Monday, June 11, 2012

66.6% (!!)

Our first "show" is officially in the books.  We had moments of glory, and moments of not so glory, but all in all it was a bright, sunshiny, fabulous day to spend with the horses and we all had fun.

Oh yeah, and Prairie got this!
I maintain that we probably didn't deserve our score or our ribbon, but we won't argue!
Yup.  When I sent The Boy to go collect our test he came back with a pretty blue ribbon and a carrot as our winnings.  (Prairie was equally interested in snacking on both..)

While it's always fun to have a little something to show for your efforts, the real story of the day was our process and all the little nuggets of information you get when you take a new horse out for the first time.  Sunday was fun, but next time.... next time we will be better.

The morning started with me getting to the barn at the very leisurely time of 10:30, which gave me a couple of hours to get the mare bathed, clipped and "braided."  The quotes justify the fact that I haven't sewn in braids in... ohhh 14 years? but I thought it would be fun to knock the rust off and try.  So I did.

Poor Prairie put up with me trying to get my braid-fingers back quite well.  Add to the fact that I wanted to go for 6-8 bigger plaits, instead of small mini buttons, and it was a bit of a struggle.  Next time I think I'll do slightly smaller braids so that they aren't so big and loose, but they stayed in, so I can't complain too much. (Prairie can though. She was embarrassed)

The Boy met me at the barn with the truck and trailer at 12:45 so we could load up and I just about kissed his face off when I saw that he had also brought sandwiches (yesssss), lots of water (smart boy), raisinettes (delicious) and a big bag of cherries (my favorite this time of year).  Oh, and  fifth of whiskey "just in case."

I can't fault him for his ability to anticipate any of my potential cravings... what a gem.

We arrived at the park at 2pm, which gave me an hour and twenty minutes before my first ride.  I let the mare chill for about 45 minutes while we got checked in and paid for parking before tacking up and heading down to the warm up area.  Prairie was chill to the max.  Totally quiet and calming munching on her hay.  she drank water, flicked ears at passing trailers and horses and stood like an old pro.
 She stayed pretty calm to start in warm up.  But she did have a few spook/scoots in response to other horses emerging from the trail that connects the parking area and the arenas.  She was pretty sure every single one was a cougar, but we managed to hold it together.  In general our warmup was average.  The ring wasn't too crowded so it was easy to just pick a circle and work transitions.  Not our best, but not our worst.  I could tell she was blowing through my half-halts more than usual, but she wasn't completely tuning me out so we worked with it.
Headed to warmup
Watching the other horses in the ring, a bunch of them seemed to be freaking out at the far end of the dressage court.  The main arena is set up so that one side is bordered by the grandstand, the far end has grass where people watch/graze, the other long side has trees and trails that other riders lurk about in and the closest short end butts up to the warm up area.  Having not ridden a dressage test since my last event in.... 2000? 1999? the ring had a bit more atmosphere than the grass field way off yonder where I rode most of my tests for three-days.  But, atmosphere is what we wanted, so the "rational" side of me was glad there was something to test the mare.  The ribbon-hungry side of me was thinking "dammit people, stop standing around down there, you're freaking everyone out!"  But I didn't say that part our loud and no one felt compelled to move.

When it was our turn to head in I could feel Prairie's egg timer going off letting me know that her 20 minutes of focused, good work was pretty much up.  The judge was moving pretty leisurely, so we had a solid two minutes to tour the ring, ride around the judge's booth and explore the wooded side of the arena.  P2 was much more leery of the woods than the grandstand and none too thrilled with the judges booth.

The bell rung with us stuck on the far side which meant we were entering on the right rein, not our strong side, but we just did it.  We were straight, Prairie was listening and all was going well.  Our halt was disjointed and a bit hollow, but at least I had brakes (for the moment).  Having backed P2 up in warm up she mistook "trot on" for "rein back" so we stuttered a bit there but then we were good....

Until we hit C and the booth.  That, we sorta bobbled around and looked at suspiciously, but we got back on track for our shallow loop and pulled out a 7 on the movement.  The first canter transition was... tragic, and although our circle was good, we broke to the trot before we finished it and just stayed at the trot alll around the ring and across the diagonal where we were (in theory) supposed to actually return to the trot.. Oops.  Our walk work was spectacular (relatively speaking) earning 8's across the board.  Spectacular might not be the right word, but it was definitely the most "correct" aspect of our test

The second shallow loop was focused and supple (another 8), with an improved canter transition at the end.  We actually completed our canter circle (yay!) and earned an 8, but broke to trot well before C as Prairie started to drama llama about at the far end.  Our stretchy trot was great by my standards (given her lack of attention) and pulled out a 7.  And our final centerline/halt was another 8.

Prairie got herself an 8 for gaits, 7.5 for impulsion, and a 6 for submission (with a big underline on "attention").  I managed a 7 for my seat, a 6.5 for my aids and a 6 for our harmony.

All in all, the judge's notes were very fair and I agreed with all of them.  I was a bit surprised at some of our high scoring 8's, but she also liberally sprinkled some 4's and 5's where we all but missed the movement.  Thanks to some well placed coefficients, we ended up with a 66.6% which put us ahead of the tantrums that everyone else had in the far end.

66.6% still feels like a high score, but really, it doesn't much matter. It's not like we're qualifying for anything and I wouldn't expect to have that many issues and get in the mid 60's from another judge.  Ultimately though, we stayed in the arena (goal! check!) and I stayed on (even better!).

A few nice relaxed moments between our salutes are just icing on a pretty delicious cake.

Here's the video of our test.  When we're lovely, it's pretty lovely.  But when we're not.  It's really... really... not.  You'll notice I'm in S's hunt saddle... which I feel as though I sit up better in, but holy hell, my hip angle is... closed. and my eyeballs are firmly fixed on the ground.  That I should do a better job of controlling.

More pics and our second ride of the day to come....


  1. Heh. Parts of the test made me laugh out loud, which is really not a common dressage reaction. ;-) I read your narrative first, so I could sort of hear you narrate the action. Hilarious!

    Congrats on a successful outing!

  2. Awww, just love that shiny bay mare! You guys look great!

  3. Congrats! also, you're GORGEOUS. Wow.

  4. My trainer is a judge and I have read some about the process in dressage. Prairie has a very ground-covering stride, which earned her the 8 for gaits. This makes the "8" her base score, so you and her should receive an 8 for a movement as long as everything goes well. Something stellar will get a 9, less will earn a 7, and so forth.

    Be proud of your score! Why not enjoy it?

  5. So pretty and congrats(: I think I need to get a boy like you, or train my mom better(;

  6. Well done! That is a great score, and an excellent start.

  7. Well done! How nice that you got to take home a ribbon, especially a blue one!

  8. Hey - I jump up and down for any score in the 60's! Great job! And I agree with Miranda...boy is a keeper :)

  9. Congrats on a solid first outing! Love your giant black mare..

  10. Congrats!! I love the picture of you two with your blue ribbon. :D

    I think you guys did great, especially considering all the other horses were wigging out. She just got a little looky and broke gait, but didn't spook or anything. Good girl.

    All I gotta say is aren't you glad you didn't do intro???? I forget how big she is and how much ground she carries. I couldn't imagine doing an intro test in a half ring on her lol. I'm glad you had fun!


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