Maybe not quite dawn, but it was dark when we pulled out of the driveway, and the sun wasn’t fully over the horizon while we were tacking up.  In August, an 8:06AM ride time might seem like a worthwhile tradeoff, for not having to ride in the heat of day.  In January, it’s just unspeakably cruel, especially to a rider who is nocturnal.

Cally was down and out in her stall when I arrived at the barn, and only the early delivery of breakfast roused her, though she still didn’t look to thrilled to see me.  She knows that when I show up early, it means we’re going somewhere and doing something.  Hitching up the trailer in the pitch dark was not so fun, and Cally wasn’t particularly thrilled with walking into a dark box, in the dark, at 6:15AM.  I can’t say I blame her, even if I did call her a “cow” for being difficult.

We were the first trailer to arrive, as it appeared that we were the only ones in the first division of Beginner Novice tests not from the home barn.  Warmup started nice enough, then got a little tense and cranky as she realized she had to warm up with other horses.  We got back to a pretty nice place, and came back to a walk, about 5 til 8, when in walked two mules.  Now, while I personally have nothing against a mule, and think it’s pretty cool that there were two kids there doing dressage on them, I don’t know that Cally’s ever seen one, and I know not all horses react well.  However, in true Cally form, barrel by the door=terrifying, mule=barely noticed.  (Later, while I was packing up, one of them brayed loudly enough that I could hear it from the parking area, and that did get a frozen stare of wonderment.)

We went in for the first test, Beginner Novice A.  We’ve ridden in a ton of times, and I know it pretty well.  But she got in the indoor and got tense, and I got tentative and just didn’t push through it and send her forward the way I needed to.  It wasn’t a bad test per se, in that it was geometrically accurate, and we did what we needed to do where we needed to do it.  It just wasn’t as good as it could have been, and the judge called us out on it.  I really liked her, she gave excellent constructive criticism and while she didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t heard a hundred times before, it was the reminder I needed to come back in the ring and do it.

We had a 10  minute break before we went back in for Beginner Novice B.  I’d only ridden it once, at a PVDA show, and on the second ride, I like it even more than I remembered; it rides better than BNA for us, I think because it feels like it keeps you a little busier and gives us less time to putz around in a straight line and worry about things.  But I took the judge’s advice to heart, and anytime it felt at all sticky or tense, closed my leg and went forward.  The trot/canter transitions still need work, but it really felt like the best dressage test I’ve ever ridden!

I packed us up and loaded her up, and by the time we were ready to go, the scores were in.  We got a 38 on BNA, which is about where we have been scoring, and finished 6th.  Then on BNB, we improved by 4 points, to a 34, with all 6s and 7s, and an 8 on gaits, which I was particularly thrilled with.  Good enough for 5th, but if it had been a blue, I couldn’t have been happier for her.

Maybe she’s just really preppy, and likes the pink and green.  She’s got a pearl browband on her bridle after all!