T1 & T2 Schooling Show – Details and Reflection

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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 🙂

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

 

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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.

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Show Time: It was all worth it

I haven’t been blogging or journaling. I have a backlog of posts I want to edit and publish (and I still intend to), but obviously I’m not going to journal the past month and a half. I wish I had, because I learned a ton, but life was just too crazy. Hopefully my year-end review at work will make it all worth it.

I was inspired to come back to the blog because of the incredible experience I had at a schooling show this past weekend. The short story is: it was all worth it. The money spent on training and lessons. The three years of work where it felt like we didn’t make any progress. The agonizing over training decisions, and the crying over failures.

I made every effort this weekend to set myself up for success. This was our first show since Rob returned home from her dressage boot camp, and my first since I attended my own boot camp, and I wanted it to be successful. I wanted it to usher in a new era for our relationship – one where we like going to shows, where we’re successful at shows, and where we’re happy working together even away from home. So I hired my trainer to come coach us (a trainer! At a show! How novel!), I planned to dress casually even in the show ring, and we trailered down the night before to school in the show ring. I also didn’t invite any family to watch, which explains my sad dearth of media.

So we arrived the night before, something I’ve never done. She got on the trailer great – it was her first time on this particular trailer and she walked right on like it was her own stall. Portentous for the rest of the weekend, maybe?

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When she got out of the trailer at the showgrounds, I expected her to blow me off. She usually does – letting her anxiety completely take over until she forgets I exist. Instead, she calmly lowered her head like I asked, with perked ears and a happy eye but also with a nice focus on her boss mare. (That’s me! Boss mare 100% of the time. I’ll just keep repeating it to myself until I believe it.)

Immediately after unloading we tacked up to school. We were the only humans there and the farm was very dark. It’s a nice, large, showgrounds – probably six rings, plus a couple of warm-up areas. The stalls feel luxurious, the footing is always impeccable, and the farm is always spotless. It’s also where I showed as a kid, so it has a special nostalgia.

It was the perfect environment for me to focus 100% on getting some decent work at a new location.

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And decent work was achieved! We had neither perfect roundness nor great forward, but we had enough of each that I was very pleased. My expectations have definitely been raised in the past few months – six months ago that late-night school would have been the best ride we ever had.

We tucked the ponies into their stalls and headed to a very late dinner and an even later bedtime. But staying at a hotel nearby means a later start in the morning, apparently. Post-4:30, even! Why didn’t anyone ever tell me!?

The morning of the show, Robbye was again well-behaved in her stall. No screaming, no anxiety, lots of eating and drinking and pooping. We tacked up and prepared for our first test – Training 1.

And it went…alright. My trainer was preparing for her own ride so couldn’t coach us, which in hindsight was probably good for me to experience. Now I know what the difference is between my instincts and what Kim wants me to do, and I can actively work to warm up on my own the way that will get us the best work.

So the first test was just okay. We botched a lead twice, which is weird, but I’m sure it was just a lack of forward and/or impulsion. That was the theme of the test – slow – though the judge didn’t seem to see it as much as I felt it.

Robbye got to rest for an hour or so while I tried to get over my disappointment. That ride hadn’t been the incredibly overwhelming improvement I’d fantasized about. Where was the pride? Where was the glow in my stomach?

Soon it was time to warm up for Training 2, and I headed with my entourage (showing with a trainer is so fun! You get a whole fan club, and get to be a part of a fan club for your teammates!) to the outdoor warm-up arena. Rob hadn’t been out here yet but I wasn’t worried; she was so well-behaved and quiet that we just..did it. We just warmed up. It was a mediocre warm-up, again, but it was fairly-round and fairly-forward, so I was content!

Until she dumped me – right on my head. She even galloped away without checking to see if I was okay. Horses never do that in the Facebook videos!

At this point I’m on the ground hyperventilating because I’m just. So. Upset. Sad, embarrassed, and overwhelmingly disappointed. Why have I been doing all this work? Why did I pay for all of the training and the new gear? Our boot camp was supposed to mean we wouldn’t humiliate ourselves at shows and events anymore – like we have been for the past two and a half years. I’m tired of having the crazy horse. I’m tired of falling off or of bucking across the dressage court.

And yet here I am, crouched on the ground with a split lip, unable to catch my breath because of debilitating disappointment.

I think I hit a turning point on the ground there, guys. Usually, I don’t get angry. Angry, for me, quickly turns to tears and humiliation and apologies.

But this time, sitting in the sand, with everyone looking at me and with my ride time quickly approaching, I felt a fire start in my belly. My breathing slowed and the pain from the cut in my lip faded away.

I. Got. Mad.

So I got back on and absolutely rode the snot out of the rest of our warm-up.

And then I rode the snot out of the test, too.

And as we trotted down centerline, the anger faded and the anxiety faded and the embarrassment faded, and all that was left was an overpowering, absolutely glowing sense of pride. I managed to hold back tears of happiness until we saluted the judge, and then I broke down in relief.

We had nailed the roundness. We had nailed the forward. We had nailed the transitions and the geometry and that silly canter lead. I had anchored my seat in that saddle and she had said Yes ma’am and I had responded Good!

This is what we’ve been working toward. This is what teamwork feels like. This is what submission and impulsion and rhythm and success feel like.

And hey, apparently this is what winning feels like, too.

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