work that I definitely haven’t felt before. I used the fall and the way I felt after it for me.

My goal for this winter is to make that quality of work my every day. Every day should be passionate and 100% committed – like I’m heading into the ring to score a 70%, or to win in a class of 10.

And if I don’t have the passion every day – that’s okay! But I won’t be riding. I want that work I got after my fall, and I’m not willing to let Robbye compromise at 50% anymore. If I’ve learned anything from the struggles – and now success! – that she and I have endured as partners, it’s that I am in charge. When I decide what happens, we’re both happier.



So I may be riding less than 6 days a week this winter. And yes, this goal completely contradicts my 2015 goals to have zero days.

But the fact is that I want to work hard. I want to devote 100% to this relationship and to our progress, even if it means fighting sometimes, or falling off sometimes, or taking days off sometimes.

I know what I’m chasing after now, and I know how good it feels to catch it.

Dressage Test Practice

We’re coming up on our last show of the season – we’re entered in the BN CT, the BN jumpers, and the 2′-3′ Gambler’s Choice at Serenity Valley Farm’s October show at Twin Towers Horse Park. I think the show is going to be really awesome, and I want to do well! To that end, I started working on our dressage test last night (bareback!). It’s the same test as last time, but I’d like to polish it a bit more. I think our transitions and geometry can be a lot better; those aspects of the test are a lot easier to fix than, say, engagement, or even equitation.

Our practice last night was pretty good. I ran through the test twice, making sure to ask for energetic gaits and prompt transitions. Our cantering was bad, but that was probably because I’m scared of cantering in the indoor.

Overall, I think we’re 100% better than we were two months ago. We’ve made some huge progress this summer.

First run through of our Dressage Tests

We worked on flat stuff last night, again. It was a great ride. We started out working on walk > halt transitions, which were 500% better than the night before (progress!). Then we did our normal trot workout, really focusing on pole down.

Next, I wanted to run through our dressage tests for the year, just to see where we are. All three of us (me, Julie, and Kathy) first ran through Intro A (the easiest one) a couple times. Yogi was okay, but very strong. Robbye was okay, but very crooked. Louie was okay, but very confused – he didn’t really know if he was supposed to be trotting, or cantering, or pacing. So overall, okay.

Then, Julie read Robbye and me the Intro C test, which includes canter. Overall, I was very pleased with her – I definitely think we’re going to be able to show 3-gait this year. Her trot > canter transitions are really freakin good. Instead of transitioning around a 1/4 circle, I was aiming for an individual letter and transitioning there.

She also picked up both leads correctly, even without an exaggerated ask. I think we may be over the lead issue for the time being.

Julie had one piece of schooling for me – she thinks I’m sitting in a very huntseat position, which is negatively affecting our dressage. She says that it looks like I’m looking for jumps – I’m not in 2-point, but I’m in a forward seat. So, I tried to ride the test with my hands back and my butt in the saddle. I bet that will help with the pole-down I was trying to work on!

Two things I learned about Rob in our ride last night:
1. She isn’t at the point yet where she can just trot into a dressage test without warming up. After we warmed up, we stood for a good length of time while Julie and Kathy did their tests. This really affected the quality of our test, and especially how she listened to me. Gotta remember that for shows.
2. I think Rob wants to jump! She kept thinking we were headed to obstacles, as we were riding our tests. Makes me happy that she seems to like it so much.