Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Our Novice debut in detail - Dressage

Of course I am still very excited about how smoothly things went at this was put on by a local pony club so we did compete against mostly against pony clubbers (ok ok, its not like it was all children here...there were adults too). It was their home turf and I honestly thought more outside competitors would come to this event with how much it was being chatted about in our smallish horse community here.

Tillie had her game face on from the minute we loaded on the trailer
I have never been to their event before, but have done a paper chase here when I first got Tillie a few years ago. I had asked around and done my research before entering because I wanted a friendly lower key event for our first novice.

It was exactly what I needed for my own nerves. I knew many of the people there which put me at ease and made it feel just like a ride at home almost. Sure nerves crept in a little...but for the most part it felt relaxed. I think it also helped I had a dressage lesson with C the night before that was one of our best to date complete with really big extensions that C said made her get chills (eek! my OTTB can dressage!!).

Anyway...I opted to ride in my jump tack, because lately the one I have been borrowing has been really making me crooked and twist. C agreed that my jump tack was the best shes seen me look compared to the others and Tillie goes well in it so to use it. I am in the process of getting my hands on a custom saddlery VLX for quite the steal :) but I didnt get it in time for this.

Probably the best feeling part of the test
Immediately upon arrival I was put at ease at seeing the dressage ring with footing inside an arena. After all the rain we have had I was a bit nervous at what a grass ring would be like. Plus there was only one ring running which was nice and a huge factor as to why this event was so chill.

The warm up was in grass, but shockingly the footing wasnt too terrible. It was a bit sticky but at least it wasnt muddy or sloppy. I was relieved at this point because I knew I needed to use studs, but could wait until after dressage to think about them. (Side note: This was the first event Tillie and I used studs...I have applied them many times on my trainers horses when grooming for him, but this was a first for my own personal horse).

Hello uphill downward canter to trot transition!
Tillie was so relaxed and calm during warm up. Luckily we didnt have to share with more than 3 other horses at any given time so that definitely helped. It was quite muggy and humid, so I really didnt do a ton in warm up despite getting on 30 min early. I reminded myself all our training has been done, its just do what is needed to get her supple and alert without being too reactive. C gave us some pointers for warm up which were super helpful...we threw in some trot extensions to get her opening up and me more comfortable riding a more open trot needed in novice.

Let me tell you, my new Smartpak purchase (at Rolex) of the Bradley Performance show shirt really came in handy because of the nice cool mesh under arms. I also rode in their new white piper full seats which I think looked pretty sharp!

Anyway...we were about ready to go. Once we were on deck, we headed up to the ring which I wasnt of fan of this small part because it meant we had to stand still and wait while the rider before us did their test. Tillie was quiet and fine standing, but I prefer to allow her to keep moving as much as possible before going into the ring.

Sure enough, as soon as we stepped foot in the arena to get going again while the judge finished commenting the previous test, Tillie coiled up and was too interested in looking around.

At least she was good for her canter!

She started sucking back a bit and not really being soft in my hand so that she was super reactive to my leg...right after the judge rang the bell and I prepared to enter the ring, Tillie broke into the smallest canter. I circled regrouped, took a sigh out and told her to chill and we entered.

When she gets like this, straight lines are a bit I knew right away we were slightly off our centerline and I knew I couldnt do a whole lot to "fix" it since she was pretty wound up.

I just focused on the rhythm and being VERY quiet with my hands to set a "this is where we need to be" tone before expecting anything else.

Canter left lead also went well
She slowly started to relax and I was able to start applying more aids...and then I forgot a portion of my test (Novice B you trot circle before cantering...well the second trot circle I skipped and went right to canter).

It was a lovely transition both times though! And we didnt let it set us back, in fact it really helped her in her trot circle to relax a little more.

She's so soft here! Excuse whatever the F I am doing with my upper body though
The judge was super nice and said not to worry, my error didnt hurt us too badly and it was a nice test. Tillie seemed quite please with herself and I have a rule to not go look at I threw Tillie back on the trailer and set out to walk my course. 

By the time I got back the trailer next to us in good spirits and in a friendly competition way said "You beat me in dressage and are currently first!!! better not have any rails!"

I was delighted, but more eager to see my actual score rather than placing. 

So long story long, I know we need to work on more relaxation in our dressage and try to get the same great feeling we get at home and in lessons in the ring. 

But here is the video of our test!: