July 1, 2012

Putting the Show to Good Use

As a former hunter rider, one of the neatest things about my first Dressage show was getting the judges' comments back.  If your judges are good, you're actually getting something out of your show, almost like it was a clinic in which the clinician has zero direct contact with you.  Connor and I did have good judges that gave us good feedback on what we need to work on, which has led to a mental breakthrough for me.

I want more of this, but more driving.  It's a pony working in a rider-defined box.
In Intro A, in which we got a 70.625%, the judge was very positive and scored us mainly 7's, with one 6.5 for submission and one for our left 20m circle, at which she wrote "nice tempo trot, high, braced neck". In other words, OSTRICH TROT STRIKES AGAIN!  We had one 8.0 in rider position, which I feel like I need to give my trainer a medal for.  Other comments at various points were things like "straight," "active," "supple," "obedient transitions," and "fluid."  At the bottom she wrote "Work to keep this lovely horse steadier to bridle throughout."  Point taken!

Rider position: 8.0 in a Dressage test?  The "pre-programmed" Jen of 18 months ago is watching slackjawed.  Just one more testament to how good my trainer is.
The second judge, who gave us a 62.813% for Intro B, was less verbose and more critical, which I liked.  Her scores were all over the board, with a high score of 8.0 for our 'Enter working trot rising/salute/proceed working trot rising' movement and then a 5.0 for the next movement where she wrote "sky watching, no bend".  The rest of our scores for her were mainly 6.0's and a few 7.0's, with her other comments being "no bend, unsteady with head, distracted, not quite straight".  For submission, she wrote "nice steady contact, but need stronger contact when horse distracted and softer contact when horse is good and reaching down to your hand."  That got me thinking...

Say it with me: "Distracted, skywatching."
I thought about WHY he was so unsteady in the contact, when I finally have all of the building blocks in place to put him properly on contact: it's because I'm not riding every stride.  I lose focus for a second, I put my hands forward unconsciously in a transition, he loses it.  He's young, but really not green anymore, and I need to start expecting him to put on his big boy pants and give me the work I know he's capable of, and that, of course, starts with me.
Not at all between my aids here, and going "diagonally" as Nancy said.

In today's ride, I worked in the indoor and did a lot of transitions, focusing on keeping him round, soft and between my aids AT ALL TIMES.  I thought a lot about when Nancy rode him and put her hands up and said, "I'm not holding him here, I'm asking him to be here and he's staying."  I thought about my trainer telling me that I need to keep him packaged through the transitions and give him a "box" in which to work.  Specifically, I thought about last February when we were just beginning to work on contact and she said "No wonder you can't get him round, you're letting all the energy out the front end with your hands so forward."

Suddenly, I had a ride that was 100% on contact, through and forward with no "skywatching" or "ostrich trot."  I had sitting trot of a quality I haven't seen yet, and canter transitions that just flowed.  I'm developing the feel and body awareness to keep both of us on our 'A' game at all times, and I expect our next attempts at Intro A and B will be much different.


  1. The judge isn't following the directives of the test. Outline isn't addressed in intro.

  2. I need to step up my game - because you two are headed to Intro C and Training Level fast :)

  3. Kelly, they addressed it as contact, but I tend to agree with you. My contact (as in, weight of) was consistent, though his head position was not. I think they wanted to see a consistent head position one way or another, regardless of where it was. That said, I still agree and was surprised initially to see those comments.

    Riva Kelly, hopefully! I don't think you have much to worry about, though, that mare of yours is such an awesome mover! She seriously looks like she floats above the ground.

  4. Nothing like comments on a test to keep you honest. :)