So on Sunday Tucker and I headed out to our first show since the end of May, to Suddenly Farm. I had never been there before but a friend promised me that the staff would be very friendly and the facility is nice. She was right, as she always is. It's a family run dressage farm, and everyone was very welcoming (which is important for a hunter princess like myself who still feels like a fish out of water at a dressage show). I warmed up in their indoor, which has great footing (washed sand) and mirrors. The outdoor ring where the dressage court was set up is big enough for a warm-up area, so I was able finish my warm up out there to get Tucker acclimated to the ring and his surroundings (to avoid as much star gazing as possible). I'll definitely go back.
Warm-up went really well in the indoor. He stretched out and the trot and canter, we did some lateral stuff at the walk, and we ran through some pieces of both tests. After we practiced our canter lengthenings and got some genuine downward transitions without breaking to trot, I was feeling like I might be getting the hang of this dressage thing. Which is why the Universe felt that it was now required for me to be HUMBLED.
So I headed to the outdoor, checked Equitests one more time to make sure I knew what letter the 15m canter circles are at, and I was ready and trotting around the outer edge of the arena as soon as the rider before me did her final salute. This time I will not be caught off guard with an early bell! Ha! I've got this!
Except for one thing. I never took my horse's boots off. Which I realized as I was trotting around the outer edge, just as the bell rang. I didn't know what to do, so I just went in with them on. The judge told me afterward (schooling show) that I should have had someone pull them off really quickly since I hadn't gone in the ring yet, but I remembered some rule about no one talking to you after the bell and I panicked (which is my coping mechanism of choice in pretty much all situations).
So our score for 1-2 was a 67.3/Eliminated. Welp. That sucks. Especially given that this show was double-pointed and I could have used that score. But as the judge (and actually several other people) pointed out, I'll never make that mistake again.
But I've already wasted too much time in this post talking about what went wrong and if you know me at all you know that I wallowed and spent most of yesterday afternoon alternating between burning self-hatred and bitter despair over my lack of a brain. (That is until I had some wine and calmed down. Oh and got a text from Amy saying "Well good job on the 67, you can do it again.")
So let's talk about what went right! First off, both our opening and closing halts were 8's. So all that halt work we've been doing has been paying off, we can get 8's now. His leg yields were really good (both 7's!), and I even touched him with my whip in the right-to-left and he didn't have a melt down. His trot lengthenings were lovely in both directions. His right lead canter lengthening and transition downward were great (to the left he got a little stiff). All his transitions were prompt, his canter transitions got 7's (and felt great), and he was focused and listening and we didn't have a single giraffe moment.
The only real bobble in this test was an early canter-to-trot transition across the diagonal, which is a recurring problem that I haven't figured out how to fix yet, but at least it's not a new problem. I opted to make him pick up the canter again after a trot step or two, and then ask for the trot transition at X again, because might as well teach him something if we already screwed it up right? Overall our lowest score on any individual movement was a 6.5, and the judge's comments were positive except for telling me I need to sit up more at the canter (agreed) so I'd call the test a success. Ignoring for a moment that I was eliminated the moment I stepped in the ring, of course.
The 1-3 test wasn't quite as good. For starters I think despite telling myself to let it go and focus on the next test, I was still pissed about the boots (after realizing it meant I was eliminated), and horses are like giant neon screens displaying our emotions to the world, so he was a little tense, not as supple, not as willing. We had some stiff transitions. He completely inverted and flailed when I asked for the leg yield right, at the start of the zig-zag, but then he recovered and did the rest of it nicely. It was an "omg what are you asking of me I can't possibly?! ...oh right I can do that." moment. Vintage Tucker.
I also forgot where I was going. Which I blame on being distracted and annoyed about the boots, which again just further compounded my annoyance with myself because I know better than to let one ride affect the next. After the stretchy trot circle I basically stopped riding for a second because my mind went completely blank. I had to circle but then remembered, thanked the judge and told her I knew it. Then I thought I had the last two movements correct but then heard the little bell. I forgot the single loop canter serpentine. So I had to go back and do that, and sort of lost momentum and had no jump to the canter. I'll be honest with you, I kind of gave up at that point. Our last halt was a 6. Must remember to keep riding regardless.
We got some 7's here and there but mostly 6's throughout the test. The end result was a 65.8, so I'm not really complaining, but I'm not really all that proud of it either given how it felt. I need to get a hold of myself mentally when things go wrong. I need to figure out how to set up the zig-zag leg yield out of the corner, and we need help with the 10m trot circles and halt at X. I completely lose the connection and he starts head bobbing like his favorite song is playing in the 10m circles, and when I'm sideways to the judge the vast distance between his hind legs in the halt is painfully obvious. I have been working on getting him to move one hind leg at a time in the halt, but I still don't have a good feel for where his hind legs really are. But we're working on it.