NDPC: First Level Test 2

My game plan for 1-2 was to use the warmup that's been working at home lately.  That is: develop a forward trot with hands forward and still, reins short and upper body slightly forward.  Throw in a few transitions, but mostly leave him alone until he stops gawking at stuff, starts paying attention to me, and I feel him relax over his topline.  Then start sitting and doing some lateral work.

It took a lot of courage on my part to do that at a show, because it takes a LONG TIME, and he looks awful for most of it.  Plus I look like I don't know what I'm doing just trotting in 20m circles and diagonals for forever.  But I just have to take a deep breath and wait him out, because I know it works, and if I start asking for too much too early the entire ride suffers.

Still waiting...

PC: My momma

The warmup won't always be like this, I know at some point I will figure something out and it will take half as long to get warmed up, but this is where we are right now.  And, it does work:

PC all photos in the rest of this post: Lisa Brezina

Connor's full sister's owner/rider was watching me and someone else who was very handsy warm up at the same time, and she told Connor's breeder "I wish that girl would just take an extra 10 minutes to let the horse relax like Jen did."  She rides I-1, and with as insecure about this warmup as I am, that made me happy.

We seriously took that into the ring too.  This is the most straight this horse has ever been at the canter:

Unnnnnnfortunately halfway through the test I started trying too hard and got tense.  If I had just relaxed and rode inside the ring the way I did outside, my score would have been better.  As it was, we scored a 61.719%, and won a three way tie breaker on our collectives to take 7th out of 14 in the open division.

Ughhhhhhhh GIVE WITH YOUR ELBOWS!  The comment here was "head nodding, relax elbows".  My trainer was giddy with delight that a judge validated what she tells me constantly.

Was I disappointed?  Maybe a tiny bit.  It felt like a mid-60's test to me at first, and we usually score well on 1-2.  But after I thought about it, you know, this was a championship level class, with most of my competitors driving 5-10 hours to get here.  And I say this not to disparage myself, but in total honesty: we are absolutely still mediocre at first level.  So 7th out of 14 is exactly where we should be.

I scored around this last year, but this feels totally different.  I'm riding better than ever, most of the time, except when I try too hard in tests, which I can overcome and have already this year at a different show, and the score reflected it.  I don't feel desperately sad at this score like I did after championships last year: I feel upbeat and awesome about where we are, because we have made miles of progress.

And best of all, the pictures (mostly) show a relaxed pony with an open throatlatch instead of a tense pony being held back by hard hands.  My warmup WORKED, on both his brain and his body, and that's a huge achievement.

It's another stop along the journey, and win or lose, boy is it fun.


  1. You too look great. I'm working on the same thing. Old habits die hard.

  2. You guys look great :) And you know I feel your pain on the warmup! ;)

  3. That's a fantastic compliment from the I1 rider. :-) Glad you too are doing so well.

  4. Such a good reminder to have the patience to let the horse choose its moment. A good warm up is absolutely vital and it pains me to admit that I regularly rush it. Major props to you for doing whatever it takes, at this moment in time, to set him up for success- especially in a supercharged show environment!

  5. Way to go! That last pic says it all :)

  6. I wish we could ride together on a regular basis - I find myself nodding my head at most everything you say about Connor in comparison to Ffergie. This is a great reminder for me to not rush my warm-up as well and just stay out of her way till she settles.
    KHP is such a cool place but so much going on - super job keeping it together and riding a great test! Beautiful pics!

  7. I'm not a dressage pro, but I think your pictures look amazing and even I can see how much more relaxed he is.

  8. Pictures look awesome! And yes, trainers love being validated by judges ;) lol

  9. You so fancy Connor! You guys look awesome!

  10. These pictures are fantastic and great to hear about how your test went on Friday since I couldn't be there :)

  11. Man some of those photos are reeeeally nice - congrats on scoring well in a competitive class!

  12. You should be REALLY proud of how far you've come! Winning the mental game of horse showing is super tough

  13. I wish I could've seen your ride, but it was awesome to be able to meet you guys! Good job :)

  14. You two look amazing!! So excited for you and Connor :)


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