August 9, 2015

This is the Story of a Really Good Dressage Show.

Leg Up was this weekend, a local unrecognized one day 3 phase.  It's about half the cost of a normal event, and at the horse park 10 miles from my house, so it was a no-brainer to enter.

We hauled in on Friday.  Connor had a stall and a half on the trailer and thought life was grand:

How we configure the 6 horse for 3 horses.  All the room!
When we walked the XC course Friday night, my little dog jumped every single fence:

and unfortunately she ended up jumping more fences than I did this weekend!

There was a ditch with no option at Beginner Novice, giving it the distinction of being the most challenging question asked on a BN XC course I have done to date. There's ALWAYS been an option if there's a ditch, and the one time we did have a ditch with no option, it was a faux ditch with two poles on the ground.  This was a real live 12" deep ditch, at a low-key unrecognized event of all places.  I wasn't stressed out about it, but I knew I'd have to cowboy up and would almost certainly take a refusal or two for steps back.  I just hoped he wouldn't scare himself over doing it in a high pressure situation.

The next day, I got on per our barn's schedule for Dressage warmup, which was emailed to us the night before:

Not having to think about when I get on my horse at shows is so valuable to me.
And Connor was full of it.  Powder keg full of himself.  Not screaming, just racing around as fast as he could.


JenJ feels my problems.

He also got his tongue over the bit, which is an annual occurrence at Leg Up for some reason (he shows at this park constantly, so it's not the venue), and I followed trainer's orders not to braid since this show was tiny, but regretted that decision when he felt his hair touch his ears and started head shaking like a head shaker in warmup.  Never again will I not braid:


His breeder, Lisa, came, and managed to take some awesome shots of him in warmup, all things considered (all photos by her!):

Unfortunately, by the time we fixed his tongue over the bit, worked through the tension and got him bending and listening to me, they called my number and I hadn't cantered yet.  I got one quick 20m circle in each direction and then raced down to my ring.

And he brought it.  This horse, I don't know what it is, but if I could recreate what he gives me down centerline at home, we'd be doing Grand Prix in two weeks.  I think the atmosphere just makes him tune into my aids that much more.

Hello, yes, I am Connor and I like to show Dressage.

Our 'ooooh shiny!' moment.
The canter, unfortunately, suffered the effects of too little warmup.  He was off like a rocket propelled 2x4 for it and it wasn't nearly as nicely put together as Penny Oaks.  I joked we tried to set a land speed record for a 20m canter circle:

But there were good moments, especially down the straight sides of the arena (BN test B riders, you know what I'm talking about):

And we finished with our least square halt ever.

I never got him 100% straight down centerline at the end, this is the result.

The judge's comments (besides writing down 'Haflinger' for horse color...grrrrrrrrr....) were "more bend, more bend, more bend, more suppleness, more bend", but she still gave us a 27.0 or a 73% in Dressage land terms.  It felt like a good test, too, and it feels good to be consistently under 30 like this.  We were first in our division over my teammate by 7.5 after Dressage.

...and then I scratched in the XC warmup ring because Connor landed bucking, hard, after every crossrail we took.

We don't know why yet.  He has a history of being silly for the first couple of XC attempts, but those were really hard bucks that almost unseated me.  He was moving well, but especially when he got a close stride, he landed bucking.  They called my number and I still hadn't made it over a fence without bucking or silliness of some kind, so my trainer and I mutually decided to scratch him.  You just do not mess around with either your horse's health (it was very out of character for him, so we wondered if he was hurting) or being anything but 100% safe and prepared for solid obstacles.

I informed the steward I was retiring, cruised him around at the canter for a long time in the warmup ring, took the crossrail without bucking twice, and called it a day.

Everyone expected me to be sad about it, but I was totally zen.  That's horses.  We ended the day safe and without bruising his XC confidence with a scary ride.  We had a great Dressage ride, one that makes me wonder if I'm not doing right by this horse by pointing him at something other than straight Dressage.

We spent a fun, low key afternoon together and with Connor's breeder, and then jump crew'ing with my favorite barn rat, and I honestly think I had more fun than if I had shown!

All the grazing!
Favorite barn rat doing her thing

All in all, I am totally not disappointed.  We both came home safe and know what we need to work through at home, and that's all I can ask for.


  1. Excellent decision making from the sounds of it! Glad you were so zen

    1. Thanks! It would have been a harder decision if it didn't involve potentially unsafe XC. That's an easy decision.

  2. Great perspective and attitude! And congrats on the dressage test. I kind of love jerkface horses who know when to turn it on at shows.

    1. Thanks! Me too. I wish I could bottle that attitude and turn it on at home!

  3. Shows great horsemanship to make that call!

  4. He looks stunning in most of those dressage photos! Way to make the right call on scratching- that's hard to do, but it sounds like a good decision!

  5. 27 is phenom! Its always hard to make that call! Sidenote, I almost went to this show!

  6. Really nice "Haflinger", and yeah, that looks like a canter I'm familiar with lol! Congrads on a kick-ass dressage test! :)

  7. Way to go! And very smart call on scratching the jumping. :)

  8. 27 in dressage is impressive, and I would have scratched too. Starting an XC course with an entire warmup of big bucks? Not awesome.

  9. What a great dressage day! Too bad about the jumping, hopefully all works out with that. You guys look amazing in the court though :)

  10. Sounds like it was a really positive experience overall, and at the end of the day that means EVERYTHING! Congrats on an awesome dressage score :)

  11. I had to laugh at the "hair touching my ears" comment because when I pulled Rosemary's mane she immediately complained about that same thing. I had to do a braid by her ears until it grew longer. Glad you had a great dressage day!

  12. congrats on that dressage score!! definitely disappointing about the strange jump warm up, but a conservative decision made in the best interest of your horse's welfare can never be considered a bad thing.