Penny Oaks HT: Dressage

All week, our Dressage had gone from 'bad' to 'okay' to 'meh and pretty heavy', so my trainer put a training ride on Connor on Friday morning, which she reported was "Excellent!", and instructed me just to handwalk him, not to ride him, when we arrived at the park on Friday night.

The next morning, warmup was a circus, and I almost ran into someone.  It took us a while to relax:

I'm not actually sure I'm breathing here...
All photos courtesy of Connor's breeder, I am so grateful for every single one!

...but once we did, he was so on my aids.  He was in that very focused frame of mind where he tunes out the world and listens to my slightest cue, and was balanced evenly over his back.  Once I had that, I did not let him stop working until the test was over - going so far as to do 10m figure 8's in the grass outside the ring when I was on deck, dodging spectators.

Sitting trot in warmup

I used a lot of sitting trot in warm-up, because now that I know how much leg it takes to put him together (read: A LOT), I am a lot more effective in getting him on my aids in the sitting trot.  But we switched to rising for the test at my trainer's request, because I can't yet sit his bigger, more impressive trots - like the one we had coming into the ring:

WE CAN DRESSAGE!

For the first time in a test, he was both on my aids and relaxed, not one or the other.  He was so on my aids, in fact, that it bit me hard in this sequence:

He starts to get flat in a trot circle...

I try to develop more impulsion using a fairly normal amount of leg...

...and it was way too much aid for how on the bit he was, and he cantered briefly.

The judge appeared to almost regretfully give me a 4.0 for that movement - she wrote "Cantered - good recovery".  Every other score was a 7, 7.5 or 8, with all 7's in collective marks.  It felt that good, too.



This horse...holding this canter...on a straight line...after completing a 20m canter circle already...am I dreaming?  Years of work went into this picture.


She told us we needed better balance at the canter to the right, and also wrote that in her notes.  I see what she means:

Complete failure to use my right thigh here. 
VROOM!  The sound of my horse motorcycling around a turn.  

But still  - cannot complain.  I will take that over our former "king of the tranter" title any day.

The only movement I felt we really did not deserve our scores on was the free walk.  It was totally 'meh'.

The clock struck midnight and he turned back into a pumpkin!

But he recovered for the final medium walk to trot to immediate turn down centerline/halt/salute - which I always do sitting in this test.  (And I recommend that you do too.  Hugely easier and cleaner than rising when the turn comes up that quickly, at least for me.)

We ended with this...rhombus-shaped...halt, which she gave us a 7.0 for - "haunches left" was the comment.  I think "legs still sort of look like they are trotting" would have been appropriate too, but he lifted his back in the halt and didn't fall to pieces, so again, I will take it.  

Atta boy.

Since all of my scores were 7-8 except the one 4.0, and I ended up with a 29.5 (70.5%), this could have been a 26.5 (73.5%) test.  But a 29.5 is still awesome, and it was a good lesson for me to learn.  The more sensitive he gets to my aids, the more tactful I need to be with them.

This is definitely a three part success story.  She's just 11 months older than me but a million times the rider I'll ever be.  I could not do it without her!

(Really, it's a four part success story - the breeder behind the camera is the cornerstone!)
Our 29.5 landed us in 5th after Dressage out of a massive field of 28!

47 comments:

  1. Yay! He looks soooo good. Love that his canter was totally together for you!

    ... except for that falling out braid.... ;)

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    1. Ugh, yeah, that's a story in and of itself. 1. Forgot QuicBraid and 2. waxed thread is supposed to be better for these kinds of braids. It is not. Back to yarn.

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    2. Yarn makes them fluffier anyway. Win-win!

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  2. This is awesome!! Congrats on a lovely test! That left lead canter...*swoon*!

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  3. Connor really has come a long way. Congratulations on all your hard work here. :)

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    1. Thank you! Progress has definitely been made.

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  4. OH my goodness he looks absolutely incredible. WOW. Just wow. I am so impressed and happy for you!!!

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  5. These pictures are so epic. Well done, you guys!

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    1. Thanks, his breeder really did a good job taking them. I was very appreciative, since the pros didn't get Dressage.

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  6. Huge congrats!! You two look fantastic!

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  7. I hope you're proud of yourself. That is an awesome ride! :-)

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    1. I am pretty thrilled. :) Kicking myself for getting out of position and using too much leg, but even that doesn't make me feel too bad. Valuable lesson learned.

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  8. :claps: 7's on your collective marks, AND breaking into the 20's! You go girl!

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  9. Fantastic score and test! You both look wonderful - your hard work shows!

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    1. Thanks! We have definitely put in the Dressage work lately.

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  10. Many congrats, what a fantastic test from the sounds of it!

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    1. Thanks! No video, trainer consciously decided to watch rather than video - can't blame her.

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  11. Love this! Such lovely pictures and I'm sure the test was just as lovely in person :) You've worked hard and earned that amazing score.

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it was, sometimes I can make the test look better than it was through photos, you know how that is, but this one was as good as the photos say it was.

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  12. Nice! Those are good scores. Your judge should have been channeling some of her happiness and positivity to my judge. LOL

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    1. Uh oh! I'll send her your way. Haha.

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  13. He looks so grown up and hunky!

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  14. The trot down centerline pic is beautiful! What a hunk!

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    1. Thanks!! Good to hear from you (and Gavin)!

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  15. OMG these pictures... I can't even. They are so gorgeous and you both look so amazing. They're truly worth more than 1,000 words each. You should feel SO awesome after seeing this :D :D :D

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    1. Ahhh thank you! I am so happy with the test and the pictures both!

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  16. yay congratulations!!! you two make such an amazing team - so glad all your hard work is paying off :)

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  17. *LOVE* those pictures. You two look so lovely.. I'm thrilled for you because I know how much work you've been putting in!

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    1. Thanks, it has been a lot of focus on Dressage lately. Now to work on jumping and not lose the Dressage!

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  18. You're going to make me cry! I get all emotional watching my "kids" do so well and be so happy and love life so much. I'm proud of both you and Connor!

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    1. Thank you! You know I am so grateful and don't take him for granted for even a second. He is my perfect partner.

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  19. You guys look FABULOUS!
    Well done!

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  20. What a dreamboat all your hard work this winter is shining through these photos. You both look awesome!!!

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  21. Looooooooooove it!!! So cool that you got Connor working in dressage and staying focused for the test. I usually just keep an eye on my ring for the test and walk RIGHT over as soon as I can from the warm up, but this "working walk" stuff intrigues me... I may need to give it a go.

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    1. It really depends on the horse, but with Connor, once I have that type of work and I take a break, it takes a long while to get it back. So I can't let him stop or I lose it. Give it a try!

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  22. You both look absolutely fantastic!

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  23. So cool, and doesn't the dressage saddle make the whole picture ;) I have been inspired by you two and I am taking my cob to our first ever event on 23rd June. Lots of lessons to come before then.

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    1. The Dressage saddle does make it, I'm very lucky to have it. I am so glad to hear you're trying eventing with a Sec. D! It's a a wild ride, but fun. If you pick up your blog, I will read along!

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