Sunday we were entered for the PVDA show at Schooley Mill. The weather in the two days preceding it was not optimal, with a lot of rain, to the point that the Saturday show there was cancelled. And as two previous attempts at getting out at First had been washouts for me, I was rather worried this would be too. But no, it was a go. So I spent an hour on Saturday removing dried mud from Cally, who normally remains pretty clean. Since it was both damp and cool, it was not good weather for a bath, so there was a lot of spot cleaning, wet towelling, and currying. Oh so much currying. But she was looking pretty clean, and got a sheet on for the night.
Mercifully, she stayed clean overnight, but must have been partying hard, because she was tired in the morning. She looked a bit peeved and being whisked away from morning naptime to load up in the trailer, but away we went. The best thing about Schooley Mill is the parking, which is on a hardpacked gravel lot, which means it’s good even when it’s been wet. As things were there, including big puddles on the edges of the main arena, though not in the dressage ring itself.
I was extra grateful for the advice to bring my own CD player the other week, as it turns out we used mine for both my freestyle and the other rider’s. Score one for preparedness! I didn’t do much warmup, because that is one of the bad features of Schooley Mill–the warmup rings are basically lunging rings, with a little bluestone track around a grassy middle. And it had been wet. So less than optimal. Fortunately, Cally doesn’t need much, and given her energy levels, probably best not to do too much, because she was pretty lazy, and I was wishing I knew where my dressage whip was. (I think it’s in the locker with my dressage saddle. I should really check in to that, and put it in my trailer.) Thankfully, a friend we used to board with was ring steward/music player, so I gave Erika the rundown on how to play the CD, and in we went, Cally eyeballing the puddles distastefully as I promised she wouldn’t have to get her toes wet.
It was windy, so it wasn’t always the easiest to hear the music, but I was really, really pleased with the test. We had possibly The Best Stretchy Trot Circle she’s ever, ever done, and actually got a 7 on it. (Not amazing by standard dressage standards, but amazing for her!) Everything else felt pretty good, other than her getting a little sticky in the medium walk after the freewalk–she wanted to be done and mosey around on the buckle, not get back to work. But it felt much better than last time, more sure of what we were doing and the music timed out a better, too.
Then we had a few rides to hang out and for me to catch my breath, because the lower-level dressage tests require a lot of trotting, which is hard work in a sidesaddle! I was the second ride at 1-1, which was good, because watching someone else ride the test always helps me, and I’d only ridden through the test once before. On Wednesday. In an open field. In a jump saddle. So, all the help I could get. Thankfully the rider before me knew what they were doing and put in a nice test, so I had a good idea of what I should be doing fresh in my mind.
Cally was feeling rather behind the leg going in to the test. For a normal horse she probably looked fine, but for her, I’m used to much more energy to channel, and she was totally in zen Pleasure Horse mode. This was finally our First Level debut, though, so I went for it as best I could with the horse I had. The stretchy circle wasn’t as good as in our Freestyle, but she was obedient, and we were accurate. I would have liked a little more out of our lengthenings, but given the sloppy footing, I’m not surprised we didn’t get what I know we’re capable of doing. The 15M canter circles in the sidesaddle didn’t feel difficult at all, just a bit confusing to Cally, who’s used to doing 20M circles in the dressage ring. Our down transition from canter to trot at X was a bit hollow, but really, other than her feeling a bit sluggy to me off the aids, I thought it was a pretty solid test for a first go. The judge is someone who is tough with scores, though, so I wasn’t holding my breath, and was guessing mid-50s for the score.
By the time we were finished our test, our Freestyle had been scored, and I was shocked to find out that we won!
We got a 63%, which is what we need at a rated show to qualify us for BLM championships. We’ve got two rated shows on the table, and I think we’ll only improve that score, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.
It was a while waiting around for the 1-1 group of rides to finish up, so Cally was tucked back on the trailer and I was all packed up til our scores came in. Turns out we were remarkably consistent throughout the test, and scored 6s on pretty much everything, with enough 6.5s and one 7 to get us a 61% and 6th place out of 8 for our First Level debut.
I was really pleased with that, as a start, and thrilled to have a ribbon to mark our first time out moving up. Some things to improve and work on, but I know we’ll be out at 1st again this year, and now I know we can do it. But wow, it’s exhausting in the sidesaddle! Lots more fitness work for me, as well as her. Also maybe more naps for Cally, so I don’t feel like I’m working so hard up there to keep her moving, just to keep me looking elegant!