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Our busy summer has continued, as Cally and I continue our streak of showing every weekend.  It seems like a lot now, but my work schedule is changing in September, which means showing where and when I want will no longer be an option; I’ll have to plan around weekends when I work, which means my choices will be more limited.  So I’m trying to front-load our year with things now, and get what I want to accomplish done, so I don’t have to worry about limitations, and an inconsistent schedule.

To that end, as as prep for Culpeper this coming weekend, we did a lesson on Friday.  It had gotten pushed back due to rain and wet footing on Wednesday, but it ended up being great.  Cally was super happy to be jumping, and it was not only great prep for the show, but also a great mental break between the dressage shows it was sandwiched between.

The lesson started off pretty simply, with a little line of trot poles to a crossrail, which then went to a one stride vertical after we’d been through it a few times.  Cally initially started off rather ho-hum about the poles, because she’s bored by them, but once the back fence went up, she realized we were having fun.

Then we started putting together the line with a few long approaches, and I really feel like my eye is getting so much better. We’re doing a lot of single fences, which is actually great, because I can’t rely on a grid of a line to set the distance for me, I have to have a good pace and actually see it myself. It’s not always perfect still, but I’m getting better at seeing where we’re going to take off, even when it’s imperfect. And that feels really good, and I’m ending up with less wahoo-up-the-neck moments.

Then we moved down to the big bottom ring and started putting together few lines between the fences there, where she does tend to get rolling a little more because it’s a bigger, unfenced ring and she doesn’t feel as confined as in the top ring, where she knows she can’t really get rolling too much. So that added an additional challenge, but is good for us, because I’m sure the rings at Culpeper will be generous.

Holly eventually had us put together a very twisty-turny course, which was good fun, and went pretty well until we had to make a tight left after the little fence at the far end of the ring. Cally isn’t a big horse, but she’s a long horse, and she is not a catty jumper type. Tight turns are hard, and having an unfenced ring came in handy, as we ended up making the turn by just…cantering on out of the ring and back onto where we were headed!

Cally was totally unphased, but as you can see from that last fence, super happy to be jumping. I think she’s going to be so happy when we get to go show over fences again.

Because this weekend we did more dressage, aside. And while we had some really good moments, I could totally tell by the time we went around the ring before the second test that she was Over It. She enjoys looking fancy aside, but she’s got a limited tolerance for going around in circles. But we ended up putting in two pretty decent tests nevertheless.

The first test was Training 2, which had some really good moments–halts were square and circles were actually really nice. Stretchy circle sucked to like the millionth degree, but on the whole, I was happy, if totally exhausted and sore in my core after sitting all that trot work aside. But it turns out our judge had been the scribe at Ride For Life the prior week, and also has a sister who’s an aside competitor, and knows a bit about it. So that was very cool, because while she’d been chatting with everyone after their tests, she was able to give me some good aside-specific advice, especially about our stretchy circle. She recommended sitting waaaaay back, and even grabbing the balance strap if necessary; she also recommended longer reins to allow more stretch there and in the free walk. Obviously I couldn’t do anything about rein length between tests, but I could try to change our balance in the stretchy circle. I really love when judges who take the time to speak with competitors, and are able to give constructive advice you can actually use to change something and improve between tests. I played a bit with grabbing the balance strap and that was a total no-go from Cally, but worked on really relaxing back and letting go.

We were first in the ring for Training 3, which I haven’t ridden in almost a year and sort of didn’t remember as well as I should. I wasn’t sure if our walk was supposed to be to X or the whole way to E, and crossed my fingers I’d remember. But Cally was feeling rather Done going around to warm up, so I figured I’d just do my best and see what we got. There were some really good moments, like the stretchy circle at the end actually being stretchy-ish. But then we also had an error, when she got super distracted by horses in the field out by K and we ended up on the wrong canter lead, and I made a circle to correct it. As the judge told me after the test, absolutely the correct choice from a training perspective, but unfortunately an Error on the test, so -2 from our score, and obviously a bad score on the movement, because Wrong Lead to start. Yet the judge was delighted we’d taken her advice and improved the stretchy circle, and I was happy we’d gotten through without a major blowup, because Cally can go into Super Giraffe Mode when she decides she’s sick of making circles.

We bathed off, Cally got lots of treats, packed everything up, and I headed up to get our scores. The T2 class had been huge, 10 riders, and the T3 test had just been OK, so I wasn’t expecting much. But I was rather delighted to find we’d finished 5th in T2 with a 66.9%, our highest score so far this year, and 3rd in T3 with a 62.5%, which isn’t bad considering the Error!

That now gives us 6 of the 7 scores we need to qualify for a year-end award with the PVDA, all of them over 60%. We only need to do one more dressage show to finish getting our scores, hopefully in August.  We’re well positioned to actually win something there at year-ends, so I’m very pleased with that, especially given that we’ve been sidesaddle for all of it!

Now prep continues for Culpeper!  She’s gotten a few days off to rest up, and she needs to get a good clip/mane pull done this week, and will hopefully get bathed and braided Saturday night before we head down to the show bright and early on Sunday.  I may be crazy for trying to do this all in one day, but I’m a bit limited by available time off and by budget, so we’re going to make the best of the opportunity we have.