Today was our last PVDA schooling show of the year, at Schooley Mill Park. Our ride time was 9AM, which mean I was out at the barn at the crack of dawn to get things ready to go. Cally obviously knew something was up when I came tromping out through the pasture at 6AM to retrieve her.
We got ready and got rolling in good time, and arrived at Schooley Mill around 7:50, which I thought would give us plenty of time to take our time getting ready to go, since I was working on my own for the day. But when I pulled in, there was NO ONE there. Totally empty parking lot, stuff all set up, but deserted. I wandered around a bit on foot, checking out the area to see if I was just missing something, but by the time 8:05 rolled around and I still hadn’t seen anyone, I dug out the prizelist and called the show manager to make sure things were still on for the day. Apparently my ride at 9 was to be the first of the day, and she’d be there in about 10 minutes.
That seemed reasonable enough, so I unpacked everything and proceeded to get ready. I was wrestling with my stock tie when it seemed like half a dozen other people rolled in at once, including the manager. I was up on Cally, with our number, by 8:35. The warmup areas there are small, and I had the choice of riding around a 20 meter circle, or a slightly larger sloped oval, both of which had a hard packed ring of sand around wet slippery grass. Fantastic. The horse was not happy about that surface for warmup, and wasn’t moving out well, but was going quite nicely. I just focused on doing a lot of lateral work and bending at the walk to get her supple, and did minimal trot and canter work, mostly on what long straight lines I could make.
We were first up in the ring on time at 9AM, with our BN-A test. The first turn in the corner from X to M to C felt a little sticky, and she wasn’t as in front of my leg as I’d like her to have been–frankly I felt like I could have slipped the reins at any point and had a nice transition to stretchy trot then Nap–but she was quiet and moving much more consistently into contact, and we had what felt like some really nice trot work, and great transitions. The free walk wasn’t as focused as it could have been, and she wasn’t moving with the flair she can, but it felt very solid. Between the tests while the other rider was going, I tried to keep her walking and bending and on the bit. We went into the second test a bit more forward, and I thought the early trot work felt great, including really nice trot circles. The first canter transition was a little hollow, but the canter itself was nice and balanced, and both downward transitions from the canter to trot on the long sides, which tend to be a weak spot for us, felt like the best we’d ever done, much more balanced and less hollow and rushy than normal. The weakest point was the final halt, which felt like was going to be crooked, and I tried to correct with my leg, but ended up pushing to hard and getting her cocked off to one side. Not perhaps our best tests ever, but they felt much improved in many spots from last time, so I was quite happy with her. Big pats and shares of my Blueberry Crisp CliffBar for her!
I packed up and kept an eye on the secretary stand to see when the tests were ready, and chatted a bit with the other rider doing the USEA tests as well, since she was parked right next to me. We were both rather surprised when we went to get our scores, and found that they were the lowest that either of us had gotten all season. I was second in both our classes, and reserve champ, which is all great and good, but I ended up with scores of 59% on both tests, which is a good 6 to 8 percent lower than we’ve been doing consistently all year under r and R judges. There were a lot of comments on the tests about “tension” which seemed odd to me, as out of what I thought we would get dinged for (the fact that at a few points I sacrificed geometry to the better ride, or that we were lacking impulsion at a few points) weren’t mentioned, but I didn’t think she felt tense at all. Believe me, it’s pretty noticeable when she is! This judge was a last-minute replacement, who I hadn’t heard of before, so I’m curious, and going to have to do a bit of research on her. I wish I had had someone along to video to see if I could see what the judge was seeing, because usually I can anticipate comments pretty well, but these really surprised me, which is unusual.
I’m happy with how Cally went today, and our rides. So maybe, just this once, I’m going to focus on the pretty pretty ribbons we won, and be happy with the rides, and not the scores.
Next week we’re taking a break from the dressage sandbox, and I’m going to try to focus on some hillwork and hacking. Hopefully we’ll both benefit from a little break and getting out!