I had hoped to use this schooling show as an opportunity to get feedback on Connor and I's suitability for first level, and to use the feedback as a roadmap to know what to work on before our first rated this year.
But of course, horses have the best ways of humbling you. The best laid plans...
|Me? Humble you?|
Connor was a total twit from the second I got on for warmup all the way through most of our second test. He was spooky, tense, running through my hands, not listening to me, and just generally acted like he'd never shown before in his life. Yes, it was an indoor show, but he's shown here before. Normally he channels that tension productively by focusing more on me when he's nervous, making for excellent rides at shows. Not so this time.
|TENSION. WE HAS IT.|
We came out of the ring after the first test and I was positively frazzled. My trainer noticed, and thought I was putting pressure on myself to do well. I was like "Of course not, this is a schooling show, I had just hoped to actually get productive feedback on what we're really capable of, which we're not even close to what we've been doing at home."
She tried to settle me down and get us working together, but with just about 15 minutes between tests, the second test ended up being much like the first one, until my brain finally exploded with the effort of keeping Connor from losing his, and I forgot to turn down centerline at the end of the 1-2 after the stretchy circle. Yes, the easiest part of the test to do - end it - I forgot.
I was feeling pretty dejected as we went back to his stall. My trainer stayed quiet, gave me some time, and then said, "You're going to get back on him in an hour and school him, we'll have a lesson in the schooling ring." Ok. Noted.
|Rider position: terrible|
In between, I watched the videos of my rides, they didn't look as bad as they felt, but they were still terrible. Got our scores back, we were given a ridiculously generous 60% on 1-1 and 58% on 1-2 (when I went off course). I mean...when I put my hands forward for the stretchy circle in 1-1 he actually threw his head UP and went around like a giraffe, then put his head down when I picked him up at the end. Damn it, horse! The judge wrote "Didn't do" on the sheet next to stretch circle and gave us a 4. I guess she gave us points for...riding a circle shape?
|Seriously, did we get cute points or something? This is as close to this rail as I could get him here in either test (judge and scribe are located just out of the frame to the right and he curled away from them every time we passed this point.|
An hour later, I tacked back up and went back into the warmup ring. My trainer said, "Okay, so he was part of the problem out there, but so were you. When you felt him getting tense, you stopped riding like you do at home, you stopped paying attention to his balance and your position. You need to learn to stick to your guns no matter what he does."
She put us on a 20m circle at one of the arena, and gave us a lesson in the same place we'd completely melted down at an hour before. And...it was awesome. He was quiet, and listening, and supple and maybe not as active as I'd want, but he'd just done two Dressage tests and honestly, calm and a little behind my leg was preferable to the freight train I'd ridden an hour earlier.
I never ask my trainer to video because I'd rather she focus on teaching, but this time I said, "Could you maybe video this? A little just to remind myself what we're capable of when I ride well, and a little to soothe my ego..."
She obliged, and I even managed to get a copy of it for you guys (sound removed). He got progressively better throughout this ride, and got pretty decent toward the end of the video:
So, lesson learned!
(Also I couldn't take my eyes off that big black warmblood schooling flying changes in a double bridle with the 70's plaid quarter sheet and the rider in the brown boots that you see in the video. Horse seemed a little older, but they were still eye candy.)