Cally has just been on a roll lately! First our awesome weekend last week, then a great lesson with Kelley on Friday where she nailed a deceptively simple jumping exercise to work on straightness, and then this weekend at Dressage at Heavenly Waters she really stepped up her game again.
Dressage isn’t our strong point, but it’s the foundation of everything else we do, so we work on it, because while it might not be as fun as jumping things, it’s even more important. So we keep plugging away, getting better in increments, sometimes having amazing lessons and sometimes having schooling rides where she’d rather run into the wall than counterbend on a circle. Such is life with horses.
Sunday dawned very crisp, to the point that I was wondering if I should have brought a jacket to wear while loading up the trailer and braiding. But by the time Cally was braided and on the trailer, it was warm enough to take off the outer layer of overpants I was wearing to keep my whites clean. I was a bit nervous about the haul, since it involved going up around the Baltimore beltway, but the beltway was actually the least bad part of the drive; Route 1 was actually worse, because it was basically a giant strip mall with poor paving for the first 4 miles or so. I was apologizing to the horse as I was driving, because there was nothing I could do to make it smooth.
I’m sure Cally was thrilled when we pulled in, and smoothly parked on grass. I opened the escape door to let her look around while I went and checked us in, then decided that since she’d done so well last weekend after having hung out and watched a while, maybe we’d unload and go for a bit of a graze/mosey around and have a look at things in the new place. She’s usually so good places I just unload and get ready, but this was something I wanted to try, to see if she stayed a bit more settled and focused. We wandered around, checked out the warmup areas and the back ring where we would do our first test, and grazed; she looked at a few things, like the gazebos, but then went right back to ho-hum. She was feeling pretty relaxed til we got back to the trailer, and I tied her next to her hay and water bucked, while I ate a granola bar. Then it was time to get dressed and ready.
There was a nice ring to use as warmup, but since there was a big open grassy area next to the ring we’d be riding in, I opted to warmup down there. Firstly because it was less busy, and secondly because the grass footing made it seem a bit more out for a hack than show warmup, and she seemed to relax into that well, happily going forward. It also ended up being good for something Kelley has had us working on, which is visualizing exactly where you want the horse to go, so I was able to leg yield left to that buttercup, then circle around that tuft of grass, and change direction at the dandelion. Cally was warming up great, so for the last 5 minutes or so before our test, all I did was walk, but on the bit and with purpose, maintaining a nice, swingy, forward walk around, with lots of changes or direction.
Then we went in the ring for our first test, Training 2. They’d watered the ring in the break before the Training 2 rides, so it was a bit puddley in places. She gave it a bit of a hairy eyeball coming down the centerline, but mercifully seemed unphased; the Eventing pays off in the sandbox! I was really astonished at how well she felt connected throughout the test, staying nice and steady into contact and letting me use my leg to send her forward into it, without getting rushy. Maybe a little too forward at times, because we did have a bit of a bobble in our medium walk-to-free walk, where she started to jig a bit when I started letting the reins out, so that cost us, and we ended up with a 5 on that. And of course the transition back to picking up the reins and asking for a trot got a little tense, because she was like “You just told me not to do that!” But then we got moving again, and she got back in the groove as we headed into our trot circle, splashing right through the puddles, and we even had a really decent stretchy trot circle, where she actually stretched a lot for her, if not as much as some of the other horses– we got a 7.5 on it!! She got a ton of pats after our final halt and salute, and I was grinning like a fool coming out of the ring, because it honestly felt like the best dressage test we’d ever put in, bobbles aside.
Cally was rightfully looking pretty pleased with her own awesomeness. Dressage Queen!
As we were settling back in to relax at the trailer for 45 minutes before going to our next test, the blessed announcement came over the loudspeakers that coats had been waived for the last two classes of the day! Not having to ride around in a hot wool jacket and stock tie is always cause for celebration. I patted the horse and practically ran to the other side of the Yukon to pull my pink polo shirt out of my garment bag, optimistically tossed in for just such an occurrence. Til I’d texted WBBF about or successful first test and had a drink, and vainly tried to persuade Cally to drink, it was time to toss her bridle back on and head back to do a very light warmup for our second test, this time in the much busier Ring 1, where the GP and FEI tests had been running earlier. GULP. Since it hadn’t been long since we’d done our prior test, I just did a few trot circles and went back to the big swingy walking that had served us so well earlier.
When our turn came, we made our customary lap of the ring, and Cally was super looky at the far end by A. I was a little worried about that, so made a few passes there to get her OK with things, then we headed in. I hadn’t fully ridden through Training 3 prior to this, just worked on parts of it, so I was really happy with how well it flowed when riding it as a whole. I didn’t think we had any bobbles as specific as what happened at the free walk in T2, but our first shallow serpentine wasn’t as bendy as I would have liked it to be, and in our transition from canter to trot at X, we were a few steps early, but I took her doing the balanced transition herself as better than me asking and getting something ugly right on the spot. I was very happy with our second serpentine, and the fact that she actually managed a nice stretchy trot again at the end of the test, when she’d been wanting to be distracted by things. Lots more pats after the halt, and the ring steward and photographer were both asking about her when we came out, wanting to know what she was; it’s always nice at a dressage show to proudly say TB!
We headed back to the trailer and untacked and got a nice vetrolin rinse, and I did a little happy dance for two solid tests, and at the announcement that we’d gotten 2nd in our first test! No scores were announced though, so I was very curious as I finished up with Cally and headed over to pick up our test and ribbon. I about fell over when I looked at the test – 65.5%!
Then it was a looooong wait around for them to finish up and score Training 3. I put some stuff away. I put on her fly sheet. We hand grazed. I let her eat some hay and put away the rest of the stuff. I finally got her to drink some water. I put on her boots and loaded her back up, just as I heard them announcing the Champion and Reserve for Training. Um, I guess that means that T3 must be scored, then. I stuffed a little cash in my pocket so I could finally get something to eat, and headed over to the office, to see where I finished. There was only one T3 test still on the table–I must have missed an announcement about it?–and it was mine, with a red ribbon sitting on it, and once again, we ended up with a 65.8%! I still can’t believe how well we did, though on another level, I think we finally went and did as well as I’ve known all along we’re capable of doing, and am really proud of that.
So we’re now in a good place as far as getting the scores we need to qualify for All-Breeds. I need four more scores, with just one more 60%+ at T3, and for the first time, am feeling totally capable of going and making that happen.