Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dressage Fix a test results

Sunday was our first show of the season and I really thought the nerves would get to me. Granted it wasnt a full three phase event...and I think because it was a dressage fix-a-test, I went into it thinking more or less like it was a clinic. An opportunity to learn, which I should try to channel towards ALL shows no matter what format they are. So my overall goal for 2016 - stop being so nervous for shows.

Tillie certainly wasnt nervous
It was a great way to ease into showing because of a few reasons:

  •  it was at the same farm we go to most Saturdays for jump lessons so Tillie was familiar with the surroundings, as was I.
  • Trailering has become not as big a deal with how much we've been doing it lately.
  • Fix-a-test format meant less horses and people around crowding warm up or making the atmosphere soooo busy which can get Tillie wound up
Warm up
By the time I got to the farm to tack up, the rain had started. Not really ideal, but hey we eventers can handle a bit of rain. I fell in love with my new trailer even more after I had plenty of room and was able to get her fully tacked up in the trailer to save us both from getting too wet in that process. Tillie was a bit unsettled initially standing on the trailer without a buddy but once she got a good look around and was moving, we warmed up like a well oiled machine. I tried my best to go into warm up with a plan, keep it to a minimum and save the schooling for home. Just push the buttons, get her moving and let what we've been working on reflect itself in the test. 

(This mindset is a pretty huge step for me since I have always had a tendency to approach show day tests like they have to be perfect). 

Test #1
I went in confident and for the first time rode my horse in a test...what I mean by that is, she was soft and not a ball of energy like she has been in past shows and I had a much more rideable horse. I still chose to ride it smart, not pushing for too much but rode it very much like I would have at any other event (which really means reserved to make sure we dont have any bucking fits or attempts to jump out of the ring). 

I was pretty pleased with the ride I got and felt it was better than average for us. Tillie was obedient despite being a bit leery of certain areas of the ring and gave a solid effort. I didnt get ANY sass in canter in or out and her trot transitions from the canter were nicer than past tests where she offered them without leaning like a freight train on me.

Here is the footage from that test:

Right after finishing the test the judge was very nice and asked how this test felt in relation to previous tests. I told her it felt pretty darn good and it was our first Novice test and that we have been doing BN up until this point. She looked a bit surprised and said, well good news is for a Novice test your ride was above average and quite good, but we will talk about how to make it better and think how this would rate at a rated/recognized show where the small stuff matters more and the competition is tougher. 

Whew that surely is a relief to hear we are riding well at the level we are aiming for...

Some things she said about this test:
  • Nicely ridden and adored Tillie - "SUPER cool mare"
  • Tactfully ridden, a bit reserved and felt Tillie had a lot more swing and action to offer in her movements but could tell I was holding it back
  • Right side was weaker (Ill elaborate in a minute)

here is the score sheet:


Workshop Portion
So we moved on to the discussion/fixing portion of the fix a test. The judge shocked me and said that tracking right was scored lower across the board and gave away easy points because Tillie was lowering her inside right shoulder, losing the left hind and just more inconsistent that way. Typically this is our stronger side and bending her this way tends to be easier for me. She RAVED about how beautiful her left lead canter was and then disappointed in the right lead. 

whomp whomp.

So she sent us out and tried to get us lifting the right shoulder by activating the left hind. Here is where I got a bit lost if you will...maybe I am just so used to the way C teaches but nothing seemed to jive here. I found the instruction a bit vague and repetitive without really helping. Now, I admit, I can be a bit dense at times when riding in lessons because I think sooo hard so it takes a bit before the "AHA" moment happens...I clearly understood the issue, I just didnt understand clearly how to fix it based on what was being instructed.

She had me track left first so I could feel what felt correct in the trot and canter. Then switching to right rein she asked if Tillie jumps that way...whomp whomp again. I said well yes she has had a tendency to jump down hill but much less recently. (side note: I recently did a dressage clinic where the clinician asked how she jumped and was shocked when I said she isnt always uphill so goes to show it depends on the day still for us). 

 So the judge kept telling me to fix this side by riding it like I would approach a fence. Which isnt wrong, and I am sure works for most, but it didnt really connect for me. She also said ride the outside more but have her follow that outside connection more. This felt a bit contradictory to me, BUT I also know dressage can be when generalized, but the timing of when to do one or the other is when the magic happens. That timing to create the lift just wasnt coming under this instruction. 

She recommended riding square turns at home to help fix this issue. Sure! Homework, I love that! But honestly I am quite eager to get in a lesson with C to delve deeper and get a better understanding of how she would have us fix it. 

So time to think about how to change and improve the next test...I honestly walked away prepping for the second ride through to just be more brave and let tillie move out more. 

Second Test

Tillie started feeling a bit tired by the time we got to ride this test. It was the first time ever I had to ride leg on leg off and really drive her forward in the trot and canter. I didnt hate it, and can attest that shes been more like this at home too which leads me to think she is just getting more rideable, but I realize I need to stay on top of our conditioning. It isnt a great feeling to ask for go and not have it from my usually hot to trot mare. 

She felt pretty good again through this test. Her canter trot to canter transitions felt like they got rushed because of trying to use what the judge said, but she didnt fault us for it and even said she preferred to see that then the shortening / backing off she saw in the first test. 

I felt like our center line halt salute would have scored better, but All in all felt it was a nice improvement :)

I am not entirely sure how they ribboned this show, but when my helper came running out with these my inner kid got very excited. 

In conclusion, it was a great success and did exactly what I wanted and needed the show to do. 1) not be so nervous and really just ride a the test, trust Tillie and settle into a good place. Tillie was far more rideable than any other test Ive ever ridden leading me to be excited for what 2016 will bring us pending cross country schooling of course lol. 


  1. I hate it when it's obvious I'm not getting something and they keep saying the same thing over and over.

    1. Yea...I wouldnt be opposed to trying to take a lesson with this person before really committing to saying she worked for us or not. Just this particular ride it didnt work for us.

  2. Hopefully that relaxation carries over to the rest of the show season! And YAY RIBBONS!

  3. Love the ribbons - well done :)

  4. I read Emma's post before yours and got the same impressions about the judge/coach. She seems really knowledgeable but is just one of those people that has a hard time getting their thoughts out in varying ways to help the rider understand. Still sounds like a great experience.